THE SEVENTEENTH INSTALLATION OF THE BELLEBOSS SERIES
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I hoped that with this series, I would find a way to appreciate the incredible South Asian women of our generation, who are breaking boundaries and paving new paths for themselves. Moreover, I would like you to take a little bit of your time to realize how incredible the women around you are.
Especially if you are a woman! I know that at least one woman’s story in my #BelleBoss series will inspire you to follow your dreams, your vision and most importantly your heart. Even if that means breaking a few rules and many societal prejudices along the way.
Could you give us an introduction to yourself?
My name is Darni Alweera, I am 30 years old and I currently live in Australia. I’m completing a Bachelor’s Degree in Business full-time majoring in Marketing while working on blogging and social media full-time as well. I also do modelling, acting, promotional and hospitality work part-time. On top of that, I do boxing and weight training 3 to 4 times a week as it’s is one of my huge priorities, not only to keep fit and healthy but also it helps immensely to battle stress, which I struggle with due to juggling a busy lifestyle.
The after effects are happiness, a toned body and a peachy derriere. So I can’t complain at all – haha!
I was born in a small town in Sri Lanka called Anuradhapura. I come from a middle-class family where my mother was a teacher and father owned a small photography business. I grew up in Anuradhapura during the Sri Lankan Civil War and went to an all-girl school there until I was 14 years old.
I had quite a sheltered upbringing and was chaperoned pretty much where ever I went.
I remember there was a shop down the road where I used to get chocolates which we could see from our home but I was not allowed to go there without someone accompanying me.
When I was 14, I moved to Colombo (the capital of Sri Lanka) and was enrolled at a boarding school called Bishops College. It was a great experience for me as it exposed me to a bigger world than the little shell I was brought up in.
At the same time, I had to adjust to a new world and a culture, which was quite challenging.
However, the hopes of being free and adventurous were short-lived as the life of being in a boarding school was even more restricting than my previous sheltered childhood!
I was lucky to have a few amazing friends who took me out, put up with me and got into mischief with me, which satisfied the free spirit stuck inside me. It’s hard to adjust to a foreign world once you have already reached your teen years especially away from home.
I like to think that toughened me up haha!
Life was a little rocky in school.
I got into trouble a lot and dated all the wrong boys. I felt like the harder I tried to break free from the social standards expected of me, a cute looking, innocent girl from the village, the more judgement, alienation and bullying was aimed towards me. or just say “I received”.
I was in no way “cool” by any shape or form, however, a girl from a small town who tries to get out of the box “designed” for her by birth sometimes doesn’t go down very well.
Whenever I go back to Sri Lanka people ask me whether I get discriminated against in Australia because of my colour? It only makes me laugh because from that same breath they go ‘Oh my god, how do you speak English so well if you grew up in Anuradhapura’?
As if I was born with a deformity because I was born in a small village.
I finished my Ordinary Level exams (high school equivalent) and I was in my Advanced Level classes when mum pulled me out of school. The principle and boarding school warden used to call mum all the time complaining about my behaviour. I think my mum had enough. I wasn’t happy studying so I was glad to leave. she pulled me out of school.
I have not regretted that for a day in my life
My mother’s sister lived in Auckland New Zealand and she sent me there to study beauty therapy. With the limited resources my parents had at the time it seemed like the best option. It was the first time I had ever been overseas. I completed my beauty therapy course in Auckland and due family complications had to return home after about 7 months.
Coming back home was hard. It was probably one of the some of the hardest times in my life. I didn’t belong anywhere and felt stranded. All my friends were still in school and studying hard.
My parents were back in the village where I had no future but I had no home in the city either.
After a few years, I got the news of Emirates open day in Colombo. Emirates was coming to Sri Lanka after many years due to the on-going war in Sri Lanka.
By now I was 4 months shy 21 years old, living with my brother in the city and well into the 3rd job.
