Mona Varonica Campbell is the first plus-size transgender model in India. Her title in itself breaks several stereotypes. Mona’s journey is not unusual. It is, however, very important – especially for the trans community fighting for acceptance.
Mona, now 28, was born into a South Indian family. Her father is a central government employee, while her mother is a housewife. Growing up, she had a very supportive elder sister. There weren’t any financial troubles as theirs was a wealthy family.
But Mona was assigned the gender male at birth, and experienced gender dysphoria early in childhood. “My parents saw that I behaved more like a girl than the gender I was assigned. So, they raised me as one along with my sister,” she tells The Better India.
However, coming out was hard, especially to her father.
Mona wanted to pursue fashion studies and during her graduation, she took the big step to consult a doctor and go ahead with Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT).
Her decision wasn’t received well by her father, who outrightly refused. However, her mother and sister stood by her side all that while, as did her college friends and faculty.
But Mona knew it was now or never. So, she went ahead with HRT and for the first time felt more of a woman than ever before. Gradually her father accepted her identity and lent his support whenever she needed it. This support helped her pursue higher education in fashion management.
During that time, Mona finally underwent sex reassignment surgery with her family’s support and began a new life as a confident woman in Canada. She received training by professional make-up artists and worked with reputed international brands as well.
During her hormonal therapy and surgery after that, Mona gained weight.
This was when her journey of being a plus-size model began. “There were requirements for a plus-size model at a few local brands. I got an opportunity to walk the ramps for a few fashion shows. But walking for the Lakme Fashion Week is what made me feel that I was opening doors for other trans women,” she says.
Mona grew up watching models walk the ramp, and she takes her last name from the English model Naomi Campbell, whom she admires. Mona never really faced rejection during auditions and was rarely a target of discrimination based on her identity.
She says it’s because she had the confidence to face her discriminators, and never let it bother her. Her journey gives individuals from her community hope and the confidence to pursue such a career. “I am confident about myself, my looks and my body. I love how unique my body is. I am bold, and I will break all stereotypes attached to our community,” she says.
Mona walking during the fashion week earned her the title of being India’s first plus-size transgender model and was widely appreciated by the media and social media users alike.
Mona encourages other individuals with gender dysphoria to muster up the courage and come out to their families, while also not being discouraged by their lack of understanding of what they’re going through.
Although from a wealthy family, she encourages those with financial troubles to have faith and trust that their confidence in their identity will take them forward in whatever they want to pursue. The biggest barrier Mona has broken is to make a place for herself in the fashion industry, which can otherwise be quite exclusive. Moreover, by being a plus-size model, she also questions the abnormal beauty standards set by such exclusive institutions and fights for inclusivity.
“I want to tell the LGBT community that they should first love themselves, their preference and their choice, and respect themselves before they expect people to respect them. Most importantly, they have to be confident about who they are, and never lose hope,” she tells TBI.