Katrina Kaif and Jinisha Sharma© UP Warriorz

Katrina Kaif On Beauty, Sports And Being Internet’s Go-To Life Coach

Salva Mubarak
Senior Features Writer

It’s easy to forget that you’re talking to a bona fide superstar when Katrina Kaif launches into a deep and impassioned speech about the pitfalls of social media and the impact it has had on our collective imagination. You can pretend you’re on top of a grassy hill, surrounded by people decked in flowy white linens, listening with rapt attention to a life coach as she slowly unravels the secret to life. Or your best friend’s cooler older sister, who is everything you aspire to be when you grow up.

I got a chance to have this experience when I sat down with her for a chat a few hours before she was supposed to attend a Women’s Premier League match in Delhi where UP Warriorz (UPW) was going to face off against Gujarat Giants (GG).

ICYMI, Katrina Kaif’s Kay Beauty announced their association with UPW a few weeks ago as they became title partners for the team. This, says Katrina, was a match made in heaven.

“When I see sportswomen, there’s so much that I’m inspired by. Their passion, their perseverance, their dedication, their discipline. Physical skill and athleticism have played a huge part in my mental well-being and self-care. That’s why I am constantly inspired by athletes and why Kay Beauty is committed to highlighting and shedding light on women in sports, which is what I would say led us to form this partnership with UPW.”

Katrina with UP Warriorz players©UP Warriorz

When I mention that it’s not a usual space for a beauty brand to venture into, Katrina agrees and says, “It was something that I was immediately excited by. I’m hoping to see this as an experience where I can learn from the girls. Perhaps there might be something I can share with the girls, which may be of use to them. And together, we can highlight women in sport. And I’m really hoping to see the UPW and the Women’s Premier League go from strength to strength.”

Back in 2019, Katrina partnered with beauty retailer Nykaa to launch Kay Beauty, India’s first celebrity-owned make-up brand. Celebrities fronting brands, make-up and skincare included, wasn’t anything new but what set Kay Beauty apart was the consistency in quality and the celebration of all kinds of beauty.

“It’s a brand created out of complete passion, right from the product to the communication to the visuals to the social media to the advertising to everything. You can see that it all has been something that I’ve personally been involved with creating, whether it’s the campaigns, or creating the products, the innovations,” she says, adding that one of the biggest lessons she’s learned as an entrepreneur is to have a very clear idea of what you want your product to say. “I believe that you can only enter into the arena or the domain and succeed if you have something truly (valuable) to add, when you have something very specific that you want to say and it’s something that you’re passionate about. It has to be truly obsessive passion.”

The actress acknowledges that in her line of work, she’s had to face unrealistic and relentless beauty standards that she’s found hard to live up to. “I have often experienced the pressures of a certain standard of beauty and the pressures to conform to that standard. I have found that to be often stifling and intimidating. I think that experience led me to what I did want to create, which was a celebratory place, a place where make-up was about self-expression. And of course, where the consumer could come to know and trust the product and the performance of the Kay Beauty products.”

Katrina Kaif in Maldives©Katrina Kaif

Katrina goes on to reveal how being involved in the business has allowed her own relationship with beauty to grow over the years. “There’ll be a moment where I will be, you know, fussing before I leave the house for an event or something. I’ll end up finding something that I see which is not to my liking and I’m trying to fix it, whether it’s a costume or hair or something. And then my husband will wryly remind me ‘Aren’t you the person who says it’s Kay to be you?’ (the brand’s tag line)” she says, laughing. “We all struggle with self-image and confidence issues. I think both society and social media puts a huge amount of unrealistic pressure on women to conform and to look a certain way. It’s subtle, but I think that does seep into your consciousness. It’s not that I’m sitting on a pedestal reminding others to love themselves for who they are. It’s also a reminder for myself, to celebrate myself, right? To celebrate what is unique about us, because that’s what makes us, us.”

