Written By: Delaney Rodriguez
Photography By: @KarloGomez
Talking to Harindee Perera you would never guess she spent her formative years in civil war-torn Sri Lanka and moved to the U.S. as a refugee at the young age of 10. Before she blossomed into the positive, bubbly woman she is today, she was quiet and would question herself constantly.
“Things were so different in the U.S.” she said. “Clothes were different, food was different, and even though I spoke English, I went to a British school so the way I spoke and wrote was different. I thought that I would never fit in. I would come home and cry every day for the first two or three months after we came here.”
Looking back on this trying transition, Harindee can now understand a little bit more about why kids acted the way they did, “I went to a British school in Sri Lanka and we were always taught to stand when talking to a teacher, but in America kids don’t do that so I would get made fun of. I think when people see something different, they’re just put off by it and that’s why I was picked on.”
Harindee said finding people from Sri Lanka is very hard, “I didn’t know anyone like me until five or six years after we moved to the US. When I did start finding a Sri Lankan community, I found it’s not as bad for others; a lot of other people seem to have an easier time blending in.”
Nowadays Harindee says she is okay with, and even likes, her differences, “Sometime around junior year of high school, it was like a light was switched on. Nothing major happened, I just started to make friends and started to like myself and my differences more.”
One thing that may have helped her accept herself, she says, is her “solid group of friends”, mostly from high school. They’re all there for each other and accept Harindee for who she is, “a nerd.”
“We don’t feel the need to please each other.”
As an only child, she describes her relationship with her parents as close, but admits they grew closer after the move, “All three of us went through this major change together and we always had each other. My parents were there for me on my hardest days and I helped them transition to customs in the US. My dad knew the streets in Sri Lanka really well but had trouble once we moved, so I would download Mapquest maps and help him navigate the roads.”
After graduating this year with her Bachelor of Science degree in Manufacturing Engineering California State Polytechnic University, Pomona,
Harindee is trying to figure out her next step in life. One of the more exciting things on the horizon for her is her role in a reality TV show on Zee TV USA. “The network has had shows in 130 countries” she explained, “but this is the first in the U.S.”
The show, titled “Made in America,” highlights the journey of young South Asian models and their careers. Harindee has been modelling, mostly on the runway but some print, for small brands since she was a teenager. It started as a hobby but then she began getting a lot of work and became more passionate about it. She says she wants a traditional career but has realized that in America, you can make your passions work with your career.
“I’ve realized that I don’t have to choose between this and a different career; you can have both.”