As a part of our series about music stars who are making an important social impact, I had the distinct pleasure of interviewing Ridi.
Singer and recording artist Ridi has been compared to the likes of Lorde, Fiona Apple, and Billie Eilish — all artists who have shown the music industry are wise beyond their years both artistically and otherwise. At the age of 17, Ridi just released her debut single entitled “Top Guy” along with its accompanying video. In it the European singer of Indian descent utilizes her voice to tackle themes of inclusivity and shed light on how lives can be devastated by those with narrow-minded and spiteful intentions, issues she’s had firsthand experience with for far too long in her life. Written by Ridi, the single’s Paris-based video was directed by Sylvain Bressollette (Indila: Dernière Danse). For more information on Ridi, you can follow her on Instagram @realridi.https://content.thriveglobal.com/media/7d8ce50825b8830215f9d07412345de2
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Our readers would love to get to know you a bit better. Can you tell us a bit of the ‘backstory’ of how you grew up?
I like to believe my childhood was pretty normal. We traveled a lot. I was born in Australia and had a pretty privileged childhood, which I am thankful for. When I was about 6 years old, we shifted out and were living more or less in between Dubai and New York City (with the NYC being my favorite for obvious reasons: theatre, restaurants, and not to mention Dylan’s candy bar!). New York is also where I first started my formal musical training. After this, my parents realized that all the traveling was not doing justice to my education, and so along with my elder sister, I started attending boarding school in Switzerland at 9 years old. I was happy for the first few years, though I’m not sure now if that’s because I had “changed myself” to fit in. As we grew up, I started noticing behaviors that I didn’t want to take part in, such as drinking too much, taking drugs, and disrespecting other people’s cultures. I began keeping to myself a lot more, and it slowly felt like the friends I knew as a child were just not the same people anymore. The last three years of my life have basically been trying to overcome the emotional turmoil that the fake high-school social hierarchy had created. This turmoil is what led me to music, and led me to release my debut single “Top Guy,” which I’m grateful for. I’ve been given a platform where I can speak (or sing!) on behalf of all the people who feel like I did.
Can you share a story with us about what brought you to this specific career path?
I felt as though I’d lost everything that was anything to me. I was kicked out of my old school because I stood up against the harassment I faced. I tried for a fresh start in a new high school but was denied that too since the rumors from my old school had already spread, making it seem like I was the guilty one. I felt very oppressed during my later high-school years. I felt like I had a lot to get off my chest but also felt voiceless — unable to express how I felt about all the hate, gossip, and rumors. This is what led me to write “Top Guy.” I guess if I hadn’t felt what I felt, I wouldn’t be here doing this.
Can you share the funniest or most interesting story that occurred to you in the course of your career? What was the lesson or take away that you took out of that story?
Ah, too many! [laughs] My family, who support me tremendously, were ripped off big time and many times by many different types of agents and producers because my industrial family was completely clueless about the music world. In short, it started with an agent who was selling what looked like a magic genie agent, who specifically told us that only he, and he alone, could open the magic doors of the music world for us, and all together they ripped my parents off for the price of about 20 Hermes bags (which I could’ve worn instead 😉 before doing his final disappearing act! Because of this magic genie agent, I was also hooked up with a few different producer friends of his, that were also bad news. And they too ran away after taking the upfront portion of the money. No one believed I could write music or sing. It was one good wake-up call after which my family and I have managed everything ourselves. This is undoubtedly very hard for them, as they don’t know much about this industry at all, but at least they have only my best interest at heart.
What would you advise a young person who wants to emulate your success?
Free time is overrated. You have to sacrifice what seems like pleasures in the moment in order to be able to live your dream!
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you explain how that was relevant in your life?
It would most probably be the quote that my father says most often: “Success has many friends, failure has none.” We should keep close to us those who stick by us when we’re at our lowest because those are like rare diamonds. The rest are just here for the party! I feel this is relevant for all phases of my life, from high school to singing and more — where the only people who really stuck by me were my family and my very close friends.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
Yes, it would for sure be my sister. Even though she’s still young herself and managing our family business alongside my dad, she’s also managing all of my music stuff. She’s sacrificed a lot for me and I’m super grateful.
Let’s now shift to the main focus of our interview, how are you using your success to bring goodness to the world? Can you share with us the meaningful or exciting social impact causes you are working on right now?
Well, I am a co-founder of an anti-bullying platform called “Stop The B.” It’s a not-for-profit created for young people by young people. It’s a place where others can really express what they’ve been through and not be judged for it. One of the main negative stigmas about bullying is that the victim is looked down upon like they’re too weak or that it’s their fault or something. There is a huge negative association attached to even talking about being bullied. But in reality, these people need to be looked upon at as survivors, not victims. I mean, it’s like saying that being emotionally stabbed is nothing and that young people should just suck it up. But it’s not true. Words hurt — a lot. “Stop The B” helps young people see that their problems do count and that anyone who says otherwise should not be listened to, because — academically speaking — bullying has longstanding, negative effects in the future, including anxiety, depression, and suicidal tendencies. The horrible truth is that often it’s only after a traumatized child commits suicide that the bullying is taken as serious.
Can you tell us the backstory about what originally inspired you to feel passionate about this cause and to do something about it?
