Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Lakshmi Menon: Part III

Although Menon appeared on the inaugural cover of Vogue India in October of 2007 with a group of five other models, the April 2008 issue marked the first time that one Indian model was given the honor. The striking cover of Menon looking directly into the camera was photographed by Prabuddha Dasgupta on Thailand’s Koh Kood Island. Kitted out in luscious faux ponytails and neon bright colors, the issue was also revolutionary for the way it highlighted Menon’s dark complexion in a society that has traditionally prized fair skin.

In 2007 the fashion world stood up and took notice of this model from Bangalore, when she was cast as the face of Hermès’ Spring/Summer 2008 campaign. It was a watershed moment in that it also made the Indian fashion industry realize what an extraordinary face and ambassador they had in Menon. Soon after she was given her own cover on India Vogue’s April issue, shot by top Indian fashion photographer Prabuddha Dasgupta on Thailand’s Koh Kood Island. Prior to that, most of the magazine’s covers had been given over to Bollywood stars, but this marked the first time an Indian model had been given that singular honor. The stunning cover, which featured Menon confidently looking straight into camera, in iridescent bikini and piles of florescent bangles, was also significant in that it made a brazen statement about beauty in a culture where fairness is prized amongst women. Thus by highlighting Menon’s beautiful dark complexion devoid of make up, the influential publication marked a turning point in the way one culture addresses the seldom spoken of skin politics found within its midst.

In a culture as conservative and tradition bound as India’s, where modeling is often frowned upon as a profession for young women being groomed for marriage, Menon is lucky in that her family has supported her choice of work since the beginning. "My parents have always given me the freedom to choose my life. There was no pressure from them when I wanted to join this field." This independent streak has also driven many of her career decisions; allowing her to approach the fashion world on her own terms. Instead of moving to Mumbai or Delhi, the traditional centers of Indian fashion, she chose to remain in Bangalore; only recently relocating to the southern state of Goa. “I shifted base over a year ago and have been on the road for the last two months. It was becoming difficult to live in a crowded city and do grocery shopping without being stuck in a traffic jam,” she says.

Despite this, she enjoys traveling between Paris and New York on International assignments. She was recently signed up by the Ford modeling agency in New York, while in Paris she’s represented by Agence Nathalie, which counts amongst its roster of models some of the biggest names in the industry. For the moment Lakshmi is quiet happy doing what she does, as work seems to be coming in at an even pace, but she has no qualms about the day things begin to slow down. In her typical matter-a-fact manner Menon confides that, "When work stops coming in, I'll take the message and see what I should do next."

But as the discussion on diversity ensues within fashion’s lofty ranks, Lakshmi Menon’s career seems poised for the fast track, as she continues to produce the kind of work that is redefining what beauty means in a multi-cultural world.

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