I remember when Toiffa came to Vancouver, all that money that was funded towards that event was to pay for the Bollywood Actors who were attending, and for the stage production. But how did it benefit any of the local artists? My fellow DJ friends were being asked to provide their services for free, make-up artists were providing free services. Models were modelling for free. How were any of us growing?
Born and raised in Vancouver, at a very young age Mesha was determined to be more than just an average entertainer. Her passion for performing arts and the Fashion industry allowed her to complete her degree in Fashion Design and Merchandising at The Art Institutes of Vancouver. Followed by, her training as a professional actor in Film and Television at Vancouver Film School.
Mesha became known as a global force in the South Asian community. She launched her own clothing line: House of Mish by Mesha Toor in 2011 – a crossover of East meets West. Applying her passion for perfection and extensive knowledge of event planning, Mesha showcased her first lavish collection through a fashion show event, entirely hosted by yours truly.
Mesha’s current accomplishments include ‘Model Mechanisms’ with Mesha Toor – a modelling and coaching academy for aspiring models/actors/entertainers on proper etiquettes of a model and full critique/tips on how to improve runaway walks and posing.
In 2013, Mesha was appointed Festival Director for Vancouver International South Asian Film Festival (VISAFF) which took place from October 25th-27th, 2013. VISAFF’s purpose and vision is to “bridge the gap” between South Asian talent and mainstream audiences. Mesha had full creative control and was involved with all aspects of event execution and management.
As of 2016, Mesha’s credentials thus far include a cameo appearance in the Bollywood Film Best of Luck, the CBS show Intelligence, showstopper for Vancouver Fashion Week, various interviews and featured on Vogue UK.
Here’s Generation Next’s interview with Mesha Toor:
Many South Asian artists become artists without any formal training. You, on the other hand, went to college and took a degree in fashion design and as a professional actor. How did your family take it? And what made you believe that you are an artist and that this is what you want to do in life?
At first my mother had encouraged me to become a teacher or some kind of professional and go to University, but my dad has always been the type that tells us to do what makes you happy.
I was always very creative and artistic so I knew I needed to be in a field, which allowed me to express that. At the time I thought of pursuing Fashion Design because A) I loved clothes and my mother was a seamstress so I grew up with Fashion B) It was very rare for South Asian women at the time to follow into Fashion Design and I needed to be in a field which was creative-driven C) I didn’t have the confidence to pursue acting so I thought ok, lets do fashion!
After I had finished design school, I still had that urge of acting/performing.
Can being an artist and being a business woman go hand in hand?
Yes, but it requires balance. That is something I have learned along the way. As an Artist, you are your own brand and you need to know how to sell your brand. It is knowing your limits and when to say no.
I would go to every industry event, and I would network like crazy.
People now know what to expect when they hire ‘Mesha Toor.’ They are getting professionalism, creative-insight, high quality, a humble human being and someone memorable. I get hired for these reasons.
Do you have to make compromises as an artist to meet the demands of the business?
Yes. You have to constantly put yourself out there, be innovative and be on top of your game if you want to survive. You have to look at what others may be doing better than you, or being able to negotiate your rates. It’s a very competitive world out there.
East meets West seems to be a phrase thrown out a lot these days. What does it mean to you?
For me it’s finding a union between two cultures and making it your own.
What is your personal style? Does it change from year to year or from season to season?
My style seems to follow under these categories: Minimal, Classic, Chic and Elegant.
Which fashion designer is most inspiring to you and why?
I have come to admire and love many designers. I’m really digging Ali Xeeshan from Pakistan.
How about an actor/actress?
My two biggest inspirations are Madhuri Dixit and Jennifer Lopez. Madhuri Dixit was the main reason why I became an Actor. I grew up watching her films and wanted to be just like her.
Jennifer Lopez is a woman who had no industry ties when she first started and built her entire empire from the ground up.
In the Western society, kurtis and other such Eastern clothes seem to be popular among women in beachwear and not really as an office or social-wear. Won’t you agree?
I agree it may not be as common but again it depends on your personal style. People often worry too much about what others will think. I wear what I want to wear.
With the growth of Bollywood, many young people now want to be part of it. What would your advice be to them?
Bollywood is a very tough Industry to break into. I would say much tougher than Hollywood, primarily becomes it is ruled by those already in the industry and their children/families. In Hollywood, thanks to Social Media there are no rules to people breaking into the Industry now. All it takes is your videos going viral on YouTube or your Instagram page with a huge following and your “in.”
1) But if Bollywood is your dream then go for it. Be prepared for failure and rejection and putting in years of hard work.
2) Language is also a big thing, so be sure your Hindi is very good.
