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#Women'sDay: from acid attack victim to the new face of fashion; meet Laxmi Saa

The attack

  • Laxmi Saa was 15 when a 32-year-old man and two others threw acid at her
  • She had rejected the man's offer for marriage

The courage

  • Despite the attack, Laxmi vowed not to cover her face
  • Today, she's a successful model, activist and TV personality

More in the story

  • How one photoshoot changed Laxmi's life
  • The message that Laxmi wants to delivery to society on this Women's Day

We are often asked to put ourselves in someone else's shoes. But can you imagine being an acid attack victim?

Laxmi Saa was 15 when a 32-year-old man, accompanied, by 2 others threw acid at her after she rejected his offer for marriage. She was attacked on central Delhi's Tughlaq Road.

But now, she doesn't wish to narrate the story of its attack or its aftermath. She wants to talk about receiving the International Women of Courage award from the First Lady of the United States, Michelle Obama.

Also read - #WomensDay2016: If bravery has a name, it is Soni Sori

Laxmi is now a model, an activist and a TV host. Her story has inspired many, but she asserts that the battle to change the society's mindset is far from over.

Speaking to Catch, Laxmi described the journey of her life - from before falling victim the attack to now becoming the face of a women's clothing line.

Challenging the status quo

When she got an opportunity to work as the 'Face of Viva N Diva', as displayed on hoardings and billboard advertisements for the brand, Laxmi wasn't surprised. She has been working as a model for quite some time now, and has been successful at it, but argues convincingly that she remains more down to earth than her peers in the profession.

Laxmi's life, as far as she can remember, has been about challenging the status quo, not always because she chose to, but because she was compelled to do so.

She did not believe in the institution of marriage, after she learned that her attacker got married after his release from jail. "If a man like that can get someone to tie the knot, the knot holds no value," she asserts.

Laxmi was 15 when a 32-year-old man, whose marriage proposal she turned down, threw acid at her

Laxmi is in a live-in relationship with Alok Dixit, a journalist and activist who works with Stop Acid Attacks Campaign. The campaign seeks to bring in more stringent laws against acid attacks, and curb the sale of acid, something the Supreme Court took note of.

But on the occasion of International Women's Day, Laxmi wishes to talk not of the traumatic experience she had to go through as a 15-year-old girl, but her profession life as a model. However, she knows very well that the two cannot be isolated.

Won't hide my face

The one thing that Laxmi credits for her career as a model is her decision to not hide her face after the trauma.

"It took time to get the strength to convince myself that there is no reason for me to hide, that I'm not the only one who faces the difficulty of not feeling accepted," she says.

Laxmi was determined to pursue her passion - a career in fashion. And while she did get jobs as a make up artist, among other things, much to her own surprise, photographer Rahul Saharan's idea of having a photoshoot featuring acid attack victims gave her opportunities she could never envision.

Saharan's shoot got widespread positive acclaim, which eventually led to Laxmi getting many modelling contracts from various clients. This helped her make a career out of it, albeit not full time.

Laxmi is now a successful model, activist, anchors a TV programme, and is the new face of fashion

"As a model, I'm not treated any differently to other models I work with. I'm not perceived as a victim, nor do I look at myself as one," Laxmi assures.

So while Laxmi hops from one photoshoot to another, she also manages to run her Stop Acid Attacks Campaign, along with hosting a TV show for New Express.

"My dream as a 15-year-old girl was to be on TV. It was fulfilled faster that I could have hoped for," she says.

Also read - Fire Girl: sex worker's daughter wants to study journalism at IIMC

Changing society's mind

Laxmi isn't happy with just fulfilling her teenage dream. She wishes to change how beauty is perceived among women, young and old. She wishes to denounce all the quantitative measures, that include skin complexion, height or weight type that society believes in. She hopes that her career as a model is a stepping stone to doing just that.

"These notions are ingrained in you during adolescence, and are hard to fight against. But I believe my struggle can help those who face such body image issues to not let society and its restrictive standards bring them down," Laxmi says.

She adds that if she can be cast in an industry that is perceived as extremely shallow, it can be emulated elsewhere, irrespective of what the profession or nature of work is.

On International Women's Day, Laxmi's only wish, to those who do think of her as an inspiration, is for women to feel comfortable with their bodies.

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Vishakh Unnikrishnan

Vishakh Unnikrishnan @sparksofvishdom