CHENNAI: Beauty pageants are not just a great platform for individuals to build their confidence, but they also teach the participants to get their point across, work for a cause and make a difference in the world,” says 20-year-old Shriya Srivatsan who recently won Aura Face of India 2019, a national pageant held at Surat, recently. She was judged and mentored by eminent personalities in the industry including Bollywood stylist Bharat Gupta, show choreographer Khizar Hussain, Miss India 2018 Anukreethy Vas and fashion designer Kwaljit Singh. In a conversation with CE, she talks about being a newbie in the industry and its scope in Chennai.
When did you develop an interest in modelling?
My mom often narrated stories of how my dad used to make me stop crying, by clicking my photos. That has rubbed off on me till today. Even when I am in a bad mood, all it takes is a camera to get me smiling. Modelling is something I organically started liking as a child. But it faded for a brief time, till one day in 2016 when I convinced my mother to take me for a modelling assignment. We were panicking and asked the photographer to help me out with the poses. A few clicks in, we heard the photographer say, “Slow down with the poses, I need time to click.” That was the beginning of my journey.
Given the current shelf-life of most industries, do you think modelling is a lucrative career choice?
Modelling has a wide spectrum of opportunities. It ranges from clothing, products to accessories. Apart from this, there are ramp walks, pageantry, advertisements, and the new trend — being a social media influencer. If we make a place for ourselves by the age of 28, we can survive in the industry until our 50s.
How did you prepare for the pageant?
I followed a strict diet, a yummy one nevertheless, and hit the gym every day for a minimum of one hour. I also took up a one-week course at Tiara in Pune, where they train you specifically for pageants — how to walk, how to talk and the details of pageantry.
How did you balance studying and modelling assignments?
I was pursuing BA Sociology at MOP Vaishnav College for Women when I started modelling. My determination to make my passion into my purpose is what kept me going through college. I love studying, and especially when your teachers believe in you, it gives you more motivation. I prioritised both. College and modelling were equally important to me at that time. The trick is to never give up and manage time according to the needs. I am also planning to pursue a post-graduation course in mental health.
With beauty pageants being organised in every nook and corner of the country, do you think the concept is losing its authenticity?
Nowadays, beauty pageants are not only about beauty. It is also about how one can contribute to society as it provides a platform and the exposure to voice about a cause. With more beauty pageants, the industry is only opening itself to new talent. I don’t think pageants are losing authenticity, instead, they are gaining acceptance and simply catering to the increasing demand.
Lately, several models have come out about their casting couch experiences.
Models are misled into thinking that there is limited work and that they won’t be able to do anything else if they don’t agree to ‘compromise’. Models who are just starting must be supported and made aware of the opportunities. Say no to one person, yet there are hundreds of agencies and millions of designers out there. There is always work, we just need to be confident and believe in ourselves and not give in to the pressure of our society and families wanting fast results.
Any memorable moments from your journey?
I think every second was cherishable — from the minute I stepped into Surat to learning the Bachata, going to different restaurants every day and walking the ramp when it was raining. If I had to choose one, it would be the pride I saw in my parents’ eyes when I won. I don’t think I’ll ever forget it.
Do you think there are enough opportunities for aspiring models in Chennai?
Yes, I just think they need to be guided the right way. There are so many new areas including social media where you can reach out to designers and agencies. Especially in Chennai, the fashion industry has opened up even more than in the last few years.
What are your other interests?
I am a co-host at the Firefly Campaign that focuses on mental health. We organise events where people of all ages come together and talk on a particular topic, the emotions and feelings we have gone through in a way that the other person can relate to. Our aim is for people to leave the event with a light heart and an understanding that they are not alone. We strive to break the taboo around mental health.
Are you currently preparing for any upcoming pageant?
I made Chennai proud and I would like to make India proud too. I am contesting for Miss India 2020 and hope to spread awareness about mental health and give back to the country that has given so much to me.