“I’ve always felt very comfortable with my dual identity,” shares Pritika Swarup. There’s much more to her hybrid identity than being raised in Virginia with Indian heritage. She is a successful model with a business of her own and also spends her time contributing to philanthropic missions. So, what does it take to balance the east with the west, the creative with a financial mindset, and glamorous with humanitarian projects? She’s passionate about them all.
The New York-based model and Global Ambassador for Operation Smile, who has fronted campaigns for global brands like MAC Cosmetics and Fenty Beauty, decided to pursue her second passion in entrepreneurship. As a financier from Columbia University, Swarup found a way to bring her talents together in an India-inspired beauty and wellness brand called Prakti Beauty. Not only does her new venture represent her dual experiences growing up but also projects her vision for the future of beauty—natural and individualistic.
The NDC team caught up with her on the journey so far, as she opened her jewellery box to wear and share the stories behind some natural diamond pieces with us.
What’s it like being an entrepreneur and how did that come about for you?
I studied finance at Columbia [University] while working in the fashion industry and spent a lot of time thinking about how I’m going to combine these experiences and make it true to who I am. Then the question struck me. “Why hasn’t there been an Indian beauty brand to reach a global scale?” I was really excited when I realised that there is such a gap between super traditional Ayurvedic brands and Western brands and there was no name that bridged
that gap. So, with Prakti I really wanted to make a space in the industry for all the beauty remedies and rituals that I learned from my mom growing up. Meanwhile, my financial experience helped me remember my goals and bring my passionate vision to life.
Tell us more about the close connection with your Indian roots?
I always felt very connected to India and my culture. While my father assimilated the western culture growing up, I’m very comfortable with my dual identity and have learned to embrace it. My generation is about owning your true identity and representing your culture. My mother is definitely my role model in that sense—she’s the one who has kept me grounded to my Indian roots.
With a successful modelling career, what made you pursue a degree in financial economics?
I always thought I was going to be a doctor but then I was scouted as a model. I moved to New York to pursue fashion but always wanted to go to Columbia because education is also important to me. Knowledge is power and I’ve always believed that, so I decided to apply to business school. The next thing I knew I was juggling homework and modelling.
Where does that driving force to multitask come from?
I truly believe in what I’m doing, whether it’s working for a cause or a personal project. I have the motivation because I am passionate about all these things in my life. When you’re engaged with something like starting your own company, you must give it your all—that’s the only way to go about it. But my work ethic also comes from my father who is the most hard-working person I know, which drives me to never give up.
Can you take us through your most special memories behind the natural diamond pieces you own?
A special pair of earrings were the ones that my father gifted me on my 16th birthday, from which I lost one while I was in class—and I was devastated! It was my first set of really nice diamonds, after all. But my father surprised me with another pair on Valentine’s Day and it meant even more to me. I wear them almost every time I dress because they remind me of him and give me this warm, fuzzy feeling.
When I put on a pair of natural diamonds, I just feel radiant. They amplify your inner beauty, make you feel bright, light, and just elevate everything.
What does work with Operation Smile mean to you?
I started as a student ambassador in eighth grade in my hometown Virginia, packing mission supplies and doing bake sales. When I began working as a model in New York, I was disconnected with the organisation until a trip to India where I came across a few orphans with cleft lips. I took that as a sign to reconnect with Operation Smile when I got back, and it immediately felt right. I’ve been on two missions now and witnessing the journey of these children from before and after the surgery is very moving. I feel lucky to be able to experience that. It means a lot to align yourself with a cause you truly believe in.
From that gift to now, walk us through your personal journey with diamond jewellery.
I had my ears pierced since I was one or two, so really my first pair were these cute little diamond studs that I still see in my childhood photos. I definitely want to pass those down to my children in the future. Diamonds are something that lasts forever, so when now when I’m buying earrings or rings, I want to make sure that it’s timeless and I can carry them forever. Jewellery is an extension of your personal style and how you express yourself. When I put on natural diamonds, I just feel radiant. It comes from within too—they amplify your inner beauty, make you feel bright, light, and just elevate everything. But ultimately, it’s about the woman wearing diamonds and how you want to show the world who you are.
Photographer: Sage East
Videographer: Oliver Chen
Stylist: Divya Gursahani
Hair & make-up: Amrita Mehta
Production: By The Gram