WOW | Coverstory
the girl in the picture Maya Khan
Brimming with dreams of becoming a supermodel, she strives to base her self-worth on more than just looks. For the 18-year-old Maya Khan – ‘it’s diversity that will better the fashion industry’. She believes it is her mixed genes and global upbringing that might give her the edge in the very competitive and fast changing modeling industry.
Born in Milan to a Nepali Muslim father and an Italian mother, Maya has been travelling between bot countries since childhood. In the initial years, she used to live eight months in Kathmandu and the rest in Italy. Having both her parents dealing in jewellery and art, Maya has also developed a keen interest in the business. Currently, she is enrolled online for a Bachelors degree in English Literature and Creative Writing.
Striving to create a balance between the glitz and shine of the glamour world and her own earthiness, Maya Khan is a glimpse of today’s young woman.
What is it like to be a mixed culture person?
I am grateful for my lineage. I have lived most of my life in Kathmandu and definitely feel more at home here than in Milan. I think that being mixed allows me to savour the best of both worlds. I am thankful for the fact that being the daughter of a strong and independent Italian mother has spared me some of the more oppressive aspects of being a Nepali woman. I embrace the diversity that being mixed brings. It has given me the opportunity to travel a lot to meet family here and there. Living this ‘in between’ existence has sometimes obfuscated my sense of belonging. Especially in my growing up years, I felt as though my experience as a Nepali girl was discredited because of my background and vice versa in Italy. But now that I am older, and I begin seeing the perks of being a global citizen, I begin to question the concept of nationality altogether. Moreover, I think that humans come from the same place, this Mother planet, and we are from the same main culture, the human culture. Even if people eat, dance and pray differently, at the end of the day we are all cousins anyways so what does it serve us to point out the difference between one another. Being “mixed” has strengthened this attitude in me because if I were here trying to decide where and to whom I belong, what traditions to follow and which to condone, I would never come to the end of it and I would feel in mid air forever. Today I feel at home here, maybe tomorrow not anymore, everything is ever changing, and I feel as though my lineage has helped me be fluid.
How did you get into modeling?
Friends have asked me to pose for them every now and then since my childhood and as the years went by, the shoots slowly became more planned and professional. One of the two cornerstones which have made me think of really pursuing it was a few years ago when I posed for my best friend Narra Fortin’s photography exam, and last summer when I did a photo shoot with Barsha Thakali and Sanjog Rai which was fun to do and seemed well received.
As you are graduating in creative writing, what do you aspire for?
I really aspire to tackle this writer’s block I am having. With all the changes in my life these past few months, I haven’t got to writing as much as I used to when I was in school. Writing Wild Grass of Kathmandu, my first finished but yet unpublished work was an absolute thrill. Although I probably should not say it, it is a work I am really proud of. I consider it my darling. Going on writing with the same fervour as when I wrote WGK is more than I could wish for.
What inspires you to write?
I have been an avid reader since the day I learned to read. I have always considered authors as some sort of mages, who with the power of their mind, can create worlds and peoples, not only in their own heads but in those of others as well. Writing is the craft of translating your imagination into a culture of sounds and symbols, each of which carry an unimaginable pantheon of meanings, associations and implications.
Once you’re done writing a poem, story or whatever it is you were creating, by being conscious of what literary perfection means to you, you have created a rhythm, a tone, a sense of time and space which is uniquely yours, and yet resonates with many others. What inspires me to write, in a few words, is basically an unavoidable instinct I have towards expressing myself in this world that has been companion to me since childhood and that I have studied ever since.
What are the three most important aspects of life?
I think that the freedom to make decisions for yourself, being in good health and having people around you that make you feel like you’re in this together, are the three most important aspects of life.
What type of persona are you?
I would say that I am an extrovert except that in a large group of people, especially if I don’t know them very well it can take me a long while to crack out the first words. But if somebody approaches me and the conversation gets started I feel I can be pretty easy going. With my best friends and people I already know, it’s a whole other story. I will admit to the fact that I can sometimes tend towards the cringey over sharing type, but I am getting a hold of that.
