Sruthi Jayadevan is an Indian-American model, stylist, and blogger. She grew up in South India and moved to the U.S. when she was 11 years old. After being bullied for being different while growing up, she is now proud to embrace her culture and is not shy about sharing it with others on social media. But in a recent Twitter post, she opened up about the negative comments she’s heard regarding her traditional garb.
Jayadevan shared two beautiful photos of herself, captioning the tweet with examples of criticisms she’s gotten: “People: ‘what’s with the dot’ ‘what’s that on your nose’ ‘maybe you should tone down all this cultural stuff.'”
Jayadevan now uses her social media platform to try to empower others to embrace their own culture, and her message is resonating with many: Her recent tweet got more than 74,000 likes and 21,000 retweets.
The 22-year-old shares with Yahoo Lifestyle that her family moved to California when her single mom, a registered nurse, was offered a better job opportunity.
“I went to my elementary school wearing a traditional bindi, my thin gold anklets, and my hair in braids like I used to back in my village,” she says. “My sister and I were the only Indian kids at my school, so we would get called all kinds of names and be asked why we don’t speak English or why we had a dot on our forehead.”
Because of the bullying, she began to assimilate into American culture. It was not until college that she realized that she’d been shying away from embracing her roots, and decided to then get back to loving her traditions.
“I wanted to break free from these things that held me back. One day, I just decided to post a picture of me wearing a bindi and share my story on my page, and the responses were incredible,” she says. “I got so many messages and comments from young Indian-Americans who had all been through similar things.”
Her recent tweet sparked a thread in which people encouraged her to keep on being proud of her heritage.
Jayadevan, who now lives in Dallas, has also shared other photos of her looking beautiful in traditional outfits, from a salwar kameez or two to saris and bindis and plenty of sparkling jewels.
“Empowering others to embrace their culture empowered me to embrace my culture. I started growing more fearless with the way that I wore my cultural accessories. I started wearing the nose ring my mom always wore as a young adult. I put my anklets back on, I planned a trip to India,” she tells Yahoo Lifestyle. “Doing these things made me feel whole again. I felt all the suppression fade away slowly. I could feel the healing that it was bringing to my heart and soul.”
To those who genuinely have a question about the meaning behind her accessories, she says, “I have always loved when someone asked me a question out of genuine curiosity about something cultural I was wearing. But most comments I get are rather hateful, and mocking the accessories. The tweet did help spread awareness. I was able to link an article to that tweet that explained the different cultural accessories that people of South Asian culture wear and what each of those things mean.”
Here is the tweet she refers to:
So what’s up next for the model? “My biggest dream I’ve had, ever since I was a young girl, was to create a network or organization that supported women’s empowerment,” she says. “I want to empower others to embrace their roots and celebrate their culture. I want them to embrace their gender, their skin color, and all the things that make us unique individuals. I want to represent my culture and heritage with beauty and fashion brands that want to be more inclusive.”
And it will be a pleasure to follow her journey.
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