Devi Vishwakumar

Devi Vishwakumar

If you want to hit your (business) goals, Devi has quite a few stories for you – know your starting point and brand foundation inside-out.

Published Aug 11, 2023
Reading time 5 min read

Remember that feeling of wanting to “fit in” during high school?

I felt the peak of it every summer – in June (start of holidays) and August (when you’re about to “report” back to school). “In September, I will come back and they’ll see how cool I am,” I’d tell myself.

Spoiler: It never really happened.

If I could come back in time and tell 15-year-old Mariia one thing, it would be, “What you do in July – writing stories, creating graphics for your characters, chatting with your friends from different countries – do that and keep going.”

Because there are always people who find you cool for who you are – and not for who you try to be.

Because this is how you can achieve your goals, too.

Wait what? Okay, time for this high-schooler’s story!

And the story goes:

The high school corridors echoed with whispers.

The last few months, she couldn’t walk – Devi Vishwakumar was in the middle of her orchestra performance when her father died in front of her. And now she’s back.

Yet, grief no more: For this school year, Devi has a 10-step rebranding plan for herself and her “uncool” friends, Fabiola (president of the robotics club) and Eleanor (president of the drama club).

"I don't want to be a nerd anymore. We need to become cool people, and that starts by dating cool guys." It’s time to turn a new page and become popular, Devi thinks.

Where will the goal of “reinventing herself” lead her – and at what cost?

Character narrative at glance

🎞️ Story arc: From Devi's struggles to reconcile her Indian heritage and American upbringing, grief over losing her father, family dynamics (tradition vs modernity in a South Asian household), and her hot-headed temper – to becoming a better friend and daughter.

💭 Thinking behind: Mindy Kaling (with Land Fisher) brought their own life experiences onto character stories. In her memoir, Mindy mentions how she felt she was missing out on the high school experience (that was dramatised in media) – and that gets highlighted in Devi particularly, along with Mindy’s experience of growing up with a mixed cultural identity. The creative team made a conscious decision that “Never Have I Ever” would provide more diverse representation in media, particularly for South Asian women, and break away from stereotypical portrayal.

🗺️ Narrative: Devi’s story – her cultural identity, loss of her father, fitting in as a teen – and her imperfections, resilience and ambitions struck a chord with many in the audience.

🍋 Character deep dive: Devi’s decisions in high school were akin to an anti-hero trope – I added these analyses and my thoughts in this moodboard.

🗺️ Mapping Out The Narrative

What makes Devi relatable is how she’s figuring out her own path. She takes action, rides the highs and meets the lows, while reflecting and owning up to her behaviour. That’s our life, right?

Okay, let’s zoom specifically on her intentions vs outcomes – and how it’s relevant for your identity-driven brand.

A branding process is rooted in intentionality: You do things for a reason. It's never “a new colour palette” or graphics – it's a refreshed look that communicates something in order to achieve specific goals.

To reach a goal, you need to know what actions contribute to it and what you need to communicate.

To know what to communicate, you need to figure out what you want.

To figure out what you want, you need to know where you're at right now and who you are.

You see, it’s like a quest: There’s a hopeful vision, some kind of destination – and all that is left is to plot the right journey.

Now, back to Devi: When we meet her in that school corridor, we see a girl who wants to fit in and subconsciously move away from the unfortunate “spotlight” of her father’s death. Yet, she hasn’t dealt with the trauma of losing him.

She tries to achieve her goal of “being cool” by jumping into relationships with “cool boyfriends” and reinventing herself. All of this reveals Devi’s darker side and causes friction with her mum. The shallow pursuit just furthered her away from what really matters to her – her friends and family.

Only when she reflects in therapy sessions, Devi realises how her actions hurt her closest ones. Throughout the series, we see her accept her culture and traditions as a part of her identity, as well as process trauma, grief, and emotions – everything that seemingly held her back.

To underline this storyline, let’s look at Devi’s college choices: She spent years studying, participating in the right activities, and perfecting her “school” resume to get admitted into Princeton early. Spoiler: In the end, it didn’t work out.

Due to her extreme focus on Princeton, she put relationships with people around her in jeopardy – and stood in her own way – again.

The moment Devi realised why Princeton mattered – it reminded her of her father and their dream! – she eased in and accepted that the memory of her father lives with her, not with the choice of her university.

And that’s when it clicked what she had to do.

Sometimes, we leap to goals as something inspirational, to be like someone else and in their “state of mind.” Yet, when you choose what fits you and your unique journey – that’s another story. A much more successful one, dare I say.

🍋 Navigating To Your Brand

I wish successful goal-setting was a straight line: You want X, you get X (or Twitter 😝).

And I’m sure there are people who say that it is – great! I’d argue that they’ve already figured out their baseline before leaping into actions and plans.

But here’s my take on goals – strike that! – on mapping out your path intentionally:

Acknowledge where you’re at right now before going somewhere else.

Why? Funnily, that’s the question you have to answer. What’s the point of aiming for a $10k month if you never made a $1k month AND set systems to make it your baseline?

How? I might be biased but a simple SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats) analysis can help you define your starting point.

  • Look inward: What are your strengths, weaknesses, and unique traits? What kind of experience (personal, work-related, cultural, and so on) do you have that might be beneficial to you?
  • Look outward: What are opportunities and threats in your niche or surroundings? (Look at resources, like time, too – if you have a string of events or booked months ahead, it might not be too smart to go over-ambitious.)

Few other tips I can offer to you:

  • Decide on a goal and treat it like an assumption that you can confirm or disprove.
  • Celebrate micro-wins in the moment because they are proof you’re onto something.
  • Set the cadence to evaluate your trajectory and tweak your actions.

Like Devi, we can map out a path that's about us and what we want.

On the right side there are two tri-colour cats on a windowsill, on the left there's Mariia looking into the camera. Outside the window, it's bright – green tries and blue sky are visible.
Another thing I'd tell 15-year-old Mariia: "Wherever you are, there will be two cats admiring everything you do." That's a good confidence boost, eh?
Seeing Through Stories

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