At just 16 years old, Avantika made history by starring in Disney’s very first Indian culture-based original film. And she’s just getting started.
With over 7 billion people in the world and counting, making history is not impossible, but a challenge, especially of the kind that will leave a lasting impact. But for young Hollywood actress Avantika, she can say that she has made history, and for the better. Born and raised in an Indian household in the US, Avantika explored many fields growing up from acting, modeling, dancing, and singing. She always dreamed of making it big in the entertainment industry. But little did she know that her career would soon take her to boundary-breaking places.
At only 16 years old, Avantika can proudly say that she made history after her movie, Spin, premiered on Disney+ and the Disney Channel. Not only did she have the honor of starring in an original Disney movie, something many young people hope for, she also starred in Disney’s first-ever Indian-centered movie. We chatted with the young rising Hollywood star to talk about her career, her latest projects, and how she hopes for better representation in Hollywood.
For those who don’t know her yet, Avantika is not a rookie actress. While her recent projects have definitely been breakthroughs for her, she’s been in the industry for a little over five years now. “I would describe myself as passionate. And maybe a little intense sometimes. But, if I choose to love someone or love something—I will give it my all. You can always count on me for that. I stand behind the people and things I believe in with unwavering support. And humor. I love trying to lighten the mood,” says the young actress.
Avantika got her start in acting through Bollywood movies. By the time she got her first Hollywood project, she already appeared in a handful of Indian films. Her time in India proved to be a valuable life lesson for her. “Working in India was very different! It was a beautiful experience, but also quite tough. However, it prepared me for the American industry extremely well. My performances in India inspired me to dream bigger. I would have never even entertained hopes of working in two industries. But now, I am allowing myself to aim for those heights.”
HISTORY-MAKING DISNEY STAR
Avantika’s transition to Hollywood proved to be more than successful. While every young actor dreams of making it big in Hollywood, the reality is that quite a few fall by the wayside. Not for Avantika though. She quickly found projects in Hollywood, and it was for the house mouse itself, Disney. Avantika landed a role in the Disney+ show, Diary of a Future President, as well as the animated Disney series Mira, Royal Detective. She also landed roles in a couple of Netflix productions like the Amy Poehler-directed movie Moxie. She even got to do the iconic “You’re watching the Disney Channel” intro that many of us wanted to do growing up.
But her biggest, and arguably most important, role to date arrived just this August. Avantika stared in the Disney original film, Spin, where she played Rhea Kumar, a young Indian-American girl who mixes her heritage with that of her love for DJing, all while navigating life in a multi-generational home. Premiering on Disney+ and Disney Channel, Spin featured many characters and themes a mainstream company like Disney have rarely shown. With Indian culture front and center, the movie broke many cultural barriers and started many important conversations about representation. She described being on the movie and being on Disney Channel in general as insane. “I feel like I just shot the movie yesterday. Hopefully, the positivity [to Spin] will help propel Disney to tell many more South Asian-centric stories.”
Avantika shared that Spin was shot during COVID, which didn’t make things easy. But she expressed how she had a great time on set. “I absolutely loved working on SPIN. The team at Disney Channel, Manjari Makijany, our director, Zanne Devine, our producer, and the entirety of the cast and crew, everyone was phenomenal. For a movie that was shot in COVID, I feel like our team had just as much fun, bonding, and creativity as we would have without a pandemic! And I’m glad I left with beautiful memories because this project means so much to me.”
More importantly for Avantika, she loved how not only did she make history but that kind of movie will be seen on the Disney Channel. “To be the first South Asian to lead a Disney Channel movie is insane. And as a South Asian person who grew up with Disney Channel but didn’t have a movie like SPIN to watch—it means a lot that we’re at last, finally, putting it out into the world.”
As her career with Disney continues, it excites her that she can be a role model for young girls who look like her. “When it comes to greater dreams with Disney, I am so glad I have this opportunity right now. Growing up, I didn’t get to see anyone who looked like me on Disney Channel. So, it’s crazy that I can maybe be that person for other girls waiting to see themselves on the screen.”
REPRESENTATION FOR A NEW GENERATION
It’s widely known that Hollywood has had a decades-long problem when it comes to representation. For every step forward that Hollywood tries to do, it takes two steps back. This is why a movie like Spin is so important for Avantika, especially when it comes to modern portrayals of Indian culture in mainstream channels. “I can’t even describe how long I’ve hoped for this. We need to convey Indian stories in a modern context. That is the way young South Asian people in this day and age will relate, feel less alone, and have someone to look up to.”
In this day and age of the internet and social media, everything is so connected to one another. Barriers that might have prevented a certain group from participating in certain discussions are now disappearing. It’s now easier to see content from around the world which makes for a more global audience. This is why Avantika sees representation as something important to her because she knows how impactful it can be. Already at her young age, she understands the responsibility she has to make boys and girls who look like her feel seen and heard.
“With audiences so diverse, it is important to help them feel seen and represented on screen. As an actress of color, I would like to choose projects that make an effort to represent marginalized communities. I grew up with a severe lack of representation on screen. So, now that I, fortunately, am living in a day and age where there is so much varied content and scripts to choose from, I would love to participate in films that incorporate diversity into their foundation.”
A BRIGHT CAREER AHEAD OF HER
Still young yet wise beyond her years, Avantika knows what she wants and has the talents to back up her convictions. Already, she is being recognized for her efforts. Variety recently included her in their 2021 Power of Young Hollywood List. And she is set to appear in the Rebel Wilson starring Senior Year film in 2022. “Things have been amazing and kind of chaotic recently! I am the type of person who thrives in chaos though, so this period has been good to me. Doing interviews every day and telling people things about myself I’ve never mentioned before— it’s all very new to me. But I’m enjoying it,” expresses the young actress.
But her career hasn’t all been sunshine and flowers. She admits that she isn’t used to having so much attention on her and being in the public eye. “Consciously speaking, remaining poised, and being consistent has been very new to me. And while I am enjoying some parts of it, it has definitely proven to be very challenging!” Though she does say that seeing the response to Spin has made it all worth it. “I’m so happy to see young girls feeling seen and represented. We made this movie with the hopes that viewers would resonate with Rhea’s experiences. To see that finally happening is an unexplainable feeling.”
As for what’s next for Avantika, she says that one of her dream roles is to play a real person in a biopic. “There’s something so impactful and challenging and exciting about being able to do that. That’s what I hope to do one day.” She also said that she is open to balancing both a career in Hollywood and Bollywood. Avantika is taking her journey one step at a time and is already looking to make her mark. “I want audiences to feel hopeful for the future. Hopeful for the future that sees them and allows them to make a mark for themselves.” With an actress like Avantika being part of the next generation of Hollywood stars, the future is in promising hands.
Photography DYLAN PERLOT at Exclusive Artists
Styling ERICA MER
Makeup ROBERT BRYAN
Hair JESSIE STELLAR