‘This is hardly the pinnacle of my career’

The industry did not have a lot of Northeastern models when I initially started. No one was absolutely ignorant of how to understand our subjects, you know…writes N. LOTHUNGBENI HUMTSOE

Ever so often people earn accolades of the wunderkind, here’s a story of a young girl, Andrea Kevichusa, a Nagaland native, who made headlines with her debut film Anek. She comes from Nagaland’s Angami and Ao tribes, and her career in the fashion industry began when she was scouted at the age of 15 and signed with Anima Creative Management, at the age of 16.

No stranger to being in front of a camera Andrea’s popularity rose at a young age with her appearing in editorials for magazines including Vogue India, Harper’s Bazaar, Elle, Grazia, and Femina, among others. She talks about her shift from model to actor and her life experiences…

Can you briefly describe your modelling phase and what it was like?

AK: When my mother agency spotted me in 2016 on Instagram after seeing a photo of mine, I was 15 years old at the time. And when they contacted me, it was evident that I wanted to accept their offer; however, at the time, I was still a student and lived in Kohima. Additionally, I had no true modelling knowledge. So, yes. We briefly discussed it when they informed me that we are a Bombay-based agency. I simply left it there after that. They then kind of stayed in touch and started following me on Instagram after that. And I started doing a couple of shots when I became 16 years old. I was contacted for a Harper’s Bazaar editorial.

Anima Creative Management travelled to Kohima in Nagaland to meet with my family where they described the process. A few months later, I made the decision to move forward. For the first few years, I worked on it concurrently with my studies. It went like this: during my winter and summer breaks, I would relocate to Mumbai, stay there for approximately two weeks, then return to school.

And what inspired you to pursue it as a career?

AK: At 18 when I finished high school, I made the decision to take a gap year gap and relocate to Bombay with the idea of making my dream come true. It was also at this time that I was offered the part in Anek.

What were your early career challenges?

AK: I didn’t really know many people when I moved to Bombay because there weren’t many Northeastern residents compared to Delhi. So I had to do everything by myself, although I believe that was a significant hurdle.

The industry did not have a lot of Northeastern models when I initially started. No one was absolutely ignorant of how to understand our subjects, you know. In that case, I would say that the path was already paved, but I believe-and I always believe this-that I entered the field at a very favourable period. As a result, things were improving, and now the business as a whole is considerably more diverse than it was when I first entered it. This includes anything from more plus-size models to more people of all backgrounds and ethnicities. There was still a lot of tokenism, that you were only there because you were different-looking. However, that has changed lately.

People’s stigmatisation of the word “Northeast” is nothing new. Have you ever been turned down by modelling scouts or treated differently because of your appearance?

AK: No, because, as I already stated, I was usually in a very professional setting. Of course, I encountered this in my professional life, just as in any other, but I wouldn’t necessarily blame it on my physical look. You know, like when weird street callers phone us and stuff like that. However, I did not experience any embarrassment in my professional life. Of course, some people are ignorant. And they don’t know where you’re from, or you don’t know, but other than that, no.

Children are usually the ones who tease. So there’s a school nearby where I reside. So every time I leave my building to go anywhere, I have to brace myself. It was the worst when Covid first started. It’s a small child, so you can’t fight back. However, I believe it is better in Mumbai.

Walk me through your shift from model to actor.

AK: I didn’t actually audition for my part. Anek’s film director was looking up fresh faces and other information on the internet, and the director of the film saw my photos on Instagram, which is how I got cast.

My agent texted me one evening a few months after I arrived in Bombay, saying there’s a movie and they want to meet you, I assumed it was an audition, and I’d gone to advertising auditions before, there’s a long line of people you have to wait your turn and stuff like that. So I had no idea what, who, or what else was going on. Aside from that, they kept things low-key.

I went to the meeting the next day, and to my surprise, it was only myself. They merely told me that they were going to film and that they wanted me to play the female protagonist, who would be a boxer. I wasn’t physically accustomed to it all, and I was terrified at first. I didn’t know anyone who had recently transitioned from modelling to anything, so I didn’t know who to talk to, and I was pretty intimidated, but just like anything else, I took my time to plot in since it was a good opportunity, and that’s how everything got done.

Now that you’ve been introduced to the Bollywood industry, how do you intend to balance the two professions?

AK: Although I believe I am open to acting, modelling will continue to play a significant role in my life. I had a great experience acting, and because I am highly adaptable in my experiences, I am open to anything that arises.

Have you signed up for any upcoming films? And who would you like to co-star with in the future?

AK: Working with someone from the Northeast would be fantastic for me, in my opinion. I believe we have a large pool of outstanding actors, and working with them would be extremely intriguing.

Everyone measures success differently… what according to you is success?

AK: This is hardly the pinnacle of my career, in my opinion. For everything I’ve done thus far, I believe I should be extremely proud of myself. And everyone has been really helpful to me in my life and on my trip thus far. Despite the fact that I am currently enjoying my career, I do not believe this to be its zenith.

What advice would you give to young people who want to be trailblazers?
AK: I would advise leaving your comfort zone and trying new things, and this is coming from someone who has never really been outside of their comfort zone. Even if you try it and are rejected afterward, you will at least feel satisfied in knowing that you tried it and were not successful. Because you never know your boundaries, I believe that you should always make an effort to push yourself beyond your comfort zone.

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