Bollywood is a very dirty industry, and I have often heard stories of how Actors/Actress get their “big break.” A casting director offered me a chance to be the next big thing if I was open to the whole casting couch idea. I told him no, and he told me that’s the way it is and that I wouldn’t make it into Bollywood otherwise. I told him you just watch and see. When someone tells me no, I make sure I find a way make it a YES.
Many so-called modelling agencies have come to light that cheat young artists and give them false hope of becoming stars. In the process families lose thousands of dollars. What should a young artist be looking for when he/she decides to become a client?
I run a modelling Academy and I often tell my students to do their research! Any legitimate agency will have a license and be social media accessible. The great thing about Google is, you can research these agencies and read personal reviews from other clients who have dealt with them. There are also a lot of modeling/acting groups and forums where people post about their agencies and experiences. This is a great way to learn and build your network.
Another thing is, most legitimate agencies do not charge a fee for you to join. They make money from you once you book work. The standard is 15-20%. with fellow artists who are also trying to break into the industry.
Networking is key in this industry. It’s all about whom you know.
What are some of your business challenges?
Sometimes you find you are comparing yourself to others and wondering how are they at the level they are at? Why are they booking roles or modeling gigs when you know they haven’t been in the industry as long as you have or put in years and years of hard work. For me I’ve always been in this middle box. Where people can’t seem to categorize me into one thing. It’s either I’m “never this or that.”
My look was so different that I often found people really didn’t know where to place me. With modeling, again I wasn’t the 5’11 size 0 model frame. I was barely 5’7” with curves, fair skin and a chiseled face. Finally I just stopped waiting for an Agency to give me work, I stared creating it for myself. If there is no place for you in the industry, make one for yourself.
At the same time you need to know how the industry works and constantly be on your toes.
Do you find the governments to be supportive of arts to the extent where it’s satisfactory?
It’s just satisfactory.
Toronto Fashion Week was cancelled this year because IMG (which was one of their main sponsors) pulled out. The clothing industry is a billion dollar industry and we add so much to the economy. Without Fashion Week how else are designers able to showcase their work on a global scale? How else do we grow as a community?
Actors are struggling to find work and even that is limited because all the lead roles are casted in LA yet a lot of US production is done in Vancouver and Toronto. There should be a rule where more Canadian-based actors are being casted in leads if they are shooting on Canadian sole.
I remember when Toiffa came to Vancouver, all that money that was funded towards that event was to pay for the Bollywood Actors who were attending, and for the stage production. But how did it benefit any of the local artists? My fellow DJ friends were being asked to provide their services for free, make-up artists were providing free services. Models were modelling for free. How were any of us growing? How was it building our artist community? How were we (the local’s) being recognized? Did any of us local artists get any opportunities to work in Bollywood? No. Were film roles open/offered to us? No. What was the whole purpose of that event?
That money used to fund Toiffa could have been used towards building something much more constructive. That money could have gone towards supporting Fashion Week, where Models and Make-Up Artists could get paid for their work. It could have been used in the form of an Art Fund, where any artist could apply to help finance their project. It could have been used to support unprivileged children in third world countries; so much more could have been done with that type of funding.
What are three things young artists and performers can focus on to become successful?
- Be so good that people can’t ignore you.
- Find something that is lacking, a niche.
- Learn to become your own best friend.
How do you keep yourself fit?
I do Yoga everyday. I also run, do a lot of walking, do weights and follow a healthy clean diet.
What are your favourite foods?
I have a big sweet tooth and love chocolate and desserts. I also love spicy foods. Other than Indian, Japanese, Italian, Mexican and Greek are my favourites.
What do you like to do in your spare time?
I read, I write, or go window-shopping. I attend various events around the community, as I am curious to know what’s happening around town. I go for massages, meet friends for coffee or have meet-up groups I am involved in. Sometimes I get crafty buy fabric and will sew something for myself or make a jewellery piece.
How much time do you spend on social media?
I would say no more than 5 hours in a day.
How do you reach to the point where you know what’s your worth?
It starts with a self-belief.
You have to ask yourself, what kind of person do you want to be and how do you want to be treated. I have a motto that I follow: “Walk like a Queen, talk like a Queen, act like a Queen and you will be treated as one.”
Which global issue is very close to your heart and how do you play your part in becoming a solution?
The whole rape culture is something that’s very disturbing to me.
I often gravitate towards roles that are empowering to women. I want men to look at me and be like wow, she’s powerful and strong, now that’s sexy! Not because I have my chest or buttocks plastered all over an image or on camera.
What are your short term projects and long term goals?
Right now I am in the process of branching Model Mechanisms® (my academy) in Toronto and connecting with fellow artists in the Industry. I was recently invited as an industry guest speaker for Mississuage Fashion Week, which gave me the opportunity to showcase who I am and what I can offer.