Often being mocked for their way of dressing up and looked down upon for the looks that they have, lives of transgender has never been easy. Conversations about beauty and grooming in our country are usually limited to the ‘conventional’ sexes. What about the third gender who love colour and fashion as much as the others do? Bothered by these questions and her own burning desire of seeing herself as a model, Rudrani Chettri, founded India’s first transgender modeling agency.
Under the umbrella of Mitr Trust, which also looks after other activities like advocacy, HIV awareness camps and online counseling sessions, Rudrani is trying to help the transgender models gain acceptance in the mainstream fashion industry. “The idea came out of a feeling of frustration as I saw many transgender who were made to feel ugly only because of their sexuality. I want to make them feel beautiful and also provide them with an alternate source of income apart from begging or sex work.”
Once barred from entering into a mall, Rudrani started thinking about how differently the society perceives the transgender because of their looks. However, she was not someone who would bog down without a fight. Armed with her zeal to make it big, she started modeling soon after. “They would tell me I am photogenic and have flair of model. I then wondered why others like me could not be accepted by the fraternity or be treated with respect.” While the fashion industry is more gender fluid and has people from the TG community working as makeup artists, fashion designers and stylists, the modeling arena is still supremely ruled by the cisgender beauty standards.
However, unlike the other agencies in the west, Mitr Trust wishes to debunk the conventional nature of femininity. Their promotional images feature trans-woman with stubble, bald spots, thus, breaking the shackles of conventional beauty. “It is important that we embrace the transgender in the way he or she is. Had we needed perfect femininity, the models could have been non trans woman,” says Neetu (Nitesh) who has been associated with the NGO.
The agency had also held auditions in the month of February but had to stall the process because of lack of funding. “It is a long battle ahead. The lack of resources is detrimental, but, we are trying to find a way around.” Tona, another transgender activist associated with the trust says, “There are many calls where they want us to model for free but we are no more going to do that.”
Mitr Trust wishes to move much ahead than the ramp walk and the glossy photographs. Their real objective is to empowerment, stable income and respect for the transgender in the mainstream society.