BENGALURU: In the late 1990s, when the modelling industry was in its golden era in India, Jackie Besterwitch was Bengaluru’s answer to the world. The model, stylist and fashion choreographer has been face of many brands, including Bombay Dyeing, Fair and Lovely, Pond’s, and Digjam suiting. She still slays the ramp at the age of 44, which she has no qualms about telling anyone.
Calling fitness and determination her mantra to success, Besterwitch says she really had to work hard in the field, since she was an outsider to the industry. At 5 feet 6 inches, she says she was considered short for the industry. “In 1998, when I wanted to get into modelling, I had no idea where to begin. I weighed 70kg and on top of that, I was short by industry standards.
But what kept me going was my wish to see myself on the ramp and stand out in the crowd,” says Besterwitch, who was discovered by choreographer MS Shreedhar while she was in the first year of her college. Even today, she makes sure she does not miss her 5km run, no matter how hectic the day is. “I am not a genetically blessed soul who will eat anything and get away with it. So fitness is something I am religious about,” she says.
Coming from a family of mixed origin – she has an Irish father and a British-Indian mother – Besterwitch agrees that she gets a lot of attention for her looks. People may think it would be a huge advantage for her, but she says it’s otherwise. “When I started modelling, most of the assignments were for silk sarees where they wanted only Indian faces, and I definitely didn’t fit in that category,” says Besterwitch, adding that it took her almost eight years to call herself an established model.
Being in the industry for over two decades (she was synonymous with glamour in the city, and known as Jackie Shetty when she took up her former husband’s last name), Besterwitch is quite defensive when people call the fashion world a shallow domain. “Every industry has cut-throat competition. Just because this is a profession where people get to see us first-hand, it does not mean that we have to face name calling,” she says. Ask her if this world of glitz and glamour has space for friendships, and she says, “I have very few friends, but some of my closest and most genuine friends are from this industry. For example, Pashmina and Rohit Barker (former model and DJ, respectively) are like family to me.”
Speaking about friends, she mentions that she considers Deepika Padukone the “little one”, since she styled and mentored her, giving her a formal introduction to the modelling world. “When Deepika decided to become a model, she was young. And coming from a conservative family, her parents had initial inhibitions. I remember her mother (Ujjala Padukone) meeting me and telling me that she is letting Deepika enter the industry because they trust me,” recalls Besterwitch.
For her first photoshoot, Padukone was styled and choreographed by Besterwitch. One look at the outcome of that shoot, and Besterwitch was sure that Padukone was definitely going places. “She is one of the most hardworking and sincere persons I have met. Once, she was suffering from fever and conjunctivitis, but she still showed up for the rehearsals wearing glasses,” recalls Besterwitch who has also helped Anushka Sharma take the first steps in the modelling world.
Though her professional life involves hanging out with the who’s who of the city, she calls herself a “homebound girl”. “I love my idli, chutney and sambar. That’s my staple,” says Besterwitch, who is currently coming up with a new project with her boyfriend Faheem Raja and fashion designer Ramesh Dambla at JW Marriott.