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It seems like model Keisha Lall is everywhere lately. The London born, Rajasthani beauty is not only the face of Anita Dongre’s India Modern bridal collection but is also fronting campaigns for Amrapali, Le Mill, and Cacoon as well as being featured in magazines like Vogue, Elle, Harper’s Bazaar, and Grazia in India. She’s also made quite the impression stateside, having appeared on fashion blogger and photographer Garance Dore’s site several times. We caught up with the busy model to find out what brought her to India, working on the Anita Dongre campaign and the challenges of being an Indian model in an industry that doesn’t always embrace diversity.
Where did you grow up and where are you currently based?
I was born and raised in North London, currently based between London and New York.
How did you first start modeling?
I entered a competition straight out of University and ended up winning. From there I enjoyed the buzz of a photoshoot, meeting new people and all that came from that experience. My ‘mother agent’ in London spotted and scouted me.
Was modeling something you’ve always wanted to do?
I’m not sure I had given it much thought, it was something that happened all of a sudden and I like to take advantage of new opportunities when they come round. However, I’m not sure I could imagine myself doing something else since then.
What was your first big break in the industry?
Shooting a Rimmel campaign with a great photographer called Rankin.
Lack of diversity is something that the modeling world still struggles with. Have you faced any issues in the industry as an Indian model?
I would say the only but constant issue is the lack of a demand for ethnicity in the international industry. Job opportunities are far apart and rare.
Do you feel like there are certain advantages or disadvantages to being an Indian model?
I think the disadvantages are coupled with the issue of a low demand for an Indian ‘look’ among successful fashion brands and editorials. The advantages however, can be seen in such a way that I don’t look like the majority of girls on an international agency board. I stand out more as a big fish in a small pond with regards to Indian/ethnic representation.
How did you first start working as model in India?
My Indian agency, Anima Creatives, scouted me from London, and decided it would be a great market for me to build my portfolio and encounter a new experience.
How do your jobs in India compare to modeling jobs you’ve done in other countries?
The heat was a big bold difference shooting outdoors! One thing I did notice however, is that given a smaller more intimate market such as India, it felt like everyone knew each other on the job or knew of someone or had at least worked together before. It contributed to a very friendly and welcoming feeling on set which was great, something you don’t get often in other countries. The hours are slightly longer in India but the same work ethic is in place to get the job done well, and there was a genuine sense of looking after ‘the model’.
Can you tell me a bit about shooting the Anita Dongre campaign in India – how did you book the job, what were you told about the campaign and what was your experience like?
The booking is more between the client and agency but I met with R. Burman the photographer and I think from that I was shortlisted as an option. I take it upon myself to research a client, or company, or brand or photographer before I meet them for a casting or job. With Anita Dongre, I saw the diversity of her collections and that she was a huge fashion house. It was my first time wearing Indian bridal and was such a lovely experience to wear her garments! I couldn’t have prepared myself for the weight of the lehengas, but nor could I imagine such intricate detail and design that goes into them! The pieces were stunning, the team on the shoot worked amazingly together, which is always an extra pleasure when everyone gets on so well. The setting was inspirational in the Palladio Bar, Jaipur, and we were thankfully shooting indoors instead of that 40 degree heat!
Do you have a favorite piece from the bridal collection?
There were two tops which had a stunning design to the back. I could imagine personally wearing them with the Indian bridal pieces but also as a contemporary outfit, that’s my interpretation of her IndiaModern collection.
What would your dream bridal outfit look like and who would design it?
I would love a more neutral tone outfit with hints of vibrant red and blue gems. Jewellery would be minimal but with a stunning maang tikka of some sort. I am now familiar with Anita Dongre’s work, and it is exceptional. If she would do me the honor..!
Is there a brand, magazine or person you would like to work with that you haven’t already?
I have been very lucky in my short time to have worked with and built a great relationship with some of India’s top photographers. There will always be a desire to shoot more fantastic fashion spreads and concepts with top magazines and brands, I couldn’t choose just one.
Images courtesy of: Anita Dongre, Elle India, Garance Dore