The glamour industry has been under the lens of suspicion for the longest time. Many believe the place accentuates vanity and your darkest insecurities. However, we are in times when any misconduct will be reported and perpetrators will be apprehended, be it legendary photographers Patrick Demarchelier and Greg Kadel, who worked for brands such as Condé Nast and Victoria’s Secret or stylist Karl Templer, who worked with Coach and Tommy Hilfiger and was accused by over 50 models of sexual misconduct and outright assault.
There were increased incidents of misogyny, bullying and harassment within Victoria’s Secret and they asserted that the lingerie company must join the ‘Respect’ programme to curb abuse in future. Amidst all that, Harvey Weinstein, once the most influential producer in Hollywood, was sentenced to 23 years in prison.
Times are a-changing
Designer Kiran Uttam Ghosh believes that with women speaking up, there is a big change now. “Professionals across industries are wary now. Even doctors have a female nurse accompanying women when they go in for a scan or an ultrasound,” she adds.
Speaking about the changing scenario, designer Shruti Sancheti says, “Models will certainly feel a sense of security as they are finally being heard and their pleas will not fall on deaf ears. We have all read horror stories of how a hundred Victoria’s Secret models sent a signed letter to the CEO saying ‘protect the people you profit from’.”
Sakshi Sindwani is one such model who is certainly feeling a lot safer given there is a greater understanding about the issues in the industry. One among the country’s top plus-size models, Sakshi, who has done many swimsuit shoots, with her latest one to be out in Vogue soon, says, “I do feel these verdicts have brought about accountability which is now going to be a norm.”
Sakshi once wore a swimsuit for the fashion week in Delhi. “I was actually applauded by the audience, and both designers Shivan and Narresh were extremely gracious.”
As a plus-size model, she has had some people tell her things such as, ‘Oh! You look different in pictures and in real life.’
“But that’s the maximum I have heard. Moreover, I choose the people I want to work with,” exclaims Sakshi who, nevertheless, advises everyone to remain sharp and cautious.
“Your safety is in your own hands. So remember even for the sake of networking, don’t give out your number to everyone.”
More words of caution
Another person advocating caution is designer and fashion guru Rina Dhaka. Rina, who was the one who introduced the transparent churidaar that became a rage, shares an interesting anecdote when she began her career in the 1980s.
Rina, who was famous for her explosive shows, often made risqué garments. For a particular fashion show, she made a sheer garment for supermodel Nina Manuel. “Nina wore the dress with such aplomb. She seemed comfortable in it and carried it to perfection — no questions were asked,” recounts Rina.
“Both of us were new and wanted to experiment and it all went down well, without any judgement. However, times have changed now, you need to think how the audience will react; your intention needs to be right.”
Interestingly, India’s supermodel Laxmi Rana, who has been modelling for 18 years, believes that though with the Harvey Weinstein episode the fashion and film industries are under the radar, exploitation of women takes place everywhere, including schools, colleges, corporate offices and hospitals.
Laxmi thinks women need to evolve. “When they join any industry, they must keep their eyes and ears open. They should avoid anyone who promises them too much or makes them feel uncomfortable,” she explains.
Then talking about how the #MeToo movement brought down famed photographers such as Bruce Weber and Mario Testino, who were forcing young girls to go nude, Laxmi says that women need to be aware and informed. “Frankly, everything is so transparent these days, thanks to social media. So if you think you need to listen to photographers who tell you to take off your clothes because that’s the only way you’ll get work, you are naïve and are really deluding yourself into believing a dodgy lens-man. And then you are to blame,” she says.
Laxmi, who believes her background of being an army officer’s kid helped her gauge people, also adds how she considers participating in Ms India a learning curve.
That’s what they said
Pujan Kapoor Sharma who has been working with models, as a coordinator for 25 years faced many challenges when she wanted to get into this profession. However, she persisted and now, after being a part of the industry for long, she has made it her mission to protect young girls who join the industry.
“What is needed is for anyone to have the confidence to come out and speak against abuse. You might need to walk alone in this fight, and you must have the courage to do it,” says Pujan.
Pujan advises that modelling-aspirants must work with only the best names and reputed organisations. “You don’t need to compromise to get work. Also times have changed and the idea of ‘perfection’ is not what it used to be. So aspirants don’t have to enter the industry worried if only tall, shapely and light-eyed beauties rule the ramp because women with a personality that shines through are also chosen to walk the ramp,” she adds.
For designer Diksha Khanna, too, Weinstein’s verdict of 23 years certainly came as an overwhelming relief and a boost to empowerment. “It brought with it a sense of righteous justice to the struggle of every woman who has been a victim of any such compelling circumstances,” says Diksha. “This verdict definitely re-instills a sense of hope and faith that women in distress will be heard and believed, and this thought in itself is truly empowering.”