THE SCENE: A PARTY AT OLIVE, a highly popular restaurant in Mumbai’s upscale Bandra area, with Greek-style white walls and gravel on the floors so treacherous that if you were in high heels you’d feel yourself sink and slip, your arms stretched out for balance, your ankles bending like contortionists. Malini Agarwal, aka Miss Malini, a celebrity blogger, was hosting a “Bombay street style” party for Social Media Week Mumbai 2013, part of a worldwide event to explore social media’s impact on business, society and culture. Live tweets from people at the party were projected onto a screen in the smoking area.
I arrived a little early, but Agarwal, who is 37 years old, greeted me politely, as a good host should. She invited me to a table with a few of her “real” friends, as opposed to people invited to the party only in connection with Social Media Week. “My friends are just ordering some dinner,” she said, “so you could sit with them if you like.”
Agarwal’s friends and I watched her bounce around and greet people as they entered. “So,” I said, more to break into the conversational loop than anything else, “is this what it’s always like?” “Oh yeah,” said the friend to my left, smiling affectionately.
In the middle of all this, in walked several giants—Peja Stojakovic, Ron Harper and Horace Grant, I was told, legends of the US-based National Basketball Association league who were in India thanks to Akash Jain, the senior director for development at NBA India, who is married to one of Agarwal’s friends. So, of course, they came to the party. So did Masaba Gupta, fashionista, and Jacqueline Fernandez, starlet. Really, who didn’t?
Agarwal wore a black-and-white striped top tucked into a long black skirt, a string of black-and-white beads knotted at the end, and a sleeveless white button-down shirt over the whole thing. She wielded a hot-pink camera, and took pictures throughout the evening, either snapping them herself or briefly handing the camera to someone else. In one photograph, posted later on Agarwal’s website, I stand at the far right of a group of her and her friends, with my hands by my side, fingers seemingly twitching. I ended up leaving early. It wasn’t the party’s fault; I had interpreted “street style” to mean casual, which I quickly regretted as I watched tall, slender women in crop tops and dhoti pants break into an impromptu fashion show, walking up and down the restaurant as Agarwal took photos, cheered them on, and tweeted furiously from her phone.
As I headed out, I remembered my first meeting with Agarwal, in 2008. I was a reporter new to Mumbai, and someone suggested I get in touch with her for a story on the city’s “expat scene.” At the time, Agarwal was a radio jockey on one of the few Mumbai stations to play songs in English. More notably, she was also the founder of the Friday Club, a group that organised social events every weekend for people new to the city. It was a good place to meet people, or so I was told. Very soon after we first met, Agarwal invited me to join the club. Just as I was when she asked me to join her “real” friends in the restaurant, I had felt suddenly, temporarily elated.
Even back then, Agarwal’s skill at socialising was conspicuous. By 2013, it had become absolutely undeniable. Reporting on the ins and outs of famous people’s lives under the name of Miss Malini, Agarwal had become perhaps India’s best-known celebrity blogger. She had also turned her personal blog into a thriving website and business to promote style and luxury products. Of course internet it girls are not uncommon. The actor Deepika Padukone’s Facebook page recently crossed 15 million likes, to celebrate which she hosted a live online chat. Many style-crazed young people follow the actor Sonam Kapoor, who has perhaps gained more popularity by showing off her sartorial choices than through her movie performances. But Agarwal is different: unlike Padukone, Kapoor and their ilk, her online success launched her celebrity, and not the other way round. According to Alexa.com, a website that collates web traffic data, MissMalini.com ranks 1,154th by popularity among Indian websites, and is still moving up the list. By comparison, High Heel Confidential, another hugely popular Bollywood gossip site, ranks 3,515th. Agarwal told me her website gets about half a million unique monthly visitors. She has over 271,000 followers on Twitter, and her Facebook fan page has 174,751 likes.
There are probably people today who know more about Agarwal than they do about their own best friends. She posts an Instagram update almost every hour, always from somewhere fabulous; tweets dozens of times a day; and puts up about seven blog posts per week. Through all of this chimes her distinctive voice, upbeat and almost always nice. Borrowing from the popular American television show Gossip Girl, she often signs her updates “xoxo,” denoting kiss-hug-kiss-hug, to show her readers how much she loves them. It’s hard to imagine her ever being cross or snappish. In my three interviews with her, as I followed her from jaunt to jaunt, the mask—if it is a mask—didn’t slip once.
