Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Behind the pretty pictures...

Nivedita is the tallest girl in her class. The paedia trician has joked - on more than one occasion - "Your daughter could be a supermodel".

Not that I take his remarks seriously - coz it's his job to make me feel good about my kid. But objectively speaking, I guess this is one of the choices that may be available to her. And as an advocate of 'choose the profession' you love, I'd be the last person to stand in her way.

Yet, I would not actively encourage her, or actually push her into it. Chiefly because of certain lifestyle issues. Of course, it's up to each individual to resist or desist but the company you keep can make it harder.

This, at least, is the impression I got after reading 'Cocaine Diary', the chilling account of a top model who got hooked to cocaine and went through hell and back. The account was published in HT's Sunday magazine 'Brunch'(dt Jun 18, 2006).

Again, I am not saying all models are cokeheads. But forget the cocaine - there are other issues related to this artificial life under the arclights that the article highlights. Here are some thoughts that came to mind as I read it

"When I was came to Delhi with the idea of pursuing a career in modelling, I was all of 16. Living on my own with no parents to boss around me was a big high. Late night movies, club hopping and getting sloshed - having shot after shot of tequila - became part of my lifestyle. Since I was getting work, money wasn't really a problem".

Now many 16 year olds leave home to study in colleges far from home. They live in hostels and revel in their new found 'freedom'. But, there are some limits to the amount of freedom they get. And money, for sure.

Substitute that with a carte blanche - no grades, no limits, 'spend as much money as you want'. It would take a very determined and principled 16 year old 'handle it'!Call me middle class, or old fashioned, but I would not 'trust' my kid to that extent.

But... how many times can you get sloshed after all? I took to smoking by bumming cigarettes off my fellow models even as I waited for interminable fitting and makeup sessions. Today, I am a regular smoker and easily smoke two packs of Marlboro Lights a day. Besides, it kills hunger pangs and helps me stay slim. Just when I feel the need to bite into a cheesy burger, I light up and forget about it.

The 'body' issues just don't go away, do they? A model may be the toast of the town but too insecure to eat like a normal person or at least have the occassional treat, knowing it can be worked off!

It was during an out-of-town show that I had my first encounter with grass and hash. Hash is great to chill out with. It seems to lend wings to hour after hour of tiresome photoshoots.

That's the second time she's mentioned photoshoots being 'tiresome'. If you ask me, modelling is no different then from investment banking. There's glamour, there's money but the job is not necessarily fulfilling.

After more than five years in the modelling business, I can say that smoking dope is no big deal. Every other girl does it. Just hit backstage during a show and sniff the air. You can smell the thick sweet aroma of hashish all around...

...Nowadays, fashion photographers like the deadpan expression on models’ faces. And when I am stoned, I manage to give that look in just a few takes. It comes naturally.

Well, I have long wondered - is an expressionlessness an expression? At least now we know the secret behind it!

Being a successful model, you get invited to these parties and that’s where I popped some pills, like Xtacy. Just for the heck of it... It’s good when you go out raving.

Soon after, I did my first line – a line of cocaine. This was at a nightclub in a five star hotel. My friends knew this pretty infamous peddler and I knew they were hustling the stuff. I had this strong urge to try it out and joined the gang.

I huddled in the loo with my friends and the pro amongst us took out the stuff from a plastic pouch, put it on the commode seat and using her credit card, made four lines out of it. We snorted a line each.

And so it goes on...

With three lines on my first coke binge, things got a little too much and I passed out after lots of dancing and vodka shots. From then, cocaine became a part of my life...

A cocaine peddler as a boyfriend made me a cokehead, graduating from half a gram every two days to almost a gram a day. Life for me then meant doing just enough work to earn enough money to do coke. My mind never travelled beyond that.

...I knew that cocaine was all shit and its consequences were terrible. But I consoled myself by saying, ‘I am doing it only so long as I am in this trade. After all, modelling is a short-term career. I am just a rookie, not a cokehead.

