Posted on February 17, 2023 at 5:09 pm

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Exclusive Interview: Van Patel talks modeling and fashion!

South Asians across the globe are making it to the top lately, and they are just getting started. Many young South Asians are also pursuing side hustles in addition to their regular 9-to-5 jobs. I had a chance to sit down and speak with Van Patel, who fit the same description as many of us do. Van Patel, who is a doctor of physical therapy specializing in sports and orthopedics and also works as a personal trainer, is also a model. He discusses his journey as well as his struggles with mental health and growing up.

Check out our exclusive!

First off, tell us a bit about your journey and what you do career wise?

My journey has had a lot of ups and downs but, at the end of the day I learned to bounce back from the falls. I’ve always been hard on myself. I grew up learning I had to work hard, be present, and do what is necessary to conquer life. This would be the biggest determining factor as far as how I ended up being as successful in my career and personal life. My professional career is a doctor of physical therapy specialized in sports/orthopedics and a Personal Trainer.

So you are in the health care field and also modeling field. How do you balance both careers on a daily basis?

I pursued a career in Sports/Orthopedic Physical therapy because it is my true passion. I grew up as a competitive athlete with many injuries and had a huge love for sports like basketball and football. It brings me a sense of fulfillment and purpose to be able to help a huge clientele that trust me as their therapist/trainer. Whether it is an athlete, bodybuilder, marathon runners, geriatric clients, or clients looking to get into shape.

I do my best to help them all! I help people regain their physical strength, fight against their pain, and manage their day-to-day lives with proper guidance in rehab as well as personal training. I can express myself as a craft by working with my own clientele. I work for myself as a sports doctor of physical therapy and a personal trainer. I started personal training since college and have always loved the concept of 1-1 care and getting to know the client 100%. This career and day-to-day activities feel more personable, and it’s fun to catch up with my awesome clientele, which have become more like friends. Working for myself allows more flexibility, as I’m able to incorporate modeling shoots during the week while helping my clientele. I don’t do a typical 9-5 schedule; there are days where I see 8–10 clients for 10/12 hours and other days where I see only 1-4 clients for a half day and use the other half day for my modeling shoots or personal enjoyment or self-care.

With COVID, auditioning for brands has become more manageable, as I am able to attend calls virtually via Zoom or submit casting audition videos online. If I have a busy schedule, I always try to find time in between the day or have my wife assist me in submitting auditions. Some weeks, I have no days off, and other weeks, I utilize the free time to spend with my wife and family/friends. Modeling has been something I have always had a passion for since a young age, and to work this hard for the look I have today, means even more to me. I am proud of the business that I have built so far, and I continue to push myself to grow and evolve in order to reach new heights. I’m happy to be doing something that inspires me and gives me purpose every day.

What inspired you to go into modeling? 

When I started getting results from the gym, I never imagined that it would turn into something more. I never felt like I had the time or the courage to pursue something like modeling ever. I played sports and went to the gym religiously to build my confidence and inspire my own look. As I continued to create more fitness and lifestyle content on my Instagram and Facebook, I realized that I had a unique perspective and voice as a South Asian male.

“What will people think?” “Do I look good enough to post this picture on fb and IG?” “What if people think I’m trying to be an influencer?”

The more I posted, the more confident and comfortable I got. So, I began to share it. I wrote positive quotes, shared stories of my workouts breaking a sweat and eventually had others commenting on how I should model. This was back in college when my family had noticed when I changed how I should get into modeling. Back then I was just freelancing and never thought it would lead me into working with major brands and now walking for designers! I seized the opportunity to use my Instagram and Facebook as platforms to promote South Asian representation in fitness, fashion, and the modeling industry. Also, inspiring confidence in many South Asian males to be healthier and to model. 

You walked for SANYFW- tell us how the experience was and how was it like working with the designers?

I unexpectedly came across an account, SANYFW that changed the direction of my modeling career. I had just moved to New Jersey and reestablishing my physical therapy with newer clientele. It was spontaneous to the point of randomly waking up one morning and receiving an email from one of the show owners, Hetal Patel who had told me a Designer from India, Mayyur Girotra was highly interested for me to model for him. I have never walked a stage for modeling and had always done print or commercial work. I was able to connect more with the owners of South Asian week, Hetal and Shipra, as they helped me and saw I was a good fit for the runway shows. I remember walking into the facility with a lot of other models/influencers there and I was not prepared. The Designer himself, Mayyur shouting in front of everyone “You’re the Sports Doctor, right?” I had practiced the walk two nights in a row with help of my wife, Chandani, and was able to showcase the outfit that gained so much attention. My wife has been my biggest supporter since the beginning when I joined my first modeling agency and continues to bring out the best in me! 

