New Delhi: They are pretty, raring to go and make a splash on the international scene every now and then. So what`s stopping Indian women from making it to the Forbes top-earning models list?
Fashion industry watchers say many odds are stacked against Indian models.
Anjana Sharma, director Fashion, IMG Reliance, blames it on a late start. "Part of the reason is that models in India generally start modelling post-college - when they are 20 years or older, which in the international context means they are already over the hill," Sharma told reporters.
Foreign models generally are discovered in their teens, she said, "and by the time they reach their 20s, they have years of experience under their belt. For example, Brazilian model Gisele Bundchen started modelling at 14, Kate Moss was also discovered at 14 and by 16 she was a known face.
Gisele Bundchen has been topping the Forbes top-earning models list for the past seven years. German model Heidi Klum and English model Kate Moss have been holding on to second and third positions respectively for three years. But not a single Indian model has been featured on the prestigious list so far.
"Often the biggest barrier to discovering models in India at a young age is their parents` unwillingness to let them leave their studies to model," Sharma said.
Model-turned-actress Aishwarya Rai endorsed many international brands after winning the Miss World crown in 1994, but her earning was not enough to find her a place on Forbes highest earning model list.
The same was the case with Sushmita Sen and Lara Dutta, who won Miss Universe titles in 1994 and 2000 respectively.
However, in 2009, Aishwarya featured on the Forbes list at the 387th position as India`s most bankable star, while her male counterpart Aamir Khan and Shah Rukh were at 540th and 735th positions respectively.
Veteran model Acquain Pais said, "The reason behind an Indian model not making it to the Forbes list is the changing scenario in the modelling industry. We are not professionally strong. (Abroad) They make one size clothes and it`s up to the models whether they fit into the garments or not. Here the sizes are modified according to the size of a model and this is a big difference."
When it comes to remuneration, Indian girls get peanuts in comparison to the pay packages of international models.
Sharma said that an aspiring model gets around Rs.8,000-Rs.10,000 per show. A top model with over 10 years of experience receives Rs.30,000-Rs.40,000 per show. Models generally increase their rates every year by Rs.2,000 or Rs.3,000.
On the other hand models in the West become billionaires in their teens through ramp shows and endorsements. Bundchen earned about $25 million from June 2009 to June 2010 through ramp shows and endorsements; Heidi Klum took home $16 million and Kate Moss pocketed $9 million.
The Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry of India (Assocham) reported that the Indian fashion industry, driven by increasing investments, is expected to reach Rs.7.5 billion by 2012, more than double its current size of Rs.2.9 billion.
But the Indian modelling industry offers a short-lived career with only a certain age group of people getting opportunities, says Hasleen Kaur, Femina Miss India Earth 2011.
"We have models like Laxmi Menon, Ujjwala Raut and Madhu Sapre who made it big in the international market, but despite that Indians are not highly recommended internationally.
"Also, our lifestyle is completely different from that of international models who are paid highly for every project, which is not the case here," she concluded pointing out that after reaching a certain age, 32 years or so, models start exploring other career options.
She is not wrong - Pais has his own event management company called Butter, Diandra Soares, seen in the fourth season of ‘Khatron Ke Khiladi’, is a shoe designer and also a make-up artist.
Sheetal Mallar, one of the most sought after names in the modelling world, is an experienced photographer, while Shamita Singha is a trained wine taster.