Amita Suman tells Glass about her journey from Nepal to the big screen

Glass meets the luminous AMITA SUMAN, star of Netflix’s Shadow and Bone, Chanel ambassador and social media rebel

From Spring Issue 53 of Glass

Amita Suman rose to prominence as the quick- witted, ninja-esque warrior, Inej, in Netflix’s epic action series Shadow and Bone. Born in Nepal and raised until the age of seven in a rural village with
no electricity, no one could have foreseen that she would one day become an international star and a face of one of fashion’s most iconic luxury brands, Chanel.

Clearly, sometimes destiny is too powerful to resist. Suman, now 25, exudes a grace and eloquence beyond her years as she talks to us about poetry, wisdom and dreams coming true.

Photographer: Simon Lipman

You have the most phenomenal story. Could you tell me about your childhood, what you remember of being in Nepal, and what it was like coming to the UK?
I came to the UK when I was seven and left a very different world behind. Basically, I felt like I was coming to a sci-fi movie that was set in 2050. I had to learn everything for the first time. I couldn’t speak the language at all. I didn’t know how to read and write.

So that was an extremely difficult but very exciting thing to do. I asked my Mum every single day, “Mum, what does this mean? What does this word mean? How do I use this?”

And then reading stories for the first time and being fascinated by space and the solar system and how many planets there are. I thought there was only Nepal and another country – which was the western world, which was always England; and then to see that there are planets and galaxies and there’s the whole universe, which is completely infinite.

So it was just a constant process of curiosity and lightbulb moments. But my time in Nepal was extraordinary. It was very playful; it was very free. I felt like such a child, if that makes sense. The world was kind of our oyster, and Mother Earth was there to nurture and to provide a place of curiosity.

I did lots of climbing on trees and picking mangoes and picking spinach for hours on end because we couldn’t go to the supermarket; and in the monsoon season going fishing and staying away from snakes because we had cobras all the time in our village.

Photographer: Simon Lipman

When did you know you wanted to act?

I didn’t know acting was a thing until I saw a TV. We were celebrating a festival and someone had found this teeny, tiny black and white TV. It was literally the size of my face right now. We managed to find a battery of some sort and someone plugged it in, and suddenly I was just seeing things for the first time, people doing things I’d never seen. You know the movie Room?

So, imagine you’ve been stuck in a room your whole life, and suddenly someone turns on the TV and you think ‘this place has got to exist’, right? So I didn’t even want to be an actor because I didn’t know that’s what it was. I just wanted to live in that other world that I’d never seen before.

So that was at the age of four. Then, when I came to the UK, I discovered that you have to be an actress to do what they’re doing, and it happened for me, luckily.

Photographer: Simon Lipman

What is the best piece of advice that you’ve ever been given? And have you had any words of wisdom from an idol of yours yet?

You know what, there are so, so many. My life is shifting now, yet again, into a very, very exciting and unknown place. And I think it is very important to grow with that but not lose yourself. In my early twenties, there was so much to focus on coming out of drama school and getting a part time job to support your acting; there was always so much stimulus and your cogs were always whirling that now that I have a little bit more time on my hands I’ve really gotten into poetry.

So, for the past couple of years, I’ve just been reading and absorbing, and I think with poetry, almost every line [contains] words of wisdom. It’s an eternal thing because it’s always there and you open a book and just four verses can suddenly describe a journey that you’ve been through, and it’s incredible.

So my words of wisdom have come from that. Whenever I read something profound, I like to write it down, and I go to my list and see what I’ve written in the past month.

Photographer: Simon Lipman

Do you have a favourite saying that you could share?

I do. I’ve named it under Wisdom. [She gives a self- mocking smile]. This is a really good one, “The highest form of self-confidence is believing in your ability to learn”. I quite like that. Then another one, “The modern devil is cheap dopamine”.

Like when you’re addicted to Facebook because of the dopamine hit but really all it does is take you away from the beauty of the world.

Exactly, and the present moment. Absolutely.

Photographer: Simon Lipman

The theme of this issue is Illuminate. What is the next thing in your life that you would like to shed light on?

It’s a really good question. I think social media has become such an overpowering thing that can be used for such incredible things. It can bring us such a voice and it can connect people so closely. It gives us the ability to think way beyond ourselves and look into other people’s lives. But also it’s quite detrimental because it always tells us that no matter who you are, whatever you’re doing, it’s never good enough.

For example, you can be a woman who has it all – whatever that means, let’s say who has inner peace and who’s satisfied. And had you not gone on social media, you might think ‘I feel good within myself, I am proud of who I am’.

And then social media says, ‘no, you don’t have this or you haven’t done that, or look at what other people are doing’. So that is something I always want to shed a light on – not to believe everything you see. I know it’s something that we logically know but we emotionally can’t agree with that yet.

Photographer: Simon Lipman

It’s such a manipulated and curated part of someone’s life.

Yeah, and that’s why I like to keep my social media not just about work or the planes that I’m travelling on or the hotels I’m staying at. Because that’s just not my actual life. It’s a very privileged part of my life. So I share things like, I had a really nice cup of tea with one of my friends today sitting by the Southbank, or taking a walk in the park, or maybe I was trying to climb over a fence, you know? Those kinds of fun moments.

I think that we need a lot more of that in the world. So thank you for making that your mission.

Thanks. I could do better (she laughs). I’m not going to lie, and I will keep trying.

by Nicola Kavanagh

Photographer: Simon Lipman

Stylist: Hannah Beck

Make up: Amanda Grossman at THE ONLY AGENCY

Hair: Miguel Perez at THE WALL GROUP

Manicurist: Jada-Elize Lorentz at PREMIER HAIR & MAKUEP

Photography assistant: Flora Judy

Stylist assistant: Emma Mesquita

Talent: Amita Suman

Look 1: N°5 necklace in 18K white gold and diamonds CHANEL Fine Jewellery, Coat VALENTINO

Look 2: COCO CRUSH necklace and ring in 18K yellow gold and diamonds, COCO CRUSH bracelet in 18K beige gold, both CHANEL Fine Jewellery, Hat EMILY LONDON, Coat MICHAEL KORS, Top RALPH LAUREN

Look 3: COCO CRUSH earring (from a set) in 18K white gold and diamonds, COCO CRUSH necklace and
bracelet in 18K yellow gold and diamonds, COCO bracelets in 18K yellow gold with and without 31 diamond, COCO CRUSH Toi et Moi ring in 18K white gold, 18K beige gold and diamonds, all CHANEL
Fine Jewellery, Dress ERDEM

Look 4: COCO CRUSH earrings in 18K yellow gold, 18K white gold and diamonds CHANEL Fine Jewellery, Jacket 16ARLINGTO

Look 5: Bouton de Camelia earrings and transformable ring in 18K beige gold and diamonds, COCO CRUSH necklace in 18K beige gold, Bouton de Camelia transformable ring in 18K beige gold and diamonds, all CHANEL Fine Jewellery, Suit ROKSANDA

Look 6: OCO bracelets in 18K beige gold with 35 and without diamonds CHANEL Fine Jewellery, Dress worn on head CHANEL

About The Author

Glass Magazine editor in chief

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