New York Film Academy alumna, performance artist, and fashion model with the will of steel, Priyanka Karunakaran shares with us what it takes to be a model, and what keeps her fit and ticking! Read on…
When did you get your first breakthrough in the industry and tell us about your love for stage?
I was blessed to be born in a South Indian family that believed that any form of art or sport is vital for the growth of a child. Thus, from the age of three I was enrolled in Bharatanatyam. Dancing made me feel alive but performing live on stage helped unearth in me a determined and passionate artist. My liaison with the performing arts – whether modelling, acting live on stage, or for the camera, anchoring, being a VO artist – stems from the longing to explore and challenge myself as a performer.
Who introduced you to modelling? Do you think you have reached the goals that you had set for yourself 10 years ago?
I was first discovered by fashion photographer Vikram Bawa when he visited my college. I did my first editorial with him. To hone my skills further, I decided to study acting and that took me to New York Film Academy. I came back well equipped with a degree and a penniless pocket. In the beginning, I found it difficult as a freelance artist to get paid work, and months went by, knocking on every single door of opportunity. Rejection can shatter your spirit but I just got more persistent. My strategy was to keep growing. I hit the floor with a vengeance and developed every skill from martial arts to voice modulation, dance to public relations. Today, I can proudly say that I am my own Manager, make-up artist (when I have to), stylist (because models are never off duty), PR, motivator and CHEERLEADER!
Yes, I have achieved many of my goals but I am a dreamer so there are miles to go before I sleep! 🙂
Is life of a model all glamorous and luxurious as we see in advertisements and editorials? How different is it from that of a working-class woman?
In my home there are three working women – my mom, my sister-in-law and me. Even though my mom (an Air Hostess) has retired, I wish to call her a working woman because she is always up to something. My sis-in law, Lizenka, is a dentist and has a one year old son. These two women are NEVER off duty. The working class women show true grit and strength by following a difficult routine and surprisingly, like a model, balance various aspects of life.
Life at home is as normal as that of any other girl-next-door. My family plays a very crucial role in keeping me grounded. But, that said, I believe that my parents have taught me and my brother to live life to the fullest. We make the best of what we have and have been taught to earn our luxuries. We EARN it, we LIVE it and we LOVE it!!!
You have posed for several experimental shoots. What do you think was the toughest and the most favourite? What do you speak to yourself before these shoots to bring them to life?
My toughest shoot was on the beach of Unawatuna, Sri Lanka. The scorching sun (I am talking about 12 noon) and the rough tides caught me off guard. Palm size corals were flung on me, by the waves while I was posing and pouting. The salt water was burning my eyes. The current was strong and I can go on and on. But, the pictures… Simply Stunning!! So all that effort was totally worth it!!
Honestly, before a shoot I ask the photographer what he or she is looking for. Once I am in front of the camera I know I have entered a different zone. It’s like the lens is my Vortex; my source of energy. I have always believed that the camera captures what a naked eye cannot. The words ‘action’ or ‘roll’ is like a bell that sets off to let your inhibitions go and let your inner self shine. As far as I am concerned, it’s not about how tall you are or how high your cheekbones are; it’s all about how you let go off all that and embrace your faith in yourself (or the character you are playing while acting).
You do offer creative inputs while working with photographers…?
A photograph is a combination of the entire team’s effort. Everyone is expected to bring in everything they have got to the table. I for one will always give my suggestions and am open to suggestions as well.
Tell us about the work-life balance of people in the entertainment industry? How do you handle pressure at work? If you were to change one thing in the industry what will that be?
Balance is everything. Work can get very hectic, and at the same time you cannot let it show on your face. You constantly have to be aware of how your body is feeling. You have to maintain a healthy diet to keep your energy levels high. My mantra is to do things that make me happy. I make time to paint or karaoke with my friends.
I also believe that mentally one has to be strong. There are times as a freelancer when you will be sitting at home without any work. My way of dealing with it is my ‘growth theory’. 😉
How do you boost your belief in yourself and at work?
At the risk of sounding cocky may I say that I love what I do and I would forgo anything to be in front of the camera. When you come from a place like that there is no space for self-doubt. When I enter a studio for a commissioned job or even for an audition, I feel excited and more importantly grateful for the opportunity.
Name the brands you are proud of endorsing? Do you have a dream product or brand you want to be associated with?
I am proud of all the brands I have endorsed, be it Enrich Salons, Parachute Hair Oil, Flipkart.com, Nirav Modi Jewellers besides ClearTrip. Each one of these brands has helped me grow.
Is getting dolled up in Indian traditional wear more tiring than the western shoots? Which one is your favorite – traditional or western? What’s your personal fashion statement?
I love Indian clothes. My mom wears the traditional silk sari with élan and I have always been in awe of her elegance. I love everything about Indian attire. But personally, my style is very boho chic. Leave me in Coachella and I am in paradise. 🙂
Fairness products are an estimated Rs.3000+ crore business in the country. How do you see this craving for fairer skin? Fashion industry does not seem to have any issue with the skin colour. How can they contribute to change this psyche?
If you have read my post on Instagram, you know that I detest this ‘craving for fair skin’. It’s not just in our fashion and advertising industry, this skin colour prejudice exists in our society. I believe advertising is nothing but a reflection of our society. Fairness is thus promoted for women aspiring to get married, to get a job and so on. Till the mind-set of the community that we live in does not change, this colour preference will always exist. Anyways, I love my #duskycolor. My #brownskin.
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A shout out to all the brown skin girls in my country …♥… from a young age i was always told to apply fairness creams , not to go out in the sun and take care of my skin color and not get darker !!! ..though this mad circus kept happening outside i loved my skin tone ! I love my brown ! …i din understand the need to change or improve it ! Accept yourself . LOVE YOURSELF EVEN IF THEY CANT SEE THE BEAUTY IN YOU . and then your so called weakness becomes ur biggest strength .. #model #modellife #bronzer #bronzeskin #smokeyeye #makeup #fashion #fashionmodel #photographers #fashionphotography #beautyphotography #fashionmakeup #conturemakeup #strong #brownskin #nudelips #modelscouters #nyc #london #india #beauty #editorial #editorialshoot #acceptyourself #believe
Your suggestion to people who want to stay fit but can’t keep up with their lives? What motivates you? How do you care for self? Your 5 best beauty tips?
Staying fit is a choice. When you want to do something, you find time to do it, otherwise you find excuses. ECGL: EAT CLEAN GET LEAN is my funda! I work out, maintain a healthy diet, make tons of friends and always wear a smile. Beauty tips? HMMM… drink plenty of water, eat right, love yourself, accept yourself and smile – the first thing when you wake up (even if you feel your world is falling apart). 🙂
Does your Instagram handle “@poochikittens” mean your love for cats?
My Insta handle is not ‘love for cats’. It’s ‘love for myself’ (no surprise there)! My pet name at home is ‘Pooch’, which means Cat in Malayalam….. 😀
Follow Priyanka Karunakaran on Instagram!
Interview by Wajendhar R Kulkarni.