Editor MAJA VUCKOVIC sits down with NITESH PILLAI to talk about his road from UNSW Law student to modeling, role models and beauty routines.
Read the interview + see more of the story lensed by photographer Pat Supsiri below:
How were you discovered?
Well, I was discovered online on Tiktok. I would occasionally post videos on Tiktok of me making relatable and comedic videos during quarantine and quite a few of them got really popular. My now mother agent Mollie Dendle scouted me from London after seeing one of those Tiktoks. Then she got in touch with me and the team at IMG. Everything from there kinda worked itself out!
Was it something you always wanted to do, or did it just kinda happen?
As I was getting older, I started realising that my features and overall personality could be perfect for modelling. Then I was thinking about wanting to do modelling maybe a year prior but never really put any applications or did any shoots for any agencies. Then I guess it just happened in perfect timing, when I was in a good place physically and mentally.
How did becoming a model change your life?
Becoming a model really introduces one major condition into your life… consistency. The need to always eat healthy, take care of your skin, avoid alcohol at all costs, complete your daily fitness goals and get those 8-10 hours of sleep every night become pivotal. As a model you have to be ready on call every day, so those heavy cheat days became limited to maintenance days and I became a lot more conscious of my everyday habits especially when going out.
Do you have any role models?
In the modelling industry my role model since starting was Ashley Radjarame, a fellow IMG model scouted by my own mother agent Mollie. For me she was a breath of fresh air of Asian cultural personality and flair, and in the growth of representation for South Asian beauty in the modelling industry. I hope to eventually like her become an inspiration for South Asian beauty standards and to reach the peaks of modelling, and hopefully meet her when I arrive in Europe.
Outside the industry, I have so many role models. My top two would be the actor Will Smith and footballer Cristiano Ronaldo. As an avid reader, I have recognized that talent is not only born, but cultivated and manifested over a series of habits, practice, positive mindsets, and the construction of one’s own limitless potential. Will Smith showed me the potential of one mind to explore his creative intelligence as he pioneered through life, spreading endless love and joy which was returned back to him. Cristiano Ronaldo presented me with the necessity of hard work and discipline to manifest your dreams beyond your own imaginations. You soon realize that the harder you work, the luckier you become.
What do you like to do when you have time off?
Outside of modelling, I am a very active person. I’ll go for a run every day, and play soccer or basketball with my team or brothers a few times a week. Sometimes I will embark on a journey with my cousin to explore natural wildlife on trails or mountains, or even just cycle for a whole day through the city of Sydney.
As I said, I love reading. Acquiring knowledge is crucial to who I am as a person, so often I will be in the park with my dog writing philosophy, journaling, reading books or getting updated on daily world politics and human rights issues. I also enjoy creating content to express my own personality and creative side on Tiktok and eventually youtube.
I love spending time with my family too! So, every chance I get when I am finished with my daily goals and work, I’ll be chilling with my mum, dad and two brothers. We have a rule at my house that on Sunday we must cancel any plans, so the whole family is home, and my mum makes a variety of amazing Malaysian Indian dishes and we watch movies both in English and Tamil, play board games or just chat away.
How would you describe your personal style?
Hmm, I would describe my personal style as effortless but fashionable. I love wearing comfortable clothes when I go out, like a vintage baggy jumper which I thrifted, or a nice t-shirt colour coded with my pants, a bucket hat or an accessory, all depending on how I’m feeling on the day and the weather. I love wearing trench coats and jackets too, so on a classy night out I will typically wear a turtleneck under a trench coat and a silver chain.
The world is obsessed with beauty routines, so do you have one?
My beauty routine is easy to follow and could still be improved. Every morning and night I use a facial cleanser, then I apply a drop of niacinamide on my cheeks to smooth out any acne, then I apply hyaluronic acid on my cheekbones and forehead to get that glow, followed by a facial moisturiser. If I am leaving the house, which is almost certainly every day, I will apply some sunscreen too, and body moisturiser in the morning, night and before workouts. I also prioritize keeping myself hydrated, so if you know me, you know I always have a water bottle by my side to get down at least 4-5L per day. My diet is also key to hydration, I minimize sodium and eat hydrating foods such as cucumber and a variety of fruits. As a personal preference, I also reduce my meat intake as much as possible throughout the week instead opting for lentils, beans, and falafels over red meats and chicken. I find that if done properly, it keeps me holistically energized and my skin recovers better. However, on the weekend I might have a small meat cheat meal if I go out to eat with my family!
Favorite TV Show/Movie?
Hmmmm, great question! I love sci-fi, dark humor and psycho-thriller movies and shows, and I also enjoy animated series too. My favourite show at the moment is ‘The Boys’ which is on Amazon Prime, I also love Rick and Morty, Altered Carbon, Simpsons, Death Note, and the Mandalorian. My favourite movies are pretty easy, American Psycho, Inception, the Dark Knight, Get Out, Avengers: Infinity War, Thor: Ragnarök and the Hobbit!
What’s on your current playlist?
I listen to so much music that it basically takes up all my phone storage. My current playlist is filled with hip-hop, UK rap, afrobeat, RnB, EDM, and house music. My favourite artists include J Cole, Skepta, Drake, Travis Scott, Logic, and Brockhampton. Songs you’ll catch me listening to most right now is ‘Gray Area’ by Katryanada and ‘Fashion Week’ by AJ Tracey. My all-time faves are ‘90210’ by Travis Scott, ‘Put That On My Set’ by Asap Rocky and ‘Pound Cake’ by Drake.
What are your plans for the future?
The mindset I use in life is that I take what is important, learn from it and apply what is necessary. Everything I strive to do no matter how big or small is with purpose, passion, and direction.
So, in saying that my plan is to become an internationally renowned top model walking in shows and representing high fashion brands across the world, taking my family with me. I want to become an inspiration for South Asian beauty standards inside and outside the modelling industry, and with this, venturing into other creative outlets into high levels of acting, cinematography, and music. My current degree is a Bachelor of Law and PPE (Politics, Philosophy and Economics), so I want to use my expertise and ability as an international model towards global politics and human rights to spread awareness and help those who are ignored yet suffer the most in periods of warfare, social injustices, and economic stagnation.
Keep up with Nitesh on Instagram @nitesh.pillai