- The Indian-American beauty talks with us about her love for modeling, finance, and the importance of helping those in need. -
New York City, New York – It is a known fact that you were discovered as a model during a trip with your parents to Disney world, and since then, your career skyrocketed, taking you around the world and working for some of the biggest names in the industry. However, you are also a finance student at Columbia University and have created a successful management fund. Thinking of how much you love both of your careers, how helpful is the understanding of finances in the modeling industry where many young people struggle financially?
I have always sought to run my career as a business because the modeling industry is a business. It has been beneficial to me as a finance major to run my career more efficiently. I set up an LLC to run my business and manage it as such. There is synergy with modeling and working in finance; each allows me to be better with the other. For example, it is extremely helpful to know how to manage my budget, invest my profits, and to think long term as far as my assets go.
– What are your future goals after graduating from Columbia University?
I’ve been exploring all possible options, but in the long-term, I definitely want to have a career in which I can bring all of my experience in the fashion industry and incorporate that into finance. I don’t want to limit myself.
Modeling has given me the foundation to be more successful in the finance industry. I’ve developed self-confidence by working in two competitive, high-intensity environments. I’ve been exposed to a variety of cultures and societies, which will be beneficial in the finance world. I hope to utilize those experiences to become as effective as possible in the international business setting.
– You are also an ambassador for Operation Smile, and in your mission with them to third world countries, you have witnessed much sorrow, poverty, and the struggle parents face due to lack of financial or medical resources when trying to help their children. Some of these struggles have never been witnessed by someone living in a city like New York. Thinking of these experiences, has there been a moment that changed your perspective about life, or that you feel will remain in your memory for a long time to come?
There hasn’t been a specific moment, but more the overall experience of being on a mission is what has affected me. Most recently, I was really impacted on my first mission in Raipur, India, while interacting firsthand with these children who came to the Operation Smile site with such hope in their eyes while living in conditions where they don’t have access to proper medical care. The children and families were always smiling and so grateful to be at the site with the team.
Also, I have witnessed the moment when parents see their children for the first time after surgery. Most of these were tearful, overjoyed responses that made my heart feel so full. Thinking about this makes me very emotional. To be able to be part of this experience in transforming the lives of these children is very rewarding. I hope that people experience that feeling at least once in their lives. I am currently working very closely with the Operation Smile Foundation in South Africa for my next mission in Mozambique!
– We live in the age of social media, where people can get a sort of status or “power” by the number of followers they have, and the number of people they can reach and influence. However, this power is not always used positively. As someone focused on giving back to underserved communities, either through your financial expertise or philanthropic work, and who uses social media as a platform to raise awareness about the causes you are involved with, what advice do you have for so many people who have this powerful voice, but might not use it to bring about positive change in this world?
Technology, and more specifically, social media, have made this world a much smaller place. There is so much responsibility when exposing oneself and others to information, personal or public, in this arena. Unfortunately, many people are irresponsible in this regard.
My advice is to use the power of social media for good and include others in positive experiences as I have with Operation Smile. It is most important to focus on a cause you are passionate about. There are so many issues in this world, and it is imperative to raise awareness and create an inclusive space where people can feel connected with you. Rather than putting out an unrealistic image, it is essential to show who you truly are and set a strong example for others.
– As an Indian-American model, you have been very vocal about the importance of diversity in the modeling industry, and the subject of tokenism. Though we are seeing slow changes, what else do you feel is necessary for the industry to become more inclusive, and what advice do you have for models who might still face racism in the path to achieving their dreams?
I definitely feel the industry should not cast models based on a certain criteria of race. Obviously, brands have to find the appropriate representation for their aesthetic, but that doesn’t mean that brands need to have a checklist so they can be seen as being inclusive rather than actually being inclusive. The industry needs to embrace all types of beauty. My advice to any model is to keep following their dreams and not let any negativity hinder them from their path.
– You have worked in India several times. As a big country, India can be quite diverse from region to region when it comes to culture, politics, and religion. With this diversity of customs, the level of acceptance for certain careers, such as modeling or acting, can also vary within Indian society. Have you ever faced struggles in India due to your career as a model, or has its society become more accepting of this?
I have been fortunate enough to work in India at a time where society has become more accepting of different types of jobs in the entertainment industry. I’ve never faced struggles in India due to my career as a model, and I’ve found that society even looks up to individuals straying from the norm. It is vital to set an example to cherish individual creativity, and one of my goals with my platform is to show the younger generation in India that there are endless possibilities and opportunities. They should not limit themselves.
The fashion industry in India has grown tremendously over the past few years – it is very powerful in giving individuals a stronger sense of identity. For example, I was the face of the Sabyasachi Couture and Jewelry Collection and love that Sabya aims to empower women and keep the traditions of India alive through his garments.
– Talking a bit more about India, and as this is our travel issue, what do you feel is the most impacting and magical aspect of India that not many people might know about, and which is your favorite place there?
The most magical aspect of India is its rich history and architecture, which is prominent in every city. The country is diverse. Depending on which specific region you are in, you will find new food, language, and customs. I always tell people to visit for at least a few weeks because there is just so much to see.
My favorite place would have to be a tie between Rajasthan and Goa. I’ve traveled to Jaipur, Rajasthan for many shoots and the last time I stayed at the Rambagh Palace. The architecture is incredibly beautiful, and you can feel the presence of the Maharaja that previously lived there.
Goa, which was a Portuguese colony, has an incredible history in its own right. My family has a home there, and I call it “my happy place.” Whenever I visit, I feel at peace as the tropical foliage, and Arabian sea surrounds me. Just by taking a walk through the main town, you come across the Basilica of Bom Jesus and Se Cathedral. These are just two of my favorite locations. India is full of places like that!
– To close our interview, can you share something about you people might not know about?
I have always been very close to my family. My parents are my best friends and biggest supporters – I speak to them at least twice a day! I actually have a tattoo behind my left ear that is my parents’ names written in Hindi. – GM
About the Designer: Ruth Zabetta
Designer Ruth Zabetta is a graduate of the Academy of Art University. Being born in New York City, but raised in both Spain and the Dominican Republic, gave her a unique cultural background, which is the focal point of her creations. She started designing when she was only 8, following the footsteps of her grandmother. Zabetta is known for modern lines and tailoring; both showcased throughout her previous collections during LAFW as well as NYFW. Her designs showcase a modern edge while remaining feminine. Zabetta’s collections are created for the contemporary woman, inspired by her knowledge of cultures and design. – GM
ABOUT CREATIVE TALENT MANAGEMENT
Creative Talent Management is a full-service talent and model management firm founded by Victoria Lyandres. The primary goal of Creative Talent Management is to help talent and models achieve their full potential, with a careful and detailed strategy. The company scouts, develops, and places worldwide while providing full career guidance and management.
GUILD MAGAZINE - THE TRAVEL ISSUE