India will soon get its first Transgender modeling agency!
Transgender activist Rudrani Chettri has started a page on the crowdfunding website GoFundMe as well as Bitgiving. Her aim is to launch India’s first transgender modeling agency to boost morale and provide visibility and acceptance for the transgender community.
Fashion shows in Madrid, Los Angeles, New York and London have already seen transgender models walk the ramp and soon India could be next thanks to Rudrani’s efforts.
Rudrani has done fashion shoots and shows in the past and founded the Mitr Trust – a Delhi based community that campaigns for LGBTQ acceptance.
As she writes on the crowd-funding page:
“In 2014 Indian courts passed law recognising us as a Third Gender entitled to equal rights and protection under law. We celebrated then but in reality nothing much has changed. Transgender people face severe discrimination and prejudice in society, in the workplace and among their families and local communities, and many are restricted to begging or sex work to make a living. We want to change this.”
Now with this agency, the 37 year old activist and model will focus on opening up doors in the world of fashion for 5 transgender models.
As Rudrani puts it on the website she wants to find beautiful and talented TGs and give them a chance to work as models in fashion, film TV or any mainstream media. She wants her agency to be a symbol of hope and change.
As she puts it : “We want to transform the image of transgender people in India. We are neither male nor female, but a third gender; and we are beautiful.”
Joining her in the task of selecting the final five this February will be stylist Rishi Raj.
As the crowdfunding page puts it: “Rishi has been styling in the mainstream Indian fashion industry for over 10 years and as member of the LGBT community is very keen to help us realise our dreams. ”
The campaign has already raised over a 1000 pounds on GoFundMe and the overall target of 5000 pounds does not seem so far off.
Rishi spoke to us about how he got involved with this, saying that the filmmaker Ila Mehrotra put him in touch with Rudrani who told him about her aspirations for a transgender modeling agency.
He says his first thought was, why modeling? “It may come across as shallow that the first step you take is to be a model!” But then he realized that for a community that already faces such challenges to find meaningful and respectable work. a concept like this needs acceptance from Fashion and Media first, before it gains legitimacy and becomes mainstream.
Rishi will not just be a part of the jury and help select the first five models, he will also groom them for their entry into the fashion world and shoot their portfolios. Then they can go ahead and attend casting calls and auditions.
With more acceptance of real models in the fashion industry right now, several fashion designers like Deepika Govind have also mentioned that they would be open to working with TG models.
As Rishi puts it, if we can pick up a magazine and see a transgender model in a photo shoot or in a Dove ad that would propel their acceptance in a consumerist country like ours. Right now they don’t even get called to auditions and this campaign wants to change that. With initiatives like this, Rishi says, “tomorrow we can have a Transgender Lawyer or Doctor and not even think twice about it.”
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