Katrina Kaif in New York©Katrina Kaif

Despite her status as one of the country’s most bankable superstars, Katrina Kaif remains one of the most elusive celebrities of the moment. It would have been easy for Katrina, a big Bollywood star married to another big Bollywood star, to fall victim to the over exposure social media grants to celebrities and fans in today’s digital age. Yet Katrina’s celebrity persona remains carefully curated, a balance of approachability and distance. This came after a lot of soul-searching for the actress, she says.

“It can be really, really confusing to retain and to maintain your sense of individuality and know who you are, not who you are in comparison to what everyone else is doing or saying around you. I think what’s really important for all of us, and this is something that I try to follow, is self belief, clarity of thought, determination and taking the time for us to understand our own thoughts and desires and goals. This is something that I’m still trying to navigate.” The actress continues, “The world of social media that we have seen come in the last four or five years was not there when we entered the industry. This is something which I have seen transform the world around me and it has some phenomenal benefits. But at the same time, I think we all have to be cautious about whether we are spending enough time with ourselves?”

Katrina Kaif in a blue tie-dye sweater©Katrina Kaif

Katrina speaks in a measured tone and takes thoughtful pauses to string together words that would do justice to the million thoughts firing in her head, by her own admission. It’s this refreshing quality of hers that has led to her unofficial coronation as the Internet’s favourite life coach. Her quotes on work and relationships regularly go viral with many finding her approach to life inspirational and aspirational. When I tell her this, she chuckles and says it’s been a hard road to reach where she’s at and it’s something she is constantly working on.

She says this constant evolution of thought has been mirrored in the kind of roles she picks to play on-screen. Whether it’s Maria from Merry Christmas (2024), Zoya from the Tiger franchise (2012-) or Laila from Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara (2011), the one thing that connects all these different roles is that they’re all self-sufficient and no-nonsense (fictional) women.

Still from 'Merry Christmas'©Tips Films

“I stepped into this industry when I was 17 and after over two decades, I’m not the same person I was when I entered, right? Your life experiences mould you into the person you become. The experiences life presents you with and your reactions to them is what makes you who you are. I’ve always just tried to be as honest and as authentic to what is inspiring me in that moment. For me, it’s not just about performing the role on paper, but there has to be something that I can add to it on a soul level as well.”

So what keeps her motivated and inspired to go on doing what she does every day? Katrina, expectedly, answers my question with a few of her own. “Just to be alive in this world, a world that has so much beauty and so much potential, is pretty phenomenal, right? We have a finite amount of time here. What are we doing with this time? What are we doing with ourselves? The mind is the most powerful and phenomenal machine that we’re all gifted with, how are we using this? Are we leaving something behind? Are we living in a way which is contributing to the world around us?”

She laughs when she realises I’m in a daze (also rapidly trying to control a descent into a full-blown existential crisis in the middle of a chat). She explains, “Finding the simple joys in life whilst appreciating all the experience and the platforms that I have at my fingertips to express myself as an artist for over 20 years now. The fact that I get a chance to create movies and be a part of cinema, I think is something which one should never take for granted.”

Katrina Kaif©Katrina Kaif

Aside from a hefty dose of daily introspection, Katrina relies on her books to fuel her thirst for understanding the world she occupies. “I read three to four books at a time, so I pick up one and then I pick another one depending on how I’m feeling. Right now, these are all books on philosophy. I read those kinds of books because they answer the questions in my head, not because I’m trying to gather information, you know?,” when I reply with an affirmative, she continues, “I read these books not because I’m trying to speak out of knowledge or trying to gain knowledge but because these books are the only thing that calms and quiets the questions in my mind! My husband will often look at the book I’m reading and then he’ll just look at me with a baffled expression on his face but I’m like, this is what I hear in my head! These are the questions in my head so this is what calms me, gives me solace and helps me find my guidance. But then, there are some people like my husband who I honestly think don’t think need to read any of these books and they authentically and organically live their life like that and I think that beautiful!”

As our conversation comes to an end, Katrina expresses her excitement for the upcoming match and leaves me with a reminder to switch off once in a while to soak in the beauty of nature. And you know what? Maybe that’s exactly what I’ll do. Right after catching up with the latest episode of Shogun. The Internet is filled with spoilers, you know?!