PCOS & Beauty: Women’s Republic founder Sai Seshadri on embracing what you can control
October 22, 2021
Knowledge is power.
By Samia Abbasi, Editor
There are days when I’m feeling something so specific about my mental or physical health that I might not even be able to put it into words. Always, to my surprise, I’ll scroll through Twitter and read a post that describes exactly how I’m feeling. Knowledge is power; women use social media to create a culture of sharing experiences and resources on topics that aren’t spoken about enough. Sai Seshadri (@Saisailu97) is someone who I consider to be a powerful force in the social media space — who does just that and more.
From witty musings about relationships and culture, to crisp thoughts on feminism and mental health, Sai wields 280 characters with unapologetic honesty. As the founder and editor-in-chief of Women’s Republic, she has created a magazine platform for women around the world to cultivate their voices in a safe and inclusive space.
When Sai was diagnosed Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS), social media became a place for her to connect with other people with PCOS and spread awareness about it. I had the pleasure of chatting with Sai about how she’s navigated beauty with PCOS and how we can protect our energy on social media.
Q1. How have you navigated PCOS throughout your life?
A: Growing up, I had a lot of acne and body hair. I experienced weight fluctuation, too. I struggled with it; I never understood why this was happening to me. In South Asian culture, people will tell you to do things (i.e. lose weight) without really addressing the root causes of why it might be happening. This can be so difficult for young people to navigate. I had a doctor who saw my PCOS symptoms and didn’t really do anything about it. It wasn’t until I did my own research and went to see a specialist, that it started to make sense: why my periods were so random and awful, why I had all this acne and facial hair. I was diagnosed with PCOS and put on medication the summer before I started college.
photo credit: Sai Seshadri
There is very little knowledge on PCOS, nor is it talked about enough. I feel like that becomes an excuse for some doctors to not look into it more in depth or talk about it more seriously with their patients. I know many people who go undiagnosed or who are misdiagnosed with reproductive issues. A year or so after my PCOS diagnosis, I started talking about it more on social media. People began opening up to me, saying, “I relate to this,” or “Oh, I have some of the same symptoms.”
Social media has helped me come to terms with the fact that PCOS is nothing to be ashamed of.
Q2. How has PCOS impacted your beauty journey?
A: When I started treatment for my PCOS, I got more into fashion and beauty. It helped me become comfortable with my body and how I viewed myself. Growing up, I didn't really have any beauty influences in my life. Sure, I thought clothes and jewelry were cool. I remember having one of those iconic pink glittery makeup kits from Claire’s when I was 11. In college, when I was away from home, I really explored my personal style for the first time.
On social media, I always talk about the importance of female friendships. I was living with other women, and it was such an open environment. We’d constantly be sharing cute clothes, teaching each other makeup tricks, and getting ready for parties and events together.
Growing up with PCOS, there were a lot of things I couldn’t necessarily control: the hyperpigmentation, facial hair, and more.
While learning to manage my PCOS, I’ve embraced the things I can control.
In addition to experimenting with clothes and makeup, I love getting piercings and tattoos and dyeing my hair!
photo credit: Sai Seshadri
Part of my PCOS condition, I have dark spots all over my body. My underarms are dark, so I didn’t wear anything sleeveless when I was younger. Since then, I’ve become more confident in my skin and wear whatever I want. I also have hyperpigmentation on my eyelids, so I'd typically wear more neutral and gold toned eyeshadows. I was scared to try bright colors or glitter in my makeup routine. I started to put myself out there more, and now, I’ve embraced colorful eyeshadow. The ABH Jackie Aina Palette is a staple in my makeup routine!
Q3. What is essential to your personal style?
Fusion wear. I was born in India and grew up in Canada and the United States. I’ve been able to visit my family in India frequently, which is amazing. In my personal style, I'm always trying to combine those things and not lose one culture or the other. I love wearing crop tops and skirts. At the same time, I love wearing sarees and jhumkas! I also wear eyeliner on my waterline, which is a classic South Asian look.
Nose rings. Some of my personal style has developed from spontaneous moments. I got my first nose piercing when I was 15, and I really had to convince my mom to get it. Then, on a random day in 2019, I wondered: What would it look like if I got a second nose piercing next to the first one? So, around 11pm one day, I ended up going to the piercing salon to get a second piercing. The person at the salon said, “I have never seen anyone who just sat there and didn’t blink or tear up or anything when I pierced them.” She really gassed me up!
Tattoos. I didn’t know I’d be a tattoo person, but I love my tattoos. It’s like storytelling on my body: the memories behind my tattoos, which friend I was with when I got them and what they mean to me. I got my favorite tattoo in London. Three years ago, I went on my first ever solo trip and spent three weeks in Europe. To commemorate all the new experiences I had during that trip, I got an airplane inked on my forearm. It makes me smile when I look at it!
photo credit: Sai Seshadri
Q4. What inspired you to start Women’s Republic?
A: Writing has always been an outlet to express how I feel. I took a journalism class my senior year of high school, and in college, I wrote for different outlets, like the Odyssey. In my writing, I started to branch into different topics within feminism and social justice and share my experiences as a South Indian woman.
Women’s Republic began largely because of social media. I was tweeting about wanting to start a blog, and so many women reached out to me asking, “Can I be a part of this, too?” So, within weeks,
The idea of a blog turned into creating a digital outlet where others could be a part of it, too.
You don’t need to have certain qualifications to publish on Women’s Republic. It’s a platform for women to write about whatever they want to write about and get their perspective out there.
Q5. I love your social media content! How have you been viewing social media lately?
A: Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about the good and bad aspects of social media. On one hand, I’ve met so many people on social media. During that solo trip to Europe, so many women messaged me on Twitter and would say, “Hey, you’re in London! Let’s grab a drink,” or "Let me know if you need a place to stay." Even in New York,
I’ve met a group of fierce, strong brown women through social media, who are now my friends IRL.
In the last year or so, I’ve also been feeling more and more burned out. I used to be on Twitter all the time — I would fight back at rude comments and be snarky. But it’s exhausting. When you spend all this time with negative energy around you, it can be difficult to focus on what truly matters to you.
Q6. What advice do you have for protecting your energy on social media?
Take care of yourself. More than anything, if you get to the point where you're feeling really anxious about social media or you need to take a break, please listen to those cues and protect your energy. I’ve been there; I’ve had my anxiety flare up a lot from social media. There are a million things that need to be talked about, especially if you have a big platform, but taking care of your mental health is so important.
Don’t be afraid to use the block button. There will always be someone who dislikes you or disagrees with you. Yes, sometimes they have a valid point and you can learn from them. But most of the time, they’re hating on you just to hate on you. I still talk about controversial things, but I try not to engage with people who have a problem with it — because people are always going to have a problem with something.
Find your people. Whether that’s finding your community in person or on social media or both. I am someone who can be very public on social media and share my opinions and experiences candidly. I acknowledge that not everyone can do that! I’m only able to talk about all things I care about fiercely, because I have people who support me, relate to the content, and add onto the conversation.
Cover photo credit: Sai Seshadri, @saisailu97