A self-described hopeless romantic, Aparna Shewakramani tried out to be on the hit Netflix series “Indian Matchmaking” in hopes of finding a significant other. “I never signed up [for the show] for any other purpose than to find a match,” says the 30-something insurance attorney from Houston, TX. She never anticipated the show would be watched by anyone, but in fact, just the opposite happened, and overnight, she became a household name — for better and for worse.
“Yeah, things turned out a little differently, and I think that’s the biggest surprise,” she shares of how the show’s instant success impacted her life. Also different from her expectation was the way in which she was portrayed on the show, calling it “a shock.” Her self-assured, unapologetic personality was edited into an off-putting, girl-that-you-love-to-hate character. In a made-for-TV-twist, though, the joke was on the producers because what was intended to be typical reality TV shock value actually became a bit of a female empowerment rally cry. “I was honest and unapologetic about what I wanted, and that came across as a really good message for a lot of women,” she shares. “I think that’s an important thing that a lot of women don’t learn at a very young age … that worth, that [notion of] ‘I deserve someone good for myself, and I deserve a partner in this world, not just a gendered role of a husband or wife.'”
While “Indian Matchmaking” debuted in July, the show is still enjoying its climb in popularity, which means Aparna is still getting messages from viewers who are underscoring the importance of what her no-nonsense personality has taught them. “I got thousands of messages from people who said, ‘That was incredible to see you on there. I used it in my workplace — this concept of standing up for myself and articulating what I want.’ I think it’s an important voice that has not been shown a lot on TV, and if it is shown, then it is consistently vilified,” she says.
It’s not only “Indian Matchmaking” that’s attempted to frame her as a villain. Media outlets looking to grab onto the hate train have joined in as well. Aparna shared a bit about an interview she did for another publication. The writer asked for her likes and dislikes, but the only thing that made it into the story was the dislikes. “It’s funny the way that perspective changes things. It was like ‘Aparna has all these dislikes. She’s such a miserable human being.’ Actually, I have a ton of likes. I told you about all the places I love, and the things that complete me, and the foods I enjoy, and all the experiences that shook my world, but that was never interesting enough,” she shares, clearly steeled by the manipulative nature of many mainstream media outlets.
In an effort to find out if TV Aparna was the same as Real Life Aparna, we reached out for an interview. She agreed, and we’re thrilled to report that Real Life Aparna is so much better than we imagined. Read on and you’ll see for yourself …
What has been the most surprising part about being on “Indian Matchmaking”?
My portrayal was a shock, but what it did is it became like a symbol of female empowerment. So that would be the biggest surprise that came out of this. I was honest and unapologetic about what I wanted, and that came across as a really good message for a lot of women. I think it’s an important voice that has not been shown a lot on TV, and if it is shown, it’s consistently vilified for ratings or viewings. I want to say that people are getting wiser to it, but maybe not. I had thousands of trolls in the beginning, and that was alarming.
How did you deal with the trolls?
I’m never going to be able to change the narrative, no matter how many outlets I speak to. My voice was completely taken out of it, and that was what was presented to the world. There was this loss of control at that point, and I can never change that. Years from now, I can meet someone on the street or at a dinner party, and they’ll think I’m that person. I don’t watch a lot of reality TV, but it’s surprising to me that people take it as truth. That’s where we’re at in the way that we consume media.
But did you ignore the trolls, or do you have thick skin?
I ignored them. I got off Twitter quite quickly — I only signed up for Twitter for the show, and within a day, I was off. What is this dark hole of society? I don’t understand — I was like, Not for me, I’m out. I deactivated it and never looked back.
And Instagram … you know it’s surprising how people will come to your own Instagram page and write these terrible things about you in your comment section. I’m like, You came all the way to my personal page to write these horrible things about me? That’s just strange to me. I never took it too personally. I mean it was loud. It was noise. I was shocked also because I never got preview rights to the show, so I watched it alongside everyone else. It was just not me. My friends were really upset about it, but I definitely had a great cheer squad behind me, and I focused on that. I had an option quite early on to treat this the way I wanted to. I wish there was a manual for how to deal with life the day after your global reality show that you didn’t even know you were signing up for — I thought I signed up for a docuseries … but there should be a manual for how to deal with it because I’m sure I could have done better.
Is what you were hoping to find in a mate on the show the same now as it was then? Was that an accurate portrayal?
My list [for matchmaker Sima Taparia] was three things only, and the viewer doesn’t get to see that, but I was very clear with her. I wanted someone South Asian — we’re all on a show called “Indian Matchmaking,” so that’s the bar. Second, I wanted someone really laid-back and introverted and very relaxed at home. I want someone who’s like, ‘Hey Aparna, where do you want to go eat?’ I don’t really need them to have strong opinions on those kinds of things in the home sphere. And that remains the same. And then someone who when I say, “Hey, let’s fly to Rome for dinner,” they say, “Um, that’s not gonna happen.” I want them to be a stabilizing force for me. I was clear about that.
