Shanuki De Alwis: The One Woman Force - Cosmopolitan Sri Lanka
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Shanuki De Alwis: The One Woman Force

Who proves that you’re enough to do wonders!

With a dynamic energy that has revolved around various roles and currently as the General Manager of Vision1, she has always carried her confident stance on body positivity wherever she has gone.

“I grew up watching people taking emotionally abusive potshots at my mum’s weight problems. The intensity of this never impacted me when I was young as I was never bullied and I was called lassanai (beautiful) or sudhui (fair) since I was half my current size and quite fair. It was only when I grew up that I realized how hurtful it would have been to my mother. I’ve also witnessed my friends suffer from hurtful comments about their weight and looks. For instance, when we’d go out, the boys would often ignore them and compliment me, and this didn’t feel right.

And as years passed, I started to put on weight, so everyone who called me beautiful and only saw my looks started to put me down as I was not meeting their irrational beauty standards. Nevertheless, these comments didn’t hurt me — I was okay with who I was and didn’t have a problem with it. Instead, I started embracing every bit of my body by naming each part of it and befriending them. So, my tummy is called Wilbur and he is pretty famous as my friends come to get his blessings!

My experience in drama opened its special doors towards fighting patriarchy. You see, I am comfortable with everything that’s not usually found appealing by the opposite sex. The most iconic moment was when I was able to pull off the leading lady’s role in Evita which is typically played by a superficially beautiful and shapely actress. In reality, I was second guessing myself the entire time before my performance knowing that I had to take the stage with a fuller figure while other ladies I shared the role with ‘looked the part’ more than I did. Irrespective of my positive outlook, I was called “Heavita” in a critic’s review, yet I laughed it off with a healthy dose of sass. I was proud to be Heavita and represent fuller-figured actors.

One of my notable professional endeavours towards uplifting body confidence has been with Selyn as I worked with them to launch the campaign for their women empowerment label called STHRI by Selyn. These fabrics are made by women for women of any shape. As a part of that campaign, we held a fashion show that showcased the average women of different skin colour, age, size and included pregnant women, too. I was also able to initiate a video for STHRI on International Women’s Day, where we featured various types of Sri Lankan women who shared the message that they could be a ball, barrel or anything else, but they’re women so no one gets to shame them. This video ended up empowering many girls out there and is an example of how a group of unapologetically beautiful women can create a powerful voice. In the future, we’re planning on initiating forums to pass on the message of body positivity with even more impact!

Having said that, ladies, never let someone else’s comments affect you. It’s quite frustrating to see you judge yourselves when you’re not perceived in a certain way. What’s even worse is when you think that it’s society that’s stopping you from embracing yourself. You’re letting them stop you by allowing their words to shape your thoughts. So, start being yourself unapologetically and this way, your bullies or insecurities will have no power over you.”

    This article was originally published as ‘The Bold and Beautiful Movement” in the October 2018 issue of Cosmopolitan Sri Lanka. For more feature stories, grab a copy of our latest magazine.

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