‘Moment of empowerment’

Dharma Bhullar shares his experience as a Vogue model and creative design intern

Vogue model Dharma Bhullar practices his routine for Hemani Kamdar’s scene on Monday night.
Vogue model Dharma Bhullar practices his routine for Hemani Kamdar’s scene on Monday night.
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For international student Dharma Bhullar, Vogue Charity Fashion Show is his anti-rejection medicine.

“Things just didn’t work for me when I came here,” the Vogue model said. “The analogy I like to use was I was just a liver put in a body and it just wasn’t a match, it was just constant rejection. So joining Vogue was something that I really enjoyed because it gives you that moment of empowerment.”

Bhullar, ArtSci ’12, came to Queen’s from Kenya and began working as a professional model three years ago. He joined Vogue this year.

“I always really wanted to join the club but I was kind of a little intimidated by it,” he said. “A good friend of mine was a designer last year, they kind of pushed me to do it. I thought it would be a really good opportunity to develop my talent while I’m here at Queen’s.”

While some may think modelling is simply walking down a runway, a practice on Monday night told a different story. Every week, the models devote an hour of practice to each of the show’s eight scenes. One of Bhullar’s three scenes is for designer Hemani Kamdar’s collection of distressed business clothes. It’s choreographed by Lee Brymer, a trained gymnast and dancer.

“The movement is very sequential and for someone who has no dance practice it’s a lot of learning on the job.”

Brymer’s practice was more of a dance boot camp than a fashion show, with him adding two new moves to the already complex choreography. Brymer reminded the models to have their eyes follow their hand and to keep their arms straight, with one model asking what way they should roll their head.

While Bhullar runs through his scenes three hours a week, he doesn’t practice his runway walk.

“The key for guys is don’t practice your walk, if you practice your walk you look crazy,” he said. “Girls obviously do need to practice because walking in heels is an experience.”

For Bhullar the key to a runway walk comes from proper posture, which he improves by balancing books on his head.

“I’ve used textbooks. I’ve been known to use a flower pot.”

Bhullar said most models create a persona on stage, but that’s not the case with Vogue.

“One thing Vogue is really strong about is that people are kind of being themselves on stage,” he said. “No one is putting on a false persona … they’re being themselves, they’re being goofy and they’re being sassy but it’s all in good taste.”

Bhullar’s pre-runway routine isn’t different from his regular one. He does Yoga and sticks to his vegetarian diet. He said no one at Vogue has a pre-show diet.

At the practice on Monday, models were snacking on blackberries and sour RealFruit candies.

Bhullar was feeling nervous about the show.

“I did have a Vogue dream a couple of nights ago,” he said. “There are two holes this year to make the runway extend. I had a dream that I fell and it was just endless. This is so embarrassing. I just couldn’t feel the ground, I just kept falling.”

Bhullar’s pre-show ritual includes stretching and meditation — plus the odd freak out.

“I normally have a massive freak out and my mother actually told me I should have some oatmeal before,” he said. “I don’t know if that helps, but apparently it helps people calm down.” The Vogue show isn’t a typical runway, with a dance number featured between each scene, giving models ample time to change.

“When I’ve done it before you just have to get used to seeing a lot,” Bhullar said of the nudity behind the scenes of a typical runway show.

Bhullar said he’s anxious about clothes ripping or not being able to find something five seconds before he’s set to go on stage. But that’s not his biggest fear.

“I’m more nervous because I want it to be as good as I envision it to be.”

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Interview: Alyssa Ashton
Camera: Justin Chin
Editor: Justin Chin

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