Here come the HOT STEPPER

A beauty from Varanasi,an expat who rules the ramps. A stunner who shed the burqa,another who is the face of a global brand. Bringing you the best models on the circuit

Written by Paromita Chakrabarti | Published: February 8, 2009 11:56 am

A beauty from Varanasi,an expat who rules the ramps. A stunner who shed the burqa,another who is the face of a global brand. Bringing you the best models on the circuit

DIANA PENTY
The face of Maybelline
Age: 23
Vital Stats: 5’10”, 32-24-35
Road to fame: Shows for Trussardi,Ferre,Ritu Kumar,Rohit Bal,Wills Lifestyle India Fashion Week appearances,campaigns for Vogue,Cosmopolitan,Elle,commercials for Maybelline.

The buzz around this 23-year-old from Mumbai is electric. Last year,she replaced Deepika Padukone as the face of international cosmetic brand Maybelline and joined the ranks of international supermodels like Adriana Lima and Christy Turlington.
She’s surprisingly petite despite her 5’10” frame and among a handful of Indian models who have the crossover edge. Penty is not too floored by the global assignments falling into her lap. “My first assignment was a fashion show for Gianfranco Ferre and Trussardi. Work never stopped after that. It is important for me to be on the same platform as international models ,” she says over the phone from Sydney,where she is shooting for Maybelline.
On the ramp,she is rain-fresh. And off it,she is a tough cookie. “The best thing about her is her focus. She is flooded with assignments,but she works her way steadily through the best of the lot,” remarks a fellow model,who refuses to be named.
The mass media graduate from St Xavier’s College,Mumbai,says modelling happened to her by chance,when offers kept coming while she was in college. In the three years since she started,she has walked the Paris runway for Emanuel Ungaro,Lancome and Lacoste besides shooting for Ungaro’s lookbook. She has also been an anchor in the Indian circuit,doing ramp shows and commercials as well as print campaigns by the dozen.
There was a time when Bollywood did not figure in her scheme of things,with Penty claiming that she had no flair for acting. But with the steady buzz of offers on her way,Penty is not saying never. “I would like to concentrate on modeling internationally. However,if something exciting comes,I would definitely consider it,” she says.

LISA HAYDON
Tough chic
Age: 23
Vital Statistics: 5’10”; 34-25-35
Road to fame: Shows for Gas,Ed Hardy,MTV Lycra Awards,Wills Lifestyle India Fashion Week,shoots for Verve,Vogue,Cosmopolitan,host of Babelicious on Zee Trends,campaigns for Titan,Tarun Tahiliani,Ranna Gill

When Haydon followed her sister Mallika to Mumbai for a one-off modelling assignment a couple of years ago,she never expected to stick around. Nor did other models,who were unruffled by the amount of work that this half-Australian model got. “Most of the girls were pretty friendly,probably because I was an expat,not even here for a full term,” she says. Now,with one of the most packed itineraries in the industry,the 23-year-old is here to say—but to put it mildly,she is not winning too many friends. “It doesn’t bother me so much. I am here to do a job,” she says.
That’s the kind of no-nonsense professionalism Haydon brings to her work. She is choosy and very,very focussed. No wonder,her earnings have gone up by as much as 60 per cent in the last few years. “Here there are fashion shows,for just about anything,almost as if ramp shows are entertainment.

I only do a limited number of shows.”
“The first thing you notice about her,more than her beauty,is her intelligence,and that makes way for some fabulous experiments,” says photographer Jatin Kampani,who shot her for the Raheja almanac last year.
Haydon is candid enough to admit that Bollywood has always been her priority. She also knows she needs to work on her Hindi. “I have been taking regular lessons but I think what’s helping me more are my conversations with my driver,” she says.

