The girl from the poor shack who wants to become a supermodel: the unlikely story of the ‘princess from the slum’

The girl from the poor shack who wants to become a supermodel: the unlikely story of the ‘princess from the slum’
The girl from the poor shack who wants to become a supermodel: the unlikely story of the ‘princess from the slum’
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Maleesha Kharwa lived with her family in a slum on the outskirts of the Indian metropolis of Mumbai, when she was discovered by Robert Hoffman in 2020. The Step upactor was visiting the country when he bumped into the girl. “I met Maleesha when she showed up on set with her family during a casting,” says Hoffman. “I immediately realized that she had a good chance of being selected, but also that she needed help for better education, food and decent housing.” After their meeting, the actor posted videos of the girl online, after which Maleesha quickly conquered the internet.

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“My family and I do odd jobs to survive and occasionally try to earn some extra money as extras in TV shows and films,” says Maleesha Kharwa. In the new one BBCdocumentary Streets of gold: Mumbai she says she wants to become a professional model so that she can move with her father, brother and sister from their shack in the suburb of Bandra, where the family has lived together for more than twenty years.

Bulldozers

Plans to clear the slum have been hanging over their heads for years. “I fear the day when armed men with bulldozers will raze our house to the ground. They usually do this during the monsoon season, because then it is particularly difficult to rebuild the house.”

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No electricity

Maleesha is now 16 years old and has 429,000 followers on Instagram. On her social media she offers her followers a glimpse behind the scenes of the difficult living conditions in the slum. “There is no electricity and sometimes we don’t even have clean water or food,” she says in an interview with Cosmopolitan India. The girl has now appeared on the cover of the fashion magazine, just like on that of The Peacock. She has also become the face of the skincare brand Forest Essentials.

READ ALSO. From the slum via music to politics: the pop star who drives the president crazy

The teenage girl indicates that she is very happy. “I find it strange when people ask me how I am so happy. Others think it’s not normal to be happy because I’m poor, but I love my life. You can really be happy even if you don’t have a big house or a nice car, because for me it’s more important to have family who love and support you, and good friends who care about you.”

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Yet the teenager hopes that thanks to modeling she will no longer have to live in poverty. “I want to buy a big house for my father with the proceeds from my modeling work, because when I was little, dad always took care of us.” That’s why she plans to dedicate herself fully to her career after finishing school.

Big heart

“I not only want to earn enough to buy a real house, but also save for a better education.” To make that dream come true, a fundraising campaign was also set up via GoFundMewith donors donating more than $20,000.

“I wanted to help Maleesha give her more opportunities so she can achieve her dreams,” says actor Robert Hoffman. “She really deserves it: she is such a sweet girl with a lot of perseverance and a big heart for her family.”

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The article is in Dutch

Tags: girl poor shack supermodel story princess slum

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