2016 was a year of significant strides for transgender people in the fashion world, and 2017 is getting things off to a good start. Nepali model Anjali Lama will be walking prestigious Indian runways Feb. 1 to 5, making her the first transgender model to walk at Lakmé Fashion Week. Bustle has reached out to Lama on this incredible achievement, but has not heard back.
The 32-year-old, who came out in 2005 and was subsequently rejected by much of her family, will model for "several leading designers," according to the South China Morning Post.
Lama was born in rural Nepal to a family of farmers, and told The Express Tribune that growing up trans in Nepal was extremely difficult. She added, "In South Asian countries people still aren’t that accepting, they treat it like an illness. The public looks at you differently and treats you in a different manner."
After Lama graduated high school despite her lack of support, she moved to Kathmandu, Nepal's capital city, and joined up with Blue Diamond Society, an LGBT advocacy group. Moving on was necessary for her, Lama told The Indian Express. "I decided early on to do and say what I think is right for me. Many people from our community continue to live double lives. But I’ve never tried to hide my identity. This is me," she said.
Friends from the Blue Diamond Society encouraged her to try modeling, and she entered her first pageant in 2007. In 2009, she was featured on the cover of Nepalese magazine Voice of Women, and decided to pursue modeling full-time. She took modeling classes, but finding work seemed like a dead end.
"I was getting rejected because of my identity and that was extremely disheartening," she told The Express Tribune.
In 2014, she was featured in the documentary Anjali: Living Inside Someone Else’s Skin, a film made by Mohan Rai, who met Lama through the Blue Diamond Society. After that, "Friends told me I should attempt to conquer the international market. I took whatever little money I had made in Kathmandu and moved to Mumbai," Lama told The Express Tribune.
Looking back at her audition for the 2016 Lakmé Fashion Week, Lama told the Tribune, "In hindsight, I realised that I needed to work on my dressing, make-up, facial expressions, improve my walk and learn how to pose correctly in front of the judges."
Her 2017 audition was of course much more successful, and she is now represented by a talent agency in Mumbai. And her career successes, Lama said, have inspired personal successes as well — her brothers, who rejected her 12 years ago, have finally reached out to her with support.
She told The Express Tribune that walking at Lakmé was a "dream come true."
She added, "I do hope to be an inspiration for other transgender people. I’d like to tell them to always believe in themselves and to work towards their goals."
To follow Lama's endeavors during this unprecedented fashion week, check out her Instagram page.