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The face that launched a THOUSAND CARATS

She took the modelling world by storm. But wants to say little about it. Meet Lakshmi Menon



Lakshmi Menon describes herself as simple, shy, and introverted

BANGALORE MODEL Lakshmi Menon is making waves, whether it's walking the ramp with India's top models, winning fashion awards, or gracing magazine covers. This sensational model, who has her home base in Bangalore, is interesting for all that she manages to pack into each day. I decided to catch up with her one morning and almost missed Lakshmi, sans make-up, dressed in casuals cap-a-pie, as she entered the coffee shop where we'd decided to meet. However, the unmistakable, determined look in her eyes, which catches one's attention in the advertisements that she is part of, from Ganjam to Lifestyle, was there for one to see!

"Why do you want to interview me?" she quizzed me immediately and went on to say that she didn't have anything spectacular to say to newspapers that report on glamour, as "I just don't understand them." But, a couple of minutes later, with great difficulty and perseverance, I had managed to thaw a bit of that steel reserve when Lakshmi mentioned that she believed in the traditional outlook of The Hindu. Well, here was a traditionalist at heart, in a profession she "never wanted to be in!"

Described as "an absolute goddess, because she has the most beautiful smile" by India's supermodel Tinu Verghis, I wondered then, as to how Lakshmi actually came to be a model, for she makes no bones about the fact that she is in the profession simply for the "great money" and nothing more. "I was never cut out to be a model," she says very matter-of-factly. "I wasn't even aware that something like modelling existed. I just saw models' pictures in magazines and never gave it a second thought... " But destiny had other things in store for the young economics student. Suddenly, from nowhere, one day "Anila Anand telephoned me to ask if I would like to model. I liked the person at the other end of the phone and decided to give it a shot," she recalls. While Lakshmi stumbled into the glamour world in early 2001, just for "part time work", Bangaloreans are well informed about her meteoric rise to fame soon after. Some of her well-known campaigns have been with famed companies such as Vama, Numero Uno, Garden, Lifestyle, Be: and so on.

"I've been very lucky," says the sensational model, who is rather reluctant to speak. Coming from an army background, Lakshmi moved to Bangalore in 1998 with her family and has stayed in the city ever since, not choosing to move to Mumbai or Delhi, which are havens for those in the fashion world. Still sharing a home with her parents, she says: "My parents have always given me the freedom to choose my life. There was no pressure from them when I wanted to join this field." So how do they react to all the fame coming her way? "They're very amused by it actually," she quips.

The girl who describes herself as "simple, shy, and an introvert" finds it rather difficult to be in a profession where gregarious could be one's middle name. But that doesn't mean she doesn't live it on her own terms. Never the one to have extensive portfolios made and sent to modelling agencies,

she likes to have work coming to her in an even-paced manner. Some days are absolutely busy and some are relaxed, but Lakshmi is not the kind to get anxious. "When work stops coming in, I'll take the message and see what I should do next," she says.

When Lakshmi is not busy shooting, one could find her at her favourite eating joints Grasshopper and Pico's in Bangalore. Or she will be catching up on movies, reading books, or listening to music. However, the unconventional model listens to Jazz, Classical, Rock and Blues rather than Backstreet Boys and their ilk, and goes for biographies, documentaries, and essays rather than the run-of-the-mill racy bestsellers.

What about travelling? Since the profession demands much of it, does she enjoy it? "Krabi Island in Thailand," she says almost at once, talking of her favourite destination. Although most of her holidays are solitary retreats (or with friends) she confesses to missing "home food". South Indian food, which she grew up on, is her favourite, and doesn't add those unwanted pounds. Of course, the fact that she runs for 20 to 25 minutes at least four days a week is something all her fans may not know.

Coming back to modelling, she wishes there was "more professionalism" in the field. She expresses her ire at the media not reporting the flip side of the field. Citing the example of the recently concluded Namaste India festival in Milan, where Indian food, fashion, cinema, and art were showcased, in which Lakshmi walked the ramp with Sheetal Mallar, Ujjwala Raut, Meher Jessia, and others, Lakshmi lifts the veil on what actually transpired. "We were told that we would be travelling by business class, but we ate soggy cheese sandwiches in economy class; we had no one picking us up at the airport despite very prominent people such as Tarun Tahiliani being amongst us. When we reached the hotel were told to wait till 1 p.m. as our rooms would be available to us only after that." Visibly upset, she continues: "If an Italian designer was coming down to India, we would have laid out the red carpet for him. All I am saying is that people should get what they deserve. If they don't, they must speak up."

TINA GARG

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