FROM ARMED FORCES TO THE CATWALK

— ASHISH K SINGH

'If you're a man of mystery, it really takes you far.

Everyone around you thinks that you're a star!'

I couldn't help recalling lyrics of 'Grease' when Ashish Singh stormed the catwalk at India Couture Week — he was simply following his dream of excelling in sports, of joining the armed forces, of working in a corporate firm and of ruling the catwalk. Today, he has the power to win over a room with his hot bod and confident stride. In conversation with him.

 

What attracted you to modelling when you could have settled for a more stable career as a defence officer or youth counsellor? What inspired the change in track?

 

I hail from Lucknow. My father retired as Chief Pharmacist and my mother is presently Chief Pharmacist at a government hospital in Lucknow. I am blessed to have an elder sister; my best friend and confidante who served in the Indian Army for fourteen years and is presently working with Amazon. While we were growing up, in 1999, the Kargil war happened and both of us used to watch updates on the news. That was the point we told our parents that we would join the armed forces. Our parents were completely invested in our childhood and I had a set routine since the second standard. Sports was an integral part of our lives, with two hours of swimming in the morning and three hours of basketball in the evening. While I missed family functions and friends' birthdays, I played the Nationals in swimming and State in Basketball. Then I was focussed on joining the armed forces and each day brought me a step closer to my vision. 

 

I appeared for NDA and couldn't qualify, after which I continued my graduation in Computer Science and Statistics from the University of Lucknow. I then joined the NCC and opted for flying; I represented UP and UA and scored second position in flying at All India Vayu Sainik Camp, Bangalore. As I was approaching my final year, I filled up all the entries for the armed forces, appeared in SSB thrice, cleared my flying tests in the first attempt and finally I got selected in the Naval Aviation. That was the first time I was out of my city and reported for training. Being a small town boy, with a lot of aspirations and self-induced pressure to perform, I was amongst the top then in the academy and lucky enough to pursue sports while in service. I represented the command team in boat pulling, navy team in swimming and the ship's team in basketball. I was always a performer as I strongly believe I am my own competition. I served aboard the mighty aircraft carrier, INS Viraat, trained under-trainee officers at the academy and did staff appointments before I retired as a Short Service Commissioned Officer. Armed forces is a service, voluntary in nature, and that is why it cannot be compared with any other career. Service in uniform gave me a different outlook in life underlined with my parents' stress on humility.

 

Coming to modelling, my senior in the army, Col, Nitin Mehta, is an established model and an actor. I happened to be with his course-mate during my last six months in service and he introduced me to Col. Nitin. He appreciated my potential and got my first folio shot though I was miserable throughout. I could not understand how to pose! It might look easy but takes a lot of practice to give the perfect shot. Well, the results were out and trust me, I wasn't happy with those pictures; I still look at them to recall how under-confident I was when I faced a professional camera for the first time. I kept practicing the tradecraft while Col. Nitin continued to send me details of castings and auditions in Delhi NCR. My first audition was for United Colors of Benetton where I met Ms. Pujan. In the panel were Ms. Sheetal, Ms. Aparna Bahl and Ms. Sonalika Sahay. I was given a chance to walk thrice with Ms. Pujan encouraging me to walk confidently and hold at the head ramp. I got through and must have thanked everyone profusely and was super excited. Thereafter, I walked for Abu Jani and Sandeep Khosla, BPFT and a designer show where Liza ma'am selected me. This was 2019 and I was doing select shoots as I had joined a corporate by then. It was smooth sailing with a few rough patches, sometimes getting selected and at times rejected for my age if nothing else but I never stopped trying. I believe auditions are the best way to increase visibility, and if not selected, it is good practice in front of an audience.

 

I always say modelling is a passion. I feel good with all that energy around me. Last time when I felt that energy was when I got commissioned in the service. I like to walk the ramp; it is so beautiful with lights, sound and so much fun. I am known for punctuality since childhood and I believe even when you are not talking much, someone is noticing you. 2020 and 2021 were a blip due to the pandemic and I'm back to square one but I was never less motivated. Some people suggested I should join an agency and some sent audition scripts. I was doing all of it with my job in the corporate. Alongside, I continue to guide the youth and motivate them to join the armed forces. I have selected and trained a couple of candidates too. Since service is voluntary, I always motivate the youth to join and then it's their call. I shall continue helping people as they come forward. If I'm able to inspire someone as a role model, I will have achieved recognition.

