by Zanita Careem
How do you react to the public eye of being a model and beauty queen?
I have been in the fashion and Beauty Industry for almost 3 decades having been a Supermodel and a Beauty Queen and traveled to many countries representing our Haute Couture and my country as an Ambassador. The respect and recognition I have garnered in the public eye for representing Sri Lanka and making my country proud of me is irreplaceable. People know the contribution that I have made to uplift these two industries. I want to be a citizen who had contributed to my country and made a change, uplifted and strived for progress in whatever I do and adulation and accolades will follow suit. The admiration I have earned being in the public eye for many years as a Super Model and Beauty Queen still remains the same.
You were also a co-founder of one of Sri Lanka’s first web development company, what have you achieved in this field?
WEB Syndicate which I co-founded in ’96 went on to become a highly successful company creating the blue print and bench mark in web development in the country. We developed the world’s first online Tea shopping carte facility for Dilmah Tea. The company was also the first fully integrated web development company to build and own a state-of-the-art multi storey design studio in Pelawatte built as a SOHO complex in line with the San Francisco Dot Com revolution. We had the most diversified client portfolio of Exporters, Hotels, Multi Nationals etc. and quickly established ourselves as the number 1 web development company with the birth of the information Superhighway.
As an entrepreneur how do you see yourself a success or failure?
As an Entrepreneur I see myself as a success. Entrepreneurship is in the birth of ideas.
Innovation, talent, skills and vision which makes an idea a success but to achieve success throughout the years you need to have dedication, commitment and far sighted strategy and plan to see it progress through the years. During the 3 months lock down in this Pandemic I decided that I need to study further and make use of this long in house vacation we were forced to take and thereby studied ‘Entrepreneurship in Emerging Economies,’ conducted by Harvard University. An enriching experience that paved the way for me to start my own company ‘Island Properties.’
How do you see yourself in the Real Estate Business?
I was excited to start my own property business and we have a portfolio of properties that comprises of villas, chalets, hotels, resorts and lands in tourism hot spots as well as commercial, residential and apartments for sale that many expats living overseas want to come back and invest in our Island. Though the pandemic has placed an obstacle with capital investments down or taking a back seat it will improve since this is the right time to purchase properties. I see Sri Lanka as the most attractive destination for new projects since we have so much to offer, therefore I see progression in this business.
You’re the brand ambassador for REM Solar, say something about solar solution and renewable energy.
Renewable energy is the way forward if we are to protect the environment and restore the losses experienced through centuries of industrialization and pollution. I believe in sustainable development while protecting our environment therefore I was happy to endorse REM Solar which is dedicated to provide Solar energy to companies and residences. The company in collaboration with the Rainforest Protection Authority is planting a tree with every KW purchased. They also have the best industry solutions and I am pleased to partner with them. We are an Island and each one of us should strive hard to protect our country from bio degradation. Green energy is vital to live a healthy life and with resources vastly depleting around the world protecting the environment, fauna and flora is important for the next generation. The pandemic has taught us that nature should be protected or there will be devastating consequences.
You also promote Sri Lanka Tourism through your Instagram, what are the obstacles you face in promoting tourism in Sri Lanka?
I am blessed to be part of this Island nation that has the most unique bio diversity in the world. We have everything from beaches, tea plantations, cultural sights, hill country, wild life and so much more. We depend on tourism as one of the primary earners to the economy. The pandemic resulted in many hotels facing closure. Promoting my country was always my first priority from the time I started representing Sri Lanka on an international stage. The social media and Instagram being a powerful platform to reach out to a wider audience, I decided to blog my travels promoting the scenic locations in our country as a blogger. It was to promote local tourism to bridge the losses from the pandemic since the country was closed for overseas visitors. A picture speaks a thousand words, so Instagram gives a beautiful story for the discerning traveler and it was a great way to promote tourism in our country in these challenging times. Most important aspect of Instagram is the pictures should be of high quality and have to tell a story. Therefore, compiling this along with promoting it takes time and effort which is not an easy task.
Politics is your passion; will you take politics at any time in the future?
I was invited to support Anura Fernando, co-founder of Viyathmaga at the General Elections by Honorable Namal Rajapaksa. I took this up and supported him via the social media and through political write ups and it was the first time I undertook to do this. Politics always interested me since the country is shaped by the government we choose to elect. Every time I represented Sri Lanka I felt I had the platform to bring in change and contribute as a citizen of the country. My grand uncle S.F.De Silva, the famed author of many Geography books and former ambassador to China was an influence to me along with my father the famous cinematographer and film director and the country’s first Diploma holder in motion picture photography A.V.M Vasagam who has contributed immensely to the film industry. His Film ‘Sigiri Kassapa,’ depicting the God king of our magnificent Fortress will go down in the anals of our historical movies as unforgettable. Therefore Yes, I would be involved in politics in the future.
