From New York Fashion Week, to work with brands like Kohl’s, plus size model Tinder Badhesha can strike a pose anywhere, any time. So what’s it like to be a plus model in a time when Ashley Graham’s on the cover of Sports Illustrated? We got together with Tinder on an LA parking lot rooftop to put her modeling prowess to the test, and got the pro’s insider perspective on the plus modeling industry along the way.
Before you were a model, you worked in the tech industry in Silicon alley. What made you decide to take a leap from what some people might argue is a more “stable” career path?
Well I definitely didn’t take a leap, it was more like the universe, God — whatever you believe in, the powers of a higher force — sort of navigated me into this path. The only reason why I stopped working in the high-tech industry is because I was laid off during the peak of the recession. It was at that time when I was unemployed that a photographer found me on Facebook and reached out to me and asked if I was interested in doing a test shoot with him. The test came out great, and he asked me to be a part of his project, and those images came out ten times better than my test shots! Once he posted these on Facebook they went viral, and I began receiving comments about how I should become a plus size model. I did the research and began to build my portfolio. When I moved to LA, I went to a casting call an agency was having and out of the hundreds of models that attended, I was the only model the agency wanted to sign! I signed with IPM Model Management, and here I am.
These days, if you’re successful at it, being a plus size model can mean a big fan base and a lot of great new opportunities. What has changed for you since becoming a model?
The only thing that has changed for me is how I take care of myself. I pay more attention to what I consume, how much of it, and I am more serious about being consistent with working out and staying healthy, as well as having a great skincare regimen. Also my sense of style has changed. I have become more simple and minimal with my makeup and accessories. All of this factors in on the kind of opportunities I get. If I take care of myself and I stay focused and continue to perfect my craft, then I am more likely to lock in a new opportunity because I am comfortable in how I present myself, and confident in myself and the way I can perform at a shoot.
In pop culture portrayal, we’re made to believe that modeling is highly competitive and the culture of the industry can be harsh. Do you think plus size modeling is any different?
Absolutely not. It is a competitive industry. The only difference between us and the standard models is that we get to eat a lot more food then they do, LOL.
It’s been said that as a plus size model, it’s not uncommon to be told that you’re either too big or not big enough. How do you deal with this kind of body critique and face rejection?
Well, rejection is something no one is ever okay with. I still sometimes get bummed out if I wasn’t chosen for a job that I really wanted, but at the end of the day, I see the bigger picture and I console myself by being rational. It’s about the right look for the right brand. If your look doesn’t fit the brand’s image, then there is nothing you can do but move on. There will be plenty more opportunities. Also, if a client requests to see you at a casting, that is a foot in the door. If you weren’t chosen to do the job at that time, it doesn’t mean the door is closing on you, it means at that time you didn’t fit with what they were looking for. You are on their radar, and they are going to continue to keep an interest in you if you give them a reason to. So continue to work hard and kill shit, and eventually you will get booked by that client.
You moved from the Bay Area to LA. People think of LA as image and size-obsessed. What have you found in LA in terms of a plus size community?
I feel like the plus size community can be a bit cliquish, and I don’t do cliques. I am a multifaceted woman and I like to have friends that come from different ethnic backgrounds and different social cultures, regardless if they are in the plus size community or not. What I have found is that because there are cliques in this small industry of ours, support is divided. If we all supported one another in this community, we all would be more successful in our respected roles than we do. Take a look at Lane Bryant and Ashley Graham. Every one in the plus size community in America fully supports Lane Bryant and their campaigns, but we also helped Ashley Graham rise to the top by supporting her as well. We supported both of these brands unconditionally and look at what happened; they broke barriers. Imagine if we did that for each other how awesome that would be?
You were just featured as a model in the launch of Ashley Nell Tipton’s premier JCPenney line. Tell us about the experience of working with Ashley and the other models on this campaign.
This was absolutely an AMAZING experience! No one knew that we were actually shooting for Ashley Nell Tipton’s line, The Boutique+ for JCPenney, so she wasn’t actually at that shoot. However, I did meet Ashley when I was going in to do a fitting for her fashion show, and she is very sweet and down to Earth. Working with the models on that campaign was really fun, as two out of the four models featured in the campaign along with me are actually my agency sisters and we get along great. The other two models are from different agencies and it was my first time meeting them at that shoot, but we had all day to hang out and get to know each other, and by lunch, we were all sitting together laughing and enjoying each other’s company. After the shoot, we all exchanged information so that we can remain in touch.
As a plus size model and a Sikh woman in front of the camera, what do you want to convey to people who come across your work? What motivates you?
I want to convey strength, independence, and intelligence. What motivates me is spearheading this movement within my own ethnicity and culture. When I started modeling, I was the only Indian woman in the Plus Size industry, now there are countless Indian bloggers from different parts of the world, and more aspiring Indian Plus Size models. Seeing this give me the push and drive to really empower women, especially from my ethnic background, to feel beautiful and fabulous no matter what size you are.
Want to keep up with Tinder? Follow her on Instagram @Tinderoni.