— Lakshmi Rana
Credited for a prolific body of work, stringent discipline and powerhouse personality on and off the ramp, supermodel Lakshmi Rana has achieved FDCI Excellence Award and Femina Power Women — North. Today, she is giving life to her dream of transforming the modeling industry as founder mentor of Wilderbee Talent Camp. This is the first time in the history of Indian fashion that a reigning supermodel is taking modeling to the next level by changing the narrative to inclusivity and body positivity. Over to the game-changer.
''The idea of Wilderbee Talent Camp has been within me for the longest time. It’s been almost five-six years that I've been writing down notes about things that I've noticed in this industry, things for the models that can be improved or changed, things that I've gone through and other freshers have gone through too, and what can be done about them to bring about a change and make it easier for aspiring models to get into the industry. So, the ida has always been within me and has just begun taking shape. WilderBee Talent Camp is an all-inclusive platform of training and learning. It's an education that has been designed by me for people who are serious about getting into this industry. The reason I came up with this idea was to help aspiring models study about the industry before venturing into it because I feel they enter the industry without any knowledge about it whatsoever. The business of modeling is a serious profession, and if done right, it can take you places.
The core of Wilderbee Talent Camp is inclusivity. I have been a spokesperson on behalf of this industry, and of the models, about how we should be comfortable in our skin colour. I remember, having spoken about this years back, when there were Fair and Lovely advertisements and most people preferred fair-skinned overseas models over the Indian dark-skinned models. Although there were several brands hosting talks on body positivity and diversity, a lot of brands did it as tokenism and not many really executed what they spoke about. So it is important that we, as individuals, especially from the fashion industry, make sure it is talked about and enforced and there is a real difference. So, when I came up with the core values of Wilderbee Talent Camp it was taken positively by a lot of people I admire. I also got a lot of feedback from girls and boys who wanted to get into this industry but weren't sure that they had it in them. They started tagging us and messaging us personally. So I feel this a good achievement though we have a long way to go.
It was then that I realised that we need to come up with a platform which encourages inclusively and body positivity. There was a need gap for this platform. I've noticed models struggling over the years. I have also undergone a lot of struggles and am still wanting to bring about a change in the ways models are looked at, the way they are paid and the way they are treated in this industry. Particularly aspiring girls and boys who are struggling to figure out what they need to do to grow in this industry. I have seen people who have been in the fashion industry for three-four years and still don't know how to go to the next level. At Wilderbee, we have a great personal branding module which puts them on a different platform. That said, we want to make it exclusive for people who have potential. It should not mislead people who don't have potential. That's why there are limited seats and we do a very, very careful selection of people who are to be trained in this camp.
How we discover and represent talent is, first, by finding the right faces, finding interesting stories, finding people who are unconventional, people who have character on their face, who have the drive and the passion to do well… and then we select and train them to prepare them to enter they industry. It is really important that they come prepared into the world of modeling wherein their first job should be done well. So, our vision to is to transform them and give them the skill set so they excel at any job they get in the industry. My personal role and responsibility is to formulate and direct, give the team direction, and take it to the place where I have envisioned it to be in the coming years. I go in for collaborations with organisations I feel will add value. I am the one who trains the candidates and guides them even after the training is over. There is a lot I am doing at the moment; in fact I am also training my team. We have formed Wilderbee community, which is an inclusive diverse community of models who have trained under us. They are given constant guidance after the camp is over. We are in the process of opening our agency, Wilderbee Models. Once that is established, we will be guiding models to develop a unique personality which talks a lot about who he or she is. The mantra has worked for me… my personality has made me who I am on and off the ramp. My models too need to develop their personality and project their inner strength on the ramp or while posing in front of the camera…
What I love about Wilderbee Talent Camp is that something I've been thinking about for so many years has materialised. There is so much of passion and thought that has gone into this project. After completing the first two batches, I can see results. My students message me that it was a fabulous experience and they have leant a lot… the bond that we have as a community means a lot to me and I feel I have achieved a lot when I get that love from students. One thing that is most challenging about what I do, though, is that it is not just about training students with ramp walk and posing. The first module is self-connect and how to build confidence. A lot of people come with inhibitions, and for me as a mentor, to identify that problem or inhibition, and tale it out of their system so that can build self-confidence. is a tough job. Also, I have launched the camp during Covid times and that itself comes with its set of challenges. But people are appreciating it and all is good.
My last thoughts? I envision that the core of Wilderbee, of inclusivity, body positivity and acceptance, is taken in by the fashion industry which is the epitome of beauty and a lot of people look up to it. I hope it will change and become a wholesome, more accepting industry and Wilderbee Talent Camp is one of the reasons this happens. I also aspire to contribute to the next generation of models in a positive, holistic way…''