“Women are Judged Way More Than Men, Based On Their Appearance": Sania Mirza

In an exclusive interview with Cosmo India, the tennis ace explains why the first step towards self-love is to learn to be content with yourself and to be your own (and only) competition...

for tennis ace Sania Mirza,  the first step towards self-love is to learn to be content with yourself, and to be your own (and only) competition...a mantra that seems to have held the 33-year-old in good stead, both on and off the court. Enjoying the small joys of life with her loved ones, albeit away from her husband for the moment, and realigning life’s perspective in the lockdown, our Digital Covergirl opens up in this candid chat with Cosmo.

Cosmo India: What or who inspires you to do better in life?
Sania Mirza: “Different things and different people. My son inspires me to be a better person, to work harder, and to try and live my best life. My parents inspire me. My passion for tennis inspires me. Every day, I try to find motivation to improve in life...to do better than I did the day before.”

C: After Izhaan was born, what changes did you go through, in your personal and professional life?
SM: “A lot of things changed...personally. I didn’t know if I was ever going to make a comeback to tennis (I made that decision a few months after he was born). And I think I realised what selfless love really meant. Before Izhaan was born, I didn’t know if I had it in me to love someone this much, and that I could want everything in the world for that little baby, before anyone else, including myself! That was a huge change. 
     Professionally, there wasn’t much change, though. I have an amazing team, that helps me a lot with the baby as well. And the team has got slightly bigger—the nanny travels with us, too. But I am able to put in the same kind of work and effort as earlier, so on that front, things are the same.”

C: While growing up, what was your relationship with your body? Was there anything about it that you wanted to change or weren’t comfortable about?
SM: “Not really. I don’t think that I ever wanted to change anything about my body. The only one thing that I thought about, though, was my lips. I felt I had thin lips, and that it would have been nicer if I had fuller lips. But otherwise, I’m very comfortable with my body, with its ‘perfections’ and ‘imperfections’. Besides, being a tennis player, I was never into what looks good or what doesn’t, anyway...for me, it was more about what helps my game and what doesn’t. So if I became a bit muscular, I didn’t mind how I looked as long as it helped me play better.”

C: Do you think women are judged more than men on their appearance?
SM: “One hundred percent...and that is extremely sexist. And I think the equality we talk about, the equal opportunity you must get, should be based on your work, your education, and your talent. It should never be about how you look. And yet, sadly, women are often judged according to their appearance.”


C: If you could meet your younger self now, what advice would you give her?
SM: “I guess I’d tell her to not be so brutally honest about everything!”

C: As someone with a massive online presence, how do you deal with all the hate and negativity on the Internet? 
SM: “To be honest, I don’t give it any importance. I feel everything has its pros and cons, and so does social media. It is great for many things. It allows you to connect with your fans, make a positive impact, lets you reach out to a lot more people than you could otherwise...but it has got its negatives, too. I think, as public figures, we are all subjected to the hate culture that exists online. One just needs to be as thick-skinned as possible, and learn to ignore it. Luckily, I have been like that since I was 16-years-old. I don’t let it affect me on a day-to-day basis. Then again, I would not say it doesn’t affect me at all. Of course, there are days, you know, when you wake up on the wrong side of the bed, and see an unsavoury comment and you’re like, ‘Isko toh main jawaab dungi (I will definitely respond to this one)’ . But that’s just human...I take it in my stride.”

Styling: Tanusha Bajaj; Photographs: Prudhvi Raju Addala and Vamsi Krishna Varma K; Interview: Priyanka Yadav Hair and Make-Up: Aliya Baig