From Cal Poly to Fashion Week: Meet the student who doubles as a TikTok influencer

Against the backdrop of a black box theater, models parade in luxurious white, cream and black dresses and contrasting sparkling gold-plated armor and jewelry. Famous athletes such as Neymar Junior and Serena Williams and “Riverdale” actor Charles Melton were in attendance at the Balmain fall / winter show at Paris Fashion Week on March 2nd.

Among the crowd was Tanya Ravichandran, a graphic communications student from Cal Poly who had a degree in computer science.

“I’ve been doing this for so long,” Ravichandran said. “It’s more or less where I should be.”

Jackie Espitia | Mustang news

Ravichandran is a full-time social media influencer with 1.1 million followers on TikTok. Her passion for fashion has been in flux for 10 years, something she said she was born for.

Ravichandran’s journey didn’t start with fashion, however. His first love was actually photography. When she was 11, she said she was inspired by her father’s hobby of long photography sessions during their family’s annual vacation.

The first camera he ever used was a DSLR borrowed from his father, which fully piqued the interest of the young Ravichandran. Ravichandran began doing photo shoots of herself and her friends as she became familiar with applications like Instagram and Photoshop.

Ravichandran said her inspiration for becoming a professional photographer came from a dark place. She faced severe bullying from a young age until the end of her freshman year of college, mainly due to her weight and her “tomboyish” fashion sense.

“I was the biggest kid growing up, so I’ve been bullied all my life,” Ravichandran said. “I’ve never had friends, but it was also a bonus because I sat in the locker room during high school lunch and called modeling agencies in New York.

Jackie Espitia | Mustang news

Although she was an outcast at school, Ravichandran was able to channel her love of fashion and beauty to fully devote herself to her craft. Ravichandran used most of her free time outside of school to coordinate photo shoots with local Bay Area models, setting up and designing filming locations and later publishing her work.

Eventually she worked her way up to touring brands like Princess Polly and Aéropostale. Ravichandran first approached PacSun’s Director of Photography via direct message and spammed his likes in an attempt to get his attention. Eventually he paid with an offer.

For the next four years, she was a regular photographer for PacSun, and her photos ran through their showcase and promotional emails. Ravichandran gained a larger following after working for the brand. She was then able to secure 10,000 followers on her photo Instagram, which has tripled to nearly 30,000 since then.

“I wonder, how can I go against the industry I once wanted to adapt to?”

Tanya Ravichandran, junior fashion and graphic communication influencer

Ravichandran has completed several related trips in the meantime, such as shooting the final collection for seniors at Parsons School of Fashion or traveling across the world to Chile for a school trip. However, Ravichandran took a deliberate hiatus from photography during his senior year of high school to focus on college application applications.

Ravichandran eventually settled on Cal Poly due to the uncertainty he had about his future aspirations; with guidance from her parents, she was assured to attend a state public school which is known for having a substantial return on investment.

Jackie Espitia | Mustang news

Ravichandran re-entered the scene towards the start of the pandemic. It was at the end of his first year at Cal Poly in 2020 that he created his own TikTok account.

After posting photos from some of her previous photo shoots on the app, a photo video of Tanya went viral on April 11, 2020.

That video served as a catalyst for her to post consistently on social media and soon after she started posting regular fashion content.

Ravichandran began receiving PR from big clothing brands and has amassed a cult following he had never imagined.

“I didn’t open my account with the intention of being an influencer,” Ravichandran said. “I’ve posted things that I liked and it seems other people have been drawn to it too.”

A little over a year after posting fashion videos, Ravichandran reached 1 million followers on June 23.

Ravichandran also started posting on Instagram in January 2020, and her account currently has 358,000 followers.

She cultivated her own personal digital branding because she refused to seek external validation from companies or social media followers alike, she said.

“A lot of these brands are looking for skinny white girls and cookie cutters. This is the harsh reality and I’ll be very honest, ”Ravichandran said. “So I wonder, how can I go against the industry I once wanted to fit in?”

Angelina Salgado | Mustang news

Ravichandran uses his massive platform to defend the issues he cares about, such as supporting sustainable designers and reducing clothing consumption.

Ravichandran was eventually spotted by an agency and received representation through Evolve Models. He now works with his manager every day to reach the brands he clicks with via Instagram.

Jackie Espitia | Mustang news

Although Ravichandran has said that she already feels like a stranger in the industry since she is a black woman, she still pushes to work with brands that align with her personal beliefs. Her priority is to highlight small sustainable brands usually owned by color designers. Ravichandran will buy their pieces, post their clothes for Instagram, and tag their account in her looks.

All her work right now is leading to her most ambitious goal: starting a company that unites her interests in both technology and fashion. Ravichandran is currently in the process of patenting, so it is on track to reach another milestone.

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