By Aashna Bhatia
Rabanne J started his tryst with modelling last year at the age of 27. An age that for a lot of models is the average shelf life. He recounts his emergence into modelling with an amusing anecdote. “I was there to escort my best friend”, he says. His boyish charm and chiselled looks scream high fashion and no surprises for guessing that this 28 year old newbie has been the face of Gucci in one of Harper Bazaar issues.
His cordial demeanour tells me that of all the things we’re accustomed to associate with models, rudeness shouldn’t be one of them. We get talking about his journey. Born in a Christian family in Bombay, Rabanne, after completing high school flew to San Francisco to learn animation for two years. His return to Bombay has been nothing short of a joyride. A true explorer and learner at heart, he’s worked in numerous fields from being a promo coordinator for Channel V to designing furniture, until Modelling happened, and even now, he doesn’t mind assisting at shoots, as and when required.
We now branch out to talking about his sexual orientation.
“I knew that I liked boys from the age of 8.”
Coming out at a young age was his breakthrough from recluse. “It was as through I was liberated of any pretence,” he says. “Being young and fearless, I faced no difficulty in coming out to my best friend, who was very supportive about it.”
Here the focus again lies on ACCEPTANCE. Its fairly easy to regard something as ‘abnormal’ and distance oneself from it without thinking about the harmful impact it might have on an individual’s psyche who’s placed all his/her trust and hope in you. A simple “I understand” or “It’s okay, I’m there for you” or even better, “So what? Your preferences don’t change who you are” can give someone’s life a much needed push and their mind the much desired peace. In psychology, we call this Unconditional Positive Regard that a therapist shows towards the client. It essentially means, basic acceptance and support shown towards a person regardless of what the person says or does. Rabanne had that silver lining in his life at the age of 8, which has shaped him into the person he is today.
So how did this young and fearless reveal go down with the family? Not too well, he says. While his own parents modelled for a while and met as a result, we both agree to the fact that when it comes to your own kid, every parent receives a shock when they find out something like this. He explains me the chain reaction.
“Friends told friends, who told his elder brother, a 17 year old college kid, who understandably, was worried about the backlash and my future in a homophobic country like India. Acceptance was the opposite of what I felt.”
It was 2003, people weren’t as open or aware of homosexuality as they are now. His brother eventually told his parents who, as he tells me were worried about their sons future in India amidst the balderdash Indian Laws.
“Well, they sent me to San Francisco at 18, it’s as accepting as it can get.”
Today, his family is extremely supportive and proud of who he is. All’s good but his sexuality is a topic he and his father don’t really get into. It works best for both of us, he tells me. I wonder will the roots of acceptance ever settle here?
Finally, we talk about his life as a model and about the changing scenario in the Indian Fashion industry.
“I’ve always loved getting dolled up and clicked and I can most definitely say that I’m having the time of my life in this fun industry.”
His basic concern during our chat was his slender frame, something that doesn’t really work for a lot of male models in India as our eyes only pop out for the hunky ones. The fact that the concern is not his sexuality says a lot about how the fashion industry is more modern than any Indian Institution.
“We’ve always admired skinny girls, maybe now it’s time to show love to the skinny boys too, isn’t it?”
Did his sexual orientation ever affect the kind or quantity of work? An instant no reaffirms my own answer.
“Although I’m sometimes confused for a stylist or even a makeup artist instead of a model, owing to my uber-cool vibe, nothing other than that has ever affected my work.”
“On the contrary, being gay has always worked out to be more beneficial than detrimental for me. Women have always been more comfortable with me, telling me their secrets, discussing things they don’t usually do with male colleagues and at the grim hour when crisis strikes, they’re all there to support me and I sail through my goof up.”
We both share a hearty laugh to this. Still young and fearless, a man of few words but a lot of substance, looks to kill for and a story you wish you’d live, here’s Rabanne for you.