There inevitably comes a point in life that makes you stop, take a pause and see things around you differently. More than often, these moments are born out of difficult situations which make you see reality from a different perspective and urge you orient attention towards your mental and physical health. For bodybuilder and bikini model Ankita Singh, it took one such setback to catapult her in the direction of achieving fitness and adopting a healthy lifestyle. The three-time bronze medalist at the Miss India Bikini Physique, Singh has had to battle past the societal glares, the male gaze and the residing taboos in the Indian mindset to stand where she is today — a strong, empowered woman who lets her glittering achievements as a female bodybuilder speak for themselves.
Hailing from Lucknow, Ankita’s decision to take up gymming was almost a spontaneous one. Nursing a heartbreak during her college days as an engineering student in Bangalore which plunged her into depression, Ankita decided to take matters in her own hand and channelized her energies towards pursuing body fitness. “Way back in 2008, when I was in college, I was going through depression, 2 of my very close girlfriends joined the gym, one of them wanted to lose weight and another wanted to gain. I merely went with them and it was an instant love affair I never left after that,” the Miss Karnataka 2018 and 2019 titlist recalled. Although her two friends dropped out of the gym, Ankita had found her true calling there.
There have been several hurdles that Ankita has had to cross and still has to face to date. Being a woman and performing as a bikini model in a country like India is not at all an easy job. Becoming an easy target for the objectifying male gaze, Ankita has been constantly victimised for her posts on social media which keep earning unwanted, sleazy comments often. “It’s so difficult to be a woman and perform in a bikini because our society is still not used to seeing women in bikini,” recalled Singh who started her competitive career way back in 2014.
On the family front, Ankita’s father who used to be the MLC of Mirzapur did not take the news of her daughter participating as a bikini model kindly, at first. Quite distinctly, she remembers, “He didn’t talk to me for almost a year since I used to do bodybuilding shows in bikinis against his will. It took my parents years to understand this sport,” she admitted. Although the battle for acceptance might be won at home, it still rages in the larger society outside. “I often get bad comments from guys on social media in my DM’s, posts if I post a picture in a bikini. They take it as some sort of invitation. I’m still failed to understand why!” she exasperatedly proclaims.
The former senior software engineer who gave up her job in 2015 to take up bodybuilding professionally has had no regrets so far in switching roles. The current face of brands like Divine Nutrition, Myfitness Peanut Butter, KKROXTYLE apparel and an athlete of Rite Bite Max protein bar, Ankita has made it big as a female bodybuilder and has managed to influence countless women and fitness-enthusiasts through her motivational videos. Her achievements as a bikini model have earned her the fame of being featured as the cover model of esteemed magazines like the special edition of Body Power Expo by the Fitness Magazine, Fitness Guru in 2015. Singh also finished as the semi-finalist in MTV’s Reebok Fitness Challenge Season 1 (Cross-Fit Games).
However, Ankita admits that it isn’t an easy world for girls out there today, especially in our society. “To be honest it isn’t that good! Most of them struggle to get good sponsorship from brands. They face financial issues, bad words from society for choosing such a field, etc,” she expresses quite candidly. Recalling back, Singh remembers, “When I started competing there hardly used to be any awareness about fitness way back in 2014, it’s good to see so many women coming forward,” she says.
The battle is a long-drawn-out one for acceptance and it is women like Ankita Singh who inspire by breaking the mold and forcing us to rethink gender stereotypes. The social media influencer and online trainer who plays an active role in motivating people and pushing them towards a healthier lifestyle has dreams of opening a restaurant soon in Bangalore. With bigger goals in her mind in the upcoming future, there are indeed miles to go for Ankita Singh who is shattering the stereotypes, one championship crown at a time.