Nitesh Pillai is an Australian Tamil model, who is also studying Law/Politics, Philosophy and Economics. He was discovered on TikTok by one of the world’s most successful agencies, IMG Models. Here's his story!
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Tell us about your upbringing (family, where you grew up, etc.) and that may have influenced you to eventually become a model?
My upbringing was a blend of Eastern culture, spirituality and family identity and a Western framework of opportunity. My parents are both born in Malaysia, with my mum having 12 siblings and my dad with 10. So, you can imagine, my family events are wild. As a result of my loving family, virtues of compassion, dedication, laughter, and selflessness were developed at a young age. I was the youngest in my generational line of the family, and as a result was always eagerly listening, analysing, being inspired and learning. Undoubtedly this gave me a rare insight to the world fuelled by inspiration and knowledge, which I have transgressed across my life, into both my uni life, and modelling career.
How did you get discovered?
I was discovered by my mother agent, Mollie Dendle over in the UK. When she was doing online scouting during lockdown, to which she found my Tiktok account @Boytesh and got into contact with me and IMG wanted to see me soon after.
What is the business relationship like working with an agent or agency?
It is brilliant. I am lucky enough to be signed to one of the world’s most successful agencies, IMG Models. As a result have access to fitness trainers, massive international cliental and even barbers. My agents have a range of roles, including casting arrangements, networking, events, and jobs.
What is something about being a model that you didn’t expect drastically impacts your life on a day-to-day basis?
As a model, it is not a job, rather a lifestyle. There are no business hours as you are expected to be always prepared for a shoot. As a result, your diet must be at the highest level, along with fitness, skin care and sleep. I would say that eating this many salads was a welcomed surprise.
Is there anything besides modeling that you eventually want to explore having a career in?
Definitely. I am currently studying Law/Politics, Philosophy and Economics. So, in future, I want to work in the area of human rights within some capacity. I also want to venture towards acting which I believe will be an inevitable progression.
I know historically, something like modeling was often looked down on, in the Tamil community in terms of as a viable career option. What role has your family, friends & general support system played in the choices that you’ve made in your life so far? Have they generally agreed with the choices you’ve made?
Growing up in Australia as first-generation Australians, meant that we were far away from any unfriendly judgement. However, my family know how hardworking and dedicated I am, and as a result support me in all my endeavours as long as I have critically thought about my decisions. This support and non-judgement are paramount to whom I am and have become, and I believe is a virtue we should all strive for.
What is a failure (or “learning lesson”) that you’ve experienced in the last 3 years and what did you learn from it?
I don’t see any life experience as a failure, only challenges. One thing I learned is that you can question your decisions, but never the outcomes. As long as you have given your all towards a venture, you can be at peace, knowing these cards weren’t dealt for you.
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Where do you see yourself in 3-5 years?
I am striving to become an international supermodel, and a full-time actor. However, I shall see where life takes me and flow with it gracefully. Although if the last few years are evidence towards my future projections, you can bet you will hear about me.
What do you do outside of work for fun?
I am currently reading 4 books, which are fuelling my creative juices and analytical mind. I also love playing football, going for runs & fitness activities, hanging out with mates, watching movies and being with my family and getting Chai with my bro!
In terms of your personal legacy, in a few sentences, describe how you want to be remembered by your family and friends?
I want to be remembered for being happy, intellectual, always down for a conversation, youthful, graceful, dedicated and an inspiration. I want to be proof that you can turn your unmanifested visions and thoughts into a physical manifestation.
Who is one person from the global Tamil community and one person that isn’t Tamil that you admire and why?
I would say A.R Rahman and Dhanush. Mostly because who they are and what they have accomplished has transcended the limitations of the Tamil film industry, as they venture to make a global difference, with the foundation of their cultural backbone.
Other than my parents, someone who I admire are the most dedicated people in the world. One such could be Cristiano Ronaldo who symbolized a showing that individual resilience, determination, and belief was all that was needed to become the best. Michael Jordan showed me that obsession always trumps talent. Will Smith showed me that your highest vibration is infectious and will attract the right people of your same energy. However, all people share qualities that are admirable, and I am who I am because you become the average of the five people you share your life with most, those five people happen to be my mother, father and two brothers.
What do you think you would tell 16-year Nitesh looking back?
Keep doing you! I believe 16-year-old Nitesh made all the right mistakes. So, I would say change nothing, life happens as it should.
What is your favourite book(s) you've read recently or a podcast(s) that you've listened to recently that's had an impact on you?
My first and favourite book is the ‘7 Spiritual Laws of Success’ by Deepak Chopra, a book which affirmed my life experiences and teachings I understood as a child. I most recently read Will by Will Smith which I thoroughly enjoyed. I am currently also reading ‘The Alchemist’, ‘Meditations’ by Marcus Aurelius, and ‘Inglorious Empire’ by Shashi Tharoor, among others!
What is a new belief, behaviour or habit that has most improved your life?
A new behaviour which I am trying to integrate, is a 10-hour deep sleep every night. Sleep is crucial for all our brain and bodily functions, it regulates our emotions, cognitive ability, memory, recovery, skin elasticity and is necessary to not only excel but to be invigorated each day.
If you were given $1 billion, how would you allocate the money to change the world?
I think this a billion-dollar question, that no one can answer truthfully unless they have achieved such a feat. However, a lot less is enough for me to take care of my family, take them across the world regularly, have business ventures and portfolio allocation. With nearly 1 billion people suffering from world hunger, and more than 700 million without access to clean water and basic electricity, the well-off have been entitled to ignore the communities, ethnicities, and groups who are suffering. It is critical to personally travel and help, fund research projects into sustainable development infrastructure for communities in need. Funding journalism on mainstream channels to reveal the world’s challenges propelled further into chaos by conflict and inadequate medical resources such as in Central African Republic, South Sudan, Yemen, Myanmar.
How would you describe the impact that the Australian Tamil community has had on you personally and on your career?
Growing up, I was often in Malaysia surrounded by Tamil movies, music, and events such as Thaipusam. Being grounded in Tamil culture grounds you in what is important and constantly reminds you that little is needed to love life.
What is your favourite Tamil food (meal or dessert)?
My mum regularly makes sambar curry and rasam, so I love eating amma’s cooking. She and I however also love murukku and kasari.
What is your favourite Tamil movie?
My favourite tamil movie growing up was no doubt a childhood classic Pokkiri with Vijay and Asin.
What does Tamil culture mean to you?
Tamil culture means everything. I am so proud to be part of the oldest language and ancient culture. It is my culture, religion, understanding, family life, joy, bliss, and fulfilment. It grounds me in everything that is real, true, and relevant in life, and thus clears out all the other noise in the busy 21st century.
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