Well, to put it simply, I have personally suffered harassment and hateful attacks. High school is supposed to have been the time where I figured myself out. But in reality, I had been judged constantly and was subjected to unsavory rumors spread about me. Trust me, this was destructive to my self-confidence, and I know that millions of other kids feel like this as well. Each school made me feel trapped in a dark hole with people who wanted me to have a miserable time. To put it in technical terms, I was bullied. In the end, I did stand up for myself and figure things out, but not all kids have the familial support I do. So I wanted to create a place where young people could feel comfortable, and where others have the kind of support I wished I’d had.
Many of us have ideas, dreams, and passions, but never manifest it. But you did. Was there an “Aha Moment” that made you decide that you were actually going to step up and take action for this cause? What was that final trigger?
It’s the point where I couldn’t see a high-school social future for myself, and nobody really wanted to associate with me because of all of the rumors and gossip. Since I had always written down my feelings, I slowly started creating bits and pieces of what ultimately came to be my debut single “Top Guy”! It finally became too much to keep inside and resulted in the creation of that song.
Can you tell us a story about a particular individual who was impacted or helped by your cause?
Because we have to remain discrete at “Stop The B,” I can’t reveal specific names. But there are countless people who have shared their stories with us and who take advice from us. We do share specific stories on our site from those who would like to share their stories publicly, and it’s helped so many people feel supported. The “Stop The B” community is extremely supportive to anyone and everyone who speaks out.
Are there three things that individuals, society or the government can do to support you in this effort?
We have recently started a petition against the military of Myanmar, in order to give the youth of Myanmar their freedom and human rights back. There has been a lot of other news coverage on Myanmar’s recent political turmoil, but no one has actually covered the struggles of the young people living under these circumstances. My sister had gotten some of her Burmese friends to provide live footage and speak their truth of what is happening to them within their everyday lives, but unfortunately, the videos do not get promoted on YouTube due to its “sensitive” content, which is sad since all kinds of things get promoted on YouTube all the time. The content includes what they managed to sneak and record of the kind of extreme situations happening directly outside their homes. It is real footage taken by those kids about what’s happening to them and what they are witnessing and feeling. Until now, given we are not allowed to promote it at all, we have a petition with more than 1500 signatures. I wish someone would help or allow us to promote the video and get some kind of justice for them. These are real kids, and it’s their story about how they are left voiceless because of this coup. They have even risked their lives and families by speaking out about what’s happening because they feel like hostages in their own homes and their education has all but stopped, as schools and colleges don’t function for days or weeks on end. Internet is shut off and very few people are allowed to leave the country. Burmese children who were studying abroad cannot return, and some international students are separated from their parents. They live in constant fear of being killed or kidnapped if they are caught speaking out against all this! We would like UNICEF to condemn the violence and abuse of youth rights in Myanmar that is taking place, and to bring justice to the youth of Myanmar who are suffering greatly.
Here is the main question of our interview. What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or an example for each.
First point would be that, even though I’m socially awkward, that’s okay. Being comfortable in your own skin is what really counts.
Second point would be that, even if I’m sitting alone at the cafeteria, it doesn’t mean that people have the right to laugh or gossip about me. I mean, it doesn’t matter what circumstance you are in, that shouldn’t happen. This is a specific point that hits hard for me since the first year of my new school was filled with kids laughing and gossiping, and I thought that because I was alone, that they had the “right” to be doing that.
Third point would be that anyone and everyone can get taken advantage of. Even those who are wealthy (as it’s happened to me many times). It can be difficult for people to truly understand what someone else is going through, and especially difficult for the person that’s going through it. People could do a lot better by cutting each other some slack and just being aware that their actions and words are directed to human beings, and not robots.
Fourth point would be that, even if I’m feeling happy with a certain group of people at a particular moment in time, it doesn’t mean I’m truly happy, since — if I’m happy because I’ve “changed myself” to fit in, that isn’t really happiness. When I first started out at boarding school, I did this a lot in order to fit in, and initially thought I was “happy.” But it wasn’t me, and it thus all came crashing down on me once I truly became the real me.
Fifth point, people talk shit, but you just have to flush it down the toilet or write a song about it [laughs]. I mean this one’s pretty obvious. All of my high school years have been filled with people talking shit about me, and I didn’t have a good enough toilet to flush it down, so I wrote a song [laughs].
You are a person of enormous influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.
There are many kids I’ve seen who find it hard to fit in (whatever “fitting in” means), and so whenever I’m around them, I try and speak to them and include them in whatever I’m doing. I feel like more kids would be wary of such circumstances if schools had given an incentive to this cause, [since] that’s actually relevant and important. For example, college applications are a big deal for my age group; so just rewarding an extra academic point on the basis of this would be really cool. I’m pretty sure it’s more important than the silly bonus points they give out for TOK and CAS!
We are blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Politics, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them.
Someone in UNICEF can give those kids in Myanmar a voice. It’s like they’ve been bullied by a whole government system and everyone’s just watching while knowing what’s happening is incorrect. Maybe you could be kind enough to put a link to the video here. I just want the voices of these young people to be heard. I’m not sure any of us can know how it feels to be silenced by a whole system at that age.
Thank you so much for these amazing insights. This was so inspiring, and we wish you continued success!