Fashion, in India and internationally, is undergoing through a shift. Race and gender identity, which came to define rigid boundaries in the industry, are now becoming talking points. Over the past five years, there has been a wave of inclusivity, and one of the biggest signs has been the association of transgender models with leading luxury brands. From Lea T who became the face of Givenchy under Riccardo Tisci’s creative leadership to Brazilian supermodel and actress Valentina Sampaio, who was recently announced as the face of Victoria’s Secret Pink campaign, transgender models are leaving their mark on mainstream fashion. India too is seeing a slow, steady change, and leading this tide is model Anjali Lama.
Having walked for the likes of Tarun Tahiliani, Anita Dongre, Abu Jani & Sandeep Khosla and Monisha Jaising, Lama has garnered rave reviews and appreciation from the industry, and been featured in the country’s leading fashion publications. This year the 34-year-old also bagged her first Asia-Pacific campaign for Calvin Klein, and most recently became the brand ambassador of Puma’s new campaign ‘Propah Lady’, which is inspired by women who break stereotypes. Looking at her trajectory of work, it’s hard to fathom her journey from Nuwakot, a district in Kathmadu, where she was raised, to walking down runways in Mumbai.
Born Nabin Waiba, Lama always wanted to move beyond the tag of being called a ‘feminine man’, a remark she had to put up with all her school life, and embrace womanhood in its entirety. She’s closely worked with Blue Diamond Society, an LGBT community group in Nepal, and in 2009 underwent partial sex reassignment surgery. The same year, she was featured on the cover of a Nepali magazine ‘Voice of Women’ – the industry took notice and Lama’s modelling career triggered. She auditioned for Lakme Fashion Week thrice over two seasons and was finally chosen in 2017. She hasn’t looked back since.
Lifestyle Asia India caught up with Lama at the launch of Puma’s Propah Lady campaign, to talk work, style, and milestones.
How do you define a ‘Propah Lady’?
A ‘Propah Lady’ is one who doesn’t shy away from expressing herself even it means breaking societal rules. I was born a boy but I wanted to be a girl. You do not have to compromise with your identity just to fit in the social norms. It won’t let you be happy. So, just be yourself.
Do you think fashion is becoming more inclusive?
Over the past 10 years I have seen the industry evolve. However the story was a bit different around 2009 when I started. Fashion is changing and becoming more inclusive now. Me being on the runway is an example of that. In India, conversations about gender identity and sexuality are taking place, which is a great sign. After Section 377, a lot of opportunities are coming for transgender people. It is surely a good start but we have a long way to go.
Puma classics you can’t do without?
I’ll have to say their sneakers are the best. With a slight nip in the air, I can count on Puma hoodies and I also love their sports bras.