A Day in the Life of a Model at Lakme Fashion Week 2018
“I stand for my identity and I am not at all ashamed of myself, I love what I do and who I am, if I don’t stand for my identity the world will walk over me.” These were the very first words which Anjali Lama, a 33-year-old transgender model said while we started our telephonic conversation. Anjali is now a globally known face in the fashion industry because of her work and her courage. Before speaking to Anjali I had seen her walk the ramp, she owned the stage with every step she took, and the confidence in her gait was something I admired the most. But this confidence and poise came after fighting a battle with the society that was never ready to accept Anjali.
Anjali was born into a farming family in Nuwakot, a district northwest of Kathmandu, Nepal. She made history with her catwalk at the Lakme Fashion Week Summer Resort 2017 and from then has been a part of the event.
“My father always wanted a daughter because he had four sons before that. I was also born as a boy. But as I kept growing, my behavior started changing. I started behaving like a girl, I was dressed like a boy. In school I was friends with girls. So everyone in the family and in the village started teasing me, I felt mentally tortured.”Anjali Lama
When and how does your day begin when you are working for the Lakme Fashion Week?
Anjali Lama: My alarm goes off by 6 AM, there is no time to press the snooze button after that, if I do then I definitely know I’ll be late and in trouble. People often tell me that my life is glamorous, I get to wear the best of clothes, wear the best of makeup, do my hair in the best of ways and walk on the runway, what more can one ask for? To this, all I feel like responding with, is a smile, not because they sound stupid to me but because they haven’t really witnessed the hustle in my life. If they do, they will definitely think of a different career path instead.
At what time do you reach the location?
Anjali Lama: I have to be at work on the time decided for rehearsals. For instance today, I had to reach at 8 AM for the rehearsals and I couldn’t afford to get late. Though I returned home at 12 AM last night, I had to look fresh within 6 hours. There are times when I just want to snuggle in my quilt but I cannot afford to do that. I have to incorporate everything which is my workout, diet and my looks. Once I step out of my house, then I know there is no end to my day. As I sit in the cab to reach my location, I miss Nepal because I am used to seeing lush green views accompanied by fresh air that is totally opposite to Mumbai. While sitting in the cab I schedule my day as I know I will be walking the ramp a minimum of 4 times. So i need to be clear in my head.
What do you do once you reach the location, how do you gear up for work?
Anjali Lama: As soon as I reach the location, I am on my feet and there is no way I can give an excuse and be lazy. The rehearsals start as soon as all of us are there. I eat our breakfast on the location and then I start with the rehearsals. It is all very crammed up and tough, mainly because there is so much to remember. Each show will have a defined pattern, we need to follow and I have to remember each and every thing. We practice for hours on the runway calculating each step we take. The right posture, the right look and the exact positions they all should be on my fingertips. At first all this made me really nervous but now I have got a hang of it. Then the day is followed by uncountable rehearsals, hair and makeup and walking on the runway.
To the outside world your life looks glamorous, but what are the problems you face?
Anjali: Arre problem hi problem hai, aur problem kahan nai hoti. As a model I need to know how to match the emotions with my outfit. The problems do not end here, there are other things as well, like sometimes the clothes are too heavy, but as a model I need to carry it in an effortless way. On the runway I will have to walk with the same grace with or without heels. The audience cannot know your weakness -that is the rule. There are hundreds of eyes and cameras on me, even one wrong step can make the whole show go wrong. To look perfect on the stage I have to apply tons of makeup and hair products, obviously they are not good for my hair and skin. The aftereffects are bad. There are more on my list sometimes - the food is not healthy but to keep the body going I have to eat it.
If I wear a lehenga, I cannot keep a straight face. I need to make audience feel how beautiful and traditional I am feeling. I myself need to feel like a bride because that is how other girls will relate to it. If I wear a short dress with dark kohl, I need to bring out the emotion of being a fearless. Putting life into a costume is my duty, which is a really big responsibility.
What are the obstacles you encounter while doing a show?
Anjali: It depends, there are shows when I have to change three times, which is way too much but I have to keep up with the pace. What calmness one sees on my face on ramp is totally opposite to the scenario backstage, it is a turmoil. Exactly the way they show in the movies, it is a mad world. But I can’t put that picture on the ramp. As soon as I am backstage I am again worked up but we still do take time out for little jokes and endless selfies because that is the way we all bond. There are hair stylists, designers, models, makeup artists, managers, celebrities all running, laughing, enjoying and simultaneously working to put up the best shoot.
When do you finally wrap up your day?
As I said there is no specific time to wrap up but the last show is at 9 PM, so I try to end my day by 10.30 PM. But normally that doesn’t happen and even if it does, I reach home late because of the Mumbai traffic, as they say the city never sleeps. It actually doesn’t.
Anjali is the first transgender model of India, who walked the ramp at the Lakme Fashion Week. Though she is globally well-known in the fashion industry, she still struggles to get work in her day to day life.