Nepali fashion model Anjali Lama walked in 20 shows at Mumbai’s fashion week last week, becoming the first transgender model to take part in the event as part of the usual troupe of models.
Ms. Lama, 32, in December beat more than 120 others to win a competition to take part in the Lakmé Fashion Week, or LFW, in Mumbai.
But her journey there wasn’t easy. She was born into a farming family in Nuwakot, a district north west of Kathmandu, Nepal, the fifth child of seven siblings.
“My father always wanted a daughter because he had four sons before that. I was also born as a boy,” Ms. Lama, who was named as Nabin Wabia, said.
“But as I kept growing, my behavior started changing. I started behaving like a girl. I was dressed like a boy. So everyone in the family and in the village started teasing me. I felt mentally tortured. I used to wonder, ‘Why am I like this?’” she said.
After moving to the capital Kathmandu for further studies, and being fired from a job at a hotel, Ms. Lama came into contact with the Blue Diamond Society, an LGBT community group in Nepal.
“That’s where I got to know that I’m a transgender. That people like me are called transgenders,” she said. Then in 2009, she was featured on the front of the Voice of Women, a Nepalese magazine and her modeling career began.
“As I kept modelling, I came to be known as Nepal’s first transgender model,” she said.
Things still weren’t easy. Ms. Lama found herself being rejected by casting agents.
“I would directly ask the judges, ‘Why didn’t I get selected?’ The organizers would tell me: ‘They know you’re a transgender, so they don’t want you as a model.’ I felt very sad, it was disheartening. But I kept trying,” she said.
It was during Ms. Lama’s third try that she was successful in securing a place on the catwalk. Last week in Mumbai, she walked on runways for Indian designers including Tarun Tahiliani and Anita Dongre.
“I think the acceptance hasn’t been full. It is just the beginning,” she said. “I think some transgender people are feeling more empowered than before.”
–Karan Deep Singh contributed to this article.
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