The small-town antithesis. Wary social media buff. Follower of new beauty ideals and five feet 11 inches of incredible charm. Meet Bhumika Arora, the girl from Karnal, who is rewriting the rules of diversity on international runways, walking for design powerhouses like McCartney and Balmain.
Photographs by ONIN LORENTE
Styling by GUILLAUME BOULEZ OF MICHELE FILOMENO AGENCY
When I think of the leggy, bushy-browed girl from Karnal, Haryana, who has braved uncharted waters with her heart on her sleeve, an excerpt from Christina Rossetti’s poem Up-hill (Does the road wind up-hill all the way?) comes to mind, where the poet illustrates the woes of a tough journey. Bhumika Arora has withstood the test of time, and at 27, emerged on international fashion runways, like she’s always belonged there. Ms. Arora does not subscribe to the reductionist theory that comes with the label of her small town upbringing in the city of Karnal. She represents a kind of pièce de résistance that does not disturb, but augments the idea of ordinary. Her meteoric climb to being a face to reckon with on the international runways allows her to savour the headiness of her current position without succumbing to the stress that comes with the job. ''Right now, I am just living
shows in New York, Milan, Paris and London Fashion Weeks, including some of the biggest industry names like Alexander Wang and Marc Jacobs in New York, Gareth Pugh in London, and Balmain, Bottega Veneta, Fendi and Salvatore Ferragamo in Milan.
Her ambitions are larger-than-life in an unsettlingly refreshing way. She is a pioneer of sorts for the millennials in India, trying to carve a niche for themselves. She inspires them when she says, "When I decided to follow my dream, and worked towards it, rather than following the majority, I realised that if you aim for something you really love, you simply give more than 100 per cent."
Bhumika at home-in her cascading black locks, arresting mugshot-esque selfies, burning brown pools for eyes and jeans-clad legs. Her cache has been this quality that is dreamy and authoritative all at once. Her views on the shift of gender binaries to a more unisex approach in fashion are congruent with her personal style in ways that are gender-neutral in essence. "I think, it's completely okay to have such freedom," she claims, adding, "Beauty and style are diverse ideas." She defines herself as ‘effortlessly stylish and classy’ but prefers comfort over all else. She talks about the increasing attention on the subject of cultural appropriation over new-age media carefully. "Everybody should respect each other's cultural values, and how they want it to be presented," she asserts with humbling simplicity. "After all, it's someone's identity and cultural heritage, and
“After all, it's someone's identity and cultural heritage, and things should be handled respectfully.”
velvet of her fall-winter ’15 Alexander Wang dress was a testament to victory, wherein the industry bore witness to a model of Indian descent representing more character with each step than can be said of the myriad models who walk numerous runways each season. This is probably why Bhumika has become an industry darling, with her modelling agency which handles the best models, planning her moves strategically for even greater heights.
"In India, especially in small towns, I doubt if people think highly of modelling or fashion," she says. "Most don’t even consider it a decent profession." Despite this, her earliest response to fashion was one of wide-eyed adulation, which led her to leave Karnal, to pursue a degree in business studies, in Chandigarh. And, after a stint with a local publication, she moved to New Delhi to try her hand at changing the rules of acceptance. Her Instagram account gives you a rare glimpse of
things should be handled respectfully," she concludes. Encountering racism in a line of work with a meagre percentage of people of colour is a story that we’re familiar with. Bhumika though has fortunately not experienced racism of any kind, and views it as a matter of personal preference, and that competition by virtue of its nature can and will not make you likeable to all. And her overall experiences internationally have been nothing short of pleasant.
Unlike a majority of us, who consider social media
love and enjoy what they do, even if some compromises have to be made." On the subject of digitally retouched images dictating a language of visual persuasion for the masses that is reflective of synthetic beauties as opposed to an organic one, she says, "I think it is a choice of the people and also a current 'demand' from society. Bollywood is actually the biggest example of everything larger-than-life and far from reality. Maybe perceptions idealising the fantasy will change, but it will take time."
Bhumika has acquired the status of being a trendsetter of sorts for diversifying the stereotypical notion of beauty. The fashion industry is a sacred territory for her. "It's pretty awesome as it is," she says. She does not want to see any changes in a workplace that has given her the cult status of being a beacon of diversity. It’s a fairly understandable stance. Not every day does a rather unforgiving industry hand you a glass slipper, or in this case a coveted Balmain stiletto, for keeps, does it?