Kerala women YouTubers and how conforming to patriarchy makes them more loved

The popularity of female YouTubers proves that while there is an audience for all kinds of content, there is an undeniable social acceptance when you bring your family into that world.
Pearly Maaney, Lekshmi Nair, Sindhu Krishna
Pearly Maaney, Lekshmi Nair, Sindhu Krishna
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In one of her earlier vlogs, Pearly Maaney, who has 3.2 million YouTube subscribers, is at her in-laws’ home in Palakkad. They live in a modest, old-fashioned home, with floors done in red-oxide. In the 32-minute-long video, you can witness Pearly seamlessly fitting in there, as she helps her mother-in-law to prepare mackerel curry and fish fry, all the while lightening the atmosphere with her banter. She plops down on a mat for an afternoon nap and takes a stroll around the terrain chatting with her husband’s grandmother while their little daughter plays with neighbouring children. 

An anchor, model, and actor from Kerala who met her now husband and television actor Srinish Aravind on a reality show, Pearly Maaney also has over 4m and 2.6m followers on Instagram and Facebook respectively. Every “happy” event in her life is documented, including the birth of both her children and their subsequent growing-up stages, as well as the couple’s everyday routine. Not surprisingly, her popularity spiralled further to the top after her first daughter Nila was born. That was when Pearly’s maternal side was unveiled, gladdening the hearts of her subscribers. In a video that documents the birth of her second child, we get carefully edited happy visuals of a teary-eyed Pearley holding her baby, Nila (firstborn) being introduced to her sister, her husband lovingly tending to her, and so on. Srinish also becomes an equal recipient of people's love as they marvel at him for being a perfect dad and partner. The comments section is flooded with overwhelming love for her “humility, generosity, and compassion.”

Pearly stands there as an envoy of happy domesticity, perfectly balancing family and occasional anchoring (even that has the crutch of her family) and never disrupts the traditional family unit, and that also brings in the subscribers. And this is a trend that one can observe of the women influencers who have a huge following, that despite the positive shifts in attitudes towards women, aligning with patriarchy is the padding that helps them dodge the judgmental lens on social media. Being domesticated, maternal, gentle, sacrificial, and kind is still in season when it comes to women, especially when it comes to raking in subscribers.

What also works in Pearly’s favour among many other things is her uncanny sense of humour that does its magic even in the most dire situations. Though every woman who has had a child knows that it is the most emotionally and physically draining experience of her life, Pearly manages to create a sense of cheer around it. And though we are aware of the reality, women seem to enjoy that smokescreen she has created for them. 

In contrast, anchor Ranjini Haridas, who has 155k subscribers on her YouTube channel, puts out videos about her mom, brother, friends, food, pets, and travels and they are indeed entertaining. Surprisingly, though not many, the comments under the videos are mostly positive. It is indeed an empowering sight to see a single woman happily living life on her own terms. But of course, there is special appreciation whenever she makes an effort to take her mom to the temple or just spends time with her. “One thing I like about Ranjini is that no matter how modern or progressive she is, she respects her roots, religion, and traditions,” wrote one user under one of her videos. 

When it comes to Sindhu Krishnakumar, it is her “motherhood” that is the biggest draw for her 480k subscribers. Married to actor and politician Krishna Kumar, her household is already booming with popular YouTubers — all her four daughters (actor Ahana Krishna, Ishani, Diya, and Hansika) have more subscribers than her. Except for those occasional bouts of hostility owing to her husband’s BJP leanings and casteist views, this 50-something homemaker has a loyal audience across age groups. 

Every video she puts out is about her daughters — running errands for them, buying groceries, choosing birthday outfits for them, picking up her youngest daughter from college, and the daily routine at home. By now, her subscribers know who her favourite daughter is, who her best friends are, how she likes her morning tea, and the varieties of fruits growing in her garden. For her subscribers she is “Sindu Amma,” “Chechi,” and “Sindu Aunty,” and they can’t stop talking about her “positivity” and how she “efficiently runs her household.” Some offer tips when she cooks, suggesting various ways to “brown the onions,” while some ask for simple salad recipes. 

Some days she puts out videos in which she looks at the camera and admits to being tired or having a bad day. Other days she shows botched cooking attempts, talks about her college days, and uncovers the breakfast and lunch boxes on their dining table. Sindu’s followers who were initially curious to meet Ahana’s or her sisters’ mother are now absolute Sindu Krishna converts, bowled over by her ‘simplicity’ and capacity to run such a household for years. Perhaps, she offers solace to similar women who feel vindicated to know that even celebrity households have women at the helm, giving up their dreams and careers to build a foundation for their families. And not making heavy weather out of it.

