The challenge is always to value your work

Marged Trumper is an indologist, teacher, singer and artist who found her deepest inspiration in Indian culture and traditional art. Her aim is to get inspired and inspire others and her motto is find what makes you feel yourself and follow that path no matter how unusual it seems. You can follow Marged on Instagram.

MM: Let’s jump right in: what is the most interesting thing for you in life right now? 

At the moment, my life is very much focused on myself, and around building my career, with a particular focus on my music career. I realized it was time to think about what I really want to be, and what I want to do.

I have different project ideas and I am working towards making them real. I have always had a lot of ideas and dreams, but had convinced myself that most of them were quite impossible to achieve. What I have realized recently is that I actually can work towards making them come true.  

MM: What brought you to this point? 

It has been a slow and steady path, a process. I didn’t come to it suddenly. It started with some things that I felt were not going well in my life, with my family and my health. I realized that I wanted things to be different, and I started thinking about what I could do to change them. I started listening to a non-traditional life coach. As a result, I really changed my mindset. I started working towards what was possible for me, and what I could do for myself. I wanted to be in a different mindset. 

MM: What was different or unique about your work with a life coach?

I hadn’t been searching for a life coach at all. I started following a person on YouTube because he spoke about a subject that I found very interesting. It was not about being perfect, or being focused on becoming rich or successful. It was mostly about understanding my issues with my relationships and my family. I came to understand many things about myself and how I was relating to people and situations.

MM: You call yourself “mehndi art pioneer in Italy”, could you tell us more about it?

I call myself a mehndi art pioneer in Italy. I use this word “pioneer” for a lot of things I do in Italy, because I don’t like to do what anybody else is doing. Conformity and conventionality are big values here in Italy, but I was raised in a different way. 

Whenever I start being very passionate about something, I am challenged by the fact that it is not a popular thing. And then mehndi art became a small business for me. It became a trend for Indian people to get married in Italy, it started about 10 years ago. Whenever brides or wedding planners were looking for mehndi artists, I was the one they would turn to. It became more interesting to me because I like to work in a traditional context. It was a way to be more into the culture and to be able to bring it to this country. 

MM: You are into Indian music; when did you start with music? 

The northern part of India is the area that is more linked to my interests. That was the place where the Islamic and Hindu cultures came together. 

It was not a goal or plan of mine initially, it was just a process that happened over time. My mom had an interest in Indian music and Indian textiles since I was a child, so it was not new to me to listen to or know about Indian music. 

The process started when I decided to take Hindi at the University. I wanted to learn a non-European language. My interest grew when I started learning about the culture, literature and traditions. Usually it is the other way around. People take a subject they are interested in, and with time lose the passion and interest that they first had. For me it was the opposite. My interest and passion are still growing. It was the right decision for me to take at the time, although I didn’t know where it was going to lead. 

MM: Why do you think this passion has been growing?

I feel a connection when I am with Indian people. Whenever I am in a traditional Indian setting or situation, I feel quite at ease. In a way, it has become natural for me to stay interested and passionate about learning more. I feel it’s a part of me now.

MM: Do you perform, teach, record? 

Yes, music is actually my main focus. Since childhood I was drawn to music, singing, especially. When I started learning more about Indian culture, I was drawn to going to concerts and listening to more Indian music. I had not thought I would become an Indian music scholar or singer. I just wanted to know more. 

I started to attend courses and concerts. I kept listening, learning and researching. I always think of myself as a scholar or student. But it is also true that I wanted to do more than learn about music. I like to perform. 

At a certain point, I also asked permission from my teacher. In India the teacher is a very important figure. I asked permission to teach here in the West when I was given a chance to, and she said yes. As I started to teach and perform, I began looking at myself in a more professional way. It’s a long journey, which some people might be scared of. 

As for recording, it is not something vital in Hindustani music as actual music is performed live and improvised on the spot.

MM: If somebody wants to find the right teacher, what should they do? How do you find the right teacher?

