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Mansi Khandelwal

IWB Blogger

LGBT Activist Rudrani Reveals The Ugly Truth Behind The First Transgender Modeling Agency

  • IWB Post
  •  February 6, 2017


“I was denied entrance to a mall a few years back, “Aap jaise logo ke liye yaha kuch nahi milta.””

Delhi-based transgender activist Rudrani Chettri, today owns Being first of its kind, she and her initiative were all over the news. No matter how much we preach equality and acceptance across all genders, do we actually practice it?

Whenever we talk about fashion, we only consider male and female models. But what happens to the third gender? Frustrated by this outcasting attitude for years, Rudrani Chettri decided to take a stance. In conversation with Indian Women Blog, Rudrani shares her journey of overcoming struggles to become the voice of the transgender community.

“The idea came out of a feeling of frustration as I saw many young beautiful transgenders made feel ugly from a young age, I being one of them.”

IWB: Talk about a particular incident that was the last drop?

Rudrani: There have been many incidents that made me and other transgender friends of mine feel our existence doesn’t really matter. I remember how a few years back I was denied entrance to a mall. I kept revisiting the same mall for almost a year till they finally allowed me in.

I was deeply hurt and irritated. I fail to understand that why do people have to treat us differently. Why are transgenders made to feel ugly by the society? Is it so difficult for people to comprehend that we also like to dress up, can look gorgeous and understand fashion!

Since I had no better option to voice my thoughts and vent out my aggression, I opened the first transgender modeling agency to show the world how beautiful my people are.

Another thing I’ve experienced, if men are staring at a biological woman or eve-teasing her, she can fight with them. But, if a transgender is being teased, and we decide to retaliate, people laugh at us. They think it is their right to mock us and we should not oppose.

IWB: Apart from running a modeling agency, what else keeps you busy?

Rudrani: Well, I am also the director at MITR where we concentrate on the rights issues, education, and health of the sexual minority community. At MITR, we share the daily struggles of Indian transgender people. We believe in the huge potential our people have and if given respect and the right to live and work in the mainstream, and not marginalize us and treat us as outcasts, we could let the world know. 

So yeah, I organize workshops and lectures for transgender people.

IWB: Tell us about your early life and struggles you faced both personally and on the work front?

Rudrani: Born in a Kshatriya family in Delhi, I was blessed to have the coolest parents. My parents never put me in an embarrassing situation. I lived my life as an effeminate boy wearing unisex clothes for a long time but didn’t like it. I had a lot of confusion. I was living a life in which I wasn’t myself, and I was pretending to be someone.

But yes eventually I gained clarity. My mother is my strongest support. She supported me in days when it was impossible for Indian mothers even to accept this. She has given me so much power and energy.

IWB: Was it difficult to arrange funds for opening the agency?

Rudrani: Oh yes of course! We didn’t have many resources. Two filmmakers, Andrew and Ila, were making a documentary on the lives and struggles of transgender people, with the hope that it would help the long-isolated ‘hijra’ community gain recognition and place in our country.

They organized photographers and other things required. Since it’s a crowd funding model, they are planning to complete their documentary and raise money out of it to overcome the expenses they have incurred during the film.

IWB: Talk to us about the first few models who walked in to join the agency?

Rudrani: When I was about to start the agency, there were so many media portals who wrote about us. But once we launched, we rented out studios, and our models started shooting, we approached brands, fashion houses, and all that we heard in return was vague and sad. On our face, they appreciated our idea and courage but never gave us work. So, today when I tell my models that we have some work, the first question they ask is if they will be offered money!

When I tell them if not the money they’ll at least gain some recognition, they refuse to work. People have to understand that we also have to survive and hence make money. I don’t know what the harm in giving us a try is.

Despite all efforts, today we are just an online page because we do not get work. Also, every year we launch our transgender calendar and let me tell you that we launched the first transgender calendar, but this year we have no funds to continue with it.

IWB: Do you have age, body-type criteria while selecting models?

Rudrani: No. Absolutely not! We were very sure since the beginning that we will not discriminate anyone by color, shape, size, etc. I guess we have faced that enough in our individual lives that we never would want to bring that negativity when we come together.

IWB: Who have you collaborated with so far?

Rudrani: Stylist and designer Rishi Raj supported us in running this agency. Also, when nothing was happening, Kingfisher calendar girl Aishwarya Sushmita and Nida Mehmood came forward to help us.

IWB: You write and post a lot of poems on your facebook handle. Tell us about this side of you.

Rudrani: Haha! You stalked me well. Umm, so that’s a more emotional side of me. Whenever I want to say something to someone who has hurt me, I write those poems. And because of ‘this side of me’ other activists have started calling me Meena Kumari!

IWB: If not a model, what would you be?

Rudrani: I don’t identify myself as a professional model since it’s a more personal journey. I remember how it all began. I used to post different pictures in various attires and looks, and it made people contact me and ask how I do what I do.

That’s how it began, and yeah, I am happy the way I am. I have learned that the society will think what they want to, but it doesn’t matter to me much. It once happened that I was invited as a guest to a cultural festival in Chennai but later refused since I had posted pictures wearing a spaghetti and denim and have tattoos all over my body that make me look like a sex worker!

I don’t understand how your clothes can decide whether you are an appropriate person to be invited to some cultural festival!

IWB: Would you like to talk about your relationship with Sharad Chauhan?

Rudrani: Ohh! I am in a relationship with Sharad for the last three years. We do have a lot of fights, but it is good. I am not sure how long will we stay together since there is no fear or societal pressure from outside that a man and a transgender face in their relationship.

Also, since he is ten years younger to me, it sometimes matters. But Sharad has helped me both emotionally and financially. I am someone who believes that living together is different from being in love and staying together. So yes, though he tells me he’s going to stay with me forever, I hope it happens.

For my newly developed love for dogs, I asked her about Tempo!

Oops, Tempo is her dog btw!

Rudrani: Tempo is someone because of who I cannot leave the house now. Initially, when I brought Tempo home, Sharad was skeptical, and he refused. Today when I want to give her for adoption, Sharad doesn’t let that happen.

Anything else you’d like to say, I asked.

She replied, “I started with the thought and idea to be understood. I just hope people to come forward and give us a chance and accept us with open hearts.”

If you wish to help Rudrani fulfill her dream of the prospering model agency for the transgender people, contact her .

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