Haima Simoes and Shruti Venkatesh are the first same-sex couple to grace the cover of Vogue India. Is this a whole new chapter for India, or is this just the beginning?
Haima and Shruti aren’t professional models, nor are they huge celebrities, yet they’re the ones who were chosen to champion the LGBTQ+ movement in India by gracing the cover of Vogue. Haima Simoes is a freelancer who works in digital advertising and social media, while Shruti is a developer. Modeling is just a side-hustle for them, but they say it’s a great opportunity.
Shruti and Simoes met in College in Mumbai, this is the place for LGBTQ+ people to be in India. It’s relatively safe to be out and proud here, without attracting too much unwanted attention. It’s not like that everywhere else. For example, Simoes grew up in Goa, was bullied at school when she came out to her friends at the age of 13. However, she was lucky to have a supportive family, who always had her back.
Going to college in Mumbai was a wonderful time for both women. It was a chance to finally be themselves and meet new friends and like-minded people. Shruti and Haima met in 2017 and since then they’ve been pretty much inseparable. They don’t think of themselves as just a couple, they’re also best friends, they’re a team, and they support each other in everything and they adopted a cat together.
When the pandemic hit India, Shruti and Haima had to separate. 2020 was a challenging year – jobs were lost, apartment rent became a problem, many have been forced to move back in with their family after years of living separately. Haima is spending the pandemic with her family in Goa, and this means that she’s had limited opportunities to see Shruti. It’s only been work-related trips and photoshoots like this one for Vogue.
Both women agree that the fashion industry, in general, is the most welcoming industry to LGBTQ+ folk in India, even though it’s not quite perfect and has some drawbacks. There’s a lack of representation that’s very evident. Both women agree that the fashion industry, in general, is the most welcoming industry to LGBTQ+ folk in India, even though it’s not quite perfect and has some drawbacks. There’s a lack of representation that’s very evident.
Being part of the LGBTQ+ community in India is challenging at times. In order to come out and live the life you want to live, one needs to have a solid foundation of support and security, both financial and emotional. It’s no wonder that most of the representation of India’s LGBTQ community is upper-class gay men. They have a certain amount of privilege, while women don’t feel as safe to be at the forefront of this movement because their pool of career opportunities in India is already smaller, and being out can limit it even further.
However, times are changing, and just the fact that Vogue India featured a same-sex couple on their cover is a good sign. Hopefully, this means that there will be more representation in media and that society will also be more welcoming and accepting.