Coventry-born beauty, Neelam Gill, 20, has already established a modeling career to rival most, including fronting a Burberry Prorsum campaign as her first ever modeling gig and becoming the first Indian model for the brand. She’s now being hailed the next big supermodel (watch out, Cara!).
After a whirlwind of success, she has struck up close friendships with the likes of Jourdan Dunn and Cara Delevingne, she was also handpicked by Kanye West to star in his show for Adidas last year, and has a whopping 50K followers on instagram. She also hit the headlines earlier this year after reports began to circulate that she was dating ex-One Direction singer, Zayn Malik. But all the rumours have only fuelled her success further.
So when I had the opportunity to meet the beauty I made my way to her model agency’s HQ in the middle of Central London to chat about her explosive career and find out what’s next for the lovely lady.
Even off-duty Neelam looks undeniably cool, kitted out in dark skinny jeans a loose t-shirt and colourful trainers, she isn’t wearing a speck of make-up yet she looks fresh-faced and effortlessly beautiful. She seems a little shy when I point out her modeling shoots that are proudly lining the agency’s white walls and it quickly becomes clear that she wasn’t expecting her career to spike so early on. ‘It’s still surreal to me’ she explains, but when phrases like ‘the next big supermodel’ and ‘Kanye West’s protégé’ are thrown around there’s no denying Neelam has earned her success. She’s planning to use her new-found attention for good, with hopes to raise awareness of diversity in the fashion industry whilst also speaking out against online bullying, get ready to hear Neelam’s name (and see her face) everywhere…
So Neelam, where did your modelling career begin?
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When I was first scouted I really didn’t think anything of it, I had glasses, braces, and my mum was convinced it was a scam. I got scouted by loads of agencies but for some reason I kept the Models1 card and about a year later I came into the agency with my mum, I was only 14 and they signed me that day. I didn’t really start working until I was 18.
You made your worldwide catwalk debut for Burberry, what was it like walking for such a big designer brand?
I was so young when I did Burberry! I was 18 and had only just started modelling, I was so excited, it was so surreal I didn’t really believe this was my life. This season I watched the show with Jourdan (Dunn) and we were reminiscing about how nerve-wracking it can be. We’d both be backstage with live cameras streaming the catwalk and we could see everyone arriving, and the seats slowly filling up. I remember seeing Anna Wintor’s hair and sunglasses and thinking ‘Oh. My. God’. If I did it now I’d probably be even more nervous! Initially I was the new girl no one really knew, now people know me and I’d feel a lot more pressure.
How did it feel being the first Indian model fronting such a massive campaign?
It felt crazy to me, I didn’t even realize there hadn’t been an Indian model in their [Burberry] campaign before. I think that’s why I talk about it so much and bring awareness to that fact, because people don’t realize the lack of diversity. The fashion industry is changing but it still has a long way to go.
What about when you walked for Kanye West in his Adidas show? How was that?
I’ve always loved rap music and I’ve always really admired Kanye West. He came up to me after the show and said “I’m so proud of you, keep killing it”. It was just so surreal.
You’ve mentioned the lovely Jourdan Dunn, has she given you any career advice?
When I met her I remember thinking, ‘wow she’s such an amazing model!’ but then you chat to her and she’s actually really nice and down to earth. She always tells me ‘you are doing really well, but don’t forget to make time for yourself, there is no point working so hard if you don’t have time to enjoy yourself’. Jourdan and I are quite similar, we both work really hard, and never really take a break.
Are there any other models who you admire?
I think all the Burberry girls have done so well, they’ve established themselves, not just as models but they’ve made names for themselves. I love Rosie Huntington-Whitely, she’s got her own lingerie line, she acts and she’s done Victoria’s Secret, she’s really inspiring. A lot of people see modeling as a short-lived career, but I think if you are smart with it you can build your career into anything you want.
We’ve seen models like Cara Delevingne and Suki Waterhouse go into acting, is that something you’ve ever wanted to do?
Definitely! I think that with modeling you are kind of acting. At the minute I still feel like I have so much I want to do in the modeling world, but if I were to go into acting I’d want to make sure I went to acting school first to learn everything about it.
Other models like Karlie Kloss have started YouTube channels and I see you have one too! Were you inspired by her?
I love Karlie Kloss’ YouTube channel! I started YouTube as a way to interact with fans, I thought I’d do a couple of Q&A’s as I got asked so many questions on Twitter, but now I’ve started filming more videos, and to be honest most of them are just me ranting to my webcam [laughs]. I do like to address issues like bullying and depression. I try and remind people that you just have to focus on yourself and remember you are doing the best you can.
Do you feel like that belief has helped you handle the pressures of the modeling industry?
It’s definitely helped, but I still feel like I’m not 100% secure in myself, I have a long way to go, especially because I feel like I’m constantly surrounded by so many successful women. I try not to compare myself with others but it’s a bit like a rollercoaster, you have to be prepared.
I have to say, your brows are always on point, what’s your secret?
I get them threaded every two weeks, because I’m shooting almost every day they need to look neat. If your brows are thin you should try the Blink Nourishing Brow Oil, £16, it’s so nourishing. I also avoid tweezing, brows are such a big thing and make such a difference to how they shape your face, so its better to leave them to the professionals. My brows are really thick and I find that the Blink Eyebrow Gel, £17, really helps tame them!
Check out our FULL interview with Neelam Gill in this week’s issue of LOOK, where she shares even more about her supermodel success and all her best beauty secrets…
Neelam Gill is the UK Brand Ambassador for blinkbrowbar
By Victoria Jowett