We are so fascinated and awed at the fact that you’re a professional belly dancer! Tell us a little more about this…
You know how people say that the best things often happen by chance (or is that just me?)? My journey has been one of those cases. I was dragged, near kicking & screaming, to my first belly dance class. A friend and I wanted to join dance classes over one summer — I wanted to join salsa, she voted belly dance. We finally agreed that we would do one level of belly dance, and then move on to salsa. Only I never left.
Something about belly dance just called out to me. It taught me a lot more than how to move my body. Before I knew it, I was learning advanced levels, and got certified to teach.
What made you want to start Twitter Gets Fitter?
This too, happened by chance. I woke up on the morning of Nov 15th, 2016, and thought to myself “Just 45 days to NYE, and yet again, every fitness resolution has turned to dust.” And then it occurred to me that I probably wasn’t alone in feeling that way, and let’s face it, we regret failed resolutions only in the weeks before New Year’s. So as a Hail Mary, I tweeted asking if anybody wanted to be my workout buddy, so we could (hopefully) redeem ourselves. In a matter of minutes, I had 15 buddies. In a couple of days, that number hit 70!
It was never planned. It just happened. Even today, I often just sit back and wonder how it all came together. I’m admittedly still reeling from what it’s turned into 🙂
(TwitterGetsFitter is India’s first online fitness buddy system which has garnered a lot of attention lately – both by people online and by brands)
If you weren’t this awesome-dancer-lady, what would you be?
I honestly have no idea! My career-graph (if you can call it that) has been varied — I’ve been a fashion designer, a pageant trainer, a celebrity’s agent, a baker, a social media manager, a writer, marketing head at a venture capital firm — yes, ‘varied’ would be the word. I imagine if dance hadn’t happened, it would still be as colourful a ride.
Tell us one thing about yourself that no one knows.
I’m painfully shy. Most people don’t believe me when I say it, but it’s true. Meeting new people is torture for me, and it takes me a long time to really calm down and get comfortable.
One thing you would never endorse?
Fairness creams, and quick-fix weight loss solutions. I cannot stand how the media messes with our heads, telling us everyday that we aren’t good enough.
What does being a Real Girl mean to you?
It means accepting who I am, the way I am. It means nagging my TwitterGetsFitter group to do their planks and their crunches, but also cheering them on when they eat some cake. It means knowing that I make mistakes, and knowing that that’s okay. It means having a bad hair day, a bad skin day, or just a ‘bad day’ day, and knowing it isn’t the end of the world.
What’s the toughest part of your profession?
Fighting prejudices and negative body images. Prejudices, because our country still views belly dance as being synonymous to stripping (or worse!). And almost every student that signs up for my class asks me whether they’re too fat or too thin to belly dance. It’s been 8 years, and that hasn’t changed, and it breaks my heart.
Tell us about a moment that you made you feel like it’s all worth it…
There have been a few, and for that I’m grateful. The ones that have really stuck with me are when women tell me that through dance and/or fitness, I have helped them battle their depression and feel better about themselves. I won’t lie, I teared up when a woman first told me that (okay fine, I outright bawled my eyes out!)
Debunk one fitness myth for us?
That you need to live on kale and quinoa to get fit. You need a balanced diet, and one that suits your own genetic makeup. It’s far healthier to eat the way your grandparents ate, and that’s a rule of thumb I try to follow. So I add ghee to my food, I eat rice twice a day (because Mallu) and I eat plenty of fish and coconut (also because Mallu). And it works for me! People from different parts of the country will benefit most from eating the food that their regions are known for. As a Malayali, eating rotis does not work for me, contrary to popular opinion that rice is the enemy.
What keeps you motivated?
The people around me. My students, my TwitterGetsFitter tribe, and my husband. They never let me give up, and they’re there for me when I’m having a bad time.
Someone you look up to?
I admire Priyanka Chopra for always reinventing herself, Angelina Jolie for being such an incredible humanitarian, and Meryl Streep because well, Meryl Streep! I want to be Meryl Streep when I grow up, and Betty White when I grow old.
Describe your personal style in one line.
Comfortable, bordering on lazy. Despite having a background in fashion, I’m horrible at “dressing up”. Even my hair is strictly wash-and-go.
What would you tell a young girl who’s not too sure what career path she wants to take?
Don’t be afraid to try different things. Society will try to convince you that you need to pick one career and stick with that the rest of your life. I’m living proof that that’s not true. And trust me, I’m happier for having experienced so many different things!
What’s your idea of unwinding?
Lazing on the beach with a glass of Port Wine, some good music, and hopefully a dog.
What feeds your soul?
Being able to do new things.
How addicted are you to social media?
More than I’d like to admit. But in my defence, Instagram has a LOT of puppies!
One thing that “growing up” has taught you?
That we’re breaking our children by teaching them that there are boundaries to how they can/should live. Yes, an education is important. No, your 10th-grade mark sheet isn’t what decides the rest of your life. Yes, you need to be financially independent. No, that doesn’t mean selling your soul and killing yourself at a job you hate.
Complete the following sentence for me; (I insist because I’m vain and I know you’re too nice to refuse)
www.realgirl.co is —————— a place you can relate to. It isn’t all shiny and perfect and filtered. And that’s what makes it beautiful!
Leave us with a message since it’s Women’s Day!
I know it’s cliché, but let’s try to celebrate women everyday. And men, too! We’re all such magnificent badasses, it feels a waste not to celebrate that every chance we get.
Can we get an Amen?! Keep slaying girl, you make a great case for Real Girls everywhere! More power to you. 🙂
Image Courtesy: The Cheesecake Project
Featured Image: Madhu Menon
(Apart from being an awesome human, Chitra is a belly dance instructor and the Founder of the very popular Twitter Gets Fitter movement. You can follow Chitra @BombayBellyrina on Twitter)
*This is the first part in a 3 part series of interviews to commemorate some awesome, badass, inspirational real girls on Women’s Day.