Agony and ecstasy at LFW model auditions
Toned and shapely long legs, svelte figures in sexy outfits, pretty faces, their hope, their despair, their triumphs and rejection. It was all there at the Lakme Fashion Week auditions, held in Mumbai last month.
Hope and despair, joy and sorrow are like Siamese twins. They always accompany each other.
The mixed feelings of agony and ecstasy were evident as the day wore thin at a suburban Mumbai five-star hotel a couple of weeks ago. One hundred and eighteen beautiful faces with long, toned and shapely legs, their lissom, svelte figures oozing oomph in sexy outfits, were at their best as the auditions began at 1 pm.
By the time they ended, only seven girls -- Lekha Anantharaman, Rikee Chatterjee, Reha Sukheja and Angela Jonsson from India, Sophia Djenyd from Ukraine, Bryndis Helgadottir from Iceland and Keylie Bodeker from Australia -- walked out with cheerful faces.
They will walk the ramp dressed in designerwear when the spring/summer instalment of Lakme Fashion Week takes place in March.
The 111 who could not make it were obviously disappointed, but that didn't show.
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Image: Participants line up at the LFW 2011 auditions
Photographs: Hitesh Harisinghani
'Not making it is not the end of life'
"It's no big deal," says Shweta*, with a smile that cleverly camouflages her dejection at missing the chance a second time. "Anyway, it's not a full-time career option for me," she says.
The disappointment is cleverly hidden in a show of audacity that comes from years of rejection and lines well-rehearsed to answer itchy hacks.
Interestingly, four out of six models that rediff.com spoke to were management graduates and had planned either to start on projects of their own or work in a corporate environment if modelling didn't click.
"It's not the end of life," adds Rina*, another participant who the judges thought was not up to the rigorous standards set by them and Lakme.
Designers Nachiket Barve and Rocky S, show directors Marc Robinson and Lubna Adams, fashion photographer Jatin Kampani, editor of Vogue magazine Priya Tanna, CEO of Lakme Lever Anil Chopra and vice-president and head of fashion for IMG India Sujal Shah have the unenviable task of dashing these young women's dreams.
*Names changed to protect privacy
Image: Would-be models strut their stuff in the hotel lobby
'I'm very hungry...'
Rejections aside, there are happy faces too and they vivaciously expressed their feelings.
Twenty three-year-old Lekha Anantharaman, a major in literature from Ferguson College, Pune, is all bubbly despite the stressful events that culminated in her selection. "I am so happy that I am going to run out and celebrate with my friends. I am happy that I got through to walk the ramp at the most eminent fashion week," she says animatedly (See video).
However, the signs of fatigue and hunger are unmistakable. "I'm very hungry. The first thing I will do is grab some lunch," says exotic Kingfisher pin-up Angela Jonsson . The 20-year-old is half Indian and half Icelander from Bengaluru; she's trying to sound chirpy, having left the audition room on a favourable note, but the stress seems to shine through.
Image: Every round and subsequent shortlist entails a nerve-wracking wait
'I got rejected at the outset'
Anxiety seems only natural, however, when you take into consideration that you are one among 118 girls, who have spent the better part of the day walking the ramp in front of the judges. With each round of elimination, the list of selections gets shorter and the beauties wait with baited breath as it is announced.
Some have travelled a long way to make it here, only to be turned away. Like Priya Jaiswal from Jabalpur in Madhya Pradesh. "I got rejected at the outset, just because I was an inch shorter than the required 5'8" global norm," she says. But there seems to be no disappointment on her part; nor is she concerned with concealing her identity. Priya then informs us that it was only because her sister cajoled her into presenting herself at the audition that she came to try out.
Image: A few girls relax in between rounds
'It feels bad, but life is tough'
In a profession where the competition is so intense, disappointments and rejection have to be taken in one's stride, feels designer Nachiket Barve, one of the panel judges at the audition.
"In every profession -- whether you're a designer, model or actor -- as standards go higher, as competition increases, you need to have a mix of talent, luck and be at the right place at the right time to be successful," he explains, seeming to rationalise the difficult decisions his fraternity makes when they sit in judgment.
"It feels bad, but life is tough," Barve adds, summing up his feelings for those who were not able to make it (watch a video of Nachiket Barve's interview here).
Click NEXT to read more what the finalists have to say.
Image: The judges pose with the finalists
I am sexy and I have to be aware of that: Lekha Anantharaman
I am a 23-year-old fashion model, a Mumbaikar living in Mumbai. I am so happy that I am going to run out and celebrate with my friends. I am happy that I got through to walk the ramp at the most eminent fashion week.
You have a gorgeous figure. How do you maintain that?
I just eat right, sleep well and exercise 25 to 30 minutes a day to keep in shape.
Will modelling be a full-time profession?
I really don't know. I really want to see how it goes for me. I can do a lot of other things I know.
I am a literature major from Ferguson College, Pune.
The last book that you read?
The Secret by Ronda Byros.
How'd you react if someone calls you sexy?
I would love it. I am sexy and I have to be aware of that and I have taken it positively.
What does being sexy mean to you?
It's probably the aura you create around you by your presence.
Describe your figure...
