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Arunima Maharshi

IWB Blogger

Androgynous Model TJ Singh On His Fashion Journey And Hilariously Naive Casting Couch Encounters

  • IWB Post
  •  February 22, 2018

He’s 20 but his thoughts won’t make you feel so. He relates to androgynous fashion but likes to ‘keep it simple’ and talks as much about meditation as he does about fashion. Oh and when you visit his Instagram, don’t just scroll through the gorgeous photos, there’s some very beautiful poetry, too, in there.

“There are certain perceptions about modelling that I wish to change through my work. For instance, one of the conventional ideas is that if I want to become a model I ought to have a “gym” body. With all due respect to those models, it isn’t the absolute criterion. Even with regard to androgyny in the fashion world, it’s a vast domain, and I see myself somewhere close but do not completely associate with every aspect of it. What I am doing is what any male model does, but with slight experimentation of my own”. That’s TJ Singh.

It’s just been a year that he dropped out of college to pursue his passion for fashion, but has already walked and shot for some big names in the industry. From being known as that “artist” kid in school who could be found in every play and drama, to making it to the ramp for ace designers like Shantanu & Nikhil, time sure flew by for this young icon.

Speaking about his sense of androgynous fashion, TJ shared, “I’ve always been creative and inclined towards art, and while entering the fashion world I knew that I wanted to experiment with something new. But I like to keep it subtle, going overboard with makeup is not me.”

TJ Singh

He recently walked in the Lakme Fashion Week, and is happy with the space he’s in currently. And as happy was I, listening to his ideas and rather refreshing thoughts. Read on to see if you agree:

Let’s begin with talking about your first androgynous fashion experiment, when did it happen and was it a professional project?  

It was a collaboration project with a makeup artist and fashion photographer, in November 2016. I had been following her work on Instagram for some time and one day I just happened to write to her. She liked the idea, and my proposal of keeping the makeup subtle and location old schoolish. It was a portrait shoot, and had come out really nice.

It is believed that the fashion industry can be very grueling for new entrants; your experience?

Well, it seemed like everything was planned for me and things just kept happening. I believe there is some higher power that resonates with my belief in self and optimism. It’s only been a year, but once I had done away with my self-doubts and decided to step into modelling, I didn’t really have to struggle or wait for projects. And my positive attitude has always helped me.

TJ Singh

Good to hear that. Tell me a little about your professional projects so far?

One of my first assignments was with this brand called Huemn, run by Shayma Shetty and Pranav Mishra. I emailed them after seeing their work on Instagram, and they called me back asking if I’d want to meet. In the fashion industry, there’s open casting for girls, but not for boys, so it becomes quite difficult. And I have a lean body and physique, which is acceptable in the West, but not so much in India. So it took me time to get out of that, but I had complete confidence in self and my catwalk (laughed), and I took off professionally in March 2017. Among the recent assignments, I walked in the Lakme Fashion Week, and also for Shantanu & Nikhil.

Was there any strange yet significant ‘backstage’ instance that you can recall?

I don’t know why but everyone’s been super sweet to me, probably because I’m rather young or as I like to think of it, because of my positive vibes. After watching the film Fashion, I’d gotten the impression that the fashion-world is very competitive and cruel, but I have found it to be rather calm. It is a given that people will talk behind your back, such things will happen, you can’t escape that anywhere. But I find it really easy to ignore all that.

TJ Singh

You talked about overcoming self-doubts, would you want to share with us your ‘journey to body positivity’? 

In the past few years, I’ve sure made a lot of self-discoveries, and though I’m quite young but I’ve grown to understand that nothing is ideal. I’ve hit lows owing to my temporary insecurities and perceptions of people, but I worked on myself and grew over them. I meditate every day, and feel calm and happy for the space that I am in today.

I came across this poem that you shared in one of your Insta posts (attached below), was it written during that time? 

Yes, so this poem I wrote for all those people who tried to bring me down by telling me that I’m too thin, or I should gain weight, or that I’m not good looking. It’s a poem I wrote for myself, to express that I accept my flaws, and that everyone is different and you can never compare two people. To share that I am confident in my skin, and at a very good place.

