Winner of Mr. Gay World India 2016, a TEDx Speaker, and an Art Creator, Mr. Anwesh Sahoo has gained immense success from a very young age. His story has also been covered by The Quint. He is the epitome of “when there is a will there is a way”. He loves making digitally rendered outfits. Coming from a very typical conservative Odia family, it was very difficult for him to talk about his sexuality. And, also about the modeling career he wanted to pursue. With his willpower and sheer determination, he managed everything on his own.
He was 16 when he got to know about Mr. Gay World and has wanted to participate in it since then. He was sure that he should take modeling more seriously and participate in the pageant from that age. He used to watch America’s Next Top Model and was confident that he was capable enough to do better in this field. Anwesh always used to walk with the belief that someday he can win the world.
I was doing my internship with the Koovs as a style ambassador. There was a campaign of Koovs where they brought all the influencers together. That was the time when I felt a little insecure about myself seeing all those influencers. I thought that maybe I am not beautiful enough. That was the first time I felt that way. After that I went to the gym, to get a little more healthy as I was very skinny. After working out I started feeling more confident and beautiful.
He applied for Mr. Gay India. In December 2015, he got a call from them, saying that they would love to have him, making him extremely happy. He did a three-month internship and saved up some money. With that money, he bought some good clothes for the pageant. He could not ask for money from his parents as it was a gay pageant and none of his parents would have allowed him to participate.
I came out to myself at the age of 16 and I was not comfortable with my sexuality at all. So initially I decided to never speak about it to anyone. It was supposed to be a well-kept secret. But eventually, I got more and more comfortable about it and decided to not hide my sexuality from anyone. And the moment I became comfortable with it I did not care about anyone or anything. It was very recent that my parents accepted me completely with who I am. But initially, it was very difficult to make them understand. The conversation also gets very uncomfortable at times.
He moved to Delhi for his higher education. That is when he started being more open about his sexuality. Delhi has played a great role in his life. It has influenced him for a lot of things. He also started a blog called The Effeminare where he puts forward his views and opinion on various topics and also his artworks.
I work as a senior technical artist. I have a degree in technology as well as design. He works in the field of game designing and development. And, I love it. I totally enjoy doing it. Besides modeling, this is something I’m very passionate about. Because I have financial stability from this work, I get the liberty to choose what I want to do. Like with which brand or photographer I want to get associated with and all that. I love making digitally rendered outfits as a hobby. It brings me great pleasure.
He brought in his concern about the wrong representation of LGBTQIA+ on mainstream media. All kinds of representation in movies have been done by cis men in a very heteronormative manner. There are very few movies that show the representation of a gay man in an empowering manner. Like he gave the example of the movie Aligarh, starring Manoj Bajpayee which has a good representation. Filmmakers like Apurva Asrani and Faraz Arif Ansari are trying to bring in a good queer representation in mainstream media. But still, there is a long way to go. Anwesh has worked in a documentary as well called Sab Rab De Bande directed by Sukhdeep Singh.
Anwesh mentioned in his TEDx talk that he grew up as a loner but it was a blessing in disguise for him. As it made him grow into a better individual. He grew up to find peace in his own company. Whenever he was mistreated he used to cry out but also learned to pick himself up and move on.
Although he won Mr. Gay India, he still did not get the support and recognition that he deserved. When he went for Mr. Gay world his father was there to support him. Alongside he also had the support of Sushant Divgikr and Mr. Gay India team. They have been a huge help in getting him good work. Then miss Celina Jaitley came up and sponsored his tickets to Europe. But there was no big support from India, although he was going to represent the country.
When I won Mr. Gay India, there was so much hatred from the community itself. They used to tell me that I do not look like a pageant winner or a model. Because during that time a model was imagined as a white skin man mostly. It was very very disheartening and disappointing when your own community does not support you. So, I did feel for some time that maybe I am not good enough. All those comments broke my confidence and determination. That brought a huge amount of negativity around me.
He wrote an article called Ugly Enough for Mr. Gay India after all those negativity. It was picked up by a lot of publications. That made him really happy that people are reading and wanting to his my opinion. He also became a part of the music video for Ritviz which was a campaign by Tinder India. This opportunity brought him a great amount of happiness.
I always tell the truth. I share my authentic self on social media or any other platform. As I have financial stability, I get to choose what work I want to do. I do not work for something which I do not believe in or don’t have a good instinct for.
Social media is a great tool as Anwesh believes that it gives you a platform to reach out to people. It makes the entire process of reaching out to photographers, designers, etc. a lot easier. This is pretty important in modeling. Also, it helps to express our views. It also gives you the opportunity to voice out your opinion if something goes wrong. He runs a hashtag called femme is beautiful.
Anwesh always maintains a gratitude list. Which makes him stay close to the ground and not let anything hamper his mental stability. It makes him hopeful that something better will happen in the future and he should never give up.
Modeling has made me immensely confident as an individual. When I’m into modeling I don’t care about anything, I just feel myself and that’s the best feeling. I feel very powerful and liberated.