TOP Her head is in her books. She loves animals. She debuted in the Bollywood movie Kapoor & Sons. Meet femme fatale Elena Fernandes, the model, born to a South American mother and an Indian father, who featured as a Kingfisher Calendar girl and bagged Asia’s Supermodel of the Year award. An animal lover and a boring person is how ElenaFernandes would like to describe herself.
With modelling never o her mind, it came up as a surprise for her when she was scouted, at a party. She climbed the ladder of success one step at a time and unfolded and realised that life is crazy and there is always a lot more that you could look forward to. She finds inspiration in every little thing that people do in order to change the world, which she herself strives to do one day. Currently, she is gearing up for a Bollywood project which is all set to release in the year 2019. Let us unfold what Elena brings in her treasure trove for us. Interview excerpts.
Q- Tell us about yourself?
A- I am a very regular person who intents on changing the world. In addition to this, I love reading, watching documentaries, and have a very special place for animals in my heart. I believe there is nothing more unconditional than an animal’s love.
Q- How did modelling happen to you?
A- I never knew anything about fashion and was a super geek. So, at first when I was scouted at a party, I was apprehensive. I was and still am a super geek; my head was always in a book and in strong academics. So, modelling was at the other end of the spectrum. It has been an incredible journey and it has given me the opportunity to travel the world and to make friends across the globe, experience different cultures, and discover the world.
Q- Was it difficult to start a modelling career in India?
A- I was actually quite lucky. I immediately started working when I came to India. Back then, and even now; the industry has welcomed me with open arms. Apart from this, my agency had worked hard to promote me to ensure great visibility and success. Also, not many are aware that I am half-Indian so, to achieve success in my father’s homeland is an honour for me.
Q- What advice would you give to your younger self?
A- I would tell my younger self to have more faith and to trust more in my instincts rather than my managements. I think I get caught up and easily swayed at times and lose direction. I would also tell her not to calorie count and throw out the weighing scales. I actually have not weighed myself in four years. I let my clothes tell me my size and how comfortable I feel in them. The obsession with weight can really mess with one’s head. It’s more important to exercise to feel good and eat well to treat your body well on the inside.
Q- Following your success; has there been a lesson that you learnt?
A- Yes. It is important that we take out time to appreciate people. Little things really count.
It is important that we take out time to appreciate people.
Q- Also, what did you learn about life and human conditions?
A- I have learnt that life can be crazy. Nothing surprises me much. I find it fascinating how people react but it also makes me sad as I want people to experience and enjoy as much as I do. I want people to understand that I am exactly the same as them and they are equally as awesome as they think I am, because to tell you a secret I am actually very “normal”.
Q- What things in life is still a mystery to you?
A- I really wish to gather the manner in which humans think. I do not understand how some can limit themselves so much and not have a vision. You would be surprised at how many people get scared to make a change because change is scary, because change is new. Whereas, growth can only come from change. I also do not understand how people can be so bad or violent to others. Just why?
Q- What things in your life would you give up to get to a better place than now?
A- There is nothing I would give up. Right now, I am gearing up to proceed to next level.
Q- What projects are you currently working on?
A- I am actually doing a Bollywood film as we speak. I cannot announce it until the press release but I can tell you the film releases in 2019 and the lead is someone I have worked with before. In terms of Hollywood, I will be heading to the US towards the end of the year. I am really excited as to what comes next. Now, most importantly, I am very excited for FHM cover.
Q- Are there any celebrities that you feel have proved to be influential?
A- I think today with social media taking all the space, anyone has the power to be influential and make a difference. You have a platform whether you can express yourself.
You have a platform whether you can express yourself.
Q- How do you handle social media trolls?
A- I deal with them head on. I do not attack, I ask them why, what is their intent what do they achieve. I have been fortunate to not deal with many (though I am known for confronting issues). I ask as to what you achieve by hiding behind a computer screen being malicious. I do not believe it is right for me to then abuse back to a troll as that then makes me equal to them. Dealing with it head on such as confronting a bully is a much more effective way.
Q- Where do you spend most: Clothes, accessories, perfumes, or anything else?
A- I spend the most on my pets and strays. I am constantly nurturing stray cats as seeing kittens being born every 60 days and dying because of the conditions around them is completely heartbreaking. Nurturing allows the cat to live a longer, healthier, happier life.
Q- How do you spend time when you are not working?
A- When I am not working or even when I am working, I am always multitasking with my animal welfare endeavours. When I do take a bit of time out for myself, I love to just rest with my pets, watch re runs of Law and Order or read a book. I tried getting into audio books but it just was not for me. While reading I love the feel of a book.
Q- What is the project you had the steepest learning curve in?
