Anjali Lama, Nepal's first transgender model, on finding acceptance on the ramp in India
This month, Anjali Lama — nepal's well-known transgender model — was chosen as one among five new faces who will walk the ramp at the Lakmé Fashion Week Summer/Resort 2017.
Growing up in the Nuwakot province of Nepal, in a family of farmers, Nabin Waiba felt different. Waiba’s closeness to his mother and to female friends at school, his behaviour that didn’t conform to gender stereotypes, drew a lot of criticism from others. It also brought Naiba self-doubt and confusion. It was much later, during his college years, that Waiba made a decision: To live the identity that he held in his heart.
Waiba chose to become Anjali Lama.
A Google search for Anjali Lama leads you to this description: “Nepal’s first transgender model”.
After years of struggling with the sexual standards imposed by society, Anjali no longer shies away from stating her identity for what it is.
Her face graces the covers of magazines in Nepal; this month, she was chosen as one among five new models who will walk the ramp at the Lakmé Fashion Week Summer/Resort 2017.
This isn’t the first time Anjali auditioned for LFW — a previous attempt in 2016 didn’t prove as successful. Anjali told Elle magazine that after she didn’t make the cut last time, she worked on her walk, pose and bearing, observing videos of international models for tips.
Clearly, her initiative and drive paid off.
Persistence is something Anjali sets great store in: ask her what her greatest asset as a model is, and she doesn’t name her bone structure (which has been called exquisite) or statuesque figure; she says “hard work”. “The ability to work really hard (at what I hope to achieve) is my greatest strength. I am determined, have a never-give-up attitude, and surround myself with people who encourage me to prosper,” she told Firstpost in a recent interview.
Of making it to LFW, she said, “I am thrilled, this is indeed the highest recognition I’ve had in my career till date… Lakmé Fashion Week is not a cakewalk. This opportunity has come to me after two strong denials. LFW has been working on being more inclusive, season after season, and I am happy that a platform like this exists in India.”
The LFW nod is important to Lama for more reasons than one: as her profile in the glamour industry rises, it means greater visibility for the cause she espouses — that of equal rights for the transgender community.
“Fame changes perceptions and helps your voice be recognised amid the clutter,” said Anjali. “I am continuously trying to change the overall self-evaluation criteria of individuals like me in my community… I feel education about the ‘third gender’ should be brought into focus in schools. Other than seeing it on some application forms, we seem to be living in a two-gender world. I believe government(s) should focus more on this front. Apart from this, overall rights of transgenders should be protected to benefit us at large.”
Anjali has been vocal about her own journey, in the hope that it will give courage to those who need it. Her transformation alienated her from her family, and society too could be cruel to someone who openly identified as transgender.
“I realised early on that males are the favoured gender. Turning from a boy into a girl is blasphemous to some minds. My family, friends and relatives were not all supportive. All of them wanted to ask the same question: ‘why’. So I preferred to disconnect myself from them… Transgenders are treated fairly unfairly everywhere. Be it accommodation or jobs, nothing comes easy for us,” said Anjali, adding that her relationship with her family, and social attitudes, were now on the mend.
Inspiration, when Anjali needs it, comes from her mother. For a professional role model, she looks up to Adriana Lima. In the fashion world — and in India — Anjali says she’s found nothing but acceptance. “India is (more) developed than where I come from, and people here are, by and large, helpful. This triggered my decision to come to India and explore career opportunities… Fashion is a strong subject and it has the possibility to turn around the overall environment and psychology of even the most rigid minds."
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