I have been a model now for almost 10 years. In a world where models are getting younger and younger, I see the years going by and many birthdays being celebrated. Every year I get asked if this is my last fashion week. But I can’t answer that question because I have been part of too many fashion weeks now and have stopped counting.
I started out in 2000, when I won the Gladrags contest, and now it is 2013, so I must be doing something right. When I started modelling, I was working with the supermodels of India. I was sent to the Top Model of the World contest in Munich in 2001 and I finished in the top ten and also won ‘best body’. Then I went to Miss Tourism Worldwide International in Malaysia in 2002 and became the first Indian to win it. Even though I had won these contests, it was tough modelling during those days. I remember the first fashion show I did—I was walking the ramp with Madhu Sapre, Bipasha Basu, Helen Brodie and all the big names. It was such a high to walk with the greats. Those were times when getting noticed was a task because everybody was as great as the other. One had to work hard to stand out.
These days, there are few supermodels and so many new girls. Most of those I started out with are still working as well, but since I work almost 300 days a year, I am much more visible. As one progresses in the world of modelling, bad things happen as well. But I have decided not to focus on the negative changes. I try and make the best of any situation I am in. I think the reason I have lasted so long is that I truly love what I do. I really don’t care if I open a show or am the showstopper; I just like wearing new clothes. I do fight for my outfits as well, as it is all about showcasing an outfit the best way you can. If you are good, you can make anything look like a showstopper. And the more experienced you are, the better you get. The newer girls do get competitive about what they are wearing and how they are placed in a show, but I am a firm believer in the dictum that if you are good, you will get noticed. If I am in a weird situation, I just do the best job I can and get it over with. I don’t dwell on such minor things.
Being on the ramp makes me feel on top of the world. I was never too ambitious. I didn’t want to get into acting as I didn’t want to go to meetings after 8 pm—after all, I live with my parents. There is also a lot of insecurity, but then which profession doesn’t have that? There is also drugs and sex, but then again, that’s everywhere as well. If money exists, so do these other things. I do see life beyond modelling, even though I am not ready to give up yet. If I do, I want to learn how to make music.
I had always thought I was an ugly child. And fat too. When boys asked me out, I would wonder what they saw in me. I had a Catholic upbringing and my family never wanted me to become a model. They were against it, especially my brother. We both modelled in our college days, and he was so much better at it than me. He didn’t know when I blossomed from an ugly duckling into a model, since I was fat—at least 65 kg in college. If that doesn’t sound too much, well it was. I stopped eating to make it all go away. I became anorexic. That just turned my parents even more worried. But then, it was my mother and sister who entered my name for the Gladrags contest.
I don’t look at my job and think of money. Backstage, you will always find me joking around or getting up to some mischief. I am a die-hard workaholic, though. You would find me walking the ramp even if I were dying. I fall sick almost every other day. But that ramp is my life. Modelling needs to be seen as a vocation; only then can you outlast everyone else.
As told to Aastha Atray Banan