Shape Diversity: Abhirami Uthaman

From the Infinite Wardrobe: Abhirami in ACCORDION PLEATED DRESS by BONSUI

Hi Abhi, thank you for taking time out of your schedule to chat with us! Could you share a little bit about yourself to our readers?

I’m currently a Customer Experience team lead and while it’s different from my field of studies at university–communications, I enjoy the growth at a start-up space and the business concept of sustainable fashion for every woman. 

Finding your career could take multiple trying-and-failing, and for some, they find success early into their career years. How did you get started on this career path? 

It took a few learnings to figure out that I am engineered to be someone who wanted to help, who wanted to provide solutions, who wanted to manage a crisis and make a difference.

Right out of university, I tried roles in advertising. My communications studies and love of the language made copywriting in advertising and marketing a shoo-in for me then. I don’t think that interest really left me because I still find the skill set useful and applicable in my current role. After my copywriting role, I considered training and teaching as I felt it was more ‘me’. I enjoy coaching since my JC days so I’ve tried private teaching and character development training classes for children. 

Through some manoeuvring, I found myself in a start-up setting where we could help women with their confidence and lifestyle. I like to think we help them find that confidence to be themselves and that’s an important personal philosophy to me.

Women and confidence. They sound so natural as a pair, but it’s a daily battle for so many. What are your thoughts on this?

It’s disheartening at times when friends share with me that they don’t feel confident. I would think, “why can’t she see that she’s beautiful in her own skin” or “why are you affected by someone else’s comment”? I could say all the right words but ultimately, it’s up to them to step out of their shell, and rethink what’s important to them. 

I’m not saying it’s easy; everyone goes through self-doubt, men and women both. 

Body individuality is a standard we set ourselves against. What is your definition of body-beautiful?

Ah, body beautiful. I think it’s about looking at courage and self-acceptance in the eye. 

Having always been a big girl growing up, I had difficulty buying clothes. Be it lingerie or jeans, it’s difficult to find jeans to fit taller girls or curvaceous bodies. So you can imagine what travelling did for me, as what Disneyland do for kids! I love that there’s a wide assortment for every body shape if you explore. Petite, tall, curvy… it’s about knowing your body and learning which styles work for you. I’m an inverted triangle (strawberry) shape with broader shoulders and I’ve learnt to create silhouettes that fit my frame: a-line skirts, wrap styles…

What would you advise someone who is hard on themselves?

I would encourage you to reflect and consider who you are surrounding yourself with. It’s important that your closest confidant is also someone who uplifts you while keeping it real. I like to think that I surround myself with friends who are unafraid to have that conversation when you’re too hard on yourself and they empower you through their actions and not just with words.

It’s also important to filter what you are exposing yourself to; social media can be a negative space if you let the photos influence you, or the comments get to you. 

You love experimenting with different beauty looks. How is make-up a part of your daily routine/life? 

While I love natural looks, I got interested in makeup as a form of art. When younger, I watched my mom getting dolled up and I love how she wears her confidence well. She wasn’t using makeup to change her look. Instead, she taught us to work with our features and enhance our look instead of using makeup to cover it up. 

Where do you get your confidence from?

I got it from my mom! Growing up, I always looked up to her and I’m thankful that she also named me after the Hindu goddess Abhirami who is known for bravery and courage. It is that daily reminder I need to say, “you’re enough”.

My family unit is encouraging and always promoted healthy confidence growing up. I inherited my tall genes from my mom and that doesn’t stop me from wearing heels. I think it’s self-expression and I think you should enjoy fashion as everyone should. 

Has it always been easy to feel confident 100% of the time?

And if we’re being honest, being a darker skin Indian, there are challenges when it comes to dressing up though the industries have been more progressive now. “Beauty standards” have changed and now you see women of colour gracing magazine covers, more shades representation in topics that matter. I like that some beauty brands are also more colour inclusive.

There is beauty in the imperfections. Look at dimples and freckles! I think it’s more about having a chat with yourself and finding out your insecurities and embracing them one at a time. 

What is the first easy step to gain confidence?

Start dressing for yourself and you’ll start to see yourself in a new light. Slowly but surely, you’ll be less affected by frivolous comments on how you should dress because you’re in control. It’s a good place to be when you’re unfazed by judgement because the only standard you need to hold yourself up against, is yours. 

Find the motivation to build excitement about dressing up. Inspiration can come from building mood boards and visual aids. It should be something you constantly look at to encourage yourself and build your self-belief. Throw in a motivational quote or two!

We want to explore the topic of diversity, and what does it mean to you?

Diversity is everywhere; at work, I work alongside people from different cultural background, mixed experiences, and combine that all together, we get a wonderful exchange of culture, knowledge, experience, and personalities that make a diverse workplace a lot more fun.

Beyond the scope of work, I’d say that diversity humanise the workplace and work we do. It’s the interactions with your team members that make the workday better and that’d something I encourage everyone to look for at their current or next workplace: a company that embraces diversity and encourages inclusion. 

Do you have any advice for someone trying to excel at work? 

To excel at work takes a lot of work. It’s true! You have to be adaptive to your environment. This means you have to be open to different viewpoints and perspectives and keep being optimistic. Criticism will come from every direction and it’s your personal choice to take it constructively or negatively. 

Last but not least, what values do you live by?

Respect and honesty are the most important to me.

The respect you extend to someone is the respect you’ll get back. It’s as simple as saying thank you, or the small gestures that make the world a better place. I’d have to thank my parents for instilling this in me. 

Honesty, on the other hand, isn’t as simple. I struggle with being honest with my friends, or to myself when it comes to discussions and opinions. But that’s the beauty of friendship–you should be the person you are and be brutally honest if you have to be. You’d be much more appreciated for it. 


Beat the stereotypes and embraces the differences. Find out more about our celebration about diversity in our community from our interview series:

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