Love the skin you’re in!

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By 2018-02-11

By Menaka Indrakumar

With a flourishing career in the field of fashion for more than 15 years, Chulpadmendra Kumarapathirana has modelled for some leading designers in Sri Lanka and aboard. Fondly known as Chula, she is still in demand for her professionalism, hard work and those killer looks. In an industry that is obsessed with fair skin, she took what is an insecurity to many and made it positive. She is a
successful model locally and internationally.

Chula speaks to Glamour, about modelling, the
present fashion industry and the modelling school

You have been away from modelling for some time, how has the industry changed?

Well, I have been away from the industry for the past five years, and a lot of things have changed tremendously. Today everyone wants to be a professional model, which is good. Unfortunately, they aren't getting the right opportunities which models of my generation had, like the fashion shows and quality of work.

What does the industry have now, that it didn't have before?

I was blessed and privileged to work with greats like Kirthi Sri Karunaratne, Senaka De Silva, Lou Ching Wong, Purnima Abeyratne, Ramani Fernando and many more. These designers and stylists were trendsetters. There are a lot of designers today, but hardly any are trendsetters.

I have seen some incredible and talented designers, but they don't have many opportunities to showcase their creations. What I see lately is lots of modelling agencies are blocking their models from doing freelance assignments. They should understand that we have a small industry, and doing that, is unfair for the models. Time is very important for a model, if the previous designers I worked with had the same attitude, I wouldn't have got this far.

Today, it's like a real mafia with fake beauty pageants and making money, it has become a joke now. This is an insult to talented girls. Hope this will end soon.

You think social media has helped the current models and actresses to break into the industry?

Social media is playing a big role for newcomers, which is very good. It is giving them the opportunities. Back then, we didn't have all these social apps. From the latest trends, to make up tutorials, you have it all.

We see so many girls and boys posting with several filters, later when called for an audition, they look so different in person. Some of them think that posting on social media makes them models. We have good talent, but they need proper guidance.

What's your take on actresses and models of today?

I am yet to see a talented actress like Yashoda Wimaladharma. I don't find anyone from the present crop of actors who can match up to her. Her acting is at another level.

We have some good talent, but again what's needed is good guidance, be it acting or modelling.

What is the most memorable fashion show and why?

You have put me in the spotlight and I cannot choose. Every show was an experience of its own, with countless memories. I gave every show a 150%, and working with each designer, getting to wear beautiful designs was amazing. In my career, I have worked with really talented people. Some of them are like family to me.

Is it hard to be a mentor?

A mediocre teacher tells, a good teacher explains, the superior teacher demonstrates and a great teacher inspires - wise words by William Arthur Ward. I want to share the experience and knowledge I gained for myself. I am happy that I am able to do it with my students.

I feel I have inspired many models, especially those who are insecure about their skin tone. The ones who thought they can't go beyond because of their dark skin and being Sri Lankan. It satisfies me to see my students reach their goals, I am happy that I was able to contribute in some way.

Tell us about your modelling school?

I had a studio called Chulpadmendra Catwalk studio. Now I have joined hands with the amazing and renowned Lou Ching Wong, and will be starting a new academy called Runway, it will be the first time two professionals are joining for an academy of this calibre. It's not about just learning the catwalk; we have programmes that students will follow. It includes development in areas of hair and makeup, posing, fitness and self grooming. We will have professionals conduct lectures in these areas too. The course duration is four months; it's a lot of work and loads of fun!

What is the best part of being a model?

I get to wear the most amazing clothes and accessories all the time and the makeup as well. Beyond all that, meeting people and travelling. Some of who I met during my travel and work are so close to me. It's a fulfilling and creative journey.

One fashion show and designer you want to always work with?

Alexander McQueen - unfortunately he is no more. It would have been a dream come true, to work with him. Nonetheless, I worked with some of the most talented, creative and hardworking designers.

You are a Latin dancer as well, do you still dance?

I love dancing and still do dance. I have got an invitation by a leading TV channel to perform again, so am preparing myself, and yes you will be seeing me dancing again.

What's in store, now that you are making a comeback?

I am already getting booked for shows, a few directors have approached me with some good scripts and at the moment I am in the process of reading. I will be doing a movie very soon.

My main focus is the modelling school, I want to give back the years of knowledge I have gathered and there is a lot of potential. It's just that the models need proper guidance. I want to train them to international standards. I want to expand the academy and take it out of Colombo. It won't be easy to do it all, as I have child, but it's all about time management.

Pix by ANURUDDHA MEDAWATTEGEDARA
Hair and Makeup by Chagall Salon
Location: Chagall Salon

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