A casting director asked me if I’d become a man yet: VJ Bani on body shaming

A casting director asked me if I'd become a man yet: VJ Bani on body shaming
Gurbani Judge/Instagram

Can you imagine a man being body shamed for lifting weights, having a muscular physique and sporting six-pack abs?

Surely not. Yet, as absurd as it may sound, a woman can be for doing just that.

While Bollywood actresses like Vidya Balan, Sonakshi Sinha, Parineeti Chopra, Huma Qureshi etc have all been criticized for their fuller figures, Gurbani Judge was actually body shamed for having an overtly muscular physique.

Gurbani, or popularly referred to as VJ Bani, started her career with MTV’s reality show Roadies. After appearing as a contestant on the show, she went on to host the show for four more years. Since her video jockey days, Gurbani has come a long way. She has modelled for big brands, acted in her first movie and is a brand-ambassador for a fitness app.

In a column she wrote for Hindustan Times Brunch, Bani spoke about how she was body shamed and how she handles the criticism that comes her way. Her post reads,

“I have drool-worthy abs and a muscular body by choice, and that has put me at the receiving end of so much body shaming, it’s unbelievable. India puts too much emphasis on a certain kind of a body. For a woman, thin is supposed to be good, and if there’s any deviation — too thin, too fat, or muscular (manly, they call it!) – she hears no end about it.

But I guess no one understands what they are doing, really. Fortunately, even though I was too skinny, wore spectacles and braces, and was kind of unwieldy, no one picked on me when I was a teen. Then when I was 18, I took part in the reality show MTV Roadies. Criticism from fellow contestants, constant fights… it was super tough, but I survived. I didn’t just win the competition, but also hosted the next four seasons of Roadies, and launched my career in a big way.

But when I decided to really work out at the age of 19 and make my body as strong as possible, the mayhem began. No one, neither men, nor women, could get it. Why do you work out so much? Muscles for a woman… why? Are you really okay, or do you need help?

There were constant questions, sometimes to my face, sometimes just blatantly visible on their faces. Industry people were most offensive.

I still remember a well-known casting director who asked me if I had become a man yet; had I grown a penis yet? Seriously, she did!

This was really long ago, and I have bumped into her often since, but even though I was seriously upset, I don’t show any anger. I didn’t then, and haven’t since. These people are not worth it. They just want to one-up on others, and don’t get that different people may want different bodies.

I always fight for what’s right; I don’t take anything lying down. And I wanted to be a strong person, both mentally and physically. So I didn’t let others tell me otherwise. So what if I’m a woman and I have muscles? My plan was to unlock my strength — physical and mental and I am sticking to it. I love to work out. I am passionate about it. It gives me happiness, makes me feel secure and has netted me a body like no woman I know.

The minute you pay attention to what others (critics) say, they will tear you apart. Trust me I’ve been there. Today I see so many celebs thrashed, body shamed online — and these are beautiful, seemingly perfect-looking people. It’s only in India that my body is considered weird (or different), but as soon as I step out of the country, I get comments like ‘your body is fabulous’ and ‘it must have taken a lot of effort…’ from everyone.

Today I am in a happy space, personally and professionally. My career is really diverse as I am a model, a video jockey and an actress. I am getting movie roles that are based on my physicality, which is amazing. The film I did with Honey Singh, Zorawar (2016), where I played an assassin, sort of launched me in a special way in the industry. And now I am doing a Telugu film where, again, the makers sought me out because of the way I look.

I am a brand ambassador for a fitness app, and was the only non-athlete to be part of the Nike campaign that has 12 senior athletes, runners and others who represent the country. I think this is awesome, because it shows I am making something of myself by not letting detractors get me down.

I am happy that I am able to showcase the extent of body transformation women too can do. It’s all within us. Not in other people’s minds. So listen to your own self, always.

Let body shamers be damned!”

Original post on HT can be found here.

‘Lifting weights will make you look manly’I ‘You’re not a girly girl if you lift weights’ ‘I don’t lift weights because I just want to ‘tone up” ‘Girls should only do cardio, lifting is for guys’ ‘So what steroids are you on’ ‘That’s way too much muscle.. For a woman’ _____________________________________________ All of the above and so much more. I’ve heard it all. And not once because I actually cared enough to ask, ‘hey, what do *you* think of *my* body?’. I never entered the gym because of what people said I ‘should/ ought to/ must’ look like. I went in there to get strong, to be active, to be healthy, to sweat = to feel better, and more ME. ____________________________________________ I can’t remember the last time the thought of ‘will this be attractive to so and so’ crossed my mind in relation to myself – let alone to me lifting weight. It doesn’t happen. I love me so much and that’s all that matters, I am so happy (blame all the endorphins) doing what I do day in and out that all else is tuned out. This is something I’ve gotten better at accepting and allowing day by day. That’s why you will always hear people say ‘it’s not just physical, it’s so much more MENTAL’ because to get to where you want to go, you have to look within and really be true to yourself and know that yes, this is what I’m about. This is what matters, this puts me in alignment and makes me a more joyful happy productive being. And guess what? You’ll end up inspiring and encouraging and being that source for other people along the path too. I don’t go around telling people they should eat healthier or lift or try to lose weight, you do you. I’ll do me. If someone asks for help I will always do what I can, I recognise the quest – but you need to recognise whether the desire really is there in you or not. Why else do you think we don’t see more people walking around with their Tupperware containers looking hench af? Because, if your hearts not in it, no matter how much you try – you’ll never get there. Cold hard honest truth. Just like cold hard iron, work and discipline. Just wanted to share that with y’all fam. Do you ??? #doyou #everyday #womenwholift #loa

A photo posted by ⚡Lady RocknRolla ⚡ (@banij) on

Whoa. Hot. Manly. Ew. Ugly. Wow. Beautiful. Wow. Goals. Bae. Wtf. Gross. Respect. Fuck. Hardcore. Be a girl. You’re becoming a man.? ?. . A lot of people like to throw these words/ emojis around. Just like they love to throw their opinions in your face, shove them down your throat and then stuff you until you suffocate into a neat little column or box and file you away where you can no longer serve as a threat to their narrow minded, never expanding nor evolving selves. ‘They’ don’t have the patience, the space in those tiny heads that are kept at alarmingly limited capacities by believing all the shit they have been fed. Beliefs of how one is supposed to BE, THINK, BEHAVE and ofcourse LOOK. If you’ve been following my posts, one thing you’ll know for sure is that I’m not necessarily fond of giving a fuck to that particular school of… nonexistantthought. Ha, the irony. Just felt like reminding you beautiful supportive lot that. Don’t look for validation from outside of yourselves, don’t get into that column and box just to make someone else happy, do what feels right for you, what makes you happy. look within, it’s there. All you ever need. Now go forth, give no fucks. If you’ve been tagged in this post it’s because I love you for allowing me to BE me and do what makes me happy and thus live more of what my goal is 🙂 <<ELLE MAG 2016 BEAUTY ISSUE>> #authentic #trueself #happy #beyouDoyou #always #religiousonanotherlevel #nxtlvlsht #nofcksgiven #unlabel #unapologetic #healthy #fitness #inspire #dowhatyoulove

A photo posted by ⚡Lady RocknRolla ⚡ (@banij) on

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