Maleesha Kharwa is the brand ambassador of the cosmetics company Forest Essentials but just three years ago, she was living in a Mumbai slum.

She was first discovered by Hollywood actor Robert Hoffman in 2020.

He travelled to India to film a music video that featured Maleesha’s cousin. But due to the Covid-19 pandemic, borders were closed and he became stranded.

Robert met Maleesha, who was living in a slum in Dharavi with her father, uncle and brother.

She told them that she dreamt of becoming a fashion model.

Describing his first meeting with Maleesha, Robert said:

“There she stood among a group of slum residents just like any other in the city.

“But her face was so remarkable I don’t know how anyone could have overlooked her before.

“Perhaps, it is the whole Indian perception that beauty is in extremely light skin

“Never in my life would I have thought that I would have the compulsion to guide another talent.

“The day I met her family I told them that, if they were interested, there was a huge potential for her life to change.”

Before leaving India, Robert created a GoFundMe and an Instagram profile for her.

He also promised to buy her a phone that had a nice camera, so that she could remain in contact with him and could continue vlogging.

Maleesha’s social media activity soon garnered attention and she received numerous opportunities, such as appearing on the October 2020 cover of The Peacock Magazine, where she was styled by Falguni Shane Peacock.

How an Indian Girl living in Mumbai Slum became a Model 2

In 2021, Maleesha featured in a short film titled Live Your Fairytale.

Created by Arsala Qureishi and Jas Sagu, the film captured the experience of five slum children dining in a restaurant for the first time.

Recalling her first meeting with Maleesha, Jas said:

“There are moments in life that change you fundamentally. They blow up in front of you and unravel a new dimension.

“That’s how overwhelming it was for us to meet Maleesha and her entire family.