The first Sikh model to walk for Lakme Fashion Week, Tejeshwar Singh evoked a surge of pride in the Sikh community. What fascinates me about the young man is his determination and ambition to do more—despite a harsh obstacle course.
''It all began when I participated and won 'Mr. and Ms. Punjab University' in 2010. Following that, I walked for shows in Chandigarh while pursuing my MBA. During that phase, I auditioned for Punjab International Fashion Week Season II and got selected. I was on top of the world as I was the only Sikh among the models. Walking down the ramp was a fantastic experience but it was a learning curve too as a designer walked up and said 'dude, you aren't groomed for this show!' I took the criticism as motivation to work harder and when i auditioned during the next season, he noticed the improvement and took me in his show. I haven't looked back!
I was interested in both modelling and acting and got the opportunity to participate in reality show 'SuperDude' in which I was finalist. While shooting, I got a call from Farhan Akhtar's production house Excel Entertainments for a role in the film 'Fukrey'. Thrilled, I did a cameo; all of this was happening while I was completing my MBA! Soon, I got praise for my performance in the reality show, TVC for Best Deal TV with Akshay Kumar and Shilpa Shetty, supporting artist in Life Ok's soap 'Nadaan Parindey', print shoot for Monte Carlo and TVC with Jimmy Shergill for Punjab Govt... and many young Sikhs shared their stories with me. I felt proud when they told me I would be their reason for not going against the tenets of our gurus; they started believing that a Sikh can do much more than be a joke in television serials and films! I was proud of their viewpoint because it wasn't just about me; it was about Sikh identity. I hope my success will promote greater self-confidence among young Sikhs who aspire to be in this profession.
However, we all know modelling is as demanding a profession as any and everyone faces challenges: it is survival of the fittest. The Sikh population globally would be around 30 million, which is a considerable force, but there are hardly any Sikh models. Yes, it feels great that I'm the first Sikh to walk in Lakme Fashion Week yet there are designers and brands who aren't working with me as they've never worked with Sikh models and they're not comfortable with a new look! This year, at Lakme Fashion Week, as models went through the exciting and monetarily rewarding fashion week schedules, I was hoping for an opportunity not to be judged because I am a Sikh and instead by my abilities as a model but… a designer’s assistant informed me that she can't take me in the show as it would go against the look! If I have the courage, confidence, skill and dedication for modelling, surely I shouldn't be rejected? My question — through Explosive Fashion — is that can they say something like this to a Sikh customer who walks into their store? Can they say, ‘Sorry Sir! You can't buy this as your look goes against our collection!' Well, they should stop selling clothes to Sikhs if they cannot take a Sikh model for their show or shoot!
Phew! That said I think it's a combination of good looks, fit body and a modest attitude makes me different! I do get to hear I have a nice face cut, jaw line and that my turban sets me apart. This gives me the confidence to keep forging ahead. I'm acting alongside modelling. My advice to new models is — ''people who listen to their heart can change the world. Be patient, workout, meet people, approach agencies and Believe In Yourself''. For Sikhs — ''don't cut your hair or stop wearing your turban to get a modelling gig; shackles can be broken by staying true to who you are! Learn from my struggles… yes there are hiccups but I'm enjoying the ride! I love what I do and will continue forging ahead despite the obstacle path. Some memorable projects include a supporting role in Amisha Patel's film 'Desi Magic' and a parallel lead role in Punjabi film 'Patta Patta Singhan Da Vaeri'. Yeah, I'm loving it and I will make it big someday!''
— JASMEEN DUGAL