Being unique has never been a challenge for Karishma Leckraz, or ‘Krishy,’ a British-born Indo-Mauritian content creator and eczema awareness activist. Understanding the strength of her individuality was a process, and one that began with a desire to fit in: “I was confused about the whole aspect of what my cultures and traditions were,” Krishy recalled.
Being a child of immigrants born in southeast London can make finding where you belong difficult, especially with the added complexity of Mauritian identity, which encompasses East African and Indian traditions. But Krishy’s success as a creator has been defined by symbolic acts of defiance, and so soon enough the idea of ‘belonging’ became abstract to her.
“Trying to grasp who I was and trying to fit in ended up with me saying, ‘I actually don’t want to fit in.’ I was glad I had my own sense of what being Mauritian and British and Indian is about.”
For Krishy, challenging restrictive ideas of ethnic and cultural identity is just one of the ways she’s fighting for inclusivity in the digital space. Krishy made strides as a creative through her captivating wield of the makeup brush – forging her own lane in the beauty industry. Before it became a refined passion, her interest began, as it does for most girls, by watching her mother get ready.
“I just loved seeing her transform herself and the confidence it gave her. Then I began playing around with it, stealing bits of makeup here and there and getting caught when she would wake up and all of her products were missing,” she laughed.
Alongside being a distinct MUA talent, much of Krishy’s following and influence was built through her openness about living with eczema and Topical Steroid Withdrawal (TSW).
“Makeup for me, especially dealing with a chronic skin condition, basically became my lifesaver. It gave me a sense of confidence and a little bit of power, which I never had without it,” she said.
Once Krishy began posting her makeup looks on social media and speaking out about her journey with her skin a few years ago, it opened her eyes to the importance of sharing her experiences with others who might be struggling with the same issues.
In December 2020, the female-led media company Freeda posted a video feature of Krishy talking about her skin and her adoration of makeup in raw, vulnerable honesty. She credited this as a defining moment in her career, one which demonstrated the impact her platform had made.
After the video was released, messages began to flood into her inbox: “When I tell you I had hundreds of DMs, that’s when it really hit home,” she began, tearing up. “My standouts are all the messages from parents talking to me about their children. Hearing how they’ve struggled as parents to understand, then looking through my page and being able to show it to their children, and their children feeling happier after seeing me – it’s just nice because that’s something I never had.”
From the way she speaks to the way she interacts with her followers, Krishy has a distinct sense of empathy and care for them. But along with love, support and success on social media, comes the inevitable negativity from online users. Krishy has no tolerance for it:
“I can’t say there’s a lot of negativity on my page, simply because I don’t allow it. It’s a straight block. And that’s it,” she said, adding that for every bad message there is a wealth of positive ones. “For the days that I’m not feeling great about myself, it’s really nice for me to go into my DMs and see all these kinds of messages. It melts my heart and makes me feel better about what I’m doing.”
Krishy also isn’t afraid to laugh at herself and show her sense of humour. A TikTok she made early this year shows her response to a comment of a troll claiming she looks like Lil Wayne. She replied with a video of herself cosplaying as the rapper, the caption reading: ‘I’m too engulfed in myself to let trolls rattle me. I am the rattler!’
Krishy didn’t enter the beauty world to fit into a box, she said, she came to challenge how society perceives and defines what ‘beauty’ really is in the first place.
“Because of how severe my eczema TSW has been in the past, and how bad my flares can get – especially getting it on my face as a teenager – for me that highlighted that people really put so much emphasis on the way that we look,” she said.
“I think it really did make me understand and see past the superficiality of what people see physical beauty as. There are all these other things that make up a person, and it’s got absolutely nothing to do with the way they look.”
Krishy has cultivated a following and a supportive community that envelopes not only people who admire her creativity, but also those who struggle with eczema and many from the South Asian and East African communities, where women with darker skin tend to be ostracised.
“I was surprised to see how much it does overlap. I guess the initial basis is to achieve perfect skin. But perfect skin doesn’t exist.” This is the guiding force behind Krishy’s activism, which isn’t going to stop anytime soon. She asserts, “I’m dying on this hill of trying to dismantle detrimental beauty standards, especially when it comes to darker skin and chronic skin condition. I want people to know we’re here to stay. We’re here to make a better and brighter future for everyone where everyone’s included.”
In recent years, the stigma around discussing mental health has started to lift and a lot of that is owed to social media and people with large platforms like Krishy. She talks about it on her Instagram stories, advising followers to prioritise themselves and their mindstate at all costs.
When asked how she protects her own mental health, Krishy cited meditation as a huge saviour, a practice which comes organically from her roots. Reflecting on the times her religious parents would drag her to puja as a child she said: “You don’t really grasp the concept of why you’re there, especially if you have elders telling you to be there. I was just made to learn and recite hymns and chants.”
As she got older, she started reading the Hindu scripture books in her parent’s house, and after speaking to a priest in Mauritius, Krishy recalled having a profound spiritual experience: “That priest spoke to me, and I just ended up enjoying the meditation, it really made me feel lighter afterwards. I sat and I remember crying for like a whole hour just talking to God.”
Another way she connects with her heritage is expressed through her makeup masterpieces, often turning to bindis to complete a look. Even her previous Instagram display picture has been a photo of herself decorated as Kali, the Hindu goddess of destruction, time and change. While Kali may be an unexpected figure to compare yourself to, Krishy is used to creating new meanings from traditions.
“I’m sick and tired of people being left out and made to feel worthless. That’s not a world I want to live in, and it’s about time something changed,” she explained. Krishy made it clear she’s not trying to fit in. She’s destroying traditional notions of beauty and creating her own path, along with creating new values.
When asked what inspiration she would take from the last generation she simply said: “The cultural connection we have to food. Especially in a South Asian household, it’s just acts of service we do out of love.”
She added: “They come from such a trauma infused background, so love and affection wasn’t always outwardly given with physical affection or even just saying ‘I love you’. As much as I would love for them to do that and say these things, I completely understand that they show it instead.”
But she has plans to improve the method when it’s her time to be a parent.
“I’m taking that over, and doing it with physical affection, and also telling my kids and grandkids I love them. That’s something I’m going to pass over. Hopefully we can not only take that on, but make it better.”
Videography and BTS: Sparsh Ahuja (@photosparsh)
Production and set: Charlotte McGing (@charlottemcging)
Sound: Hashim Shamsi (@hashim.95)
Styling: Jahnavi Sharma (@jahnavixi)
Styling Assistant: Armani Syed (@armani_sy)
PR: Laura McCluskey (@lauramccluskeypr)
With special thanks to Dave and Sonia at LDC.