A law student from the city of Pune, Vaishnavi Patwardhan‘s life took a U-turn when she decided to take up modeling as a career. What followed was an exhilarating journey through the world of beauty pageants, fashion, and films. Vaishnavi shares tidbits from her life as a working model and an actress in this candid interview.
When did you first get inclined towards the entertainment industry?
I never thought about becoming a model or an actress growing up, but I suppose it was always at the back of my mind. Back then, MTV used to have a show called Teen Diva. I would be glued to the TV when it would air. Any kind of beauty pageant or modeling shows would excite me. I would re-enact them in front of the television set. These are the anecdotes my mom tells me now, but I never thought of pursuing it until Miss India happened.
Which college did you go to? What were you initially pursuing?
I am still in the process of finishing law from Fergusson College, Pune. I took a two-year gap when work started pouring in. I liked studying law, but there was always an inkling that I wanted to do something else. I am not someone who can sit in one place the whole day or be happy with an office job. This made me skeptical about my future in law.
How did you move towards modeling from there?
I first started blogging while I was still in college. I used to post basic content, but my interest in modeling grew from there. One day my mom told me about the Miss India auditions happening in Pune. On a whim, I decided to give it a try. I didn’t have the first clue about modeling, but I felt quite confident looking around. I thought I could fit into this world. It came as an utter surprise when I was kicked out in the first round itself. Everything just came crumbling down. This was a major wake-up call for me. I decided not to give up and come better prepared next time.
How did you kick start your preparations?
After this experience, I decided to get formal training for the pageant. I trained with renowned pageant coach Ritika Ramtri. She runs the most prominent pageant training school in India. When I first met her, she admired my confidence but noticed that I was extremely raw. She told me there were ten odd things I needed to work on if I wanted to be serious about this. From external aspects like hair, makeup, and fitness to internal factors such as conducting myself and making conversation, everything had to be refined. I trained with her for over a year and gave Miss India auditions again. I was selected this time.
How was your experience competing for Femina Miss India? What did you take back from the pageant?
I took a lot from Miss India. Most of the contestants had done modeling professionally. I was the only one who was completely new. Everyone around would give me tips and tricks. I used to write it all down. I realize now that I needed a little more experience to get to the top three, but Miss India gave me clarity that I wanted to do pursue modeling professionally. This realization itself was worthwhile.
What, according to you, does the title of Miss India stand for?
It is the tiny details that make you ‘Miss India’ material. A lot of girls don’t understand this, but your entire thought process needs to change. It is not merely about looking pretty and wearing fancy clothes. Miss India stands for compassion, honesty, and philanthropy. Pageant training is essentially training for life. What I learned during that time will always stay with me. It has made me a better person.
We have often seen you use your platform to advocate for social causes. Is that important for you?
I feel very passionately about philanthropy. Even before I went for Miss India, I have worked with an NGO as a project coordinator for five years. I try to incorporate community work in my life as much as I can. Talking about important issues like girl child education and environmental conservation are just the first steps.
Speaking of social causes, do you think movements like #MeToo and #TimesUp have made a difference in the entertainment industry?
Definitely, they have made a huge difference. I have seen a lot of things change in the industry in the past couple of years. Models and actresses are now standing up for what they believe in. They are not afraid of anybody. Even some big names in the industry have been punished for their actions. You see this having an impact on day-to-day life as well. For example, people are now more careful about the language they use on sets. It is refreshing to see the change.
You have done multilingual projects. Was that a challenge?
When I moved to Bombay, the first feedback I got was that my Hindi sounded like Marathi. To overcome that, I did theatre for six months. I had a personal tutor who would sit with me for an hour every day, trying to take the accent out of my Marathi (chuckles).
Doing a film in Telugu was a different challenge altogether. Luckily, I have always been good at picking up languages. I would carefully pay attention to everyone on set. I would take notes on the way they speak, their enunciation, and tonality. It was challenging but also exciting.
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Here's the motion poster for my Telugu Debut movie "Sadha Nannu Nadipe" Can't wait for this beautiful love story to be out there for you all to watch 🌹 Title track beautifully sung by @savanieeravindrra #RPmoviemakers @pratheekprem777 @naveenneni @mahesh_achanta @sravyamru #BLESSED
You have done a feature film called Raja Abroadiya. How was that experience different from doing commercials or music videos?
An ad is a day’s work; a music video takes two days. You don’t have to keep it hanging in your life for long. A feature film is something you have to pour your heart and soul into. It takes over your life; the team turns into a family. I learned a lot about the process of film making during the shoot of Raja Abroadiya. I would assist on the set even when I did not have scene. I am also in the process of shooting a Telugu feature film currently. I love working on long term projects.
What are some advertisements you have enjoyed working in?
A lot of work goes into an ad. It might be a day’s work for me, but the team works on it for months. I have done some interesting advertisements like Livon Serum, Godrej Interior, Chandrika Hair Oil, and Kalyan Jewelers. I recently shot an ad for Max fashion and INOX; I have also done a YouTube Video for Garnier. I am lucky to have gotten the opportunity to work on such diverse projects.
Having actualized your dream, what is your advice for women out there who want to do the same?
We are told our entire lives how we are supposed to live. The norm is to study until you are 21, find a job for a couple of years, get married, have kids, cook, and take care of your family. I was stuck in this thought cycle for a long time. I felt like I had to be an ideal girl that everybody approved of. I want all women to know that you don’t have to do that. There is no perfect or ideal way of life. Just do what makes you happy. Don’t let anyone hold you back.
– Interviewed by Prachi Shevgaonkar