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Walking tall

She has had the world at her feet. And now after a break of three years, supermodel Ujjwala Raut is making a comeback to modelling with ramp appearances at the Mumbai and Delhi fashion weeks. She’s going from one fashion show to another with her three-month-old baby. Ujjawla has shed the 20kg that she gained during her pregnancy and is looking as lithe as ever.

Losing the baby fat has, however, not been a cakewalk. It has involved a strenuous fitness regime that required Raut to work out two hours for four-five days a week with her instructor in New York. Add in an hour of kickboxing to tighten the stomach muscles and an hour of cardio-vascular exercises. And needless to mention, a strict high-protein diet, without potatoes, pasta, rice and fried food.

“I never needed to exercise before this. From 49kg, my weight shot up to 70kg during my pregnancy. But then so many women have lost weight barely two months after pregnancy that I was sure I could do it too,” she says.

Raut has no hesitation talking about the troubles she faced over the last few months. “My hormones went crazy and I had a lot of pimples. Water and fruit did the trick,” she says.

The subject of the conversation, two-month old Ksha (which means the letter K in Scottish), is fast asleep in her cheerful yellow cot while Raut and her husband, Craig scout the Japanese menu at The Enoki in The Grand, Delhi. “I must confess that I’ve travelled a lot with her, from New York to Paris to India. So much so that Ksha has been sleeping most of the time,” she jests.

Taking care of her three-month-old baby ensures that Raut limits herself to two or three shows a day. “But my husband loves being with her. Even though we have a babysitter, he will turn to me after some time and say that he’s been missing her. As for her, she’s completely daddy’s daughter,” she says fondly.

The 28-year-old model has recently taken on a new role as brand ambassador for fashion label Provogue. The deal is the first in the country after a five-year gap. “It is well-established and fits my international bracket. I like to see myself on the billboards here,” she says.

Her decision to walk the ramp in India at the Lakm' Fashion Week and the Wills Lifestyle India Fashion Week after a five-year hiatus can probably be attributed to the growing international profile of Indian fashion. Explains Raut, “People are sitting up and noticing what our designers are doing. There is so much happening on the Indian fashion scene that I just had to be a part of it.”

The 5’10” model has always had a knack of carrying herself with elan, even though she was always “tall and skinny”. “It was my elder sister who recognised my potential and, which is why I am where I am today,” she says. Born and brought up in Dahisar, Mumbai, Raut makes no bones about her upbringing ' a strict middle-class one. She says, “My father was an assistant commissioner of police. We were five sisters and it was always a fight for us to get what we wanted. Because whatever we wanted, the answer was no.”

The big break came when she was just 17. The year was 1996 and the event was the Miss India pageant, which was to change things overnight for this Mumbai girl. “I remember paying Rs 10,000 for the contest, which was a big sum in those days. Also the event was just a day before my birthday. It was difficult,” reminisces Raut who won the Look Of The Year award at the pageant. She’s quick to point out the huge difference that the presence of people like Hemant Trivedi and choreographer Lubna Adams made in her life.

“They fought for me. In the industry itself, it was tough. The older models would bully me, except for those like Madhu Sapre and Noyonika Chatterjee. Madhu would urge me to go abroad,” she says.

Her first international assignment was in Nice, France, where she made it to a list of top 15 models at the Elite Model Look of The Year contest. It was kind of an eye-opener in more ways than one. It was Raut’s first winter in France and, secondly, she came across girls from all over the world. “I can’t forget how cold it was there. As for meeting models from all over the world, it was an experience in itself. You would not think of getting along with the others, but you eventually did,” she says.

Back home, she was facing opposition from her parents who didn’t like the idea of her working abroad. Says Raut, “At times you have to make sacrifices to get what you really want. My parents weren’t happy initially, but now they’re pretty chilled out. Things change.”

Today Raut has an enviable portfolio, having coming into the spotlight internationally after walking the ramp for Manuel Angaro and Tom Ford. She has walked the ramp for Angelo Tarazzi, Paco Rabanne, Claude Montana and Chanel and campaigned for Dolce & Gabbana and Gap among many other international brands. She has also graced the covers of magazines like Vogue, Harper’s Bazaar, Marie Claire, Italian Glamour and L’Officiel.

If her profession was taking Raut places, her personal life blossomed when she met Scottish film producer Craig Maxwell Sterry in France. “The night we met, he told a close friend, ‘I’ve just met my wife’,” says Raut. The couple originally wanted to elope, but they gave in and exchanged vows surrounded by a few close friends in June, 2004. The venue was the posh New York penthouse of musician David Bowie and his supermodel wife, Iman.

It was a YSL wedding. Besides the fact that Raut was the face of Yves Saint Laurent cosmetics for 2004, she was also the first Indian to bag the assignment. So her wedding dress was a baby pink YSL gown and her groom donned an all-YSL outfit from his white jacket and lilac shirt to black pants. However what was missing was the bride’s family due to the short notice. “But I got pregnant after that. I’d love a traditional Maharashtrian wedding though. My parents were a bit sad. Pray for me that I can have my Indian wedding,” says Raut with a twinkle in her eye.

Though based in New York, Raut is busy doing up a house in Alconda, Goa. The reason being that she wants her daughter “to see where she comes from”. But Raut may have other plans up her sleeve. She’s taking acting classes in New York. She says, “It’s so much more difficult than modelling where one just needs to look gorgeous without saying a word. I want to act in foreign films and Indian ones as well, if something worthwhile comes up.” Does that sound familiar'

Photograph by Jagan Negi

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