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This teenage girl suddenly transforms into internet sensation and overnight beauty influencer

Maleesha Kharwa's Instagram account now boasts an impressive 367,000 followers and continues to grow

By Web Desk
September 19, 2023
15-year-old Mumbai girl Maleesha Kharwa. YouTube screengrab.
15-year-old Mumbai girl Maleesha Kharwa. YouTube screengrab. 

Just a chance encounter between an American tourist and a young girl in a Mumbai slum has led to a remarkable transformation of the teenager. 

The chance meeting took place three years ago.

Maleesha Kharwa, a cheerful and diminutive 15-year-old, caught the attention of a curious tourist. 

Maleesha's family lived in a humble hutment along a garbage-strewn shoreline. But after her transformation, they now also rent a one-room apartment nearby, complete with essential amenities.

Maleesha's journey took a significant leap in March when Forest Essentials, a luxury Indian cosmetics brand, selected her as the face of its Yuvati campaign, celebrating the spirit of young Indian women. 

Prior to this, she had graced the cover of Cosmopolitan India magazine under the tagline, "Guts! Guts! Guts!" 

Maleesha expressed her aspirations for a career in modeling or dance. However, she is resolved to remain dedicated to her studies until she completes her education.

Maleesha's infectious smile has won her recognition and admiration, as she shared, "I feel good because I look different on camera and in real life." 

Her story, akin to the Oscar-winning film "Slumdog Millionaire," highlights changing perceptions of beauty in India, where fair skin is often idealised in advertising and popular culture.

Her extraordinary journey was catalysed by Robert Hoffman, an American actor and choreographer, who shared his experiences with Maleesha and her family on Instagram and YouTube in 2020. 

Maleesha's cheerful demeanour conceals the hardships she has faced, including the loss of her mother at a young age. Her father, juggling a day job while raising two children, is a testament to the family's resilience.

Recognising the power of the internet, Hoffman played a pivotal role in launching a "Go Fund Me" campaign for Maleesha. Subsequently, she blossomed into a social media influencer, using the hashtag 'the princess from the slum' in her posts. 

Her Instagram account now boasts an impressive 367,000 followers and continues to grow, offering a beacon of hope and inspiration from the heart of Mumbai's slums.