'Work on your appearance, get a good body'
Model Aparna Sharma has lived in over half a dozen Indian towns, changed equal or more schools and seen her fair share of the world. She was also among the top 10 finalists at the Femina Miss India contest before she quit modelling for two long years to fly for an airline company.
For the last five years, the nomadic model has made Mumbai her home and has acted in over 14 television commercials for brands that include Close up, Parle Monaco, Nescafe and Virgin Mobile among others.
She has also walked the ramp at Lakme Fashion Weeks and says she likes to keep her work and personal life apart.
Here she tells us what it takes to become a model in Mumbai, how she manages to stay fit and what drew her back to modelling.
Did you always want to be a model?
Not really. Back in Delhi someone came up to me with an offer for a print campaign for some Sony product (I cannot remember) and that was how it all started.
After that I did a few other campaigns and used to do shoots for Delhi Times and HT City. Even then I never considered taking up modelling seriously.
So how did you get your first job?
I think someone spotted me at the May Queen Ball and that's how the Sony assignment came about. Then others followed. But even then I never really thought of modelling as a career. I took up assignments simply because I liked doing them.
What did you want to do then?
I was clueless! I had applied for a hotel management course for which I was selected but I didn't take that up either. Then I came to Mumbai and participated in Femina Miss India. I was selected and made it to the top 10 finalists.
Even then I hadn't thought of modelling seriously. That's when Air India offered some of us (finalists) jobs. So for two years when I was still graduating, I was flying with Air India.
I enjoyed it for the while it lasted -- I travelled a lot during that time -- but then I realised this wasn't where I wanted to be. So I quit my job and joined Kishore Namit Kapoor's acting classes.
Around that time I knew that this was what I wanted to do. I started modelling again and did a show for Levis in Hyderabad.
And that's when Elite Modelling Agency signed you up?
Yes. We had a few meetings and things worked out. I walked the ramp for Lakme Fashion Week and did a few commercials. Things started rolling from there.
'I don't like spending time at fittings and make-up sessions'
Tell us something about yourself. Where do you come from?
I was born in Lucknow where my mother's family lives. But since my dad was in the Air Force, I've lived in various towns across the country.
The longest time I've lived in a place was in Delhi (nine years). Dad's last posting was in Mumbai and we continued to live here after his retirement though my parents and I live in different parts of the city.
What about your education?
I went to various schools because of my dad's transferable job. When it was time for me to go to college, I was in Delhi where I studied in Venkateswara College. I was doing my history major there. But since I moved to Mumbai (in 2005), I opted out of history and ended up graduating in commerce.
Did you feel rootless what with all the moving around?
No. I wouldn't say that, though I cannot relate to any city or place in India. I can't say I am from so-and-so place. I've lived in Delhi and it's been five years since I have been living in Mumbai and I like both the cities equally.
Did you do any modelling in school or college?
If you mean did I participate in any ramp shows in college, no I didn't. Never in school either. In fact I spent very little time on my college campus. Since I was living in a hostel then, I'd only attend lectures and head right back to hang out with my hostel friends.
You've been a ramp model as well as a commercial model. What do you enjoy more?
Oh definitely shooting commercials! I do enjoy the ten seconds when I am walking in a fabulous creation and everyone is looking at me. But I don't like spending time at the fittings and make-up sessions before that.
'I don't take my work home'
What would you say are the requirements for being a ramp and a commercial model?
For ramp modelling you need a good height, great attitude and a good body. As a commercial model it is okay even if you aren't very tall. As long as you have a cute face, can act well and are camera friendly you can be successful.
Do you have friends in the modelling industry?
I know a lot of people in the business but I don't go out with them a lot. None of the friends I spend time with are models or have anything to do with modelling. I don't take my work home and vice versa. That way I am able to strike a good work-life balance.
What have your learnings in the fashion industry have been?
It is important to focus on your job and not get involved in politics. You must be grounded and not become a person you are not. Whenever I'm working I switch off from my personal life and when I am not, I switch off from work mode.
What would you advise young models?
Before they decide on becoming models, they should work on their appearance. They should make sure they have a good body and a good portfolio. They shouldn't get affected by and get into things that are happening around them. Instead they must concentrate on their work.
It can get frustrating because a lot of people (in fashion) are insecure. So ensure that you have your family around you or at least some friends who can support you so you don't lose it.
Finally it is important to be patient because things don't always turn out the way they should. So don't lose hope.
Have you ever felt insecure?
Have you been propositioned?
I don't think the casting couch exists in the modelling industry. I've never experienced it so far.
'My style is simple and casual'
How do you stay fit? Tell us about your eating habits and fitness regime?
In the mornings I usually do yoga and go for dance classes. I end my day by going to the gym. Twice a week I do weights and thrice I try and do my cardio-vascular exercises. I don't enjoy doing the traditional cardio exercises so I compensate by doing power yoga.
But exercising contributes just 30 per cent to staying fit. The real key is to eat right. So I start my day with a fruit, followed by some coconut water and some almonds.
Lunch usually is roti, subzi, dal and salad followed by a glass of vegetable juice or buttermilk.
Three hours later, I have my pre-workout meal, which could something like omelette and bread.
Dinner is light -- again anything that is homemade is good.
How do you keep your skin glowing?
I don't do anything out of the way. I simply cleanse and tone everyday and wash my face regularly.
What do you recommend our readers do to stay fit?
Eat right and healthy; engage in at least 30 to 45 minutes of physical activity every day and practice yoga because it helps you to stay calm and relaxed.
How do you unwind?
I read books, listen to music and enjoy a good massage.
How would you describe your sense of style?
It would be simple and casual. But it also depends on my mood and what I am doing. If I'm going clubbing with my friends, I like to wear a nice corset or a top over a pair of jeans.
How do you deal with living alone in a big city?
I've been living alone for some time now. In Delhi I was in a hostel. In Mumbai I am by myself though my parents live in a different part of the city. It has made me responsible and taught me that one needs a lot of patience to deal with drivers and domestic help (laughs)! But on a serious note I wouldn't say living alone in Mumbai is very difficult at all.
What now? What are your plans?
The eventual plan is to get into movies. So I am meeting producers and directors and hearing out scripts. Meanwhile I am also doing ad films.