Audrey Hepburn once said, “I believe in being strong when everything seems to be going wrong. I believe that happy girls are the prettiest. I believe that tomorrow is another day and I believe in miracles.” Something about this quote, or perhaps several things resonated with me as I spoke to actor Alaya F who made her debut in the film ‘Jawaani Jaaneman’ starring Saif Ali Khan and Tabu in 2020. But beyond the screen, she’s an artist, a yoga practitioner, a firm believer in being your own best friend, and a lover of all things happy. We absolutely adore her for her candidness in conversation, undying positivity and perfectly imperfect blooper reels on Instagram. Here’s what happened when we spoke to her, one on one, heart-to-h When did your journey with art begin and how did it evolve and what inspired you? Alaya F: Actually, I remember vividly when I actually dabbled in this exact style of art for the first time. I was travelling with my mom and brother from someplace to some other place. We were sitting and waiting at the airport and there was this little piece of tissue paper that was there. I remember I had a marker and I started drawing these really intricate detailed patterns, and when I opened up the tissue paper, I realised the design had come onto all four sides, so suddenly it looked like this beautiful symmetrical, intricate design. My mother still has that tissue paper. Then I reached a point where, you know, life happens and work happens and suddenly you don’t have time. So, I actually got back to my art during the lockdown, because all we had was time. And I don’t think until then, I’d ever really posted my art. I suppose everyone’s a little insecure, and unsure about their art. But when I went out there, and I put it up, people really liked it, I thought I am not so bad at this. And I’m one of those people that gets motivated by praise. I think all of us do. But now that everything has opened up again, I’ve reached a point where I don’t have that much time. My art is very intricate, it can be really painful on the hand, and it doesn’t help when my nails are done! But now it’s been a while and I’ve been thinking of getting back to it. So this is a good reminder.
Alaya F’s Artwork Speaking of Acting, the Film industry Can be Gruelling. So, What Keeps You Going?
Alaya F: I have a lot of expectations from myself. I’ve always had high hopes, dreams, aspirations and a very strong idea of what I want my life to look like. And because I have this very clear picture, I actively do everything in my life and in my environment to grow to that point. I can’t just aimlessly work. I need to have smaller goals, and then one large goal. Of course, the industry is gruelling, but, you know, everyone’s life is gruelling, in their own specific ways. So, I think for me the main thing was learning how to check in with myself and see how I’m doing, and if there’s anything that’s upsetting or bothering me, learning how to overcome that because then you’re adding more tools to your toolbox. And the next time those problems arise, you already have the tools to fix them and grow from them. I’ve grown so much over the last five years of my life. I love growing and I’m proud of it.
Are There Moments When You Put too much Pressure on Yourself Because of The Expectations You have of Yourself?
Alaya F: Oh, for sure. 100%. But again, that’s the balance that I’m actively finding every day. It’s not like you find that balance and it stays; It’s easy to get carried away in any direction at any given point of time, especially when life is ever-changing. And especially when you like the changes in life and you like the growth in life. That’s why I always take those moments to check in with myself if I’m feeling unhappy or anxious or if I feel like I’m losing my sense of grounding or purpose or drive. In fact, in the first six months of this year, I was in a very confused, lost, weird place in terms of drive and motivation. I would still go out there and do my work, but that excitement, that fire, it didn’t feel natural. And that was a big issue for me. Finally, I got frustrated one day and said, we’re going to try everything we possibly can. I went and I got acupuncture, I started therapy, I did hypnotherapy. I decided that I was gonna tap this from every angle because I want this feeling to go away, and I want my drive back. So, my largest focus for the first six months of this year was just to get my drive back.
How Do you Prioritise your Mental and Physical Health Between odd Working Hours? Do You Draw Boundaries and do You Have to Make compromises Because of those Boundaries?
Alaya F: So this is something I’m still working on very, very strongly because I am someone who believes that if you work hard, to your maximum potential, there’s nothing you can’t achieve. And this is the same belief system that carries me through, every day. But by default, this belief system then compels me to always work. I’m really trying to figure out that balance. To be very honest, I haven’t entirely figured it out; I had a hard time drawing boundaries. If someone needed me to be on a set for X number of hours, I would happily give them far more time and far more energy and be at 200 per cent at every second of the day. I like to be pleasant. I like to be someone that’s easy to work with.
Alaya F on Drawing Boundaries
Your profession is so multifaceted, where you’re not only expected to be on set and give a stellar performance but also be active on social media. How do you manage to put out content that is always so positive? And is it draining at times? Alaya F: Putting things out in a positive manner isn’t hard, because when you realise that people have the ability to be influenced by what you put out there, you automatically assume a sense of responsibility. I just want to add some value—in any shape or form, even if it’s a random laugh in the middle of their day. Also, I think it’s a wonderful thing for me to also look back on. I scroll through my Instagram a lot and laugh at my own videos. And I like putting out all the real things even more. I remember when I decided to become hyper-real on Instagram, too. I was sitting with my cousin sister, who at that point was about seven or eight years old, and she looked at me and said, “You’re so pretty, and I’m so ugly.” I said, “Huh, what are you saying?” And she said, “No, your skin is so nice.” Then I took her to the bathroom with me and took off all my makeup and told her that under all this, I had so many other things going on. And then she told me how my hair was so nice and long. So, I unclipped my extensions and I thought to myself that half these things that she’s seeing aren’t real. She needs to know that. See, as a part of my profession, you are supposed to look glamorous, and retouched and all of that, which is fine. But I also think it’s important for people to know that that’s not how I always look. Nobody wakes up like that, behind every yoga pose that you see, there are like 30 videos that did not make it. So even right now you see a lot of lovely, flawless-looking pictures on my Instagram, and you see a lot of Yoga bloopers and random stuff.
When Did your Relationship With Yoga Start And has it Helped You stay Mentally And Physically fit?
Alaya F: My relationship with yoga started during the second lockdown. I was in Goa at the time, and I found this yoga teacher that was living really close to me. So it worked out really well. And it so happened that she was also Mumbai-based. So continued training with her and yoga was one of those things that I was naturally little good at because I was naturally flexible. It was a good form of workout. When I met my yoga teacher, I told her that I’m not there for meditation and peace. But by default, while you practice yoga, you do find a lot of peace and a lot of centring and grounding. I love starting my day with it.
Alaya F on yoga
What Makes you Happy?
Alaya F: To pick out the most important ones, I think, just having good people, good work, good conversations and good food. I think that makes me happy. Alaya F on what makes her happy What is your go-to thing to do on your low days? Is there something you watch? What kind of music do you listen to? Alaya F: On my low days, I just make sure I listen to my body. Your body will tell you what it wants to do, whether it’s going out, having fun and distracting yourself, or sitting in bed, sulking and watching some Netflix and eating bad food or whether it’s sitting in bed and being healthy. It’s always different. Which is why I think it’s important to listen to what your body wants to do. Become your own best friend. If there’s any advice I can give anyone, young, old, girl, boy, doesn’t matter. Be your own best friend. Because if you have the most phenomenal relationship with yourself, you will never speak badly to yourself, because you would not speak badly to someone you care about deeply. The way you talk to your body will change the way your body responds to you. If you have any problems, even if you have 100 people to talk to to solve them, you’ll be able to do it yourself. By default this makes you feel confident, more powerful, and more motivated. And it just makes you feel more compassionate toward yourself and to others.