“Oh, she’s up there,” a public-relations professional told me at the Social Media Week party. “There’s no one else like her in the lifestyle space.” That may well be true, and it’s certainly not for lack of competition. Armies of young people obsessed with fashion and film have their own blogs, and do their best to become celebrities on Twitter and Instagram, even if all they do is chronicle what they wear (Instagram even has a helpful hashtag for this: #OOTD, for Outfit Of The Day). Many have tried to break into Bollywood blogging as well. But Miss Malini stands head and shoulders above the rest; everyone in Mumbai’s entertainment industry, including the celebrities themselves, seem to know her. And it all works on a simple you-scratch-my-back-I-scratch-yours basis: she goes to parties, she writes about them, she gets invited to more.
“No matter what kind of client I’ve had, they’ve known her,” Naina Redhu, a photographer and a lifestyle and luxury blogger, told me. Namrata Bostrom, the founder of the fashion website POPxo, to which Agarwal contributes occasionally, told me being featured on Agarwal’s website has become a kind of Bollywood benchmark. “Newcomers to the industry,” she said, “care about whether they’ve made it to Miss Malini or not.”
AGARWAL INITIALLY MODELLED herself after Perez Hilton, an American celebrity blogger who makes his living speculating about which stars are doing drugs and shaming those who’ve recently gained weight. But that approach did not appeal to her for long, and instead she emulated Just Jared, a celebrity-news website led by Jared Eng, a sweeter, more palatable version of the often vicious Hilton.
“Celebs used to be wary,” Agarwal said of her early days as celebrity blogger. They would “see me at a party, and be like, ‘Oh, she’s that blogger.’ And I’d say, ‘Off the record is off the record,’ and they saw that I never wrote about their shady stuff.”
The new approach worked for Miss Malini. The website still carries echoes of Eng’s sugary tone, though with a touch of the Buzzfeed model—draw readers in with an appealing headline, then hit them with a list. One typical Miss Malini post is titled “10 Hot Pictures of Shirtless Bollywood Hunks To Brighten Up Your Day.” The site doesn’t break news or deliver fresh insight, but for many it provides comforting fare in a day filled with more tedious reading. Its content is tailored to draw in its ideal readers—people between 18 and 35 years of age, upwardly mobile and with some disposable income, who are interested in Bollywood and fashion.
The website might seem flippant, but still requires work to stand out. “Bloggers in India need more gravitas,” Arjun Sawhney, who heads a brand communication consultancy, told me over the phone in April. In Sawhney’s view, many of Agarwal’s competitors—whom he described as college kids with laptops—“have no editors, use words like ‘shit’ and ‘whore,’ or ‘projectile vomit.’ That seems to be quite popular now, ‘That new collection made me projectile vomit.’ Miss Malini is a bit more mature. I mean, she doesn’t set the world on fire, but she’s in a sweet spot. It remains to be seen how she adapts.”
A typical day of posts on Miss Malini includes fashion posts (“Secrets Of The Streets: Hill Road, Mumbai”), “Bollywood Exclusive” posts (“Are Hrithik Roshan and Katrina Kaif Dating? Here’s The Truth”) and lifestyle posts (“13 Books I Just Couldn’t Bear To Part With!”). Besides first-person posts from Agarwal (all helpfully tagged “Malini’s World”) the website also publishes six full-time bloggers, who put up a total of six to eight posts per day.
Agarwal also hosts Google Hangouts, often in partnership with major events such as fashion weeks, where celebrities are interviewed live and, as she described it, “people can tweet questions in real time.” Here, as elsewhere on social media, Agarwal is ahead of the field—besides a handful of television networks, few in India have used the Google Hangout model successfully. “Social media is the secret of my success,” she said. Her savvy has even drawn the attention of social media companies themselves. “Twitter got in touch with us,” she told me, “and said, ‘Let us help you use it better.’ We identified the real celebrity accounts so they could get verified.”
But Agarwal’s success, while admirable for some, sticks in the craw of others. Anonymous comments about her on the internet are filled with criticism. One comment on a profile of Agarwal in Open magazine in May 2012 reads, “The degeneration of this country is complete. And the urban elites and masses alike have shown themselves to be ignoramus buffoons. Her blogs are a sheer assault on one’s intelligence.” Another laments, “Everyone quite looks down upon her, her blatant and ruthless barter system and her xoxo-like inanities, but indulges her anyway thinking that everyone else loves her … We allow people like MM to become psuedo-celebs by dedicating such stories to her which fail to dig deeper, ask ethical questions and go beyond the very fluff that MM is made of.”