Sima asked if I can speak in Hindi, and I thought, Oh shoot. She doesn’t speak English. And my Hindi is terrible. So I’m like how do I say “introvert” in Hindi? Not the funniest guy in the room? I said it like 18 different ways, and she kept saying “no.” It finally struck me that maybe she did understand and she was still disagreeing with me. She looked at me and said, “You need to be with someone jolly.” I said, “Wait, I just said 18 different ways of how I wanted someone introverted and laid-back, like a wallflower, and she says, “No, you will get the jolly man.” She had her own ideas, but for most of the conversation, I thought it was just a language barrier.
Let’s talk about Sima for a second. (SPOILER ALERT:) She has a zero percent success rate on the entire season of the show, and yet she’s a top matchmaker? What are your thoughts on her matchmaking skills?
I think that’s a self-title. She is a matchmaker in a city for a particular community, and she’s probably quite famous in that community, but that’s not any of our communities. She’s an upper-class Bombay matchmaker. There are hundreds of matchmakers in India for every socio-economic group. Every village has 50 matchmakers, every town has hundreds of thousands — this is how they do marriage. It is not an uncommon profession, and you can get very strong in your own circle; I do not believe she is bigger than her circle. And that’s fine — it’s a huge thing to be a big part of — I’m going to give her that, but “top matchmaker in India” is a lot to say.
Are you currently dating anyone?
No, none of us are. We were laughing about that on a cast call the other night. We do these informal Zoom calls, and we were talking about how isn’t it weird that we’re all still single? We signed up for this show to find someone and all we got was this.
But you got friends!
I did. I got lifelong friends.
When you’re not working, what are you doing?
I’m in Junior League, so I do my 100 hours [of volunteer work] a year. I’m the chairman of Dress for Success. It’s a big commitment, but I love it. Junior League in Houston is very active, very traditional, very rigid — you do have to give a lot of time to it, but I love that because, in a way, I’m not sure I would give 100 hours to an organization I love. I would keep getting so busy.
I used to see my friends all the time. I have a very active social life — I have wonderful friends. In fact, I did my goat yoga birthday party at the same goat yoga place a month after we taped. I took 35 of my best friends out to Cypress, TX. We had Bloody Marys and ate yummy food, and we did goat yoga together, and it was just a beautiful day.
In addition to your travel company, My Golden Balloon, you recently launched a t-shirt line. Tell me about that.
I launched it not as a joke, but as a fun project because people told me, “We want your quotes on t-shirts.” So I started working with a local South Asian woman here in town because I wanted to support a local business through it. And everyone loved my elephant bracelet on the show — I was wearing it in a lot of scenes. Hundreds of women DM’d me asking where they can get it. I had it custom-made in Turkey six years ago. I found the artisan I worked with, and he made me hundreds of them, so I’m selling those on the website too, and most of the proceeds are going to an elephant sanctuary in India called Wildlife SOS. They take elephants from the forts and tourist spots and the temples where they’re decorated, and they’re putting them in sanctuaries and treating them for arthritis and their hooves that are all rotted from the concrete. It’s a beautiful organization. And then there’s a local organization in the United States called Comp-U-Dopt, and they give computers to children in lower socio-economic areas that don’t have access. Because how do you do remote schooling if you don’t have a laptop? So I’m doing this whole bracelet thing for those organizations.
Where do people get the shirts and bracelets?
On my website — aparnastyle.com. I have videos of the guy making them. I love that I worked with the artisans on this too. They were telling me business is slow because people aren’t visiting their stalls in the market over there. I’m glad I can do my small part.
If you could send one message to the world about anything, what would it be — whether it’s how you were portrayed or what you stand for or what you hold important in your life?
I think it’s to live in gratitude. It’s something that we all need to work on and something that we’re constantly working towards. Every morning I wake up and write down 10 things I’m grateful for, and every night, as I fall asleep — I sleep with a crystal in my hand … it’s rose quartz — I’m going through all of the things in the day that happened that I’m grateful for and thankful for. And that’s how I fall asleep.
If I wake up with gratitude and I go to bed with gratitude, I found my whole perspective has changed. Let’s try more of that and we’ll all be kinder and will have more empathy because we’re focused more on that aspect of our lives and not on tearing people down or judging them or feeling bad about the things that went wrong in our day or that we didn’t act ideally. Like I said to you earlier, I wish I could go back and deal with those first few weeks [after the show] in a better way, but at the time, I was doing the best I could. I have a lot of gratitude for the people who stepped up and were a part of that journey for me because those days were long and they were hard. So I think that’s the message: Let’s live in gratitude.
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