What inspired an engineering graduate to quit her career and take up modelling? Pooja Mor tells us!
If you are a studious girl through school and college and score 82 per cent in Physics-Chemistry-Mathematics, engineering is probably your destined profession.
But Pooja Mor had other ideas.
Her real love was modelling and she wanted to make a career out of it. But there was a hitch.
"My parents didn't want me to become a model. They felt that the profession was for the fickle minded and that it did not promise a sustainable career or source of income," says Pooja.
Only her elder brother, Sudhir, who is a product designer, understood that modelling made her happy.
"If it hadn't been for his timely support, I would have never become a model," says the 22-year old winner of Miss Ahmedabad 2012, who was featured on the August 2014 cover of Adorn, a luxury jewellery magazine.
In this candid interview, Pooja Mor who recently walked the ramp at the Lakme Fashion Week Winter Festive 2014 edition, talks about her career, the mistakes she made and why the fashion industry deserves respect.
You're an IT engineer. What inspired you to quit the tech world and become a model?
I was 18 when I made the choice of pursuing engineering. As the course began, I found myself bored.
I was good in studies and cleared my exams, but I had no interest whatsoever in taking it further.
I told my elder brother that I wanted to get a professional photo shoot done for which I needed money.
My brother realised it was time I did what I loved and helped me with some cash.
I took a train to Delhi and told my parents I was going on a sightseeing trip.
The photo shoot paid off and I eventually won the title of Miss Ahmedabad.
Winning the pageant made me more confident of modelling as a profession.
I was interviewed by Femina as a rising star and through that interview I was spotted by Gunita, a model agent with Anima Creatives.
They asked me to sign a contract. I thought about it for three months before signing. I joined them in March 2014 and since then there's been no looking back for me.
Are your parents happy about your career choice?
They weren't happy at the start, and kept telling me how the industry had no prospects.
They had heard and read stories about how girls fall in the wrong company and get trapped.
When I left for Mumbai and did long photo shoots, my protective brother would stay in touch with me at all times and keep me motivated.
I was lucky not to have gone through any unfortunate experiences like my family feared. In fact, their trust in me has helped me make the right choices.
Now that they've seen me grow in my career and get positive reviews, I don't think they have a problem.
How has the journey as a model been for you?
When I started my career, I had no mentors. I would just read up magazines, check videos and do my own thing.
I was extremely lucky to find the right kind of people and company.
Today I have made enough friends in the industry -- designers and models who share their positive criticism and tell me when I do something wrong and how I could improve.
Is it important to have a mentor to enter the industry?
Not at all. Look at me. I had no friends or relatives who have been part of this industry.
I started my career from scratch.
I struggled with finances -- to groom myself, to get a professional photo shoot done -- but that is an initial investment everyone has to make.
I'm glad my brother supported me financially. Not many girls are lucky to get that kind of family support.
What are your greatest learnings from the profession?
I have learned that modelling involves a lot of hard work. You need to believe in yourself all the time.
Also, I don't believe in competition. You can never compare two talented people, it will always be unfair.
At the same time, you must be open to suggestions and feedback all the time. You can't let fame and success get to your head.
It's very important that you sign up with a good agency.
As a freelancer, you'll end up getting paid very little because you have to go through an agent.
Some agents take a huge cut from your salary, while others work out a fair deal.
When I started off, for every Rs 10,000 I earned, my agent would demand a cut of Rs 3000.
Work is hard to come by when you're a freelancer. If you don't have enough contacts, it becomes difficult for organisers to get in touch with you.
That's when I learnt the importance of signing with a good model agency.
What's your diet and fitness regimen like?
My mother has particularly asked me not to skip my food. So I have my daal-chawal every day without fail.
I'm not very fussy about what I eat, but I'm careful to eat only what I want.
I spend a minimum of one and half hours every day on simple weight training and cardio exercises.
Who is your favourite model and why?
It has to be Blake Lively. In fact when I told my friends I wanted to be a model some day, one of them told me I looked very like Blake Lively.
I held onto that compliment and that became my dream.
I can easily say that she was my inspiration to pursue modelling.
What's your advice to aspiring models?
If you're going for an audition, go minimal on the make-up. Use a concealer or lipstick if you want, but don't overdo it.
The panellists are interested in your features -- your eyes, body shape, fitness, confidence etc.
For a model, everything else is secondary -- including, the clothes or the make-up.
Practice walking on the ramp, talk to senior models -- they are always ready to help you with a tip or two.
I haven't seen any competition between two models to get to the top. I am amazed at how Alesia Raut has turned out to be a mentor for all of us.
I learned a lot from her and I'd like to implement the same things in my life.
A lot of young girls send me text messages asking me for tips and suggestions. I try and reply to all of them, hoping it will help them.
The most important advice: Sign up with a good modelling agency.
Look up their client list, talk to a few models who work there before you enter into a contract.
Read the terms and conditions of the contract and consider all options available before you make a choice.
What do you say to those who think fashion is a fickle career?
Glamour and fashion involves a lot of hard work.
The creative process involves a lot more than theoretical knowledge.
A designer spends hours designing an outfit that critics easily turn down and ridicule.
Same is the case with models. It takes a lot of effort to maintain your body and skin.
The work hours are odd -- sometimes we work for hours at a stretch without a break for a photo shoot, but when we look at the results, it's satisfying to say the least.
A model's make-up and hair has to be perfect, the outfit needs to be presented in a certain way.
The designer relies on us to present his craft and it's our responsibility to do a good job.
It's a work of art -- you can choose not to like a certain creation, but you can appreciate the hard work and effort that goes into it.