Our February cover star Alaya F is the most winsome breakout talent of the year
The 22-year-old likes to stay positive, humble and refreshingly candid
Twenty two-year-old Alaya F belongs to the so-called avocado-loving, snowflake generation notorious for getting amused by cancelling Kardashians and snapping selfies to commemorate any moment. But, the truth is most millennials just want to get their lives together. So they hustle. And, they have side hustles. They try to do more with less and they want to do it while they Marie-Kondo their lives to find their inner Ikigai. And, Alaya—the most promising star from this decade—isn’t any different.
The young actor (she’s also a fabulous artist, by the way) believes in working hard and being kind while she’s at it. With a headline debut alongside Saif Ali Khan in Jawaani Jaaneman (which was released last month), Alaya has had her own share of setbacks and learnings that have helped shape her get-up-and-go spirit.
As we speak over a Skype call scheduled towards the latter half of the day when one would expect her vivacity to be somewhat tempered down—her warm, infectious smile lights up my screen immediately. Alaya is refreshingly candid, values humility, believes in surrounding herself with positive affirmations at all times and is most certainly a girl with a plan.
But, wait. Let’s rewind a little bit. Before making her much-awaited debut, Alaya studied in New York for two years. She enrolled for a film-making course at the New York University followed by an intensive acting programme at New York Film Academy. No surprise that the Big Apple is one of her favourite cities in the world. “I saw how different worlds can come together there,” she muses. And perhaps this city let her inhabit a new universe altogether—one that she couldn’t find back home.
“In contrast to my life in NYC, a lot of people in Bombay from my social circle tend to live in a bubble. When you’re within a group, and you’re interacting with the same people every single day, sometimes you lose perspective on what’s going on in the world, what’s important, and what you need to focus on. And, in doing this, you sort of become a different version of the same people you’re hanging out with. And, it may sound clichéd but spending time in NYC made me discover myself. And, I came back as a nicer, compassionate and a self-aware person. I feel like your company influences you so much,” she says.
Alaya moved back to Mumbai only to pursue her dream job—she wanted to be a movie star. For two years, she learned kathak, hip-hop, contemporary and Bollywood dance styles. “I was an incredibly weak dancer. I couldn’t even do a thumka properly,” she discloses. Her dance lessons were coupled with acting workshops, Pilates, kickboxing, gymnastics, and Hindi training classes because (well) she had an “awful accent. I know a lot of people would ask, ‘Oh, why do you have this fake accent.’ I would tell them, ‘Listen, if you can tell me how to get rid of it, I’m all yours’,” she giggles.
After rigorously auditioning and facing several rejections for two years, there was a flicker of hope when she received a call from Jawaani Jaaneman’s producer Jay Shewakramani. He asked her to fly down to Kashmir to discuss the film that also features critically-acclaimed actor Tabu and Kubbra Sait.
“The film was just one of those things that was brought to my attention by four different people in one day. I thought this is some sort of a sign,” she recalls excitedly. After a long-drawn dinner conversation with the director Nitin Kakkar, she eventually got a confirmation in the middle of the night. “My phone pinged out of nowhere and the screen displayed a message that read: It’s safe to say welcome to the film,” she smiles.
Wool-blend jumper, INR. 64,937, jeans, INR. 23,354; both Pringle of Scotland. Calfskin boots, INR. 1,12,500, Christian Louboutin
Cotton dress, INR. 9,500, ASA. Wool sweater, price on request, péro. Cotton-blend hat, price on request, Tommy Hilfiger
Cotton-blend dress, INR. 27,500, polyester jacket, INR. 23,500, denim hat, INR. 8,500; all Dhruv Kapoor. Socks and stockings, stylist’s own. Denim loafers, price on request, Tommy Hilfiger
Chiffon dress, INR. 18,000, KoAi
Knit sweater, INR. 14,000, Anurag Gupta
Silk shirt, cotton shirt, cotton skirt, prices on request; all Jil Sander. Shoes, Alaya’s own
Cotton dress, INR. 9,500, ASA. Wool sweater, price on request, péro. Cotton-blend hat, price on request, Tommy Hilfiger. Calfskin boots, INR. 1,12,500, Christian Louboutin
Editor-in-chief: Supriya Dravid; Photography by: Ashish Shah; Styling: Malini Banerji; Hair and make-up: Deepa Verma; Assisted by: Tejaswini Sinha, Rupangi Grover (Styling), Sejal Goyal (Intern), Abhishek Rao (Photography); Location Courtesy: The Kumaon, Uttarkhand.