By Isha Shresta
The fashion industry has long been dominated by tall, skinny women – often with European features. In fact, more than 70% of models cast for the 2017 Spring fashion weeks in New York, London, Paris and Milan were white, per the diversity report by The Fashion Spot. So, when I heard about an up-and-coming Nepali transgender model, I was intrigued.
In February 2017, Anjali Lama became the first transgender Nepali woman to walk in an international fashion show, the Lakmé Fashion Week in Mumbai, India. She was born as Navin Waiba in Nuwakot district. Growing up in rural Nepal, Lama faced stigma and discrimination for not adhering to the stereotype of a heterosexual male. After high school, she left her home and moved to Kathmandu where she began exploring her gender identity. Though Lama continued to experience discrimination of being a transgender woman in Kathmandu, she was also able to connect to a LGBTQ community organization, where she eventually worked as a staff member.
In the modeling world, Lama struggled. Even with her sultry eyes, striking cheekbones, and a tall, slim figure, Lama still found it challenging to book gigs due to her gender identity. After years of preparing and trying out for auditions in Nepal to launch her modeling career with little fruition, Lama left the country to look for opportunities in India. In Mumbai, Lama auditioned for the 2016 Lakmé Fashion week, and unfortunately, she was rejected. She tried out again the following year, competing against more than 100 other women for five spots in the show, and this time, she was selected!
Now with over 19,000 Instagram followers and name recognition via several media platforms such as CNN, Buzzfeed, The Huffington Post, The Independent and more. Lama is changing conventional thinking about beauty in the fashion industry. Additionally, she is pushing cultural boundaries and providing a role model to many South Asian LGBTQ youth who aspire to embrace their identity and live their life without fear or stigma.
P.S. Code for Nepal is having a video contest on where you see Nepal heading in the next few years. I encourage all of you to apply. It can be a dance, song, speech, story, and much more. First place gets NRS. 20,000. Please see all details here.