International runway debutant Pooja Mor chats with Ria Jaiswal about her past, her present and her ever bright future.

It was just a few years ago that Pooja Mor told her parents she was going to Delhi on holiday and sneaked out to try her hand at modelling. “Initially, my parents did not approve of my decision to become a model. It was my brother who helped me. He gave me pocket money, so I could go for auditions. He was my sounding board and listened to me every step of the way. He’s the one who helped convince my parents that this is what I want to do – we slowly got mom on our side and then dad had no option but to allow me to try my hand at modelling.”

It’s easy to understand her parents’ apprehension. “I come from Ahmedabad, my dad is in engineering, my brother is an engineer-turned-product-designer, my mom is a housewife and I was studying computer engineering. I thought I would be pursuing an MBA,” the 24-year-old says. However, life had different plans for Pooja. After participating in a city-level beauty contest, she went to Delhi to become a model and shot for the Sabyasachi look-book. It was images from this shoot that got Gunita Stobe from Anima Creative Management interested. “I was looking for an agency in Mumbai and I found the perfect one,” says Pooja.

She started her Indian shows at the Wills India Fashion Week, and since then has worked with various designers, on editorials and campaigns and graced the covers of magazines like Harper’s Bazaar, Femina and Verve, among others.  She moved to New York last year to start off her international career and made her debut at the Louis Vuitton Cruise ’16 show in Palm Springs – a debut that many can only dream of. “When Nicolas Ghesquiere said he would see me in Palm Springs, my first thought was ‘Oh, so I think this means I’m confirmed?’”

There’s been no looking back since, and she has made her mark on runways across the globe. “I’ll always remember my first meeting in New York with my agency. It sometimes feels surreal, but I love being here. I love cooking here and the street food is amazing! My Australian model friend Ana Pembroke – whom I met in India – introduced me to all the street food here,” Pooja says, reminiscing about her early days in the big city that’s now her home.

One of the nicest things about being a model, she says, is being able to help people connect with fashion. “I also realized that I needed to be myself and not get carried away.” Her grounded upbringing has been crucial in ensuring that doesn’t happen. When you meet Pooja, you realize she has no airs. “My days in NYC are literally wake up, get my morning coffee and catch up on reading, then pilates class, cook, sneak in a bit of time for meditation, meet friends, go to my casting, meet some more friends and sleep. The thing with this city is you get to try a lot of different, interesting things. I’ve started practising Falun Dafa, a spiritual Chinese mind and body cultivation technique and I love going to Pure Barre every alternate day as it tones my body.”

What makes Pooja real is her story; she could very well be one of us. She jokingly admits that if she knew earlier that she could model, she “wouldn’t have considered engineering because modelling is much easier”. She’s now looking forward to “working with every designer, inspiring people with strong and beautiful images and honestly just going with the flow – after all, this is the dream place to be.”

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