Naaz Joshi is India’s first transgender international beauty queen. Her life is full of extreme highs and lows. Although she has made India proud in lots of international beauty pageants, it is still difficult for her to survive on her own. Her source of income is very limited, in spite of the fact that she is well educated and a gold medalist at NIFT. In the interview, we take a deep dive into the life of an international transgender beauty queen. Read excerpts.
Q: Tell us about your childhood. How was your relationship with your parents?
A: I was the first child in my family and a boy. My dad and mom loved me. As a child, I always felt that my dad loved me more than my mom. Till the age of 7, I had a loveable childhood and fond memories.
Q: How did your parents react to your sex-change surgery?
A: I came home in 2015, and my father was okay with it, but my mother still thinks I’m a curse to the family and that i have shamed them in society. Today I am empowering others, but my mom says, “Maine to ladka paida kiya tha, Heejra nahi. I stay with her. She is physically and verbally abusive to me. You would ask me why I don’t get separated because I don’t earn enough to have my own home. I make enough to fulfill my basic needs.
Q: How did you get to be India’s first transgender cover model?
A: Bruce Jenner, an American personality and 1976 Olympic gold medalist who was Kim Kardarshian’s stepfather, took a bold step in 2015 when he came out in public as Caitlyn Jenner and appeared on the cover of Vanity Fair magazine. People were not expecting this from her at the age of 65. This cover went really viral. At the same time in 2015, another actress called Laverne Cox appeared on the cover of TIME magazine. This was the first time that two big trans celebrities appeared as magazine cover models and made headlines. The same year, in 2015, Tehelka decided that they would also now put a transgender person on the cover of the magazine. This was something that had never been done before. I got to know this from Rishi Taneja, my photographer. He clicked a few photos for me, which initially Tehelka magazine did not like, but I didn’t want to let go of this opportunity, so I sent my pictures on my own, which were not shot by him. I was immediately selected, and the editor and the cover story journalist decided to put me on the cover. In June 2015, I became the first ever trans woman to be the cover girl of a famous magazine, and that’s not all. A lot of people don’t know that I have appeared in an international magazine that’s published in Chicago, named the World Class Beauty Queen Magazine. I am India’s only trans model who has ever been on the cover of an international magazine till date.
Q: What challenges did you face as India’s first international transgender beauty queen?
A: The challenges were different. Many people said she should go to trans pageants. I have created history by winning international beauty pageants with women. Many would step down because of me, as I had a history of sex work, and women wouldn’t want to compete with an ex-sex worker. Secondly, for a female beauty pageant contestant, many will come forward and sponsor her; in my case, no one came forward to sponsor me. I paid my pageant fee, flight tickets, and costumes. But I am happy that the supermodel Alesia Raut, who is also the ramp walk trainer for Harnaaz Kaur Sandhu, trained me. She is a wonderful person, and she charged me nothing.
Q: Do you want to send a message to children who identify as transgender or any other nonconfirming gender?
A: The message to all transpeople is that don’t hurry for gender re-assignment surgery. Be your own self, and ask your employers if they will accept you after surgery. If not, then find a job that will accept you or start your own business. For the entire LGBTQIA+ community, I would say don’t hesitate to meet your community members, talk to counselors, and then decide to come out. You have a long life; just don’t rush things