During college, Pooja Mor won first place in a regional beauty pageant in her native India, but the computer engineering student wasn’t terribly interested. “It was supergirly,” Mor said. “I didn’t want to go into pageants. I can’t smile the whole day.” Instead, she started booking local modeling gigs. Mor has become one of the most in-demand models on the circuit — one of a rare few rising stars from India — having landed the cover of Vogue Italia and editorials for Vogue, Teen Vogue, Allure and others.
Growing up in India, did you ever think you might become a model?
My classmates used to tease me because I was tall. They said I could be a model. I was like, “No. I’m going to be a politician.” People are not as crazy about fashion in India the way they are here. Then, I got scouted one day while I was at university.
How did your parents feel about your transition from engineering student to budding model? You had to keep your work under wraps at first.
They were in shock. They thought I was going to do something serious with my life and be a smart woman…which I am! But they’re like, “Can you make money doing this?” They weren’t happy about it in the beginning. They heard a lot of bad things about fashion. They were nervous about me.
Fast-forward to 2016, and you just shot your first campaign for Tory Burch.
I was kind of nervous because my bookers were so excited. They were like, “Yeah!” I was like, “OK, calm down guys, it’s just a shoot!” Here, people tend to express more. I’m learning to adjust to that. I don’t express that much. The shoot was beautiful; very elegant clothes, which I really connect to. Things were flowing. It was shot in Barbados, so I got some heat in my bones. I mean, what more can you expect? That’s the best life can give you.
What do your parents think now of your work?
I think they are very picky — they like the pictures where I look very beautiful and elegant. That’s very Indian. They don’t like the edgy stuff. My mom is very elegant, beautiful — she’s a lady. So they like those kinds of pictures.
What do you do for fun in New York?
It’s so hectic for me, so I love the days that I can just get into bed. But I do have friends and we get together for dinner and matcha. Matcha is trending, I guess. Or I read books. I’m a really simple person.
What do you hope to accomplish?
Before, whenever I made goals, it always turned out to be something else. Modeling was never planned. I realize that there is a bigger picture and I should just follow it.
Do you think you could still pursue engineering one day?
I don’t think I would be able to sit in front of the computer the whole day. I would want to go back to Barbados and dance on the beach.