Model turned author Maria Thattil says she’s always wanted to write a book from a very young age.
However, she later discovered a lot of her creative expression in her teens and 20s was suppressed because of messaging she’d absorbing from many different places. “This was everything from who I should be and what I should be doing career wise to what it is to be a good woman,” she says. “That also meant suppressing a lot of my true loves such as acting, writing and makeup.”
Now at the age of 30, Maria has come full circle and released her new part memoir, part self-help book Unbounded.
“I found the courage in my mid 20s, which I detail in chapter 9, where somewhere along the way I discovered it was really important to ‘act out of your beliefs instead of your fears,’” she says. “So, I wanted to write the book because I think a lot of young people still to this day absorb a lot of confusing messaging that tells them in order to be good enough they need to follow a blue print. My book tells them that they don’t need to follow one, they just need to do what feels most true for them.”
Here Maria tells us more.
You talk about encountering racism in the book as a child and adult – how have people previously labelled you?
Racism is so insidious in that it can be both overt and covert. I’ve had overtly racist taunts by kids in the school yard about being ‘brown’. And professionally I’ve had a photographer tell me that everything about me was “too dark”. But then I’ve also experienced casual racism as an adult with people, who don’t even realise they are stereotyping you, in asking me if my parents “expect me to marry a nice Indian doctor” because that’s the expectation.
What is your advice for young people from ethnic backgrounds when it comes to having their voice heard?
Don’t wait for permission to speak – start creating a community on social media, and through your words, you have endless tools at your disposal. Be resourceful.
You are going to disrupt some circles and get lots of opinions by using your voice so be prepared for that. The nature and culture of our community is conservative, so some values need to be However, if you believe in something you need to believe in it even if your voice is shaking. Have faith in what you are saying even if people try to sway you in a different direction. I say stand up as your ancestors are cheering you on and waiting for someone like you
What was it like coming out to your parents?
In the chapter titled, Shed, I talk about shedding the beliefs that don’t serve me. To come out to my parents at the age of 28 in 2021 was really challenging but if there’s one thing I’ve learnt it’s that if you want to curate a fulfilling life you have to be willing to part with people, places, things and relationships that don’t serve that.
Coming out did require me to shed a lot of my old concerns about religious beliefs and also required me to having months of open conversations with my parents. Initially they didn’t understand. I didn’t expect them to understand everything initially as they are from a totally different generation and cultural context, however we have come a long way.
My family is now so supportive that I’ll proudly be sitting next to my brother Dom, who identifies as gay, on the Olay float this year for Sydney Mardi Gras. I’m an ambassador this year for both Olay and TikTok World Pride events, so as a staunch LGBTIQA supporter I’m phenomenally proud to be involved.
How has your girlfriend Jorgee felt about now going public and being in the spotlight?
We’ve had many conversations over the last 10 months about going public. She is my best friend we talk about everything. We kept our relationship private for long time and talked about what it would be like when do go public. I warned her that people would be watching her actions, but she says, “I don’t care I love you, I get it and will learn and understand from it all.”
She’s already has quite a big TikTok audience of her own, so she knows what it’s like to have a community watching you.
Now you’ve completed the arduous process of writing a book what’s next for you?
Acting! I am so excited about starring in my first acting role in the TikTok Series Let’s Get Ducking Famous. It’s an original content series developed by my modelling agency Bella and creative agency Blackfisch. it was such an honour to lead it. My next project after the book was to get into acting. In the series my character Naomi and her friend try to become social media famous through posts about Naomi’s pet duck Steven.
I had never held a duck before. I was surprised at how big they are, the first time I picked up Daffy (who plays Steven) he scratched me! However, once we got to know him and his stand in Daffy 2 they were actually very sweet and placid!
Unbounded: Manifesting a Life Without Limits, by Maria Thattil, is available from Penguin Random House for $34.99