My childhood dream was to be an air hostess, for and as long as I can remember. It’s crazy because when I was growing up (not sure how it is now) air hostesses had a very bad name in Sri Lanka.
I remember one of the reasons being if you are an air hostess you would have to do whatever the pilots ask you to do or you’d get fired. I simply couldn’t comprehend it and this never hindered my dream.
However, the society had a very negative impression on air hostesses.
Even if it was true, it was really sad as the criticism was being aimed at the victim, not the assailant.
This was in fact all around me growing up. I remember one day someone asking me what I wanted to do when I grew up and when mentioned what it was, my father got up and walked out of the room.
To work in the United Arab Emirates you have has to be over the age of 21 and, as I mentioned, I was only 20 at the time I attended the open day.
“I was over the moon to hear that I was selected and would fly on my 21st Birthday.”
I worked and lived there for 2 years. With all the amazing perks and a lavish lifestyle I also had to endure the lack of greenery the UAE had to offer, the heat, a demanding job with long hours, hard work and a lot of constant travel. Dubai is one of the most beautiful countries with amazing opportunities and offers a vast amount of entertainment.
Whilst it was an amazing experience, I missed nature and natural things.
It’s not often that we get to actually do our childhood dream job. I truly had a chance and I was happy.
However, I knew deep in my heart that it wasn’t what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. I was so blessed that I was able to achieve anything if I output my mind to it which in turn made me stronger and empowered.
I was also relieved when none of the pilots ever threatened me to go to bed with them in exchange for job security.
Living in Dubai impacted my life massively. For the first time, I was completely independent. I was kind of scared but also felt relieved and free.
10 years ago I was not allowed to go to the shops down the road by myself and now I was living alone, travelling to different countries and living somewhere without any family or friends.
Eventually, I made some amazing friends along the way that made my life so much happier than I could have ever imagined. I travelled extensively and experienced half of the world while I was working for Emirates in Dubai.
I had lived and worked in Dubai for two years and was on a flight to Brisbane when I met a guy. We made a very strong connection straight away. We had a lot in common and travelled together before I decided to move to Australia to start a new life and be with him.
Leaving my friends was the only thing that broke my heart when I left Dubai to move to Australia.
3) Where did you interest in style develop and how would you describe your style?
I have always been into fashion but I think I got more adventurous once I reached my early twenties. I think older I got, less I cared about what people thought. Fortunately, a lot of people actually fancy my style haha! I like to think my fashion is ageless and what I wear purely depends on my mood. My style is very personal and broad, and I don’t think I can class it in any way. I find anything from what my mum used to wear to what Bella Hadid wears fascinating. Some items in my wardrobe have been in there for years.
I also hate fast fashion and how mass textile waste is impacting the environment. You will see on my blog that I reuse old clothing from my wardrobe with new stuff and create brand new looks often. How I value my clothes is not on the price tag but how it makes me look and feel. My favourite pair of pants is a pair of high waisted denim flare pants I got from H&M and they cost me $5. Every single time I wear them at least one person pays me a compliment.
I’m not sure who said this but I love the quote ‘Don’t change to fit the fashion. Change the fashion to fit you’. It resonates with me every day when I create my looks.
4Who inspires you – whether fashion-related or otherwise? And what made you want to share your style with the world through blogging?
A lot of people have inspired me during my journey but my mother would be the biggest inspiration. She is a huge pillar of strength in my life and such inspiration for to me to achieve bigger and greater things. Otara Gunewardena who became one of the most successful businesswomen in Sri Lanka is an amazing entrepreneur, a fashion icon and a philanthropist that has really inspired me over the years.
The strength and endurance to achieve such greatness in a culture and an era where women are suppressed and to rise above it all is unbelievably amazing.
I have much respect for a lot of women that age who swam against the current and not only survived but thrived. When I went to Sri Lanka last year I found that the mindsets and the culture have changed a lot; to better. I was pleasantly surprised to see that people were a lot more open-minded, accepting and more cultured which I didn’t see as much when I was growing up.
