A national treasure in her homeland of India, and a former Miss World, Bollywood star Aishwarya Rai has been receiving far less flattering attention of late, sparking an international debate over weight and body image, perhaps a reflection of a growing Westernization of body ideals in India that emphasizes maintaining a skinny physique at all times.
The 38-year-old actress often referred to as the “most beautiful woman in the world” gave birth to a daughter, Aradhya, last November with her husband, another famous actor, Amitabh Bachchan. But unlike global celebrities such as Angelina Jolie or Victoria Beckham, the new mother has yet to lose all of the weight gained during her pregnancy.
According to Yahoo News, new mothers are supposed to wait three months after giving birth before beginning a vigorous exercise or diet routine. For her critics, however, the six months that have already passed since her baby’s birth are unacceptable.
In fact, the Yahoo News piece cites a study by the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology that suggests that sudden and dramatic changes in a mother’s weight can be unhealthy for her and any future pregnancy.
These facts have done little to quiet Rai’s critics, however.
Only now beginning to step out in public again, Rai is causing a serious stir with her new figure. The Internet tongue wagging began in earnest after a recent video entitled “Shocking! Fat Aishwayra Rai!” went viral on YouTube, receiving over half a million views. The video, posted by a group called “Bollywood CIA,” juxtaposes before and post-pregnancy pictures of the star, with the sound of an elephant playing in the background.
ABC News reported on some of the snarky, and supportive, comments that have been pouring in.
Someone using the name ‘Sharonnkatha’ wrote, “The woman is in the PUBLIC eye! Her baby is 7 months old and she looks like she gave birth yesterday! Not to mention she has a double chin! Sorry, many of us have had kids and WORKED hard to lose it. Motherhood doesn’t give you license to be overweight.
In an e-mail to ABC, Professor Rachel Dwyer, A professor of Indian Culture and Cinema at SOAS, at the University of London, said she felt the criticisms stemmed from a more Western viewpoint that is starting to now make inroads overseas.
“I think this baby weight thing is a western obsession with pulling stars down,” she wrote. “Women who lose weight are congratulated and those who don’t are seen as letting themselves go. I’ve not heard of it in India before.”
Recently, American supermodel Molly Sims received some attention for admitting publicly she loves the freedom her pregnancy has given her. Ms. Sims, who has walked the catwalk for Victoria Secret, among others, said she is all too happy to indulge her pregnancy cravings.
Rai has so far responded only that she is “enjoying “ motherhood, according to Yahoo News.