Felt free after stopping hyper involved relationship with my mirror: Nidhi Sunil
“I honestly cannot believe that I get to be this person. It feels very humbling to stand on a global platform and be Indian,” says Nidhi Sunil, who is the first Indian model to be the global spokesperson for L’Oréal Paris. In the year gone by, it has mostly been about bringing inclusivity in the beauty business, and Sunil’s appointment solders the consciousness of beauty brands to continue doing so in the international arena.
The lawyer-turned-model reveals how modelling wasn’t her original choice as a career. “As a kid I had really wanted to just paint and be a fine artist, an impossible career choice for a service oriented family. I had also taken to doing a theatre workshop during the year off. I faced a fair amount of apprehension from my family when I told them I was giving modelling a shot. I had done really well in law school and they couldn’t understand why I wouldn’t take the job that was available to me in an already unstable economic climate; but they’d already known I was an outlier at heart,” she says.
The New York based model has also dabbled in acting, and spoken about colourism explicitly in the past. “Colourism is a mindset I grew up witnessing among familial and social circles; in the same way you see your friends teasing someone for being fat,” says Sunil, adding, “Of course when I grew up, I confronted it in my business, because it’s a business of making money, partially at least, on the way we look. I think a lot of damaging social beliefs are very much a part of our cultural fabric, and to some extent it’s up to us as individuals to take individual responsibility to confront something we know is wrong, when we witness it.”
And this is precisely why she doesn’t hide her freckles, which have often appeared in advertisements as well. “I can’t begin to stress on how much time and energy it freed up for me, when I stopped having a hyper involved relationship with my mirror,” says the model who strongly feels that it’s time ads and models actually look like the population they cater to. “I like the idea that the person you see in stories on the telly or the internet makes you feel like that could be you in their place, as opposed to watching it and feeling like you’re being shown content that is so impossible to aspire to, that even the person cast in these projects doesn’t look like the finished product,” opines the 33-year-old.
Sunil is enjoying her moment, and reminisces about the time she had started modelling, an industry she believes has definitely evolved to be more diverse and representational. “When I started modelling in Mumbai, I was probably one of the only dark petite South Indian girls working fashion editorials in a sea of South African, European and Brazilian girls; now we have agencies in India repping tons of girls in the same space. The change is similar to agencies in New York that believed having two black girls on their board was plenty, and now they can’t have enough,” she adds.
Although a global ambassador for a beauty giant now, Sunil says she’ll continue doing things the way she has always done! “I like to keep my thinking straightforward and simple. I’m going to continue doing exactly what I’ve always been doing, except now I have a larger megaphone,” she says. And to the young individuals who look up to her in the business, Sunil says she would just ask them to: “Take the time to get in touch with who they truly are, even if it sometimes means that their friends are making pay cheques and they’re not; lean into uncomfortable life situations instead of picking comfort, take agency for yourself and trust your instincts!”
Author tweets @bhagat_mallika