This content was created by Girlboss in partnership with AAVRANI.
Rooshy Roy, the founder and CEO of AAVRANI, reconnected with her roots by creating the beauty products she wished she had as a young Indian girl growing up in the Midwest.
Can you tell me a bit about your journey to AAVRANI?
I grew up in the suburbs of Detroit, and my parents are immigrants from India, so throughout my upbringing, I’d felt like I had one foot in each culture. On one leg was Midwest Americana (where I was often the only person of color in the room) and on the other leg was with my grandparents in Kolkata, India. One of the clearest dichotomies between the two cultures was in the approach to beauty. In the U.S., “beauty” is focused more on the temporary nature of things (like “magic in a jar” and “overnight transformations”). In India, we make all of our own beauty treatments at home. My grandmothers taught me how to address beauty concerns with organic ingredients from our kitchens, such as turmeric-based face masks, coconut oil-based hair masks and sweet almond oil-based body treatments. Such beauty traditions from India are so sacred to the heritage, that they extend beyond the realm of beauty and are integrated throughout the culture.
Growing up in Michigan, I just wanted to fit in. All the pretty girls at school were wearing glitter eyeshadow and had blonde highlights. I craved this kind of “beauty” and had zero appreciation for all the amazing rituals and ingredients from back home. Adverse experiences, specifically with respect to my cultural duality, intimidated me so much, that by the time I graduated from college, I was proud of how much I’d disassociated from my roots. I stopped eating with my fingers as soon as my turmeric-stained fingernails were deemed “disgusting” in my 4th grade classroom. By high school, the beauty rituals my mother recreated for us in Michigan felt crude and unrefined. My grandmother’s hair recipes felt too sticky and greasy to bear anymore.
I graduated from Indiana University, moved to New York and started a career in finance—where, as luck would have it—there was no room for my culture anyway. I abandoned my Indian identity altogether, only occasionally experiencing that hint of guilt and longing for what I was leaving behind.
This began to change when, after stress and non-natural beauty products had started taking their toll on my skin, I re-visited my grandmother’s recipes. The natural ingredients had an incredible effect—and the added benefit of re-connecting me with my heritage.
AAVRANI is my way of sharing the secrets of Indian beauty rituals with the world. To combine the two parts that make me whole. But it’s also my journey back to my roots; to re-discover and appreciate their intricacies. My vision is for all women who struggle with their dualities to embrace them instead. To celebrate their conflicted, immense, breathtakingly unique identities that make them who they are.
What is your first beauty memory?
The kitchen was a sacred place in my grandmother’s Kolkata flat. It’s where I would watch her slice us ripe mangoes and fresh guavas on an old boti; where we boiled our water for bathing; and where I first learned about the spellbinding power of Indian beauty.
On Sundays, during my annual family trips to India, I remember my grandmother massaging a mixture of egg whites, coconut oil and castor oil into my hair. Then, she applied a turmeric-based mixture, with variations of raw honey, chickpea flour, neem oil and coconut milk, onto my face. After washing it all through, she would slowly and gently comb my hair in front of the full-length mirror that was attached to her rickety, cherry-wood wardrobe, while I’d stay still, studying my own reflection. My face would glow, and my hair felt full and healthy.
These are my most precious beauty memories because they remind me how integrated health and beauty really are.
How has AAVRANI helped you embrace your roots/the duality of your identity?
As a child of Indian immigrants, born and raised in the Midwest, I grew up having a volatile relationship with beauty and my cultural roots. At school, I often felt pressured to hide the Indian parts of myself in order to fit in. The western approach to beauty always felt a bit superficial to me—yet, in an effort to assimilate to my surroundings, I’d adopted that same perspective. In India, however, beauty is different: it’s a part of overall wellness and is approached from the inside out. That’s why turmeric is such an iconic ingredient in India. It’s a staple in our cuisine and our beauty treatments!
It wasn’t until 2017, when I met my now AAVRANI co-founder, Justin Silver, that my relationship with my culture changed. As he shared his experience investing in D2C beauty brands, I lit up! It was in that conversation that we decided to pursue building our own company and got to creating AAVRANI, the holistic beauty brand that unites Indian wellness rituals with modern science for the world to enjoy. In creating the brand that I needed as a young girl, my relationship with my culture changed forever. Suddenly, I realized that these Indian beauty rituals made me feel more confident and beautiful than any other store-bought product did. I’ve never been prouder of my Indian-American identity and I’m excited to continue celebrating it unapologetically for the rest of my life.
What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learned about starting your own business?
My business growth is almost entirely predicated on my own personal growth. For example, I used to skip workouts all the time for the sake of my business, thinking it’s better to check off one more task, or respond to one more email, than to get an exercise in. I now understand that when I put myself first, everything and everyone else actually benefits the most, including my business.
What would you tell your younger self?
Hang tight—your differences are your life’s greatest blessings, so don’t give up on yourself.
What’s next for AAVRANI?
I want to disrupt the global beauty industry with a whole new category: “Holistic Beauty.” I’m currently raising our Series A in order to invest more in our brand and our community.
Now let’s get into some rapid fire questions… Who are you inspired by?
How do you unplug from work?
A warm cup of turmeric tea with milk and honey.
How many unread emails do you have right now?
0 [Editor’s Note: We’re seriously impressed.]
What do you look for in an employee?
Passion and aligned values
Best piece of advice?
The best advice I’ve ever received is to be aware of my weaknesses but focus on refining and improving my strengths. Over the years, this is how I’ve been able to turn them into my superpowers.
Worst piece of advice?
The worst advice I’ve ever received (and a belief that’s commonly held) is to work on improving my weaknesses.
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