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Reuters/Adnan Abidi
How do I look?
BOLD AND BEAUTIFUL

Inside auditions for India’s first transgender modelling agency

By Shelly Walia

For more than a decade, Rudrani Chettri Chauhan has been fighting for the rights of her community—India’s transgenders.

Through Mitr Trust, a charity she founded in Delhi in 2005 to empower India’s sexual minorities, the 37-year-old transgender woman activist has worked to provide them education, healthcare, and the means to end violence and discrimination.

Now, she is also investing her time and energy in exploring a “different side of transgender life” that is often overlooked by the media and sneered at by popular culture—beauty.

“Half their time, especially for transgender women, is spent on trying to look beautiful,” Chauhan told Quartz.

Chauhan, who studied English literature and is an independent development consultant, is trying to set up India’s first modelling agency for the transgender community. Last week, she held an audition and photo shoot for models at Khirki Extension, a south Delhi neighbourhood. The turnout wasn’t particularly high—only some 15 aspiring transgender women, or hijras, showed up.

“They don’t have the confidence yet,” she said. ”We need to raise funds to groom them, create their portfolios, and so on.” For this, Chauhan has teamed up with Rishi Raj, a fashion stylist and photographer.

So far, her two fundraising pages—GoFundMe and BitGiving—have helped her get started. “We have only got Rs2,100 on BitGiving, an Indian crowdsourcing platform. But, on the UK one, GoFundMe, we have already raised 1,400 pounds.”

Quartz brings you a collection of photographs by Reuters from the first round of auditions on Feb. 07.

India-transgender-rights
Reuters/Adnan Abidi
An aspiring model takes a selfie before auditioning for a transgender modelling agency set to open in New Delhi.
India-transgender-rights
Reuters/Adnan Abidi
A participant checks her makeup before her audition.
India-transgender-rights
Reuters/Adnan Abidi
A candidate at the audition.
India-transgender-rights
Reuters/Adnan Abidi
An aspirant at the audition.
India-transgender-rights
Reuters/Adnan Abidi
A photo shoot during the auditions.
India-transgender-rights
Reuters/Adnan Abidi
A participant awaits her turn.
India-transgender-rights
Reuters/Adnan Abidi
Preparing for the audition.
India-transgender-rights
Reuters/Adnan Abidi
Answering judges’ questions during the auditions.
India-transgender-rights
Reuters/Adnan Abidi
A candidate waits to enroll herself.
India-transgender-rights
Reuters/Adnan Abidi
An aspiring model walks in front of judges during auditions.
India-transgender-rights
Reuters/Adnan Abidi
A participant gets her waist measured before auditions.
India-transgender-rights
Reuters/Adnan Abidi
A candidate putting on make up before auditioning.