Androgynous Model Lemuel Huffman On ‘Top Model India’, Bikini Shoots, And Bullying
- IWB Post
- June 17, 2019
“I’m too pretty for the violence, my mom always said,” says Lemuel Huffman. Yes, you recognize her as the androgynous model from Top Model India who stunned us all by her confidence and flamboyant style.
Lemuel proudly struts in her stilettos as she tramples gender norms under her feet. She classifies herself as “a twit, degenerate young rebel” and is every bit proud of who she is. Her go-to mantra is to do nothing less than what makes you happy.
Besides the fact that she breathes fashion, Lemuel is a very good conversationalist and I can vouch for it since I got a chance to interview her and, God, did she take my breath away! Judge as much as you can, but right from her rhetoric finesse to her flamboyant style, everything had me love struck.
Here are excerpts from the interview:
Could you please solve the mystery behind your Instagram handle “laxmiboopeep”?
It is my dragline. Laxmi comes from Padma Lakshmi and Boo Peep comes from the famous English rhyme “Little Bo-Peep.” So, my dragline is a combination of the two.
You wrote somewhere, “I tried to be Gaga once, but It didn’t work out.” Tell me more about that phase of your life.
Gaga is this crazy person and so am I. I tried impersonating her during my transgression phase. But eventually, I was like Nah! I’d be myself.
I have watched all the episodes of Top Model India till you were in the show and one thing that I looked forward to was your drop dead gorgeous style and clothes. Who styled you?
I was styling myself. But again we had to show our stuff to the head stylist and I’d get comments like, Wow! I love your clothes and shoes and I’d be like I know right!
How did Top Model India happen?
First of all, I am a huge fan of America’s Next Top Model and always wanted to do a show like that. Plus I always had a passion to face the camera so I filed a petition to be a part of ‘India’s Next Top Model.’ One day I got a call from someone who apparently came to know about me from an article on ScoopWhoop and found me through Facebook and reached out to me for ‘Top Model India.’ They thought that I would be perfect for the show and I asked, wait! Are you sure?
Modeling is anyway a very demanding profession. How was the experience of going to Top Model India as an androgynous model?
I am so confused! There were regular male and female lineups and I was the only outcast. I was left wondering what do I do now? But I was sure of one thing that I was going to be true to myself and I am not going to change for anybody even for TV. I knew it was gonna be difficult for me but I was comfortable in my own skin and that helped a lot.
How were you received by your co-contestants?
On the first day of the show, the contestants were actually divided into girls and boys and I was so uncomfortable. Except for a guy from Chennai, nobody else would like to talk to me for the first two days. It was pretty awkward and I felt like a loner. It totally changed the instant we got to the hotel and met the girls as they started talking to me. It was pretty great from there. From being a nobody I turned into a person with a whole group.
Very often competitive platforms add to body insecurities. Tell me about your experience at the show.
So I would like to talk about this photoshoot where I had to wear a bikini. I have the same body parts as boys do and that’s why I had to go ahead with tucking. Tucking is the technique to conceal your male parts and it is slightly painful. But I thought what the heck fashion is painful let’s do this and let me just give my best. But something happened during the photo shoot.
Shibani and the photographer started complimenting and telling me that I was doing great. I have never done a bikini shoot before and I was uncomfortable in the beginning. But the encouragement that I received from Shibani and the crew really did boost my confidence as I thought Oh! I can totally work this.
Can you share how it changed your life?
From a very small age, I have felt comfortable dressing like a girl. And I am grateful that my family is okay with it and since they are fine with it I don’t care about others. I am anyways not dressing for them, never will. But there were people who somehow have had a problem.
Once I was walking down the street and somebody suddenly threw water on my face and I froze, thinking that it was acid. Then I realized oh this is water and I am fine. That was really scary. Another time I was eating out with my friend and a bunch of boys started pelting stones at us for no reason. We had to run for our lives and take shelter in some random person’s house.
When I got eliminated from the show I was overwhelmed with people coming to me and appreciating me for who I was. People looked up to me and appreciated me and that made me feel really happy.
What was it like to work with Lisa Haydon?
Oh My God! It was intimidating. Lisa is like a moving picture and oh so gorgeous. She talks to you and you doubt if this is happening for real. But she is this cool character. You can actually have a conversation with her and she will help you out.
What is your source of strength?
My family. I don’t know if it would have been possible without their support. It all starts with the family and it is all about your family at the end of the day.
What is your ultimate expectation from the fashion world?
Ultimate goal! Oh my God, it has to be the Lakme Fashion Week! Also, I was told by a number of people during Top Model India that I can be a very good talk show host.
Oh, I absolutely second that. You are so poetic even when you talk!
Ya? Thank you so much. So yea I hope to have my own talk show someday where I can interview celebrities.
What’s your go-to style?
Always high waisted pants paired with a crop top or a bodysuit and of course stilettos. High waisted pants are life!
When I see from my perspective, the fashion industry seems to be very receptive and inclusive. Tell me the reality from the perspective of an insider.
I am sure I don’t even need to tell you that when you talk about backstage, 80% of the designers and 90% of the makeup and hair people are from the LGBTQ community. But it is different when it comes to models. Why does it have to be all straight models when it comes to who models what? Why is that the case?
Marco Marco has drag models, Marc Jacobs has drag models and if they can do it why not anybody else? You can’t just cater to men or women of a particular size, a lot of people look up to the fashion industry and it is only sensible to include them when it comes to showcasing the fashion.
Who is your fashion icon?
Grace Jones. First time when I saw her in a Bond movie I felt like that’s me that’s totally me. It’s like in a world full of Kims I am Grace Jones.
What would be your message to people who are struggling to come out of the closet?
I know it’s hard, just wait till you come to terms with it. Do whatever you want to do, just make sure that you are happy and faking it is never going to take you there. Do it when you think the time is right for you and do it because you want to.
Tell me what kind of person is Lemuel off camera?
I am very upfront as in I’d say everything to your face. I have a great sense of humor. And also I am just the opposite of the gracefully proud person that you see on the TV screen.
What are your non-fashion passions?
I am not kidding but my whole life revolves around fashion. I really don’t have any non-fashion passions.
How do you deal with people talking about you?
The people who support me I’d say thank you. Those who talk shit about me I’d say, I’m on TV, where are you? Also, I will flip my hair and walk past them. It’s okay if you don’t acknowledge me but at least don’t disrespect me.
What would be your message to people who are not okay with the LGBTQ community?
Accept people for who they are. And as long as you are not paying our bills zip the lip and walk away.
How about we do a rapid-fire round?
One fashion trend that you swear by?
High waisted pants. Hands down!
One fashion trend that you can’t stand?
Bodysuits with high waisted pants! It’s like I can see your butt crack please don’t do it!
One fashion trend that you’d like to revive?
It would be the makeup and hair of the 80s.
Your favourite shoe style?
Pointed heel, 6 inches and above.
One makeup product you can’t live without?
On that note your favorite lipstick?
The brand has to be Urban Decay. Colour has to be dark blue on the verge of black.
Three things you can’t live without?
My parents, my best friend, and my dog.
Three things I will find in your bag?
Perfumes, card and house keys.
Wine or chocolates?
Oh please! It has to be wine. Always wine.
A quality you admire in people?
A trait in people that you detest?
I detest people with the thinking that they are bigger than others. Like, please walk away!