India Misinterprets the True Meaning of ‘Supermodel’

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Ujjwala Raut

Ujjwala Raut, one of India’s pioneering supermodels, has voiced her concerns about the misinterpretation of the term “supermodel” in India. Raut, who rose to fame in the ’90s, graced magazine covers, brands, and runways both internationally and nationally. Winning the Femina Look of the Year in 1996, she became one of the most recognized Indian faces in fashion capitals like Paris and New York.

Reflecting on her journey, Raut highlighted how Indian supermodels had a vibrant presence in the ’90s. However, she believes the fashion industry in India struggled to replicate the impact of international supermodels. “The scene fizzled out as photographers, designers, brands, and agencies tried to replicate the impact of supermodels internationally in India,” Raut explained. She emphasized that the essence of being a supermodel is not merely about popularity but also about having a lasting influence and setting trends in the industry.

Raut elaborated on the significant decline in the prominence of supermodels in India. She attributes this to a shift in focus within the industry, where the emphasis moved from creating iconic models to rapidly commercializing fashion. This shift, according to Raut, led to a dilution of the term “supermodel” and a reduction in the lasting influence these models once had.

Despite the changing landscape, Raut remains active in the fashion industry. She continues to work on various projects and shares her experiences as a young mother balancing her career and family life. She speaks fondly of her early days in the industry, reminiscing about the camaraderie and the excitement of being at the forefront of fashion.

Raut also expressed what she misses most from her earlier days as a supermodel. “There was a certain magic and thrill in the fashion industry back then,” she said. The fashion scene was not just about beauty and glamour but also about breaking boundaries and setting new standards.

Raut’s observations about the current state of the modeling industry also touch on the rapid rise of social media influencers. She notes that while social media has democratized the fashion world, allowing more people to gain visibility, it has also blurred the lines between influencers and professional models. “In the past, becoming a supermodel required years of hard work, dedication, and the ability to consistently deliver under pressure. Today, the definition has expanded to include anyone with a large following on social media, which can undermine the rigorous standards that once defined the industry,” Raut explained.

She reminisces about her early days, highlighting how the path to becoming a supermodel was more defined and challenging. “We had to go through numerous auditions, rigorous training, and constantly prove ourselves in every assignment,” she recalled. The competitive nature of the industry back then demanded excellence and resilience, qualities that set true supermodels apart from the rest.

Despite these changes, Raut remains optimistic about the future of Indian fashion. She believes that with the right focus and a return to valuing substance over superficial popularity, the industry can reclaim its former glory. “Indian fashion has immense potential. We have the talent, the creativity, and the cultural richness to make a significant impact globally. What we need is a renewed emphasis on nurturing real talent and maintaining high standards,” she said.

As a mother, Raut also sheds light on the importance of balancing personal and professional life, a challenge she knows all too well. She shares that being a young mother in the fashion industry was no easy feat. “Juggling motherhood and a demanding career required a lot of support and understanding from my family and colleagues,” she said. Her experience underscores the need for the industry to become more accommodating to working mothers, ensuring they have the resources and support necessary to thrive both at work and at home.

Moreover, Raut emphasizes the importance of mentoring the next generation of models. She sees it as her responsibility to guide young talents and help them navigate the complexities of the fashion world. “I want to share my experiences and lessons learned with aspiring models. It’s crucial for them to understand the hard work and dedication required to succeed and to stay grounded despite the glamour,” she stated.

Raut also advocates for diversity and inclusivity within the fashion industry. She believes that the future of fashion lies in embracing all forms of beauty, regardless of size, color, or background. “Fashion should reflect the diversity of the world we live in. We need to break away from stereotypes and create a more inclusive environment where everyone feels represented and celebrated,” she said.

Reflecting on her illustrious career, Raut remains grateful for the opportunities and experiences that shaped her journey. She hopes that by sharing her insights and advocating for positive change, she can help redefine what it means to be a supermodel in India. “It’s about leaving a legacy that goes beyond the runway. It’s about inspiring and empowering others to achieve their dreams while staying true to their values,” she concluded.

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