While we wait for the season 2 of the Netflix series Never Have I Ever, with Maitreyi Ramakrishnan teasing that Devi finds herself in a situation that's "really bad" but creates a "phenomenal" story arc, the show's Canadian star continues to be an advocate for gender equality and women empowerment.
"From my experience of my short 19 years, only now entering the workforce, have I realized, damn, it's harder to be a woman," Ramakrishnan told Yahoo Canada. "I don't regret it, I love being a woman, but damn is it hard."
Last year Ramakrishnan became a Global Ambassador for Plan International Canada. More recently, she was on TIME magazine's 2021 TIME100 Next list of the next 100 most influential people in the world, with co-creator of Never Have I Ever, Mindy Kaling, saying Ramakrishnan "has an activist’s heart and wants to use her platform to help others."
As we approach International Women's Day on March 8, Ramakrishnan believes it's important to have these milestone days of remembrance to "appreciate and celebrate the accomplishments that we've made up until this point."
"A lot of activism is fighting for what we believe in and marching on, but it's also important to celebrate the achievements that we have," she said. "Also, just to give us more emphasis on, hey this is what's going on now, what can we do next."
In terms of the film and television industry in particular, the 19-year-old believes its incredibly important that we now have examples of women taking on critical roles in front of and behind the camera, but there is still work to be done.
"It's important to have females represented because we deserve to take up that space, number one, we are entitled to that space,...but still, it is a fight," Ramakrishnan said.
'I can only represent so many people'
When Never Ever I Ever hit Netflix, it was praised for for its female-driven storyline, with South Asian lead characters, instantly thrusting Ramakrishnan into the spotlight as a role model for young women of colour everywhere.
"When you’re a minority woman with your own show, you gotta represent…. People come up to you at the airport or online and say those three magic words: ‘I feel seen.’ It’s a huge responsibility—and Maitreyi Ramakrishnan is exactly the kind of talented young woman who is up to the task," Kaling, said in a statement to TIME about Ramakrishnan.
The Netflix star said it's still "a little surreal" to think that people "feel seen" when they see her face on their screens. Ramakrishnan jokingly revealed that when she sees clips of herself on Never Have I Ever she thinks, "who is this nerd."
"But it's truly an honour...and as much as I'm happy to be that face that some girls around the world can look up to, I know I'm not that face that all South Asian girls can look up to, and I wouldn't want to settle in my happiness just too soon," she explained.
"The reality is, I'm only one one girl, me, myself. Devi is only one girl and she can only represent so many people, personality wise, and be relatable to so many people... I can only represent so many people and be relatable to a certain amount of people as well. "
Ramakrishnan added that she makes sure to extend her thanks to be in this position to Kaling, co-creator Lang Fisher, the crew and others on the project as well.
"There's a lot of people that helped me get to where I am, but then I'm like, okay, now let's find more, let's get more right in the front lines of streaming and TV, film all of it," she said.
While Ramakrishnan pushes for gender equality on very public platforms, there are still things each person can do in their everyday life. The actor identified that the first step is to educate yourself.
"I think if we educate ourselves first, and then engage in conversation with others and spread it along and then, of course, encourage them to educate themselves, I think that's an amazing, amazing first step," Ramakrishnan said.
"I constantly talk about that for any sort of activism, or social issue because education is the cornerstone for any time in society and it's also a fundamental human right."