A Model of Myself

Modelling is one of the many careers that I have been interested in since I was a child. My sister became a model at 16 with John Casablancas and got an ongoing job as the Talula fit-model. When I was 14, my mom recognized my own interest and signed me up for a modelling course at John Casablancas. The course was designed for adolescent girls to develop confidence in their skills such as public speaking, and also gave workshops on posing, dressing, walking, and makeup. At the end we had a photoshoot with a professional photographer, and the models who showed promise would sometimes end up with a contract with John Casablancas.

I had a great time during the course. I made friends with some of the other girls my age, and there was an energy of excitement that lasted throughout the course with a potential modelling contract at the end of it. On the day we were supposed to give speeches to the group on what we believed in, I remember I wore a belt with my 1-inch zip Dorinha jeans that was bright red with the word “SEX” printed repeatedly along the length. It didn’t even occur to me that it was inappropriate, and I stood up and gave me speech with confidence. My mother and I were both shocked when we realized I had gone the whole day wearing this belt and that neither of the modelling coaches mentioned it.

When the course finished and I did not receive an offer to start modelling, I immediately decided that the course was a money grab designed to give hope to young girls who want to be models regardless if they have to body-type to be professionals or not. I applied to another agency and received a reply that stated that not all girls are meant to be models and that I wasn’t tall enough. Being an inch or two taller than my sister, I knew it wasn’t true. I told myself that they were too nice to tell me that I’m fat and should just give up. So that is what I did. My mother still insists that I benefited from the course she paid $2000 for. I did learn how to do my makeup in a tasteful way, and to this day my headshot is still stuck to the fridge.

Eight years later I met Shilpa Mukerji, a photographer based in Mumbai. My friend and colleague Sara Blake and I met her through her mother while we were interning at a workshop in Chennai, India. We discussed over chapatis the prospect of doing a fun and creative photoshoot together before we left Mumbai. We threw around some ideas and at the end I was super excited to be infront of the camera again.

Sara and I did a whole day modelling together for Shilpa. I found the process to be energizing and exhausting at the same time. I liken the experience to acting for films, where you must be aware of your placement and positioning and immerse yourself in the moment and feel the emotions you want to project. I took some tips from Tyra Banks and felt “through my eyes”. It’s amazing how watching reality television can teach you do’s and dont’s through other people’s mistakes.

We followed up with another photo shoot that was just Shilpa and I. Sara is a cinematographer and decided she was much happier behind the camera than infront. I was in my element again and had a blast. I thought, perhaps I really can be a model despite being a size up from commercial model body-measurements. Since that day in July 2012, I have decided that I am a model regardless if I get paid or not. I say this in the sense that someone can be a musician if they play an instrument. Our actions define us, not our paycheques. I have had a paid gig here and there, and soon I hope to be represented by an agency who will support me based on my photos and not the inches around my waist.

Shilpa Mukerji’s Website

My Portfolio

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