When Parineeti Chopra first uploaded the pictures that showcased her rather major transformation, the first thing that came out of my mouth was, “Woah!” Not because I was all that surprised that she was fit (it was clear over months that she was gradually losing weight) but rather because baring it all (almost) for a photoshoot requires a certain amount of confidence. It requires you to be able to face the camera, it requires you to bare parts of your body that you’re used to covering up, and it requires you to have just enough courage to outweigh your nerves and insecurities – even though those are still present. And that, to me, is the greatest part of her photoshoot – not just her physical transformation, which is commendable, but the underlying emotional one.
This is why all the negative chatter surrounding her new avatar isn’t sitting right with me. I understand some of it, too – when Parineeti broke out onto the scene a few years ago, she was proof that someone can be mainstream, beautiful, talented, and not a cookie-cutter size. It was easy to like her; it was easy to hold her up as a body positive icon. I can see, then, why her transformation is unsettling for many who held her in that regard, and why some may feel the need to call her out for “giving in.” But you know what we’re forgetting? Parineeti doesn’t owe us a goddamned thing. She doesn’t owe us an icon, and she definitely doesn’t owe us her body.
Pull up a few of her older interviews and you’ll notice that Parineeti has consistently expressed a desire to lose weight and to be able to comfortably wear anything she chooses. She hadn’t ever asked to be anyone’s body image icon; if you’ve given her that label, it has more to do with you than it has to do with her. And honestly, if this entire conversation is about body image, then we also need to acknowledge body autonomy: Parineeti’s choice to look the way she wants to, because it really is her body and she can do with it what she wants. Especially considering she’s done it in a healthy way – she’s focused on getting stronger and more flexible, not just on losing weight. She has the right idea about fitness; she’s not starving herself, she’s okay with following a fitness regime that takes longer to show results just because she actually enjoys it (martial arts), and she’s approaching it as a lifestyle change rather than a passing fad.
But above all, she’s achieved body confidence. She may not be at the end of her journey, but she’s still happy with where she currently is. She told us herself that confidence is the biggest benefit she’s reaped, and quite honestly, isn’t that something we all want? Our individual journeys to achieving body confidence will vary, and we probably all don’t – and shouldn’t – have the same idea as Parineeti does when it comes to what a great body should look like. That’s not important: what’s important is that we’re all capable of achieving body confidence whichever way we choose to, whether it be through weight loss, tattoos, make-up or any other method.
So do you disagree that getting fit makes Parineeti “look better”? Maybe you do, and you might be right, too. But none of that matters, because at the end of it, it all comes down to this: this is a woman who’s struggled with her weight for many years – far longer than she’s been in films – and she’s finally reached a point in her life where she’s pleased. She’s confident enough to step in front of the camera, shed her inhibitions and present herself just the way she is (Parineeti told us that they didn’t use any imaging tools to edit out her “fat”; she is what you see). She wanted something, she put in the hard work to get it, and now she’s celebrating the fruit of her perseverance. Why should we begrudge her that because we’ve somehow decided what she should look like instead?