Ninja Jagan Singh On Surviving Rape, Nepotism, And Introducing India To Its 1st Autistic Model
- IWB Post
- May 31, 2019
Ninja Jagan Singh became a rage the instant she made her foray into the fashion world in 2010. With her international looks and natural charisma, she soon found herself strutting the ramps all over the world. Right from the New York Fashion Week to Paris Fashion Week and India Fashion Week back in the home territory, within no time Ninja took the fashion world by storm.
She was at the zenith of her career and exploring new possibilities in 2017 when a set of events forever changed the way she had been looking at life and her career. She shared in a recent interaction with IWB, “Two years ago when I was in New York, I got raped and everything stopped making sense for a while. All of this happened in a psychiatric department and despite my stature as a supermodel, I could not protect myself.”
Having spent most of her career in New York, due to a number of reasons, Ninja was left questioning everything that she has ever believed in till that point. She adds, “The guy who bailed me out of that place was an Indian doctor. That incident made me realise how much it matters to have a sense of community especially in a surrounding where you are like an outsider.”
Suddenly everything was different for Ninja. As she shares, “I needed to do something profound and something more than just being beautiful on magazine covers. So I decided to come back to India and represent and empower people who had stories like mine.”
“You know how the whole world looks down at India as the place of oppression, misogyny, and rapes? I wanted to change that too. Fashion was what I knew and I thus decided to create something meaningful through it. That’s when I came back to India and started this company called Ninjas Model Management with my brothers.”
True to her intent, Ninja today is busy transforming the Indian fashion landscape, one model at a time. Her aim is simple: to find people who have a story or people who have been sidelined by the dominant narratives of society and give them a voice and representation.
Ninja shares, “Right after starting the firm, we went to the slums hunting for models. We found Arav Nawariya in one of these slums and he is the face of many big brands in India today. We also approached a home guard for an Allen Solly campaign, and he too is a supermodel now.”
Sharing the intent of their unique approach of model hunt, Ninja says, “We just want to strike a balance, we want to shout to the world that we are Indians, we are not victims but survivors, we are all in this together, and we all want to set an example that fashion is for everyone.”
She insists that it is time that all the hackneyed narratives and power structures in our society get replaced by the resilient voices of those who have been hitherto kept quiet.
Ask her for her take on the Indian fashion industry and its inclusivity and Ninja says, “I feel like fashion in India is nothing but reminding people how ugly they are and how sad their lifestyle is. We, as an industry, constantly try to copy Western fashion, Western stories, Western feminism, not even understanding that we are a developing country. We have different issues to encounter and talk about. We just keep on copying stuff from the Western world, not even caring if it’s understood by the people in India or if it’s relevant to them. I come from a very academic background and when I first came to this space, it wasn’t welcoming for a person of a middle class background. However, now I think that it’s changing.”
She adds, “India is the only country in the world that has such a big population, such a big fashion fraternity but we are still not recognized, we are never seen as the main girl in a TV commercial, we are always seen as Deepika Padukone’s best friend. In this country, those who are born with a silver spoon are the only ones who get any real opportunities. I think this gives a very bad idea. Other countries like America, Ukraine, London, Paris, Milan, when they think of Vogue they think of a supermodel on the cover. Here we have Suhana Khan, how sad is that?”
Ninja, thus, feels that it’s time this stops and newer people get a chance in the industry. Despite us being such a diverse country, our narratives and their representatives hardly change and this is exactly what she is trying to challenge and subvert through her modeling agency.
Ninjas Model Management just introduced India’s first autistic model, Pranav Bakshi, and it is safe to say a good change in coming owing to the fact that he has been making headlines.
Speaking about Pranav, Ninja shares, “We recently met Pranav and, to me, he was like any other model that we have on our team because of his special story. He might be disabled for the world but he didn’t see that disability when he saw himself in the mirror. This guy saw himself as somebody and he wanted to become that person. He wanted to show the world that I don’t let my disability define me. I didn’t look at him as someone who has autism because whatever he feels about himself is exactly what I feel about him. So what if he is not able to express himself, isn’t that what we all go through as women?”
“We are trying to empower these people through modeling and I feel like the more representation such models get in this country, the more their stories are heard instead of gossip from some celebrity wedding. When people like Pranav will get more exposure, then only people in India will be able to understand what fashion is really all about,” she adds.