By Ayesha Bashir
Yup, you heard it right finally being beautiful won’t just be about ‘fair & lovely’ but would instead stand for something more. After years of struggle and inspirations like those of Caitlyn Jenner, trans-genders have finally come to accepted by the society as their own, even though there’s still a long way to go for them, this modelling agency can be their small but first step towards breaking stereotypes, in a country with a mind-set like that of India.
Chettri: The Super Human
Rudrani Chettri Chauhan, founder of Delhi based NGO Mitr Trust recently organized auditions for launching the first Trans Gender Modelling Agency and has in fact even finalized three contestants for the same.
Chettri has been fighting for the cause of transgenders for over 10 years now and is of the opinion (most of us are) that they have faced enough prejudice and discrimination in all spheres of their daily lives, especially employment. Their work being restricted to begging and sex work, Chettri wants to create opportunities for them in the glamour world (well, we do need new faces now don’t we?) in fashion, film, TV and for media, both mainstream and independently.
A little Background
The trans-genders or ‘Hijra’ community has according to me faced more obstacles than any other such community. Having been shunned by the society and by their families since the very beginning, even accessing basic education has been nothing less than a war.
Not just that, everyday life becomes a major struggle when your very basis of existence is questioned and you are tagged as abnormal for not conforming to the usual or the ‘normal’ of society.
Health issues like AIDS is a major concern amongst them, especially since the last one year, when there has been a 22% cut in the budget for AIDS funding. This makes life difficult for those working in the field of sex work.
Other than that, crimes like rape and murder are faced by them on a much larger scale and may not even be reported or just go unnoticed. Hence, since they are ‘not acceptable’ by our very society, they are forced into unusual employment like begging, sex work or performing at ceremonies. as has been earlier mentioned.
So for us, our biggest problem may be our girlfriend/boyfriend issues or some exam, but they have to deal with real hurdles just to ensure they make it through the entire day without any humiliation just for being who they are.
In 2014, all courts in India legalized them as the third sex, but legal rights will not be enough for overcoming the years of discrimination and atrocities faced by them. Social acceptance is equally and even more important to ensure their safety and upliftment in the society, but this does not mean that they have to be ‘normalized’ in fact the ones that question them have to be told that they can’t define the standards for each individual.
This is precisely what Chettri has been pursuing through this modelling agency.
The Whole Idea and Progress So Far
The organization has created 2 fund raising pages as well (GoFundMe and BitGiving) for the purpose and accept donations from all sources in order to keep the idea running. Till now they have collected 1.5 lakh as against their target of 5 lakh.
Auditions were held on 7th February in Saket where four judges evaluated fewer than 30 contestants before electing the final three.
Rishi Raj, a celebrity stylist and one of the judges, claimed that they weren’t looking for anything specific, just camera presence and a face that told a story.
Three models that were chosen had different stories to tell, but at the same time reflected common experience of rejection by everyone.
Sneha, 22, JAIPUR
Born a biological boy, her family would only accept her in that role and therefore at 18 she left her place and came to Delhi. Due to poor work opportunities, she was forced to earn her living as a sex worker, spending her nights on the street and dreaming for a better life. She has always aspired to become a model and seems like; it’s the right field for her.
Shree, 23, Delhi
Shree is an aspiring dancer and is even a designer who has always been inspired by the silver and big screens. Though disowned by her family at a young age, she never left the hand of her ambition to become a superstar.
Neharika, 23, Delhi
Getting into sex work at an early age, she had a lot of problems in coming to terms with her sexuality, which even forced her to attempt suicide at an age of 17. She currently works in a night club with the salary of which she supports her entire family, including sending her two sisters to school.
Other than being a major breakthrough for India, the stories of each and every contestant are extremely inspiring as well. It’s high time we stop defining beauty as dictated to us just by Bollywood and start viewing it with a new lens that accepts everyone without any conditions.
I’m sure beauty must mean different things to you as well and hence would love to know your perspective on it as well.
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Views presented in the article are those of the author and not of ED.