Rimmel and GJC shook the Fashion week runway and now Rimmel is taking over the grunge streets of downtown Johannesburg as an ode to their success. Shashi Naidoo, model and businesswoman, took to the streets to make sure this vision comes to colour and life.
As a woman with such strong roots in tradition, was there pressure from your parent to study something specific?
Definitely! Coming from a traditional Indian family, the rhetoric is that “You will be a doctor” you know, that’s kind of the push. My dad called me doc since I was 3 year’s old so the medical profession was already in the cards for me, even indirectly so. It’s good to have this as a back up though because the modeling industry is unpredictable.
You studied chiropractic medicine after leaving in PE and now you have to a full time career in modeling. How did the transition come about?
I was studying in JHB and I had 4 part time jobs and one of them was at a florist. I’d deliver flowers to different agencies and one visit proved to be the one that would change my thinking. I delivered to a lady at an ad agency and she asked “Are you here for the casting?” and I replied “No, I’m just here to drop off the flowers” and then she asked me to do the casting, did the casting and booked my first job and then I thought, well “wow”, I think I can do this!
What about the business of modeling appealed to you?
To be very honest, initially it was the pay cheque hahahaha because obviously, when I got my first pay cheque I was impressed. It’s an amazing job, you travel the world, meet amazing people and you get to wear beautiful creations from the best designers too and you get paid for it too so it kind of feels like a dream job.
What is the greatest challenge you have overcome in making the transition from “the face” to the “business owner”?
I found it to be quite easy. Having the background of a model, I knew exactly what I wanted and how I was going to make it happen. I think that enabled me to better represent models.
With all of the amazingly sexy spreads you’ve graced us with, was it difficult to get the right sort of attention in boardrooms after you decided to flip the script? You know, to have to go into a formal space with the very people who used to buy FHM for you and have them look at you, like, “Oh my gosh, she has a brain too”
[ Laughs] I think people would have difficulties if it were something I was still doing. I think the last bikini cover I did was when I was 23 so I’ve had offers to shoot in lingerie etc. but what’s important to me has changed and to be taken seriously and to sit with a client in a boardroom and have them take me for my work is most important. I think it’s what I’m currently doing that sets the tone.
Your agency had 5 girls when it first started. Your portfolio now boasts over 400 fresh faces and counting. What was the mission with this move?
When I tried to get representation from a normal agency, I found difficulty because I wasn’t what the typical model was meant to look like. The typical model had to be 1,73 metres, a size zero and I didn’t fit that mold at all. I found a side agency that managed to get me a few jobs and I thought to myself “It’s a little ridiculous that we struggle this much for representation”. We don’t all aspire to be “glamezonian” models. There are other body shapes and faces that are aspirational and that’s what I wanted to represent with Alushi. I’m very proud that we have become game changers in the industry because of the new focus.
With appearance as a big driving force behind relevancy and keeping to the “times”, have you felt the indirect pressure to keep your image as tight as possible?
I think there is pressure but it doesn’t exists exclusively in the modeling industry. With the access to Smart phones, Instagram etc. The pressure has spread and to look good and have a tiny little waist, with a little waist trainer – that’s the new normal so of course there’s pressure. For myself, I know that I have always wanted to have longevity in the industry and I’m 35 now so I kind of always maintain looking after myself. Eating healthy, gyming, nothing in crazy amounts, just the right amount of everything to maintain the longevity I want in the industry.
You are a good looking 35! With that said, how are you feeling about being a mother. Your sister just gave birth now, you’re an aunt but are we a little broody yet, is it that time for Shashi?
I am so broody! I just need to find a husband now. I’m ready to be a mom.
What are we looking at? One or two kids, three or four?
You know what, as long as I have them, who is counting? I just want them in my life J
You took what most women would love to take: a breakaway to rejuvenate and get back to “Shashi”. How do you compare the “Fresh out of divorce Shashi” to the current Shashi?
I made the decision at the back end of something difficult in my life. I needed to get away from it all and I think that it was the best decision to remind me that I can shut myself off and focus because most of the time, shutting off is a fantasy! It’s what we talk of doing but never do so I’m definitely more inclined to taking chances now. I’m a lot more selfish now, putting emphasis on what Shashi needs.
You are every bit as audacious and fun as the Rimmel London girl is pegged to be. Which fashion item in your closet takes you from cool to super sexy in 2 minutes?
Oh my gosh! From cool to super sexy? It has to a pair of stiletto heels! They just say I’m ready to party.
Ah, you’re so right. I was expecting you to say something about a black dress or that little number with the shimmer that’s easy to wear but stilettos really to alter any look.
Put stilettos on anything and they say “I’m here and ready to party!”
Who is your local fashion icon and why do they inspire you?
I mean, Bonang. I’m in love with her! I think she’s everybody’s fashion icon but she’s mine as well. She is always on point.
Summer in Cape Town is beckoning for you! What is your colour palette for your summer wardrobe?
Hmmm all the bright colours, lots of tassels…
If you could only take 3 items to wear on an island, which items would they be?
Sunblock [Laughs] and bikini bottoms! Actually, I don’t need a third item! I’d be fine with just those two!
True to the nature of Rimmel London, what colour did you have the most fun playing with in the photoshoot?
I love the ombre look that makeup did on me using the Rimmel lasting finish lipstick range. You mix two different colours together and it looks amazing.
With the background you have in acting and presenting, you have had a wide view of the changes in the industry. Do you think we’ve moved to a better place in the jobs available for ladies of your ethnicity?
I’m very aware of the fact that coming in, there will be very few Indian faces on television. I think what I have been impressed with is that men would get more airplay than ladies and it’s significantly improved. People of colour are being represented more readily now and in my 15 years of experience, that has been the biggest and most fulfilling change.
Playboy has its final issue to feature nude pictorials coming out on Friday. Pamela Anderson is the cover model of the last nude issue of the magazine.
What? Oh wow, that’s a shift.
Isn’t it? And being the salacious FHM queen that you are, do you think the noise around nudity is people being sensitive or does the explicit nature of PlayBoy make the essence of the magazine? What do you make of this decision?
I think PlayBoy was the only reference to soft porn that was commercial and now the industry is saturated so I don’t think there’s much excitement around a nude pictorial as there was so I can see why it wouldn’t be seen as their niche anymore. It was every young boy’s fantasy! Now that’s available for a data exchange.
The Wests set the internet alight when they announced that their baby boy’s name was Saint West. What do you think it is about this Kardashian machine that gets people so enthralled by their every move?
[Laughs] I think that’s the intention, everything is based on attention – whether good or bad. The modern society yearns for that so they play that game very well. I don’t know if I’m a fan but you can’t dispute their influence.
Kylie Jenner has always been seen as the “ugly duckling” of the family, do you think her choice to have fillers in her lips at such a young sends a skewed message to the teens that look up to her? Does it even matter?
Uhm, you know, I think there was a lot of pressure on her and I sympathize with her because of that but I don’t think that being in the public eye makes you the public’s property. She has to make decisions she can live with. She’s just a kid herself and she has to live what she thinks is her truth so the message doesn’t matter, she is after all, living one life: her own.
The key to having a great body in your thirties is…
No bread, no pasta!
Okay, so I’m going to die…
Okay! Limited bread, limited pasta…
When I open my eyes, the first thing I do is…
Make some tea. Not very exciting, I know…
My relationship with the opposite sex is like…
Normal? Can I say that?
Of course you can. There are some people who are conflicted, some consider theirs painful, others not. Normal is a good answer.
My favourite luxury item is…
Chocolate, any chocolate.
If I were a songwriter, I would want to write a song like…