INDIA ABROAD Feburary 17, 2017 34 FASHION
t was her big moment.
Anjali Lama sashayed down
the catwalk in the swanky
Mumbai auditorium. A fitted, cream dress highlighted her tall, slender frame.
Her pulled-back hair showed off
her high cheekbones.
Modeling at Lakme Fashion
Week often seemed like a dream
far beyond her reach, but Lama
has become the first transgender
woman to model at one of the
top events on India's fashion calendar and one sponsored by a
top Indian cosmetics brand.
Growing up as the fifth son in
a poor farming family in Nepal,
Lama didn't dream early in life to
be a fashion model. First was the
painful struggle to accept that he
felt deeply female.
"I knew even as a child that I
didn't like being a boy, wearing
those clothes," Lama said by
phone as she juggled fittings and
photoshoots in Mumbai, India's
The years in the village were
hard. Other children in school
made fun of the boy, then called
Nabin Waiba, and he struggled
with figuring out why he felt so
"I began to feel really confused
and depressed. I kept asking
myself 'I'm a boy, so why do I
feel this way?'
"I tried to change but it was
Coming to Kathmandu as a
teenager brought some anonymity but few answers.
"I would walk around the city
and see the beautiful saris and
dresses in shop and wish I could
dress like that. I used to wish
God had made me a girl," she
A chance encounter with
transgender women turned
Lama's life around by putting her
in touch with the Blue Diamond
Society, an advocacy group for
Nepal's LGBT community.
In 2005 she came out to her
friends and family as transgender.
"It was like a rebirth for me. I
remember thinking, 'Oh my God,
I'm not alone in this world. There
are others like me,' she said.
Five years later she got silicone breast implants. The dream
of a career in fashion followed.
"People began to notice me
and tell me how I had the figure
and height to become a model.
That felt very nice."
A magazine wrote a cover
story about transgender people
in Nepal and put her on the
She felt close to her dream but
it continued to elude her. After
years of struggling and getting
only small gigs in her home
country, Lama decided to try her
luck in India's massive fashion
"I felt I had to at least try and
take a chance."
And that chance came in
December when after two failed
auditions she finally made the
"I'm very, very excited. I'm
trying to just enjoy this
moment," she said, giggling over
the phone. "This is a dream come
AP Photo/Rafiq Maqbool)
Anjali Lama has become the first
transgender woman to model at one of the
top events on India's fashion calendar
Top, Anjali Lama, a transgender model
from Nepal, displays a creation by
designer Gen Next during Lakme
Fashion week in Mumbai. Above left, in
this Feb. 2 photo, Lama, stands
backstage at the Lakme Fashion
week in Mumbai. Left, a makeup artist
applies eye-shadow on Lamal, during
Lakme Fashion week. Above, Lama,
center, interacts with other models
after walking the ramp.
AP Photo/Rafiq Maqbool)