The internet and social media come with their set of drawbacks and are swamped with bloodcurdling stories that may haunt readers for several days. However, in one of those rare instances that warm one's heart and leave readers wanting for more, a former monk has become an online sensation after being named as the first Tibetan transgender model.
Tenzin Mariko was born Tenzin Ugen in Tibet and is one among six brothers. Her parents moved to India in the 1990s and settled in Bir, Himachal Pradesh. As a child, Mariko remembers being attracted to feminine things, and was often told that boys were not supposed to like those things and was asked to behave differently.
Speaking to the Times of India, Mariko said that things did not change for her and she continued liking feminine things even when she was sent to a monastery to become a monk at the age of nine. She recalled that she behaved differently, even though she was dressed like a monk like other boys her age.
So, it is not like I woke up one fine morning and decided to become a trans person. There were many challenges, both financial and social," she told TOI.
Things changed for Mariko in 2014, when a scandal shook her life. A video of Mariko is said to have appeared online, where she could be seen dancing in female clothes. The video went viral within the Tibetan community and she was reportedly so scared that she initially even denied that it was her in the video.
However, Mariko then gave up being a monk and underwent a surgery. She made her first public appearance as Tenzin Mariko in 2015 as a dancer at the Miss Tibet pageant in Dharamshala. The former monk is now an internet sensation and recently even spoke at a Tedx talk in Dharamshala.
Our Tibetan community is small but they treat me as a celebrity now," she says. "It feels good to be known as the first Tibetan transgender. Not because it has turned me into a celebrity, but because I have, in a small way, made it easier for other trans people to come forward."
Mariko's instagram page, which has about 21,000 followers, is a visual delight. She describes herself as a dancer, model and a professional make-up artist. Take a look.
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RESPECT YOURSELF. If you don't, others won't either. Remember, The world sees what you put out there, so hold yourself to a high standard of grace and elegance. Thank you so much @tedxdharamshala I had wonderful experience and learned so much. #lhakarsang #stayelegance #staygraceful #behumble #betruetoyourself #Tedtalkdharamsala #Tedx #Tedtalks #iloveyouall #tenzinmariko