Navi Indran Pillai has taken Instagram by storm with her powerful and inspiring photo series of ‘Bold Indian Bride’, shattering stereotypes of not just a shy bride but how to empower cancer survivors and patients to embrace their transformation while fighting the disease.
Vashnavi Poovanedran is better known on Instagram as Navi Indran Pillai, and she took the photo-sharing platform by storm after her bridal photoshoot titled ‘The Bold Indian Bride’ went viral. In a series of posts, Poovanedran—who is a Malaysian of Indian descent—spoke of how cancer has robbed many women of looking their best on their wedding day, and that her photoshoot was aimed at helping survivors realise they are bold and beautiful.
“Cancer treatments have given us a lot of limitations, robbed us of beauty and taken away our confidence. As little girls, we have always dreamt of what our big day will be like and how we would look like as a bride,” Poovanedran, who is a breast cancer survivor, wrote in one of her posts.
“But having cancer has stripped some of us from fulfilling these dreams. A lot of cancer survivors have postponed or even cancelled their big day,” she wrote.
Poovanedran wrote that she had thought she was cancer-free, when it returned after five years, and spread to her liver and backbone. However, she wrote that after lots of chemotherapy, she beat cancer again in December 2018. Although the journey wasn’t an easy one, it didn’t dampen her spirit or her zeal.
“For me, as a cancer survivor, I dreamt the day I marry the love of my life. Dreamt, what it is like to look like a bride, to feel like a bride. Having gone through cancer treatments (chemotherapy, etc.), losing my hair was by far the hardest thing I ever had to go through,” Poovanedran, who is a motivational speaker and dancer, wrote in a post.
“I felt that I was not beautiful enough to be loved and was not beautiful enough to look or ever feel like a bride. Hair, it is our ‘crowning glory’ and having that taken away from you is devastating. But we choose to accept what we have, appreciate what we are and welcome what is coming,” she wrote.
Dressed in a bight tomato red saree with a white tulle veil, and with mehendi on her feet and hands, Poovanedran is a breathtakingly beautiful bride in the photos. The photographs—taken by photographer Celes Gerard—have struck a chord with thousands of women.
In a message for fellow cancer survivors, she wrote, “Cancer has affected us in so many different ways however good or bad, we don’t and will not let it control our lives.”
As the photos went viral, a makeup artist at Blush, Beauty and Beyond explained the challenges they faced, but how they were driven by Poovanedran’s vision. “The first challenge was to create & carve eyebrows on a canvas that have lost their own,” the makeup artist wrote, adding, “I had to draw individual hair strokes to mimic the appearance of real brow hair & to ensure it didn’t look too fake.”
And that wasn’t the only challenge. As she lost all her hair during chemotherapy, they had to come up with a plan to fix a traditional bridal headpiece. “The next challenge was to choose and fix a headpiece, without a single hairpin involved. This wasn’t easy but I’m so glad we figured it out,” the makeup artist wrote.
“How powerful, to burn and still come out stronger and more beautiful,” one user commented. “Stay stronger n see cancer is getting defeated every single day, with your smile and laughter” commented another user. “You’re so beautiful ♥️ thanks for being an inspiration to everyone ♥️ god bless you always,” wrote another online.