‘We are all disabled in some way’ – Nninja Singh, founder of India’s 1st inclusive modelling agency
From being a supermodel in New York to launching big fashion labels, Nninja Singh has led a fascinating life under the arc lights. But it is her current avatar as founder of India’s first inclusive modeling agency that she finds most fulfilling.
In 2010, life changed for Nninja Singh when she won the Ford SuperModel India title and was whisked off to New York for a glittering career in the world of fashion. Just 20 at the time, she never looked back becoming the face of many beauty campaigns for brands like Sephora and TopShop and walking the ramp at the Paris Fashion Week and New York Fashion Week.
Life changed dramatically and brutally in 2017 when caught in an abusive relationship, Nninja was the target of a brutal assault, first by her boyfriend and later at a health facility she says she was forced into. Already feeling jaded by what she calls the ‘hollowness’ of the fashion world, Nninja decided to come back to India and start a modelling agency that “would break the barriers of humanity.
The result is Nninjas Model Management, the first modelling agency in India that is inclusive. Nninja says she wants to shatter the traditional stereotypes of what is beautiful and perfect and goes for people who tell their own unique stories.
Among the models the agency represent are people from varied backgrounds. Arav Navaria comes from an economically poor family while Hitesh Bisht is a footballer from Dehradun. The latest in her line up is Pranav Bakhshi, India’s first male model with autism. As far as Nninja is concerned, Pranav’s disability was of the least concern to her.
I found Pranav to be totally dedicated. I saw the amount of effort he puts in and that he is particular about getting the look right. That’s what I really liked, that he is ready to try. It was not the fact that he has autism that was the appeal, only that he wanted it so much. As far as I am concerned, we are all disabled. – Nninja Singh, Co-founder, Nninjas Model Management
It’s this attitude that Anupama Bakhshi, Pranav’s mother, finds refreshingly different about Nninja and the company she runs. “Pranav would click pictures of hoardings and send me saying he wants to model for those brands. I knew I would do all it takes but was increasingly worried with ‘no response’ which was the status quo till that phone call to Nninja happened. I started by telling her “Pranav has autism and she said, “so what?’. Anupama calls it a “game changing moment for the neuro diverse world.
The approach permeates right down to everyone in the agency and makes Anupama hopeful about the shaping of a world that is more open and welcoming of people like Pranav who dream the dreams typically reserved for the neurotypical world.
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