“I started modelling primarily to survive and secondarily to be part of progressive campaigns and ideas. The people who believed in me meant more to me than modelling itself.” says Nitigya.
It’s nearly been a year since I’ve been in touch with Nitigya Singh. I had originally planned for his interview to be published in a magazine in early 2020 but the world had different plans. The publication was on hold. Give it a month or two I thought but here we are. Finally, I decided to go digital and do a second interview… I couldn’t publish the same ‘What are you looking forward to in 2020’ again.
The millennial model from Nepal is carving his own path in the chaotic industry in Mumbai working with brands ranging from Sprite, Van Heusen, Being Human to digital giants Amazon and Myntra. Singh has also walked for various designers at Lakme Fashion Week and the GQ Fashion Show. He is no stranger to India having studied in Darjeeling, Mussoorie and Pune. When I ask him to describe his best childhood memory to me, he shares “Definitely, the day I held my little sister in my arms. She’s the part of my childhood that can never be lost”.
As an early teen, Nitigya was going through the motions of wanting to join the army. He elaborates on this phase, “Schools that I went to had very contrasting environments. Goethals carved the work ethic in me whereas, Woodstock enabled my confidence to seek more of what I could achieve. I was motivated by the discipline that my father had who was in the army and fascinated with my mother’s diligence. They were inspiring throughout my formative years”.
Bringing the conversation to a world that’s finding its place in the pandemic, I jump to now.
LEX: What a unique year it has been! An action from one corner of the world has massively affected the entire globe, how have things been for you?
NITIGYA: It’s been a unique year indeed; to tap into the value and perspective of life. Right before the day the lockdown happened in Mumbai, someone very close to my heart got back from Paris so there was a lot of healing since we had spent the longest time apart growing. I’ve also had the time to really reflect on things and plan ahead and discover the world of meditation. It’s become a safe place where I can go deeply into my own trauma and drama, free from fear decreasing being reactive and clearing space out to be proactive. Big goals can be exceptionally daunting but this pandemic has helped me realize focusing only on the next action allows you to make progress without feeling overwhelmed. When you truly understand karma then you realize you are responsible for everything in your life. It is incredibly empowering to know that your future is in your hands.
LEX: That’s very profound and a great way to process things. The arts and creative sector has been massively affected globally, what are your thoughts and perspective on the sector you are part of?
NITIGYA: The important buzzword has been “resilience”- the capacity to recover quickly from difficulties. In the quiet, we’ve all been working something out – the ability to go beyond our comfort zone and adapt to something new. I can relate with the cancellations, postponements and indefinite delays that have been mirrored across the creative and art sectors. I don’t have a problem with social distancing. I feel like majority of my social life is distanced from most people. I’m more concerned with those who are losing their jobs, businesses closing and so much more over the next year. It’s really overwhelming and scary. One silver lining is that it has sharpened creative focus, to a degree. Normally the hardest thing about getting to work is simply shutting out the noise of the surrounding world. With virtually all other activity on hiatus, creative and arts is ironically one of the places we can actually escape to. Notably, AI, augmented and virtual reality offer an entirely new medium because this technology has the potential to become the “envelope” for all content, it is likely to redefine narrative conventions that have existed for decades. Forced by necessity and powered by creativity, digital reinvention seems to be gathering speed. Perhaps no other sectors have been as devastated as those that enrich and entertain us, from culture and the arts to sports and entertainment. Covid19 has definitely accelerated the arts ability to connect with audiences through technology. It’s nice to see the true meaning of art rise again – trying to find the good in people and making the world a compassionate place.
Competing against thousands, I imagine modelling to be a ferocious industry to be in. The drive to succeed, to represent and be represented for models and actors is easily depicted in the most dramatic ways in cinemas globally. With power in everyone’s palm, we’re a click away from reading experiences of auditions. I ask Nitigya about his time at Roshan Taneja School of Acting and how the experience was “I learnt to keep learning. The experience enriched the way I look at life in general. I realized that if I thought I didn’t have anything to learn, I was wrong and if I was the best in any room, I was in the wrong place. For me, there was nothing better than watching a scene in a class, and thinking, “I can’t do that yet, but I’m definitely going to do it.”
I probe further, wanting to know how he deals with good or bad auditions. He keeps his answers consistent once again, replying earnestly “It’s all in the head. Most of the game is about persistence. When you get an opportunity, you have to perform and you have to exceed beyond all expectations, but getting that chance is the hardest part. So keep the vision clear in your head and refuse all obstacles to get to the goal. People expect everything to come from a magical “Big Break” And those happen. But they usually happen after years of hard work, heartbreak and a lot of near misses. When a role is not booked, I do not even get the word, “no” I just get silence. You have to fight your way through thousands of silences until one day they shout “YES. We want YOU.” Life is an audition.”
