Learning from Differences: Fashion Model & Alumni of St Aloysius PUC Trans-woman Nayantara Inspires Aloysians

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Learning from Differences: Fashion Model & Alumni of St Aloysius Pre-University College, Mangaluru Transwoman Nayantara Inspires AICUF (All India Catholic University Federation) Aloysians with her Inspirational Story. Equality is the soul of liberty; there is, in fact, no liberty without it! With starry eyes in her name, Nayantara came around to learn that her feminine energy was the core foundation of who she was and she derived her strength from that

Mangaluru: “To live with all the abilities in life is not a big deal, but having disabilities in life and then living your life perfectly is the biggest achievement in life and the people who have this spirit are the born survivors.-this quote suits very well all those people who have proved that it’s not the physical capabilities or the appearance that makes you achieve something in life. Rather, it’s your spirit and attitude that encourages you to achieve something in life. It makes you stand somewhere in society. Like it is said, “If there is a ‘WILL’ then there is always a ‘WAY.’

And here we have Ms Nayantara, a transwoman, who is a fashion blogger, and a freelance artist-relationship consultant who lives in Mumbai and her roots hail from Mangaluru. Born Yogesh to Mangaluru-based parents, and later changing her name to Nayantara (Meaning- One who Has Stars In Her Eyes) did her PUC in St. Aloysius Mangaluru in the year 2015-2017 and moved to Mumbai to pursue a degree in Media Studies. Before fashion, she had found a medium to express herself bravely and that was- poetry. Nayantara used her ink as her voice back in St. Aloysius and wrote about various social issues in her writings and harboured a love for literature. She remains grateful to the St Aloysius PU college for giving her the wings to fly and giving her a secure and queer-friendly environment. Years later, Mumbai gifted her the liberty to discover and explore her feminine energy that was suppressed in her due to societal pressure.

At 22, Nayantara is on her own meteoric rise, where she burst onto India’s fashion scene in 2018, when the transgender model from Mumbai became one of the faces of Viacom’s VH1 Supersonic Music Festival’s advertisement campaign that aired on TV channels like MTV, Comedy Central India, etc. With zero plans of becoming a model, a career in fashion happened to Nayantara out of the blue. Over four years of her career as a model, Nayantara has been associated with brands such as NIKE, LEVI’S, AMAZON, MYNTRA, FLIPKART, PEPSI, ARCHANA KOCHHAR, SOCH, to name a few. She has judged various fashion shows and has also appeared on the panels of the reputed institutes of India that revolve around the plight of trans-women in Indian society, and their empowerment and employment.

Nayantara has always spoken up on the representation of trans-women and the LGBTQ+ community in media and has embraced her womanhood unapologetically. With all her hard work, determination, success and achievements, Nayantara is the living example of this. Her ascent to fame in India was quick after: She started appearing on the panels at various institutes of India, in addition to judging fashion shows across the country. Currently, Nayantara is also a fashion-styling guest-lecturer who’s been featured on platforms like Humans Of Bombay, Eros Now, Bombay Times, Humans Of Mangalore, etc. The fashion industry in India, and internationally, has been on a journey of inclusivity and diversity for the past few years. Nayantara shares, “There are a plethora of stereotypes trans women face in every walk of life.

Towards a more equal goal! In order to strive towards an equal society, one must go deep into the realm of its prevalent practices, which causes discrimination in society. To embrace one of the pillars of Aicuf among students, i.e. Transgender, AICUF (All India Catholic University Federation) unit of St Aloysius College, Mangaluru, had invited Ms Nayantara, recently to the College, where the programme was held at Fr Joseph Willy Hall, Maffei block in St Aloysius College. The programme commenced with the prayer led by Romero and team. Anup Denzil Veigas offered a green welcome to the resource person and Ms Melvita Baretto introduced the resource person, Ms Nayanthara to the gathering.