A- It has to be my debut film Kapoor and Sons. It really opened by eyes to film production, being on set, and working with someone like Fawad Khan. I really learnt a lot. The director Shakun Batra gave so much guidance and tips which I have been able to encompass in my film career.
Q- What kind of role do you feel most comfortable with?
A-I am very flexible so I do not like doing something comfortable. I like to have my boundaries pushed and face challenging roles. Naturally a comfortable role would be a character similar to my own self.
Naturally a comfortable role would be a character similar to my own self.
Q- Do you remember when you bought your first car?
A- I actually do not know how to drive. I have a provisional licence but I have just never felt comfortable in the driver’s seat. I am mostly on the passenger’s seat.
Q- What cheers you up?
A- My pets or animals, every time.
Q- Your love for animals is talk of the town. Can you please tell us about your associations and love towards animals?
A- I have loved animals since I was a kid. My grandfather would always help injured pigeons in London. He was incredible. I remember him always talking to my cats, purring back at them. When I came to India, I was saddened by the strays animals on roads and vowed to make a difference.
Q- What do you think is any difference between Indian fashion industry and that in abroad? A- I love that Indian fashion incorporates aspects of Indian heritage into its pieces. There is still a modest element whereas with the western fashion industry is lot more open and professional. The importance of fashion is that it allows the wearer to be confident in what they are wearing as well as explore new trends and concepts.
Q- Your advice to the upcoming/ young models?
A- Have thick skin and think of other markets. Do not limit yourself to just Paris, Milan, London or New York. There is a whole new world out there for you to crack. Also judge success and achievements in your terms. If you are a new addition to the crayon box, what colour would you be and why? It has to be deep black. It matches my soul. To be honest, I would be the blackest black because there is always a sense of mystery in darkness.
To be honest, I would be the blackest black because there is always a sense of mystery in darkness.
Q- What is your greatest strength or weakness?
A- My greatest strength is no matter how many times I fall or face rejection, I will always find something in me to pick up myself and keep going. My weakness is that I am into overthinking and, therefore, I worry and stress. I try to delegate but I have issues with things being done in a particular way.
Q- What is your perfect pizza?
A- Deep pan margarita all the way.
Q-What question do you hate to answer?
A- A question like this (laughs). Well, I am just kidding. I do not like people asking questions about my personal life as it is about my private life and one should respect that.
Q- What is your biggest turn off in men?
A- It has to be selfish attitude and arrogance. How a man treats the “help” is a great indicator of who he truly is.
Q- Crowds, small groups, or “Go away, I’m a loner”?
A- Definitely, ‘go away, I’m a loner.’ I have literally always been a lone ranger. Travelling a lot for work, you spend a lot of time alone but you also get the opportunity to meet such varied and creative talents. I do like small groups for dinners but never crowds. It can be very overwhelming in crowds.
It can be very overwhelming in crowds.
Q- How is your fitness regime like?
A- I do really enjoy working out. It makes me feel good about myself and it mentally gives me that one hour to switch off from thinking everything. I think that when you feel good, you look good. I love to mix up my workouts. I train with my trainer Imran Rampure daily when I am in Mumbai. He constantly mixes up my workouts with weights and body-weight exercises to really push my limits. In London, I train with Joel Gentle Harris in Hyde Park so, the location mix up really helps to mentally stimulate me. You should always do a workout that works for you. I mix it up with boxing and Pilates also. Find whatever works for your body as what works for me may not necessarily work for you.
Q- If you had to be named after a city, state, or country; which would you want it to be?
A- London, as it is the most multicultural, diverse place on earth in my opinion.
Q- What would you like: Cover page or a showstopper?
A- That’s a tricky one. I definitely would have to say cover page.
Q- Where would you rather be: Editorial or Runway?
A- I would say editorial because location is involved and a variety of outfits. It is a full story you get to tell. I love runway but with runway you will be getting ready for two hours and it is all over in 10 minutes.
Q- What inspires you?
A- I am inspired by acts of kindness of people doing their part to change the world. We see media highlighting all the negativity of humanity which makes us ignore the other side. From people doing projects to save sharks, to those protecting endangered animals, to individuals taking on traffickers to those with barely any money trying to save animals.
Q- What is your passion?
A- Making a difference and changing the world.
Q- Your experience on working with FHM cover shoot?
A- It was absolutely amazing. It was like being on a film set as the location had so many different locations within itself. The whole team was incredible and so creative. I would like to thank Adil and Mitali. I want to extend a very special thank you to Neena for providing me with such a wonderful opportunity.
I want to extend a very special thank you to Neena for providing me with such a wonderful opportunity.