MODEL BY DAY, DANCER BY NIGHT
BY HIRANMAYII MOHANAN
Girl next door Vanizha Vasanthan made big waves in Milan Fashion Week, one of the ‘Big Four’, as she was the first Malaysian Indian to walk the runway for Marco Rambaldi and Act N°1 shows. Model by day, she is also a trained Odissi dancer by night who trained under the tutelage of doyen of the craft, Datuk Ramli Ibrahim. She was the face of Sephora in 2019 and was also featured in Vogue India. In this issue, we talk to Vanizha about all things modelling, interesting facts about her and her aspirations for the future. Read on for the full interview.
TELL US SOMETHING PEOPLE WOULD BE SURPRISED TO LEARN ABOUT YOU.
Not many people know this but when I was in primary school, I actually attended a Chinese public school. I studied at SJK (C) Jalan Imbi.
HOW DID YOUR MODELLING CAREER BEGIN AND WHAT HAVE YOU LEARNT FROM IT?
I officially started my modelling career in 2015. After a few small scale shows, I was spotted by a makeup artist who then passed my contact to a photographer. With the support and encouragement from said photographer and also my college lecturers at that time, I decided to try out for KL Fashion Week 2015. That experience was an eye opener for me and it was at that time I knew that I could pursue this career in the long run. After KL fashion week, I was then noticed by a few designers, photographers and brands and was also offered the opportunity to partake in photoshoots and features. I actually learned the art of waking up early due to the various call times. On a more serious note, The journey of modelling requires a lot of patience and perseverance. I have also learned to be more confident and come out of my comfort zone and be more versatile.
ON THE SUBJECT OF MODELLING, HOW DID IT FEEL BEING THE FIRST MALAYSIAN INDIAN TO BE A PART OF FASHION WEEK IN MILAN AND WHAT IS YOUR TAKEAWAY?
I felt really proud of myself as I walked the runway of one of the ‘Big Fours’ of fashion week, the Milan Fashion Week is really momentous. It has always been my dream to walk on an international stage like that and me actually realising that dream and representing my country and people felt really close to the heart. My biggest takeaway from the show was that it was wonderful seeing and meeting other people from all walks of life coming together for a big event. It was overwhelming.
YOU WERE ALSO FEATURED IN VOGUE INDIA’S FEBRUARY ISSUE. WALK US THROUGH THAT EXPERIENCE.
The creative director of Vogue India actually approached a friend of mine who is a photographer — Pitt Ab Rahaman. The idea was to feature photographers from different countries across Southeast Asia. The creative director also requested for me and another model to be part of the project in particular, as she had seen some of my works before. That was how it all happened. The actualisation of the concept and the shoot itself was all planned out by Pitt Ab Rahaman. It was a really exciting process as I knew I was going to be featured in one of the famed and prominent magazines in the world. Working with Pitt was really amazing as his creativity and ideas are exciting and fun to be part of.
YOU HAVE WORKED WITH A LOT OF BRANDS. WHICH HAS BEEN THE MOST SPECIAL COLLABORATION THUS FAR?
I would say that being the face of Sephora in 2019, was an experience that was really close to my heart. I was the first Malaysian ever to be the face of Sephora, featured on billboards, advertisements etc for the brand. I was so proud of myself for not only taking myself to new heights, but for also making my nation and community proud.
WHAT ARE SOME OF THE CHALLENGES YOU HAVE FACED THROUGHOUT YOUR CAREER?
On a personal note, the challenge that I faced was the tendency to compare myself to others and I always battled with self-doubt. It was something I had to overcome, love myself for who I am and not let it get the better of me. Apart from that, the competition in the modelling industry is really high, therefore, I have constantly been on my A game.
WHO IS YOUR BIGGEST STYLE ICON AND WHY?
This has to be Deepika Padukone. She has got a great sense of style that’s relatable and really inspires others. Whatever she wears, she tends to keep it rather simple, but it still looks extravagant at the same time.
HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE YOUR PERSONAL STYLE?
I am actually a very basic person to be honest. My go-to dressing is normally jeans with a crop top or a shirt. I tend to be very laid back in terms of dressing, when I’m not in my modelling mode.
BESIDES BEING A MODEL, YOU ARE ALSO A TRAINED ODISSI DANCER. HOW DID YOU STUMBLE ONTO THIS DANCE?
I actually started learning Odissi dance before my modelling career began. I have been practicing this dance for 14 years now. I have always had an interest in dance since I was a kid. My parents actually wanted me to foray into sports such as karate, but I wasn’t really interested in that. I actually waited until I finished my PMR examination before enrolling in the Sutra Dance Theatre after hearing a lot about it. It was always my dream to learn under the great Master Ramli Ibrahim.
HOW VIGOROUS ARE THE ODISSI TRAININGS LIKE?
In the beginning, the training was very tough. Being very tall, I was rather stiff and not as flexible as the others. I had to make sure I gave my 200% so I could keep up with the rest. Over the years, after a lot of training, I managed to come through but it is still a learning process.
TELL US YOUR EXPERIENCE OF LEARNING THE CRAFT UNDER THE TUTELAGE OF DATUK RAMLI IBRAHIM?
Like I mentioned, it was an honour to learn from the man himself. Even to date, it still feels surreal. As we all know, he has such vast knowledge and experience in the craft. He can be a very strict master, but apart from that, he is also a father figure for us. He has been very supportive of me and my modelling career as well.
YOU MUST HAVE A HECTIC SCHEDULE. HOW DO YOU STRIKE A BALANCE BETWEEN MODELLING, DANCING AND ME-TIME?
My schedule is relatively flexible, so I’m able to balance modelling and my dance. Typically, I am informed about the dates of productions beforehand so it is easy for me to plan things out. Most of my modelling clients also know that I am a dancer and they are understanding enough to align the timings if it does clash. As for me-time, whenever there aren’t any projects or shows, I use that downtime to do things that I like and spend it with my loved ones.
WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS ON SOCIAL MEDIA AND HOW IMPORTANT HAS IT BEEN FOR YOUR CAREER?
I believe social media is the go-to platform for everything now. It does have two extremes. If it is used in a good manner, it is a very good platform to market yourself. As for me, social media has been very important as I had many breakthroughs via social media. It can be a very inspiring place as I look for a lot of ideas from it. I even do social media content for various clients and brands, so it is also part of my job. I have always used my social media to inspire people.
ANY PROJECTS THAT YOU’RE CURRENTLY WORKING ON OR ARE IN THE PIPELINE?
As of this interview, I’m still in Milan. I am planning to explore the European market while I am here. There are a few agencies that are trying to work something out for me here in Milan, Spain and the UK. So, I really hope to be working for some big brands or collaborate in projects or photoshoots soon. Fingers crossed.
WHERE DO YOU SEE YOURSELF IN THE NEXT 5 YEARS?
As funny as it sounds, I am the kind of a person that does not plan anything long term, because I tend to just go with the flow. My dream is for me to grace billboards or magazines for big brands and even walk the runways of the other big fours such as the Paris Fashion Week and London Fashion Week. Who knows, one day you might see my face on the NYC Times Square billboard.