My Names Bishamber Das and I am proudly known as Britain’s first Asian plus-size model. I first started my career 5 years ago when I was the only plus-size contestant to represent the UK; I was against 9 European countries where I came to the second runner up. Apart from modelling, I work in the field of Law and Child protection.
What inspires you?
When I first started, I realised very quickly there was no one in the United Kingdom representing ‘our’ part of the world. I only saw successful Caucasian models with a selected few black models. I felt the need to highlight my heritage in order for me to be recognised and included. Many people passed comments and even wrote articles on how they thought I was ‘silly’ for being so specific. I hope the same people understand now why it was always important for me to do so. Asian women have been ignored massively over the decades in media, especially in fashion. The number of times I have seen campaigns talking about inclusivity and diversity but have totally ignored the South Asian community. We not only are the second largest population in the world but we make up at least 10% of the UK’s population. How have brands not been able to find one south Asian to represent them? You can’t talk about diversity and then be colour blind.
What is your motivation?
I am not driven by people and their achievements as much as I am driven off proving people wrong and bringing change. This is my motivation. To do what very few of my heritage do, bring change.
How did you career in modelling begin?
My journey started 5 years ago when I found myself scrolling through Instagram. I came across a beauty pageant which had no size restrictions. I have always been attracted to the world of modelling, but my size always held me back. This was my ticket forward, I participated as the only plus-size woman at size 18/20, using my size to differentiate my self from the rest instead of looking at this as a flaw. I came as the second runner up and never looked back. My inspiration purely came from the frustration and anger I had within me around people constantly belittling plus size women predominantly within the South Asian culture. I wanted to prove everyone wrong.
You are a model, a lawyer, and an actor, where do you find the time to manage everything?
I often get asked this question, for me its very simple, when you are passionate about something, you will always find time to make it work.
A lot of people underestimate how much your mind matters when working in a creative industry, sometimes it can be your mind that actually prohibits you from achieving your goals, what would you say to someone who is struggling at the moment with this?
I recently started my own label GirlLikeMe, this is a plus-size clothing brand predominantly for plus size women in India. When I started off, I was very apprehensive about how this will be received, especially as I was entering a market that was unknown to me. I worked very hard for months without any guarantee of returns. At that point, I could either stop and remain within my comfort zone, or I could carry on taking the risk with the hope it would only be successful. Even though it’s only been 6 days since I finally launched GirlLikeMe, the result has been phenomenal!! Its human nature for our mind to hold us back and for us to live within our comfort zones, you need true courage to understand that you can be anything you wish to be. I wished to be successful, and I have now decided I won’t settle for anything less.
What is the book you’ve given most as a gift, and why?
I am dyslexic and have dyspraxia, as a child, I hated reading. Throughout my teenage years, I avoided it as much as possible. Studying was really hard at times, I would spend ages reading over the same lines just to understand them. At times I was the slowest reader, and I would get so frustrated with myself. I find listening to audiobooks much more helpful. The Sikh net has recently released an audio translated version of the Guru Granth Sahib Ji. I am obsessed with listening to it, when I travel, before I sleep, when I wake up or whenever I want to clear my mind. The knowledge I have received from that is next to none for me.
How has failure set you up for later success?
All my failures in life have always pushed me the other way, they have made me more determined and focused. This is purely down to my stubborn personality. I always get what I want 🙂
What has been the biggest challenge you’ve overcome?
Nothing is more satisfying than proving the ones who doubted you wrong. When I started off my modelling journey, many people in my home city would gossip and laugh at what I was trying to achieve. It hurt that people could not see my efforts. Nothing is more satisfying than the same people coming to me now and telling me how proud they are off what I have achieved.
If you could have a gigantic billboard, what would it say?
I have been so lucky to have experienced myself featured in Piccadilly circus with one of my campaigns, the next big thing after that would only be times square! If my billboard could say one thing, it would be ‘WE MATTER.’
Are there any quotes you think of often or live your life by?
I am really bad with quotes, but one thing that’s really important to me is to try my best to be kind. Sometimes people or circumstances can make you cruel. Always remember how you behave towards another is a reflection of you.In the last two years, what new belief, behaviour, or habit has most improved your life?
What advice would you give to someone who is about to embark on such a journey?
It warms my heart that others are able to find their passion through my actions. This is why it’s so important we encourage those who look to us. You have no idea where your encouragement can direct someone. For many years, growing up I always looked for validation from others. It was more important to satisfy another compared to how I felt. If I could share one thing with anyone, that’s what it would be. You come first, you matter.
What would be your message to the AWMB community?
There’s nothing you can’t achieve. If we open the door now, only then the women after us will be able to walk through it.