THE INSTALMENT OF THE BELLEBOSS SERIES
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I hoped that with this series, I would find a way to appreciate the incredible South Asian women of our generation, who are breaking boundaries and paving new paths for themselves. Moreover, I would like you to take a little bit of your time to realize how incredible the women around you are.
Could you give us an introduction to yourself?
Hi, I’m Shivani! I’m 28 and I live in NYC as a full-time model and podcast host. I was born in Trinidad and moved to Canada when I was 5 years old. In Canada I finished two degrees, one in Political Science and another in French. I decided to model instead of do my masters when I got a contract in London and the rest is history.
How did you start your modelling career and what were the challenges you faced in the beginning?
People had always told me that I should do it but I never took them seriously. Then when I was 17 I went to Canadian Idol with my dance team and one of the judges told me I should really consider it. I didn’t start then because my parents wanted me to finish school but I started submitting myself to agencies when I turned 20 years old. I faced many challenges in the beginning, mostly weight and race related. I wasn’t a typical size 0 (I’m still not) and there weren’t that many brown girls modelling when I started either (there still aren’t, but it’s getting better). It was also a struggle starting off while I was finishing school, it was very hard to time manage but I made it work.
Could you tell us about the “More than a Model” podcast?
More Than a Model Radio is a podcast I decided to start with my friend Samantha because I was sick of people in my industry always acting as if models couldn’t be involved in “smart” conversations. I knew so many amazing girls, doing amazing things – but no one was asking them about that stuff when they did interviews. So I just decided to ask the questions myself :). It’s my biggest project right now and I’m so proud of it!
What do you consider your greatest achievement?
I think my greatest achievement would be coming to NYC by myself and making it as a model here. I say this because becoming a successful model here gave me the opportunity to use my platform to talk about issues that I believe really matter. It also allowed me to be able to use my platform to educate people.
More than anything though, being a working model in NYC has allowed me to help my parents out and take financial stress off of them – and that has made me happier than anything in the world. I’d have nothing if it weren’t for my parents so being able to do something for them has truly been my greatest achievement.
How has modelling changed you as a person?
Modelling has changed me a lot to be honest. It has certainly helped me to be a lot more patient and have a much thicker skin. It has also helped me to become a lot more confident and learn to do properly deal with rejection. We are put into so many weird and trying situations as models, it’s also taught me that I can pretty much get through anything. I know that I can be put in any situation and I’ll figure out how to deal with it – being a model gave me that versatility.
Was there any particular moment where you felt you should quit the modelling industry? If not is there any aspect you found particularly difficult?
I seriously love my job and I feel so lucky to have it – but it’s important to highlight the many negative issues models have to deal with on a daily basis as well. People have this idea that we have a chill, easy job. I’ve learned that no job is easy and ours isn’t an exception. It’s extremely high stress, exhausting and above all, I’ve never had another job that has affected me so much mentally. The only times in the past I have ever considered quitting modelling are the times when I’ve struggled with my weight.
This aspect of modelling trickles into our every day lives, it becomes a part of our lifestyle and it’s very hard to escape the idea that if you’re not a certain size, you’l never be good enough. There were SO MANY times I felt like I shouldn’t bother anymore, because I’ll never be good enough. However, I feel like I entered the modelling world at the perfect time because it’s becoming more inclusive . And now I’ve learned that it’s about me being comfortable with how I look and as long as I’m working towards my own goals and not anyone else’s I’ll be fine. In this way modeling has also in a weird way taught me how to stay true to myself, and really figure out how to be comfortable with who I am and how I look.
Could you tell us more about your passion for inter sectional feminism? Do you think this issue is being addressed by #me too movement?
I have such a passion for intersectional feminism because I’ve noticed a lot about how I’ve been treated throughout my life because of my dark skin. Whether it was how I was raised, socialized, judged in my community, profiled at work etc. I just decided at a point that shade-ism and colourism is so ridiculous and unfair, and I will do everything I can to educate people and our future generation to stop it from happening to any other brown/black girls.
I think the #Metoo movement is one small part of this, because it is liberating women to open up about their harassers and oppressors. But there is a lot of criticism about #Metoo because from an inter-sectional perspective, it came across that no one seemed to care about sexual harassment to this extent until white, powerful women began talking about it. Regardless I’m glad these issues are being brought to light, but we need to understand that the voices of black and brown women also need to be listened to with such importance.
Do you have any strategies to ensure you live a healthy and balanced life?
I try my best to workout 5 days a week, and I try to make sure I get enough sleep. My life is really inconsistent so I don’t believe in balance so much as equilibrium. I focus on what’s important to me and try to do as much of that as I can, I tried meditating everyday but I couldn’t get into it so I didn’t force myself. I just give everything in my life the attention it deserves/needs and the attention I’m capable of giving. And that’s a different amount/type of energy for different things. Self-care is important to me so I try to schedule in time for that whenever I can: whether that means reading a book, getting a massage, doing yoga or hanging out with my friends.
Having those things that aren’t work related, and making them a priority has really helped to keep me sane. But I wouldn’t say it’s a “balance” if that makes sense. I don’t hang out with my friends just as much as I work, there’s a bit of time for everything but some things will always require more time and that’s okay – know what I mean?
Could you share any life changing books or movies with us?
I love Flowers for Algernon and You Are A Badass. One fiction and one non-fiction. They’re both phenomenal and taught me different things about life.
Often as women we are told we cannot have it all … we either have to choose family or career. What has been your personal experience.
I’m struggling with that right now because I’m getting married this year and trying to figure out how I’ll fit these new parts of my life into my already crazy life. For example my fiancé and I have decided we’ll continue to live in different cities because our careers are doing well in different cities and we don’t want to force each other to give anything up. So in this way I’m having it both, my career and my marriage – but it’s a sacrifice and we’re willing to make it. I do wonder though when we have children how I’m going to fit that into my life, I’ll probably move back home so in trying to build a really strong career here in NYC so I can continue that there and not resent the situation.
You have mentioned you have anxiety issues. How do you deal with this?
I mean there is no real concrete way to deal with anxiety or make it stop. It’s different for everyone. I try my best to be organized and in the know so I’m not overwhelmed by situations. I also try to be as patient as possible and always prepared. Working out, yoga, meditating (not every day) also helps me calm down a lot and assess situations from a more settled place. I just always try to step back and realize nothing’s ever as big of a deal as you think it is and life will always move on, so it’s best to just take my time and go through life as best I can. Of course that doesn’t always work and breakdowns etc will happen but I think that’s a part of life. I’m slowly becoming better at calming myself down and realizing that freaking out doesn’t help anything so I just try to stay calm and get through whatever situation I can as best I can.
What are your dreams and hopes for the future?
That’s a pretty broad question but my hope is that diversity isn’t a trend and that the whole market becomes more transparent about politics and where they stand on contentious issues.