Reality television in India has earned a name for itself over the years. Sometimes infamous but mostly, sparking a discourse that nobody dared to bring to smaller screens, and into the living rooms of the nation. MTV Supermodel of The Year is one such show! With a dose of glamour and glitz, this year the show has understood the assignment and so far delivered what is promised with judges Malaika Arora, Milind Soman and Anusha Dandekar steering the ship. But this is hardly about that; instead it is about how the show is changing perspectives by taking control of the narrative.
With #UnapologeticallyYou as the theme, the show is stirring conversations around stereotypes and has managed to question preconceived notions around an individual and their choices. How? It also introduced the world to Siya Malasi who has become a shining example for so many people, especially the LGBTQIA community who drew inspiration from her coming out story and transition from Saurabh to Siya.
Malaika Arora who is a judge on the show along with Milind Soman and Anusha Dandekar commented on Siya’s participation and performance on MTV Supermodel of the Year 2 and pointed out, “I believe there is enough room in the world for all of us to exist in our own unique way as long as respect and humanity remains intact. Fashion and culture have always intertwined to showcase the diversity and beauty that each one of us possesses. Our aim in the show is to bring in that uniqueness from all walks of life. Siya is strong, passionate and determined to reach for the stars, against all odds. Just like our theme for this season, she is unapologetically herself and that’s what we as judges admire the most about her. Siya has a long way to go!”
Obviously, we decided to catch up with Siya virtually about her journey as a Trans woman, LGBTQ representation, inclusivity in the fashion industry and more. And when I say more, I mean, how questions about her transition upset her. Because “Sometimes small terms may not make a difference to you, but to a person from this community, they are impacted by it. They have been through all those experiences.” “I never related to Saurabh. I always knew I am female while being complete and whole,” Siya explained. “It didn’t happen that one day I woke up and decided I’m bored of being Saurabh, I want to be Siya now!”
But what was it like coming out to friends and family like? Were they supportive of your transition?
When I was growing up, I didn’t have a lot of friends. I did enjoy my own company and till date my sister is one of my closest friends. I’m extremely lucky that my creator, my mother, didn’t question me even once when I came out to her. She simply said, maybe I’m not understanding you right now, but I would love to understand you. I’m always with you, no matter what. That was a definite plus point, I felt very happy knowing that there are some people in the world, my mother and my sister who understand me. They stood by me like a backbone and that was their reaction.
Did you always want to model? What are the challenges you faced before making it to MTV Supermodel of the Year S2?
I know the challenges of modelling. When it comes to modelling, you need a different personality. Models have a different persona altogether. I knew I liked entertaining people whether I’m laughing, crying, or doing drama. I liked the fact that at the end of the day, I can put a smile on someone’s face. I always knew I want to do something in showbiz or the entertainment world. I think modelling ended up happening thanks to my mentor, or you can say fairy godfather, Daman Sir. He pushed me to do this season of MTV Supermodel of the Year. The biggest thank you goes to the creative team and the makers of the show who felt I can come on the show. If I’m being honest, it wasn’t a challenge per se. I tried to stay as raw as possible, I didn’t try to be like anyone. Whoever I am, I portrayed that, I think that helped.
Your journey on MTV Supermodel of the Year has inspired many people from the LGBTQIA community. How would you describe the experience?
It was a wonderful experience. We humans somewhere crave validation, we are social creatures, and it feels good to share experiences, be it happiness or sadness. The makers and team were so inclusive of me with the rest of the girls, I got the exact same treatment. Outfits, makeup, everything was the same. All the contestants on the show didn’t try to make me feel low, not that I do feel low because of what people say. Everyone was so well behaved and respectful, that left a good impression on my heart, that the world isn’t so bad after all. We can all work together, it’s not always a problem. In one word, it was a wonderful experience. I got to learn a lot and met fabulous people who are still my friends. Some lessons you learn are remembered for a lifetime, like that, I got to learn a lot from MTV Supermodel of the Year, for that I will always be thankful for the entire team of this show.
As a trans woman, how inclusive do you feel the fashion industry is? And what are the areas that need to change?
I think I am a person who doesn’t have too many complaints from life. I don’t like to live in past issues. There was a time when people weren’t as educated, when they didn’t take the LGBTQIA+ community very seriously but I am happy with the times I live in now. The way people’s mentality is changing is a bliss. If you look at any makeup, ad or fashion campaigns, a lot of models are trans models. Anjali Lama is a prime example, she’s doing some fantastic work. I won’t say it’s not inclusive, a lot of people from our community are working in showbiz. The difference is that in the past, a lot of people were behind the camera but as time is passing, people are coming forward and their thought process is changing. I will always focus on good things. If we look at it holistically, we need to be sensitive for all humans, not just gay people or trans women. We all are dealing with something, every human being. We all need some sensitivity, that’s all.
Representation is a cool word these days. Do you think it only exists in marketing campaigns? Or are times really changing?
To be honest, it is changing. While growing up, I always wanted to see someone on TV who I can idealize. Maybe I could see some trans talent, so I can say see, this is who I want to be. That wasn’t there earlier, and what was there was made to look very downtrodden, either begging or sad. I’m so happy that people are changing with time, things are changing for the better. I think in the future, we can see more and more representation, human representation. I won’t go with LGBTQIA+, we are all human, we all deserve the same treatment.
What’s one question you wish people would ask you more often or one you wish people wouldn’t ask about your experience as a trans woman?
I wish people were a bit more sensitive when asking about when I decided to transition. My question to society and all people is when did you feel like my existence scares you? When did you feel my existence would be a problem to you? When did you think making a teenager feel uncomfortable about his gender or sexuality is cool? This is my question to you.
Catch MTV Supermodel Of The Year Season 2 on MTV, every Sunday at 7 PM.
Cover Image: Bhavya Poonia/Mashable India