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Harleen Kaur Nottay: Britain's Next Top Model?

by STEVE HENDRY

 

 

They were hand-picked by Elle Macpherson for the final of Britain's Next Top Model but Harleen Kaur Nottay and Jennifer Smith are not your typical catwalk hopefuls.

Stunning teenager Harleen is bracing herself for a backlash from parts of her community, while Jennifer admits she struggles to see herself as a beauty.

Harleen, 19, from Midlothian, and Jennifer, 21, from Dunfermline, beat off fierce competition from thousands of girls to make it on to the show, which starts tomorrow night.

The two Scots are in the last 25, competing for a life-changing prize - a contract with the prestigious Models 1 agency, a cover spread with Company magazine and a campaign with cosmetic giant Revlon.

Student Harleen, studying business management and entrepreneurship at Napier University in Edinburgh, says she wants to let all Sikh, Indian and Asian girls know they should follow their dreams. But she also thinks some of the older generation may disapprove of her stance.

Harleen said: "At the end of the day, I'm not bothered by what they say. I just want my parents to be happy. They know what I've done, what I'm involved with, that's the main thing for me. My mum has supported me a million per cent and that's all that matters."

Jennifer, who started modelling for a local hairdressing salon, said: "I've done quite a few pictures now and I still find it hard to look at them and think, 'gosh, I'm pretty'.

"I find it hard to think of myself in that way. I don't look at it like that at all. Everything else I do is creative. I paint, I draw and I try to approach modelling in the same kind of way. I think I'm able to bring that sort of creative process to making a nice photograph and so far it seems to have worked."

Much of Britain's Next Top Model has already been filmed, but both girls are sworn to secrecy on whether they have made it out of "boot camp" and beyond. The winner will be decided for the first time by public telephone vote in a live 90-minute catwalk finale in October.

Both girls however, have been thrilled by the experience of meeting the show's stunning host, El le Macpherson.

Jennifer said: "She is such an iconic woman, one of the real supermodels. To have her hosting the show and for her to hand-pick all the girls and say, 'yes, you are good enough to do it,' it's really quite an honour. You see all these images of beautiful models who look fantastic but to see Elle in the flesh and for her to look just as good, I mean absolutely stunning, was something else."

Harleen added: "She is so breathtakingly beautiful. I was intimidated by her presence because of who she is, but she is such an inspiration, such a nice person and so kind.

"She is the perfect example of someone who is really successful but has managed to keep themselves grounded and not let it go to their heads."

Boot camp sees the final 25 girls being whittled down to 14 - and inevitably there were a few personality clashes. Harleen, who, l ike Jennifer, was selected after a series of auditions and a lengthy interview process, had a brush with one of her onscreen rivals, Kadian.

Harleen said: "I made friends with other girls but I did get into an argument at boot camp. These things happen with 25 girls in the one place. Personalities clash.

"I was angry because I was in an argument. Then I backed away from the confrontation but she just wasn't having it. I'm not the confrontational type and she was upsetting me. I just wanted my own space and she wasn't g iving me it, but I was f ine afterwards. For the remainder of my time on the show, we just didn't speak."

As well as the other girls, the models had to face a tough judging panel which included top designer Julien Macdonald, former model Charley Speed and stylist Grace Woodward.

Jennifer, who started modelling for a local hairdresser when she was 17, said: "What you saw is pretty much what you get.

"They tried to keep up their camera persona in front of us, which was quite amusing in some ways.

"Julien Macdonald is quite honest, shall we say. He's close to the bone with some of his comments. He is a good guy but you need to have a Simon Cowell-like judge.

"The industry itself is full of harsh criticism. It is a tough job in that sense. There are always going to be people who like what you do and there are always going to be people who don't like what you do.

"No matter what feedback you think you are going to get, to go in and stand in front of that panel is always a nerve-wracking experience. It really gets you in the gut.

