Dec 1, 2008

Personality - Lakshmi Menon;No-tantrum girl

Nona Walia

It was all about right timing and perfect poise. And Lakshmi Menon became the showstopper on the ramps of New York, Milan and Paris. And yet, it's
her attitude that's credited with making her the face of international fashion. "Once the Prada or the Gaultier dress came off, I left my attitude behind on the hanger along with the clothes. And got back to my life," says model Lakshmi Menon in her straightforward style. There's something about Menon that gives her an extra edge — be it her dusky complexion, the movement of her body or simply her attitude!

Lakshmi Menon is fashion's muse of the moment. The New York Magazine lists her amongst 2008's top ten 'It' supermodels for grabbing the Hermes ad campaign, being the Givenchy girl, and walking the ramp for Jean Paul Gaultier, Issey Miyake, Stella McCartney and being written extensively about in French and American Vogue. "I haven't changed. It's still me. Someone who's been around, struggled as a model in India for the last five years. Suddenly, I find myself in the right place at the right time."

She created a buzz when she walked her first New York Fashion Week, closing the spring Ohne Titel show; also walking for Diane von Furstenberg, Michael Kors, Ralph Lauren, and Vera Wang. "Internationally, this is a time when there's need for diversity in beauty. My timing was perfect. I believe in destiny and hard work."

She may be the girl who caught the attention, but it was her attitude that took her places. There's simply no place for models who throw tantrums on the international ramp. This dusky beauty with flawless complexion and bikini-toned body has got the glossies wooing her. "The reason I got noticed was my groundedness and my ability to see it just as work and not get carried away by the glitz and the glamour of it all. A lot of people did comment that I was unlike any model that they had met... I didn't dress like one, talk like one or party like one. I have a life and modelling happens to be the work that I do." But how do you define success? "Success is always a combination of talent, hard work and good fortune. I would like to believe that I am blessed with a fair portion of all three! I did not style or groom myself any differently for the global market."

What's the private Lakshmi Menon like? "My private life is exactly that... private. I don't live in the fast lane and it is a myth that to be successful in the fashion business you have to be an outgoing, party animal. I live a quiet life in Goa. I swim, I workout a couple of times a week, I meet friends, I read, listen to music... I lead a simple, normal life."

The turning point in her life was when she was signed as the face of Hermes. Her femininity, elegance and romanticism came handy. "That's when I started getting noticed by Western designers and magazines. Again, I was lucky there because they were doing an Indiainspired collection and I fit right in." But right now, her biggest challenge is to balance her hectic schedule,
"Being a global model, I have to travel like crazy for the fashion weeks in New York, Milan and Paris. As I live in India, the travel is much longer. So, I frequently have jet lag, exhaustion, bad eating schedules... But these are just challenges," she shrugs.

Is there a big difference between the Western and Indian glamour industries? "Of course. One has history and the other is just about a decade old. So, obviously there is a difference in the degrees of professionalism. However, talent is not determined by nationality."

Lakshmi's disturbed by the impact beauty and glamour is having on young impressionable girls. "I'm horrified when I hear of 16-year-olds going in for breast enhancement or cosmetic surgery."

Being dusky-skinned does get her clich├ęd comments, she says, especially in India. "The idea of dark skin has always had a stigma attached to it, despite the current political correctness about it. I don't think my success in the international arena is about to change that. I'll believe it when I see a mainstream beauty campaign using a dark skinned girl... that'll be a change! Now, with Barrack Obama as president, maybe there is hope."

When she's alone, walking on the beaches of Goa, Lakshmi likes to get in touch with her inner-self. "I believe in the evolution of the human spirit." Finally, does she believe in love? "Of course... What else is there?"

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