The Telegraph
Thursday , November 3 , 2016

Global girls on a local cause


Calcutta is not the usual stop for top international models. Some would say not the usual stop for top anyone. But on Wednesday, the first albino model ever signed by a major model agency, who has walked for brands like Vivienne Westwood and Jean Paul Gaultier, was most certainly in Calcutta. Diandra Forrest was busy conducting a beauty, wellness, fitness and style workshop, with Metro sitting in.

Organised by the Calcutta-based NGO New Light, which works to fight human trafficking and woman and child abuse, along with the New York-based Beauty for Freedom, that works to raise awareness and funds for organisations who fight human trafficking, the day-long workshop at The Park saw around 40 young people, both girls and boys, from New Light and Destiny Foundation, learning about living healthy and beauty - both inside and outside.

"Lavanyashakti, as the workshop has been titled, is about expanding and exploring all aspects of beauty and focuses on nutrition, fitness, skin, hair, grooming and make-up. But underneath it all it is about realising and appreciating your inner beauty," said Urmi Basu, the founder of New Light.

Diandra, along with Monica Watkins, a Ford model and the founder-director of Beauty for Freedom, and Suwana Perry, model and founder and co-owner of clothing brand Trillion Watts, took the young people present through the make-up, beauty, fashion and grooming sessions for the day.

While practical tips like the need for sun block, natural remedies for skin and hair were dished out and discussed, many other issues were touched upon by the panel which also included former city models Pinky Kenworthy and Tina Mukherjee.

"We are all of different shades and we should celebrate instead of being upset about our skin tones," said Diandra at the session on skin which brought out the aspiration for fairer skins among the participants. The issue was close to the African-American albino model's heart as she was teased as a child for her unconventional beauty till fashion came calling.

"Being a role model or having a role model is very important. We are all the product of our environments and if we have people in that environment working towards uplifting people, that good energy rubs off on us and makes us the kind of person we become," said Diandra, who is now actively involved in raising awareness about albinism.

The workshop also saw Rachel Thompson, a certified yoga practitioner from Australia, take the participants through asanas to strengthen their inner core, Tina teach a few easy-to-do workouts to stay fit, and Urmi talk about healthy eating habits. Photographer Shaun Mader, an ambassador for Beauty for Freedom, documented the day's event through his camera.

"This was about beauty and well-being and empowerment but what we wanted to have expressed through it is that beauty is from the inside and that it is also really beautiful to give back to your community in some way or to cultivate other people's happiness," said Monica, who started Beauty for Freedom two years ago.

Self-esteem issues were also addressed with Diandra, Monica and Suwana talking about how you can teach people how to treat you by how you treat yourself. "Young women all over the world go through challenges, both internal and external beauty issues. Even the most beautiful people, like models and actresses, have self-esteem issues, so sharing about our own issues and insecurities just brings us together like one. It is about strengthening each other and leaning on each other," said Diandra. "Sharing is beautiful. If you learn something teach it to someone else," added Suwana.

The workshop is part of a 21-day art programme by New Light and Beauty for Freedom. "I can't tell you how happy being part of this made me," said Diandra. "Just this experience of meeting all these women and the children and young men during the workshops has inspired me to go back home and do more," said Monica.

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