VIPASHA AGGARWALl
Varanasi treat
Vital Stats: 5’8”; 30-24-34
Road to Fame: Campaigns for Lakme,appearances at Lakme Fashion Week,shows for Sabyasachi,Wendell Rodricks,contract with IMG

Hers is also a story of how small-town India has made space in its life for glamour. Three years back,Aggarwal,the daughter of a Varanasi businessman,left home to look for a job in Delhi. The grooming school she enrolled in offered her a career in modelling instead. Ever since,Aggarwal has been turning heads,not just on the runways,but on print and television campaigns as well.
Last year,she became the toast of the industry when she won a contract with IMG Models,the agency who has in its ranks supermodels like Gisele Bundchen,Kate Moss,Heidi Klum and Gemma Ward. But Aggarwal gave up the contract even before her first international campaign. “I can’t do shoots which require me to wear bikinis or revealing outfits. My family has been supportive enough to let me be part of the industry,so it’s the least I could do for them,” she says nonchalantly from Varanasi,where she is preparing for her wedding later in the month.

Designers rave about her presence and a face that can straddle cultures. “She has this very charismatic and unconventional face. You put her in Indian wear or Western and it’s amazing how her whole persona adapts to it,” says Rodricks. Aggarwal’s preferences are marked though. She does few ramp shows,mostly for designer friends in the industry.
She is loathe to admit,however,that her conservatism could be a problem. “I believe if you are good,work will come to you. For every two months I spend in Mumbai,I spend a month in Varanasi. My agency tells me I should be more driven,but if things have to happen,they will,” she says.

GARIMA PARNAMI
Almost famous
Age: 24
Vital Stats: 5’8”,31.5-25-35
Road to Fame: Participant at FTV Model Awards 2006 in Greece,Vogue cover,Taj calendar 2009,Wills Lifestyle Fashion Week

“I think I am lucky to be in the right place at the right time. India is the place to be in now,if you are related to fashion. There are enough talented designers and international brands coming in and so,there’s enough work for all of us,” says 24-year-old Garima Parnami of Shoot Talent Management. In her three-year-old career,she has made it to major international magazine covers,and ramp shows,and Parnami is now looking to make it to the international scene. “My agency and I have been trying to work it out. Hopefully,there will be something soon,” she says.
Parnami’s tryst with fame happened when she auditioned for an agency and got picked up at the first go. “And after that there’s only been work,work and work,” she laughs,ticking off her recent covers and upcoming assignments in one go. “My parents have been very supportive. My mother particularly is the one who keeps a tab on my assignments,marking out areas where I could improve or telling me I was good in some other thing. It helps to keep things in balance,” she says.

SANEA SHEIKH
b>Beauty unveiled
Age: 22
Vital Statistics: 6’1”; 32-25-35
Road to fame: Shows for Vogue,MAC,Swarovski,Moschino,Wills Lifestyle India Fashion Week,select shows at Singapore Fashion Week and Milan Fashion Week,campaigns for Tarun Tahiliani,Le Oficiel

As she stares into the camera with a teasing smile, you would never believe that 22-year-old Sanea Sheikh was once a tall,gangly girl lost in the folds of a burqa. Sheikh grew up in Dubai and conservative Saudi Arabia. That meant wearing the burqa or being accompanied by a man at all times. “It was restrictive. Saudi was not conducive to women at all,” she says. “When I moved to Mumbai, it was like a completely new world,” says Sheikh,who now stays here with her mother and sister.
It took her a while to shed her inhibitions. “I was a nerd initially,not caring about how I looked. Then one day I was invited to an inter-college fashion show,and things changed,” she says. The stray fashion show turned in to a regular feature and soon Sheikh was actively seeking a career in modelling. “I even applied for the Channel V Get Gorgeous show in 2006. I was the first one to be eliminated,by the way,” she says.
Convincing her parents took a bit of time. Sheikh’s father particularly needed much persuasion. “But he has been supportive ever since. I don’t do anything that might scandalise him,so no bikini shoots or revealing outfits for me,” she says.

She remains the tall,gangly girl—only with a bagful of plum assignments. But the height,6’1’’,brought its set of problems. “In the Indian industry 5’9” is tall. My height cost me shows when I started off,since the outfits were too short for me or I looked too tall with the other girls” she says. But then designers who took her on,kept going back to her. On the ramp,she is a towering presence. There’s an easy grace to her movement,and a fluidity that makes up for the fact that she is way taller than her colleagues.

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