At 62 kg, Miss Indore Mannat Singh, who recently walked at the LFW is struggling to gain acceptance on the catwalk.
Mannat Singh, who lives with her parents in Indore, made her debut at Lakme Fashion Week Summer/Resort 2017.
This 19 year old is currently pursuing her Bachelor of Business Administration (BBA) course.
Coming from a family that is not remotely connected to the fashion industry -- her father is a nutritionist and her mom, a beautician -- Mannat admits that it was challenging to find her niche in the fashion industry.
Standing tall at 6 ft, she reveals that she is yet to understand the industry's obsession with skinny models.
She tells Anita Aikara/Rediff.com about losing weight to fit the mould and her preparations for the upcoming Miss India pageant auditions.
Did you always want to become a model?
No! Because I am really tall, people would ask me to give modelling a shot.
My parents really wanted me to get into modelling; they'd always tell me, 'If you are blessed with such good height, then make the best of it!'
How did you get into modeling?
Back home, there's a local pageant called Miss Indore.
My mother pushed me to participate in it. I was not really keen, but she told me, 'Just go and stand there!'
I finally decided to participate in the pageant as my mother was very insistent. To my surprise, they (the organisers) were so happy to have me in the pageant because I was the tallest one there.
They were pretty confident that I'd be in the Top 10.
At that time, I was overweight. I was 71 kg, but given my height, the weight didn't look bad on me.
I eventually ended up winning the pageant and got crowned Miss Indore.
After that, I took great efforts to lose weight and groom myself. Now I am 62 kg.
Since then, I have done several shows in Indore itself. When I did these shows, I realised that I'm really passionate about walking the ramp.
Do you have a mentor?
I'm connected with model and ramp walk trainer Alesia Raut's agency, Cocoaberry, which she runs with her sister, Anjali. I trained with them for two months.
She was the one who got me to Mumbai to audition for the Lakme Fashion Week Summer/Resort 2017.
This was my first time at Lakme Fashion Week (LFW) -- I had always wanted to watch a show and finally got the opportunity this year.
Unfortunately, I was not selected as one of the pool models. I just walked for a show by Guwahati-based fashion designer Nandini Baruva.
I got a chance to open the show and it was a wonderful experience -- all the cameras were on me and it felt great to be on stage.
What was your first salary?
The first time I walked for a show, I got paid Rs 2000.
To get paid well, a model needs experience and she needs to connect with the right people.
I have just started off so I am not complaining. More than the money, I am here for the experience.
I am just 19, so I have a lot of time.
It is okay, I can take risks as my parents help me out financially.
Who is your greatest support system?
My family! If it hadn't been for them, I would not have been here.
I ensure that whenever I step out for a show, someone from my family accompanies me.
When I travelled to Mumbai for the LFW, my parents couldn't join me. But a cousin came along.
My father is very supportive. He is the one who pushes me to shop and pursue a career in modelling.
Was it easy losing weight?
No, it was not easy! However the biggest challenge is to maintain that weight.
My dad is a nutritionist so he never lets me take protein supplements or anything artificial, which has side effects.
I dislike eating vegetables. But I love fruits.
I used to go to the gym earlier, but stopped as I am not fond of it.
I like to run. So I run in the morning and evenings for an hour. That's how I stay in shape.
What do you think should be the ideal weight for a model?
According to me, the ideal weight for a model should be 55 kg.
That's why I think that I am overweight. I need to lose a lot of weight.
You won't believe it, but I was rejected by three designers at LFW this year.
It is not that the outfits didn't fit me, but these designers wanted someone with the perfect body (read skinny body).
That's why I want to work on my body. I want designers to see me and say, 'I want to work with that girl.'
I don't like to face rejection.
So I have decided to work really hard on my body, so that designers would love to work with me.
Who according to you has the perfect body in the industry?
I think Aishwarya Sheoran, who made her debut at LFW this season, has the perfect body.
How did you deal with nervousness just before your first LFW show?
I was very nervous. I just kept telling myself, 'I am a diva and I am perfect' and then walked down the ramp. That helps me deal with my anxiety.
How are you preparing for Miss India?
Every morning I have to wear 6 inch heels and walk for an hour on any kind of music.
Initially it was extremely difficult walking with those heels.
I am already so tall and with 6 inch heels I'd almost touch the ceiling.
I also have to speak on topics like Narendra Modi's demonetisation drive on the mike so that I get used to talking on stage.
A Miss India participant's vocabulary and diction is very important -- they are not just looking out for someone who looks pretty.
My height may help me, but after that I need to rely on other factors too.
My mentor tells me that my walk 'should be perfect and so should the way I talk.'
I eat home-cooked food and avoid junk food. My trainer never tells me to diet. He lets me eat everything I want, but then I need to train hard.
Next month, I'll begin the Miss India preparations. I have my exams too, so I need to concentrate.
But post that, I will start my preparation for the pageant in full swing.
I will have to win the Miss Madhya Pradesh contest and then can get selected to be a part of Miss India.
How do you plan to balance work and studies?
I have another year to go for my graduation. But my college is very cooperative and they are allowing me to give my exams and concentrate on my modelling too.
What do you think are the qualities to become a model in India?
Your looks matter.
Physique is really important too, which I believe I lack. There are times people have told me that too, and that strikes me hard.
Height and the way you walk also matter. At LFW auditions, I had 20 minutes to walk and that decided everything.
I also think it is very important to be professional in this industry.
You must also be kind and humble.
Do people look down at you for being from a small town?
Indore is known as a mini-Mumbai.
It doesn't affect me that I come from a small town.
People back home are also very broad minded. I started my career from there (Indore) so that will always be a part of my life.
What's your fashion statement?
For me, fashion is all about being comfortable. I love long dresses, skirts and shorts.
Who is your role model?
Alesia ma'am (Raut). I met her almost everyday when I was in Mumbai during LFW.
She is very down to Earth and humble. I really look up to her.
How do you care for your skin?
I cleanse, tone and moisturise my skin. I don't get sleep at night, so I have a lot of dark circles. But I try to eat healthy and have lots of fruits.
Do you have any hobbies?
I am a trained Kathak dancer. I love Bollywood dancing too.
Your advice for aspiring models?
Be yourself and wait for the right moment. Don't panic and do something stupid.
Never give up!
Rejection is a part of this industry. All the models I have met told me that they got rejected a 100 times and yet made it this far.
People look up to models. When you are just walking on the road, people actually come to you and say they want to click pictures with you.
They follow you like style icons for what you wear. So it can be a challenge to live up to your part.
What did you like about Mumbai when you were in the city for LFW?
I loved eating pav bhaji in Mumbai. We don't have Mad Over Donuts in Indore, so I went bonkers trying out their different flavours.