She burst on to the Indian fashion scene with Lakme Fashion Week in 2017, as the first transgender model and has only been scaling new heights ever since. Anjali Lama, went on to be part of a Calvin Klein campaign, besides walking the ramp for leading Indian designers. Hailing from a small town Nuwakot in Nepal, Anjali admits the high life isn’t something she ever dreamt of. Having faced opposition from family and friends when she decided to undergo a sex change surgery in 2010, she admits things are better today.
Anjali says, “Things are definitely better today, my family has started interacting with me and are proud of all that I have achieved. I believe that things keep changing, one shouldn’t get discouraged by the initial rejection. It was definitely tough seeing peoples’ reactions when I started my journey but that never stopped me from being my authentic self.”
While she did small modelling jobs back home in Nepal, the exposure she received through LFW was life changing. “I hadn’t imagined I would move to Mumbai one day but when I did there was no looking back. I auditioned for LFW thrice before I finally got selected, it’s important to remain focused and not get dejected by rejection. Since then, I have walked for every season of LFW and completed nine seasons till date. I’m eternally grateful for what they have given me. It has been the turning point of my life and I’m happiest when I get a call from them even today.”
Speaking about India accepting her with open arms the model says, “I have walked for every leading designer in India and everyone has been supportive and encouraging. Gaurav Gupta is one of my favourites and I’ve always enjoyed working with him.”
What was to follow was international recognition with Anjali getting signed to shoot for a Calvin Klein campaign. “I have no words to express what I felt when I was informed about this campaign. It was almost unbelievable. I had to fly to Phuket for the shoot and my diary was full of shoot commitments, I was shooting seven days a week. I remember I barely got two hours of sleep before that shoot but the results were beautiful.”
Despite international recognition, Anjali admits that it’s a long road ahead and she wishes that people are more accepting of the LGBTQIA+ community. “My documents still have me as a man, so it has been difficult explaining my identity to people. Even basic things like buying a house become a problem. Thankfully I have friends who have been supportive and helped me get accommodation. With the news laws in place, we can at least file a police complaint if someone harasses us or discriminates against us but sensitizing people is extremely important.”
Sharing her message for pride month Anjali says, “It’s not easy being transgender, gay, lesbian or anything that defies convention especially in South Asian countries like Nepal and India. Even women are still not treated equally in some parts of the world, though it’s 2021.
What is important is to be strong and true to yourself, eventually everything has a way of working out. When I started out, I wasn’t sure if I would be able to make it but I always had a few friends who encouraged me and made me believe I am beautiful and have the potential to make it big. It’s important to have those few people who will always stand by you.”
Anjali laughs as she says though she is a much sought-after model today the one thing she still struggles with is putting on makeup. “There are some models who put on makeup like professionals. I can do basic makeup but not more than that, I’m usually barefaced. Even when it came to changing my style and dressing like a model when I started out, I always learnt by observing others. It’s something I still do when It comes to makeup.”