@sharanguru: Representing race and body positivity

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This green got me feelin pretty

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Interspersed among the candids are posts celebrating her Tamil culture. Images of Guruparan dressed for weddings in sparkly saris and gold jewelry. “It’s basically everything that girls want to see and people of colour, in general, don’t get to see their own people represented all in one,” she says.  A quick glance at her feed shows just what the 20,000 women (and men) who follow her love about Guruparan. Under a post celebrating her dark skin, for example, a follower commented: “You’re such an inspiration. Coming [from] a dark brown girl who has experienced the same thing. Thank you for sharing your story.”

The social work student has also started making a more conscious foray into fashion and beauty, even tying her work in with the legalization of cannabis. But she’s also slowly emerging into a new stream of content creator: a socially conscious influencer. Since starting her social work degree four years ago, Guruparan says her content has become informed by her work with marginalized women and communities as a result of internships at Ryerson’s Sexual Assault Resource Centre and a local women’s shelter. Alongside the images of Guruparan, posing in bralettes or smoking mariujuana, are captions about rape culture and sexual assault. 

A January 2018 post of Guruparan posing in a sponsored dress from Xav the Label says: “We know not all men rape. We know not all men cat call. We know not ALL men are ignorant or uneducated but can the “not all men” men just take one fucking second to hear these survivor’s stories out for once instead of getting defensive for shit they didn’t do?? We know it’s not a man or woman problem. It’s a cultural problem. It’s the rape normalized culture we live in.… Stop getting defensive and just listen,” alongside a prompt for followers to check out her Instagram story for more information on sexual assault.  “People are already coming to my page,” Guruparan says, “so I might as well inform them on some serious issues.” 

For most influencers, the paycheque is the goal, and Sharan Guruparan is still hustling to find her name on one. The 25-year-old Ryerson University student fell into influencing in much the same way a lot of millennials do, by creating a personal Instagram account in 2014. To connect with friends, share memes, show off her outfits. “It wasn’t until two years ago I really started to see a difference in my engagement,” she says. “I’d just write captions that I thought were funny, and a bunch of girls reacted positively because they could relate.”

Guruparan, who declares herself proudly Tamil, frequently celebrates her “melanin” skin and curves – often while rocking a bikini or twerking in the pool – as a means to connect with a group she says are often overlooked: young South-Asian women. A June 2019 post shows Guruparan posing on the beach in Punta Cana in a yellow swimsuit, looking directly at the camera, hip jutted to the side with her arm tattoos of Hindu gods and goddesses, on full display. “Every colour looks good on rich melanin,” the caption says. “Don’t let anyone ever tell you otherwise.”