If Maitreyi Ramakrishnan thought her life changed when she was plucked from obscurity to star in Mindy Kaling's coming-of-age Netflix sitcom loosely based on the multihyphenate's adolescence, then she never could have imagined what would follow. In the four months since Never Have I Ever premiered in April, it became a favorite among both fans and critics, was picked up for a second season, and boosted Ramakrishnan's Instagram following from a few thousand people to over a million.
“Yeah, 100% my life has changed,” Ramakrishnan says over the phone from Ontario, her home base. “It's been a wild ride.”
It's about to get even more wild, given that Ramakrishnan just landed her first big beauty partnership with Gillette Venus. And the project they're working on together has to do with everyone's favorite quarantine pastime: the one and only Animal Crossing. On August 31 she'll be hosting a virtual event to celebrate some big updates to the game: There will now be 19 new skin types for characters and more than 250-plus combinations of diverse skin representations.
The 18-year-old was the perfect choice for host given her longtime passion for gaming coupled with her advocacy for more representation and diversity in media. In fact, the Animal Crossing avatars will now feature options like leg scars, back tattoos, and arm hair. It's the latter that has Ramakrishnan most excited.
“I remember as a kid saying to my dad, ‘Out of all the things you could give me, you gave me this arm hair! Arm hair? This is what you gave me?’ My mom has no arm hair, but my dad...yeah,” says Ramakrishnan, noting it used to bother her before, but not anymore. "I just don’t care. I leave it. I shave my legs, but now I just totally vibe with my arm hair. I let it grow and we grow together.”
Ahead, she talks more about beauty standards—and video games—as we asked her to answer a round of Glamour's Big Beauty Questions.
Glamour: Your social media following has grown by a million followers since the premiere of Never Have I Ever. Who’s your favorite person to follow?
Maitreyi Ramakrishnan: His name is Lance, @lanceaguas, and he’s 16 years old and so amazingly talented. He does all kinds of makeup from typical glamour shots to putting clouds on his face with cotton. He paints his face and re-creates all these different designs. It’s cool.
You’re pretty skilled at applying makeup yourself, particularly fake lashes. What’s your trick?
I take a lot of pride in my ability to do a quick wing, but also plop on falsies pretty fast. I think it’s best to first learn how to do it with tweezers. Grab the individual lashes with a tweezer, which gives you more precision when you’re applying them. But then, when you get more comfortable, you can apply them with your fingers, which is what I do now. It also helps to put extra glue on the ends of the lashes, which helps it stick. I really like Lilly Lashes. They are my go-to for natural but wispy-looking lashes.
You mentioned you’re good at applying eyeliner. Any recommendations?
I love eyeliner! I like a low-key, natural kind of look, but then I’ll end up adding a nice thick wing. I’m not one-brand specific, but I like the Epic Ink liner from Nyx, or KVD’s Tattoo Liner, which is quite nice. Or MAC's black eyeliner pencil.
What’s one beauty rule you swear by?
There should be no beauty rules for what you do with your own face. If you want to overline your lips, go for it; if you don’t, don't. Same with eyeliner. Just do whatever makes you feel happiest with yourself! I’m not going to tell you what suits your face.
Fill in the blank: “I love my hair...”
When it's not humid! Honestly, that’s all I ask because I hate putting product in my hair. I hate hairspray. It makes my hair feel stiff. So I need the weather to cooperate.
What colors are you loving on your nails right now?
Right now they're au naturel, because I can’t go to a salon. I wish I could paint my own nails, but the precision is not existent. But when I do, I really enjoy getting matte black on my nails.
Would you rather get a facial or a massage?
Definitely massage, because my back is always busted. I have really bad posture, and I need to fix it. I know, it’s really bad!
You’ve got $20 and free roam of a drugstore. What do you buy?
First instinct is a Cadbury bar or the mini eggs. Those are dope. And then a good mascara, like Benefit’s Roller Lash, which I know is over $20. But drugstores are also really good for getting nail colors. When nail salons are open, I’ll usually go get the color I want and bring it to the salon with me instead of picking it there. I take too long at the nail salon to pick a color and don’t like to inconvenience people. So I’ll bring the color in if they allow it. I really like Essie for the black matte color.
How much time do you spend getting ready?
If it’s a regular kind of look, then 10 minutes, 15 minutes, max. But if it’s something more elaborate, it can be much longer, because I’m singing and pretending that I’m talking to an audience during it. You have to factor that in, because that’s a very legitimate thing. Sometimes I listen to Rex Orange County while I'm getting ready because I really like him as an artist.
What’s your favorite way to take a moment for yourself?
Definitely video games, like Animal Crossing, because there’s so much to do. Nintendo has been a really big part of my childhood and my present-hood, let’s call it that. I’d do it as a kid a lot. That's why ever since I was a kid, I wanted to go to Japan. It's always been on my bucket list to visit the gaming towers there. Every level you go up in the building, the harder it gets, the more competitive gaming there is. It gets good!
Who are the women who inspire you the most right now?
Why did my dog come into my head? I love my dog. [Laughs.] So besides my lovely dog, it’s actually Mindy [Kaling]. She’s so killer and amazing at all that she does, and she's such an inspiration. I love how she truly goes after what she wants. She writes, she produces, she acts, and she’s unapologetic about it. She’s like, “I’m here, and I’m killing it,” which I think is really dope.
If you could change one thing about beauty perceptions on social media or in Hollywood, what would that be?
The idea that there’s one way to do beauty. Obviously, throughout time, we’ve switched trends, but I wish we could get away from the core “beauty standards.” If you’re of color, it's like the fairer you are, the better. That’s something that personally bothers me—that there are products dedicated to skin whitening. That’s something I definitely want to strip from the beauty world. I don’t think that’s beauty. I think that’s just racism.
What’s the best beauty advice your mom ever gave you?
It isn’t necessarily beauty advice, buy my mom has always told me since I was a little kid that I looked beautiful and was always looking fly as hell. A lot of the South Asian community—when it comes to our parents—forgets to tell the younger generation that they are pretty and beautiful, because they themselves haven’t been told that. Their moms weren’t told that. My mom has always told me that, and I'm so appreciative she did. That gave me the confidence when I walked into school because my mom made me feel my brown skin was dope as fuck.
It's something I’m really passionate about, because I know so many fellow South Asian girls that haven’t been told they're beautiful, and they take that to heart. It’s heartbreaking. I feel like that’s also the story of Devi in Never Have I Ever. She doesn’t feel she’s beautiful, and maybe that’s because her mom hasn’t told her that. It’s such a real thing, so while it's not beauty advice, it’s what my mom has taught me, and I'm so grateful for it.
Jessica Radloff is the Glamour West Coast editor. You can follow her on Instagram @jessicaradloff14.
Originally Appeared on Glamour