It made me want to visit Sri Lanka more and more. I follow a lot of fashion icons that inspire me too. They range from Rocky Barnes boho chic style, Mary Lawless Lee’s eye for detail, Micah Giannelli’s sassy, sexy style and so forth. My blogging happened by accident actually. I started getting a large following on Instagram and my audience was asking me about what I was wearing which ultimately led me to share my style through blogging. I would sometimes wear something and go out and would get comments such as “I love what you are wearing, you should write about it”.
I was never really into writing but now it feels like second nature to me. I’m hoping to expand into vlogging as well by putting my acting degree to use.
5) What inspired you to go back to school and get your Bachelor Degree in Business?
Well, I never did any higher studies after school other than Acting and Beauty Therapy. I have so much of hands-on experience in digital marketing but I wanted to get a piece of paper for it too. It has been so long since I have sat down and studied and I felt as if that part of my brain was starting to slow down.
There is always room to grow and learn new things and I wanted to study something that compliments what I do right now. So I took on the Bachelor’s Degree in Business majoring in Marketing.
6) Your career has meant that you have travelled to many places in your life. Where has been your favourite and why?
Yes, I have travelled a lot. With my job and even after I left Emirates. I love to travel and it’s an addiction that I can’t really afford haha! It is hard to say what my favourite place is. I have two I guess. One of them would be apart from Sri Lanka is Taormina in Sicily. It was absolutely breathtaking. The beaches were amazing and the small township is on a hill right next to the water. You have to get cable cars to go up to the city and there are so many cute little restaurants and cafes overlooking the ocean. I can’t even explain the feeling you get when you look at something so magnificent and serene. If I ever become super rich I would spend all my summers there. My other favourite place would be New York.
The city is chaotic but full of life and energy.
Just like Alicia Keys say it’s a concrete jungle where dreams are made of. I loved the little bars you can hang out at night, I found that the people were friendly, so much to do and full of culture and not to mention, shopping was great!! I would love to base myself there one day. It’s one city I can see myself living in while spending my summers in the Mediterranean of course haha!
I always dream big, nothing is impossible. So many people have proved that over and over again.
7) What has been the highlight of your work life?
I guess one of the proudest moments in my work life would be joining Emirates as an air hostess.
Being an air hostess was my dream job as I mentioned before. As a little girl, I was infatuated with how amazing air hostesses looked, their lifestyle and the idea of travelling so much. When I was only 20 Emirates came to Colombo to recruit cabin crew. They had ceased recruiting in Sri Lanka for many years due to the war. A person has to be at least 21 to be employed in the UAE (where Emirates Airlines is based) and the chances of me getting in were super slim.
On the open day, there were about a thousand people there. Most were already cabin crew with Sri Lankan airlines with years of experience. I wasn’t even old enough and had no experience, a few people were like ‘what are you even doing here? They would not even consider you’ But I got through. I got my hair and nails done, did my resume, did so much of research on airlines, how to answer the one on one questions and I felt as ready as I could be, and got through!
I flew to Dubai to take on my job on my 21st Birthday. This is still such a fond memory to me that reminds me if I put my head and my heart to it I can achieve anything.
1) What are your dreams/aspirations for the future?
My dreams evolve and change as I grow.
But I guess I have a few things I want to achieve within the next 10 years. I would love to create my own brand. I’m still searching within me on what really resonates with me but I can see a clothing brand of my own. At the same time if I could create jobs in Sri Lanka in the process that would be amazing.
There is so much talent in Sri Lanka that is in need of a little helping hand to succeed and thrive. The end goal would be to have a passive income so I am able to enjoy life to the fullest with my loved ones.
That’s it for this interview, but remember a Belleboss Interview comes out every Sunday. Just scroll down below and click the follow buttons to keep updated. Until then