Athiya Shetty on keeping it real

In conversation with Bazaar India, cover girl Athiya Shetty reveals what she hides from social media, the word she finds heavy, her skincare secret, and more.

Harper's Bazaar India

My very first cover interview is with an actor who’s always the first name on my mind when it comes to visualising a story. Having expressed how effortlessly she has managed to make my job easier by always having a picture-perfect image for a wellness, beauty or fashion story, Athiya Shetty had a wide smile on her face, knowing she was talking to her latest fan. It wasn’t just me, but everyone at the cover shoot was in absolute awe of the ease and comfort with which she aced each and every look. Athiya is a star who, with a face and personality that was made for the camera, was born to shine. By sticking to her mantra ‘Come as you are’, which is also her Instagram bio, she explains how important it is to, “Come as you are, keep things real and remind yourself that you are enough and that everyone has their own individuality and weaknesses. And this is something that should be celebrated more.”


While we, over time, have learnt to be confident in our own skin, Athiya’s way of embracing hers is refreshing. She surprises me by saying, “I don’t think I need to channel that confidence all the time. Because it’s important to have days where you’re low and accept that you’re going to have bad days. We are humans first and then we are what we do for work. Over the years, I’ve used vulnerability as my strength. The days when I am vulnerable are the days when I feel I have finally accepted myself as a person, with the flaws, and knowing that things aren’t going to be great. It’s okay not to be okay.”

Inspirational words nonetheless, words that will make anyone look up to her. Athiya then talks about the
word she finds heavy. “Responsibility is a heavy term and I would be taking myself too seriously if I am
saying that I have a sense of responsibility on my shoulders (to those looking to her for beauty and skincare
tips). I say that because I don’t think I am changing the world.”


Her social media feed feels like one’s turning through the pages of a personal diary. It’s different, yet refreshing, as one would never expect a star to be this authentic. So, what’s Athiya’s secret? “The trick is not to take yourself so seriously and not get too obsessed with what people think of you on social media. I don’t take Instagram that seriously, it’s not my top priority.” She’s saying the truth as it’s not even her favourite app. If you’re wondering what it is, “It’s Pinterest.”

Despite being a public figure, Athiya manages to keep her private life away from the media glare—a rare
feat for sure. One gets to see the same on her social media as well. “There’s a part of me that I like to keep
personal and private—especially when it comes to my friends, family and my marriage,” says Athiya. “These
are the relationships that are sacred to me and I wouldn’t want the world to have a judgement or have
conversations about it. But when it comes to me and the things that I am comfortable talking about and
stand for, that’s on my social media.”


Athiya confidently defines fashion as comfort. “To be comfortable in my own skin, to be able to make my
own choices, to be able to not think too much about what others feel about my fashion, rather what I feel
and how I choose to express myself. Honestly, it’s more of an expression of who I am, what I’m feeling, my
mood. She adds that fashion, like art, is subjective and might mean something close to each person. “I don’t
think we can judge fashion.” The actor rues that she has not yet had the opportunity to play a fashionable
character. “The last film I did was Motichoor Chaknachoor where I got the opportunity to wear saris, which
I have never worn previously. I started to love saris because I realised how easy it is to wear and so effortless and beautiful. I wore a lot of Banarasi saris and I think I am in love with them.” Athiya says she looks up to her mother when it comes to style inspiration. “Growing up, I spent a lot of time with karigars, with fabrics lying all around the place, with textbooks and textile, clothing sketches (my mom is a designer). I feel I get my sense of style and fashion from my mother and my mother gets it from her mother so it’s kind of just been passed down.” The actor confesses her penchant for heirloom jewellery. “I still wear a lot of my grandmother’s silver jewellery, my mom’s gold bangles that she bought for herself when she was in college. I feel these pieces are timeless and I think I would love to pass it on to my daughter (if I have one).”


Athiya’s not just the face of many magazine cover stories, but an array of leading beauty and skincare brands as well. How does she, such an integral part of the beauty industry who calls herself a “skin-junkie”, view it? “Beauty standards have definitely widened. People are more accepting of beauty and have become more confident in sharing their flaws by flaunting their stretch marks, acne, freckles, discolouration, for example. I work with so many make-up artists and I see that the focus has now shifted to using less products and enhancing one’s natural beauty or features. With beauty standards changing and becoming more inclusive and relatable, it’s less about looking perfect and more about looking like yourself.”

And as far as the future goes, it’s always going to be a sustainable one. “You see so many products that are
vegan and cruelty-free and that’s what I stick to. I try to understand the ingredients from the make-up artists to know how this will benefit me and the environment. It’s easier, healthier and better for everyone, making it a win-win situation.”

