Naomi Janumala stirred the media after she bagged the campaign for Fenty Beauty by Rihanna at the age of 19. She started out as a model at 16, represented by Anima Creatives in Mumbai and then eventually represented globally by New Madison Paris, Models1, Elite New York, Mirrrs Models and D Models. In a note to Papa Don’t Preach, she shares memories of starting out as a model, her career and how she’s gotten so comfortable with her melanin.
“I started modelling when I was 16 almost turning 17, still a girl who wasn’t confident in her own skin, still living and growing around the mentality that fair skin is better than dark, was hanging in there but I knew if I worked as a model I’d definitely be doing something to represent young brown girls and boys who feel the same. I started shooting in India for a year and then had my first international work trip to London in 2017 which exposed me to a couple of things, it was a different kind of freedom but I actually felt open, confident and independent when I went to New York for the first time ever in 2018 and stayed there for a year.
My life turned 360° when I shot with designers and brands like Matthew Adams, Alexander Wang, Adidas, Nordstrom, Nike, American Eagle, Levis, H&M and gave me inexplicable exposure to the industry and proper work experience whilst learning new things every day.
After having worked for a year and a half, I travelled to Germany, Paris, Greece and London in April 2019 and that’s when I got a call for Fenty and we shot the campaign in Paris. It dropped in June and blew up in India! I now had a platform to be vocal about the racism and my struggles growing up as a brown girl in India to show that brown is BEAUTIFUL and let them know that they’re not alone.
I want to do how much ever I can and advocate for brown is beautiful. In India, there still hasn’t been much improvement, people still get bullied for being dark, making people feel insecure for the way they are, own family members suggesting creams and home remedies to brighten up your skin. There are commercials that say, ‘You won’t get married if you’re dark’; the fact that dark skin is very conveniently labelled as dull is all ridiculous. I always come across so many messages on Instagram from people saying that my work inspires them and makes them feel better about themselves, and as a model, if my work inspires even a small crowd of girls and boys, makes them feel comfortable and even a little confident about their skin colour, I just know I’m going the right way and I’m here to go a long way!”