"The comments can be quite harsh but you cannot take it to heart. You can't let things like that get you down. If you took every comment which came your way too personally, you would never get anywhere. You have to brush it off, stand up and get on with it."

Both girls will be glued to the TV screens waiting to see the first episode of the show and, while they can't reveal how far they progress, both are serious about pursuing model l ing as a career.

Harleen said: "Filming wasn't what I expected. It was pretty intense, a lot more so than I had anticipated but I thoroughly enjoyed it. It's definitely something I want to pursue, but I'm not naive enough to think I'm just going to shoot off to London and become a model. I definitely want to have a degree behind me. I am going to try to pursue modelling while I am at university and just see where it takes me."

Jennifer, who dropped out of a biology degree at Stirling University after her first year, said: "Since filming finished, I've worked really hard to put together a diverse portfolio. I think it's something I'm good at. I have to give it a go while I'm young and I've still got good skin and the body to do it. Ten years down the line, I don't want to think 'what if I'd followed that through?' "Just now I'm just excited and nervous about the start of the show on TV.

"I think all the girls are. It'll either be really good or I'll be hiding under a rock for the next month."

 

[Courtesy: The Daily Record]

July 5, 2010

Conversation about this article

1: Joti Kaur (U.S.A.), July 05, 2010, 3:49 PM.

I fail to understand why people that are not actual Sikhs are labeled as Sikhs on this site. She has clearly cut her hair and therefore she is not a Sikh because cutting hair is not allowed in Sikhi. Sikhchic.com should promote Sikhs who are actually Sikh(following the path of Sikhi and in rehat maryada) and not those with Sikh names.

2: Harminder Dhillon (United Kingdom), July 06, 2010, 3:48 AM.

This is in response to "Joti Kaur" - simply having long hair does not make one a Sikh. I have never had long hair, but I consider myself a Sikh. I know some people who are Amritdhari Sikhs who certainly do not live their lives according to the ideology promoted by our Gurus. Physical appearance does not always correlate to a person's belief and values systems. What is important - in my humble opinion - is that the key values of our religion (hard-work, charity, remembering God) are followed.

3: N. Singh (Canada), July 06, 2010, 8:11 AM.

Joti Kaur ji: I would go a step further than Harminder ji and say that if this website can print articles on people like PM Manmohan Singh (who openly lied to the UN by denying human rights violations in India and is now falsely claiming that Sikhs in Canada are 'terrorists'); Khushwant Singh (who openly defended the policies of Indira Gandhi as well as spent time with K.P.S. Gill lauding his achievements); and Captain Arminder Singh (who only last month denied the pogroms of Nov 1984) as well as numerous others, then what exactly is so threatening about a Sikh who 'cuts their hair'? What is their wrong doing compared to the irreparable damage done to innocent Sikhs as well as future generations to come by these people? Let's start thinking 'outside of the box' and judging people by their deeds, not only by their appearance.

4: Gurteg Singh (New York, U.S.A.), July 06, 2010, 10:19 AM.

Without going into the controversy of who is a Sikh or not, my question is what does this news have any thing to do with Sikhi or Sikh lifestyle? Should we be gloating about our women for this achievement? Are such women role models? As some one who has watched this business from a close angle, I don't think any women from any Sikh family should even think of going into this profession. The fleeting moment of fame (if it ever comes) is at a huge emotional and moral cost, but almost guaranteed failure, exploitation and dead end will ruin you in many other ways, which I will refrain from describing here.

5: Harpreet  (Texas, U.S.A.), July 06, 2010, 1:08 PM.

From the point of view of a career field: If you ask me personally, or if I were a woman, I would avoid being in the modeling line, or a similar field where it's blatantly open the type of lifestyle these people lead, as long as I could. From the point of view of being Sikh: You will get so many people in this world with Sikh names and born Sikh, however it is not necessary they hold Sikhi in high respect. For instance, I know of some Bollywood actresses (yes, a field close to modeling!) who follow Hinduism rather than than Sikhi inspite of being a Sikh. Mahi Gill of 'Dev D' fame reads Hanuman Chalisa and has faith in Hanuman, rather than the Guru Granth.

