As someone who grew up being viewed as ‘different’ in school, was used to standing out because of her size and strength and has spent the best part of her life convinced that she was “incapable of being loved by a man”, Masaba Gupta, today, could well be an institution in self-love. While accepting oneself, with all their flaws and shortcomings, can take “many, many years’’, as she’ll tell you, the 31-year-old designer has journeyed impressively far on this path. Here, she opens up about her Journey in a Cosmo Exclusive Interview.
Cosmo: What does self-love mean to you?
Masaba Gupta: “To be accepting of the fact that there will always be days when I cannot give my hundred percent...to myself, or my friends and family. A lot of people confuse self-love with being happy and feeling upbeat all the time. But to me, it is very important to realise that I can have a bad day, too, or feel just, you know, average? I don’t expect every day to be the same, neither internally nor externally. So self-love is when I give myself the liberty to not be at my cheeriest and be okay with it; to not pressurise myself into loving myself, because some days I just don’t want to. And to remind myself that not all days are the same, and there will be days ahead when I will feel better.”
C: In the past, you’ve spoken about having your father, Sir Vivian Richard’s Caribbean body, and how you “hated it in school”. Tell us about that...
MG: “You know, that phase when you think your school is the end of the world?! It was during that. The school I went to had a very conservative set-up...the kids there were from very affluent families, and were quite mean! And they all looked the same...the girls had thin, slender bodies, and long, straight hair, that they wore in braids, some had acne, some didn’t, but none of them were as muscular or athletic-built as me. At the time, I also used to play tennis, professionally, and that had changed my body, too—so by the 8th grade, I had big boobs, a big butt, 16-inch shoulders, strong calf muscles, the like. It was, partly, my father’s genes as well. I was this big girl, who always stood out! Everyone used to be like, ‘Oh my God! You look like a man!’. And that made me hate my body... I didn’t want to be a ‘man’. I was young and impressionable, at a stage when, you know, you want other girls to like you, want attention from boys...”
C: Did that have any mental impact?
MG: “The thing is that you don’t realise it then, the implications kick in much later. I actually grew up with a lot of anger issues. I thought I was not capable of being loved by a man...I felt this for the longest time, until I got married four years ago. I am not married anymore, but it took me all this while to not feel that way. So it does screw you up, because everyone sort of pushes and nudges you. And you wonder why you have to go through it all only because of your body type! You want to be just like everyone else. And it takes many, many years to get it out of your system.”
C: Where did you find the strength to deal with all that, to become this fearless, self-assured woman?
MG: “You know, the effort never really stops. No matter what anyone says, coming into your own, I think, only happens much later in life (or when you’re dead!). We normally take really long, perhaps until we are in our 40s and 50s, to be able to say what we actually want to say. But for me, it started much earlier, and organically...I was just so tired of people telling me what I should or shouldn’t do. So if I didn’t like what someone said, I’d just call them out right there. And now, if I don’t speak my mind, I instantly fall sick! It is like a physical reaction.”
C: And how did you learn to accept your body for what it was?
MG: “Frankly, I am not fully there, yet. But one of the ways I started being okay with it was by training hard...harder... Our body needs to be loved, and that love, for me, comes through exercise. I went to a yogashala once, where they told us that a person’s body and mind work in sync. So, if you have any sort of stress or are stuck in a certain thinking pattern, or when your mind doesn’t love your body, it starts reflecting in different parts of your body. So it’s not just a body-type thing, it is also your mindset. That’s when l decided to learn to love my body and break away from all negativity. I started giving my body the comfort it needed and trained really hard. I am proud that I am a strong girl today. I have more strength than most girls I know.”
C: And what do you do to gain this physical strength?
MG: “I have been doing a lot of body-weight exercises. I’m also doing Ashtanga and other forms of yoga regularly. I pick up weights, too, but I don’t have any here with me. In Mumbai, when I have the time, I play tennis as well.”
C: And for mental health?
MG: “I’ve become much quieter now...I don’t talk too much, and like sitting with my thoughts. Other than that, I am trying not to take too much pressure, and trying to change the way I work and the way I live my life. I’m also spending more time with the people I love. I have cut out everyone and everything that was emptying my life, and that has really helped as well.”
Location Courtesy: La Casetta, Solitude