Do I look like a junkie (though I really did)? No way!’ I worked out like a maniac at the gym. The days I felt like skipping the gym, I would do a row and then go and pump up the adrenaline. Cocaine became the solution to everything.

To cut a long story short, the girl lost her friends, her contracts and woke up one day to realise she was a complete mess. She flew back to her family in London and was put into rehab.

When my eyes opened, I was in a hospital and the faces of my mom and dad gave it all away. I was sure they had discovered my addiction. My fears came true. My mom gently held my hand and said the most comforting words, ‘Baby, I’ll take you out of this hell. I promise you.’

My dad sat on the other edge of the bed and just hugged me and cried and then, after controlling himself, said, ‘Darling, now everything will be all right.’ Unlike what I thought, they were not scolding me. They never asked me how I got into that hell of coke addiction, they just gave me hope. I was overwhelmed and wept like a baby.

I must say, it takes a lot of strength for a parent to deal with such a situation. And although I did start by laying some of the blame on them, at this stage pointing fingers becomes pointless. One has to accept, forgive, fight out and forge on.

Time moved on... I now wanted to get back into shape so I started jogging and cycling. I began looking fresh and better and also put on some weight in the right places. I never ever dreamt that I would go back to modelling, but my father said, ‘You have to go back and win the confidence of those people whom you had disappointed. You have to make it to the top.’

It was so touching. He still had so much trust and faith in me that he didn’t want to stop me from chasing my dreams.

So the girl returned, but although she got work again it wasn't easy...

At the India Fashion Week, I could see and feel the negative vibes from fellow models. At lunch and dinner, nobody would sit at the table I sat at and I could hear the murmurs and snide remarks.

...Today, I am doing well professionally. I have made up with my friends. I do yoga everyday, I have also become very spiritual... I am lucky to have got a second chance, not everyone does. Life is precious, so handle it with care.

Assuming the story hasn't been 'spiced up' it's a rather chilling account not just of cocaine addiction but the seamier side of a very high profile profession.

Although models may make pretty pictures, their lifestyle certainly doesn't. And that is something rarely brought up by the media which has placed those pretty faces with ultra slim bodies on a pedestal.

The story was narrated to Jaydeep Ghosh, the identity of the model remains undisclosed but guessable. . One hopes her name was not revealed for privacy reasons and not because it spoilt a fairytale ending.

Because rehab is fine, but can one stay clean? Is it possible to return to a profession where temptation apparently lurks and beckons at every corner?? The jury is still out on that...

From an interview in TOI on Jun 11 2006:

Rumours about model Shivani Kapur's relapse into drug abuse and her subsequent hospitalisation in Mumbai have been doing the rounds.

TOI: You put yourself and your family through a lot of pain when you got into drugs. Any regrets?

Shivani Kapur: Yes, I was into drugs...It was a serious problem that I went through. But I don't regret my drug abuse phase, though I feel terrible for putting my family through it.

The woman I am today is because of my past life. My drug abuse phase taught me a lot about life.

I sincerely hope so, because we all need to believe in second chances. Good luck and keep the faith. While others remain in denial... But for how long?

pic: from Kingfisher calendar 2003


  1. Whenever you feel your daughter would like to be a model some day, send her the link to this blog post. It will help her. :)

    I don't know if you a are going to do that, but I'll surely do that!

  2. Hi Rashmi,

    Your blog seems to marry the two :--modelling and Cocaine :-)

    As far as people getting into it are concerned,it totally depends on the individual.....why only talk about drugs,lets talk about smoking simply and for that matter,why only models,why not the youth in general...
    the teens in graduation,who get hooked on to smoking just as an aftermath of 'giving it a try'...its the individual who has to keep a check on himself,after-all people cannot be there with you all the time...
    and rehab again cannot happen unless the individual is really more than willing to go for it.

    People who once travel to US become potential immigrants,similar is the case with drugs and smoking,
    people who get into them once,become potential addicts....