I was lucky. The teaching system in India is very different. You need to be patient and very serious about learning. I was scared that I would not be taken seriously as a westerner. 

Some teachers see westerners as lacking the patience needed to actually become an artist in Indian music. It happened that I met my teacher in London, where I was attending some seminars. She was teaching workshops there. 

After I met my guru Sunanda Sharma for the first time, I traveled to London every Summer for 3-4 years to study with her. It was not as though I went there and told her that I was coming to India to study with her. I was also learning from other people, taking other courses in Italy. But I had to be patient because otherwise I would not have been taken seriously. When my guru saw that I was serious, she said, “Yes you can come.”

You have to show you are trustworthy. It was a process, but with her, it was not difficult because for me she was really inspiring, and spending time with her was my pleasure. It was like being home. You need to find someone that will make you feel good about yourself, and that will make it worth doing what you are doing. Also, learning is a lifetime process so you never stop being a student and showing respect to your guru, this will open a different dimension as a learner.

MM: Hindu culture seems to be very far away from Italian culture. How do you see these two cultures merging in you? 

At first I did not think about it, I just did what was inspiring to me. One thing about traditional art is that you are not doing anything which was not done before. You’re trying to make your voice feel heard through means that has been shaped by others. You’re following a tradition. You have to bring forth a tradition but you also have to be yourself and put something of yourself in that. What I think is the best thing about being a westerner into Indian culture, especially music, is that I can educate people. I can be a means in between the west and the east, to understand the culture. I have a double eye in that I can see Indian culture from within and from the outside. I can see it in an objective way. I try to see that dual perspective as a strength. This is why research is one of my big interests.

MM: What are your artistic challenges right now? Are they related to your dreams (the dreams you mentioned at the start of the interview)?

There are always challenges. One of my challenges as a westerner is to see that I have the potential to become a professional performer of Indian music. Another challenge is that for me, art has always been a need. Art has always been an important way for me to express my feelings and who I am. It has been a challenge for me to make it my profession. My fear was  that I would make compromises that would make me unhappy. Something that makes you feel good should not be compromised. I learned that I need to feel good in the situations I work in. For instance, if I am hired to do mehndi for a wedding, if the family doesn’t make me feel good about my experience, or the setting I am working in, I will say no. 

Art is a passion. It’s something I do out of love. If I feel bad about it, or if I don’t feel inspired, my art will be just like any other job. I want to be at ease with my art. The challenge is always to value your work and to not feel like your art is not enough or that you are not doing it properly. But this is also the good thing about art. It challenges you to work more and to work with yourself. Art is an expression. It’s not about the work of art, it’s about yourself.

MM: You’ve mentioned about feeling less / not enough with art. How do you make yourself feel “enough”? This is probably a challenge many artists and many business women have.

I think I had good examples in my life. In my family, everyone comes from different cultures, different countries. Everyone has brought something different. My mother is a translator and writer but she has lived in the UK and Ireland for a long time. My father is a British man and he made a career in Italy with the Italian language. My maternal grandfather was a famous ancient Greek scholar and he lived in Sweden for a long time. They were all successful in their fields. I never felt that I could not be successful in a different field, in something that was not in my culture.

I started thinking about what I could bring to the situation. I think I am unusual in the field because I have researched different aspects of Indian culture, not just the language or the music. I try to show that I am doing it professionally and am serious about it.

Research for me is a pleasure. Music is a pleasure.  If I can take pleasure in what I do, then I don’t care about what others say or think of how I do it, except the mentors I chose for myself. I am doing it out of genuine passion. I know that there is always more to learn, and to improve upon, but I know that as long as I am sincere and serious towards what I do, then I am perfectly entitled to do it.  

MM: You used to be in the plus size blogging in Italy and was featured in different publications. Could you tell us a little bit more about this experience? How did you get into fashion? What was the main reason for it? 

