ProudlyMe: Embracing self-love & unapologetic authenticity.

Society and its norms often restrict us from expanding our horizons and believing in anything that goes beyond the set rules. The ones who do manage to challenge these norms and see the world from a unique perspective are the ones who shine bright. I spoke to one such extraordinary yet simple human in my search for someone who would be the true definition of ‘unapologetically authentic’ – fashion model & digital star – Toshada Uma. 

Going by her Instagram bio – Toshada is 144 cm tall (4’8”), which is nothing close to what is considered “the ideal height” for the ramp. But the petite model is already leaving her mark with the confidence she showcases every time she struts the ramp. She was diagnosed with Alopecia areata at the age of 10, a condition that causes severe hair loss. But she did not let any of this come in her way.

Toshada Uma

A successful model, a wise entrepreneur and a psychology student, Toshada has achieved all this in her early 20s and still has a long way to go. As she took me through her journey of struggles, failures and wins, I realised that all it takes for someone to be a rockstar is to be daring, experimentative and have an ‘I don’t give two hoots about the world’ attitude. Excerpts from the interview: 

N: At what point in your career did you feel you have ‘arrived’ and that you have made it in the industry?

T: “I was a performing artist and practised art forms at a very young age. I did not really set out to be a model. My aspiration was to get my psychology degree and focus on that. Modelling happened along the way and to be honest, I didn’t really take it very seriously in the beginning. But when major designers started rolling in, big brands started noticing me and then I did Fashion Week within the first six months of my being in the industry. When all these people started trusting me and making me a part of their work I realized that things are getting serious.” 

N: Do you remember the first time you walked the ramp? What was going through your mind?

T: “So, the first time I was on stage was at the age of 2. I have practised Bharatnatyam, and been a part of local plays, so I had a little bit of a taste of what it could be like backstage. However, Fashion Week is a whole different level of chaos. I don’t think anything prepares you for that. The sheer number of people getting ready, and running around is something that got slightly intimidating. But once I got past that and reached the ramp, I was pretty confident. Because that’s honestly, the place I shine the most and it’s my space.” 

Toshada Uma

“I am super busy being passionate about what I am doing so it doesn’t leave me with a lot of time to think about what others are saying.”

N: Can you tell us a little bit about alternative fashion and your thoughts on it?

T: “I think all of us should inherently be able to practise our right to freedom. And freedom can be about simple things like where you want to live or what you want to do for the rest of your life, or simply, being able to wear whatever you want to. So alternative fashion, kind of steps in over there. I was really into cosplaying when I was younger and was inspired by punk fashion. Facilitating these styles was not very easy in India as few stores sold such clothes. That’s where Alt Shop comes in, my venture for alternative accessories, wigs and apparel. I also feel India is getting there and now there are more options.” 

Read More: Reasons Why LGBTQIA+ Inclusive Brand Campaigns Are Important

N: What was the inspiration behind Alt Shop?

T: “I was really into cosplaying when I was younger, like I mentioned, and there were not a lot of options. So as soon as I turned 18, I realized that I want to facilitate this to others who have similar interests but don’t have access to wigs that are affordable. Apart from that, my condition also got me wandering and exploring wigs when I hadn’t really come to terms with me having Alopecia. Alt Shop makes wigs not just monetarily accessible but also makes them easy to wear and maintain.” 

I would want to be remembered as ‘this person was someone who was really chill and someone who was having fun as she moved along.

N: You have a following of 52K on Instagram, what is the one piece of advice that you want to share with them?

T: “I really try to be true to myself and would encourage people to do that too, obviously easier said than done. And I want people to understand that nothing in life is so serious that you would not be able to be your truest self. I don’t think I want to be remembered as someone who is constantly hustling, I would just ask everyone to be easy on themselves.” 

Toshada Uma

N: Our series, #ProudlyMe is all about being unapologetically yourself, what gave you the confidence to be genuine and embrace yourself?

T: “People have something to say at all times. I remember being a 12-year-old who was judged for the way I dressed. It’s just people’s job to say stuff – ‘Kucch toh log kahenge, logon ka kaam hai kehna’ right? So might as well do our best and have fun when you are at it.” 

N: Last question, any tips for budding models?

T: “Sure, I want to tell people that you don’t need to pay money to make a fancy portfolio. You can take good-quality pictures on your phone. Apart from that, stay true to your aesthetic and remember that modelling isn’t the end of the world. If you don’t get in, there are many other career options to explore. If the end goal is good imagery and wearing fashionable clothes, then there are many other ways of doing that. Don’t let the industry stop you from chasing your passion.”

Stay tuned as we get candid with more such creators and brands as a part of our #ProudlyMe series.