— NAYANIKA CHATTERJEE
No one makes flashbulbs pop quite like Nayanika Chatterjee who continues to be muse to fashion designers since 1988 with her long curls, luminous skin and doe eyes. Believing in giving back, the supermodel launched grooming classes to mentor the new generation of models, and instil values she fiercely holds onto, in them. Today, with the launch of her online grooming classes for both models and those who want to present the best version of themselves, she is changing lives and making a difference. In conversation with her.
''Modelling has changed vastly from the time I started. It used to be more of entertainment back then and now it is a recognised, professional industry. In those days, we mostly did our make up and hair, carried our own shoes and sometimes even our clothes! Rehearsals went on for days before shows that were heavily choreographed, sometimes with dance. Timings were stretchable and there was no allowance for rehearsal days. Now, things are way more organised and we have make-up artists and shoe designers; we, of course, get the clothes and timings are adhered to a lot more. Everyone takes this business a lot more seriously.
This industry is responsible for the way I am today; it has groomed me and it has made me a better version of myself. That said, I got into training quite accidentally from Pradeep Guha who was then heading Times of India; he asked me to train Miss India finalists. I was hesitant but I took up the job and really enjoyed it because not only was I honing my skills I was also helping others girls. When I started modelling, there was no formal training and I learnt the hard way so when girls have someone telling them what they are doing right and wrong it is so much easier and really helpful… which we didn't have and I wanted to give that to the girls specially those from smaller towns who have big dreams but don't know how to take them forward. I have been training now for over twenty years and I still enjoy it. It's extremely satisfying to see a student make it in the industry.
How am I different? Well, I am different and that is my USP. That realisation has helped me groom girls to be the best version of themselves rather than compete with others. All my sessions are one-on-one because each one comes with a unique set of problems as well as a unique set of characteristics that need to be honed. I take time to get to know my students and work around psychological burdens that they might carry. I have even refused sessions when I feel they don't need it. Each student is like an uncut diamond who I'm helping make the cuts. As I started training I realised that there is a lot more to grooming then just walking and posture so I extended my repertoire to learning formal table settings and styling so I could add more value to my course. Grooming is not only for models but for regular people as well because presentation is important whether it's for yourself, for things you carry, for a project. There are a lot of basics one doesn't know depending on the background that one is coming from like using a fork and knife, how to use chopsticks, the right clothing… and it sometimes makes one uncomfortable in public. If someone is preparing for a presentation or interview then it's important to look the part and the confidence that grooming gives can be helpful at that time. So that's why I extended my grooming to non-models; I wanted everyone to learn from it and be the 'best version of themselves'. Then again you might have all the money in the world but you might not know how to style yourself, what kind of make up suits you or perhaps your posture is not right. And you just need that guidance.
As far as my support is concerned it's always there with every student. I still have students who trained with me ten years back calling me for advice. I might not be able to get them jobs but every time I hear of a job opening I always suggest my students first and then others. My support is always there. That said, each one of us should expand our repertoire. There is nothing wrong with more knowledge. Doing your homework is essential for anyone who wants to work well and last. I am constantly trying to learn and find out about new tricks in my trade so I can be a better teacher. As a reporter, would you not try to find all the information about the person or subject before interviewing them? Would a class teacher not prepare for her next class? Knowing your craft, whether you need to use it or not, is useful specially if you are stranded in some situation… the knowledge of your craft will get you through. That said, covid or no covid, I have always advised my students to have a plan B or back-up plan particularly in the glamour industry. There is no predictability so you must always train yourself with something else to fall back on…''