annie nayyar: desert to catwalk

From being bullied in school to walking NYFW, we talk to Annie Nayyar about working with sketchy photographers, having confidence, and maintaining strong mental and physical health in the modelling industry.

What inspired you to pursue a modelling career? This is something you have been working towards for years.

I think I wanted to become a model since a very young age. I started off when I was 7 years old - little Annie posing for her sister’s project when she used to study Graphic Design in AUD, Maria Kohli. Then, I started modelling for my mom’s boutiques and I probably had my first show in Deira City Centre when I was 8. Then I gradually really started to like it and got signed with Diva Models which was one of the best agencies at the time.

I was always passionate about dancing, especially in high school. It was strange to see myself transition very fast into modelling. I think at first, in high school, I was doing it for quick money and then by senior year, I was very busy with work and had to miss half of school, but I still graduated with 80% which is quite impressive.

I was bullied in my early teens in high school probably since the 6th grade and it was probably because I went to an all girls school, but I remember I would always get in trouble with the principal, not because I necessarily did something, but just because of some pictures on Facebook. I don’t blame them. I was definitely less of a rebel the last 3 years of high school, but I wouldn't wish any girl the same. I learned not to care and just ignore people with negative vibes. We all choose what we want to be and I don’t think we should ever be judged for that.

This is another thing I learned during my trips in New York. The city was just an eye opener to be honest. Don’t ever judge anyone. Instead, try to put yourself in their shoes. Whoever it may be, a drug dealer, a prostitute, or a killer. There is no exception obviously, but not everyone grows up with fortunate parents and able to comprehend what is right or wrong. New York really fascinates me sometimes. You never know what may happen.

Do you notice a difference in the industry when working in different places? Going from Dubai to New York and Paris.

Yes, of course. Dubai is great, as it is where I have my consistent jobs, but I wouldn’t say it’s a lot of quality work. I can’t use a lot of my photos take in Dubai when in Europe because of the make up or photography.

Dubai has had a huge change in the fashion industry recently where a lot of high end editorials are shot here and thats great. I would say in New York or Paris, it’s always very professional. You will get a call time 1 hour before the job starts, everything is counted by the minute. Time is really valued in such cities while in Dubai, you can be shooting over 10 hours and that would be normal. Each market has its ups and downs.

There was a recent scandal on Marcus Hyde where he refused to work with a young aspiring model because she wouldn’t send nudes. A number of celebrities and other models have since spoken up on different incidents they experienced with the same photographer and others, well. What’s your point of view on this as a model who works with multiple photographers? Have you ever experienced this first hand? Do you have any advice for anyone who might get into a situation as such?

I personally have never experienced any sexual assault from any photographers. Yes, there were strange offers and weird people that you meet, but you just choose who to be associated with.

I remember the first time i arrived in New York in 2016, I went to see all the agencies and one of them was AIM Model Management owned by Nole Marin (ex judge of America’s Next Top Model). I was very excited and I needed an agency to sponsor my visa in the States which they were willing to do. The agency was mostly based on men’s division, but I thought that was not a bad idea, as I would stand out in the women's division. So, once I left the office and was waiting for Nole Marins to call the next day, he messaged me the same day at 9pm wanting to meet and I found that very sketchy, so I decided to Google him.

As soon as I typed in his name, all the bad news came up: sexually assaulted male models, models not paid, scumbag and what not. Then I said okay I will never message this person again. So, in our industry we will always have these people that we need to be aware of. We just need to be careful as models and understand the outcomes.

I had a situation with a photographer in Milan where my agency sent me for a test shoot with him and I had to take a train to another city. The photographer was nice, but was giving off very strange vibes such as shooting in his house and asking if I wanted to have a little bit of wine. I mean I'm there from an agency and he shoots most of the agency’s girls, but I knew how to position myself, so that it is done on a very professional level.

There were incidents where this photographer was trying with a couple of other models, but the agency would always say “oh don’t worry he is just like that“. Can you imagine a 16 year old girl? How will she protect herself?

My advice for models would be to try to look at the bigger picture and make sure they always check with model friends or the agency about any photographers wanting to shoot with them. In our business, it does still occur where there is an exchange of business, but the model has to think what is more valuable: your dignity or a one time gig.