    On a humorous note and a slight tangent...there are people around me who smoke a lot,
    (some a packet a day and others even more !!),I keep telling them all the time,to never to go for an x-ray..
    and they keep asking me why...and the reason they get it quite obvious

    "If they happen to see that foggy picture of their lungs,they will die of a cardiac arrest,before the lungs giving up"

    And in that case ,they don't fail to remind me of that ad of Marlborough

    "50,000 people died of smoking last year,but the rest of them are just doing fine" !!!!

  3. If it makes you feel any better,used to be the tallest kid in my class but at 5'3" just stopped growing. :P
    In any case not all models are cokeheads as you say and if people value themselves body,mind and soul addiction will be the last thing on their minds.

  4. very well intricated.. and probably many are addicted... but this doesen't mean all are so... there r some ethical ppl...

  5. Very well written. A conservative point of view so well rightly put. Happy to see this, I am a little bit right-of-center conservative (in the context of culture)

    All those people who think that drugs are cool etc should read this. And realize that they will be parents one day. Ok, they might not bother about what their own parents feel, but they might face this themselves one day when they become parents.

    Now, the feminazis who cry foul at the drop of the hat, should know that when their parents do not favour them in modelling or acting careers, these are the precise fears they have.

  6. rashmi,

    unfortunately so many people smoke/do drugs to keep up with the crowd, or as in the advertising parlance-'to belong' and worse still i have found that group that smokes is actually closer and gets on better than non-smokers and in a set up where there is so much of interdependence, it hurts a non smoker/doper. he will always feel out of the group.

    and secondly, being a libertariain doesn't mean you allow you kids any choice, even if it means sipping Poison'. i totally agree with you on this.

  7. Hi,

    Super Model Naomi Cambell is dark/black - almost always she is to be found in the extreme left in any photoshot of a group of models. Such acts when repeated over a period of time there is a sense of being bitched - no mater the amount of money or fame that affects one's health. For some(emotionally uncomfortable with their situation) it might even lead to a journey of addiction.

    I believe one's own comfortable sense of identity complimented by a supportive friends-circle or family can help in allievating such problems.

    Lastly but more importantly(while there is absolutely no denying the virtues of silence or solitude) one has to speak so many words every day.

    Speak! Speak! Speak!

    Remember you are the Hero of your story.

  8. Hi Rashmi,

    One of the most serious and moving articles I have read!!!...and your conviction in asking people to talk this out with kids who aspire..is worth reading. Though nothing related to cocaine..., I would definetely take this weblog as a lead...and talk to my kid when the time comes...!!

    the article-inside-the-article....was very touchy and depicted stark realism...much like watching Madhur Bhandarkar's Page 3.....is he listening???...there seems to be a story worth telling in this article...particularily because there lies a future for such people...that is for people who want to change...It takes a lot of courage to get back into the same place without the same mess...hard....

    A worthy reading for my day!!!

    thanks for this!!!

  9. Rashmi,

    I'd never have come across the HT article if it weren't for your post.Was kind of eye-opening.

    Nevertheless,I feel this post could have done without the pic of the-model-whose-identity-remains-undisclosed-but-guessable.

    You're not giving her a second chance are you?

  10. Am new to blogistan.Seems it is where the real Hindustan lives.Was moved by the sad story of the model and the emotive rendition of the article.Afterall when you start thinking of your children, you seem to think more rationally,even though at the risk of being labelled a "conservative"
    And pray...cant we build responsible institutions who can actually do what our elected and unelected institutions are not doing.Filmwallahs say they produce what people ask for,News channels have become scurrying rats with absolutely no sense of responsibility. the newspapers are not being read and the bookshelves are giving place to coke bottles.
    In this age of information should there be representative institutions of CONSCIENCE.:-) Conscience needs company so do all other human virtues.Anybody listening......

  11. Anonymous9:15 AM

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  12. Anonymous8:40 AM

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  13. Anonymous8:07 AM

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