6: Harpreet (Texas, U.S.A.), July 06, 2010, 1:15 PM.

Harminder Dhillon ji: As per your definition, you could call anyone who follows these traits a Sikh? I agree with your initial lines, however I am sorry your last line is naive. Let's say we disregard the uniform which our Gurus gave, though I still feel after having thought quite a lot about it over a long time, the only way for anyone to be considered a Sikh, Hindu, Muslim or Christian is for him/ her to follow JUST their respective holy books. Period.

7: Ari Singh (Burgas, Bulgaria), July 06, 2010, 10:08 PM.

We wish you success and good luck, Harleen Kaur ji. We are proud of YOU.

8: Jasminder (India), July 07, 2010, 1:22 AM.

I think she and more women like her (including some Bollywood actresses) who regard themselves as Sikh ... finally end up marrying outside the faith and rear children who are whatever, but not practicing Sikhs. One thumb rule that I've seen here in India is if it's a Sikh girl that has entered into modeling or bollywood, she would almost always end up having a non-Sikh husband.

9: Gurjender Singh (Maryland, U.S.A..), July 07, 2010, 5:04 AM.

I would like to request Sikh scholars in the west, such as I.J. Singh, T. Sher Singh, and Pashaura Singh, etc. to provide some light on this subject about Sikh with or without cut hair. As I have seen, there are more and more gurdwaras coming up in various areas where Sikhs not following the rehat maryada are at the helm. This is a real issue and is dividing the Sikh communities around the world, specifically after 1984 where a lot of families got effected. During the period of the Gurus, this issue never seems to have surfaced. Some people and Indian government interests have been quite successful in their attempts to divide the Sikhs.

10: Joti Kaur (U.S.A.), July 07, 2010, 9:31 AM.

I did not say that merely having long hair implied that one is a Sikh, but surely cutting hair does mean you are not a Sikh. Because having unshorn hair is part of Sikhi, you cannot choose to follow some parts of Sikhi and not others. A religion cannot be changed according to one's lifestyle. I simply wish for people that are not true Sikhs to not be referred to as Sikhs ... this is not setting a good model for our future generations.

11: Baljeet (U.S.A.), July 07, 2010, 9:42 AM.

I think Sikhs instead of preaching and accepting a universal message of love and equality are, on the contrary, a path of self erosion. We want to maintain and belong to an elite class of Sikh society and do not want to tolerate anyone who does not conform to our rules, as even a Sikh. Being Sikh has become such a pious and elite status that it is increasingly becoming out of reach for many. 'Sikhchic.com should not label someone Sikh who has cut hair!' - Okay, then they should not label someone Sikh who has not taken Amrit! Okay, then they should not label someone Sikh who does not do nitnem ... and the list goes on. Is this purification necessary? Aren't we going the way of the brahmins by creating and flaunting about this elite Sikh status, which we do not want to share with others so easily?

12: Reetu (United Kingdom), July 14, 2010, 2:00 PM.

In response to all the messages, I believe Sikhism is not only in its outward identity, Sikhism should also be ingrained in the heart. I do cut my hair and I consider myself a true Sikh. I believe in service to humanity and respect all humankind whether someone is Hindu, Muslim, Jewish or Christian. I am kind and generous. A true Sikh respects every human being and does good deeds. Not ill speaking against women. Sikhism does teach respecting women. Some people's attitude is very nasty and they consider themselves true Sikhs. In order to become true Sikh, you need to look at your behaviour. I am aware of many Sikhs who consider themselves Sikhs but they are not true Sikhs because of their actions. Harleen considers herself a Sikh because she is very caring and respecting her culture and caring about it.

13: Jasminder (United Kingdom), July 16, 2010, 5:57 AM.

The first sign of a Sikh is his/ her proud unshorn hair. The first thing Harleen did before the competition was to cut her long hair. This was most disappointing.

