Keeping it real
VOGUE India|July 2021
For the young star of Never Have I Ever, Maitreyi Ramakrishnan, it’s her you-do-you philosophy that helps her navigate stardom, cyber-trolling and life at large, finds Mihika Agarwal
Mihika Agarwal

When Maitreyi Ram-akrishnan’s high-school romcom series Never Have I Ever dropped on Netflix in 2020, the then 18-year-old was in quarantine at home in Canada. There were no red-carpet premieres or launch parties. Instead, it all unfolded on social media. Within hours of its release, the Mindy Kaling- and Lang Fisher-directorial stormed Twitter, watch lists and the hearts of millions across the globe. And in turn, Ramakrishnan’s Devi Vishwakumar, in all her arm-haired glory, became one of the most real and relatable Gen-Z characters that the OTT landscape has offered us in recent times. A first-generation immigrant in America awkwardly straddling two cultures even as she navigates adolescence and all that it comes with—sex, love, friendships, rebellion, body image issues and insecurities—Vishwakumar evolves multifold in the first season. But the character arcs are even more remarkable in the upcoming instalment, set to hit screens in July 2021. An excited Ramakrishnan says, “Expect the unexpected.”

For the Tamil-Canadian actor, who beat 15,000 applicants to make her acting debut, the catapult to fame was nothing short of a whirlwind. “A lot of it was all on social media, making me think, ‘Wait, is this actually real or is this just an internet thing?’” Ramakrishnan recalls the moment when the show started topping the trending charts on Netflix. But fame forced The New York Times’s Best Actor of 2020 to grow up faster, she admits. And not just regular fame—fame in a pandemic-stricken world, which is a whole other ball game. “If I didn’t get the show and I was just a 19-year-old girl in university doing my thing, I’d be completely different. I think fame has forced me to mature and have those deep conversations with myself and be my own best friend, especially in quarantine, when you have to spend so much time with yourself.”

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