I caught up with the British model of the moment and the first Indian ‘face’ of Burberry to talk diversity in the modelling industry, her beauty essentials and those amazing eyebrows
When it comes to models making their mark in the fashion and beauty industries, Neelam Gill is the name firmly on the radars of both the world's biggest runways and biggest brands.
At just 20-years-old, Neelam has accumulated an incredible list of firsts: the first Indian ‘face’ of Burberry in SS14, the first Indian model to front a Topshop campaign in SS15 and now, blinkbrowbar’s first official UK Brand Ambassador. Having also worked with a roster of the world’s best photographers including Rankin and Mario Testino and walked for Kanye West’s AW15 collaboration with Adidas in Paris, suffice to say, the Coventry native is transforming the face of beauty and modelling one campaign and fashion show at a time.
I caught up with the model of the moment to talk all things beauty , to gain an insight into her fitness and training regimes and to ask her for her thoughts on whether there is enough diversity in the modelling industry.
AM: Could you tell us about how you broke into the modelling industry?
NG: I got scouted when I was 14 by various agencies, but I didn't think anything of it because I never thought I had the potential to be a model when I was younger! I thought it was a scam! Then as it continued to happen, I went into Models 1 for a walk in and got signed on the spot. I didn't start modelling until I was 18 though, as education was my first priority.
AM: How did it feel to become the first Indian ‘face’ of Burberry?
NG: To this day it still feels surreal. When I look back on what I've accomplished so far I'm proud of myself, but it drives me to do more and break down even more boundaries in the industry.
AM: If you hadn’t become a model, what profession would you have liked to have pursued and why?
NG: I would have studied Psychology at university and then got a job in that profession. I've always been interested in how the mind works and figuring out the reasoning behind people's actions and I also loved the scientific element too. In school I was very very focused and it's always been my dream to get a First at university, so I might start studying part-time in a few years - just because I miss learning - but for now I'm too busy with work!
AM: If we were to take a peek inside your makeup bag, what 3 products would we always find?
AM: Could you give us an insight into your beauty regime?
NG: I cleanse my face day and night with Dermalogica UltraCalming Cleanser , £27.20, and then apply an SPF50 followed by blinkbrowbar Rose Day Cream , £34. If I am shooting, I will follow by applying some Elizabeth Arden Eight Hour Cream , £26, on my lips.
If I have on a day off, then I put a tiny bit of makeup on but I like to have a very natural look. My makeup essentials are: Bobbi Brown foundation, bbrowbar Brow Gel in Cardamom Pod , £17, Charlotte Tilbury Wonderglow , £38.50, Charlotte Tilbury Bronze & Glow Palette , £49, YSL mascara and Burberry Lip Gloss , £21.
To me, good skin is the best foundation, so I try my best to sleep well, have regular facials, drink lots of water and always remove my makeup before I go to bed.
AM: How did your partnership with blinkbrowbar come about?
NG: Brows are a big part of my ‘look’ and I always make sure they are groomed because I'm shooting nearly every day with work - plus when they're fuller I don't feel the need to fill them in, I just use a bit of brow gel.
I was 14 years old when my mum took me to a salon at home in Coventry for my first brow thread and I always saw the same therapist, because she knows my brows and I would trust her to keep them intact! Then, when I moved to London I started getting them done at Blink and I haven't gone to anyone else since! This partnership means a lot to me because I wouldn't just attach my name to something. This happened organically and a lot of my supporters know I'm obsessed with brows, so it made sense.
AM: What are your favourite ways to stay fit and healthy, especially in advance of Fashion Week season?
NG: If I have a few days’ notice before a shoot or a show, I try to be as healthy as possible and squeeze in a couple of workouts – that makes me feel confident. I always try to have a good night’s sleep and listen to music on the morning of the shoot or show to psyche myself up.
Otherwise it all depends on where I am, but I aim to work out three times a week. If I am in London, I will train once a week with Tegan Haining at Bodyism (at the Bulgari Hotel). I also do a Pilates class a week at Ten Pilates and do a gym session on my own using lots of ankle weights and resistance bands to keep my muscles long and lean.
When I am in New York, I love to go to SLT for a workout session. I just try and make working out as fun as possible because I find if I'm working out alone a lot, I never know what to do, so I try and mix it up!
AM: What’s on your workout playlist?
NG: Travis Scott - Nightcrawler
The Weeknd - Real Life
Shy Glizzy - Celebration
Krept & Konan - Drifting Away
50 Cent - Many Men
Rihanna - Bitch Better Have My Money
Fekky - Way Too Much
Drake - Back to Back
AM: How do you switch off?
NG: If I have a day off, I always have a lie in! Sleep is so important to me. Then I like to read - I'm such a bookworm and I find it a form of escapism. At the minute, I'm reading a lot of self-help/spirituality/positivity books - my favourite so far has been You Can Heal Your Life by Louise Hay , £10.99. I'm also reading a few books on Psychology because I'm not studying - I miss learning new things, so I'm trying to teach myself when I can!
I also love going shopping - sounds very typical - but I'm the biggest sneakerhead, so I'm always on the hunt for new trainers. If I have time, I'll go to the spa ( Café Royal Akasha spa ) and that's my ultimate treat because I leave my phone in the locker (BLISS!! Phones can be toxic) and only take my book with me. Then I'll swim, have a massage and relax all day. When I leave, I feel like a new person!
AM: Do you feel that women of colour are better represented in the beauty and modelling industries today?
NG: I feel like they are better represented, but it's still not good enough. If you look at a runway show, they will have about 20 white girls walking and maybe only one or two non-white models and they are mostly used as token girls so the designer won't get called out for using an all Caucasian cast.
I hope as I continue working, I can help diversify the industry and raise awareness on such an important issue. The world we live in is so diverse, so the fashion and beauty industries need to realise this and understand that consumers should be able to identify with the models more. Little girls should be able to look up to positive role models when they are growing up.
AM: What’s the one piece of beauty advice that you would give to anyone reading this interview?
NG: I can't narrow it down to one, but I'll keep it simple! Sleep as much as you can, drink a lot of water (I'm bad at that though), always remove your makeup before bed and invest in your skin (whether that's with skincare or facials) - it's the best makeup you'll ever wear!
To mark their special partnership, Neelam has worked with the blinkbrowbar team to create an exclusive bbrowbar Essentials kit, containing a range of eyebrow shaping and grooming miniatures. The Neelam Brow Kit is £35.50 and is available to buy online here .