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Model Off The Ramp
Text by Shraddha Jahagirdar-Saxena and Photographs by Fabien Charuau
Published: Volume 15, Issue 1, January, 2007

She is often seen in players' enclosures at tourneys around the world, cheering on her tennis ace husband.... Shunning the spotlight, the tall and talented former model and beauty queen, Shvetha Bhupathi, has chosen to remain in the shadows. Shraddha Jahagirdar-Saxena learns more about Mahesh Bhupathi's 'real-life' doubles partner, even as the 'Lee-Hesh' pair hits the headlines again

What do beauty pageant winners do once the limelight turns onto their successors? Is Bollywood the only option for girls smitten by the glamour bug? Before I meet this beauty queen, the little I know about 28-year-old Shvetha Bhupathi is what I have heard from her husband, Mahesh's childhood friends who say she is rather reserved yet friendly....

Curious about the behind-the-scenes part she enacts in the global arena of sports, celebrities and event management, I gather nuggets about the 'Director, Globosport'. I find that Shvetha does play much more than the customary, decorative role in the swiftly growing company that has made a tremendous impact from the time her tennis ace husband launched it a few years ago. After she quit modelling, she acquired an MBA from the prestigious Indian School of Business (ISB) and with her overwhelming experience in the media and entertainment industry, she continues to provide valuable insights.

She is in Mumbai for an Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP) event…and takes time out from organising its nitty-gritties to take centre stage herself, off the court. "It feels odd," says Shvetha, as she walks down the corridor of a high-end South Mumbai hotel towards the restaurant that is the location for our shoot. It is mid-morning and players - of all nationalities - are walking in and out of lifts. Out of the corner of my eye I can see a blonde sharp-server, bag on shoulder, take a second look at the former model and international pageant runner-up. She waves at him and explains, "They hardly ever see me like this; I am normally in my trousers and tees when there is work to be done."

So, why did the willowy contestant who represented India at the Miss India International Beauty Pageant at Tokyo just a few years ago…a model who made her hometown, Chennai, swagger with pride, turn her back on a world filled with opportunities of glamour and glitz, money and the movies?