Shivani you are known for your beauty touch on the modelling part and tell us the international exposure you received?
The international exposure I received first as a Super Model having traveled to Belgium, Italy, France, Oman, Abu Dhabi through ‘Shades of Sri Lanka’, Senaka De Silva’s fashion Troupe as well as India and Singapore promoting the country’s Batiks, Silks and Handloom industry to international heights where we received a standing ovation. It was followed by representing the country at Miss. Asia Pacific Quest in Philippines. I won the Miss. Sri Lanka in ’95 and the Miss Universe was held in Namibia where I placed 22nd out of 82 countries and was asked to open the national costume round. I also received a special spot on the Jon Secada Music video. Finally when I won Mrs. Sri Lanka in ‘99 I went on to win the 4th runner up at Mrs. World held in Jerusalem, Israel. The international travels and recognition I got representing my country is one of the most memorable moments in my life. I have been to 10 countries just representing my country as a Super Model and Beauty queen. Every time I wore the sash ‘Sri Lanka’ it gave me immense pride to be a Sri Lankan. All this was possible since I received the foundation from the fashion industry which paved the way for success in the other fields.
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LUXASIA aims to lead luxury beauty’s growth in Sri Lanka
Sri Lanka is a land renown for stunning natural beauty. Yet, LUXASIA still managed to usher in a different kind of beautiful to the market through its expertise in luxury beauty retail and omni-distribution.
In November 2019, LUXASIA unveiled its inaugural classy beauty counters at Odel, One Galle Face. Since then, it has brought enchanting fragrances from luxury brands such as Burberry, Calvin Klein, Gucci, and Marc Jacobs, as well as trendy skincare from KORA Organics to beauty-lovers in an exquisite and captivating retail format.
Now, having successfully overcome the challenges in 2020 imposed by COVID-19 and related lockdowns, LUXASIA is ready and excited to thrill Sri Lankan consumers again. This time, it is with the launch of both skincare and make-up collections from the prestigious Japanese beauty brand, Shiseido. Arriving with a glamorously magnificent pop-up at One Galle Face from 8 to 14 February 2020, LUXASIA promises to bring memorable consumer experiences and a feast for the eyes that showcases the best in Japanese beauty.
Leading up to this pop-up, LUXASIA partnered the Key Opinion Leaders (KOLs) and top influencers of Sri Lanka to excite the beauty community with a sneak peek of what Shiseido have to offer. This campaign garnered more than 100,000 social interactions, with over 1.2 million social media impressions, piquing consumers’ fascination in Shiseido’s award-winning and best-selling serum, The Ultimune Power Infusing Concentrate.
Looking ahead into 2021, LUXASIA aims to continue delighting consumers with even more fresh retail innovations to spice up the luxury beauty scene in Sri Lanka. Soon, fragrance enthusiasts can expect a unique pop-up of all the scents that Luxasia carry, featuring new launches from Davidoff and Calvin Klein, as well as other interesting novelties. Beauty-lovers can also expect more limited edition products and gifts-with-purchases, interesting workshops, as well as seasonal offerings in the coming months. Concurrently, LUXASIA also aspires to continue grooming the Sri Lankan beauty community through more entertaining collaborations with KOLs throughout 2021.
LUXASIA sees immense potential in Sri Lanka’s fast-growing beauty market and has been its voice in the international beauty industry. For some time now, LUXASIA has been relentlessly reaching out to numerous luxury beauty brands across to world to interest them in Sri Lanka. While it is encouraging to see the first-fruits, LUXASIA is aiming much higher. Forging ahead, LUXASIA strives to champion and lead the growth of luxury beauty in Sri Lanka, through even more partnerships with great brands, and by continuously delighting consumers.
Newly published guide opens many windows on whale watching
by Ifham Nizam
Shipping lanes to the south of Dondra pose the threat of ships colliding with whales as the area has very rich marine life which also attracts whale watching boats, says prolific wildlife writer and photographer Gehan de Silva Wijeyeratne, author of the recently published ‘A Naturalist’s Guide to the Mammals of Sri Lanka’.
He says international shipping industry organizations have written to the government to push back the existing shipping lanes and if no action is initiated, there is the danger of whale watching boats colliding with vessels.
