15-year-old Maleesha Kharwa, who was born and raised in a Mumbai slum, has always believed she was destined for something far greater.
Today, she has realised that dream as she appears on fashion ramps, is the face of major brand campaigns and is mentored by none other than American actor Robert Hoffman.
It started in 2020 when Hoffman was in Mumbai for a music video and shooting around the slum area where Maleesha lives.
When Robert approached Maleesha asking what she wanted to be when she was older, pat came the reply. “I want to be a dancer and a model.”
While Maleesha was simply stating her dream, Robert says he knew this girl’s life was about to change.
“I knew the next step was to speak with her father,” says Hoffman, adding that he offered to guide and mentor Maleesha with whatever help she would need.
He started connecting Maleesha with trustworthy, artistic and professional women to make sure her web of peers, influence, and accountability was as thick as possible.
Following the procedures of setting up Maleesha’s GoFundMe account that would take care of whatever she earned through campaigns and projects, Hoffman also created an Instagram page dedicated to her work.
Today, Maleesha’s fan base is at a whopping 2,24,000 followers on Instagram.
Maleesha’s story found its way to leading magazines, and her story is even on the pages of Vogue and Cosmopolitan.
Robert adds the main emphasis has always been on striking a balance between the world of glamour and ensuring that Maleesha still leads a normal life.
“Everyone Maleesha works with understands that under no circumstances will she ever be out of the eyeshot of her adult male guardian, and that her hours of work would be limited,” says Hoffman.
Early on, it was decided that Maleesha would stay clear of pageants and mass-auditioning.
“In fact, Maleesha has yet to go to a single audition. Every job so far has come to her. The kid and her story are truly magic,” he adds.
Meanwhile, Maleesha and her family have been able to move into a locked home with a kitchen and proper bathroom using her career money.
Looking back at the journey, Maleesha says she often thinks about how doors that were once closed, all opened for her when she least expected it.
She emphasises that no matter the dream, dream it. The universe will make it happen.