Transgender Model Anjali Lama’s Journey From Villages to Runways

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Anjali Lama walked the runway at Lakme Fashion Week in Mumbai, becoming the first transgender women to walk at what is one of the most prominent events for India’s bustling fashion industry. Growing up, though, Lama certainly could never imagine how far she would come from the struggle of her youth: feeling like a girl trapped in a boy’s body. 

Lama, however, blended seamlessly into the elite world of high fashion: her sleek dress accentuated her height and slim figure, and a polished hairstyle made sure her high cheekbones didn’t go unnoticed. 

Before she was modeling at one of Indian fashion’s hottest events of the year, though, she had to endure the journey of transitioning from the body she was born into, to the one she always knew she belonged in.   

“I kept asking myself, ‘I’m a boy, so why do I feel this way?” Lama said of the confusion and conflict she felt in her youth.

Born as Nabin Waiba into a struggling farming family in the villages of Nepal, she was the youngest of five boys. She admitted she always felt out of place and depressed over the complex feelings she had toward a biological gender she did not relate to. 

“I knew even as a child that I didn’t like being a boy, wearing those clothes,” Lama said. 

Perhaps the worst part of being different from other boys was the teasing she faced from her peers, as she described the pressure to change as “mental torture.” 

A teenager stuck looking at life through the narrow perspective of a small village, Lama moved to the city of Kathmandu, a choice that would ultimately lead to finding clarity about the conflicting feelings she had endured her whole life. 

“I would walk around the city and see beautiful saris and dresses in shop and wish I could dress like that. I used to wish God mad made me a girl,” Lama recalls.

Fate would have it that Lama met another transgender woman in the city, who opened a gateway into a community of people who would understand her story. Lama was introduced to the Blue Diamond Group, an organization for Nepal’s LGBT society. 

“It was like a rebirth for me. I remember thinking, ‘Oh my God, I’m not alone in the world. There are others like me,’ she said of the inclusion she felt in the city’s LGBT community.

After finding her place in Kathmandu, Lama began taking steps to embrace the female gender she had felt connected to her entire life. In 2005, Lama came out to her friends and family as transgender. Five years after, she underwent the procedure to receive silicone breast implants. 

As she began her transition to her true self, Lama began imagining a career in fashion. 

“People began to notice me and tell me how I had the figure and height to become a model. That felt nice,” she said. 

Lama’s modeling career began with a few small jobs in Nepal, and a cover photo on a magazine featuring transgender people. But Lama was dreaming bigger. 

She decided to pursue her dream of modeling in India’s thriving fashion industry, saying that she had to “at least try and take a chance.” Last December, she got her big break. Lakme booked her for fashion week. 

“I’m very, very excited. I’m trying to just enjoy this moment.  This is a dream come true.” Lama said. 

Lama struts down the runway of Lakme Fashion Week and joins the ranks of transgender people around the world breaking into new industries and shattering stereotypes.  She even exceeds her own dreams, finally wearing the glamorous women’s clothing she admired in the city shops. 

My favorite things in life include cozy coffee shops, window-shopping, wearing the perfect outfit, or writing the most satisfying words.

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