“I danced and did ballet growing up, but I went to a very supportive studio. It was a good environment. Body was never an issue — I never thought about it. I had friends who went to different studios who might have had an eating disorder or were really insecure about their bodies. For me, because I wasn’t in an environment that put any of that pressure on us, I didn’t experience any of it. When I got to college I stopped dancing, and my body changed a little bit. I slowly started getting into modeling, and I definitely felt pressure from the fashion industry [to look a certain way]. But I just carved out a space that was me. I don’t have an agent, so I’m not pressured to lose weight or ‘tone up.’ The clients I work with are fine with my body how it is, which is nice.
When I was younger, my mom didn’t want me to show a lot of skin. I think that came from her background growing up in India. I never wore short shorts until I was in high school, and I remember being frustrated with that because I wanted to wear what other people wore. In the end I’m actually really grateful to her, because it informed how I dressed later. I’m comfortable not showing skin. I’m very comfortable with my body and I’m totally for any woman or any person showing as much or as little skin as they want. For me, I don’t like to show a lot of skin on camera. I think lately, people feel pressure to show skin [on Instagram] just because everyone else is doing it. It’s like the only way to be body positive in 2019 is to show your whole body. Why is that the case? Why can’t you be confident in your body just being regularly clothed for the weather? You can take off your clothes, but sometimes maybe you’re cold. [Laughs] They’re there for a reason. At the same time, if you’re going out and you want to wear a low-cut top, that’s fine too — it’s not just one or the other. You can be cool and sexy and a great model either way.
If I want to do a job and they say they want nudity or partial nudity, I’m not afraid to say ‘no, I’m not comfortable with that, I don’t want to do that.’ Even on set the day of, which is kind of a tough spot to be in if you don’t have an agent to advocate for you — it’s all on me. But modeling without an agent has made me grow as a person, and I’m able to stand up for myself in situations like that. If I’m not comfortable, I’m fine to walk away that day. Especially if they’re trying to pressure me into something I don’t want to do. It’s definitely happened before. Most people are really supportive of it, but I can definitely sense some tension on set if I don’t want to do certain things.
Alisha is wearing The Plunge in Black.
I think I’m lucky in a way. People will be like, ‘you’re tall and skinny so there’s no way you could have body issues,’ and I agree that it probably helps if you fit a certain mold. You might be more inclined to be comfortable with your body. At the same time, when certain parts of your body are being talked about [on set], you start to get uncomfortable with them. Post college and post dance, it was about learning what I need to do to keep my body healthy. And learning what to do when things have happened to me injury-wise. Keeping myself safe and healthy for the long run, rather than trying to diet or make my body fit a certain mold.
Alisha wears the Plunge in Black.
Because I knew I always wanted to go into a traditional job instead of a creative or modeling job, I knew the images of myself out in the world would affect my job search. It’s kind of sad that the world is still like that — if you post a provocative photo of yourself you might not get a job. But at the same time, from a practical standpoint, I know that. It’s part of the reason I’m very strict about the photos that are taken of me. It’s kind of funny now that I’m interviewing for a lot of startup jobs, when they ask what I do outside of work I’ll say, ‘well I model sometimes.’ I think it’s funny and a little sad that I feel embarrassed about it — that people will judge me or think of me in a certain way. It happens to be something I do, but I’m still very strongly academic, I want to work in a certain field, and it’s weird that I feel like I have to hide it. One time I mentioned that I modeled and an interviewer was like, ‘you do financial modeling for fun? that’s really weird.’ [Laughs] and I was like, ‘oh no, I do like photoshoots, pictures — that kind of modeling.’
I’m not particularly into fashion. It’s really just jeans and a T-shirt. I think when I forget about what I look like in a moment is when I’m most present in my life. I have moments of insecurity. But it’s never earth shattering. It is what it is. You could really hyper-fixate on it, or you could just live your life.”
Photographed in CUUP by Stephanie Lavaggi. Interview by Anna Jube.