In the glorious age of Instagram, with its endless bounty of fashion and beauty bloggers cropping up anew, where influencers saturate our scrolls and flat lays spill out of our saved folders, it’s hard to know just who is authentic – but with Rinky and Ritu Pamnani the feeling is, well, instant.
We’re sitting on the terrace of the Emerald Palace Kempinski’s Royal Suite after a full day of shooting. It’s cold–well, by Dubai’s standards, at least–we’re all hungry and pretty exhausted after six outfit changes and filming multiple TikTok and YouTube videos, yet the girls, however ready for bed they may be, pull up a chair and ready themselves for another hour-long chat with me without a hint or hindrance of diva.
Ritu and Rinky may just be in their twenties, but they have a softness, a genuineness and serious dose of ambition that belies their youth. They are identical twin sisters in just about every literal, spiritual and metaphysical way one could be an identical twin sister. They finish each other’s sentences like I’ve never seen before, they can communicate with just the raise of an eyebrow or the flicker of a smile, and they have this palpable sisterly bond that is, quite frankly, hard to put into words.
“We were born in a small state in India and moved to Jaipur in Rajasthan where we lived for about eleven years before moving to the UAE,” starts Rinky. “We went to high school in Sharjah and did our post-grad at Heriot-Watt University in Dubai…”
“…where we studied Business Administration,” finishes Ritu.
“Wait, you both did the same degree?” I query.
“Yeah!” they answer simultaneously.
“Don’t tell me you got the same grades as well…”
“Almost always,” they reassure me. Somewhere out there there is a screenwriter just waiting to get their hands on you two, because this back-and-forth is the stuff of movies.
The girls started grafting at 13-years-old when most of us were still applying blue eyeshadow. “We got into modelling, which is why we joined social media in the first place,” they say. So what came first, the chicken or the influencer?
“We were already working commercially with brands, and when we shared photos from our shoots people used to message us asking about our make-up or our outfits. We had no idea what an influencer was back then, but we started sharing little styling videos and it escalated from there. Kind of like supply and demand,” says Ritu, that business administration degree oozing through her words as she speaks. “The best thing about social media is that you get to share your knowledge and experiences. For example, I’ve been through a journey with my skin, and there are so many young girls who suffer from acne or skincare problems, and it’s amazing to share my tips with them. Even if they’re the other side of the world, I can speak to them simply via DM.”
Left: Rinky wears sunglasses, Dhs1,340, Valentino. Pajamas, Dhs7,000 Rubeus Milano
Right: Ritu wears sunglasses, Dhs1,340, Valentino. Pajamas, Dhs189, Missguided.
Cupcakes by Magnolia Bakery
One look at Ritu and Rinky, and it’s little wonder that young girls rely on them when it comes to make-up, hair and skincare tips. They’re the kind of women who are disarmingly pretty in the flesh, from their perfectly shaped almond eyes to their tumbling resplendent tresses that hold a curl better than Kim Kardashian’s circa 2011.
In fact, they’re so beautiful, and their Instagram is so full of light, love and laughter that Ritu and Rinky are the sort of girls that women would find it every easy to…hate.
They seem to have it all going for them and never seem to put a perfectly painted acrylic nail out of line. Their social media channels radiate positivity and philanthropy (they once chose a follower at random and treated her to a full Diwali make-over), and it’s the kind of page you can imagine makes people go green with envy. But more fool us, it seems, for judging a book by its cover. Or, in this case, an influencer by her feed, because it hasn’t all been plain sailing for the twins.
“When we first moved to Dubai we were basically struggling to survive,” Ritu explains. "There was limited money and not a lot of people to talk to. I remember one year, it was our birthday. Our parents were back in India and we were in Dubai and hardly had any cash. We were broke and alone, but I took what little money I do have and bought Rinky and I matching t-shirts that had the Eiffel Tower on them, because she loves Paris.”
“All we had that year was each other,” Rinky interjects. “At that point we had totally lost our spark, but we also had to remind ourselves that it’s okay to lose your spark and it’s okay to cry. It’s about getting up when you fall down. I feel like we’ve seen so many bad situations that we now have such a positive outlook on life.”
Hardship, doubt, and difficult times–all things we don’t speak about enough in an age of highlight reels and hyper-filtered perfection, and all things that Ritu and Rinky own with absolutely zero shame.
I remind them, though, that perhaps one of the reasons they were able to pick themselves up so easily, in a way that not many would, is because they have each other.
“But sisterhood goes beyond family,” Ritu earnestly impresses upon me. “Finding your ‘sister’ is like finding someone who completes you. They support your flaws, your highs; they make you become a better person. I love that about sisterhood. It’s all about women having each other’s backs.”
Rihanna once famously said, ‘I can’t really say I’m a role model. I’m not trying to sell that.’ So what about them? What are they trying to sell and who are they trying to be? How really filtered are their lives on social media. I can’t possibly imagine having a full-time job on Instagram and not at least be tempted by a Facetune here and a Photoshop there…
“We just want to teach girls not to follow what society expects of them,” says Ritu. “I once had a girl ask me tips on how to lighten her skin. And I was like, ‘I’m going to be that person who tell you your skin is beautiful and perfect the way it is.’ When we used to model commercially, clients always photoshopped our faces, and it was out of our control, but now we’re in control of our own content, that’s notthe message we want to put out there.”
“I’m not going to say we didn’t try Facetune,” adds Rinky. “We used it a lot when we first joined Instagram, and our friends started calling us out on it, and after a while I thought no, it’s not my thing.”
But with great Facetuning abilities comes a great many trolls, who lurk in the virtual corners of the internet making social media platforms feel unsafe.
“I bless them,” says Ritu on how she approaches online haters. “Trolls are the ones who need the most care and love. So when we get negative comments we just bless them and don’t reply.” If there were ever an answer to sum up how sweet and temperate these girls are, that would probably be it.
Left: Rinky wears polka organza dress, Dhs239, Missguided. Trainers, Dhs920, Sandro.
Right: Ritu wears polka organza dress, Dhs239, Missguided. Boots, Dhs1,530, Sandro
So what does the future look like for Ritu and Rinky Pamnani? Well, aside from being on the cusp of their social media stardom (you heard it here first!), the girls have dreams that lie beyond the realms of digital influencing.
“We want to start our own vegan brand,” says Ritu.
“A vegan make-up brand,” adds Rinky. “We’ve been vegan for two and a half years now and it’s had such a positive impact on our lives. We only eat plant-based food, we never wear leather or fur, and we really try and only use vegan beauty products.”
“A lot of people made fun of us at first, asking if we were only going to eat salad for the rest of our lives, but it’s actually changed our lives. It’s really
had a positive effect on our mental health.”
As our day draws to a close - to loosely paraphrase Carrie Bradshaw - I couldn’t help but wonder, after seeing Rinky and Ritu’s can’t-live-without-each-other attitude, would one have agreed to a cover without the other? I mean, surely if there were ever a reason to do something independently, it would be this, right?
I ask the question and am met with incredulous looks. “But…It’s so much better with her,” replies Rinky.
It’s safe to say this is just the first you’ll see of Ritu and Rinky Pamnani. They plan on taking 2020 by storm, and they plan on doing
From the Februrary issue of Cosmopolitan Middle East
With special thanks to Magnolia Bakery and Emerald Palace Kempinski