Leavin all the fears behind, I am now numb to all the sadness I now fancy myself Despite of all the flaws Them I own & I love the imperfection With that I’m born Leavin all the doubts behind I am now numb to your views Of how I should live my life Cause I now fancy myself Despite of all the flaws And as I stand I stand alone I am now one man show . -Tj Singh P. S. Doesn’t make sense, but when did poetry totally made sense to anyone. Shot by @shivambhutani9 MUH @hangersout #beurself #chaseyourdreams #hustler #grateful #model #thelookout #fordmodelsscout #wilhelminamodels #malemodel #wilhelmina #willyscouts #makemeamuse

228 Likes, 13 Comments – TJ SINGH (@tjsinghdreamer) on Instagram: “Leavin all the fears behind, I am now numb to all the sadness I now fancy myself Despite of all the…”

And what has been your family’s role through all this? Do you have an in-house fashion critic?

Oh, my parents have always been very supportive. When I decided to drop out of college and take up modelling full time, they let me. No one in my family has ever been associated with the fashion world, but they didn’t stop me from pursuing my interest. Just the other day they were showing off the newspaper article covering me to the neighbours and relatives, he laughed. It felt great, their being there aids me in going with the flow.

Amazing. Tell me, have you ever sneaked into your mum’s cupboard?

Oh yes, I’ve done it quite a lot of times. For my first shoot, I needed flowy patterned black pants and I ended up grabbing a black palazzo from her cupboard. And then again for the Lakme Fashion Week recently, I wore one of her unisex t-shirts.

Haha wow! Let’s talk about your shoots now, is there any photograph that you like the most?

Ahh, that’s a difficult one. I really liked the photographs of a recent fun shoot that I did with stylist Gina Narang. And then there’s this one where I am wearing a jacket with only a bit of makeup and tribal pattern on cheekbone. And yeah, one of the dockyard shoots as well.

TJ Singh

Cool. And how do you go about your makeup and hair routine?

Oh, I have no idea about makeup. I leave it on the makeup artists and don’t like to get into it. As for the hair, I kinda do like experimenting with them by myself also. But during the fashion weeks, you have to take a head wash every night before sleeping, and that takes a toll on your hair. So these days I’ve started taking flax seeds, one-tablespoon empty stomach every morning, it’s said to be great for hair. Other than that I do oiling once a week, and have recently started using a sulphate-free Biotique shampoo.

Any particular look you want to experiment with or are looking forward to?

Nothing concrete, but yeah, I had something in mind related to David Bowie’s looks from one of his projects. I’d love to give it a try. You know, I am not very fussy about going only with the look that I have in mind, I like to experiment, but I don’t like going overboard with makeup. Which though is purely a matter of my liking and choice. So if there’s a new project and I find myself not comfortable with the reference looks, I discuss it with them, and I am glad that people have been sensitive and respectful towards it.

TJ Singh

Hmmm. Do you synchronize with the idea of ‘redefining masculinity through modelling’; are there any stereotypes that you wish to break? 

There are certain perceptions about modelling that I wish to change through my work. For instance, one of the conventional ideas is that if I want to become a model I ought to have a “gym” body. With all due respect to those models, it isn’t the absolute criterion. Even with regard to androgyny in the fashion world, it’s a vast domain, and I see myself somewhere close but do not completely associate with every aspect of it. What I am doing is what any male model does, but with slight experimentation of my own.

I believe that if you love what you do, you should just follow your conviction and give your best, rather than trying to fit into the styles that you don’t resonate with.

Well put. Did fashion industry have you bumping into discrimination?

No, never. Fashion industry is very positive, or at least that’s how my experiences have been so far.

TJ Singh

Oh! What about casting couch?

Haha. I had a lot of them, especially at the start. And you won’t believe, I was so innocent that the first time I was asked, “so what you will do for us in return”, my reply was, “ah, uhmm, I will have you take my photographs”. Oh man, I was very naïve, he laughed off. And then this one time, I bumped into them in the styling room before a shoot, and it was so awkward. But it’s fine, I am a very chill person and I don’t judge people for their choices. I don’t want any anger or hate in my life; to each their own.

On that note, what would be your advice to models wanting to chart a similar path?

Believe in yourself, no matter what anyone says. And while at it, stay grounded. May sound clichéd, but finding confidence in self and keeping patience, are the only two things that keep me going. Patience really is the key. 

TJ Singh

And lastly, any tips on contract signing? How do you sell yourself without actually having to “sell”?

Again, just be you. You cannot say or act to impress them. They know what they want and if they find it in your profile, you will get a call. I’m not trying to oversimplify things here, but it really is all that I do. There was this magazine that I wanted to work with last year, I wrote to them but nothing materialised, probably they didn’t have work suitable for me then, but now when they did, I got a call from them. Things take time, but they do fall in place eventually.

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