Caucasian Catwalk No More: South Asians Break Onto the International Modeling Scene

When picturing the world’s elite supermodels, it’s hard not to see the glaring similarities. From Kate Moss’ pale-peachy glow to Gisele Bündchen’s sandy blonde locks, it’s obvious the fashion world still favors Caucasian models. However, the color barrier issue in the fashion industry is hardly a new conversation. Black supermodels like Tyra Banks, Naomi Campbell and Iman started to break the top model mold decades ago. But modeling agencies around the world are starting to broaden their racial repertoire beyond ebony and ivory, scouting more South Asian women than ever before.

The diversity at this year’s New York Fashion Week highlights this change in global standards. In a study by, models of color accounted for 20 percent of total models at fashion week, making it the most diverse New York Fashion Week to date. And while 20 percent is far from perfect, it’s a 7 percent increase from 2008. We give you a quick primer on six up-and-coming South Asian models breaking onto the international scene.

Lakshmi Menon: 30-year-old Menon is one of the top models on the fashion circuit right now. The Bangalore-born model has walked for several top designers, including Hermès, Jean Paul Gaultier, Givenchy, Carolina Herrera, and Michael Kors. She has also appeared the editorial pages of Vogue, Vogue España, Vogue India, V, Allure and Elle Magazine. Menon’s major ad campaigns include Swatch and H&M.

Varsha Thapa: Though she’s a newbie to the fashion world, 20-year-old Varsha Thapa has already made history. Thapa became the first Nepalese model to walk at New York Fashion Week when she made her debut for Nepalese designer Prabal Gurung’s Spring 2012 collection. Thapa has also walked for 3.1 Phillip Lim and L’Wren Scott.

Jyothsna Chakravarthy: Like Menon, Jyothsna Chakravarthy, too, hails from Bangalore. The beauty had been modeling in India for just over three years, but has just begun to break out on the international fashion scene. She has graced the cover of Elle Magazine and Vogue India and walked for Chanel’s Pre-Fall Bombay show. You can also spot Chakravarthy in ad campaigns for Garnier Frutis and Chemistry.

Shanina Shaik: 20-year-old Melbourne bombshell Shanina Shaik is somewhat of a recent addition to the scene, but she has had an incredibly successful track so far. Shaik, who is of Pakistani and Lithuanian descent, got her start on the reality show “Make Me a Supermodel” in 2008. She has gone on to walk for several designers, including Karl Lagerfeld for Chanel, Betsey Johnson, Susan Woo, Victoria’s Secret, and Jason Wu. Shaik has also been featured in campaigns for Macy’s, Avon, Bloomingdales, Free People, Olay, and Spiegel.

Liza Golden: Texas-born beauty Liza Golden has many accomplishments, one of which is being a finalist in Elite Model Look in Prague. Since her debut, she’s graced the covers of Harper’s Bazaar, Cosmopolitan, Grazia, Sportswear International, and Femina Magazine, completed ad campaigns for Audi and Armani Exchange, and walked for Issa in their Resort 2010 show.

Smita Lasrado: Mumbai model Smita Lasrado, 28, has appeared on the cover of Marie Claire and Elle India magazines. She also walked for Vivienne Westwood’s Gold Label show in 2009 and 2010, as well as Chanel’s Pre-Fall 2012 Bombay Show. A stunner, Lasrado is particularly sought after for her classic ‘Indian’ look.

[Gallery not found]

*All images courtesy of

Janelle Li-A-Ping is an editorial intern at