Dalston skincare clinic owner Rahi Chadda: 'How I battled bullies and obesity to become Vogue model'
PUBLISHED: 09:05 24 May 2016 | UPDATED: 11:21 24 May 2016
You'd expect a Vogue star running a Dalston skincare clinic to exude self-confidence - but Rahi Chadda battled bullies and depression to get where he is.
"Bullying is something that happens in school every single day. I encourage all people who are going through bullying not to fall prey to victim’s guilt – I never spoke out. When I did, that’s when I got my wings and I flew."
Strikingly handsome, with his thick mane of black locks, Rahi Chadda is a “show-stopping” catwalk model – so it’s hard to believe that just three years ago he was five stone overweight and feeling anxious, depressed and “sick of looking at himself in the mirror”.
But after spending his childhood being bullied at school and comfort-eating, the 22-year-old decided enough was enough. After a year of dieting and living a healthier lifestyle, he has turned his life around – and even has his own skincare clinic in Dalston to help others look their best too.
Rahi declines to show the Gazette any photographs of the days before he lost weight – but says he wants his story to inspire people.
When we meet in a Haggerston café ahead of an afternoon of back-to-back fashion launches where he “gets papped all the time”, he explains how his modelling career began by chance not long after his what he dubs his “transition”.
“I wanted to become my best self,” he says. “I became aware of the fact my weight was restricting me and I didn’t have as much energy, so I finally went to the gym for the first time and got myself a personal trainer. I started eating much healthier – I cut out the junk food and focused on my spirituality. I began meditating, developed a fresher outlook towards life and put my past behind me.
“I didn’t fall victim to my past – I grew. That experience in school could have made me or it could have broken me. I could have chosen to sit at home; there were days I didn’t want to get out of bed for a week.
“Bullying is something that happens in school every single day. I encourage all people who are going through bullying not to fall prey to victim’s guilt – I never spoke out. When I did, that’s when I got my wings and I flew.”
Rahi felt so amazing he decided to do a photo shoot for fun – but model booking requests came flooding in after the pictures went viral on Instagram.
Soon after, he was snapped up by Vogue India, and now he models for Indian and Pakistani couture designers.
But back in Britain he says he came up against a wall of racism with the mainstream agencies.
“They’ve said to me: ‘You’re a very handsome guy but we can’t take you – we already have an Indian on the books’,” he alleges.
“I chose to go to the Asian market where my look is appreciated and I play on my strengths. I’m always complimented for having a unique look.
“I used to have so much criticism, with traditional conventionalists saying: ‘A man should not grow his hair.’ I said: ‘To hell with that – I’m going to follow my dreams.’
“It worked – and my hair is my greatest asset.”
Rahi, who has a Master’s in Law, was just 21 when he set up the Panache and Marina clinic in Kingsland High Street.
He hopes to overcome the unspoken taboo people feel about cosmetic procedures.
“Working in the fashion industry, I realised how image and how you take care of yourself plays such a big part.
“It’s not just bloggers and models – the general public care about how they look. If you feel something is aesthetically wrong with you, there should be no taboo about fixing it.
“If you want to fix your nose, if you’ve reached a certain age and the skin has started to sag and you want to get it nipped and tucked, why not?
“We live in the west in the 21st century.”