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Diya Prabhakar: The Singapore Supermodel In The Making

Diya Prabhakar is the Singapore modelling export you need to know.

Like most modelling geneses, Diya Prabhakar’s introduction into the fashion industry happened by chance when she was scouted while attending a fashion show. The year was 2013, and she was your average 14-year-old teen – but little did she know that she had the makings of a top model. The next year, she snagged the crown at The New Paper New Face competition.

Diya Prabakhar backstage during The New Paper New Face modelling competition in 2015. Photo: Ariffin Jamar

Her win occurred during the time when names such as Vanessa Axente, Fei Fei Sun, and co. ruled the model sphere with their brand of classic feminine beauty. Prabhakar stood out (she was 1.82m by the age of 15) from that mould with her effortless natural beauty (cue the shock of wavy jet black locks and the luminous eyes reminiscent of the Ukrainian model Masha Tyelna who was a hot name in the early aughts).

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Wang Prep – Backstage at Collection 1 2020.

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Flash forward to 2020 and Prabhakar, 21, has become a familiar face if you’re into Fashion Week model-spotting. To date, she has clocked over 20 shows for brands such as Alexander Wang, Prabal Gurung (he picked her to appear in the brand’s Fall 2018 ad campaign), Dolce & Gabbana, Area, and Marine Serre. That’s not counting her work for beauty companies like Sephora and M.A.C Cosmetics.

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@prabalgurung fall 2018 campaign

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The fact that her body of work span cutting-edge labels to more commercial brands is a testament to her broad appeal and chameleonic quality as a model. In fact, Marine Serre‘s casting director William Lhoest, who is known for championing diversity and unconventional models, had booked Prabhakar for three of Serre’s Paris Fashion Week shows.

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Love going into Sephora

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More importantly, Prabakhar’s success also points to the rise of Indian models on the global fashion map in recent years. Incidentally, her mother agent is the Mumbai-based Anima Creative Management which has nurtured the top Indian models of-the-moment like Pooja Mor and Demna Gvasalia’s favourite Dipti Sharma.

Says Prabakhar’s of the recognition of Asian faces: “I think it takes time for society to evolve. Caucasian girls were universally considered and perceived to be the norm for beauty; I am so glad this is changing as I see more representation.”

Here, we get to know her more.

Catwalk Photos Portrait Courtesy of Looque Models

What is a typical day in the life of a model like for you? I usually have castings or shoots, if not I go hang out with friends or workout at home. I recently started school so that’s been filling up my time.   What was it like growing up in Singapore? It was amazing, I really loved growing up in such a multicultural society. When I’m away, I definitely miss my family and friends, the local food, and bubble tea.   How did your modelling career begin? Funnily enough, I wanted to be a banker when I was younger but little did I know what that actually entails. I started modelling when I was 14. I went to a fashion show and got scouted there.   How has your life changed since becoming an international model? I’ve learnt how to adapt every time I have to move to a new country. and to become self-reliant, unlike in Singapore where my parents pitch in.
You spent some time working as a model in Singapore before striking it big overseas. How did your big break overseas happen? With the help of my mother agency Anima Creatives in India, I got signed to other agencies in London, Milan, Paris, and New York. I normally go back and forth for Fashion Week. I’m very thankful to Looque Models for representing me in Singapore since I started modeling at 14.   Up until a few years ago, there were very few Asian and homegrown faces represented in the Singapore fashion scene. I think it takes time for society to evolve. Caucasian girls were universally considered and perceived to be the norm for beauty; I am so glad this is changing as I see more representation.   Conversely, what do you attribute your success and recognition overseas to? I attribute it to lots of patience, persistence, and hard work. I try not to take rejection personally.   What makes a good model in your opinion? Someone who is professional, who’s willing to try her best by attending every casting, keeping her body in shape, and has a pleasant disposition.  
How has your life changed since becoming an international model? It’s been very exciting and fulfilling but it can be very tiresome moving from one country to another.   What’s the highlight of your career so far? The highlight of my career has to be walking for Alexander Wang for its Spring/Summer 2020 show. It was always one of my dream shows to walk in and being cast in it was a great honour.   As a model of colour, why do you believe that cultural diversity and representation is so important in the fashion industry? Fashion is international nowadays and to appeal to a diverse audience, there should be a good representation of all colours and cultures. Have you experienced racial discrimination in the industry? There had been instances where the make up artist wouldn’t know how to match my skin tone or the hairstylist would be unable to handle my hair. I usually give them helpful tips that might help them. Thankfully I haven’t faced major discrimination and have been accepted well globally.  
How does a model keep staying relevant and find longevity? Models can change their hair and style to keep up with trends but I think what’s more important is being confident in yourself. Clients can sense the confidence and they will tend to book models who aren’t afraid.   The anti-model is also being celebrated in a big way now, isn’t it? Nowadays, representation is not just about skin colour, but also, body shapes and sizes. The industry is always looking for something new and that’s why you see all the conventions of beauty being broken.   What’s the biggest misconception that people have about you and modelling? That it isn’t a real job or it’s a temporary thing. In addition to this, lots of people usually find me intimidating because of my height.   Who are your favourite models? Gisele Bundchen and Binx Walton.   What tips would you give aspiring models? They should be patient and not to take rejection to heart.