You’ll recognise Neeraj Gaba as the sassiest panellist on MTV India’s Next Top Model. The celebrity image consultant who is known for his witty remarks on the show and quirky fashion on the red carpet began his career, in fact, in the corporate world. We met to find out about his cool job as an image consultant. Read his full-interview here. By Anwesha Sanyal
T+L: Image consultancy is an off-beat career choice and one that requires (we’re guessing) you to be extremely compassionate in general. What made you switch the corporate career-path for this?
NG: I have always believed that life has much more to offer than we are able to yield out of it. And that only happens when one is able to align to an ‘inside-out’ goal. When I, unknowingly, 18 years back, got into what is today called, Image Consulting, was completely driven by the passion to help colleagues find their core strengths, beliefs and align or adapt better. This ‘parallel’ consulting continued till 2007 with ongoing full time corporate career. Somewhere around then, with global economic changes taking charge and working population anxieties at an all time high, a hefty monthly salary in lieu of ‘parroting lines’ lost its charm. It started draining me more inside than fulfilling ‘the outside’ alone. Sadly, as a peer, a mentor, I encountered many more like me, going through this challenge and getting stuck on these ‘imposed circles of self loss’, and not recognising the signals they manifested physically, psychologically or emotionally. So, towards a balanced state of development, came this choice, of by then coined term, Image Consulting.
T+L: Let’s go back to the start. One moment you’re a Hotel Management graduate and an MBA from Leeds Beckett, the next, you’re at Lakme India Fashion Week. What happened in the middle there?
NG: Like everyone else, the middle is where it all marinated and is still helping me become the person that I want to be, for self and others around. Like aged wine tastes better, we, as people, with age, are able to funnel down our choices to the most enriching to us. My journey has been no different. From 1998 to 2007, stationed in 4 different continents, from working with airlines / trains (GNER, UK) to developing IT business in Australia, US, India, had become a lip service over time. I always knew there was more for me to align and share. With keen interests in life & lifestyle at core, media/ entertainment as mass facilitators seemed to be the choice towards more enriching goals.
T+L: One of your proudest moments as an image consultant?
NG: When the father of one of my clients from Ahmedabad had called me up, post multiple holistic development sessions with his daughter, and thanked me for helping re-initiate their connect lost over years due to family issues and helping her find professional feet.
T+L :What are the biggest perks of being who you are?
NG: The biggest perk is the biggest challenge in my case as an image consultant. Though am not an actor, I still get to live multiple lives in this one lifetime. The perks are their and my enrichment. Challenges are huge & at multiple levels. As an individual, the daunting effect of ‘larger than self’ goal coming to life, when someone starts believing in me more than they normally would and in turn, make me feel responsible for their current life & lifestyle. At an industry level, one continuously needs to detail out image consulting as an ‘inside out’ vacuum cleaner for a fresh, wholesome restart and positioning , let alone simply a surface duster promising wardrobe change.
T+L: What are your travel aspirations? One unattainable travel wish?
NG: South America – Brazil, Argentina, Mexico, Chile. So much culture, varied life choices etc. all attract me to visit these treasures of life, love and celebrations. I am sure it will soon be possible. Keep a look out for my travel log on it ?
T+L: The kind of work you do, you’re surrounded by people all the time, and in most occasions, by camera too. What do you do for a downtime in Mumbai?
NG: My downtime is my uptime with friends and family. It is vital to remain sane and real, and enjoy true love of and for life. With every professional assignment one is required to be get connected emotionally / psychologically , physically. So, to avoid burn out, I not only advise, but also practice & look forward to downtime.
T+L: Are you much of a brands person? Which brands can you blindly trust to save you last minute?
NG: I have never let brands define my carriage of any look, hence am pretty experimental. Having said so, I trust True Religion, Armani & Diesel denims. Zara topwear has been a huge saviour in the recent past.
T+L: Your career aspirations. One thing you think you want to be a part of in the next five-ten years?
NG: I would like to host my own life & lifestyle show charting India’s progress, mainly in its B, C, D, E centres, for there is where true youth desiring evolution resides.
T+L: How does an image consultant pick himself up on a bad day?
NG: By meditating, being with myself and most importantly, getting involved in an activity of hobby like a work-out regime, and not work.