सोमबार , फागुण २१, २०८०
“For me being a transgender is my strength rather than being my weakness.”- Sophie Sunuwar
– Esaa Khanal
As many of you may have heard famous MUA Sophie Sunuwar is the first transgender makeup artist in Nepal. Furthermore, she is also the first transgender to come out in public.
Many have seen her glamorous life as someone who has been working with celebrities. But for me, I wanted to learn about Sophie far from the limelight. To bring out the journey of her from being born in a Nepali household to identifying her sexuality and now becoming one of the influential make-up artists of Nepal.
This took me to her hair and make-up studio based in Naagpokhari. With a warm welcome, we sat down for a conversation with a cup of tea. Born on 1985 October 1st A.D. (2042 Ashoj 15) Sophie says it wasn’t an easy journey, however, she likes to portray her experience being her strength rather than something to feel pity about.
Going way back to her childhood, she described her childhood as very different from the boys of her age. Born as a biological male, Sophie was teased for playing with makeup, acting like a girl, and bullied by her teacher for not falling into the stereotypical manly behavior.
On the other hand, she was called names and used derogatory terms by her sister and brother. During the conversation, she recalled a moment when she tried on a womanly dress thinking no one was home. She laughingly said:-
” I forgot to lock the doors beforehand, and the next thing I saw was my angry brother standing behind me”.
It wasn’t rainbows and butterflies for her growing up. Sophie was harassed at the age where she had no idea what happened to her.
There was a time when she even tried to take her own life when she was very young but stopped herself at the moment. She says she never had someone pat her shoulder and said they were with her.
In the mid-conversation, Sophie stopped her story and looked at me. She then said-
” You may not believe but if I bless or curse someone from my heart, it comes true”.
I just smiled and didn’t say a word. But there was something playing on my mind. In our Hinduism, there is a belief that says: Back when Ram went Banbas for 12 years, he asked his followers ( specifically all men and women) to return from the mid-way.
Later on, after twelve years, when he came back, he saw a group of people staying where he first asked everyone to return. Confused, Ram went up to them to find out why they stayed there. But the answer he got wasn’t something he expected. One of them came forward and said- ” Didn’t you ask only all men and women to go back? We don’t fall into those categories, so what would we do?”
The question awakened him and made him feel guilty about his deeds. That is when he gave them blessings that the day onward whenever trans people bless or curse someone, it would come true.
Well, this is a saying and it’s on people to believe or not. Let’s get back to Sophie.
Tackling all the problems, she grew up. In her teenage, she knew she was different and felt like a woman but was scared to accept herself as a transgender woman because of the humiliating and demeaning portrayal in our society.
Though, she was pushing away her urges, the evolving sexual desires inside her weren’t settling down. Sophie then started going to karate classes and public bathrooms, things started getting clearer for her.
In between these journeys of finding who she is, she came across a man who she dated for a while. He (the identity has been hidden) took her to a society where she found other people who felt like her. Things started getting a little easier for her.
At the same time, she came across the Blue Diamond society. By meeting the right people at the right time, she shaped her life in a good direction.
She always had a keen interest in makeup. Luckily, the Blue Diamond society provided training to be a beautician in 2005.
However, at this point, she had no idea she could pursue her livelihood as an artist. In her early 20s, Sunil Babu Panta called her for dinner. Sophie laughingly remembered the moment when she was scared to meet him. However, that became a big change in her life.
Later on, she got to visit Bangkok in 2008 and there she realized that she wanted to be a makeup artist.
Nevertheless, it wasn’t an easy journey when she came back. As she was so passionate about her work, she found her way to Miss Nepal’s makeup room as an assistant’s assistant to a beautician.
When they were announcing Jenisha Moktan Miss Nepal on stage, in the backend, was Sophie promising herself one day she will become an official makeup artist for Miss Nepal.
Though she witnessed some failures in the way, she got a call from Rajiv Shrestha to be an MUA for WOW (previously known as VOW) magazine’s cover photoshoot for Namrata Shrestha.
It became a breakthrough for her career and she moved on being MUA for movies and many well-known celebrities. When she gave her first interview she felt a devaju as she always dreamt of that exact moment as a child.
She never had to look back ever since as she started getting calls for many shows. Though she was growing in her career, she was fighting with her inner self. Later on, she found her confidence to be who she is. Sophie says she wanted to become a role model for other young transgender people.
Sophie added up to her statement though she faced a roller coaster of struggles, she has been working with Blue Diamond society to advocate for young transgenders in our country.
While she was craving her path to success in her professional life, on one hand, she was dealing with her father being hospitalized in her personal life.
I could hear her voice getting cracked when she said she was in the middle of a makeup session when she got a call about her father’s demise.
As of now, she is a well-known figure and a celebrity MUA. But for me, I got the opportunity to meet her beyond that. In between the conversation, I asked her about the ongoing issue of marriage equality. She replied-
” As per my view, before marriage equality, there should be job security for trans people. They should be protected and given an opportunity to study, get a job, and live a secure life like any of you.”
While we were at the end of our conversation, she said with a wide smile-
” Indeed, I did become an official MUA for Miss Nepal”.
I smiled back and thanked her for the time. She has a warmth that someone can feel when they meet her.