Forbes India 15th Anniversary Special

To Her, With Love: Teacher, best friend, boss, sister—Malini Agarwal's shout-out to her girl tribe

The founder and creative director of MissMalini Entertainment, Girl Tribe, and cofounder of Good Creator Co, on the women who taught her important lessons before she turned 25

Published: Mar 8, 2022 10:30:23 AM IST
Updated: Mar 8, 2022 12:21:30 PM IST

Malini Agarwal is an influencer, entrepreneur, and author 
Malini Agarwal is an influencer, entrepreneur, and author 

I would be remiss if I said I could put onto one page all the women who have had an impact on my life, but what I would love to tell you about are the women who have been instrumental at all the major turning points of my life, before I even turned 25, and that played a major role in shaping who I am today.

Age 9 - Miss Webster
She was a blonde, blue-eyed substitute teacher at my school in Greece. As the only Indian kid in class, I distinctly remember that another Greek teacher had singled me out for something and blown it out of proportion. Probably my first brush with racism, and Miss Webster had come to my rescue with hugs and scratch n’ sniff stickers, fiercely shielding me from a concept I had not fully grasped then. I will always remember her and be grateful for her kindness.

Age 13 – In-Hye Hyung
My best friend in junior. I have two distinct memories of her. She taught me how to use chopsticks, how to say I love you in Koreansalanghae—and taught me something I never learned in a sex education class or from my mother back in those days—how to use a tampon. 

Age 18 – Ronica Jacob
She was the first-ever true boss lady I met, she had her own dance company—Ronica Jacob and the Planets—and she selected me to be part of her troupe which was my entry into the world of entertainment and independence because that was how I made enough money to move to Mumbai.

Age 21 – Natasha Vohra
She was my best friend all through college and after graduation, she moved to Mumbai to make it on her own. I pretty much followed in her footsteps and lived in her apartment for the first year I was there. She introduced me to the people who set me on my path to becoming an entertainment journalist and author for which I will be forever grateful.

Age 22 - Mom
Obviously, I’ve known her since I was born but a major turning point in my life was when she agreed to let me move to Mumbai on my own with Rs40,000 in my pocket that I had saved from dancing with Ronica. I didn’t realise it then but having an Indian mother that lets you follow your dreams is gold. She’s always been my number one fan, front row audience at every performance who has saved clippings of every press article to date.

Also growing up, I was always fascinated by how she would throw these lavish soirees as the Indian ambassador’s wife, hosting parties for hundreds without batting an eyelid. Very much like Downton Abbey, I must say. 

Also, a shout out to my sister, Shalini. She is a hotshot lawyer with a heart of gold and I have always thought of her as my hero. When I was younger, I wanted to get into law just to be like her. We are 12 years apart but as we have grown older, the gap has grown smaller and she’s more like a best friend now. Always there to be my sounding board, support me in every way, and to be honest, she has been a great buffer with the parents all these years.

Age 23 - Diya Kapoor
A wonderful girl I met at the MTV office when I was working there turned out to be one of my closest friends for the next 20 years. All the years I was broke and couldn’t afford three meals, given the steep rent in Mumbai and a meagre salary, she would invite me over for dinner every night and on weekends, be my partner-in-crime at night outs and has even sat on the mattress on the floor in my 1BHK and listened to me while I bawled over every heartbreak.

So many more women have come into my life since then too who inspire, support, and love me that allow me to be everything I am today. I’ve made a list in fact, in my first book—  #tothemoon – How I Blogged My Way to Bollywood.

‘To her, with love’ is a Storyboard18 special series where women in leadership tell us about the women who inspired them and led the way. A shout-out to her.