Navya Naveli Nanda: Given my background, I could never use the word ‘challenging’ to describe my journey

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Navya Naveli Nanda may belong to a family of actors, but she has carved a niche for herself by pursuing her passion for entrepreneurship. On being asked about her decision to stay off the camera, she said, “The same way acting runs in my family for generations, so does business, from my father’s side.”

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In an email interaction with indianexpress.com, she talked about her journey, her various ventures, her fight against gender inequality, her background, and how she is thankful for her Bengali genes that ensured she has shiny, luscious hair.

You launched Project Naveli in 2021 to fight gender inequality in the country. What led to its conceptualisation, and how has the response been?

I think there are a number of reasons and instances we probably come across every day that would push us to fight gender inequality. When I decided to start Project Naveli, it was through identifying the four major areas (out of many) where we see injustice towards women in India; entrepreneurship, healthcare, legal rights, and domestic violence. The response so far has been great, we have seven projects currently ongoing, and we receive numerous requests from volunteers who want to join the cause and support the mission. There is a lot more that has to be done, on a much larger level, and that’s what we hope to do.

How much progress have you made, and what — as part of your journey — have you realised to be the biggest stumbling block?

Bridging the gender gap anywhere in the world is a life-long task because women have not been given equal opportunities for a very long time. As women, we were busy playing catch up — and that too only a handful of women, were given those opportunities. There is still a whole population that is awaiting the same, and I couldn’t say I’ve progressed until I am able to reach them, too. Our success and progress lie in our members — we can only succeed when we have all progressed together. The biggest roadblock I see is that women are held solely responsible for fighting inequality. It is equally a man’s responsibility, and until they do not join this mission – we will take years to achieve what we are after.

How, through your latest association with the ‘I Know My Worth’ campaign, do you intend to ‘urge women to silence their inner critic and recognise their worth’?

We have to accept that we are all different. We do not look the same, do not have the same skin colour, the same hair, the same body type; and for too long that was looked down upon. Women felt they had to live up to a particular standard of beauty – that is no longer the case. We are recreating what “beauty” really means, which goes beyond just the physical aspects. We are all worth it ALSO because of how beautiful we are on the inside, and when we look into the mirror, we should be able to recognise and see that too.

Considering your background, how easy or challenging has it been for you to create a change, an impact in the lives of women whose life is a constant struggle — both physically and mentally?

Given my background, and where I come from, I could never use the word “challenging” to describe my journey. I have been given far more than I deserve, far more than I can live up to in this lifetime, and I am grateful for all of it. I was brought up being told that “privilege comes with responsibility”, and that is exactly what I am following. I want to be able to share the resources and opportunities I am lucky enough to have. I want to burst this bubble we all live in, and invite the world in, so that we can walk this path together, and share – that path will lead us to equality.

You often share snippets of your everyday life on Instagram, including your travels. How important is social media to you when it comes to reaching out to your fans; and how do you deal with the cons of the medium?

I don’t think I have done anything to garner “fans”, there is a much longer way to go, to earn that love from people. But I believe social media can be an extremely powerful tool when used carefully. I have always tried using it to share stories, spread awareness about causes that I am fighting for. Using a medium that today penetrates almost every single household in the country requires maturity and responsibility – and I hope that I am able to live up to that.

You are also admired for your fashion choices; how would you describe your personal style?

Am I? My personal style is simple. My mother always taught me that less is more.

Tell us about your skin and hair care mantra — are you someone who swears by DIY home remedies?

I have been blessed with my nani’s (Jaya Bachchan) Bengali genes, so I don’t do much to take care of my hair. My skincare is short and sweet too, but something I have recently included in is the L’Oréal Paris Hyaluronic Acid Serum. It is extremely hydrating!

Are there any generational remedies that have worked wonders for your health — physical, skin, or even hair.

Yes, something that has been passed down to me from my nani is using dahi as a hair mask, it’s extremely hydrating for your hair, and adds a nice shine to it once you wash it off.

You have never considered acting as a career choice; how challenging it is to distance yourself from the limelight considering your family and some of your closest friends are from the industry. What influenced/inspired your decision to instead follow in your father’s footsteps?

It was a personal choice, one that I made because I wanted to follow my own passion — that lay in entrepreneurship and not in front of the camera. I embrace everything that comes with this life and use it in the most responsible way I possibly can, and for the right reasons. The same way acting runs in my family for generations, so does business, from my father’s side. We are four generations of a business family, and I am proud to be carrying that legacy forward.

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