There’s a revolution brewing in each gully and city, where women crush stereotypes and silence their detractors. And this revolution takes on a beautiful form when women bring their empowerment to the fashion industry. Often told off for being fickle and superficial, the fashion industry has gone on to dispel its own notions of beauty and has provided the platform for many a woman to shine. Here are some of the most memorable instances…
Sushmita Sen has set precedent upon precedent in her career as a model and an actor. But of her many defining moments on the ramp, her confident walk as showstopper for Neeta Lulla at the Lakme Fashion Week in 2010, along with her first daughter Renee, is definitely at the top of our list. A single mother, Sushmita has never let anything stop her and this was ample proof of the same.
There’s plenty of back-talk about models and their shelf life, and pregnancy is apparently the full-stop. But when Carol Gracias took the ramp for Gaurang Shah earlier this year, she not only silenced nay-sayers who deemed her career ‘over,’ but also set the ball rolling for other women to follow suit. She also took the runway with Shweta Salve and other moms to-be at a show held by a cosmetic oil brand. Even Kareena Kapoor Khan followed suit at the Lakme Fashion Week 2016 when she walked as showstopper for Sabyasachi, looking regal as ever.
Owning the ramp and dispelling the notion of being a ‘victim’ under any circumstance, Reshma Qureshi, a survivor of a brutal acid-attack, floored the fashion world at New York Fashion Week 2016 when she played showstopper to Archana Kochchar. Not only is she a blogger and an anti-acid activist, Reshma proved that being fearless can only have its rewards.
A fearless crusader against the rampant rape culture, Mukhtar Mai, who was gang-raped 14 years ago and then publicly paraded naked, walked confidently on the ramp in Karachi during fashion week in October 2016. Though she fought to have her attackers jailed, they were acquitted in 2005, but that did nothing to stop her from taking a step forward and champion the rights of women internationally.
Incessantly bullied as a child for having a rare condition called Vitiligo, Winnie Harlow turned her life around when she appeared on America’s Next Top Model, after she was reportedly discovered by Tyra Banks on Instagram. This badass model and activist from Canada, who has recently bagged a campaign with Diesel, proves that a skin condition is just that, not an impediment to her rather successful modelling career.
She earned her celebrity status following her work on the show American Horror Story, with nine episodes in Murder House, six in Coven and two in Freak Show. But Jamie Brewer’s dream run doesn’t end there. The actor, who is affected with Down’s Syndrome, was the first woman of her kind to take the runway at New York Fashion Week in 2015, as part of designer Carrie Hammer’s show, which focussed on making a statement by showcasing ‘role models and not runway models.’ Brewer also is the youngest person to be elected president of the ARC Fort Bend Chapter, which works to provide opportunities for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.
Laxmi Narayan Tripathi
Meanwhile, back home, transgender activist Laxmi Narayan Tripathi took the ramp for Reliance’s online retail brand AJIO, whose theme for the show was to break stereotypes. A torchbearer for transgender activism in India, who was also the first transgender person to represent the Asia Pacific at the United Nations in 2008, Laxmi is also a trained Bharatnatyam dancer and an actor.
Her humour quotient knows no bounds and she’s a household name when it comes to all things funny, but Bharti Singh chose to break yet another glass ceiling when she took the ramp for Reliance’s online retail brand AJIO as a champion for plus-size models in India. What’s more, she recently also starred as the face of a cosmetics brand in a televised commercial.
If you’ve ever wanted to know if it was possible to turn a weakness into a strength, then Khoudia Diop’s story should be your go-to. Bullied for her ebony skin tone, Khoudia turned to Instagram and showcased her beauty with pride under the handle @melaniin.goddess. The 19-year old student has now walked the glorified ramps in Paris and New York, after she rose to fame when she was featured as part of The Colored Girl Project, which celebrates models who disrupt the status quo of beauty and skin tones.
Dr Danielle Sheypuk
Dr. Danielle Sheypuk
Also a part of Carrie Hammer’s show celebrating role models over runway models, wheelchair-bound Dr. Danielle Sheypuk was the first woman of her kind to take the runway at New York Fashion Week 2015. A clinical psychologist with a PhD and a private practice, Dr Sheypuk’s appearance on the runway led to her widespread fame and features in magazines such as Elle and Marie Claire, among others.