“Rudeness is passed off as candour.”
+ Photographed by Rohan Shrestha
currentMood: What does #nofilter mean to you?
Nidhi Sunil: It means someone who is comfortable in their skin and totally okay with how they look, without really trying to change anything about themselves. Be it the colour of their skin, the shape of their nose or giving themselves cheekbones by using too much contouring..that kind of stuff. There is obviously a section of my generation that has become very accepting of how they look. They don’t want to do the whole anti-aging thing and all that rubbish but then there’s also this entire section that’s obsessed with make up and it’s horrendous! Where they fetishise make-up, buy loads of it and become ‘make-up victims’. So noFilter, is doing away with that, where you look and feel good being yourself.
cM: Do you think that people are ‘real’ in our industry?
NS: No. I think some people can be real but sometimes they are deliberately rude or mean and its labeled as being real. It’s possible to approach life with kindness, intelligence and compassion. You don’t have to grind somebody under your heel and call it being real or whatever, you know? Rudeness is passed off as candour and it’s really not. You’re not helping anyone, it’s not constructive criticism and it’s not necessary to be that way in order to call yourself a genuine person. There’s a lack of kindness and since our industry is all about how you look, there’s nothing you can do about it. I mean, sure you can loose weight, cut your hair and colour it, but you can’t grow taller. I’ve occasionally come across it too. I was often told, “You’re short, you’re short.” If somebody doesn’t fit your aesthetic bill, you have the choice to not use them, but you don’t have to put them down.
cM: Do you think colourism exists in fashion? Any personal instances you can cite?
NS: I love how the industry is becoming super diverse, not just with models but with photographers, makeup artists, stylists – everyone is improving their game and taking it to the next level. People are now shooting editorials for smaller magazines abroad that are more avant-garde. And it’s great! When I started in 2011, I’d get a lot of, “You’re dark and you are not tall, and you are short and you are not fair, so we don’t know where to place you because you can’t do commercials or fashion.” One of my previous bookers
even asked me to laser my freckles away, “That would be helpful..all you’d have to do is stay inside the house for a month,” she said. Manoj Yadav had taken black and white images of me, and they were beautiful! My booker looked at it and said, “Yeh kya hai (what is this)?! This will scare the clients away!”
When I signed up with Garnier for 2 years they said, “You are the darkest girl we’ve ever signed as our ambassador.” When I was in LA, they said, “Oh! You are just the right shade of dark!” or shit like that. Thankfully, I’ve always had a sense of humour so I’ve not taken all this personally. I separate my life from my job, and that helps.
“I feel like there’s a de-humanisation of models.”
cM: What’s your take on Fair & Lovely Ads for men and women?
NS: Oh, I hate them! I absolutely hate them. I’ve been called to do Fair & Lovely – thrice, since I began modelling and each time I’d abjectly say, “No!” They’ve finally stopped calling me..
cM: They wanted to make you look fairer?
NS: Yeah! There’s some logic to this, I’m not sure if I’m right, but they told me that it’s easier to photoshop a dark girl and make her look fair, than make a fair girl darker. Which is why they hire dusky girls. Vipasha Agarwal was a Fair & Lovely girl, and she was dusky..I hate that word also! She is as dark as me.
cM: Tell us about your experiences modelling in India and abroad. What are the noticeable differences ?
NS: Regarding professionalism, I haven’t encountered too many difference between here (India), New York, Paris London or LA. We take ourselves pretty seriously and are reasonably on time. We get our shit done and we’re organised. Other than that, I do feel that our industry is much kinder to models. It’s a lot worse outside. Indian girls who work here on a regular basis and haven’t travelled outside for work don’t realise how good they have it. In the high fashion scene, they are very cruel to the girls and are very strict about weight and measurements. Its like there’s a rule: the shorter you are, the leaner you have to be and it’s inversely proportional. There was a time when my waist was 22″ and my booker was like, “No, no..go back to..” Indian girls have pear shaped figures. So when I lose weight on my hips, I also end up losing weight on my waist and bust. And that doesn’t work for
sample sizes because then I’m smaller than a size 2 on my waist. Then I’m told to go back to a 35″ hip and 23-24″ waist. High fashion and runways are quite frivolous and volatile, and to be honest, I don’t think models are treated as human beings. Every couple of seasons the fashion industry comes up with this face or look that’s trending. There will be a few stereotypes and there will be this girl with super short hair, or black hair and olive skin or whatever. All the girls who are top billers of that season will get all the big shows and won’t have time for the smaller shows. So everyone who is casting for the smaller shows tries to cast girls like them. Like Lineisy Montero has a big afro and a beautiful Egyptian-North African face, and she was doing really well last season. So if you can’t book her for the show, there will be a plethora of girls who kind of look like her in all the other shows. So if you don’t fit into the look that’s trending, you may as well give up hope. Like don’t bother doing that season. I feel like there’s a de- humanisation of models.
cM: What projects have you recently worked/working on?
NS: It’s nice to be back home for now! Though I’m heading back to LA in two weeks. I’ve signed up with Innovative Artists in LA because I’m also interested in acting and stuff like that. I’m actually reading for a very interesting part..I don’t think I can talk about it. I do a lot of the commercial work and shoot with brands like American Apparel, Hourglass cosmetics and Esprit. Recently I was in Paris shooting with Mario Testino, which is like a life goal accomplished for me! That was huge and I still can’t believe that it happened. It feels like a dream.
cM: What part of your job makes you the happiest?
NS: Travelling. I’ve always been the sort of person who goes to different countries and gets lost in that part of the world. I really enjoy doing my job and I’m always excited to be on set, to be in front of the camera. Other than that, being able to live and work in different countries and meeting new people. New York, London, LA – these cities are so diverse, people from all over the world live in there and everyone you speak to has fascinating stories about how they ended up living there. You can make careers out of things
that wouldn’t work in any other country, and make a significant amount that covers rent and pays the bills. That’s my favourite part of the job – being able to do all that, not sit at a desk from 9-5, paying my bills and still having the time and energy to explore other aspects of my existence.
cM: How do you stay grounded?
NS: I always make friends outside the industry, my friends circle in every city are people outside fashion. It’s nice, you get fresh perspective and it sort of keeps you grounded. It does not make the industry the centre of your universe.
Interviewed by: Priyam Sharda
Text by: currentMood
Last modified: October 17, 2018