You just walked for NYFW 2019 - how did you prepare for this and what has been your proudest moment in your career thus far?

NYFW is always super hectic. I have to come to New York with specific measurements which I naturally don’t have issues keeping. I always arrive about a month in advance to do all the castings and polaroids as well as new composites with my agency.

This is a composite:

My proudest moment is of course getting on, as it does really help casting directors see your previous work for future fashion weeks. It is a reputable website that represents all recognizable models all over the world and in order to be recognized, you need to have 4 clients that you have worked with within their database.

Of course, doing a couple of shows last season and this season was great. I am very thankful for my agency for believing in me and pushing me as one of the favourite girls: EMG Models

So far, the shows I have done in New York were Christiano Siriano, Cynthia Rowley, Flying Solo, Zang Toi, Alice and Olivia, Fashion Palette, Laquan Smith, Bevza, Leanne Marshall, Icy Official, Blancore, Parsons, Global Fashion Collective and many more.

For shows this season: click here

For shows last season: click here

Has your career ever put an impact on your mental health and body satisfaction? Do you have anything as part of your daily routine that helps you cope with the stigma, schedule, and stress?

I don’t think I ever had a problem with anorexia or bulimia. At some age, my body just started to stay the same no matter what I ate. I don’t think there was ever an impact on my body satisfaction.

I do workout almost everyday. as that helps me release stress. I do boxing, yoga, hot yoga, and HIIT just as I have particular measurements and therefore need stay lean in order not to build muscle. Eating healthy becomes a habit. When I’m in New York, I tend to walk a lot, so thats already a burner right there. In Dubai, I have to work harder on my body, as I drive everywhere and have less physical activity throughout the day unless I go to the gym or I’m working.

Mental health: maybe a little bit as it is very stressful going to castings and booking jobs. the competition is much higher in Europe and New York, so of course, I won’t lie, I did have several breakdowns especially in the beginning of my career in Milan. I didn't understand how the market worked or what the agency wanted from me. Now with more experience, I understand clients and what they need or I can get a hint of the look they go for.

I have become much more confident in myself that when I don’t book a show or a particular job that I was meant to, I just say it’s their loss. If you don’t believe in yourself and if you don’t tell yourself how freaking amazing you are, then who will?

Personal faith in my modelling is very important. You need to know you will get turned down the same amount of times as you get accepted. We are a product and it’s the client right to say ‘she’s not be right for us’. Well, if not their choice, I will be someone else’s. If a model is going to give unsure, negative vibes to clients then how will you attract them to book you?

Confidence level has to be 100% - people will talk and say ‘who does she think she is’, but it does not matter. As long as you bring confidence, fierceness and kindness, the job is yours.

Being humble is another big key to successful modelling in the long term. If you’re going to act like a diva and complain all the time because you think you’re some big shot then forget about making money. No client wants a whiny money model on set.

You have to be kind and humble to everyone - starting from dressers to designers. It doesn't matter. We are all human. whatever you achieved is great, but there is no need to use it in a way where you can come off as being self-centred.

What is your ultimate goal in the industry?

My ultimate goal is not to give up and try to achieve whatever is possible. I’m still very young. I’m only 22. I have changed drastically in my opinion and so, I’m going to pursue my career as long as I am earning money and studying.

I have been very smart about my money since I was very young which I highly recommend to all aspiring models. Save your money and don’t spend it on useless things. Think of the future, investments, and solid assets that can help you later.

Hopefully, in the future I’ll be able to have my own business, have more investments and one of my biggest dreams is to help people in need - the most would probably be for homelessness in New York. I have never really done charity work, but I really want to help people in need. I have a huge passion to get people on their feet. I am a very kind hearted person. If I see potential in someone, I will always help and try to give the best I can and expecting absolutely nothing in return just because I get a great feeling.

Finally, what’s your favourite type of cake?

My favourite type of cake is honey cake , can eat all day , all night !

Follow Annie on @annienayyar to stay up-to-date with shows. For Dubai bookings, visit MMG Models or Whilemina Dubai.

Images used are coutesy of MMG Models, Whilemina Dubai, and Annie Nayyar