If you haven't heard of Neelam Gill, then frankly, where have you been?
The first British Indian model to star in a Burberry campaign, the face of Blink Brow Bar and L'Oreal's latest uber diverse ad and spokesperson for bullying, depression and self worth, Neelam's way more than just a pretty face....
Do you feel like you're providing a role model for British Indian women in the modelling industry?
I hope I am! The feedback I get from Indian women is always really positive. I always get approached by young Indian women telling me, 'Seeing you makes me think I can do anything' and I'm always like, 'You can! I'm from Coventry!'.
Before I started modeling I didn't realize there was such a big problem because I was so used to being underrepresented. Hopefully I'm helping change that. I was kind of the first British Indian model to do these kind of things and it's a great milestone but there's a long way to go. At least brands seem to be changing.
You were the first ever British Indian woman to feature in a Burberry campaign, what was that like?
Working for such a big fashion house like Burberry really propelled me in the industry and made other brands take notice. Christopher Bailey really stood behind me - if I hadn't worked with him I really doubt I'd be in the position I am now.
What do you think of the argument that diversity is just a selling point for designers?
With some brands it can feel really contrived. Like, 'let's just put one black girl and one asian girl in the show'. Burberry weren't like that.
What was it like to walk for Ashish's Indian-inspired SS17 show?
I feel like the few Indian people that are in the business really support each other. Ashish approached me about doing his show so I went to the fitting and saw the collection and thought, 'I need to be a part of this!'
His AW17 show made a really powerful statement, especially after Brexit. The clothes were all about LGBT rights, racism and he even wore a t shirt with 'Immigrant' on. It was really brave of him to stand up like that. He uses his platform to speak out which is what I try to do.
Who are you stalking on Instagram at the moment?
I follow a lot of people on Instagram that are doing amazing things.I met MIA at the Ashish show and I really respect her, she's indian too. I remember watching her videos when I was growing up and being like, 'Wow she's gorgeous, she's cool, she has amazing style, she's really earnt who she was'. She's such a good example of someone who's stayed true to themselves.
Tell us about that Youtube rant video...
I made that video so randomly because I was so frustrated at the time. I felt like the whole world was against me and I was getting bombarded with so much hate so instead of responding over Twitter, I did a video and just uploaded it.
But I'm glad I've done it. So many people have reached out and said it helped them. So many people go through these things and they look at me and think my life is perfect and of course I'm grateful but I'm still a human being and I still go through so much. I never want to paint the image that my life is amazing and perfect. It is sometimes, but when it's not I'll tell you.
So many young people get fucked up by social media because they're like, 'Why isn't my life like that?' - it's a constant comparison. Before I was in the industry I'd see people posting pictures about 'I'm working out doing yoga, I'm so healthy and gorgeous, check out my new handbag' 24/7 but now I wouldn't want to be like that. Bragging on social media really doesn't matter to me now.
If you don't mind us saying, your eyebrows are kind of great...
I've only ever had my eyebrows threaded. Even as a kid when everyone plucked theirs, my mum wouldn't let me, so threading has basically been ingrained in me since childhood. When I moved to London, Blink Brow Bar were the people I trusted to thread them properly. Sometimes getting your brows done can be nerve wracking but Blink made me feel more at ease and let me keep my eyebrows nice and thick. Brows really do frame your face so it's important!
If I'm doing my own brows I'll use the Blink brow pencil which looks really natural and has a little brush on one end to brush out the product if I put too much on. Then I'll use the eyebrow gel to hold them in place. Some gels are way too heavy and crispy but this is the perfect in between.
Strong brows, epic hair - what's your secret to keeping it healthy?
Genetically I'm quite lucky with my hair. The main reason it's so healthy after being in this industry for years is that I've never dyed it and I don't wear extensions. I also don't wash my hair everyday - it sounds crazy but I swear I'm hygienic! I wash it three times a week and I don't style it if I don't have to. On a day off I'll just let it air dry and maybe use a hair mask. I love Moroccanoil - their products are amazing, I know a lot of Indian women that use it.
We always see models backstage bringing their own shade of foundation, do you still have to do that?
I remember being at Burberry and Wendy Rowe was so on it. She said, 'When I go to the lab again I'll mix up your shade' and she totally did and gave me a sample pot of it. It's getting better. Shops have so many more shades of foundation now but it's still hard for me to find one that matches - I still have to mix shades.
Why is being part of L'Oreal's 'All Worth It' campaign so important?
When I was growing up I looked at those adverts and I couldn't see anyone like me. I thought, 'How can I feel confident when I don't look like anyone in these magazines?'. For me to be in the campaign as an Indian girl, well, I don't take it lightly that I get to be that person. The whole cast is so diverse with Helen Mirren, Cheryl, Katie Piper and Gary who's a black guy that loves wearing make-up or Mina who wears a hijab. There's someone that everyone can relate to and that's so powerful.