Agarwal told me she has only had to delete two posts in her entire career as a blogger. In 2008, she posted a picture of the actor Rajnikanth without make-up or a wig. “I got so much backlash, because no one wanted to see that, so I took it down,” she said. “In India people don’t want to see their celebrities without make-up, they want to put them on a pedestal. They want to know who’s dating whom, but they don’t want anything too dodgy. We’re okay doing that. It’s more fun to do top-ten lists and gifs.” (“Not true,” Redhu, the lifestyle and luxury blogger, told me. “People love to hear all the dirty gossip. Your traffic really spikes when you put up a post like that.”)
The other deleted post involved the actor Shah Rukh Khan’s surrogate-born son, which Agarwal said she removed after a request from the star’s media team. “I realised surrogacy was such a sensitive subject,” she told me. (The brouhaha over Khan’s child was not so much about the surrogacy as over speculation that the actor and his wife had conducted a gender-determination test in utero.) Agarwal insisted that she pulled the post for no other reason than to protect Khan’s privacy.
Agarwal’s willingness to remove those posts typifies her tendency to defuse rather than court unpleasantness. She has a lighthearted approach to all the pitfalls of celebrity blogging. Giggling, she told me about the “Deepika Fan Club” and the “Katrina Fan Club”—dedicated admirers of Deepika Padukone, and the actor Katrina Kaif. “There’s a big war between them, and if I write a story about one or the other, the fan club is all like, ‘Has she paid you to write this story?’”
YOU WOULD THINK the Miss Malini office would be all pink and purple and orange and blue—the dominant colours on Agarwal’s website. In fact, it’s mostly white, with lots of natural light and an open-plan layout, and quite hard to find, as I discovered on a visit in December 2013. Miss Malini operates out of a flat in Mumbai’s Santa Cruz area, close to the city’s airport, and the only thing that distinguishes the premises is a massive black door. Inside, people talked over each other as they typed away at their laptops. In one corner, a recently hired stylist sat flipping through photos. “The reason I have a stylist is because they will call me out if I’m not dressed well,” Agarwal told me. Who “they” were went unspecified.
At one desk sat Agarwal’s husband, Nowshad Rizwanullah (a Friday Club alum graduated to admin), the COO of Miss Malini, whom I was told to direct all financial questions to. As Agarwal and I spoke, a young blogger on the staff went up to Rizwanullah to ask if it was okay to describe a celebrity in a particular photograph as wearing a “see-through top.” Would it be better if she stuck to “sheer top,” she wondered. Rizwanullah studied the photograph, and a loud discussion about “sheer” versus “see-through” ensued. “What’s the discussion?” Agarwal asked from the corner where she was tucked away with me. “Just say sheer!” “But you can see all the way to her bra!” Rizwanullah objected. Agarwal shook her head. “Okay, okay, see-through,” she said. She turned back to me, rolling her eyes. “The discussions we have here.”
Whenever she had any downtime, Agarwal frantically sent messages out online. On a flight, she recorded a video of herself and uploaded it to her website; while stuck in traffic, she tweeted constantly. It was a lot of work, and I was often exhausted just looking at her. Naively, I had imagined hers was a cushy job. After all, how tiring can it be to attend lots of parties and live a fabulous life? But after joining Agarwal at just two parties, I was ready to call it quits. She, of course, had to keep going. A colour-coded whiteboard in the office showed events that she had to attend, for either personal or professional reasons. Some of these involved delivering talks about social media, others were occasions where she felt she should be the face of the Miss Malini brand. Agarwal was also in talks with several prominent television networks about a possible reality show called “Miss Malini’s World.” What drives her, she said, was “Red Bull,” the highly caffeinated soft drink, and “FOMO”—internet lingo for the fear of missing out.
AGARWAL’S LIFESTYLE, in which she swishes from party to party, from person to person, is rooted in her upbringing. Her father was an Indian diplomat; she was born in Allahabad in 1977 (“I feel an affinity to fellow Allahabadis, like Amitabh Bachchan!”) and has been on the move since she was six months old. “I was in Lebanon during the war in 1986, and I remember sleeping in the basement,” she told me. “I was too young for it to really register, but one memory I have is sitting in the balcony making a twenty-thousand-piece puzzle—my family is crazy about jigsaw puzzles—and then one morning the balcony was blown to pieces with the puzzle.”
