Love every moment as a business model
By Duvindi Illankoon
Heads turn as the tall, flexible young woman walks through the lobby of Cinnamon Grand. The former Miss Sri Lanka for Miss International is undeniably beautiful, yet it is her confidence that immediately resonates at first glance. Wildly intelligent and independent, Madusha Mayadunne embodies the millennial ideal of a self-assured beauty queen.
During our interview, Madusha, 27, speaks freely and frankly, the words tumbling and tripping over each other as she talks about her life and modeling career in the United States. “I love it,” she enthuses. “I will always be a proud Sri Lankan through and through, but I have really made myself comfortable in the States – and of course the work is fantastic. “
Madusha is in Sri Lanka accompanying her friend and mentor Nigel Barker and his family as he makes his first official visit to the country for a program on fashion photography and modeling. “We’ve been planning this for a long time,” she tells us. “Sri Lanka has the potential to be a fashion capital in Asia and Nigel knows what it takes.” Madusha also hopes to dismantle stereotypes of beauty in a country where white skin is still considered a beauty ideal and where she was not often portrayed as a beauty growing up.
That’s why, nearly a decade after starting to model, Madusha is still somewhat perplexed by her success. “Growing up, modeling was never an option for me,” she says. “I was supposed to become a doctor and that’s what I was trained for. She grew up as a globetrotter, studying in both India and Sri Lanka before graduating from high school at a boarding school in England. It was here, she said, that she blossomed – “I came out of my shell and began to believe I was as good as anyone.” Madusha moved to the United States to study Biomedical Sciences at Westminster College and interned at the University of Pennsylvania Medical Center.
Her career trajectory changed when she was chased by a modeling agent after a visit to the gym; “She ran behind me and gave me her card. It took me two weeks to respond, and once we gave it a try, I was very happy with the result. Her family was hesitant but with the persuasion of her fiancé, they agreed to let her pursue a career in the modeling industry. “I worked really hard,” she says. “I went to New York, Miami, Chicago, Paris, London – it was incredibly difficult and I thrived.”
These days Madusha mainly works as a business model, which she prefers because “I’m a ‘personality,’” she laughs. “I like being able to take on roles and be different people, plus it’s so much fun on a commercial shoot. I’m always asked where I’m from, and instead of letting people use this difference against me, I tell them how beautiful Sri Lanka is and how diverse our people are.
Being “different” has worked in her favor because she allows it, Madusha says. “It’s true that if you’re in New York or Los Angeles, there are more jobs available for white girls. But because I’m Sri Lankan, I bring something different to a shoot and trust me you are the center of attention because you are exotic, stylish, and just plain different. When she returned after winning second place in the 2012 Miss International pageant in Japan, she came home with a mixed reception.
“I’ve always been proud of my culture, but I’ve never been able to fit in and be accepted here,” she says. “It was not my environment to thrive in Sri Lanka. I was a bit heartbroken afterwards. There are things your parents protect you from growing up, but when you’re in society, you realize that it can be difficult to be yourself. People always try to stereotype you and I didn’t care. So I went back to the United States and signed with some agencies and was happy again.
She fiercely maintains her independence, adding that she would never be happy if she didn’t challenge herself. Right now Madusha is studying for a Masters in Psychology next door – “I love it,” she smiles. “I am a straight student. I have this dream job that takes me to amazing places. I have the love and support of my family… I believe in the timing of life. Right now I’m exactly where I want to be and that keeps me on my toes. “