Dr. Susannah Calderon and her colleagues at the University of Ruhuna have recommended the shipping lanes be moved 15 nautical miles south. The cost impact to all concerned will be negligible, but it significantly improves safety at sea, especially at night when the sea is dotted with the lamps from hundreds of small fishing crafts in the path of giant container carriers.
“It is primarily a safety issue though an important secondary impact will be that it reduces fatal collisions with whales, while generating favourable publicity for the government of Sri Lanka. It boils down to moving the shipping lanes further south and saving lives, Wijeyeratne stressed in an interview with The Sunday Island.
Asked what’s special about his latest publication, he said: “This is the first photographic field guide which covers nearly all of the mammals found in Sri Lanka. It covers 96 per cent of the land and marine mammals. The book, which is portable and affordable, also contains a large number of images from 40 photographers which are practically useful in the field to identify a mammal to species level. It also covers a number of small, discrete, nocturnal mammals whose existence that even many local wildlife enthusiasts will not be aware of.”
On the book’s coverage of the marine mammals, Wijeyeratne said there are two noteworthy aspects. Firstly, it covers all the species recorded in Sri Lankan waters expect for one, the Omura’s Whale. This will be included in a second edition. Secondly, it uses images of the whales and dolphins (cetaceans) which will show the animals the way a whale watcher will see them on the surface.
Artwork that shows the whole animal is important, but in field conditions, they are often of limited value to identify cetaceans which only show a little of their upper body in sections at a time they surface.
Q: You were the first to publicize that Sri Lanka was the best location for Blue Whale sightings and offered the best chance to see a superpod of Sperm Whales. Can you explain briefly how you set about branding Sri Lanka as a top international destination for whale watching?
I started with field work to ascertain the facts and launched a media campaign initially with Jetwing Eco Holidays and Jetwing Hotels which was supported over many years by the Sri Lanka Tourism Promotion Bureau (SLTPB) and others in the media and tourism business. I have published 37 articles on whale watching in Sri Lanka. The first, in May 2008, was pivotal as it boldly stated that Sri Lanka was best for Blue Whales. This set everything in motion. My articles give due credit to many people who were a part of this amazing story. This includes Dr. Charles Anderson who first told me it would be feasible to see Blue Whales from the South.
A Belgian millionaire philanthropist who prefers to remain anonymous and helped create the infrastructure for whale watching by 13 tsunami affected fishing youth who set up Mirissa Water Sports and Sue Evans who was important for connecting all of us and Anoma Alagiyawadu (the Jetwing Lighthouse Naturalist) whom I tasked with collecting the initial data for the Encounter Rates I publicized in the media.
Remarkably, no Sri Lankan marine biologist played any role in publicizing whale watching in the early years. However, soon after, they benefited by being thrust into the media spotlight by film crew researchers who had read the publicity which began with my various widely disseminated articles. Having read them, and sometimes after conversations with me, the film crews and the press came to Sri Lanka and incorporated local marine biologists into their story.
At the time I broke the first story, I do not think any of the local marine biologists had even one image of a Blue Whale of a publishable standard or had any idea that Sri Lanka was the best place in the world to see Blue Whales. Hopefully, the increased profile of local marine biologists has made it easier for them to raise the funds needed for their important research.
Q: Did the Sri Lanka Tourism Promotion Bureau help your efforts with publicity and branding?
Yes indeed. At the start of the publicity campaign, we produced a series of informative and attractive publications designed by Chandrika Maelge. These were printed and distributed at key consumer and travel trade fairs such as the Bird Fair, WTM and Destinations where a number of important press and tour operators were informed about Sri Lanka being a good place for whales. At some of the press drinks events in London hosted by Jetwing Eco Holidays, around 35-45 press people would attend. These events were held in collaboration with the London Office of the SLTPB.
In some years, As many as three of these press events were held allowing personal interaction with a wide pool of media people. Another important and later development is the role played by Nalin Perera who ran the SLTPB office in London for several years and attended many consumer and travel trade fairs. I had developed media briefs for him which he would print and distribute. In one conversation, he estimated that he had printed and distributed over 10,000 copies of this material.
There were others who also disseminated my stories to the international press; a notable example being Chitral Jayatilake who shared my publicity pdfs with various wildlife documentary makers he invited to Sri Lanka.
Q: Did everyone readily embrace your ideas?
It took a couple of years. I remember even into the second year of the publicity campaign there were doubts from the big companies in tourism.
