Mancie Rathod grew up drenched in her culture. Born in Naarm to a family of immigrants from India, the model-slash-photographer spent the earlier years of her life yearning to visit the place she had never seen but always felt.
Raised in a big South Asian family, Mancie was shaped by the personalities and influences that surrounded her; in spite of not being able to go to India until her young adult life, she had been living it through stories of her dad’s adventures, memories shared by her family, and the music that played in those moments.
“The first time I stepped into India, I felt at home, like something that was missing from me my entire life and instantly filled my soul,” she explains. Photography simply came about as a means to capture all these feels. “Very naturally, I seemed to have developed transient yet sweet relationships with the people that I encountered during my many months in India. My lens tells those stories. They are just moments in time. I come from a line of artists, and somehow India made me one.“
Currently in New York, Mancie has been busy prepping for a pop-up where she’ll be selling prints of these cherished moments. The No Borders pop-up is being held in Brooklyn, and is a sustainable marketplace that aims to bring together the work of BIPOC people in the worlds of fashion, culture & art. When asked about what it means to see other amazing creatives of Indian heritage being amplified on the world stage, Mancie expresses her pride at how much work is currently happening in her community. “Recently I have seen many in the BIPOC community collaborate in magical ways, and that is so heart-warming,” she shares. “I love to see how many of us from a South Asian background feel confident, proud and comfortable to dive deeper into not only creating, but sharing the nuances of our culture, which for a very, very long time, we were made to feel embarrassed about and not adequate enough.”
We had the absolute pleasure of picking Mancie’s brain for this interview, as well as getting some dreamy snaps of her in Naarm (Melbourne) before she headed off to the Big Apple. Catch Mancie in the most killer garms of the season, including, but not limited to: the Bottega Venetta fluffy coat of our dreams and a cottagecore-induced Moncler puffer.
Name: Mancie Rathod (Pronounced Maan-si)
Nickname: Mani/Mani Baba
Job title/s: Model/Photographer
Where do you live now and where do you consider home?
I’m in New York, but my safe space is Naarm (Melbourne) where the majority of my family and friends are. Home can be anywhere for me, as long as I feel comfortable, safe and confident within myself.
Your photography work centres on capturing your roots and celebrating your Indian heritage. Was this intentional or something that just came naturally?
I was born in Naarm (Melbourne), Australia, to a family of immigrants from India. My upbringing was completely drenched in South Asian music, dance, culture; forming an extremely deep connection to my roots, to my spiritual life and from a very young age, becoming an integral part of me. I wasn't able to go to India until my young adult life, but yearned to go so deeply. Until then, I lived India through hearing of my Dad’s adventures, through music and beautiful memories shared by my family. The first time I stepped into India, I felt at home, like something that was missing from me my entire life and instantly filled my soul. Very naturally, I seemed to have developed transient, yet sweet relationships with the people that I encountered during my many months in India. Something compels me in some way, shape or form to tell their story, whether that’s from their smile, their eyes, their words, and sometimes as simple as silent passing moments shared between us. My lens tells those stories. They are just moments in time. I come from a line of artists, and somehow India made me one.
How do you think your upbringing helped to shape your worldview?
I was raised in a very big South Asian family. I had many influences and personalities who were responsible for nurturing and shaping me. Growing up, there were many adversities that myself and my family faced but through those times, I had very strong and loving relationships which helped keep my world grounded. The environment that was created for us, allowed us to be very open-minded, kind, resilient, soft yet strong, confident, compassionate; and passionate and that very much translates to my adult life, but my worldview continues to change as the world does, and that unlearning and learning part of the journey continues to shape my views. Life is not as linear as many of us were raised to think.
Would you explore more avenues to your photography, or do you see a benefit in staying in line with a consistent style?
Photography just happens to be the medium that I use to capture feelings. And I capture those feelings with an aesthetic overlay. I am open to exploring other portals of photography as long as they can capture feelings or translate an artistic expression.
Is there a photograph that you’re most proud of?
I have to paint a little picture for you to explain why this photograph is so special. This is by far my most precious moment to share. This family (pictured) came from Gujarat (from a village near Kutch) on a pilgrimage to Varanasi. Along their journey, they found me walking around and looking through the Ghat (a ghat is a set of stairs leading to a river) in pure awe. Kaka ji (Uncle) yelled at me in Gujarati and the entire family gathered around me and we began to converse about Jamnagar, about our similar tattoo markings and after our 25 minutes of me speaking in Hindi and they in Gujarati, they asked for me to take a picture and quite literally assembled like this before my eyes. They insisted on me bringing this image with me on my next visit to Gujarat. My eyes welled after this interaction. No picture will justify this conversation, but I hope this comes close.
Your talents have led you to work both in front of and behind the lens. Do you feel there is a difference between modelling and photography as two forms of creative expression? Why or why not?
For me, these two mediums are so very different in many ways, but taking photographs helps me be a better model because I think about the final outcome of a photograph from a very holistic perspective – I care for the little details on set. I feel very distinct feelings being a model versus taking photographs. The creative expressions and nuances are different, especially with the type of photographs I take. The setting, energy and very natural environment creates a very special result, but the high I get after a good photoshoot is also unmatched. The great thing about being a multidisciplinary artist is that on many occasions, the skills overlap.
I think of someone like Supriya Lele (fashion designer) and how her work has done a lot to represent Indian culture and allow it to be understood beyond the ‘white gaze’. What does it mean to you seeing other amazing creatives of Indian heritage being amplified on the world stage?
There is so much of great work happening in my community at the moment. I genuinely feel so proud to see some of my dearest friends and peers pave the way for a safer space for us. Recently I have seen many in the BIPOC community collaborate in magical ways, and that is so heart-warming. I love to see how many of us from a South Asian background feel confident, proud and comfortable to dive deeper into not only creating, but sharing the nuances of our culture, which for a very, very long time, we were made to feel embarrassed about and not adequate enough. I continue to work with No Borders Shop, which is doing breathtaking work merging and highlighting the work of BIPOC people around the world.
When do you feel most ‘you’?
When I’m alone or when I’m with my safe people. To the surprise of many, I’m an extremely shy and introverted person and because of that I find it hard to share a lot of myself with others. And when I do, my gosh, sometimes it looks like a mess, others find it endearing, which I’ll take as a sweet compliment.
If you were a cartoon character and could only wear one outfit for your entire existence, what would it be?
Lots of people say I remind them of Sid from Ice Age, but I would love to be a Rugrat, wearing PJ’s for the rest of my existence (which to be fair isn’t far from what I do wear for most of the day, everyday).
Go-to karaoke song?
'Ex-Factor' – Lauryn Hill
If you were to create a new social media platform, what would it look like?
I suck so bad at social media, and my primary reason to use it is for my job, building connections for it and showcasing my work. If I had to create a platform, It’d function something like OG 2012-2017 version of Instagram or nothing at all.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?
Don’t set yourself on fire to keep others warm.
Features Writer: Sabina Sysantos Photos: Lekhena Porter Fashion: Cecile Huynh
Beauty: Wendy Nguyen Fashion Assistant: Paul Summers
Mancie is represented by Stone Street Agency
We acknowledge the Wurundjeri clan of the Woi Wurrung people as the traditional owners of the land on which this shoot took place.