Everything you were itching to ask a super model
She’s been splashed across the cover of Newsweek as “The Perfect Face.” An intriguing blend of ethnicities, hers is the face of a global world, where cultural and geographical boundaries are blurred. Indeed, this is the face – and body – that’s launched scores of fashion shows and products, and been splashed across the pages of magazines from Vogue to GQ. She’s also listed in Maxim’s top 100 models of the world.
Meet Saira Mohan – 5 feet 10.5 inches tall, an enticing blend of French-Irish-Canadian and Punjabi blood – and drop dead gorgeous. An Elite model since she was just 13 years old, Saira has made millions – a day’s shoot can net her anywhere from $5,000 to $100,000. She’s modeled for all the major couture houses from Chanel to Valentino.
But aren’t supermodels supposed to be glamorous clotheshorses with few gray cells? Well, surprise, surprise. Saira Mohan is not only a stunner, she has a brain, a beautiful mind and a warm heart, not to mention a very spiritual soul. She paints, is an avid photographer, manages stocks and is pursuing a degree in entrepreneurship in business.
She’s very happily married to Christopher Cooper, who heads an investment firm, and from their experiences she’s written How to Seduce (and Marry) the Woman of my Dreams, an e-book about relationships that has sold well and garnered her a fan following. In fact she regularly answers and solves problems posed by young people on her website, www.saira.com.
Saira, who has homes in Los Angeles and Chicago, really lives on an airplane. She manages to juxtapose her many roles and into the crazy mix of photo shoots and airplane rides, she’s added the role of new mother. Her son Roman is 14 months old and the center of her universe. At 27, she’s got larger plans for the rest of her life for she’s a homegrown philosopher who believes in making the most of one’s time on earth by touching other people’s lives in special ways.
Read on to see what makes Saira Mohan tick, as she talks with Little India about the real life of a supermodel.
Your list of clients reads like a who’s who – Calvin Klein, Emmanuel Ungaro, Victoria’s Secret, Mercedes 500SL, L’Oreal, Oil of Olay, Neiman Marcus, to name just a few. What’s the secret?
After 15 years in the business it’s pretty much everyone that’s been written about, or you’ve seen advertised I’ve worked for at one point or another in my career. The fashion world, like any job when you’re in it and it’s your world; it really is such a small world. The people that have lasted through the years and been around for a while, they all know each other. You tend to hire the people you enjoy and I’ve luckily been very likeable, I guess, to work with in the past. Which is why my career has lasted so long, where people just like to rehire me because they know we’ll laugh and have a good time and it won’t be too stressful and we’ll make the best of it.
Are there any fun figures that I could give to make everyone’s eyes pop out. The kind of money you might have got for one shoot?
Do you see a lot of South Asian girls opting for modeling?
I don’t – and I’ll tell you why. I think most traditional parents won’t be supportive of their daughter showing so much skin, running down a beach, looking sexy, wild when she could be in school, doing something with her brain. There’s room for South Asian girls, if they want to be part of it. I think everyone should pursue their dreams, but within realistic terms of course. I think measurements and height and your body type – you really need to fit the criteria otherwise you’ll be wasting your life and wasting your time – and time is the most valuable thing. It’s the most valuable gift, you just never get it back ever. So it’s very good to be smart about and realistic about what you can do.
Can it be a problem to look too ethnic?
If you look too ethnic, it can either work very well for you and it can become a trend. But trends die quickly; so it can be a help or a hindrance. It’s really all about timing. I think it’s a very good time for South Asian models right now.
In India modeling seems to have become big business now.
Everyone’s figured out there’s a lot of money in India. It’s such a young nation and all of the youngsters are very well educated and now it’s like there’s a whole new people to market to so all the fashion houses want to go to India. It’s like a brand new territory to conquer.
Have you done modeling assignments in India?
You are into art, photography and writing. How do you fit all these into your life?
I have such a long life. I’ve been a collector all my life – of writings, of thoughts, of paintings, and both my husband and I are very cerebral and talk a lot about how we can share with the world the things that have helped us with our problems in life. We are all human at the end of the day and we all have the same emotions. We come from the same place, regardless of culture, religion, color, skin, whatever. So those are the things I focus on and those are the things I like to build upon. I travel a lot so I have a lot of time to kill on airplanes, so I end up reading and writing quite a bit.
When you were growing up, were there many South Asians around. Did you ever agonize about your religious or cultural identity?
What do you mean by that? Now there are so many intercultural marriages taking place that one wonders how does one take two religions and two cultures and weave something out of it?
Do you feel that children inherit something special by belonging to two cultures or is there a sense of not truly belonging anywhere?
I believe you’re planning to write another book – is it about fashion?
After 15 years in the modeling world I’m looking forward to closing this chapter and moving on to more humanitarian work and working more closely with India and the youth, and sharing my experiences with them. The book will be more about advice to my son, to other mothers, and with photographs and art to go with it.
What are the humanitarian projects that you are going to be active in?