Her daughter Ahaana Krishna’s vlogs that range from travelogues, her routine, time with friends and family or just selling products are hugely popular. The 28-year-old Ahaana has 1.28 million subscribers, is appreciated for her “creativity” in putting together her vlogs, and is also generally loved for her congenial nature. Users frequently comment about her “positivity” and how she strikes the perfect balance between modernity and traditions. Her bond with her mother and the efforts she makes to keep her family happy are always appreciated by the users. 

On the other hand, Malavika Krishnadas, who shot to fame through a reality show, on her YouTube channel with 1.35 million followers, vlogs about her family, and we get heartwarming images of her banter with her husband and in-laws. She does put out travel and food vlogs as well but the ones with more views invariably feature her family. Though there are occasional “concerns” as to why she calls her mom-in-law “Aunty” and not “Amma,” the majority are fans of her simplicity, her equation with her partner (he often gets appreciated for his wit), and her in-laws. 

For celebrity chef Lekshmi Nair, her YouTube channel with 2 million followers has been her biggest game changer. It has helped bail her out from an unsavoury controversy that cost her infamy. The dramatic shift her YouTube channel has brought to her image is visible in the comments section. Of course, the love and acceptance have more to do with her image as a woman who upholds traditional family values. 

She follows all the religious rituals and festivities (Attukal Pongala, Vishu, Onam, Christmas), cooks all four meals from scratch (from cleaning fish, slicing meat, jackfruit, and tapioca to grinding masalas in a stone), is particular about the likes and dislikes of each of her family members, and parallelly seem to be running a flourishing career (cookery shows, travelling, restaurant visits). She also does beauty and motivational vlogs. 

In the interim, Lekshmi would take short breaks and fly abroad to babysit her daughter’s triplets, cook fabulous meals for them, explore the countryside and food, and seem equally popular with the Malayali population there. 

There are times she visits her husband’s home in the interiors of Kerala, cooks elaborate outdoor meals and mingles freely with her relatives and neighbours. Occasionally, she vlogs about her visit to her mother-in-law, and at other times lovingly prepares biryani for her pregnant daughter-in-law. Then she would get invited for food tasting sessions at high-end restaurants as well as makeshift thattukadas, where she comes across as someone genial and kind. It goes without saying that her visits to these small food joints have not just generated profits for them but also amplified her popularity. It is this impeccable “balance” she has managed to achieve that has resulted in her expanding fan base.  

Soubhagya Venkatesh, daughter of television actor and dancer Thara Kalyan who first shot to fame through her TikTok videos, has carved an enviable fanbase today. Married to actor and dancer Arjun Somasekhar, her vlogs mostly capture the daily mundaneness of her life. From preparing baby food for her toddler to washing dishes and cleaning the kitchen (while carrying the baby), Soubhagya comes across as any other struggling new mom. 

Like Lekshmi Nair, she does the religious rituals and festivities with precision and shares a seemingly enviable bond with her in-laws. Recently she did an entire video that covered her Pongal preparations that started at the crack of dawn, planning elaborate Pongal celebrations replete with the traditional kolam and festive food. Meanwhile, her followers consider her their own and shower her with blessings for being a dutiful daughter, wife, and mother. It is also lovely to see the concern some of her followers show when she juggles different duties and enquires about her absentee spouse. And, all of them are superb when it comes to seamless product placements in their vlogs. 

There are of course many exceptions. A few years ago a young woman named Gayathri started a “Roasting” channel. One of her earlier episodes featured a critique of Annie’s Kitchen and how she was the flagbearer of patriarchy. It became an instant hit and Gayathri started picking such socially relevant topics (misogyny, female representation in cinema, calling out public figures for their anti-women stand). Though her videos were immensely popular, she hasn’t been active of late.  

There are many young women who are putting out witty, critical Instagram reels on everything under the sun (Yourfuturecoolaunt, Prapti) and seem to be popular among the young crowd. This could also be because Instagram is better for short content as opposed to YouTube which requires longer screen time. YouTube is popular among all age groups while Instagram is mostly consumed among millennials and Gen Z. That might explain why more conforming content works better on YouTube. 

However, the popularity of these female celebrity YouTubers proves that while there is an audience for all kinda, there is an undeniable social acceptance when you bring your family into that world. Sure, even there, opinions might be divided, and you might be inundated with unsolicited advice, but the gaze will be kinder. 

Neelima Menon has worked in the newspaper industry for more than a decade. She has covered Hindi and Malayalam cinema for The New Indian Express and has worked briefly with She now writes exclusively about Malayalam cinema, contributing to and She is known for her detailed and insightful features on misogyny and the lack of representation of women in Malayalam cinema.

Views expressed are the author's own.

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