Unconventional is cool; Sapna Bhavnani shows you how it’s done
To be different, is to be beautiful. From her short hair to the tattoos, there is nothing conventional about Sapna Bhavnani and that is exactly what makes her different and beautiful. Cheerful, crazy, talented, wacky, fierce, there is no one word to describe her. Her story is as interesting as her style and we speak with her to know more.
Growing Up in Bombay
Sapna studied at the Breach Candy School until her 3rd grade and then moved to Bandra. “Bandra was a really nice place to grow up in the 70s,” she says fondly recalling cycling in the by lanes of the quaint locality. Even as a little girl, Sapna was quite unconventional. She cut her hair short, wore short skirts, smoked cigarettes and befriended boys. Something the others never dared to do. This, she says was the beginning of a journey of discovering herself. The pure innocence with which she went about learning her own lessons, without a care in the world has played a major role in shaping her personality.
“Having studied in a girl’s school, I shared a really beautiful camaraderie with the other gender, they taught me how to ride motorcycles and that is when I discovered there is so much more to know.” she says.
(image credit- Manushka Khisty)
Life is nothing but a story!
Sapna is greatly inspired by her grandmother who emphasized the importance of stories. “She used to tell me so many stories, I don’t even know if they were real but they were all so wonderful,” she says adding those stories are etched in her memory. “My grandmother used to say, if you ever want to have kids, you need to have a lot of stories.” Everything she did from then was dramatic and exciting, she wanted to turn her life into one interesting story and that is the essence of her living even today. “It seems like everything’s coming together. Tattoos translate to stories, Grandma said stories and I am covered in them,” she says ecstatically.
The turning point in Sapna’s life camewhen her father passed away in 1989 and she was sent to America to live with her aunt. “It was a lot for my mother to handle and raising a kid as rebellious as me was going to be really difficult,” she says speaking of her mother’s decision. People assume that her being unconventional is a result of the fourteen years she spent in America which is not true says Sapna, adding, “Living in Chicago, definitely exposed me to a lot of things I would otherwise have not experienced back home but I would be the same person even if I would have stayed back in India”. Undeterred, unfazed by whatever adversity came her way Sapna studied fashion and worked as a stylist in America before she could return to Mumbai.
Mad o wat?
Fashion Styling was not a very lucrative field when Sapna returned to India. She was clueless about what she wanted to do for a living when an idea struck her. Hair! She has been experimenting with her hair since childhood without any formal training and becoming a hair stylist was always her dream. Sapna trained under one of the most well known hairstylists of India- Adhuna Akhtar, after which she went on to training America.
(image credit – Joy Datta)
Why Sapna went on to start her own salon is amusing! “One fine day, Adhuna decided that all stylists must wear uniforms and that for me was unbelievable. I did not want to wear one and that is how mad o wat was born,” Sapna says adding although she understands why most premier salons have dress codes, creative professions in her opinion cannot be confined by such things. Today, she is one of the most popular hairstylists in the country having worked with the likes of Mahendra Singh Dhoni, Priyanka Chopra, Ranveer Singh and the list only goes on!
A heart of gold
“Being true to yourself is the biggest example you can set,” says Sapna. She is deeply involved in women empowerment projects and works for the uplift of women and children across the country. Sapna is a part of Sheroes. Started by her dear friend Alok Dixit, Sheroes is a café run by acid attack victims. She has also adopted villages in Maharashtra, where she manages schools for children and conducts scores of women empowerment programmes. She is also in the process of starting a campaign called ‘I have a dream’. This campaign aims at helping acid attack victims and survivors to stand on their own feet and live a life of dignity without relying on public funds.
Truly one of a kind
Being called a whore at a very young age can be traumatic. But this helped Sapna learn things early in life.
If wearing short skirts, cutting your hair short and talking to boys makes you a whore or say not Indian, I don’t want to be associated with a nationality at all. Dressing or behaving in a certain way does not define you, people will keep talking. Also, being rebellious and doing what you want to do are two very different things which people fail to understand.
On being asked what she would like to change in the world, Sapna says, “Nothing,” and follows it up with another “Nothing.” After a brief pause she says, “Keep your heart open, I am extremely thankful to yoga for having had such a huge influence on my life and making me the person I am today. Do good deeds and they will come back to you! If you don’t like something, do your bit to change it,” she says nonchalantly.
It is this attitude and not her appearance that truly sets her apart from the rest. Her story and approach show us why we need to love, discover and be at peace, first with our own self and then with the world.
Sapna concludes with a Bulleh Shah quote as beautiful as her story,
Jo na jaane, haq ki taaqat rab na deve usko himmat rab na deve usko himmat
You don’t need to look up on God, you have it within you.