When Mississauga local Maitreyi Ramakrishnan was announced as the star of Mindy Kaling’s new TV series, Never Have I Ever, in 2019, Toronto rejoiced. She was chosen out of over 15,000 candidates, even with an acting resume filled with high school theatre roles. It’s clear her talent blew everyone, including Kaling, away. Her return as protagonist Devi in the show’s second season in 2021 earned her glowing reviews and made her one of the most-watched Torononians to ever grace our (Netflix) screens.
By Rumneek Johal | Editor-in-chief, 5X Press
As someone who takes great joy in seeing South Asian representation across a myriad of platforms, watching Maitreyi Ramakrishnan star in Never Have I Ever would have done wonders for me as a teen, given how impactful it was for me as an adult. What made the show what it was was the standout performance by Ramakrishnan, who is both authentic and refreshing on and off screen.
Despite being six years her senior, I look up to the 19-year-old superstar for how she carries herself and speaks about what matters to her and how she is clear on her principles.
Earlier this year, Ramakrishnan requested that people learn to pronounce her name correctly, after constantly having to correct others. She discussed how integral names are to one’s identity and, in doing so, invited so many people, including myself, to do the same. Setting a boundary and choosing to affirm her connection to her culture and identity over other people’s temporary discomfort was admirable. So many of us are conditioned to dilute or hide the parts of us that make us different to make it easier for other people, even if it makes things harder for us. “I’m asking for basic respect when I want people to say my name right,” she said on Twitter.
At such a young age, the Mississauga native speaks with so much conviction and confidence about what is important to her, with the unintended result of inspiring other brown girls to be fearless about what matters to them too.
See our full list of Toronto’s most inspiring women of 2021 here.