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'Fashion is a hard industry; models are not really nice'

By Anita Aikara
February 03, 2017 13:19 IST
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'All (models) are a little bitchy.'

'They do that because they will be thinking, 'Who is this girl? Is she a threat?'

'There's always that threat thing. But if I talk to some of them for even two minutes, they see that I am nice so they open up. But that is really rare.'

Lakme model Priya Banerjee reveals the not-so-nice side of the modelling industry.

IMAGE: Priya Banerjee 
Photograph: Hitesh Harisinghani/Rediff.com

US-based Priya Banerjee, 24, started modelling about six-seven months ago. And she's among the lucky few who'll be walking the Lakme Fashion Week Summer/Resort 2017. 

Banerjee, who has been eyeing the fashion event since last season, is happy to be living her dream.

Last season, she was "disappointed" that she only got to model for the buyer preview for a designer. But she decided not to get bogged down and try harder the next time round.

The 5'10" model tells Anita Aikara/Rediff.com about making friends in the industry, body shaming and more.

Your experience at LFW

I remember coming for LFW for the first time in 2011. At that time I was fat and not even a model. I was still in college and had come with my aunt. 

At that time I was living in the US. I then got my life together and lost weight. I saved up some money and then moved to Mumbai. I found a place in Juhu with my aunt. And now it feels like my dreams are all coming true. 

The last LFW season, I didn't get through. So I did the buyer previews. But this season I am actually doing shows on the main-stage.

I did the opening show for Monisha Jaising on the cruise, walked for the Artisans of Kutch and will also be walking for (designers) Falguni and Shane Peacock.

Being able to walk at LFW is like a crazy experience for me.

This year, LFW has been harping on inclusivity. If you notice the clothes this year, they are meant to be worn by models of all body shapes. You will see that it is very versatile and all designers I am working for, keep saying that the clothes are for all body types. That's awesome.

What were you doing prior to this?

I finished my bachelors in business and I worked in technology for three years. I was selling software and that's how I saved up a lot of money because I was earning a lot!

How did your parents react?

My parents have got nothing to do with modelling. My dad's an engineer and my mom is a director of client services. They are completely on the tech side and have no idea what happens in this industry. But they are really happy for me.

During my childhood days modelling was such a far-off thought. It was like going to Bollywood.

priya banerjee

IMAGE: Priya Banerjee at Lakme Fashion Week Summer/Resort 2016
Photograph: Hitesh Harisinghani/Rediff.com

Your first break in modelling

I did the show India's Next Model, and that was a boot camp for learning how to model and from there it just took off. I started getting shows and print shoots.

I have done one television commercial and a few look books.

Why modelling?

I love wearing (designer) clothes, especially the Indian clothes. For example, when I walked for the Artisans of Kutch, I wore clothes which were hand-embroidered. Being able to wear those clothes and model for them, was such an honour for me. It was really exciting.

Modelling in general, is something I love. I always loved being in front of the camera. It looks a lot harder than it seems but I love it.

It is challenging to be a model?

The hardest part (for me) was losing weight. Even now I am struggling to work on my face and to perfect that walk. But I take everything as a learning experience.

I felt the need to lose weight when I came in 2011 for LFW and saw all these girls walking.

I thought it would be amazing if one day I could be on the ramp and walk just like them. It seemed so far off then, but now that I have done it, I can't believe it is happening for real.

When I lost weight I told myself that I'd do it because it would make me happy. If anything comes out of it, then it would be great. But I didn't have great expectations.

I didn't think I would get work and be able to walk the LFW ramp.

I was about 155 pounds and now I am 125 pounds. I lost 30 pounds. I wasn't obese, but I wanted to lose that extra baggage.

Were you ever criticised for your body?

Thankfully I was never a victim of body shaming, but now that I have a fan following, I have people constantly telling me that 'I need to work on this and that!' They have also told me, 'We don't like this look on you.'

I just don't listen to them. At the end of the day, you are doing it for yourself. If you are happy with it and you are pulling it off well, then it's all that matters.

What do you think of the fashion industry?

Fashion is a hard industry and the models are not really nice people either. You can't really look up to other models to get that help either.

I think my manager is the only supportive person.

The first six months were not easy. Having no work and no feedback at all is not easy. I wasn't sure if I should even stay in Mumbai because I was not earning anything.

But I chose to stick with it for a year hoping things will ease out and it did.

IMAGE: Priya Banerjee with Lisa Haydon in a photoshoot at India's Next Top Model that was aired on MTV.
Photograph: Kind courtesy Priya Banerjee/Instagram

Why did you feel the pressure to lose weight?

With my previous weight too, I could have been a model but I wouldn't have been able to start out the way I did.

It would have taken me a little longer. You can't help it that's the industry standards. You have to be a certain size.

Looking at the direction the industry is going, I think I would have been fine with plus size shows happening. But it is always a lot easier this way. You just have to accept it.

What diet do you follow?

I am not one of those lucky models who are size zero. I only eat chicken and fish. I don't have carbs EVER.

The one quality required for a model...

I would just say confidence. If you can carry yourself well and know you are looking good, you will feel amazing.

And even if you don't feel amazing, fake it till you make it. That's my motto. It will take you really far.

I think the day I became confident and stopped thinking so much, that's the day I started enjoying my work.

I am in love with my body. When I see these thin models, I don't feel like being as thin as them. I am comfortable with how I am right now. And I am getting work.

Clients keep telling me all the time that I am the right size. I think people should be comfortable and confident about the way they look. I think that took me the longest time.

I was not confident. But now I know that I am hot and it's all that matters.

Is it easy to make friends in the industry?

I think they all (models) are a little bitchy. But that's the side they present. They do that because they will be thinking, 'Who is this girl? Is she a threat?'

There's always that threat thing. But if I talk to some of them for even two minutes, they see that I am nice so they open up. But that is really rare.

Your views on casting couch in modelling

I have heard a lot of rumours and thought I would have to face that. But I am really surprised that I haven't had to go that way. But if you really look for it, you'll find (it).

A lot of girls can go down that road. But if you don't want to, then it is completely fine. You don't have to do it. I haven't faced anything like that right now.

Do you think modelling comes with an expiry date?

I would think so. The fact that I am 24 right now and I just started, I would like to believe that age is just a number.

A lot of people have said that why didn't you start when you were 17, because that is the right age to start. I didn't start early, I am starting now. And that's like showing people who thought I should have started early, that I just started and am doing well.

What next?

I love Mumbai right now. I just need a reason to stay here. And given that such an amazing fashion industry exists right here, and they are actually welcoming right now, I would want to stay back and do well here. I would love to walk for (designer) Sabyasachi (Mukherjee).

Your advice for aspiring models

Everyone can be a model. People think that you need to be pretty to become a model. But trust me there are no boundaries.

If you look at the models around you, you can tell that everyone is welcome -- people of all skin colours, body types, hair colour, etc.

If you go out there and are persistent and confident, things will definitely work in your favour.

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Anita Aikara / Rediff.com
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