(Thinks)... Perfect for the ramp.
Perfect for the ramp. I know -- size zero! No, no, not size zero -- size two...
Any tips on how to maintain one's figure? How did you do it?
Recently, I have started breathing exercises. Yoga tones your system well, it helps you shed all the toxins and keeps you very hydrated. I have just started yoga and it is helping me. I see it in my body, my face and my mind.
How are you going to celebrate your success tonight?
I will drink a beer. And I don't want to say it on camera, but pee it out.
Click here to watch Lekha's interview video.
Image: Lekha Anantharaman
India's home, I feel so comfortable here: Angela Jonsson
I am half Indian. So you get the best of both worlds. Beautiful brown skin and love being Indian. I am 5'8". I love to keep fit, exercise and work hard and that's what you need to be a model.
What do you do to maintain your figure?
Everything. I gym, I dance, I do yoga.
How important is yoga for models?
Very important. It not only keeps you slim and fit, but also tones your body and gives you peace of mind. Because being a model is so hectic and stressful, but yoga gives you peace and sanity. It's beautiful.
Do you like Indian food?
I love Indian food. I can't live without it. I love Butter Chicken, naan, rotis, paneer, everything. When I go abroad I have to take Indian food with me to eat.
Which Indian city do you like the most?
I haven't been to very North India. I'd love to travel to Rajasthan and the North East. I've been to Goa and I must say it's my favourite so far.
What fascinates you the most about India?
Everything, it's home. I feel so comfortable here. People are so, so friendly as opposed to the rest of the world. People are genuine and I love the culture; it's so diverse.
Click here to watch Angela's interview video.
Image: Angela Jonsson
I will travel with my boyfriend and see India's beauty: Bryndis Helgadottir
How does it feel now that you have been selected to walk the ramp this summer?
How are you going to celebrate it?
With my boyfriend.
Is he travelling with you?
Yes, he is in India. He is Indian. I don't know, may be we will go out for dinner.
How long have you been in this city?
This is my fourth day but I have been here four times before.
Tell us about Iceland's beauty?
Iceland's very beautiful: The glaciers, the Northern Lights and the hot springs... it's all there.
What will you do from now till the LFW in March?
I am with an (modelling) agency. Maybe I'll do some job and perhaps travel with my boyfriend and see India's beauty.
Click here to watch Bryndis' interview video.
Image: Bryndis Helgadottir
I want to get a good role in Bollywood: Sophia Djenid
How good is your Hindi?
Thoda, thoda (I speak a bit of Hindi). I have just started. In some months it will be better.
What will you do till March when the LFW begins?
I am a model. So there are lots of castings in between. Tonight I will go somewhere to see India (Mumbai). It's not only work for me. It's very important to see this country.
Will you be travelling alone in this city?
No, I have lots of friends. They take good care of me. It's not difficult, but being a stranger to this city I wouldn't know where to go.
How do you maintain your figure?
My figure is very good. I have to be happy to look good.
You plan to work in Bollywood?
Yes I have got some suggestions, but I have to improve my Hindi because if I don't speak the language I won't get a good role.
Your aims in life?
I really like modelling and I want to become a famous model and then perhaps I'll work for TV because I like it.
Are there enough career opportunities for models in the Ukraine?
Yes. If you go abroad and work as a model, say in India, when you go back to the Ukraine you get better opportunities.
Do you have plans to go back to the Ukraine?
Yes. I have come here only for three months to work. I will go back because I am studying in university there. But I plan to come back to India again.
Click here to watch Sophia's interview video.
Image: Sophia Djenid
When you walk the ramp, you are the tigress: Iris Maity
I wouldn't like to call myself a model. I am a normal girl like any other girl, having big dreams and trying to live those dreams. I have been doing the ramp for quite some time and would like to try acting now. And of course, why not try Bollywood?
You were a banker. Why did you quit?
It's not about quitting something. It's about growing. I have done my MBA in marketing and was working as an assistant manager with IDBI Bank. The knowledge I gained from my management studies I am trying to implement on the ramp.
Implementing management principles on the ramp?
The basic principle of management is managing people, managing your own work. I am not with any modelling agency; I am a freelancer and touchwood I am doing quite well. I don't need an agent to handle my work.
In management it's all about PR and product positioning. So to be successful in my field I need to position myself properly and I have been doing it.
You've walked the ramp at the LFW earlier. On what basis were you selected?
I am not a brilliant model. I am also a newcomer who has been in the field; it's only about two years and four months I have been doing modelling so I am saying this from whatever little experience I have.
Ramp is all about attitude. When you walk the ramp you are the tigress. The entire area is yours. A little bit of nervousness will kill the entire thing. It's more about your body language, more about grace, more about your poise and above all there is your attitude that matters.
How do judges select would-be LFW models? What's in and what's out for them now?
I really don't know because there are so many judges sitting on the panel, they have their own dos and don'ts. So what's in or out depends on them. From my point of view a good height is required for the ramp; a minimum of 5' 8" is required.
I think an athletic body is in, which does not mean you are healthy, but you should be flexible and curvy.
Click here to watch Iris' interview video.
Image: Iris Maity