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Rinaa Shah, the first Indian woman polo player, is an extraordinary individual who has shattered long-standing gender barriers in the field of sport. She has trained in Fashion Design in New York and an executive course in Business Management from Harvard.
She is not only a talented athlete but also a highly creative and astute professional. Her achievements and diverse skill set serve as an inspiration to others, highlighting the power of dedication, determination, and the ability to excel in multiple domains.
Driven by her passion for polo, Rinaa Shah fearlessly took on the challenging journey. She tirelessly trained, enduring falls and fractures during her early days at the Mahalakshmi Race Course in Mumbai. Seeking to refine her skills, she pursued training in Argentina and the United Kingdom.
Her dedication paid off as she swiftly won two beginner polo tournaments in Jodhpur. Now a consistent presence in the polo circuit, Rinaa Shah leads her own team, “Rinaldi Polo,” alongside top Indian players like Samir Suhag, Chirag Parekh, and Gaurav Sehgal.
After completing her education, Rinaa Shah took a leap into the world of entrepreneurship and launched her own fashion label, ‘Rinaldi Designs,’ in 1997. The brand focused on creating premium, high-fashion footwear for women and kids.
It swiftly gained recognition as a prominent player in the bridal footwear industry, attracting an impressive clientele that included top celebrities like Naomi Campbell, Natalie Portman, Goldie Hawn, Rekha, Shilpa Shetty, and Kareena Kapoor, and many others who are a part of the elite social circle in India.
In her conversation with Icy Tales, she spoke about her venture, achievements, and her opinion on gender barriers in the field of the sport along with her inputs on fashion and sport.
Q) What does having the title “The First Indian Woman Polo Player” mean to you?
Rinaa Shah: When I started playing Polo there were no active women polo players who played with teams or had their own team. I was very passionate to learn and pave the path for other women to enter this majestic sport.
Q) When was it that you discovered that you are a person who is more oriented toward sports?
Rinaa Shah: At the age of 6 I was into sports. I was the best 100 meters runner and a great swimmer.
I always loved sports and played cricket and baseball with my brothers. Sports have always been my first love.
Q) Tell us something about your fashion brand Rinaldi Designs
Rinaa Shah: After graduating from business I was into creative studies like Fashion. But I did not want to be an Apparel Designer as there were many already.
There was also a huge niche in the shoe industry. I took that opportunity and studied shoe design at FIT New York. That’s how RINALDI designs came
to be. I made customized shoes for renowned celebrities and brides.
Q) In society, we see how many households are not very approving of sports, especially for women. How was it different in your house and what kind of support did you receive from them?
Rinaa Shah: Mine was no different till school level. It was okay but my family never supported me to be an athlete. In the sports segment, I never got the support I always wanted.
Q) How did you make the transition from being a designer to becoming a polo player? It must’ve been very hard to adapt to changes considering they are two extreme ends, so how did you bridge the gap?
Rinaa Shah: Actually I was still into designs when I started Polo and also did a line for equestrian fashion called RINALDI polo. I never left designing for Polo. It just happened that during 2016-2017, I had trade union issues and some other personal matters that I decided to close and focus on Polo as it required a lot of hard work and travel.
Q) Do you think sports should have a degree in college just like any other Educational Qualification?
Rinaa Shah: Yes for sure! I think a lot of people are still in my shoes who have never received family support at a young age to pursue their dreams in sports.
Q) You have traveled to many places across the globe for professional reasons. What is something you’ve learned after all this globetrotting?
Rinaa Shah: You get to meet so many different people and how they live with their culture. You grow a lot and become worldly with travel.
Q) Being successful in the field of Fashion design and sports, you know what success feels like. Tell us some tips to feel motivated and get successful
Rinaa Shah: My most powerful tip is you have to be passionate first and then work hard, be consistent, and keep pushing.
Q) Another feather to your cap is that you are India’s first woman Electronic percussionist. How would you want to inspire more women with your story?
Rinaa Shah: So I started my musical journey as a percussionist as music was in my veins since childhood but then I moved to become a DJ as it was something I could travel with and I found it more interesting. I never let age stop me as I became a DJ only at 46.
I did not care what people or my own people thought. I went to a DJ school in Amsterdam and since then there has been no stopping. I believe you have to follow your heart.
Q) If you had to pick between being a polo player or doing fashion designing, which one would you choose and why?
Rinaa Shah: They both are different in their own way and I could never choose only one. One is good for my creative mind and the other is for my fitness, body, and discipline.
Rinaa Shah considers Polo an integral part of her life as it made her a more confident individual. She is a multi-faceted individual who is extremely passionate about everything that she does. She also enjoys traveling as it helps her feel relaxed.
She also enjoys reading to keep herself updated about global affairs and technology. She aims to inspire more girls to take up sports as their profession and make a name for themselves.
Check out many other insightful conversations with knowledgeable people on our YouTube Channel.