Nayantara addressed the students on the issues pertaining to gender equality, normalizing queerness, gender binaries and their impact on society, knowing the identity of queer communities through the lens of transphobic or queerphobic people and facts about pronoun and rebuttals. Besides talking about the issues, she also tried to shed some light on topics like types of body transition in trans women, i.e post-op and pre-op surgeries, embracing womanhood, representation of trans women and LGBTQ+ communities in the society etc. While emphasizing the plight of transgender, she asked the students to unlearn or deschool the so-called stereotypical norms structured in the society regarding gender identities. She further added that we are all trying to figure out ourselves – be it our sexual orientation or gender identity. The only possible way in which we become normal is by being kind to people regardless of their differences.

Nayantara was being more realistic than cynical about the confined thoughts the society has on trans people. In response to this, she added, “The only exposure people have about trans women in most of the cities not just in Mangaluru is, either beggars or sex workers. It is a harsh reality. So, when people see trans women like me or others out there. It’s very hard for them to digest that we live a life like any other person out there. That I am educated, I have a job and I have a roof to rest under. I am neither a beggar nor a sex worker. Not that either of them is a bad thing. We are still in 2021 and the only exposure people have about trans women is of those two binaries and the job is a lot actually”.

“Most of the time people come across my work or pictures and comment saying, Are you sure you are a trans woman? Because you don’t look like one, which a lot of people think, also my friends have told me to take it as a compliment. What they mean is you look like a biological woman. ‘So, you should feel happy about it.’ But I don’t think that’s something that you should be telling anyone. You should not be commenting on trans people on the basis of their external appearance. When you say that “you don’t look trans enough”, you are actually categorizing the beauty standards or building beauty standards that trans women are supposed to look a certain way and biological women, -women are supposed to look a certain way. So, who is to decide as who is to look a certain way? Which is again a very harmful notion. Which then creates a sort of unspoken pressure on trans women to start fighting to look like women which is very unrealistic”, added Nayantara.

The session was followed by Questions and Answers sessions and interactions. The programme concluded with the vote of thanks proposed by Ms Alita D’sa, a faculty at the College. Interacting with Team Mangalorean after the programme at St Aloysius College, Nayantara who is in Mangaluru for a few days modelling for a clothing brand, speaking about Trans-women, Nayantara said, “I think there are so many stereotypes and discrimination pre-op trans women face in most walks of their lives. By this, I don’t mean to belittle the struggles and hardships of post-op trans women and beyond. But, we need to understand that not every trans person wants to medically transition and that’s completely valid. Pre-op trans women are women and we need to move past this harmful debate.”

While prejudices like ‘Fashion models cannot take up intellectual professions’ still exist today, to everyone’s surprise, Nayantara had taken up part-time teaching apart from the busy fashion modelling schedule. She says, “Teaching was always a passion. Back in school, I remember being tickled pink when a teacher would go on maternity leave because she’d hand over the responsibility of dictating notes to the class to me. I knew I enjoyed teaching and everything about it”.

She adds, “After graduation, although I had a good resume and great grades from UNI, many institutes hesitated to hire me because they were ‘scared’ if any problem would arise from the parents of the students about a trans teacher. To add to it, presently I’m also a fashion blogger and model and there is a preconceived judgment in the air that I cannot simultaneously work in the field of academics” speaking about the negative notions about the trans community, she further informs, “Nevertheless, I knew I was good in my interviews and presentations. I think it is important to have faith and to believe in yourself. Presently I have taken a break from teaching, but concentrating more on fashion modelling. I’ve always said this- ‘I don’t need sympathy, instead I demand equality.'”

“Many a time, I receive compliments from strangers on the Internet, work fraternity, or even friends like ‘Oh you look so pretty like a normal woman’, ‘Really? Can’t make out you’re a trans woman.. you look so gorgeous” “I don’t know if they realize but these statements are problematic and strengthen the conventional beauty standards that a woman is supposed to look a certain way and a trans woman is supposed to look a certain way. Sometimes it’s exhausting! But, we rest under the stars of the mothers before us who fought for our rights. The journey must go on. Our stories matter. Our voices matter.” said Nayantara.

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