In New Delhi, a city she hopped in and out of, Agarwal spent some time at the Modern School on Barakhamba Road, then at the British School in the diplomatic quarter of Chanakyapuri, and in 1996 wound up joining Maitreyi, one of Delhi University’s colleges for girls. “It was strange being in an all-girls college,” she said, “but that’s how I got into dramatics and even joined a professional dance troupe. I felt the only way I would make friends was if I stayed in that group. They were really into the fashion thing, and dramatics.”
“That’s where the seed was planted,” she said. “I wanted to be in entertainment.” Agarwal went on to dance professionally in several troupes for six years, through college and after. We shared a squeal over her appearance at a Channel V Music Awards show in the 1990s. “I got to dance with the Spice Girls,” she told me. Peter Andre, the pop star, “kissed my cheek.” I looked at her, a little star-struck. “I was there!”
In 1998, Agarwal began a job at Usha, a consumer electronics company that makes, among other things, the eponymous ceiling fans. There she worked on a web portal called myusha.com, a guide to Delhi that she described to me in an email as a sort of a precursor to today’s “what to do when in a city” websites. “I danced all through the week, and in the evenings I went to my corporate job,” she said. In 2000, she visited a close friend working in advertising in Mumbai. “I got into a cab, and the cab had disco lights, everything was neon, and I went out at night, and everything was so bright,” Agarwal recalled. She went back to Delhi and her job with Usha, but missed Mumbai so much that she returned almost immediately.
Her journey thereafter is inseparable from that of the internet in India. Over the next couple of years, in Mumbai, she worked as a content writer for a series of websites that typified the early years of the web—e-commerce and review portals such as Deals For You and Asia Content. Later, working with MTV, she wrote scripts for video jockeys and penned catchy promos. Then she got word that an up-and-coming radio station, Win 94.6, was looking for radio jockeys. “My mom always said radio was the best career,” Agarwal told me. “I had tried before, but they didn’t like my accent. I guess it was too American.” A trace of that accent still remains, a legacy perhaps of Agarwal’s time in international schools. On top of her MTV job, she was hired to host on Win between 9 pm and midnight everyday, during which the station broadcast a mix of Hindi and English songs. “I had no social life,” she recalled.
Agarwal soon started getting celebrities to co-host shows with her. She also moved from Win to Go 92.5, another city station. Go was connected to the afternoon daily Midday, and its jockeys each wrote a column for the paper. Agarwal called hers Malini’s World, and started writing about the parties she attended as a jockey and the celebrities she met there. “I was being invited places, I had money now, I could go out,” she said.
By this time, Agarwal’s Friday Club, founded in 2005, a few years after she became a radio jockey, had earned a certain notoriety. Though based in Mumbai, it counted three hundred members around the world. Agarwal vetted members herself—“no serial killers,” she told me—and the club became largely a group of expats and single Indian women. “It’s not exactly a dating service,” she said to me, “but people do meet.” It was through the club that Agarwal’s brother met his wife, and that she met Rizwanullah.
From people who didn’t make the cut, I heard all sorts of complaints: snobbish members, people kicked out for acting “shady” (the club’s members defined the term very loosely), and other tales of sour grapes. I went to a few gatherings in 2008 to get a taste of things. To join, you had to pay Rs 2,400 and complete an “extensive screening process,” which included attending twice as a guest of an existing member. If no alarm bells went off, you were in. Today, as the club is no longer as active as it used to be, membership is free, but newcomers are still screened. The Friday Club’s private Facebook group shows 365 members, with Agarwal, Rizwanullah, her brother and a few select others acting as administrators.
By about 2009, Twitter began to find its footing in India. Agarwal used the new medium to engage with celebrities for her radio show. Because she didn’t force her guests to talk about “Bollywood stuff” or their love lives, many were happy to join Agarwal on air. The show allowed stars to share aspects of their personalities that they only otherwise revealed in the old-fashioned, page-long questionnaires at the backs of film magazines: what books they were reading, what cool new music they were listening to.
