Very few things get us, at Vaunt, more excited than spending an afternoon in tête-à-tête with a walking talking melting pot of cultures and creativity. So, you can imagine our delight when we managed to sneak Lekha Washington away for a bit to discuss work, life, beauty and more. Lekha is a unique mix of cultures – she’s part Burmese, Italian, Punjabi and Maharashtrian, who was brought up in Chennai. Her parents live in Goa, so she’s got a bit of the sunshine state in her too. An actor, artist and inventor – Lekha has not only successfully dabbled in Telugu, Kannada and Tamil cinema, but also runs Ajji – The Odd Product Company, known for its unforgettable pieces: The Red Dot and The Pink Sink, among many others.
"I feel like I live in a very creative space. And this company is a manifestation of the ridiculous ideas in my head,” Lekha explains. Speaking of living in a creative space, we ask Lekha how she transitioned from film to art to product design. She replies, “It all kind of overlapped. I did my masters in Filmmaking and Direction from National Institute of Design. But, I did a lot of theatre before NID, and I did a lot of films after NID. I started Ajji after acting in films. So, it’s all been an ebb and flow.” But the ebbs and flows don’t faze Lekha, as she tells us, “Creativity is a glue that you can apply to different things, and it holds everything together. As an actor, you’re supposed to be collaborative, whereas being an artist is a very solitary process”. Is she overwhelmed by the disparity? “Not at all. That’s the nature of my life – this allows for that, and that allows for this. It all flows into each other – poetry is connected to art is connected to design.”
We dive further into her curious little idea factory that’s Ajji. Lekha laughs as she explains, “I figured that there was no job where I could apply to be an inventor, so I would have to do that myself to create these bizarre ideas in my head. The Dot is an extension of The Pink Sink, which in turn paid for the Bent Light collection, which in turn is funding Zen Shan – an art piece. For me, it’s not about making a hundred pieces of the same product, but it’s about being able to make new ideas happen”.
Even magicians face their own bunch of setbacks. We ask Lekha what are some of the challenges she has faced along this incredible journey. She muses, “It’s a lot of hard work, from the very beginning. All the prototyping and re-prototyping even for the most visually simple things! And it’s just as challenging to maintain quality control in India. But, we’re willing to back the most extreme, ridiculous ideas. These things only help me push the envelope.”
We finally get around to the question we’ve been dying to ask – how does she look so flawless while balancing multiple careers and crazy ideas? “At most, if I can manage to convince myself to take my makeup off, that itself is a major achievement. I’ve gotten this far only because of good genes!” she laughs, before adding, “I struggle with having a regimen. But, as an actor constantly caked under a thick layer of makeup and harsh lights, if you don’t take care of your skin, you’re likely to get acne or weird dry skin. So, I follow the basic Cleansing-Toning-Moisturising routine. A toner really makes a big difference to my skin.”
For Lekha, skincare goes beyond a regular routine or a barrage of products. She elaborates, “Good skin is about balance in life, in general. It’s about finding a way to balance out stress and make room for sanity. When I’m stressed out, eating wrong and sleeping wrong, it messes with my skin. It shows. Balance requires work. But if you can figure out what the root cause of your own happiness is, that’s half the battle won.” So, how does Lekha find balance and de-stress? “I do aerial yoga periodically – I have an instructor. I mix that up with long walks and swimming. But I’m not very technical about it that I have to cover so much distance in so much time. I go with my feeling, and it really helps with the stress,” she explains.
We ask Lekha what would her advice be for young girls trying to balance beauty with the brains? “I think too many people are telling women what to do. My only advice to young girls would be that you’ve got this. We’re constantly second-guessing ourselves, because we feel like we need to be perfect. But, you’ll be fine. As far as skincare is concerned, the only logical thing to do is figure out a routine that works for YOU. You need to take care of yourself, because no one else is going to,” she signs off and moves onto another day of creating magic and breathing life into her crazy ideas.