When translated from Sanskrit, my name means 'bringer of victory'. It's powerful and empowering, giving me strength when I feel weak and pride when I succeed.
But it also speaks to a line that I tread every day of my life: just Indian enough to evoke my heritage, but not so different from the English 'Jane' to be prohibitively different. My parents had to consider my name's pronounceability, which upsets me; parents who even now are referred to by the anglicised names imposed upon them by colleagues who found their given names' too difficult' to pronounce. They chose my name, conscious of insidious acts of racism and bigotry that, in turn, have left me ashamed of my Indian-ness.
And yet their choice didn't fully protect me. (How could it?) Kids at school didn't want to play with the brown girl with 'skin like poo'. Men on dating apps were like I just don't date Indian girls' even though they were sure I was 'very nice'. That, or I was fetishised precisely because of my brownness. (No, I don't know every position in the karma sutra.)
Imagery in the media, magazines, films and TV all portrayed a beauty that wasn't mine: not brown, not light-skinned, not wanted. I tried to be white in a world where drug store foundations never matched my skin tone, and sticking plasters highlighted the places where I was wounded. I tried to be white and yet would still hear 'Paki' echoing after me on public transport and as I walked down the street. I wanted to reject it all. All that made me so perfectly me. I distanced myself from all my uniqueness because fitting in is comfort, emotional survival, and safety. I pushed myself - ironically - towards the very whiteness that caused such shame.
But power has always been built into my name. And I know that I matter. So I challenge my internal narrative, speak out when I see injustice and advocate for others' being othered. And now I'm starting to see myself. To be proud and to love me.
Jayna x the anti-casting
All the womxn featured on the underargument have been selected based on the personal story they shared with us which was inspired by one of our collections' themes. We only receive stories, no photos and no measurements. This is what we call the anti-casting and it is our way of reclaiming the representation of women's diversity and utilising the power of storytelling to empower ourselves and others. Find out more and maybe submit your story too here.
Jayna is wearing collection no.02 For identity // Against stereotypes.