Reha Sukheja had set her eyes on Economics before flirting with modelling. We talks to the nerd who is now a recognisable face on national ramps

The India International Jewellery Week, beginning this Sunday in Mumbai, will have Hyderabad’s Reha Sukheja walk the ramp sporting cutting edge designs by A-list jewellery brands and designers. When we meet up with the 22-year-old on a balmy afternoon before she left for Mumbai, it doesn’t surprise us that she wants to wear no makeup. She’s just returned home for a short break after modelling for 25 designers at Lakme Fashion Week Winter/Festive 2012 earlier this month. “We had tough schedules and barely slept for a few hours each day. We were constantly going through the hair-makeup-clothes routine that I just want to relax now and wear no makeup,” she says.

This was her fourth season at Lakme Fashion Week (LFW). She was the only model from Hyderabad to be selected in 2011 and this season, she had the company of Natasha. “It’s sad that not many models from Hyderabad make it to the national level. There aren’t many fashion events happening here for young girls to participate in and groom themselves. Modelling, even today, is considered as a wayward thing to do by conservative parents,” she laughs.

And Madhur Bhandarkar’s Fashion, which portrayed the industry as a mix of drugs, sex and fragile egos, did no good.

“In many interviews I’ve been asked if the fashion industry is similar to what was shown in the movie. In the end, it all boils down to individuals. One should see how many models prefer to quietly read a book when they are waiting between rehearsals,” she says.

Reha herself was a geek, by her own admission, who took up modelling at the insistence of her mother. Her first shot at modelling happened when she was doing her graduation at Fergusson College, Pune. “I am a nerd. I love economics and would just prefer to bury myself in books than walk the ramp,” she says.

Business and economics were all she was concerned about. But things took a new turn when she enrolled in the I Am She contest in 2010 and became the first runner-up. Modelling assignments followed. In 2010, she made her debut at India Bridal Week. She was selected for LFW in 2011 and was also part of Wills Lifestyle Fashion Week this summer.

She had all the nervousness of a newcomer during her first season at LFW. “You hear that senior models aren’t friendly to newcomers. Surprisingly, I found senior models to be friendly, welcoming and more grounded than the new crop of models. There is no question of them feeling threatened because of younger models coming in. They are established names. We take pride in saying that we walked with Carol Gracias and Deepti Gujral,” says Reha. Talk to her about designers and she mentions creations of Manish Malhotra and Wendell Rodricks that she particularly loved. “Wendell’s creations, this season, were flowy and relaxed garments in which we could just sail through,” she says. She was disappointed that her favourite designer Sabyasachi Mukherji didn’t participate in LFW this time.

A typical day at Fashion Week is far from laid back. She elaborates, “We have to report three hours before the show. We are up by 6 a.m., head for breakfast at 8, followed by makeup session for the first show. After the last show of the day, we’d wind up close to midnight and get back home. We go through so many routines for hair and makeup that at some point, we just want our skin to breathe free of chemicals. All that skin care regimen that you do in the weeks leading up to the big event goes for a toss with an overdose of makeup.” Despite the schedule, Reha loves being in the spot light and doesn’t see ramp modelling as a monotonous chore. Not yet. “I am enjoying my time on the ramp now,” she says. She only regrets having to cut down on rice. “Some people are genetically blessed. I don’t eat rice, sweets and chaat. I eat ghar ka khana, with rotis and subzi. I don’t believe in crash diets. I cannot live on liquids and salads,” she says. Workouts are part of her lifestyle and she adheres to her regimen.

Throughout her graduation, Reha took it up as a challenge to give her best to her studies in between modelling. She won a scholarship to study at Milan as part of the I Am She programme. “Probably next year I will be able to go to Milan and pursue fashion management,” she says. Clearly, she understands that modelling is not a long-term career. “There are a lot of possibilities to explore. But I don’t know how things will turn out,” she says.

At 6 ft one inch, Reha towers over many of her friends. In the modelling industry, however, her height is an asset. She smiles, “It’s a relief to be able to stand straight, push my shoulders back, and have an eye-level conversation with co-models. Otherwise I am normally asked to bend down, hunch and pose for group photographs.”