For Anjali Lama, Nepal’s first transgender model, things have been far from easy. Her sexual orientation got her ousted from home at a young age and she had to make her way through life, dealing with ignorance and sidelining. However, nothing deterred this 32-year-old model from embracing her sexuality with pride and marching ahead to accomplish her dreams. Following her recent selection for the Lakmé Fashion Week Summer Resort 2017, Anjali has come under a tremendous limelight. In this quick chat with Bayside Journal, Anjali Lama opens up about what it took to reach the stage she is currently at and how the future looks to her.
Accepting sexuality with pride
Anjali grew up as Navin Waiba in a family of farmers in Nuwakot, Nepal. While growing up, she said, she never felt comfortable with her body. “I wasn’t being myself. It was like living in someone else’s body. I felt like a prisoner,” she recalls. Meanwhile, both school and college were not easy, with classmates taking jibes at her every now and then. “It was hard to find acceptance. People would throw cruel words and the name calling never stopped,” she says.
However, the moment she saw a TV show on transgenders, she was sure that she had discovered her identity. Anjali recollects that day in 2005 when she first wore a salwaar kameez. “That day I was certain about my decision to accept my sexuality with pride. I can’t express how happy I felt in that outfit. I finally knew what I wanted,” she says.
Ousted by family, succoured by NGO
Sadly, her family severed ties with her after they learnt about her sexual orientation. “My family was just unwilling to accept me. My brother evicted me from my house and father called off all relations with me,” she says and adds, “Only my mother was supportive of my decision and stayed in touch with me.”
The most difficult part of this journey though, was her mother’s death while going through a crucial phase in life. “My mother was a constant pillar of support. She believed in me and motivated me towards my goal. Losing her shattered me,” Anjali says.
In Kathmandu she joined the Blue Diamond Society, an NGO engaged in LGBT rights movement, where she not only found solace but also great support from fellow members. “My trans mummy Mamata Khan helped me a lot. She is also the one who gave me my current name,” says Anjali.
Cutting her teeth into modelling
While in Kathmandu, she received several compliments for her physique and was prompted to try her hand at modelling. While she was still contemplating over that, a magazine that was doing a story on transgenders featured her on their cover. That, says Anjali, opened doors for her modelling career. “When I got a positive response and appreciation for my work, I knew I was made to model,” she says.
Battling Stigma in the Industry
Though Anjali was all set for her new innings, it was hard to find acceptance in the glamour world. “Initially when I was auditioning in Nepal, I got rejected multiple times despite giving a better performance than the other models because of my identity. It was extremely disappointing,” she says.
However, rejections and intimidation did not affect her dreams and she struggled until she finally got a break. “I walked the ramp for a debut designer without getting a single penny. I needed to get into modelling somehow and that was all I could think of back then,” she says.
Now, however, people no longer fixate on her transgender identity, though some still look at her differently. “My sexual orientation does come up often with people looking at me differently. But all I do is stay strong and believe in myself,” she says.
A New Feather in Her Cap
Anjali says walking the ramp at the Lakmé Fashion Week was one of her biggest dreams. However, getting selected was anything but easy. She failed twice, but finally made it in her third attempt. “The first time I was quite nervous and the second time my expressions and outfit were not up to the mark, ” she says, “But this time I did a lot of research and was fully prepared.”
Anjali says making it to the Fashion Week was extremely crucial to her as it would help her expand her horizons in the modeling world and subsequently in her career graph.