When it comes to the modeling industry, globally, and especially in India, ageism is still an open secret, not being tackled the way it should be.
But, we have models like Geeta, who have been smashing ageist beauty standards like a pro.
In conversation with ScoopWhoop, Geeta discussed her modeling journey, her campaign, #AgeNotCage, and the kind of response she's received as a model in her 50s.
Geeta was 50 when she got a chance to pursue her childhood dream of being a model, when she won the title of the first runner-up in the beauty pageant, ‘India Brainy Beauty'.
That was the start of a new phase of her life, where she slowly started building her career as a model.
I have been modelling for the past one and a half years. It was my childhood dream to be a model, but I couldn't pursue my dream at the time when I was choosing a career. People kept telling me that the glamour industry was not right for girls from good families. I got the opportunity to pursue my dream when, at the age of 50, I won the title of the first runner-up in the beauty pageant, ‘India Brainy Beauty'. After that I created my profile as a model. I started getting enquiries from photographers and some modelling agencies. I did my first shoot for a Delhi-based photographer.
From that first shoot to her last lingerie photoshoot, Geeta has certainly come a long way.
And throughout her journey, she's focused on raising awareness about the lack of equal representation, and ignored the trolls who believe she's 'too old' for modeling.
When I posted my pictures in lingerie on social media, most of the comments I received were positive. But some of the remarks on my posts included: "You are stripping on the internet to seek attention. You should show maturity as per your age." "I will ensure that my daughter doesn't have an idol like you, and doesn’t have your idea of womanhood and women empowerment." "To hide your age, you are wearing such kind of clothes." " Cheap." "Budhi ghodi laal lagaam (Elderly woman trying to look young)." I focus on positive comments and ignore the negative ones. Sometimes, strangers defend me in response to the negative and derogatory comments received. I try not to let the hatred affect me much - positive comments are way more in number, and that makes me feel very good. After reading the supportive comments, I can see that I'm not alone, and there are people like me who want change. They have been compelled to think over what I say and realize that yes, there truly is no representation of mature models in media and advertising, and that needs to change.
Geeta also talked about how, ultimately, modeling is not just an idle hobby for her but rather, a way to change people's mindset about how women, of a particular age, should look like.
I know that patriarchy is very deep-rooted in a country like ours. People are conditioned to believe that after a certain age, women have to dress soberly and in a specific manner. It is not easy to change that mindset overnight and that change will take time.
While she knows change will take time, she is also not one to back down from the challenge and has launched her campaign, #AgeNotCage to bring attention to the cause.
In fact, it was her own experience that prompted her to start the campaign.
While shopping online for lingerie and activewear for myself, I noticed that on almost every site, models showcasing the products were all younger models, and there was not a single mature model! Plus size models were also there but no mature models were to be found. My point of view here is that brands are unconsciously sending a message to people that lacy and sexy lingerie or fancy activewear is only for women in their 20s or 30s, and that the desire of a 40+ woman to wear them is wrong! The absence of any representation of mature models here makes women after 40 feel hesitant to buy or wear these products. On the contrary, I think that seeing mature (40+) models in lingerie brands will not only boost confidence for these women in their changing bodies, but it will also help them increase their subsiding libido and make them feel good.
According to Geeta, it's high time that brands don't restrict themselves to only being 'youth-focused', especially when the change she is advocating for has received fierce support online.
It is challenging to establish yourself in the modelling field after a certain age, especially for women. Many digital platforms have published about my campaign #AgeNotCage, and whole-heartedly believe in it. Many people think that the change I'm asking for in modelling and advertising is right. Despite so much support, brands are still youth-focused - not a single brand has made any change yet, and I am yet to see any action taken by the brands I have written to! The learning process is on-going as my campaign is still on. People keep on signing it, expressing their opinions, sending messages, and so I'm continually learning from all.
Geeta also talked about the recent controversy surrounding 69-year-old actress Rajini Chandy's photoshoot where she donned dresses, jeans and Western wear, instead of her usual sarees.
Instead of celebrating the shoot for being a far cry from regular photoshoots, Rajini was shamed for wearing clothes people considered 'inappropriate' for a woman her age.
Geeta believes that it's only when brands change, that people's perception will change.
If this change starts from lingerie brands and if they start including mature models, it will be easier for other products to do the same. This will also lead to a change in the mindset of people who think that after 40, women should dress and behave in a certain way, and hopefully help stop age-shaming incidents like that of Rajini Chandy.
Geeta, who often takes to the Instagram page for #AgeNotCage to share inspiring stories of people who called out ageism, believes that the biggest takeaway from her journey has been to always keep your dreams alive.
In this whole process, I have learned that if you keep your dream alive, you can achieve it one day. You just need to put in the effort and strive towards your dream, no matter what stage of life you are at because dreams do not come with an expiry date. And, if you want a change, start with yourself. You need to practice what you preach. Believe in yourself and have faith in your cause. During my journey, I also realized that there are others who think like me and want a change in advertising and media, and were just waiting for someone to be the trailblazer. As for those that weren’t like-minded, my campaign has provoked them to realize that what advertising and media present is mostly for the youth and doesn’t reflect reality.
As cliched as it may sound, Geeta has proved, yet again, that change truly does begin with yourself. Her journey is an inspiration to all those people who shied away from embracing their dreams, simply because of shallow, societal standards.
Know more about #AgeNotCage here.