“To be honest, @diet_paratha was an account I just relied on vintage Bollywood posters on. I’m from New Zealand and in 2017 when I created this handle I felt the strange disconnect between my cultures. As an Indian I’m Gujarati and as a New Zealander I didn’t quite fit either mold and that caused a strong sense of displacement, ”says Londoner Anita Chhiba, 31 years.
Ironically, she didn’t log into any of these Bollywood posts herself. “I felt it was a nice way to appreciate this art form. Along with that, through the wave of empowerment brown pages cropping up on Instagram, I started to discover artists, stylists, musicians and diaspora activists who had similar values, ”she says.
Anita began to unearth incredible talent, but the pandemic finally gave her time to devote to it. “The side profile pieces that I made really got a lot of traction and then people from all over started following me – from big brands like Burberry and Vogue to Elle and I was like, ‘oh wow! I’m so happy that @diet_paratha is finally getting the recognition it deserves and that we as a people are also receiving the recognition we deserve globally, ”said Anita, whose handful now has 17,000 followers, at the time of going to press.
The name Diet Paratha is a play on the popular fashion Diet Prada watchdog grip. But it’s not about canceling people. Rather, it is about celebrating people’s creativity. And although there has been a shift in perspective towards South Asians in the UK, Anita says there is still work to be done in the struggle for representation.
“You have people like the Daytimers who bring the whole South Asian underground to life and put on full South Asian festivals and you have an account like mine that drives the narrative forward. The creativity of dark people is the premise of @diet_paratha, ”she explains. “It’s really about repositioning the way everyone sees us.”
brown and white
Living as a dark-haired person in the UK, Anita says, “UK is obviously problematic in the sense of colonization, but there are many of us here and there is support here and we are all collectively pushing culture forward. It is therefore an exciting time. If one of us wins, we all win and that’s the kind of energy we need.
And how does she intend to move this movement forward? “I think this has already started to happen. I almost started the page and had an incredible press. What I really want now are brands that join us, pay us fairly, present themselves as true allies, and not just use us as visual representation puppets, ”says Anita, who is happy to lead @ diet_paratha on her own for the moment!
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From Brunch HT, September 19, 2021
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