Meet Alefiyah Gandhi, one of Charcoal’s models for this year's eighth issue. Alefiyah’s struggle with adjusting to college after a year of virtual learning has pushed her to expand her knowledge by constantly putting herself in unfamiliar territory. At the same time, her struggle with her body has guided her on a path of content creating and advocating for awareness around eating disorders and body positivity.
Alefiyah’s freshman college experience revolved around her laptop - from classes to clubs and organizations, it was all through a virtual screen. When college activities went back to in-person, Alefiyah struggled again, this time to make friends and find a roommate. As hard as she tried, nothing came to flourish - she would direct message people on Instagram trying to someone that she believed looked friendly. “The issue was that I felt like there was a lot of things I was supposed to be doing, learning and seeing but I wasn’t.” It wasn’t until she decided to take a step back and breathe that she realized that a part of growing was feeling uncomfortable and awkward, so there was no reason to feel like she couldn’t be put in that position.
After realizing that she didn’t need to join a business fraternity, networking organizations, or clubs to find herself, that influenced her to feel the same way about making friends. “I just needed to open myself up more, talk a bit more in class,” realizing that the things that make her happiest now have come from her being patient. She pushed herself to join more creative clubs and organizations, like Charcoal, become roommates with complete strangers, and even switch majors.
“My initial thought was being a model could help me become a better photographer"
When Alefiyah first heard about Charcoal, she recalled her years of experience as a photographer. She has worked in photographing portraits for six years, worked photographing weddings for three years and was involved in a publication in the past. The portfolio she has built over the past years was perfectly positioned her to become a photographer for Charcoal but her desire to push herself outside her comfort zone led her to apply as a model. “My initial thought was being a model could help me become a better photographer and more talented with a camera but it involved being something i more than that… it was the creative eye I had to have as a model.”
Alefiyah modeled on two shoots for Charcoal this past season, the first photoshoot was focused on her face but the second shoot involved being more exposed. As a person who struggled with eating disorders in high school, “ I was uncomfortable, at first, for the majority of the shoot.” Initially, she put up a front to convince others that she was comfortable, but as people around her started clamouring about how good she looked, she felt more assured and comfortable.
“I am someone who encourages positive eating habits and being okay with your body regardless.”
Alefiyah’s history with eating disorders didn’t stop her from embracing herself and looking amazing in the shoots. In fact, that history instead made her a content creator focused on spreading awareness about eating disorders and body positivity, “I am someone who encourages positive eating habits and being okay with your body regardless.” In the beginning, she admits that it was challenging, “people were mean and awful. The first video that goes viral and it gets all this hate felt so crushing…” Bombarded by these hate comments, she recalled receiving one heartwarming direct message from a girl in Guatemala saying “Hey I struggled so much too but your videos have helped me.” This made it all worth it, not only did it make her eager to create more, she had made a new friend - to this day they continue to chat.
Alefiyah is not only a model, but a photographer, an advocate, a content creator, and more importantly, she is the person she was striving to be from the beginning. Alefiyah continues to grow to expand her knowledge and develop her skills. In the vein of learning to grow from our pasts, she says; “I hated last year but I do appreciate it!”
Make sure to come back to read more, From Us in Charcoal