There has never been a better time to be a model hailing from outside of the fashion capitals. Talent and creativity can come out of anywhere — and today Fashion has its eye on discovering Fashion talent in the NorthEast. This brought to my mind Mister International India 2012 Opang Jamir who hails from Nagaland and is currently based in Mumbai. Today he's a rising star among models but this status didn't come without a clear vision, hard work and a strong desire to give back to his region. In conversation with him.
''I'm from Mokokchung which is a district in Nagaland. I did my schooling and graduation in Political Science from there and then worked in an office in Dimapur which gave me the opportunity to travel across the state. In 15 days I visited 70 villages where I saw the rural areas still under development without medical health care, electricity, proper roads and education. I really want to help them after I earn a good fortune and fame because then I can be their voice.'' Impressed by his vision, I ask how he entered the modelling industry? ''In 2007, my elder sister won our district beauty pageant. I attended it and was inspired by the local male and female models. So I attended a casting audition and was selected right then! And began modeling at 16 while I was in school — it began as a hobby initially but now it is my bread and butter.''
Indeed, Opang was crowned Mr Earth India in 2011, Mr International India 2012 and later that year he represented the nation at Mr International 2012 in Bangkok. ''It all happened super fast, I was one among 38 countries' representatives and the first male model from the NorthEast to represent India at an International pageant. I was privileged to undergo that experience at an early age. Wearing a sash with ‘India' written on it and addressing me by the country instead of my name.. I truly experienced a deep patriotic feeling. I want to relive those moments each day of my life. I thank God and also my parents every day for helping me me achieve that at an early age and also my parents despite constant pressure from society. Following that I shifted base to Mumbai and pursued modelling as a career. Back home, my parents always wanted me to be a govt. employee since the society I grew up in expects us to be a govt. servant. However I did want to be stuck in a job forever and did what I believed in and felt was right for me. it was not just modelling. I am an entrepreneur. I use my years of experience as a model in sharing knowledge and grooming aspiring models and beauty pageant candidates.''
''At the end of the day what a designer requires is a boy or girl next door who can carry their design the way it should be, with spunk, spark and confidence. It is not just the face, body or height alone but energy and versatility to pull it off. I have been lucky to have done some good work. I did a shoot with award winning photographer Vikram Bawa — a look book shoot for designer Asa Kazingmei. I really enjoyed working with such hard-working dynamic people. I was the Ambassador for 'Welcome to Nagaland' Incredible India campaign by the Tourism Department Govt. of Nagaland 2011-12. I was also Producer-Director and mentor of 'Naga's Next Top Model 2013', juror of Pond’s Eclectic Model Hunt 2014, walked for Lakme Fashion Week since 2014, juror at Gateway Ekamai Model Hunt 2012 and showstopper for 'Colours of Nagaland''' he says with deep pride. ''Modeling as a career has given me opportunities to travel and also taught me to be realistic, positive, stay grounded and to be hardworking and ambitious. It gives me opportunities to explore regions and learn about their cultures; I'm a foodie so when I travel I get to experience diverse cuisines.''
But there are setbacks too. ''I moved to Mumbai when I got a call from a big casting agent to audition for their film. However, my Hindi was not up to the mark to bag a role so I gave up auditioning for films after my first try. I’m from Nagaland; we hardly speak Hindi. Our official language was English during school days and I studied Hindi from class-2 till class-8 so I have very little command of it. I have realized that I need to improve my Hindi so I have started speaking in broken hindi with everyone. I'm learning every day'' he sighs but is positive that with hard work he would cross that hurdle too. ''I work on myself each day. I maintain a good diet of two square meals with boiled vegetables, lean meat and proteins. I do cardio and weight training to keep my body toned and in shape. I cannot make my muscles bulk and grow bigger as I'm a model not a body-builder. When I travel on assignment I do light exercises and train at the hotel gym.''
And that's not all. ''Besides modeling and acting, I sing. I have released a single in 2013 which was recorded in two hours! I also shot a music video at Lodhi Garden New Delhi. It was for a Christmas song! Also I’m a family chef :D I really love to cook and try out new cuisines by researching it online and on television! My favorite chef is Nigella Feast.'' he grins. Looking forward he has plenty on his 'plate'. ''In the second edition of Northeast India Fashion Week I’ll be Director, Choreographer and showstopper. I am also participating Lakme Fashion week where I’ll be displaying rich Northeastern tribal handlooms and handwoven weaving. In October I'll be mentoring and grooming candidates of Mega Mr Arunachal Contest. November I might take up a role in a movie otherwise I have a show overseas. One day I wish to be like my icons Sean O'pry for success, passion and dedication and talk show host Ellen Degeneres as she strengthens her audience. I aspire to follow her footsteps by being a talk show host and debate issues on life, health and education. In our country there are lots of things to be talk about, open up and inspire people every day.''
As we wrap up the interview, he says ''There are many things I wish I could discuss with aspiring models. Being focused is the most important key to grow in this industry. It is a business where your dreams might not be realized for a long time so you need to be patient. You must be prepared every day to face challenges and tasks given to you. I am from a small town. I practice my walk every day and work on building a strong personality by staying positive. I particularly want advice them not to indulge in drinking and smoking if you want to grow in the industry. Stay healthy, work hard and build your network. Lastly, respect time and the people around you.''
— JASMEEN DUGAL