• Share us your experiences Varonica, of walking on the runway of Lakme Fashion Week.
~ Walking for one of the biggest fashion runways, LAKME FASHION WEEK, is a dream come true, for lot of models. Even for me, it was one of the best experiences. Additionally, opening the show for one of the ace designers, Wendell Rodricks is like icing on the cake.
• 3 must without which your bag is going to be empty.
~ My Chanel lipstick, wallet & mobile.
• How was the journey throughout, from just a member of LGBT Community to owning such a big title?
~ We are from a healthy and wealthy independent family. Right from my childhood, I was more of a girl in behavior than a boy and I was raised like a girl by my parents along with my elder sister. I was deeply inclined towards fashion since I was a kid. As every enthusiast and a go getter, I decided to pursue my career in fashion. Once I completed my graduation, I was more of a woman and feminine after HRT. Finally, my father accepted and supported me after a lot of ups and downs. I underwent medical surgery with my family’s support and began my career as a full pledged confident woman in Canada. In the recent developments of LFW, I was pleased to know that it was providing opportunities to transwomen. With encouragement from my family, I went to the auditions for plus size models at LFW and got selected as one of the finalists. I am very thankful to LFW for this beautiful lifetime opportunity.
• How does it feel to be an example of stereotype breaker?
~ It feels good to be an example of stereo types in India, where majority of population is plus sized, ironically, they expect the models to be slim and trim. Breaking that norm and being India’s first plus size transgender model is an achievement itself.
• Do you think being plus size is a disadvantage? Do you think you are away from the mainstream work sphere?
~ I don’t think being plus size is a disadvantage as already mentioned that majority of the people in India is plus sized, modeling for plus size is a showcasing how certain clothes and patterns look on plus size bodies. Yes, I’m certainly away from the main stream work sphere. More opportunities should be provided to plus size models.
• When and how did you realize about yourself like the actual YOU? Did you get your family support throughout?
~ My father wanted me to be a doctor as I was a meritorious student ranked 90 in all India EAMCET- Medical. But then I had to choose between my dreams or my parents’ dreams. Since I had keen interest in fashion, I graduated in Fashion and Textile from NIFT, Hyderabad and Hamstech, Hyderabad. During my graduation, my feminine voice supported my part time jobs. At that point of time, I took a strong step to consult a doctor and take it forward for HRT (Hormone Replacement Therapy) and I approached my parents for the same. However, my father denied it, but my mother and sister stood by my side. Also, I had a great support from my college friends and faculty. Once I completed my graduation, I was more of a woman and feminine after HRT. Finally, my father accepted me and supported me after a lot of ups and downs.
With strong support from my family, I pursued my higher education in Fashion Management from London School of Fashion. During that phase, I finally underwent medical surgery with my family’s support and began my career as a full pledged confident woman in Canada. I got an opportunity to get trained by professional makeup artists and work with MAC Cosmetics, Ontario and few other international cosmetics in Canada. During this hormonal process, I gained weight and got a few offers as a plus size model over there for a few local brands. After a couple of years, I returned to India and started my own make up studio as “Varonica Makeup Artistry”. I worked with a lot of celebrities, brides, models, fashion shows across India and overseas as a professional makeup artist and created a niche for myself in the glamour world. During this phase, I got an opportunity to walk as a show stopper for a few fashion shows as I was already in the page 3 crowd by then. I also got an opportunity to train on grooming for one of the leading aviation companies.
I was even awarded as the Best Make Up Artist and ranked as one of the leading ones from the southern part of India. I am currently pursuing my Ph.d in ranked 1 University of the world in Business Administration, Florida. I also wanted to fulfill my dream as a plus size model. In the recent developments of LFW, I was pleased to know that it was providing opportunities to transwomen. With encouragement from my family, I went for the auditions for plus size models at LFW and got selected as one of the finalists. During my graduation days, I grew up studying about the works of one of my favorite designers, Wendell Rodricks. I often used to visit his store in Goa and fell in love with his work – the design, the cut and the fabric, no words! He was one of the judges for the auditions. It’s one of my dreams to walk for him. It’s an honor.
• Share with us an incident where you were challenged based on your identity, but it motivated you in turn.
~ I never faced any challenges based on my identity. I’m fortunate enough to be accepted the way I’m. I always gained support and love from family, friends and well-wishers.
• Body shaming is very common in our chauvinist society. What are the hurdles you faced due to this? And how did you overcome those?
~ I was never ashamed of my body, hence there is no question of body shaming. Yes, the society is very judgmental about people’s bodies and sizes. However, I was always comfortable and loved my unique body, thick skin and curves. I feel one must be comfortable and confident. We need to accept ourselves first before we expect the others to accept us, self-motivation is very important.
• Do you think beauty pageants are monotonous and there should be changes in the structure?
~ Yes, the beauty pageants are monotonous. There should be changes in the structure.
We need to break the stereo type procedures. Beauty is not just about slim bodies. Curves are beautiful, natural and healthy too.
• Miss India operates on a large scale with lavish popularity is of course much more in reach to the public than the Miss India Trans pageant which happened this year. What do you have to say about it?
~ India has started accepting the third gender in the recent times. Beauty pageants over the decades have been about women only. Recently, the Miss Transgender Beauty Pageant is any eye opener that people in India have become broader minded and started accepting and respecting the third gender. Although it is a slow process, I’m glad there has been a kick start.
• If you are asked for three changes in the society regarding practices and behavioral outlook, what would those be?
~ The first change in the society must be to love and accept the ones the way they are instead of being judgmental.
The second change is to provide opportunities in every industry, irrespective of their body sizes or sexual orientations.
Third change is that transgender should not be termed as “Third Gender”. They should be either labelled as males or females.
• Recently, the Supreme Court confirmed the freedom to express sexual orientation. Do you think it will be of any help in the society as well as professional field? Will the outlook of orthodox people change?
~ I think everyone should be treated equally. People should accept everyone no matter what the gender is.
• What suggestions would you like to give to your trans sisters?
~ My advice to the LGBT community is love yourself, there is nothing about your preferences and choices. Respect and love yourself, before you expect people to love and respect you. Be bold & confident and never lose hope.
• What can you say to our society so that they can at-least consider every human being equal irrespective of their sex?
~ My message to the society is very simple-Live and let live, spread love not hatred. We are all human beings at the end of the day.
• What’s up next?
~ I have couple of projects lined up regionally and internationally as well as want to bag the title in India as First Trans Super Model and launch my own plus size Signature label.
• What would be your words for LaughaLaughi?
~ LaughaLaughi is a brilliant platform that exposes the truth and reality from various walks of the life. A common man can relate and connect to it. The features can sometimes be inspirations for lot of people especially those who are desperately seeking acceptance, love and support.
Journalists- Rishakhi Chakraborty & Soumi Sen.
Image Courtesy : Varonica