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Why are there not as many South Asian models?

May 24, 2009

Model Lakshmi Menon on the cover of Dazed and Confused

Model Lakshmi Menon on the cover of Dazed and Confused

A friend passed this article on to me, which appeared recently in an article, and speculates why there are so few Indian and South Asian models who are making it big. Lakshmi Menon (above) has been among the few models (who hasn’t been tied to Bollywood films and the like) to make it major with her Hermès ad and Indian Vogue cover.

Is it cultural taboos? Being afraid of taking risks? Prejudices?

I think the cultural taboos may have to do a lot with it. Kind of conjures up memories of Season 3’s America’s Next Top Model, where Indian model Julie Titas gets the ax for saying she’s hoping modeling will be a stepping stone into the world of apparel manufacturing. Tyra didn’t like that too much.

Read on and let me know what you think: Why Don’t More Indian and South Asian Models Book Top Jobs?


5 thoughts on “Why are there not as many South Asian models?

  1. Summar

    you forgot anchal, from season 7, who thought she was too dark to be pretty…haha…yes, i watch too much top model.

  2. Sabrina Siddiqui

    Yay it’s back! I was actually talking about this with someone else recently. I think it’s pretty amazing that other than Lakshmi, there has been no Indian supermodel. Aishwarya Rai was the first face to become internationally famous, but even she only became a face of L’Oreal and was never really offered modeling gigs when she was making the early rounds of Cannes in her mid-20s.

    I think it works two ways. If you look at South Asians in the States, the average (not all, but average of course) girl is not tall enough and also probably not liberal enough to really pursue a career as a model. If you notice, South Asian families in the States often tend to be more conservative than families in Indian cities themselves, so there’s just so much emphasis on avoiding it as a career option. And the height factor I mentioned just reduces the number significantly.

    I’m more surprised that there aren’t more girls from India itself, and there I think it has to do with what’s said in the article about no one recruiting from there. The more runway shows you see of India’s top designers, the more you’ll notice that their models are now taller and thinner, just as the stereotype goes. So it’s not that they don’t have what the West is looking for, but simply that the West has not invested its time or money to recruit from there.

    I do think that people like Freida Pinto and Lakshmi will bring about some change. With Freida, she’s gotten magazine covers here in the West, something that even Ash never got. I think they just need a few more people to really push for it, and I also think that they are more likely to get them from India itself rather than girls brought up here who overall don’t try that hard, with a few exceptions of course.

  3. priya

    what i find interesting (with a bias ofcourse!) is that the few indian models that do get into international modeling gigs are from the south i.e. freida, padma lakshmi, aishwarya and this one you just mentioned. in general families in the south tend to be more conservative. so it makes even less sense to me.

  4. priya

    i also think YOU should’ve gone into modeling! but ofcourse there’s that south asian, muslim factor that makes it hard.

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