LEX: I see a wide collection of work that you’ve been part of, any memorable one till date?
NITIGYA: The most memorable one till date is Sprite – because anyone who knows me knows how much I love Sprite. But the irony was that on the day of the shoot, the amount of Sprite I had to drink left me nauseated at the thought of the drink for almost a year.
Today, Nitigya finds himself in a world of creatives, exploring ideas and minds, experiencing fleeting moments and creating them too. He has recently started EMS (Electrical Muscle Stimulation) training in Nepal which he talks passionately about. It is something that he discovered when he got into modelling. With a demand to stay fit and healthy, the pressure is on for models like Nitigya to travel, work long hours and be present, visible and look the part. EMS training efficiently condenses workouts to a shorter duration while working towards better results.
His passion comes through as he dissects what EMS training is. “Originally a therapeutic tool for rehabilitation but over the last few decades it has made strong developments in becoming an alternative to weight and strength training. This is due to EMS’s ability to create muscle tension in a significant manner, without needing weights or resistance opposing the body. This allows your body to recruit 90% of muscle fibers in a safe efficient and intense way, without adding external stress to the body. Evolving through times is important and technology has helped mankind through this process of evolution in ways we can understand or even so cannot imagine. With every generation we’ve had to upgrade to newer systems and the system of EMS training is certainly an upgrade. It’s personalized according to your goals. You wear a bio jacket and your work out is managed from an iPad. How cool is that? All it takes is a 20-minute workout, twice a week – no heavy equipment and you can work out anywhere. It’s truly a futuristic way to hustle for that muscle” says Nitigya.
Confidently, Singh adds “Reality check – We all start out equal, little blobs of blood and muscle. It’s a setup of awesome potential. Most people never develop that potential and one thing I’ve always known is the need to set yourself apart, the desire to not be most people. Because if you are willing to do the work you can have anything. Most people say they want to look better but not everyone is willing to do whatever it takes to achieve it, but the only way to prove yourself is to better yourself. All of the people I look up to are self-made. They all started out with nothing and built their way to perfection. In regards to fitness – providing an alternative to a longer, happier, and more active life – it is extremely satisfying to assist people and make this upgrade accessible. I don’t want to do it in a routine mundane way, as just one more cog in the wheel of fitness companies. I have always wanted to do something new, provide an experience and EMS Training is that experience”.
LEX: Self-care has become a huge theme over the past few years… with social media and what we consume seemingly taking over different aspects of our lives, I wonder how you have been swimming through this year.
NITIGYA: It’s been a great but complicated reminder to continue being altruistic, and to not spend so much time in our heads because so much is beyond our control. I just keep it simple. To be simple means to make a choice about what’s important and let go of all the rest. When we are able to do this, our vision expands, our heads clear and we can better see the details of our lives in all their incredible wonder and beauty. I’ve also found unexpected solace in reading apps and podcasts. I’m a podcast junkie. Lately I’ve been trying not to get bogged down in the panic and have been listening to lighter discussions. That includes – The Happiness Lab, Freakonomics, Reply All, Radiolab and too many true-crime podcasts. Also: puzzles. There’s something about putting a puzzle together that gives my COVID anxiety a place of rest. I think I need to see something change, and see something completed.
LEX: But online, there’s so much information… so much happened this year and we were all living, experiencing and raging. How do you navigate through social media?
NITIGYA: It’s all about finding the balance. There is definitely a time and a place to pull out your phone and cruise – but there is also a time and a place to put it away and focus on what is right in front of you. It can be an extended arm when seen through the right lens. How I navigate social media is directly proportional to why I joined it .It was a necessity that I have an online presence to attract more work and it’s still the same today. There is a risk of criticism and burn out when you put yourself out there so much, but nurturing positive habits like being aware, and creating a balance must always take precedence. Again, sometimes it’s simple – take a walk, read a book, watch a movie, just don’t get lost on your phone.
LEX: I like that take! Understanding the ‘why’ is important. So much happens in our own lives and at times, we don’t exactly get to articulate our authentic feelings… is there anything that bothers you?
NITIGYA: What really bothers me is likely also the takeaway of this interview – if you put ten people in a room and they have to choose an ice-cream flavor, they’re gonna arrive at vanilla. There is always a constant pressure to conform. But originality only happens on the edges of reality. And working on that line is always dangerous because it’s only a short step to disconnected insanity. So resist temptations and advice to play to the middle. The best work always comes from pushing the edge. It’s amazing what one can accomplish once they realize the power of manifestation and the mind.
LEX: Nice analogy there. I hope the readers will takeaway working on that ‘line’. Well, here we are, a year later. This year will soon come to an end, is there anything that you’d like to try before this memorable year ends?
NITIGYA: Not really, I know what I’d like to try once COVID ends or a cure is found?
LEX: What would that be?
NITIGYA: Cough in public without worrying about 50 people judging.