Aastha Shah on defying norms and setting her own beauty standards

In a tell-all interview with Cosmo India, the fashion and beauty digital content creator with vitiligo talks to us about instilling confidence in those who feel they ‘suffer’ from skin conditions.

Aastha Shah on defying norms and setting her own beauty standards

Aastha Shah is ‘Pretty Inspirational’. In this interview, the digital content creator talks to Team Cosmo about that one trait that makes her #MoreThanPretty with Mango.
Cosmo: Tell us about your journey as a digital creator. How did it all start? Also, how did you manage working as a financial analyst while creating content?

Aastha Shah: As a child, I dreamt of inspiring people through my journey of vitiligo. It was in 2019 that I decided to make my story public through a storytelling page on Instagram. For about two years, I had kept my profile private, but during the Covid-19 lockdown, I decided to make my profile public and also wanted to spread awareness about vitiligo. The reel I created hit 32 millions views, and that’s how my content creation journey began.
Since I was working at a bank as a financial analyst and also pursuing CFA [Chartered Financial Analyst], I would divide my time such that I would shoot on the weekends and work on office projects on weekdays. Eventually, it became tough to manage my time. I felt like a ‘jack-of-all-trades, master of none’, and so, after a year of doing both, it became mentally exhausting and I couldn’t give my best at either. So, I decided to take up content creation as a full-time business. 
C: How would you define your content? Also, how do you make sure it is relatable to Gen Z?

AS: Initially, my content was all about motivation. Later, I tried to showcase my hobbies through my content as well. As the [content creation] industry evolves, one needs to evolve and think of new ideas. I started creating dance videos for entertainment. Now, I mainly create fashion and lifestyle content.
I try to relate it to Gen Z so they can take inspiration from me and style their outfits in their own way. I also create make-up and beauty videos. Someone with vitiligo can go through my content and feel ‘if Aastha can do all this, why can’t I?’. Through my content, I hope to instill confidence in those suffering from vitiligo.

C: We think you're truly inspirational—you never let vitiligo define who you are as a person. You've also inspired many to own every aspect of themselves, and focus on their goals without paying heed to how the world perceives them. Talk to us about this journey.

AS: In a world where society defines beauty standards for everyone, someone coming up to me and telling me ‘you’re truly inspirational’ vs ‘you’re beautiful’ means the world to me. Since I was diagnosed with vitiligo, I always dreamt of inspiring multiple people through my journey. For me, it wasn’t just about how many people I inspire. Just creating an impact on even one person would make me feel like I’ve come closer to my dream.
In my initial days of content creation, I remember talking to people in my DMs about how their family disowned them because of vitiligo. There were parents who didn’t support their children’s careers because of this skin condition. I would speak to them for hours on call, and make sure they started loving themselves and living for themselves and not for those around them. I am thankful to my family for standing by me throughout my journey. The decision of coming public with vitiligo was also so that, through my story, I could help regain confidence in those who are diagnosed with this skin condition.
C: Tell us what makes you 'More Than Pretty'.

AS: You always define pretty for yourself. For me, ‘more than pretty’ means being beautiful and generous from within. I won’t deny that in today’s world, one’s external appearance is everything. But, why can’t we think differently? Why can’t we accept ourselves the way we are and flaunt our imperfections? It is the people around us who make us feel like we are not one of them. All we have to do is ignore these people, and live life to the fullest. If I hadn’t decided to stop my medication and accept myself with this skin condition, I wouldn’t be where I am today.
C: How do you overcome the self-doubt and limitations that come with battling vitiligo? Also, what is your mantra to being your authentic self?

AS: My mantra to being my authentic self is ‘your imperfections don’t define your self-worth, so just be real to yourself’. It is not as easy as I talk about it—it took me a lot of time to overcome self-doubt that came along with vitiligo. I looked at myself many times in the mirror asking ‘why me?’. But when I saw the world around me, people were facing issues that were worse. There were those who lost their family, others who couldn’t walk, and people suffered more pain than I did. I would thank god for giving me everything else. My family made me feel loved and a part of them, and their support helped me throughout.
Of course there were people who threw ruthless comments at me. Initially I used to feel bad and cry about it; I would sit and delete all the comments. It started affecting me more when they started trolling my parents and calling me an adopted child because my parents have dusky skin. But, I realised that we should actually pay attention to the 90 per cent love that we get rather than the 10 per cent hate. People are insecure about themselves, and they just throw that upon us through the Internet. In today’s time, all we have to do is ignore them and use the hate as motivation to come back stronger. Just be true to yourself and you will rule the world. My entire experience has built me into the person I am today. 

C: You recently made your OTT debut in the series, Saala Salil. How was the experience like?

AS: It was my first-ever OTT show, and I loved the experience. The whole process of getting chosen, going to set, getting my make-up and hair done, trying out different outfits, meeting new people, taking multiple shots, and just giving my best—it was amazing. I remember I even had to dub the day after, and redo all my expressions and feel every moment again. I had to pull off an all-nighter and go to the office the next day at 9am, but it felt like a different experience altogether. On a normal day, I would cry about lack of sleep, but on that day I felt so productive.
C: Talk to us about what your dream collaboration would be?

AS: It would be meeting Winnie Harlow, the Canadian fashion model who has been flaunting her vitiligo for years. Not only do I want to meet her, but I also want to sit down and share my experiences with her and talk to her about how she’s been my biggest inspiration. I want to connect with her and know her journey as well. The day this happens, I will achieve one of my biggest dreams.
C: What are the resolutions or goals you want to achieve this year?

AS: I want to walk the ramp as a vitiligo model, up my fashion game, and collaborate with bigger designers. I also want to start my own brand in make-up, skincare, or fashion; kick-start my acting journey; and open a non-profit organisation, which can help people with vitiligo get back their confidence and just be happy. 

Look courtesy: Mango India @mango @mangostores_india

Shoot talent: Photographer: Anubhav Sood; Stylist: Gopalika Virmani; Assistant Stylist: Riza Rizvi ; HMU: Anuradha Raman