It was a good experience, I enjoyed it a lot. I think I was one of the pioneers of plus size blogging and body acceptance in Italy. My inspiration came from international bloggers. I received good feedback. It was a way to challenge myself to do something different, to see things—and myself—in a different way. It was a way to experiment with my body image, with my sense of fashion and also to experiment in a new niche that was not in my main interests. 

I was in the plus size blogging scene for at least 7-8 years. It was a very good experience, but it was too limited. After a while, I started losing interest. And I moved on because it was not the main thing in my life. At a certain point, I realized I didn’t want to have it in my life in such an important way. When I stopped being satisfied with it, it was over for me.

MM: What did you do in the fashion industry? What did your projects looked like? Were there interesting projects? Were it media interviews, brands asking for modeling, magazines?

Other than Nike, one of the biggest plus size brands in Italy that has recently started a sport line is Marina Rinaldi. They put on their social media, for the first time, a picture of a model who was not thin. I’ve seen fashion shows where they will have thin models in plus size clothes wear padding under their clothes to make them look bigger, but not fat. People reacted very badly and said things like “I would never wear this in public, I have good taste.” Good taste is boring! {laughs} I’ve never been told that I was someone who didn’t have good taste in clothing. I think it has more to do with your personality. Taste is not about what you wear, but how you wear it.

But other things, like the brands and the media have never changed. I was called to collaborate  with a brand and I told them that they needed to change their market here because online sales were changing things so much that if you don’t change, you will lose your market. They did not change and they had to close. 

The media has not changed either. I’ve been contacted to be on several tv shows. I only accepted a couple of times because most of the time it was to make fun of plus size people. Some only wanted to talk about plus size as a kind of fetish. People in the media were not approaching it from the right perspective. And people in Italy are so much influenced by this environment. It’s so male centered. It has to do with the society here, in their minds if you are not seen as a sexual object to men, then you are not worth anything.

MM: Are there any good plus size bloggers in Italy? What do girls need to do to succeed as plus size bloggers or models?

I am still waiting for an interesting person who will show me that she is truly herself. Someone who shows personality and an interesting point of view. Someone who does not only pursue what she thinks men or society wants. That would make a difference. Otherwise it’s nothing new. There are a few bloggers who are making good content, but you also have to show me, not just talk. Otherwise I am not interested. You have to act the same way as you talk.

I think I was the only plus size blogger in Italy until today who showed pictures of herself in a bikini as a plus size woman. Other bloggers would lose weight, then they would wear them or would avoid pictures in a bikini. And I understand them— it is not easy in this society. So many people were writing me thanking me for doing it. For me, it was liberating. And it was liberating for other people as well to see someone live their lives normally with a different body type. 

As a plus size blogger, you need to have some personality to make things change for others. Others will think, if she’s doing it, then I could do it as well.

If you really want to make your voice heard, you need to have the time and money to support it. It’s not easy. Plus size blogging is not a big business. Brands are not interested in putting money into it and they are neither much interested in personality. Plus size blogging is not considered a profession in Italy. 

As for collaborating with brands or working as a model, you just need to conform to certain standards even if they don’t correspond to your personality.

MM: You talk about making your dreams come true. What are the dreams you are working on? 

I feel I am at a good point. I am aware the path that I am on is not an easy or short one. I am working towards my goals and I am really enjoying it. I was raised in a generation where we thought that after school we would have a steady job and have a family. I’m glad that my situation is a bit different than what I thought it would be when I was younger. If I were in a regular, steady job, I could not have pursued this path full time. It’s a challenge, of course, but I am making the best of it. 

MM: What advice would you give to other women around you? What should they do to live their dreams?

Listen to yourself—and only yourself—about what you really want. You need to feel at home with yourself. You need to feel that you are doing what is right for you. I think it is true for women all over the world. We need to understand our needs and wants. We are not just projections of family, partners, media, whatever. If something makes you feel good, pursue it no matter what the others say. 

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