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— Jasmeen Dugal

One would think the era of the supermodel was gone for good. But with supermodels and industry experts combining forces to form 'National Academy Of Modelling And Grooming' that discovers, mentors, educates and counsels models, and provides them with work thereafter, there's unbridled excitement for what's coming. Head mentor Diandra Soares has scaled heights. Independent, intelligent and beautiful, she is the only model who dared to go bald at the peak of her illustrious career. The supermodel and actor channels positive body image, and hey, if the gaze she casts on the camera is fierce, her positivity, honesty and desire to give back is winsome. Over to her.


''To start with — and I say this without malice to anyone as a lot of models are my friends — everyone else seems to be a self proclaimed “SUPERMODEL". How? And why?? I don't understand how one gives themselves this tag without a vast all-round body of work to back it up! So right here is the main issue with models today. The new lot believe they know it all and have done it all. Also everyone seems to be like sheep… they look the same. Same hair colour, same hair length, same walk, same style… individual personality and identity is missing. If you reference iconic supermodels in the past decade, some still on the scene, they stand apart even today because there is an individuality there; they keep up with current trends but bring their own style and personality to the jobs. The key is to keep experimenting, reinventing and learning!!


That said, I didn't make a conscious effort to go bald in order to stick out or gain attention — as I was always accused of doing. I was always a little unconventional from the get go, especially for this country. From being someone who started so young back in the day where it wasn't heard of to not look 'Indian' [yes, at Miss India '98 I was asked for my passport to prove I'm Indian!!] to always getting a tan and being a dusky girl. [A fake dusky girl — because I hated how India was obsessed with long straight hair, fair skin and light eyes!] To going bald or trying all kinds of hairstyles, hair colours and being heavily tattooed. I just did what I felt like doing! It was never calculated. I had the biggest downfalls and failures but also was known as the "comeback queen". Because, for me, my passion and love for what I do trumped everything else and it drives me even today. Fashion is fun and it's not meant to be safe… so why are models playing safe today? Be brazen! Be yourself! Transform. Change. Break Expectations. Experiment. Accept your flaws. Accept the unconventional. Also let's not forget, 'DO NOT TAKE YOURSELF SO SERIOUSLY!' Particularly when we have a lot more Indian models going global compared to back in the day thanks to the influx of modelling agencies here. But, from my own personal experience, what models need to know is if they are commercial faces or runway faces. Very few can manage both. Also a certain body type is now required as over the years the trends have changed. Portfolios need to be very different for a global platform. They like it as plain and simple as possible so they can visualise you better!! Here one needs to feed your versatility and literally shove it down people's throats!! Just remember one thing — overseas, they love, love, love the most unconventional looks.


I'm head mentor at National Academy Of Modelling And Grooming. It involves a huge part of pretty much everything… everything I have learnt from my mentors which back then was  detailed lessons that led most of us to have such long careers. Our foundation was good. The training was detailed. Then in between there was none of that and models came in blind and learnt on the job. It became a quick way to make quick money. Short, quick courses on how to be a model was rife. People come in with half baked information believing they are the cats whiskers. At NAMG they will have all round guidance. It's an education. They will learn everything including aftermath… we will place them in jobs and not just leave them hanging out to dry.  They will have me for life… just like my past students like Pia Trivedi, and Iris Maity. They can still call me today for anything they need help with. All my experience, success, failures everything is out on display for my students to take and absorb. I want to give back to this industry and to young models everything it gave me… everything my mentors and senior models gave me… and much much more!!!!


What are we looking for? This can come in any and all forms. I have nothing set. I call it intuition and magic.  Anything is possible. Can never be a set formula. The most unsuspecting of people can kill it with the right training and a constant passion to learn and absorb. once models are selected, they will be taught everything from all styles of walk to posing, how to audition, basic style development, basic makeup and grooming on the job, understanding their strengths and weaknesses and how to work on each of it. How to work on their headspace, how to deal with rejections because every and any model has faced it at some point or another. Being a model is not about just being pretty; models must have knowledge of the craft. So much more… too vast to describe here!! I think you should wait for my book on this matter !!!!!! Lastly, like I said before, my students have me for life. In the past I've mentored my models long after the jobs were over. I hear them out on their insecurities or lack of jobs or if one should go get a nose job. We must understand most of these girls and boys are very young and need guidance. One can fall into wrong situations and it comes from insecurities as we're in a business surrounded by so much beauty. With this in mind, we will be starting a counselling centre for the welfare of models. I believe it's the need of the hour.


A nugget of wisdom? Being nervous is good; take that nervous energy and convert it into confidence. Overconfidence — beware of that because I will break it down in you!!!!!"

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