Karolina Turek Photography | Hair + Makeup: Gorgeous Glow Studios
Meet the oh-so-talented Mesha Toor. A professional Actor, Model, Fashion Show Director and the Founder of Model Mechanisms, an Academy that provides private and group coaching sessions for aspiring Models, Actors, Brides and Entertainers.
Ever since I was a little girl I wanted to be an Actor. I grew up watching Bollywood films and was enamored with the cinematic world. I was a very creative and artistic child growing up–always, drawing, painting, making crafts, dancing and performing in front of the camera. Realistically I didn’t think I could be an Actor. It hadn’t even occurred to me that I could actually pursue it as a career. I had very low self-esteem growing up and didn’t think someone who looked like me could be an Actor. It was just a dream. However, I knew I wasn’t going to follow the traditional paths of what were expected from South Asian kids (Doctor, Lawyer, Engineer, etc). I knew my path would be different.
I started off in Fashion Design and Merchandising, after completing my degree in 2005, I ended up doing a lot of retail jobs. I would volunteer behind the scenes for fashion shows, did odd-end styling jobs. The acting bug was still in my heart and eventually I got involved in community theatre, where I did plays in Punjabi and English. After some encouragement from my theatre director to really get into acting for film/television (on a mainstream level) I enrolled at Vancouver Film School. I had also started to dabble in pageants around the same time. By mid-year of film school I started getting approached for modeling. Started doing fashion shoots, which led to fashion shows. I had a very strong presence on stage. I knew how to walk and pose and carry myself. I managed to find a talent agent right away after graduating from Film School and started to book a few gigs.
By 2012, I was doing it all: modeling, acting, designing, pageants, etc. I was so hungry for it. I had this immense drive and passion. I was trying anything and everything to build a platform for myself and get to Hollywood. I would practice my poses and runway walk. I would study all the top models and research fashion magazines, regularly flipping through Vogue. I even did four beauty pageants to build my confidence and build opportunities.
But I found things to be a catch 22 for me. Here were people telling me I should model and act and that I have the potential for Hollywood and Bollywood. But no one was giving me the time nor day. I was constantly being rejected by modeling agencies. Even traveled to India for Lakme Fashion Week auditions, but was rejected because I wasn’t tall enough. I would go to audition after audition and never hear back. I applied for countless designer jobs and would never hear back. I realized that I didn’t fit the ‘norm’ of what this industry wanted. So I thought ok, I’ll just do it myself.I started orchestrating my own shoots, styling them, editing them and used Facebook as my platform for being noticed (there was no Instagram at the time). I was always networking, attending every high-end event in town, fashion shows, traveling and made sure I always dressed the part—presentation is very important. If you act and look the part, people will believe it.
Eventually it worked and people in the community/industry started to take notice. I booked a few film and television gigs as well, launched my very first designer collection in 2011 and produced/directed my own fashion shows. I started getting messages about people asking me how to model? How to get started in the industry? My styling tips, etc. By the end of 2012 I had launched my school Model Mechanisms and was teaching aspiring Models and Actors in the city.
In 2015, I started working for Sunny’s Bridal, where I was their Fashion Show Coordinator turned Fashion Show Director. I was even their main in-house model and showstopper for all their shows at Vancouver Fashion Week from 2015-2017. We were featured on British Vogue and my career had advanced to another level.
My biggest advice for anyone wanting to pursue a similar career path as me: You have to believe in you first. Don’t listen to anyone but yourself. You have to be your number 1 fan, “your own best friend.” So many people are going to tell you no. They wont always believe in your dreams or your vision. There is no exact time frame of when success is supposed to happen for you. It happens when it’s supposed to happen. And most of the time, you’ll have to create it yourself. No one knows what you are capable of but you.
You will be rejected constantly. You will feel like you are not enough, so you need to have really thick skin to survive this industry and keep going. People can be very vicious in this industry, so you learn to get up, brush yourself off, become smarter, stronger, wiser and you just don’t quit. Keep perfecting your craft. Become so good that they can’t ignore you.
For those who know me, or follow me through my social media outlets know how vocal I am when it comes to female empowerment and speaking up about issues within our community. I am a feminist. A rebel and I think it’s important to have women like that in our community to uplift us, to challenge the “system” and speak up.
A lot of my students are young South Asian women, so I make sure to encourage them and give them the right guidance and support when they are starting out in this industry. I make myself available to them for any career advice they need. They know I will always give them the cold hard truth. Biggest thing for them to know is that they are enough and there is a market for everyone. You have to know your own brand.
Being a strong, powerful and ambitious South Asian woman myself would get me into a lot of challenges. One of them being, I am in my mid-thirties and I am still single, not married. I used to and still do get pressure and comments at times as to why I am not married? That a single woman like me cannot live a life alone; or that I need a man to “complete me” and “take care of me.” It made me feel really guilty at times, almost as if something was wrong with me. Like it was my fault.
I’ve been told I should be less ambitious, “more softer” so that a man will want me. I’ve heard it all. And I’m here to tell you, you do not need a man to live your life. You do not need a man to build a successful career. You can still live a happy, fulfilling life being single, and career-driven. The only person that needs to be complete is YOU. And the right person will see that and appreciate that in you.
My life goal and purpose has been to build a strong and solid foundation within the Fashion/Film industry and provide other South Asian women opportunities in this field. South Asian women in film and fashion is still a small community and although we have seen some changes over the years, South Asian’s leading the way in mainstream is a ways to go, especially from Vancouver. Roles for South Asian women in film and television are still limited and I feel our stories need to be written, explored and told.
I’m really big on health, fitness and skincare. I’m always researching and reading things about foods to eat and/or avoid, looking up vegan dish recipes, following a good skin care routine and practicing a regular fitness routine. I’m big on yoga (have been practicing it for over 8 years). I also love to dance. I trained in Kathak for 3-4 years and used to perform for family events. I’m also very politically and socially conscience.
I like to read about what’s happening in the world. What challenges women are facing in other countries? I often watch Youtube videos as well. I like to learn and educate myself. There is huge power in knowledge. I’ve recently started my own Instagram tv channel where I post videos about me discussing challenges I’ve faced within the industry, issues in our community, my personal life experiences or personal health and skincare tips.
On my days off, I like to go watch a movie, or I’ll stay in and have a Netflixs date night. Sometimes I like going shopping to look for inspiration for my next shoot or I’ll go fabric shopping when I want to create a new outfit. I like being outdoors; going for walks or hikes, even reading a book in bed. I like to research and read about up coming trends in fashion, what’s happening in the film world, and what types of projects are coming up in the near future.
I also think it’s important for women to pamper themselves regularly. We as women have a tendency to put others before ourselves; I remember seeing this with my own Mother growing up and in my late 20’s found I was doing the exact same thing. We are not superwomen and we can’t do it all—and that’s okay! It’s okay to say no, or take a break every now and then.
I’ll go for a regular massage, get my nails done or even get a facial done. As an Artist I cannot perform my best if I don’t look and feel my best. You have to invest in yourself. I meditate regularly and follow a healthy diet. I also don’t drink or smoke. I’ve also learned over the years to say no. If something or someone doesn’t resonate with me, I have no hesitations saying no and cutting toxic people out of my life. I have a very small circle of friends, and I am very protective of my energy and who I give it too. It’s very crucial to have boundaries because it’s very easy to lose yourself in this industry.
I’ll even shut down my social media for a while to find my balance again. Being in a stressful industry, I need that time to check out and recharge. It’s very easy to get sucked into that whole social media world at times, so I like to step away for awhile and re-focus.
firstname.lastname@example.org | www.meshatoor.com