/ The Model Debate

The Model Debate

Jun 10, 2013

Age, culture and the Indian fashion model. Do Indian models lose out because of cultural restraints?

A diverse and culturally rich country like India has no shortage of stunning women. But it is just a lucky few who have a chance to make it big in the fashion world. Most Indian girls begin their modelling careers after 18, an age at which their international counterparts are veterans in the profession. Does a lack of Indian runway models have something to do with thought process and culture? We get experts to debate.

Indians think long-term

Modelling in India is on an upswing like never before; it has finally earned itself the respectability that it has lacked in the past. Not all aspiring models are fortunate, though. “There are still some parents who are not comfortable about their daughters walking the ramp and being watched,” says model Shriya Kishore, Femina Miss India Earth 2009.

Furthermore, the average Indian father still wants his children to choose a career that can be followed for life and becomes a source of livelihood. Modelling, which is more often than not a short-lived profession, cannot provide that security. This is perhaps the reason why a lot of young girls take up ramp modelling as a hobby while in college. It satisfies their desire to be part of the glam world while pursuing their goal for an academic career.

Education empowers, definitely

A strong concept of family is what makes an Indian girl’s situation unique. She stays on with her parents until she gets married. She also lets them have a say in her career decisions. Parents in India encourage their daughters to study so that they can fall back on it when the limelight dims on their modelling career. Though some of them secretly wish that their daughters would join a more conventional profession, most give in to their children’s wishes if they promise to keep good grades. Indian model and actress Umang Jain has been modelling since the age of 10, but never let her grades fall. Dayana Erappa, Miss Photogenic and Femina Miss India 2011, is a literature undergraduate who takes a break from work to prepare and appear for her exams every year. Some models do full-fledged college courses and take up a few modelling assignments in their spare time. Others study through correspondence courses to keep pace with an uninterrupted workflow. But all do believe in the importance of education.

Shy no more

Fashion models in India are no longer awkward about donning swimwear or lingerie for a shoot. “We’re comfortable with our bodies and don’t hold back when it comes to dressing up for an assignment,” says Nandini Vaid, model, TV anchor and Femina Miss India 2009 top 10 finalist. The fact that the profession is safer than it has been in previous years ups a model’s comfort level.

Young can be vulnerable

A miniscule percentage of girls do join modelling in their mid-teens in an attempt to have a career that spans longer. “But unless they have a safe and secure representation there’s always a fear of being taken advantage of,” says model and actress Simone Singh. “After all, who has their priorities set at such an early age?” asks Jain. “A young adult can be easily misguided and misled if she lacks focus and support.”

Height is a concern

Many Indian fashion models are not as tall as their western counterparts. In most cases they’re also better endowed which makes them appear curvier. “Being extraordinarily tall and slim are just a couple of expectations we can’t live up to when it comes to runway modelling,” says Erappa. “But internationally there’s a lot of curiosity about Indian looks,” adds Vaid. Companies are always on the lookout for a dusky Indian face and ethnic looks to promote their brands. And it isn’t always the established runway models like Ujjwala Raut and Lakshmi Menon who fit the bill. So, who benefits?

Age is just a number

“Most modelling agencies sign up aspiring models once they’ve turned 18,” says Harlene Chandok, senior manager of modeling at Kwan Entertainment & Marketing Solutions, a premier agency in Mumbai. But that is when most modelling careers begin in India. Unlike the in the west where girls begin in their early teens, the quintessential Indian model chalks out a career plan when she’s on the other side of 20 and hits her prime a few years later. She may work until 30 and then get into diverse roles. If she’s fortunate, she could be walking the ramp at 35. “There is no best time for anyone, it is the time you choose to make the best of,” says Kishore. “All you need to work on is to keep yourself in super shape,” adds Shamita Singha, model and TV anchor.

Armed with good education, the pretty Indian girl carries her head on her shoulders and enters the world of glamour with confi dence and poise. She is a progressive thinker, knows what she wants and works hard to achieve it. “The Indian model may not be the prettiest, tallest or fairest, but is by far the most intelligent,” says Kishore.




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