From being a victim of body shaming to Mrs India 2020, Hollini Pallavi Patnaik has challenged stereotypes

Aug. 23, 2021, 7:39 p.m.

By:Reshma Jain

‘Too Fat, Too Skinny, Too Short, Too Tall, too anything’: There’s a sense that we’re all ‘Too’ something, and we’re all not ‘enough’. This is Life. Our bodies change. Our minds change. Our hearts change. ‘Change’, is inevitable. However, many people, especially women fall prey to body shaming. This impacts the mental well-being of an individual and also has negative emotional effects. From anxiety, eating disorders to reduction in self-esteem and depression, it is difficult to deal with body shaming.

“Be proud of who you are, and not ashamed of how someone else sees you,” shared Hollini Pallavi Patnaik, Mrs India 2020. In a conversation with Socio Story, Pallavi shares her journey from being a victim of body shaming to bagging the title of Mrs India First Runner up 2020.

Pallavi had been body shamed both in a subtle and in a not-so-subtle way. In school, her peers not only made fun of her short stature but also on the way she kept her hair. Although Pallavi was a bright student, bullying by her peers disturbed her a lot. "Not being able to perform well in fields which are not directly linked to the way your body is (like academics, professional life), still gets attributed to it,” shared Pallavi.

But as Pallavi grew up around people who kept bullying, things got even worse in the arranged marriage set up. “Someone told my mom that I'm way shorter than in the pictures. I think it was one of the few times she felt bad about the way I looked and that made me question my self-worth. I also remember being told every day in college that I forgot to drink Horlicks and Complan. Not funny when you hear it every single day,” recalled Pallavi who has now carved a niche in the modelling industry.

It took a long time for Pallavi to realise that she was in fact clinically depressed. It was a medical condition with a different set of triggers. When one gets to continuously hear every single day about their body issues (height, weight, acne, dark skin, bald spots), it explodes. A person keeps thinking that if they were probably made ‘normal’ (as per social criteria), things could have turned out differently for them. Everyday it's the same loop of thoughts that restricts forward thinking. “I remember lashing out at my team more than once for trivial issues because I felt that if I don't exercise my authority, they will take me for granted because of my size (which is extremely unhealthy thinking and creates a bad work atmosphere). I even remember wearing 4-inch heels every day to work and walking a few kms in them resulting in plantar fasciitis,” expressed Pallavi who hails from Visakhapatnam.

Pallavi had applied for Miss India but they had a height criterion. So, after getting married, Pallavi thought that she could apply for pageants where this would not be an issue, just to prove a point that people who are not tall enough also have the personality to be the face of a brand. “I did not exactly prepare for it because I am also a dancer, so there wasn't a specific preparation involved for the talent round. The only thing I did was to read more, to develop a Point of View (POV) on issues,” added Pallavi who after having completed her PG in IMT Ghaziabad moved to Chennai to work as a life sciences digital consultant.

Speaking about the overall development of women, Pallavi feels that women in India in general are less confident than men are, mostly because of the difference in expectations set upon them by the ecosystem we are in. The ones who have been able to move past this and be unabashedly themselves are doing exceptional work in their fields. Women are taught to be wary of the people they speak to and the things they do while men are told that it's ok to learn from the mistakes they commit. From childhood, we must teach our girls that it's ok to commit mistakes and that confidence is the only beautiful thing about a human being. Not their hair or their skin tone. We must also teach our kids not to bully other kids. These are basic things that education cannot imbibe. Life skills like these are not taught by schools and she thinks that it is the biggest gap in creating a well-rounded individual, either in the urban setting or the rural.

“I have encouraged people who were shy to follow their dreams, come out of their shell and face their fears. An ex-colleague of mine, who had lost a lot of weight during the lockdown spoke to me very recently and opened up about how her weight issues stopped her from even going outside. I'm glad that she finally is following her passion of being a dancer and model,” said 29-year-old Pallavi adding that her most memorable experience is when someone who used to bully her all the while (in school) congratulated her on making a mark. 

Pallavi has recently been made the trustee of a state govt. sponsored trust for women called Smrutira Odisha. Her future plans include creating awareness on social media about how subtle body shaming and various other triggers could impact the mental health of our nation as a whole and what we need to do to collectively push the country up in the happiness index. 

Heightism is not spoken about as widely as weightism. Historically, people have considered taller people to be more responsible and better leaders. Smaller children are easier to bully and smaller people are not the ones approached first in the crowd. Body shaming (of any form) and ageism does act as a trigger for depression, low self-esteem and confidence. Being on the receiving end of this most of her life and having battled clinical depression, Pallavi felt the need to tell her story only to evoke the emotion in people: “If she can do it, so can I”.

Feathers to her cap:

  • Mrs India First Runner up 2020/ Mrs. Photogenic 2020
  • F&B Smart Fashionista/ Social Media Influencer 2020
  • Winner of Foxclues India Prime icon award for social media work towards body positivity- 2021
  • Nominated for All India Women Achiever Awards 2021
  • Nominated as Jury for Smrutira Odisha International Trust, Ms/Mrs. India.

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