Who has been the greatest influence in your life?
Rather than who, I would rather answer what. I grew up in a small community in Gairidhara. We were a number of families, there were quite a few children, some older than me and two closer to my age. We lived in houses around a large communal garden where parents and children would invent games to play, where we could lay in the grass basking under the sun or go on some sort of adventure through the greenery almost every day. We called it The Compound. And here, we children were extremely close: one’s home was the home of the others as well. I felt very supported and cared for by the other parents alongside mine. The Compound has been the greatest influence on me because it has given me a strong sense of community, a sense of family that extends beyond blood relations, but most of all, it has given me a model of life I will forever try to reproduce.
Very bad table manners
Most important person in your life
Besides members of my close family, my childhood friend Cyril is a really important person to me
It’s the company that matters, but my home is pretty comfortable
Can’t do without
A garden and a peaceful place to go back to in the evening
Colour of your life
The most daring thing you’ve done
Moving out to go to my dream school in Switzerland when I was 14
Aspire to be
Grounded and fulfilled
Fear the most
I work out
I try to stick to my one hour a day yoga routine
Makeup must haves
Mascara and eyeliner
Can’t say that I have been on a proper first date yet
Wise Blood by Flannery O’connor is my recent favourite. A Room with a View by E.M. Forster also holds a very special place in my heart.
The author I admire most
This is a really difficult one to answer. I can’t decide between Kafka, Oscar Wilde, Chuck Palahniuk and Anchee Min.
Would love to endorse
Sustainable farming, methods like permaculture or biodynamics which I feel would make a massive contribution in using our natural resources more responsibly.
Kathmandu and Amsterdam
A typical day
First things in the morning are usually yoga and coffee. The rest of the day can be studying till lunch time, then meeting up with friends, or going around the city to run errands. The evenings are usually relaxed and at home but I don’t mind a good party every now and then.
Be yourself everybody else is taken
YOUR THOUGHTS ON
When it comes to such personal decisions on one’s own body, I think to each their own, especially when it makes them more confident and comfortable with their physicality. Personally I don’t think I would do it myself unless a reconstruction is absolutely necessary.
Like any other shape and size, size zero is wonderful to have if it is your natural state of being, but I think that setting it as a global beauty standard is absurd, unhealthy and archaic. It is time to move on from associating size with beauty.
Violence against women
With all the consciousness we have as sentient beings, I can’t believe that we haven’t unlearned violence yet. When it comes to gender or sexuality based violence I think that there is no excuse. We live in a society of silence and this turning blind eye behaviour is revolting. I think that it is time to radicalize and truly oppose such behaviour, to become a stand up people society for the sake of progression.
What truly empowers an individual
I think that seeing the fruit of one’s labour can be really empowering. To see what comes out of your dedication, your style and your commitment can really give you trust in yourself to do more of what you like to do.
I try to keep the quality of what I do consistent; I would rather not submit anything at all than to submit something that isn’t my 100%. Staying within the deadlines is essential to me, and if I can’t I try to inform the person I need to submit to ahead of time. When it comes to academics, I have gotten in trouble for not doing some works I was not interested in, but on the other hand the ones I did do, which I completed passionately, were held in high regard by my professors. For jobs, I think one should do what they were hired to do at the best of their abilities, but to take into consideration if the job is not fulfilling their personal ambitions, or if it goes against their ethics.
Concept & Text: Anushka Shrestha
Photos: Aayush Shrestha (Instagram: aayyuus)
Makeup: Zulekha Khan (Instagram: zulekha_khan_)
Wardrobe: Uzuko avenue, EVE (Instagram: uzukoavenue, eveofficialstore)
Accessories: Teriyako Collection (Instagram: teriyakocollection)
Location: Aranya Boutique Hotel, Hattisar
Cover girl: Maya Khan (Instagram: yama.maya.428)