‘Dark’ dame rises: Thresia’s grit puts her on the ramp to fame

Thresia Stella Fernandez at the Golden Face of South India competition. Image credit: Instagram/ tresia_stella_fernandez

Thresia Stella Fernandez had nestled the desire in her heart for long. On the stage in Chennai was a dreamy affair for her. Standing close to victory at the Golden Face of South India competition, she remembered her mother. The girl, who grew up listening only to taunts and mockery, remembered her life’s journey over the years. She was branded a dark-skinned girl from a young age. Even amidst hardships, she remembered her mother who taught her how to move forward in life. It was a sweet victory for the girl from Thiruvananthapuram, when the results were announced and she came second.

Her story is a retort to those who ridiculed her ambitions as unachievable and to naysayers who insisted that without money, her dreams were futile. The young woman of twenty-six, who always wanted to be a model, shares her triumphs at the Golden Face of South India competition and reflects on her life’s journey.

Thresia Stella Fernandez. Image credit: Instagram/ tresia_stella_fernandez

From a young age, I was fascinated by modelling. However, I knew very little about it. I used to watch fashion shows on TV and always looked forward to coming home from school to watch these. Gradually, my interest in modelling grew as I admired the models walking the ramp. I even tried to replicate their walk. It was after my Plus Two that I discussed my passion for modelling with my mother. I also thought of pursuing fashion designing. However, my mother wasn't keen on the idea. Our family was economically backward, and every earning member's contribution was significant. Our household consisted of my mother, grandmother, and two sisters — one younger and another elder to me. My mother was a member of the local Haritha Karma Sena and my grandmother sold fish at the market. Therefore, money was always a critical need. My mother wanted to know if modelling would earn me anything monetarily.

Given the lack of patronage for modelling at home, I decided to explore another field. I chose engineering. However, my passion for modelling didn't wane even during my studies. I participated in various events at college. But to sustain, I needed money. With the idea of working for some time to save money and then return to modelling, I started working as a medical coder in Chennai.

It is a job I took up purely out of necessity for money, putting aside my real passion. Yet, every day at work, the dream of modelling was alive in my mind. That is when I started worrying about my age. At 26, I feared it might be too late to make a mark in the modelling world. Torn between these thoughts, I began to chase my dream with renewed vigour.

Amy Jackson’s appreciation
It was at a designer show in Thiruvananthapuram that I first set foot on the ramp. I then competed in a couple of smaller pageants and managed to make it to the forefront. However, it wasn't these small pageants that I dreamt of; I wanted to go further. That is when I heard about the Golden Face of South India competition. I first saw the details of the contest on Instagram and didn't think twice before registering. The selection process for participants from Kerala was held in Kochi. A few days later, they mailed me that I had been selected, but I was disheartened. I hadn't paid attention to the participation fee until then. The fee was Rs 30,000. I thought I would have to back out. Just when I thought I couldn't participate, Ashwini Patil, a colleague from Maharashtra, offered to lend me the money. With the money she gave, I took the first step towards my dream.

The finals were in Chennai, with 29 participants. Only three or four of us were Malayalis. There was a self-introduction round in traditional attire followed by a question-and-answer round. The question I got was on online dating apps. After I answered, there was a round of applause that did not cease and it gave me a good feeling. As I walked off the stage, I noticed Amy Jackson and Shriya Saran. As I passed by, I heard them say to each other, "She is amazing." At that moment, it did not matter if I won or lost, what mattered was that they liked me.

Combo image of (L) Thresia Stella Fernandez with Amy Jackson and during a ramp walk. Image credit: Instagram/ tresia_stella_fernandez

Standing there waiting to hear the verdict was an overwhelming experience. It was my first time standing on such a grand stage, filled with the anticipation of realising my dreams. Yet, at that moment, my mother's face was all I could think of. Her strength had nurtured me. The regret of not being able to bring her to the venue weighed heavily on me. The entirety of my life's journey flashed before my eyes in that single moment, bringing tears to my eyes.

My goal was to become the title winner in the competition. Even though I didn't win, I was extremely happy because I managed to win a place in the hearts of many who came to watch the competition. That itself drove me to achieve more. Without them, I wouldn't have reached anywhere. My friends have always been a great support to me. They were the ones who provided the money for participating in the competition, buying clothes, and covering my stay. I had to send some videos as part of the competition, but my phone wasn't capable of doing that.

Thresia Stella Fernandez with other contestants. Image credit: Instagram/ tresia_stella_fernandez

A friend from Thiruvananthapuram and her brother helped me with all of that. Additionally, when I was short of money to buy clothes for the competition, a junior of mine came forward to help, even though we weren't very close. When I arrived in Chennai for the event, I only had Rs 2000 with me. Although they had arranged accommodation, by the time I arrived, all the rooms were taken. So, I had to find another hotel for my stay. I had only Rs 2000 and the hotel required Rs 1500 for a room. I was in a dilemma about what to do next. That day too, it was a friend who supported me.

Thresia Stella Fernandez. Image credit: Instagram/ tresia_stella_fernandez

Mockeries can hurt, they're not pleasant
No one supported me in school. Only those with money or fair skin received attention there. Because of my dark skin, nobody would even speak to me. Many talked to me secretly or in passing. Many made fun of me because of my colour. None of this was funny to me. When everyone gathered to eat at school, I had no place among them. I often ate alone. It was only when I reached higher secondary that things started to change a bit. Still, I was mocked even on my way. It wasn't just at school; it was the same at home. Once, when I was a child, my father mocked me as 'dark simian.’
That was a moment of great distress for me. I cried a lot alone in my room.

Thresia Stella Fernandez. Image credit: Instagram/ tresia_stella_fernandez

I love doing photoshoots. While I enjoy bridal shoots the most, I rarely get called for such shoots. Mostly, people still prefer individuals with white skin for bridal shoots. Once, a beauty parlour approached me for a shoot, but when they saw my dark spots, they decided against using my photos. Another time, a team from Balaramapuram called me for a saree shoot, promising to call me the next day. They never did. My skin tone has caused numerous rejections. I have many dreams. During my Plus Two, there was a heavy rain one night, and our house started crumbling. Hearing the noise, my mother woke up and we all rushed outside. That night, we witnessed our childhood home completely collapsing in the rain. Since then, my biggest dream in life has been to own my own house. If I earn enough, the first thing I want to do is build a house. Additionally, I want to walk the ramp with India's top designers and participate in competitions like Miss Diva and Miss Femina.

Thresia Stella Fernandez. Image credit: Instagram/ tresia_stella_fernandez
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