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India’s first transgender model Nikkiey Chawla: “In 2015, I was about 90 kgs, and life felt meaningless till I decided to not give up”

Life has never been short of a roller coaster ride for India’s first transgender model Nikkiey Chawla. From being born as a boy to realizing that he is actually a female trapped in a male body, fighting family and society, sex change operation to making name as a model, actor and make-up artiste, Chawla faced challenges at every crossroad. Not the one to give up, she always fought hard and has been successful. Now she wants to fulfil her “dreams of being known as a good actor and make good films, TV shows and web series”. Looking back she remembers how when she was in 5th or 6th standard, she was a good dancer and people would tell my parents that God has made me a boy by mistake, she should have been a girl.

“At that time everyone would laugh about it but when I started growing up my parents started feeling bad… My father was a banker and my mother is a well-known cosmetologist. My childhood was amazing. I was a good dancer, acted in many school plays and was quite known in my city. People used to call me Govinda and Madhuri Dixit [Nene] of our city… But then I always wanted to be a girl. Later, I got to know from someone that something like a sex-change operation exists but being young I still didn’t have a clue of what struggles I will have to face if I decide to take that route to become the girl I always wanted to be,” says Chawla, who hails from Punjab and finished her further studies in Delhi.

It was in Delhi where she consulted doctors. Thankfully Chawla did her research before taking the plunge in 2006. The first step was to consult two psychiatrists, who would understand if she is ready and prepared her for the process. “I still remember the first day when I wore bra, it felt awkward, but as I continued I slowly became comfortable… Many friends, relatives even after a point my family stopped talking to me. As the final days approached my family came back to me. The surgery took place on October 21, 2009. The real struggle started afterward when I had to change the legal documents,” she shares.

Talking about her mental and physical struggle along with dealing with society, Chawla adds, “Dealing with society was the toughest. Back in Punjab people starting talking about me negatively but slowly when I started doing well their rudeness, perception and perspective changed. Society is being made by us and we can only be the change… As I said post-surgery is the real struggle. Being a woman now, everything feels different… Depression is very common during this phase and I have been through it for four years. In 2014, I was about 90 kgs and life felt meaningless till I decided to not give up.”

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Chawla, who is a successful model and has done shows like MTV crunch, Emotional Atyachar, Ace of Space as a celebrity, now wants to concentrate on acting assignments too. “After doing the short film Qaid I realised that acting is something I want to pursue, so I am concentrating on that. I missed out working on Kaalakaandi and Made in Heaven 2. I really want to work with Ekta Kapoor ma’am,” she ends.

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