14: B. (London, United Kingdom), July 16, 2010, 3:19 PM.

I think Harminder and the others are confused ... basically yes, you are not a good person merely because you keep your hair unshorn, and you may not be a good person if you cut you hair. You are confusing the notion of keeping hair and being good or bad. One thing is clear though, that Sikhism is not only defined by your actions but also your outer appearance which includes keeping your hair to preserve your God-given gifts. If having cut your hair is not an issue, then why were we told to keep it?

15: P. Kaur (Canada), July 17, 2010, 9:41 AM.

I agree with many of the postings here, that uncut hair is not the only thing that makes you a Sikh. And yes, it has been sung in many songs, and stated by people of all ethnic groups and such, that when one sees a turban, it is evident that a Sikh has arrived - but not all men that wear turbans have uncut hair. And men WITH uncut hair must wear a turban as they cannot go out without covering their head. The point I'm trying to make is, fine she cut her hair, but that doesn't make her any less of a Sikh than you or I. I cut my hair, but I attend gurdwara regularly, and do paatth at home as often as I can, etc.; therefore, I consider myself a Sikh. What this girl is doing is pursuing her dream. Perhaps modeling, because of the lack of clothing and what not, is not something that you want your children to look up to, but I think a more important lesson to be learned here is that a Sikh girl is reaching for something that she dreamed of. Do we not want our children to pursue their dreams? Don't we tell them that they can do anything in the world that they want? You don't know how religious Harleen is, and I find it petty that just because she has a haircut, you think that she cannot be a Sikh. I'm sure many women on this forum who consider themselves Sikh because they do not cut their hair, shave their legs or arms, or remove hair from their face - same thing isn't it? How many Amritdhari Sikhs are out there, many doing all the wrong things? Let the girl do what she wants. It would be unfair to not refer to her as a Sikh.

16: Billa  (London, United Kindom), July 18, 2010, 10:11 AM.

P. Kaur ji ... you are free to do what you want and so is Harminder. We are all Sikhs, whether you have cut hair or not but it would be better for many of us that do not keep hair to not promote cutting hair as being okay as a Sikh. So, let's take for example if Harminder cuts her hair and I am the biggest marijuana broker in California but keep my hair, go to the gurdwara, etc., etc. - it's okay, right? So just like Harminder, she cuts her hair and I sell drugs, so we are both still good people? ... rather I would say I am a Sikh and proud to be one and hope to keep my hair in the future rather than saying hey man, yeah, I cut my hair, and then try and justify it through saying that people with hair are also bad, so its okay for me to cut my hair ...

17: Jasminder (United Kingdom), July 20, 2010, 9:03 AM.

I agree with B. and Billa. It is not a question of whether someone is bad who keeps their hair unshorn, or that 'I am good, so I can cut my hair and I'm an equal(or better) Sikh' - rather, our kesh is our gift and our identity. Getting back to this article, sikhchic.com is a great resource for Sikhs all around the world showing Sikhs and Sikhi being displayed positively in many areas, but this article does not promote Sikhi in my opinion. The programme disclosed that Harleen Kaur "cut off all of her long hair right before entering the competition". Who knows what the requirements were for the programme, but surely a true Sikh would want to keep her identity and persist with competing equally with the others? I'm sure her hair would not prevent her doing this. My opinion is not a judgement of Harleen Kaur as I do not know her, more of a comment that this article is not for sikhchic.com. If you go to the fashion section, there are good articles about the perfect turban, turban cool, patkas and Sardars, and then we have this article about Harleen Kaur cutting her hair.

18: G (Canada), September 07, 2010, 8:41 PM.

I understand where the people that feel that keeping one's hair is essential are coming from ... to an extent. While it is part of the IDENTITY of Sikhism, it does not bar those individuals that have cut their hair from being Sikhs.

19: Nind (United Kingdom), September 14, 2010, 3:51 PM.

I've never heard of that surname before. Is it a common Punjabi Sikh name?

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