She grew up and studied in the sunny city of Negombo and she moved to Italy to explore its fashion industry. Today we talk to Melanie Rochelle Fernando, a past pupil of Ave Maria Convent Negombo. Melanie has not forgotten her roots; she says “I am proud to be a Sri Lankan”. She works with many Italian stylists and designers and she declares that she is a full time model, pursuing it as her main profession. Here is Melanie up-close and personal in an exclusive interview with DM Life Online.
Melani, you have gained so much fame and opportunity overseas. Do you feel you wouldn't have come this far if you were still residing in Sri Lanka?
I believe I wouldn’t have achieved a successful standard and come so far in the modelling field if I were living in Sri Lanka. Most of the Sri Lankans have a narrow mindset about the modelling field and believe that it only takes a pretty face and a good figure to become a model. People think it is easy to become one.
If I was residing in Sri Lanka I too would have believed so but now through my experiences and when comparing this field with other countries, I know that modelling is a serious job that requires great sacrifices, endless travel, and long waits.
It is a real job, with times worse than any other, and no holidays or paid vacation. Modelling also means the capability to have great physical endurance as well as to have adaptability to different climatic conditions. To be a model in today's world, one must have many qualities, not just physical.
If you want to survive amongst thousands of girls you have to be different, cultivate interests, be fluent in speaking different tongues, and be able to interpret the roles assigned in the photo shoots or on the catwalk.
You have to be determined, smart and even ironic. Great photographers have always claimed that the model transmits from within.
So I am very happy that I was able to succeed in the modelling field and represent our country overseas.
Apart from modelling what are the other avenues you are exploring?
I like to develop myself more in acting. And I am hoping to go on a long journey in an acting career as well as in dancing which I love equally.
A gist of her work with magazines, designers and stylists
Featured on Bogamia, a Miami based art and fashion digital magazine.
Worked with editorial designer Ekaterina Filippova - Vivienne Westwood,
Franco Jacassi-Gianni Versace and
Azzurra di Lorenzo – (A modern fairy-tale)
Has also been featured in Sri Lankan and Indian fashion magazines
Judging from the nature of the shoots you do - from eveningwear, swimwear to lingerie - it seems like you are one of the very rare, daring Sri Lankan models who are comfortable in the clothing they pose in. What are the reactions you’ve received from home?
My family is very open minded. There were trivial issues which rose at the beginning but they were able to look at what I do in a very unbiased way.
The majority look at a photo and interpret it in a prejudiced manner.
Photography is an art, thus it is important to perceive it the right way.
What are the projects you would like to take up in Sri Lanka in terms of fashion?
I am passionate about being a part of innovative activities, novel projects and to do creative photo shoots. There are a lot of photographers in Sri Lanka with a lot of creative ideas but it is difficult to find models that are suitable. So I would like to take on such tasks and do something innovative for the Sri Lankan modelling field.
From Ave Maria Convent Negombo to Milan, Italy - What was the turning point in your life?
My life totally changed when I came to Italy after leaving my school and my life in Sri Lanka. That transition changed my lifestyle, made me adapt to the language, the food and the culture here in Italy. It also made me get used to the new teachers and new friends who became a part of my life.
But still, I would like to say that I could never forget about the country where I lived. I am proud to be a Sri Lankan.
What makes you stand out from the rest?
How I stand out from the rest is I lead a very simple life and I have been told so too by the people who get to know me better. That, I see, is something that makes me different from others.
When it comes to fashion, what’s the difference you see between Milan and Colombo?
Today, when you talk about Milan, you mean the centre of Italian and
moreover international fashion. Names such as Armani, Dolce &
Gabbana and Prada are well renowned all over the world. So living in
Milan you get so naturally accustomed to these styles that it's easy for
you to, suppose, notice anything else, but that's too simplistic.
Maybe I'm so rooted in my cultural origins that I can clearly see how
fast the development to new kinds of interests is, from places like
India and Sri Lanka.
We have to remember that in the last years this part of the world has
reached an industrial and economic progress that will reflect in a
significant wide spreading of our culture and tastes, and in this
consequence I feel sure that new talents will be born here and find
their own spaces in an international assessment.
Boundaries have been broken; our minds are so easily linked that it
seems anachronistic to think about separate worlds.