 

You're doing some amazing work! What do you feel makes you a good model?

 

Well I am completely dedicated to the work I do. I never do things half-heartedly and that is visible while I am on the ramp. My coach used to tell us, it is only the love for sport that makes you win; similarly, a show without interest will not bring the best out of a model. I'm punctual at fittings and rehearsals and to keep myself focussed during shows, I'm mostly reading or observing senior models to improve myself.

 

Has your background as a defence officer helped in a confident walk on the ramp?

 

Definitely! Being a Defence officer makes one confident in all walks of life. While there is always a scope of improvement, I'm consistently practicing my walk. You get noticed in a crowd if you have a strong, confident personality. That said,I always ask for feedback from the designer, the backstage team, the show director so that I may work towards further improvement.

 

Did you always have this look or did you work hard to get it?

Ha!Ha!  This is interesting. I was always fit as I am a sportsman. I was broad shouldered till 2016 and one day I decided to get lean and started working towards it. As a boat-puller onboard INS Viraat, I weighed 106 kgs and in 2016 I reduced to 86 kgs. When I got selected for Abu Jani and Sandeep Khosla, Sandeep sir asked if I could bring my chest down to 41 within a fortnight and I achieved it. I did not always have this look, as I mentioned above; it happened over a period of time. After service, when I bagged a couple of shows, I was told to get lean to be a ramp model. I was motivated and worked towards it. Regular workout is the only key. To keep the body fit, there is no shortcut. It has to be workout and diet in conscious quantity. I have a sweet tooth and I continue to believe that I burn more when I eat more. (So much for myths!). My coach, Mr. Rahul, guided me throughout my weight loss journey and encouraged me to push my limits. Family too plays a vital role in fitness and they have been supportive in all phases.

 

What is your diet and workout regimen today?

 

My day starts at 4 a.m.. I picked up horse riding in February this year for which I have to be at the Equestrian club by 5:15. Then, I go over to the gym for an hour. This, along with work, makes my day eventful and energetic. I eat home food, mostly. I think it's a habit since the leaning down phase. I wake up early, workout, eat healthy, drink water through the day… and I keep fit. And, I do not miss workouts.

 

Has work been affected by the pandemic? In view of that, would you like to diversify into another more stable profession to supplement income?

 

The pandemic definitely made me question myself if I could take it forward but I never gave up. I have been very patient when it comes to living the dream. I have always tried and waited till I achieve it. Today I am working at a corporate firm and modelling. The Pandemic taught each of us different things. A lot of people were struggling during those days to make ends meet; I was able to run my household smoothly. We also achieved a lot during the pandemic towards providing services and medical aid to the needy.

 

What are the projects you have lined up?

 

Presently, I am preparing myself for Lakme Fashion Week. I have sent in my application online. And I have given auditions for three shows to be held in September. I intend to take acting lessons and enter that industry some day.

 

Lastly, any nuggets of wisdom for the young and inexperienced entering the fraternity?

 

My guidance about the modelling industry has been through Col. Nitin Mehta, Ms. Pujan, Ms. Liza initially and I am thankful to have come across them. They have guided me in the right direction. In 2021, I got shortlisted by Styleskool and Abhimanyu Singh Tomar has been the perfect mentor since. Recently I met two amazing people, Mr. Bharat Gupta and Ms. Deepti Gujral; positivity is a synonym for both of them. I keep getting back to them for feedback and improving on points given by them. For the young and inexperienced, I always tell them — stay focussed, keep attending auditions to increase visibility and to meet people from the fraternity. For the ramp, one needs to be self confident and for that there is no shortcut; they must practice every day. Lastly, never lose hope; learning is a process and we never stop learning. So we work hard in the process of achieving. I WON'T STOP TILL I AM MY OWN COMPETITION!!

 

ASHISH K SINGH Ashish K Singh

ASHISH K SINGH Ashish K Singh

ASHISH K SINGH Ashish K Singh

23-AUGUST-2022

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