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'It was a big step for a Naga girl to become a model'

Last updated on: January 24, 2014 11:14 IST

'It was a big step for a Naga girl to become a model'

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Prasanna D Zore

Nagaland model Katheleno Kenze, who was featured in Kingfisher Swimsuit Calendar 2014, talks about her modelling career and offers fitness, style and career tips.

Of course I do receive a lot of appreciation but at the same time I get a lot of criticism for being a model,” says Nagaland model Katheleno Kenze. Leno to friends and the modelling scene in India, the stunning, 5”9’ Kenze has been creating ripples ever since she featured in the latest edition of the Kingfisher Swimsuit Calendar (Click here for more).

Belonging to Nagaland’s Angami tribe, Leno says that modelling is not considered a respectable job in the conservative Naga society. Yet, as she grew up in Dimapur, friends and family encouraged her to take up modelling because “I was unusually tall and dusky for a Naga girl.”

It was not until she completed her graduation in economics (honours) from Patkai Christian College, Dimapur that Leno thought of modelling as a career. Egged on by friends she came to Delhi last year and enrolled with Vogati, a modelling agency. And then Kingfisher happened.

Ever since, she has been flooded with assignments. That, however, Leno says is being taken in her stride. Ever so modest and humble for somebody who is aspiring to make a name in the modelling world, Leno says, “I don’t take myself so seriously. I just like to go with the flow and after that maybe concentrate on other things as well.”

Ace photographer Atul Kasbekar, who also shoots the Kingfisher Swimsuit Calendar, says Leno has miles to go but is confident that she has what it takes to make it big in the world of modelling. “She is so easy to shoot with,” he says. “She is extremely beautiful, fresh and exotic. She is a delicate darling,” is how Kasbekar describes this newbie who is scorching the modelling world right now.

“She will become a top model one day,” he says.

Leno for her part knows that models have short shelf life. While she is very committed and sincere with the assignments she has bagged till the end of 2014, this is what she has to say about how she came to be a model and what if it doesn’t work out for her: I thought let me just give it a try. If it works for me I will go ahead and if not then I shall do something else.

In this fun interview with Rediff.com Leno spoke about her career, offered fitness, style and career tips, why she loves the camel fair at Pushkar and gave the recipe for one of her favourite Naga dish: Pork curry with bamboo shoots.

First modelling assignment...

Back home in college I walked for a Naga fashion designer Ketuneinuo Kotsu. She had to do a show and needed a model. While I had no experience I had a good overall physique and she invited me to walk the ramp for her.

First major assignment...

I did an editorial shoot for Grazia magazine.


Image: Katheleno Kenze
Photographs: Courtesy Kingfisher Swimsuit Calendar

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'I have improved a lot'

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How did Kingfisher happen to you?

Every year Kingfisher auditions in Mumbai only. However, last year they also came to Delhi, for the first time. My agency asked me to go with other girls and audition for the Kingfisher calendar. I went and surprisingly I got selected.

I was pretty nervous because after coming to Delhi this was my first audition. We were videographed during the audition and we had to walk and talk too. It was a very different experience. It was nervous but nice.

I am not so good at walking the ramp but since I had done shows back home I was confident. I am improving now but back then if I compare myself with what I did then and what I am doing now, there is a big difference. I have improved a lot.

Will we see you at the Lakme Fashion Week?

I have some shoots coming up but I cannot give names. As of now I have no idea if I will be walking the Lakme Fashion Week or Wills Lifestyle Fashion Week but let us see how things work out.


Image: Katheleno Kenze
Photographs: Courtesy Kingfisher Swimsuit Calendar

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'I don't prefer to be very dressy'

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Fitness mantras...

I just do some cardio, cycling and running. I just concentrate on eating healthy. I am not a big fitness freak.

What makes up for healthy eating?

Eating less of junk food of course. I drink plenty of water and green tea. I eat everything else. I don’t restrain myself from eating. I can eat anything but then I just try to have more of water and green tea.

Style tips

I am a model but I don’t prefer to be very dressy. I prefer to go simple and basic. I like to dress up sometimes but whatever I wear I have to be comfortable. Whatever you put on or wear, you should feel comfortable. Only then you will feel and look good.

What are you most comfortable in?

I am most comfortable in long skirts and simple tops. I also feel comfortable in jeans and t-shirts.


Image: Katheleno Kenze
Photographs: Courtesy Kingfisher Swimsuit Calendar
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'Pushkar is surreal'

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Travel in India and abroad…

I have been travelling quite frequently for shoots. I have just been to the Philippines and it has been one of the most wonderful experiences. I hope I get to go abroad often.

In India I went to Pushkar -- a part of India I really wanted to see -- for a shoot and was completely mesmerised by the scenes there. I couldn’t do much as I was just shooting. But it was pretty and fun.

There were so many camels and I had never seen in my entire life. It was absolutely amazing. During the daytime all the folks there were wearing bright colours, which makes an interesting picture for tourists.

At night they have melas that are so beautifully decorated that everything feels surreal.


Photographs: Pradeep Bandekar

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'People from the northeast, especially tribals, are crazy about fashion'

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Challenges in your modelling career...

Modelling is a career that the Naga society is still very unsure or hesitant about so it was a big step for a Naga girl to go forward and become a model. Of course I do receive a lot of appreciation but at the same time I get lot of criticism as well for being a model. Because they think that modelling has to only do with cheap stuff and is not a respectable job because of the way models have to dress sometimes.

Fashion scene in Nagaland

I think the northeast has still a long way to make a mark in the modelling industry because most of us don’t take it seriously as a career. Also, there is a social taboo associated with the modelling industry as not being good for girls.

I know for the fact that the people from the northeast, especially tribals, are crazy about fashion. We know how to dress very nicely, we know how to make ourselves up to add to our beauty, nothing serious but we know how to be simple and yet look good.

While we may be good at dressing up, and making up, we are not very physically tall to get into this industry. Majority of Naga girls are not tall. 


Image: Katheleno Kenze
Photographs: Courtesy Kingfisher Swimsuit Calendar

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'I don't feel very insecure'

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Advice for aspiring models...

Modelling is not a full-time career. So don’t give your all to it. But if you get a modelling assignment or job, do it sincerely and with commitment. It is a part-time job for me. I would like to do it for a while and then would like to do something related to economics and banking or study economics further.

As of now I am very busy with modelling and having loads of fun doing it.

My career as a model is going pretty well. I don’t feel very insecure because I am fine with the way my career is shaping up.


Image: Katheleno Kenze
Photographs: Courtesy Kingfisher Swimsuit Calendar
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'Don't take yourself very seriously'

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Best place to have good Naga food in Delhi? Where do you often go to eat out?

Of course, I go to Nagaland’s Kitchen.

Favourite Nagaland cuisine and what do you cook?

I usually cook pork and fermented soyabean and eat it with rice. I think the curry which everybody would like is pork with bamboo shoots.

How do you cook this curry?

First you need to slice up bamboo shoots and ferment them. Later take pork pieces, mix them with fermented bamboo shoots and add lot of spices like chillies and ginger. Let it stew for an hour. You can eat this curry along with bean rice.

This is one of my favourite foods.

Success mantras…

Don’t take yourself very seriously. Especially when you are a model. Because when you get too much into it, it destroys your inner peace.


Image: Katheleno Kenze
Photographs: Courtesy Kingfisher Swimsuit Calendar

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