A talk with Athiya about all things beauty and skincare is no less than a master class. Speaking about routine and how a person should keep one, she gives the most important skincare tip there is to learn: “I think you just have to look and listen to your body.” She elaborates by giving her own personal example. “I’ve had dry skin ever since I was young, so it’s something that I’ve had to deal with for a long time. This is why my routine is always about finding ways to keep my skin hydrated with lots of water and green juices.”


Athiya’s smile gets wider and one can sense the warmth in the chat when we talk about her marriage to
cricketer KL Rahul. They will celebrate their first anniversary on January 23. The happiness that Athiya feels when she says, “Being married is like living with your best friend and I can’t wait to experience many more years of that,” is easily felt by anyone who’s been in a happy and healthy relationship. Despite their immensely busy schedules, the actor says, “I feel that we don’t concentrate too much on how to keep in touch. This has come out very organically and I don’t think we put too much thought into it. When we started dating, we lived in different cities. So we had to make sure that we made time for each other. We found our time when we were free. So it’s a combination of that. I feel that if you love someone, things just happen naturally.”


“A balanced state of mind and to feel empowered enough to make my own decisions and be happy with
those decisions is what sparks joy in me. I think you can attain that only if you have or are in a balanced
space,” says Athiya. The actor feels she is slowly being able to do it. “I feel I’m at peace and I’m most myself
and happy when I’m in that mind space and I think that’s what gives me most amount of joy in life to be
still and calm and to just be balanced.”


Athiya, the actor, may be a private and unfiltered person with the perfect face, but above all, she’s a Shetty.
Her father, Suniel Shetty, is enjoying a much-loved second innings in the industry with one commendable
performance after another. And it’s this inspiration that keeps her going. “I think he’s getting better with age. Even during lockdown, there was never a point where he wasn’t doing anything. That inspires me and Ahan to do something in our lives.” On the other hand, her mother (Mana Shetty) and grandmother (the late Vipula Kadri) spent a large part of their lives making a positive difference in society through their social work endeavours.


Now, Athiya, too, wants to follow suit. “I used to be a part of the foundation (the Vipla
Foundation). My school (the American School of Bombay) and the place were right next to each other. So,
I used to spend a lot of time with children who were hearing-impaired. Teaching and learning from them
was one of the most special parts of my childhood. I definitely know that I will be taking out more time for
this and find more joy and happiness following my mom and grandma’s footsteps.”

Image credits

Look in image 2: Black crew-neck soft wool flannel long dress with web ribbon detail, Medium chain shoulder bag in red quilted puffer leather with maxi silver horsebit detail, both Gucci (@Gucci); Office armchair (oxidized copper, cotton velvet) by Florence Louisy, Aequo (@Aequo)

Look in images 3 and 4: Full canvas lined shell pink woolen jacket, Unlined beige/brown pants, Earrings in metal with palladium finish and crystals, all Gucci (@gucci); Mudda chair, Ravi Vazirani Design Studio (@qitabyrvds); Raagmala hand-knotted woolen and silk rug by Tarun Tahiliani, Gordon hand-knotted woolen rug, both Obeetee (@obeetee)

Look in image 5: Black crew-neck soft wool flannel long dress with web ribbon detail, Medium chain shoulder bag in red quilted puffer leather with maxi silver horsebit detail, both Gucci (@Gucci); Office armchair (oxidized copper, cotton velvet) by Florence Louisy, Aequo (@Aequo)

Look in image 6: Pistachio soft wool plain stitch C neck with embroidered Gucci details, low-waist padded metal leather pencil midi skirt with belt with horsebit detail and slit at the back, Silver chain, all Gucci (@Gucci); Brown and black chair, Mahendra Doshi (@mahendradoshi)

Look in image 7: Red long sleeves, crew-neck light jersey top with gathering at the side, Black long sleeves single-breasted grainy baby calf caban jacket, with buttons opening at the front, pockets, Black low-waist French plongé leather midi skirt with zip opening at the side and frontal slit, Small shoulder bag in black leather with asymmetrical shapre and Horsebit detail, all Gucci (@Gucci); Caerton armchair, Hatsu (@hatsu);  the Longpi pillar, Atelier Ashiesh Shah (@ashieshshahatelier)


Editor: Rasna Bhasin (@rasnabhasin)
Photography & Creative Direction: Porus Vimadalal (@porus.vimadalal)
Styling & Art Direction: Prayag Menon  (@prayag.menon)
Interview By: Adit Ganguly (@ganglyganguly)
Editorial Coordinator: Shalini Kanojia (@shalinikanojia)
Makeup & Hair: Kritika Gill (@kritikagill) / Feat Artists (@Feat artists)
Photography assistant: Kushal Gandhi (@kusshalgandhi)
Fashion assistant: Vedica Vora (@vedicavora)