I also walked for Rivesse clothing which I had been in contact with ever since I moved to New Jersey. Ankit Oza , from Npevents llc helped connect me with Rivesse clothing owned by Ishaan which lead me into considering doing the fashion week before Mayyur heard of me! I forget to add in the article, you can put that in the how I got into the modeling section The owner of the brand Ishan Sanghvi had wanted me for his brand for his first runway show in one of his stunning wedding outfits. Lastly, I walked for Nomi Ansari which required me to be present there during the week, come in for a fitting and showcase my look. 30 men had auditioned, and I was chosen as one of the final 10 men who modeled for him. His show was on a rooftop where the Spiderman and John Wick series had been shot at which was very epic and scenic. The fashion designers I had connected with were all fond of me as I did my best to be a great model and do what was necessary for their shows to go well. One thing for sure is the designers had a very unique vision of what they like to display and were there to help furnish my look. I learned more posing techniques and built confidence when having 100s of people and cameras and lights on me. Today, I’m able to keep in touch with them while also having them request rehab as my own clients. It’s an incredible feeling knowing that my move from Boston, Massachusetts led me to more growth in a whole different aspect of modeling. I walked the runway during NYFW creating history for the South Asian Community and aligned new connections with renowned designer brands 

You mentioned to me that you were bullied as a kid and did a 360 by turning it around and building it up by playing sports. Many South Asians have seen bullying as a child which can be effected. Can you tell us how rough it was growing up in such an environment and what inspired you to turn it around?

I grew up in Massachusetts in a small town called Methuen. I was one of few South Asians in my area where my culture was not easily accepted. I was overweight, not so fond of education, and constantly made fun of the way I looked and judged from my school. For the longest time growing up in an Indian household, I used to avoid taking risks because of the fear I had: fear of judgment and even worse, failure. I grew up in the Northeast Area where the culture is extremely competitive. Being of South Asian descent also made it challenging because I was constantly surrounded by a culture that places a strong emphasis on accomplishments and pursuing traditional careers such as in the medicinal field. I had a ton of family from which was majority in medicine so the pressure to always be like the older sibling, cousin, uncle/aunt was always there. You’re either a doctor, engineer, lawyer or failure.

What school you got into, what you majored in, what extracurriculars you did, and ultimately what job and salary you landed post-graduation determined success. Throughout my growth phase, I had chosen to get in a field that yes, required to be a doctoral level but something different. I’ve always loved sports and using my hands so I chose to be a physical therapist as I grew to understand it’s an incredible field.

At a certain point, I decided a ‘switch’ was necessary to change how people perceived me. As judgmental as the world, family can be… I knew I was lazy naturally and the way I looked did matter in myself confidence and the way people saw me. I knew it required sweat so, the one solution at a young age I saw…was sports! I fell in love with basketball as well as football. I spent as a south Asian growing up in the US, I was outside for hours playing and practicing. I was someone that had to practice continuously, repetition by repetition, to be as good as the ‘cool kids’ to be that level. My parents were very traditional so, sports weren’t as important to them. As I got better, as well as more competitive I had noticed many people starting to notice the change of spark. I looked a lot more in shape and those bullies strayed away wanting to be my friend. Since the age of 10-12 years of age, I was very hard on myself and continued to have that same mindset to never be back in that position again. Choosing the hard path, always searching for lessons, and responding to failure has been a keystone for me being happy and successful. As I continued to grow as a person, I inspired others to be able to beat those odds of being bullied and to tell people enough is enough! That they can also be a better version of themselves and fight for their self-respect. 

Any messages for South Asian future male models looking to break into the field? 

I would tell future South Asian males that want to break out of the bubble to be confident in your abilities. Be motivated from yourself and not others, have your own style. Being authentic and true to yourself will help you build a strong personal image and to connect with others in a genuine way – people like to value authenticity because it makes a person more relatable. Be nice and humble, with the modeling field being very competitive it can tarnish your selection by acting a certain way. Treat others the way you’d want to be treated. Finally, taking the risks, even when it seems like you don’t got a shot… shoot your shot! Always seize any opportunity, don’t quit, & keep going!

What’s next for Van Patel and where can we find you on social media?

What’s next for me is to pursue more opportunities to help me grow. I’ve always had a competitive edge and love seizing new opportunities when they enfold. I’ve faced my fair share of challenges and setbacks, but I’ve never regretted my decision to pursue my passions. I’m happier and more fulfilled than I’ve ever been, and I’m excited to see where my journey will take me next. So, never give up your endeavors and never lose sight of a possibility for more growth and wellness. There is always a way as long as you work hard towards your goals. 

You can find me on Social Media

Instagram- @vanpatel17     

Facebook- @van patel        

Tik Tok- @vanp17              


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