Around the same time, on a trip to Dubai with her new boyfriend, Rizwanullah, a friend of Agarwal’s told her she should start a blog. “What’s a blog?” Agarwal recalled asking him. “And my friend said, ‘Like an online diary.’ And I said, ‘Well, what should we call it?’ And he said, ‘How about Miss Malini?’ I liked the ‘em-em’ sound, so I kept it, and he made me a Wordpress account. In 2008 I wrote my first blog, about the stylist Sapna Bhavnani changing her hair colour, like I would on my column. People gave me instant feedback. It was great.”
Agarwal’s online popularity was helped by her incipient fame as a celebrity columnist and radio jockey. Soon, public-relations companies started sending her to cover events and write about places. “I told them, I’ll write it up for my column, but I’ll also do a bigger piece for my blog,” she said. One blog post, in 2008 described the actor Ashwin Mushran’s wedding; another, in 2009, covered the launch of a luxury vodka brand. Agarwal wove her own voice into everything she wrote. “I ran into peeps I hadn’t seen for ages,” one early post went. After attending a party in November 2009, Agarwal wrote that the host “was rather cutely wary of me when I told him I was a blogger, go figure! But I told him he had nothing to worry about.” These days, such posts, written from Agarwal’s personal point of view, are shunted into a section of the website called Malini’s World, and increasingly follow the logic of click-bait, featuring cute dogs, babies, “man-candy,” and so on.
Agarwal started growing jaded with radio. By this time, she was the programming director at Radio One, a later avatar of Go. She hated the job. “I had to give everyone critical feedback,” she said. “I thought, that’s so mean.” There were other problems too. In an online interview in 2012, she mentioned a man who started stalking her after hearing her show. The man, she said, “thought he and I were in a relationship. I had to take him to the police station and his mom came and slapped him in front of everyone there!” Even when relating that troubling event, though, in typical style, Agarwal’s tone remained light, and spun something disturbing into a breezy story.
Agarwal began thinking of blogging full-time. Even back then, she said, “I just couldn’t handle the volume of events.” She tweeted asking for an assistant, whom she paid—“about eight to ten thousand rupees a month”—out of her own salary. “Her job was to post stuff I forwarded her. Her brief was to write seven blogs a week, on fashion. I had to cover an event, so she came, took pictures, recorded videos at fashion week and so on. And then I started thinking, let me see if I can expand this.” Rizwanullah offered to help. “For a year, at night, he’d help with the coding of the website. I put out another Twitter call to get my page customised.” Since then, Agarwal has recruited all new hires off Twitter. “I wanted to find people who spoke my language,” she explained. In 2011, she quit her radio job. Miss Malini had become a full-time occupation.
“I didn’t have a business plan, but I felt there was a gap,” she said. “Everyone talks about the slumdog story, but no one talks about the Bombay I live in: food, travel, art, literature, people who are not struggling for a daily meal. I started looking at this anime girl”—her illustrated online avatar—“and she’s very comfortable being Indian, but also equally interested in Hollywood, travel and luxury.”
Today, lifestyle and luxury brands and companies line up to cash in on Miss Malini’s fame. Just two months ago, Agarwal and Rizwanullah blogged, Instagram-ed and tweeted their way across Queensland, Australia, on an all-expense-paid promotional tour for the state’s tourism campaign. Ryna Sequeira, country manager for the Queensland tourism department in India, told me the campaign turned to Miss Malini because “there are travel blogs, but they’re not so well known.” With Miss Malini, “everyone sort of knows her profile.” Sequeira also said Agarwal went beyond the call of duty to organise little contests and find ways to keep readers engaged throughout the trip. “Everyone,” she said,“was really pleased with her.”
In 2012, Agarwal and Rizwanullah got married. Never ones to miss a marketing opportunity, the couple allowed the ceremony, and the reception that followed, to be used for brand placement. Goodies for the guests included gift bags from the fashion label Besos, assorted chocolates from Cadbury, beauty products from Garnier and Maybelline, and much more; the bridegroom’s entourage were served new flavours of drinks from the liquor brand Bacardi; the bridal shower took place at a branded Jean-Claude Biguine salon. A honeymoon in New Zealand followed, and was documented online the entire way. The Miss Malini brand had become an integral part of Agarwal’s life.
AT A FASHION SHOW in New Delhi’s Le Meridien hotel last September, waiters swanned around, serving fancy cocktails to those they thought deserved them. