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From “Mr. India Global” to Influencer

By Reetika Khanna Email By Reetika Khanna
March 2020
From “Mr. India Global” to Influencer


“Do anything but that” was Dhaval Panchal's parent's response when he expressed an interest in modeling. But once success arrived in the way of glitzy titles and propitious career opportunities, the 28-year-old fashion model earned his family's wholehearted support. As well as winning Mr. India Global 2017/18, Mr. South Asia 2015, Mr. East Coast 2014, Panchal has appeared in films—The Hunger Games, The Internship, Let's Be Cops and The Mule, and TV shows like Homeland and Necessary Roughness. Panchal is also a brand ambassador for Express (fashion retailer), an Instagram blogger, an emerging entrepreneur, and a DJ who goes by the moniker DJ Ka$h by Dhaval.

A scout for a modeling and acting school spotted you when you were studying at the University of South Carolina. Had you considered casting yourself in the spotlight before that?
I used to suffer from insecurity. People used to make fun of me, and I was always worried about other people's perspectives. When this opportunity came my way, I just took it and reassured my parents that I would not fall into bad things, and modeling would just be a hobby. But it turned into a career.

Many actors start as models. Were you also interested in acting when you embarked on a career as a model?
I hadn't given acting much thought, but I got an opportunity through the modeling agency I was with. And I absolutely loved it. I feel free in front of the camera. I am not shy. I can be myself. It bolsters my confidence, and I want to do a lot more of that. My agent is talking to some directors in Atlanta.

Can we expect to see you in Bollywood productions as well?
Yes! I am working towards that, too.

How did you get into blogging? Is it merely a platform to showcase yourself, or do you enjoy the experience?
Blogging and being an Instagram influencer is something I did on my own. I love my fans. I really enjoy it, and I like to connect with things I love and look up to. That's how Express came about. They saw my Instagram and asked me to represent them. As a model, I have always wanted to represent something I personally like.

You have an Amazon storefront, and you are in the process of opening your own company for drop shipping in partnership with your friend. How did the idea for a commercial enterprise take root?
Honestly, I did not know much about the concept of drop shipping until recently. My partner Rushang (Ryan) Patel and I thought, “What's the best way not to work hard but smart?” We hired overseas employees for our Amazon Storefront business that we opened just a few months ago, and we are in the process of opening our own company for drop shipping. It's online e-commerce, and we contract almost entirely with Home Depot, Bed Bath & Beyond, and Wal-Mart.

On your website, you talk about a long journey that brought you to where you are today. What were the most significant hardships along that journey?
A lot of people did not support me. People made fun of me and said hurtful things. But I learned to stop worrying about what others think and kept pushing myself. I had to stay positive and show my talent.



What advice would you give an aspiring South Asian model?
Put yourself out there. Be confident. Never give up. Keep working hard. Stay focused. Sometime family won't support you. "This will not get you anywhere," they will say and tell you to focus only on education. That's when you have to prove yourself and make it happen, no matter what. It's not easy, but it's always possible.

Your ethnicity is not instantly evident in your features; did you nonetheless encounter veiled directives to limit yourself to agencies representing diversity?
I am proud of my roots and my community, but I did not focus on my ethnicity. I applied everywhere. I have emailed thousands of agencies, and thousands did not get back to me, but I persevered. It comes down to what each agency is looking for, that's it.

In addition to pursuing acting opportunities in the U.S. and India, what's currently stirring in your world?
I am very excited about a project in the works—with TikTok stars, but I can't name them at the moment. I recently created an Instagram Filter for "Old Bollywood Classic Movie." It's in the process of being approved by Facebook. And also … there is the possibility of going to the Oscars as an Instagram influencer. That would be great.

Reetika Khanna.png


Author of Kismetwali & Other Stories, Reetika Khanna is an Atlanta-based freelance writer who likes to spotlight people with purpose. She has worked with ELLE as a senior features writer, and as an associate features editor with ELLE DÉCOR, Mumbai. For more, go to ReetikaKhanna.com

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