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RVAFW model and VCU student Tirtha Ratnam walks the runway at Richmond Fashion Week 2019. Ratnam recently signed with international modeling agency IMG Models. Photo by Alessandro Latour

Sahara Sriraman, Spectrum editor

VCU alum Tirtha Ratnam never thought she would be a well-known Richmond runway model, let alone an international model. However, four years after taking part in her first casting on a whim, she signed with IMG Models, an international modeling agency.

“It was something I wanted to do for a very long time, even when I was in high school, but it also wasn’t something I thought would end up being my career,” Ratnam said.

Ratnam, who graduated from VCU’s interdisciplinary studies program this spring, said she never intended to audition for modeling gigs. During her sophomore year at VCU, she went to a casting call for RVA Fashion Week and was “surprised” to receive a callback asking her to model for the fall runway show.

Ratnam said that after this experience she connected with many other models, photographers and designers which gave her networking and modeling opportunities. Later, she began to receive modeling requests from other businesses in the Richmond area.

The work she was doing in Richmond caught the eye of the first agency Ratnam signed with, Kim Alley. Ratnam said the agency sent her portfolios to agencies after graduating from VCU, before being noticed by IMG Models. Ratnam is currently represented by both modeling agencies. Notable models represented by IMG include Bella Hadid and Karlie Kloss.

“IMG was definitely an agency that seemed interested in me, so I told them I’d like to go to New York and meet them,” Ratnam said.

She is currently in New York auditioning to be chosen for modeling jobs. So far, she said, it has been very unexpected and faster than usual.

“It’s doubly daunting because nobody in those rooms knows me and honestly, I don’t know a lot of people in those rooms,” Ratnam said.

Throughout her modeling career, she said she took advantage of the opportunities presented to her and the possible exposure that came with them. Ratnam said a good role model is not only able to walk and look photogenic, but also be a well-rounded person.

“You have to have several things going for you that make people want to work for you because they see you’re interesting in more ways than one,” Ratnam said.

She said it was important that she complete her studies in cognitive science before starting modeling outside of Richmond, so that she comes across as a complete person and not just a runway model.

Ratnam said it was a bit difficult not to live in Richmond anymore because she left behind familiar people and surroundings.

“[Richmond] It was a really nice community that I felt there, full of people who have such diverse interests and talents,” Ratnam said.

She said the city has helped her grow as a role model because she has been able to connect with so many people who have flourished in different ways artistically, some of whom she is still very close to.

“It’s very humbling in a way, it’s really special to be recognized by an agency of such greatness that I’ve always had admiration for,” Ratnam said. “And I think I look to Richmond as a community that really lifted me up and pushed me to this kind of success because I feel like everyone I’ve worked with and know in Richmond encourage me.”

Ryan Azia, the executive director of RVA Fashion Week, said the first time Ratnam auditioned for the show in spring 2019, everyone at RVAFW was amazed. The first time the two worked together was for an impromptu photoshoot.

“She came out and she impressed all the model coordinators with her gait and the way she carried herself,” Azia said. “She’s been doing the right things by networking and going to events.”

Azia said he knew Ratnam had the potential to be a professional model from the first time he met her and that she knew she would be successful because of her modeling skills, her work ethic. work and adaptability.

“I think she will go far internationally because her look is very unique, very diverse. I hope she will grow up; if she doesn’t, I know she will learn a lot from the industry,” Azia said.

Hannah Grace, a freelance model who worked with Ratnam on last spring’s RVAFW, said she was not only a great model to work with, but an outgoing and kind person. Afterwards, the two became friends and often hung out.

Grace said Ratnam is different from most role models because of the way she walks and carries herself, as well as her bright personality.

“She’s very in love with her creative side, she’s very in touch with it,” Grace said.

She said that during one of the first shows they worked on together, Ratnam invited her to hang out with her and her friends since Grace didn’t have anyone attending the show with her.

“She made sure I felt at home and felt welcome and felt like I had someone to be there and had someone supporting me,” said said Grace.

Freelance photographer Jermaine Anderson said Ratnam contacted her to schedule a photo shoot after seeing her work on social media.

“We met, we connected right away,” Anderson said. “It was around the third pic that we hit to death, which we were looking for, because we both come in with the expectations of what we wanted.”

Anderson said he was very confident that Ratnam will have a successful modeling career, due to her drive and skills, and is eager to say he was one of the first photographers to work with her.

“It also feels, in a way, very complete because I think for years and years I put those hopes and dreams out into the world and it kind of comes back in a cool way,” Ratnam said.