KOCHI: ‘‘Growing up, I would always feel uncomfortable with my skin tone. I remember feeling insecure and ugly all the time when I was a child,” says Namita Sunil. Things did not get better even after she grew older. “During my initial days at the National Institute of Fashion Technology (NIFT), New Delhi, I tried to get into the college modelling team but I was kicked out two weeks later. I was told I wasn’t pretty enough and that I wasn’t fit to join a team,” she says. Gone are the days of insecurity and body-shaming for the Kochi native as she is paving her own way to be the next supermodel in the country. She had recently appeared on the cover of Elle India and the editorial spread of Harper’s Bazaar.
It surely wasn’t an easy journey. After being asked out of the modelling team in NIFT, Namita decided to try her luck outside the confines of her college. She slowly built her own network and took on shoots for free, and was finally discovered. Signed with Kay Savino Yhome Scouting for a year now, her first projects were campaign shoots and lookbooks, which gradually transitioned to magazine editorials and cover pages. “During this time, I have done wonderful campaigns, the recent one being a collaborative work by Masaba Gupta and Ekaya Banaras,” the Delhi-based model says.
But it wasn’t until a shoot with an international magazine that Namita realised her modelling wasn’t all black and white. “For a long time, I didn’t see it as a way of storytelling or being able to convey an idea. The photographer I was working with gave a unique direction. He told me to look at the camera with love in my eyes. Ever since then, I was very taken by how intelligent and artistic modelling can be,” she says.
For the 21-year-old, modelling has been more than a hobby and job. “It is definitely a craft and art form where one can be privileged enough to become a canvas of sorts for a team that wants to send across a vision, story or a makeshift universe,” says Namita.
Having truly battled her insecurities, Namita also does artistic illustrations for her cause. “My art is mostly self-portraits. I want the world to see a brown woman at peace with herself. So I constantly celebrate that through my art. In India, there is a Eurocentric idea of beauty that seeps into you. You become shy. You’re not as confident as you should be. Even now, when I go to any makeup parlour in Kerala, they will bring out foundation shades which are much fairer than my original skin tone. It took me a very long time to break off those shackles. I’m shocked at my transformation because I was a quiet, introverted kid,” she says.
Having strong black and brown women - such as Rihanna, Beyonce, and Zadie Smith - as role models helped Namita overcome her insecurities. “Once you see another woman with the same features that you dislike on yourself and see how beautiful they are with them, you start to get inspired. Always recognise and be inspired by the beauty of other women,” she says.
What does she have in store for the future? “I want to take a month off to graduate and finish college,” she says. As for longterm plans: “Growth is my constant goal; just to grow as much as I can,” she says.
And her advice for the brown girls out there? “Love yourself. Take care of your skin. Wear all the colours in the world. Look at other beautiful women with darker skin tone and understand the power of sisterhood,” says Namita. Spoken like a role model indeed.