I remember Srilal Miththapala who was then President of The Hotels Association of Sri Lanka speaking to me and joining a celebrity whale watching event I was leading with Shyamalee Tudawe. This was organized by Olivia Richli of the Amangalla in Galle.
Srilal wanted to report back to the association if there was any truth to the claims being made by me about how easy it was to see Blue Whales. On the coastline, the people running small guesthouses readily embraced the story as tourists who were reading my stories turned up with copies of my articles and asked for boats to take them whale watching. The international press also readily took it on as I provided credible data.
Q: What do you say to criticisms that whale watching needs better regulation?
I agree on the need for better regulation and higher standards. The tourism industry has played its part in publicizing whale watching. Other state agencies also need to step up their efforts to regulate the industry in a way that is good for the welfare of the animals and provide a good visitor experience.
Q: What do you expect ‘A Naturalist’s Guide to the Mammals of Sri Lanka’ to achieve?
I would like people to understand that there is still a lot to be discovered about Sri Lanka’s mammals and I hope this portable and affordable guide will find its way into the hands of local naturalists and inspire more research and more practical steps to conserve habitats and species.
Modern Brides and Grooms collection by LOVI Ceylon and friends
Brides and Grooms of Sri Lanka – Reimagined
“Together we’re creating moments of happiness and cherished memories for the new couple and their families” said Founder and CEO of LOVI Ceylon, Asanka de Mel, as he introduced LOVI Ceylon’s Groom collection. Each groom’s look was paired with extraordinary creations from Sri Lanka’s top bridal designers, jewelers, florists, hair and make-up artiste and was captured by story-telling photographers.
The presentation graciously hosted by the Taj Samudra and Shangri-La hotels saw 30 leading designers working hand in hand to infuse fresh ideas, celebrate cultural diversity and show-off Sri Lankan couture—the island’s hand craft heritage.
The stunning bridal costumes were painstakingly made by renowned designers Messrs. Dhananjaya Bandara, Rishard Raheem, and Michael Wijesuriya as well as Mses. Indi Yapa Abeywardena of Brides by INDI, Sonali Dharmawardena, Darshi Keerthisena of Buddhi Batiks, Ramona Oshini, Sandani Perera of IKIGAI Bridal, and Jaish Parathalingam of Aashkii. The newcomer, Ms. Anusha David also presented her couture creations under the label Gabriel.
“We want our Groom and all of the men in the wedding including the groomsmen, dads, young boys and friends, to be themselves–to feel rooted in culture, well dressed and at ease on the wedding day,” says Asanka. Celebrating the religious and cultural traditions including Buddhist, Christian, Hindu, Kandyan, Malay, Muslim, Sinhala, Tamil and western traditions of the island LOVI Ceylon’s Grooms’ range presented modern sarongs paired with formal shirts, jackets, kurtas and more. They were paired with sarees, dresses, lehengas, pant suits and an array of breathtaking outfits. There were many looks offered for the Sri Lankan diaspora, as well as couples seeking inspiration for destination weddings.
As the designs progressed from sketch to stitching, our jewelry partners Careems, Lalitha, Mallika Hemachandra, Tiesh and Vogue jewelers added their brilliant sparkles with handcrafted fine jewelry made of precious metals encrusted with diamonds, sapphires and rubies. And what wedding would be complete without flowers? Bringing the latest floral creations were florists Designer Flowers, Flowers by Joan and Karen Forbes, Lassana Flora, and Supreme Flora who made the spectacular bridal outfits blossom with their creations.
Breathing life into these wonderful creations with superb hair and make-up was anchor of the shoot, Ms. Nadiya Fernando and her collaborator Omesh, while Ramani Fernando Salons, Shane Perera, Viran Peter, Brides by Leena and Talia designs, also worked magic on the models.
The father son duo Dinuka and Dineth Fonseka of Studio3000 took on the herculean task of capturing all the creations as the anchor photography partner. The works of Ashene Bernard, Amarante Studio, Geeshan Bandara, and Portrait Culture were also presented in imaginative and artistic captures.
De Mel expressed his thanks to the wonderful models who brought the visions and fancies of the designers to life, as well as poet and author Ashok Ferrey for being the MC of the shoot and providing an eloquent commentary, delivered with his inimitable panache!
“We have world class craftsmanship here, it’s fun to work with so many experts, who just happen to be friends, to present a beautiful collection that could nudge the course of Sri Lankan clothing identity” said Asanka when asked about the work that went into this.
As he rightly reminded the gentlemen to choose wisely, “on that special wedding day, when all eyes are on her–her eyes are on you!”