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The Colours Of Fate
Sophie Sunuwar has come a long way. From growing up hearing derogatory words such as chhakka and hijara to becoming one of the most successful makeup artist in the fashion industry, she takes a trip down memory lane and shares her life story with WOW’s Rojina Maharjan
wow photo file © Gokul Shrees
As a child, Sophie loved to put on makeup and play with dolls. Many found it odd that she was a boy and that she displayed feminine traits. “Unlike other boys my age, I was always interested in dressing up and putting on makeup. I always felt that I was different. I preferred the company of girls more than boys. In fact in school I felt uncomfortable using the men’s washroom so I used to hold my pee for a long time,” she shares.
Recalling her early life, she says that things started getting extremely difficult when she hit puberty. “My own brother called me Hijara. This really broke me,” she recalls.
The Art of makeup
Despite being shamed on multiple occasions, Sophie was determined to make a name for herself. She chose makeup brushes as her tool, and turned her interest into a successful career.
She first enrolled in a beautician training programme and began doing makeup for her transgender friends; Anjali Lama, now a well-known transgender model, is one of them.
Sophie took part in many skill development programs organised by the Blue Diamond Society especially related to beauty, hair and makeup. “After the training, I felt empowered and realised that I should follow my dream and passion,” she says.
In 2007, she was invited along with other transgender friends for a dinner hosted by then-president of Blue Diamond Society, Sunil Babu Pant. At that event, she had the opportunity to meet an international makeup artist from Belgium. “This was the turning point in my life. As Peter witnessed our interest and dedication, he offered to train a group of transgender people. Ever since, he has been my biggest inspiration and I am extremely grateful to him,” she says. Sophie then began working with one of the well-known magazines in the country, VOW, where she got to work with many celebrities. Working with this magazine not only helped enhance her career but also led her to opening her own makeup studio called ‘Reveal’ in 2015.
Despite all the success, Sophie still fights her fears. “I feel helpless and hesitant about going to unknown places, especially near children. As they are naive, they often ask me whether I am a male or a female in public. It becomes awkward for me. I don’t know how to cope with this but I try and laugh it away,” she says.
According to her, there are still people in our society who have difficulty understanding the different sexual orientations. She recalls one such painful event when she went to do bridal makeup at a Marwari household. “People kept questioning my identity, they then asked me to do household works such as lifting and delivering things. I tried to tolerate it as much as possible until one of the relatives started to make untrue and derogatory remarks about my makeup. The very next moment, I removed all the makeup and left the venue telling them: ‘You have bought my two hours of time, not me.’ I never felt so good walking away,” she shares.
“Acceptance has been my greatest achievement. I got to know more about myself through the Blue Diamond Society. It is not that I didn’t know who I was before but I understood myself deeper here. Before that, I liked to be alone. To talk with people used to feel like a huge task. When I saw people laughing, I used to wonder why I couldn’t do the same and to be able to express myself without hesitation. Blue Diamond Society gave me the encouragement I needed. I have found my happiness and a lot of friends from different walks of life here. I love talking and laughing and gossiping and I am open and a happy person now,” she smiles.
Strength and happiness
“I am blessed to have found the love of my life Subash Pokharel. We have been in a relationship for quite a long time now. He understands me and makes me feel special and complete. It was difficult to convince our families about our relationship initially. If I were a normal girl it would have been easier to introduce and share the news about our relationship. Me being a transgender woman never dampened my spirit, and we finally convinced our families about our relationship. I believe nothing is impossible if you are determined,” she discloses.
“I am sure with changing times; we will break the barriers and take a stand in society. I feel lucky to be able to have a career, a relationship and friends who make me happy. I wish the same for others but it all starts with the ability to stand up for yourself. If you are good at what you do and work hard, people will appreciate you and accept the person you are no matter what your orientation is,” she concludes.