Vanizha Vasanthanathan is the new symphony in the orchestra of fashion both locally and internationally, as she tackles pertinent issues like colourism and racial barriers in the industry by offering what nature has gifted her—melanin-rich complexion with a charisma to match. Watch out for the plot-twist as we discuss her love for Odissi and the cultural appropriation climate in Malaysia.
Just a few years in professional modeling, but already setting the ramps ablaze, supermodel Vanizha Vasanthanathan is that exotic beauty that you keep seeing in your social media feed. Raya campaign ads? Vanizha is there. New makeup product launch? Of course, Vanizha’s there to fulfil the representation of deep skin tones. Wherever you scroll or swipe, Vanizha dominates our feed and we are here for it.
Recently we met Vanizha at The Flowerpecker in Lorong Kurau for a laidback chat and she was definitely a lass with huge ambitions and a charming personality to match. Despite seeing Vanizha everywhere, we hardly hear anything about her journey—and so we asked.
“Modelling was something I got into purely by coincidence. Mind you, just like any other girl growing up, I loved watching America’s Next Top Model and loved Tyra Banks—however, I did not really give much thought to it until a senior at college roped me in for a fashion show, and then my contacts were passed around, and the rest was history.”
Speaking about the fashion industry in Malaysia, one may have various views on it. Especially due to the recent play of events in which a Malaysian fashion critic allegedly made fat-shaming statements as well as the cultural appropriation elements in a renowned designer’s latest fashion campaign, it is very easy for us to have a skewed and fogged perception towards the scene. Cherry-picking elements of a culture in the name of “fashion trend” of a season is surely sensitive, especially in today’s climate (Read here to know my sentiments on this issue). Also, having Malaysia headline for “fat-shaming” statements of an alleged Malaysian fashion critic is just embarrassing. However, we wonder, what is a common misperception (if there’s any) of the industry, from a model’s perspective?
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“If you ask me, I would say the pay rate for local models is usually misperceived. The public might have this perception that local models appearing on various advertisements and booked for shows are as well-compensated as the models in the West. This is untrue. Despite the array of successful designers in Malaysia, we as models—who are basically an important factor to showcase designer products—are not paid enough. However, this could be seen as a positive thing; something to make us work harder to get more exposure. For instance, getting rejected on casting-calls is a norm but it can be very disheartening for some. This is where you see models not trying hard enough to attend more castings for fear of rejections. I can’t tell you how many times I have been turned down; reasons even till now I don’t know, but I hustle. You may not realize it, the more casting calls you attend, the more familiar you become to the people in the field. Sooner or later, one person would definitely pick your card,” says Vanizha.
Here’s a fun fact some of you may not know: Vanizha is also a seasoned Odissi dancer who’s been in it since the age of 15. She attests to her Odissi training for her flexibility and fluidity when it comes to working, whether if its a theatrical photo shoot or a fashion show. Training at the Sutra Gallery for about 7 to 8 years, Vanizha joined ‘Ganjam’, a group that has performed in many parts of India, which she did on top of her modeling stint. Her latest upcoming performance, however, is ‘Serentak’, a performance comprising only four individuals moving in sync.
“Serentak is near and dear to me because it is a humbling experience. Serentak is a special performance made up of four dancers from different backgrounds—there’s a chemical engineer, an entrepreneur, a student, and me—collaborate and perform one of the most recognizable Indian classical dances in Malaysia today. The only common thing amongst us is that we are all tall people and that inspired Master (Datuk Ramli Ibrahim) to choreograph ‘Serentak’ featuring all four of us together to look cohesive and seamless,” she says.
Be it as a dancer or a model, this glamazon is already on her way to etch her legacy on everything she touches. You can try to keep up with Vanizha on her Facebook page, or for live-updates, she’s team Instagram for fans to reach out to her.
If you want to be enthralled by Vanizha Vasanthanathan on stage as a dancer, you can catch her in the Dancing Sutra Series: Serentak (Odissi) at the Sutra Gallery on the 27th April 2018.
*Featured image by UPPRE.
*This story has been updated with a link to Anythinglah.my.