'It has been a crazy journey'

Foreign Shades

When a tall, blonde model sashays down the ramp wearing the quintessential Indian garment, sari, it definitely  grabs eyeballs.

Three’s company : Mariya Morozova, Olya Proskuvyakova and Diana Bychkova. dh photos by janardhan b k

And that’s exactly what happened at the recently concluded fashion week in the City. The models, mostly from Russia, were brought in to showcase Indian designers’ collections.

They tell Metrolife that it is the passion for the fashion industry that brought them here. And though they describe their life here as ‘crazy’, they have made some very good friends and learnt much from their Indian counterparts.
 
Modelling for print and ramp for many years, Olya Proskuvyakova from Russia, says that she always wanted to be a model but never thought India would be her calling. “I love India, it’s such a beautiful place and people here are lovely.

It has been a crazy journey with back-to-back shows and late nights but at the end of the day, we get to do some good work which makes it worth the effort,” adds Olya.

Mention Indian food to these models and you can see them roll their eyes. “Indian food is a completely different story for us,” says Russian-born model Diana Bychkova. The spice is what they cannot handle. “The definition of ‘little spice’ in India and ‘little spice’ in Russia are two completely different things. So every time we are here, we are on a perpetual fruit diet. We love papaya and mango as we don’t get them back home,” adds Diana.    
 
Language is one of the biggest challenges they face as very few of them know English. But they say when they are working, language doesn’t matter as all they need to do is look pretty. The demand for a foreign face in shows has increased, so work as of now is not scarce.

Says Mariya Morozova, another Russian model, “I think there is something special about us which is why most Indian designers prefer to have at least one foreign model in their sequence. But there are some designers who ask us absurd things like ‘Can you look more Indian for us?’ or ‘Please go more blonde’, which I find so funny. I never want to change how I look. So if someone wants me to model for them, they must accept me for the way I am,” adds Mariya.

Very often on the ramp, one can find them walking in heavy lehengas, saris and kurtas. Carrying the heavy garments with grace does get difficult and the models practice close to four to five hours a day. “Walking in a heavy lehenga or sari is not as easy as it seems, so we do practise a lot to perfect our walk,” says Olya.

Many of these models have other jobs and modelling is a passion for them. Nioosha Beatris, who is half-Russian and half-Indian, has been modelling for the past five years. Having started her career in Turkey, she moved to India. Nioosha is also a part-time computer programmer. She says that it was passion for modelling that got her into the industry. “I am happy with what I have achieved so far in my life. The Indian modelling industry has improved a lot over the years and there is good work for many of the foreign models,” she adds.

Interestingly, there is very little work for foreign men. Elvira, another Russian model, says it is because there is no demand for their body type in the Indian fashion industry. “Here, they like men who have huge muscles on the arms, which is not the case abroad. That’s why you rarely see foreign male models coming to India,” she adds.

Have they ever felt like they are ‘competition’ for Indian models? “Never,” says Maria, “We are a different category altogether, so there is no question of competition. The Indian models are really sweet and friendly. There have been  many times when they have helped us make our stay a memorable one,” sums up Maria.

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