Dream Big!

Though an engineer by profession, this free spirited young lady’s heart was always set on the ramp! Her ultimate goal is to represent India on an international platform and she has been working hard to achieve this dream. With such zest and passion, it doesn’t come as a surprise that she was crowned Miss South India 2018, Miss Queen of India 2018 and finally Miss India – Miss Kerala 2019! Ritz gets into a candid chat with Lakshmi Menon as she reveals her fitness mantra, beauty secrets and what it takes to be a model!

Interview: RIYA SONNY DATSON

Photography: SHAFI SHAKKEER

Jewelry: ADONA DIAMONDS

How did you step into modelling?

It has always been my dream to participate in the Miss India pageant. So as I prepared to apply for the event, I realised that I needed some good photographs. Unfortunately, portfolio shoots can be very heavy on the pockets so I thought to myself that maybe I should try my hand at modelling. That way, I would get paid for my job and would also get to work with seasoned photographers. But as I started doing shoots, I liked modelling and that’s how I decided to take it up as a profession.

What according to you are the pre requisites to be a model?

A model needs to be professional and disciplined at her work. It is not an easy profession and when your photographs are published in print or on social media, there will always be people out there who are going to judge you. So one needs to be mentally prepared for all kinds of remarks. You need to be ready to cope with rejection as well as casting and auditions are often long procedures. After all the effort, you might get rejected, it is not always positive. Apart from that, there is a lot of physical stress in terms of long working hours and there is also the constant pressure to stay fit and healthy especially when you are participating in pageants. So to be a model, you need to be mentally and physically fit.

Very often the fashion industry has been involved in scandals like the casting couch and #Metoo episodes. Have you had to face difficult circumstances?

Thankfully, I haven’t had any such issues until now. Initially, it was intimidating as I never had a background or a mentor in the industry but eventually I found my way around. A model is free to take her parents or friends with her during shoots so I have always felt safe. I make it a point to do my research about the photographer before the shoot, which is often very helpful. I feel modelling is just like any other profession. It has its ups and downs.

What is your fitness mantra?

I always eat healthy, drink lots of water and exercise regularly by hitting the gym. I make it a point to eat greens and citrus fruits, I feel my skin reacts well to them. When you are participating in pageants like Miss India that has a swimsuit round, one needs to work really hard to stay in shape.

What about your beauty regime?

I have my fair share of open pores and pimples too. But like I said, I consume a lot of greens vegetables, citrus fruits, stay hydrated and eat healthy. I also use a lot of home DIY packs using ingredients like milk, honey, turmeric and oats.

What keeps you ticking?

Confidence is the key. I did my schooling and college graduation in Kerala so when I had to travel and participate for pageants initially, it was not easy at all as I had to get out of my comfort zone; but I think I have come a long way. Thankfully, as a child, I have always been active on stage with various performances which vanquished my stage fear. I am a totally different person when I get on stage, quite different from who I really am. Off stage, I prefer my space and am not very good at networking, which sometimes works as my weakness.

What would be your strength?

 I see life in a positive way as I strongly believe that I am here for a purpose which no one else can fulfil. I feel everything happens for a purpose.

You were given the subtitle of ‘Beauty with a Purpose’ at the Miss India pageant, what was the project all about?

 Yes, I think that has been the most memorable part of the Miss India pageant for me. I was awarded the subtitle ‘Beauty with a Purpose’ for my project that dealt with water conservation in Attapadi. The rivers in Attapadi in Kerala are highly polluted and that is the source of drinking water for the people there, which is extremely dangerous. So, with the help of an NGO, we purified the drinking water using reverse osmosis and supplied it to the people. Although the project was a part of the pageant, I didn’t expect to win. When I understood the situation of the people there, I wanted to help them selflessly and worked hard for it. I was really happy that I could represent my state and throw light on our issues on a national platform.  The project presentation involved multiple rounds of interviews and power point presentations but it was worth the effort. I was awarded the subtitle by Miss Manushi Chillar on the Miss India stage and that was nothing short of a dream come true.

What are your interests outside of modelling?

Thanks to my school and college days, I love dancing and music. I am getting offers from the film industry and I am considering trying my hand at it.

What is on your Bucket list?

My biggest dream has always been to represent India on an international platform and that’s on my bucket list for next year. I want to be a part of the Grand slam pageants like the Miss World and Miss Universe.

What would be your tips to aspiring models?

The first and most important point would be to get a good portfolio done as a good photograph speaks for you during the first round of selection.  It is also important to study about the industry. With so much information available online, you have access to all the details today. Evaluate you strengths – if you have a photogenic face, print shoots would be ideal. If you are tall and confident you could choose to walk the ramp. So tap into your strength. When you go for a shoot, always remember to do your research about the team – be it the photographer, designer or the stylist. With so much activity on social media, it is not difficult to find details of the people you are working with. You need to be alert and take care of yourself.