Nina Manuel

Nina Manuel

She’s walked the ramp for über designers Suneet Verma, J.J. Valaya, and Raghvendra Rathore. First noticed in the ubiquituous San Migel advertisement, she won Female Model of the Year at India’s Fashion Awards (called F Awards) last November. In a free wheeling interview with EGO, Nina speaks of law school, fashion and what it takes to be India’s reigning supermodel. Excerpts:

You finished two years in Law College in Mumbai. How did a supermodel end up in law school?

Well, ever since I was a kid, I had looked upto my cousins and all of them were excellent lawyers. It was quite natural then that my parents and I both wanted me to be a lawyer back then. And I had always been very good with my studies and used to score high marks.

So when did you realize that law wasn’t your cup of tea?

I didn’t realize it, actually. Back in 1995, my mom saw an ad inviting applications for the Femina look of the year contest and encouraged me to participate in it. Though I didn’t win the contest, I was spotted by model Mehr Jessia. One thing followed another and as I started picking up lots of good work, modeling became too tempting to resist. Law had to be a natural casualty.

You went on to do everything from catwalks to advertising campaigns.

I started my career by doing a show for Ensemble, the haute couture store. It brought me in the limelight right therein and was noticed by all leading designers. After doing lots of ramp shows with a multitude of designers, I did modeling assignments with San Miguel, Bausch & Lomb, Levi’s, Coke, Indian Express and Lawman Jeans.

The San Migel advertisement was really your big break in terms of getting national recognition. How did you snag that campaign?

As was the norm, I had distributed my pictures to various modeling agencies. One day, I received a call from Ad-Film Valas agency owned by the famous Kunal Kapoor. I was told that I had been shortlisted for the San Migel campaign. No screen test, no interviews and no questions asked.

Having walked the ramp with India’s best designers, modeled for music videos and been a VJ for channel V, it would seem Bollywood should have been a natural transition for you.

Nothing in the sense of a wholesome role, some thing that I would love doing, has been offered to me as yet, though there have many offers. All-in-all I’ll direct my grey cells to ponder upon the issue only when there is a “complete” offer.

You were awarded the best female model at the F Awards for excellence in Indian fashion. What makes a model the kind of huge success story that you have become in the industry?

Many things go into making a good model. Being one of the best models in the country has not come easy to me. Lots of hardwork, regular grooming, hours at the gym are but only a few of the things that have gone into making me what I am today. One thing that has stood me in good stead is the fact that I have never felt insecure about anybody else. I really feel that insecurity is just a creation of ones mind.

After having tried the clothes for so many designers, you must have a few favorites.

Narendra Kumar, Shahab Durazi, Abu Jani and Sandeep Khosla, Varun Behl, Manish Arora … it’s quite an exhaustive list and frankly, I don’t have any one favourite.

You have been a regular at the Lakme India Fashion Weeks. A lot of people think Indian fashion is ready to take on the West now.

I was at Milan Fashion Week and the stuff strutted by Indian designers generated a lot of excitement among the buyers there. So both the talent amongst Indian designers and the demand in the market has improved a lot. However, overall I feel that we are not there yet but give us another 7 – 8 years and we’ll be among the best.

Here at Lakme India Fashion Week, each year is getting better than the last. Designs are fresher and models are more professional. This year, I expect more earnings for the designers and models and a production befitting a world class fashion week.

What’s in store for Nina Manuel in the future?

I am planning to buy and trade in womens and mens fashion. Of course, it’s going to take some time and till then I’ll continue in the entertainment industry. More modeling , more money, that’s the mantra at the moment!

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