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Transgender Model Anjali Lama

Photographer: Divyakant Solanki

 

At home among the striking beauties sashaying down the catwalk at Lakme Fashion Week, is Anjali Lama, a new star with an unlikely past.

 

Anjali may have the high cheekbones, a slender frame and striking gaze of many international catwalk models. But she also happens to have been born into a rural Nepalese village as a boy.

 

In her little village, there was very little awareness of transgender or LGBT issues and Lama didn't have words for the sense of dislocation she felt. However, other children recognized her difference and mocked her mercilessly for her 'girlish ways'.

 

Despite this, Anjali found the confidence to succeed at school and moved to the urban metropolis of Kathmandu for college. There, she came across a documentary on LGBT issues and recognized her own feelings in those of the subjects. Then, a chance encounter with a transgender woman on the street led her to a local support group when she began to seriously consider a transition.

 

Transitioning might have been enough of a lifetime challenge for some and Anjali found no support from her father or brothers. But Lama also dared to dream of becoming a model. With the support of a LGBT group, she began to approach agencies. At first, none of the modeling agencies or fashion houses would work with a transgender model and she encountered little sympathy. Unperturbed, Anjali spent years walking countless shows for free. After a few years, people started to recognize her face and things became easier.

 

Kathmandu is a long way from the international fashion scene, however, so Lama began to dream of Mumbai in India, a megacity to the south with a population of over 18 million people. Prepared for battle, Anjali moved to Mumbai and was soon surprised to find love and acceptance.

 

The Lakme Fashion Week (LFW) is her first international show and the response has been overwhelming. She is Nepal's first transgender model, the first to grace the Lakme Fashion Week and the first to land the cover of Elle India.

 

Anjali's journey from the farm to the runway is the stuff of fairytales. Nevertheless, she still misses the natural greenery of her hillside hometown and would love to see more acceptance of the transgender community. There's no doubt that her newfound fame will go a long way towards helping others like herself.