Beauty pageant winner Erica J Fernandes kick-started her acting career with a guest role in the Disney series The Suite Life of Karan & Kabir in 2013. Over the years, she has emerged as one of the most popular faces of television with shows like Kuch Rang Pyar Ke Aise Bhi and the reboot of Kasautii Zindagii Kay, where she essayed the character of Prerna Sharma Basu. A sensation on social media who is often hailed as a fashionista, Fernandes, in an acting career spanning nine years, has tasted the darker side of fame as well. The actor, on multiple occasions, has raised her voice about being body shamed.

In an exclusive interaction with News18, she opens up on being targeted for her body type. Talking about the entertainment industry’s unrealistic beauty standards, the 29-year-old elaborates, “As a part of the industry that I’m in, I know as a matter of fact that people already have a certain judgment of what an actor or model should look like (in terms of) the shape they should be in and the looks they need to have. But I’m sure that this definition of a ‘perfect body’ was also made by a person with many flaws!”

In fact, a while back, trolls came down harshly on Fernandes, who sported a Viking look at the red carpet of an award show. While some called her ‘female Ranveer Singh’ and ‘Manjulika’, others mocked her for mistaking the event for Met Gala. Shedding light on the episode, she states, “There is a difference between structural criticism and trolling and bullying. It’s ironic how I was getting trolled for following a theme set by the organisers.”

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But she remains unfazed as she adds, “Nevertheless, all of this don’t bother me really. I strongly believe that the ones who can’t get to where you are, are the ones always trying to pull you down.”

It is believed that when public figures talk about pertinent and relevant concerns, it initiates a larger conversation. Ask the actor if speaking about body image issues has resulted in a positive change and she states, “I still face this issue on social media but not as much in the industry now because I’ve gained weight.”

While she grabbed a lot of attention for her portrayal of a rather perfect daughter-in-law in her television shows, her image on social media is quite different. Fernandes has never shied away from posting pool-side bikini-clad pictures from her vacations, which has often raised eyebrows.

Speaking about how television actors are particularly under the radar of trolls for not adhering to their image as a quintessential ‘bahu’, she opines, “One should not be categorised for their onscreen portrayal. People need to get to know the actual person behind it. Just because we dress in a certain way onscreen doesn’t mean that we should get trolled for dressing the way we actually do off-screen.”

She continues, “It isn’t fair. Such people need to break away from their perception surrounding fictional characters, who they think are one hundred per cent similar (to the actors playing them).”

On the work front, last year, Fernandes reprised her role as Dr Sonakshi Bose Dixit in the third season of the television series Kuch Rang Pyar Ke Aise Bhi. However, she quit the show eventually and it stopped airing last November. Though away from the screen for about ten months now, she isn’t concerned about going out-of-sight and out-of-mind. She remarks, “I’ve been off the screen longer before this. The break of a few months in between shows is necessary at times, especially when you are doing television shows.”

As multiple speculations about her upcoming projects continue floating around, Fernandes admits that television actors are often discriminated while being considered for films and web shows and confides that she’s ready to wait rather than doing shows that require her to engage in intimate scenes.

So, has narrowing down on projects become difficult with many of them incorporating intimate scenes between actors? “I’ve been very vocal about it. It’s my limitation. It’s not that I’ve any problem with it but I don’t see myself engaging in extreme onscreen intimacy. On the other hand, I really respect the ones who’ve the courage and guts to pull off such scenes because it isn’t easy as it seems,” Fernandes concludes. ​

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