Fabulous and fierce: Meet the city’s only androgynous model
Chiselled bronzed cheeks, red-stained lips, perfectly coiffed hair and the fierce demeanour of a demi-goddess — Chennai’s androgynous model Lemuel Huffman has arrived, and she is here to stay. The 27-year-old model will be a part of the show Top Model India, a one-of-a-kind model hunt that offers a platform for feisty young aspirants from across the country and transforms them into ramp-ready models (See OTB). Lemuel is currently the only person from the LGBTQ commnunity to be a part of the show.
Over a telephone conversation, Huffman expresses excitement over being part of the show. “I couldn’t believe I was selected because I always considered myself as someone who wasn’t model material. I went there without expecting anything and gave it my best shot.” Huffman met several models from the industry at the show and says that the experience was something she wouldn’t trade for anything. An androgynous model, Huffman started exploring and going to the salon only around four years ago. After watching America’s Next Top Model on television, Huffman had decided that this was something she really wanted to do. “At that time, India didn’t have any such shows, so I remember thinking that if there’s ever a show like this in India, I want to be a part of it. And now I am!”
In 2016, visual artist Ganesh Toasty created a riveting segment called ‘Sui Generis’ (Latin for one-of-a-kind) in an attempt to smash all sorts of conventional beauty standards. Huffman was chosen as his muse, and the photographs were powerful and classy. “Ganesh and I were planning to do this for a while,” says Huffman. “And when it comes to posing in front of the camera, I am all about looking good. I was born to be in front of the camera. We did that shoot so people would be aware of androgyny. When we were done with it, the kind of responses I got from people was almost unbelievable. Two years down the lane, people are still talking about it.”
Huffman laments that the designers and photographers aren’t okay with the concept just yet, though he does hope that the androgynous scene goes mainstream. “Initially, only women could model for women's lines and men for men’s lines. Now, a woman can carry off a men’s line too.” We ask him about the acceptance level outside the LGBTQ spectrum and he says a lot of people are okay with it. “It’s a ‘you don’t bother me, I don’t bother you’ vibe. I just try to follow one thing; People that matter don’t mind, and people that mind don’t matter. I do what I have to do. And if you don’t like it, go fry an egg!” For the uninitiated, crossdressing and androgyny are two very different things. While the former is purely for shows and can be considered art, the latter is all year round with no limits.
Huffman’s biggest inspiration is Jamaican singer and androgynous model Grace Jones. “She can pull off the androgynous look really well and is undoubtedly one of the top androgynous models in the world.” Huffman isn’t done talking about his inspirations. “There’s also the singer Pink! I think I would faint, fall down or maybe have a seizure if I see her,” says Huffman laughing.