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July 6, 2022

Yes, I can be Vapid & Frivolous. No, I won’t Apologize for It.

Here it is—the big truth.

I’m one of “those” people. You know?

The ones who follow the royal family. The ones who know about trashy reality TV stars like the Kardashians and posh ones like Padma Lakshmi from “Top Chef.” The ones who know who is having an affair with whom and who cheated on whom?

Yep. Sorry…so not sorry. I’m one of them.

I follow all of the royal gossip from all over the world, even though I have no hope in hell of ever being in the same vicinity as members of any royal family. And neither do I want to. I mean, can you imagine being on display in front of the world and the gutter press all of the time? No, thank you. And yes, I also understand that the whole concept of royalty and monarchy and blue blood are not just extremely outdated concepts, especially within the political realm, but also feel so out of sync with our world and what we’re all collectively grappling with today.

I get all of that.

But that doesn’t mean that I didn’t wait with bated breath when after all the rumors swirling around Prince Harry’s fiancée a few years back, I watched with my mouth open as he walked out with Meghan Markle, who was wearing that amazing white suit, her luscious, long, shiny hair flowing behind her shoulders and that bling on her ring finger. Oh, that blinding bling on her finger! I was even more entranced with the Harry and Meghan story because “Suits” was one of my favorite TV shows, and I was chuffed with myself that while the whole world was wondering who Meghan Markle was, I had already been watching her regularly on television, long before she became Prince Harry’s significant other.

These days, I’m fully in the know about Meghan Markle and her cold-turned-hot war with the royal family. I avidly compare her style with the Duchess of Cambridge’s style. And in case you’re wondering, I also follow Queen Maxima of the Netherlands, Queen Letizia of Spain, Crown Princess Victoria and Princess Madeline of Sweden, and more.

I recently read that in the Netherlands, every member of the royal family who is in line for the throne has a book published about them when they turn 18. I haven’t read the book itself, but I definitely devoured the news about the book.

I can see you shaking your head at me now. Wait…it gets worse.

I’m a big movie buff, which isn’t a huge deal, as a lot of people are. But I’m also a big TV buff. And not of the brilliant shows that they make today; I loved TV when people looked down on it and shrugged it off as a bad influence full of inane, nonsensical, and trite shows. Luckily for me, the quality of TV and streaming content is at an all-time high, so when I devour films and TV shows now, no one raises their eyebrows at me.

It follows then that I watch all of the award shows connected with entertainment. And I watch them less for the actual creative arts they celebrate and instead obsess over them for the “who wore what” part of the program.

If I want to see insanely inventive, bizarre, and rocker chic clothes, I check out the Grammys. Remember that meat dress Lady Gaga wore in 2010? That was crazy AF, and it’s still talked about. For more classic and timeless styles, I check out the Oscars. For more casual but still gorgeous formalwear, I watch the fashion at the Golden Globes, where celebs sit around a table and sip alcohol as they watch the ceremony.

And as much as I have my strong opinions on who should win the Best Director or Best Actor award at the Oscars, I also have strong opinions on who aced the Red Carpet and who didn’t. Even as I scream at the screen when my favorite doesn’t win, I also scream when fashionistas pick a “best-dressed” person who doesn’t match my tally.

If you thought all this was bad enough, allow me to continue to fail to rise to the occasion.

I started writing this piece after a dear friend rolled her eyes at me when I spoke passionately about the classic styles of Duchess Kate and Meghan Markle versus the bohemian styles of someone like actress and singer Vanessa Hudgens and the informal street style of Anushka Sharma, a top Indian actress.

She immediately pointed her index finger at me, tut-tutted, and said, “Roop, please keep your voice down. You have a f*cking PhD in International Relations. You are Dr. Roopa, even though you downplay that all the time. It doesn’t behoove you to be taking an interest in frivolous things in the world like fashion. Do you want your students to know that you’re more worried about what Duchess Kate wears than why the concept of a ‘Duchess’ even exists in 2022?”

I tried to pretend to be embarrassed by my friend’s takedown, but the fact is that I am interested in the frivolity of the world. Even as she continued to moan and groan about my obsession with the ridiculous and irrelevant (her words, not mine), I decided to go all out and write about it.

Yes. I do have a doctorate.

But I’m also as vapid and frivolous as anyone else.

I know so much stuff about people I shouldn’t. I know that Megan Fox and Kourtney Kardashian are best friends because their boyfriends, Machine Gun Kelly and Travis Barker, are best friends. I’m not sure why I know this but I do.

I passionately follow all the gossip from Hollywood and Bollywood. Sixteen years later, I’m still Team Jennifer Aniston even though Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie have since split and are in the midst of a nasty custody battle over their 232 kids.

The running joke among my friends is that if People magazine or US Weekly don’t have information on someone who, honestly, no one in the world should know about, there’s a good chance that I will. A dear American friend of mine from grad school used to tell me that it took someone to come all the way from India to America for her to know about American pop culture.

So, yes, I love pop culture in all its forms—fashion, entertainment, gossip, celebrity relationships, and even their home decor. And I have zero problems owning up to this fact.

Because why I can’t work my ass off and get my doctorate and look through photos of celebrities wearing expensive clothes and get a peek inside their homes in Malibu and Bondi Beach?

Why should we be either/or? Why can’t we be both/and?

Why should someone else define what is proper or acceptable behavior?

Why should the fact that I have a certain level of education dictate what I can and should be interested in?

I refuse to be put into boxes of any kind.

I take equal pleasure writing a book published by Penguin about India’s rise as a soft power by way of its culture and writing an article for Elephant about why I’m as vapid and ridiculous as anyone else.

Look, it’s taken me a long time to get to a point where I genuinely, 100 percent, give zero f*cks about what anyone thinks about me. I live how I live, don’t consciously hurt anyone, watch what I want, eat what I want, read academic journals and gossip magazines and interior design magazines, and go down a social media rabbit hole every once in a while with equal passion and dedication. I also have a million different interests and they’re all important to me to different degrees, which is why I take it as a compliment when readers tell me they never know what I’m going to write about next week.

Being interested in the important and the mundane, the sublime and the ridiculous, makes me happy.

And now if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to pore over the glorious fashions of yet another of my many icons: Queen Rania of Jordan.

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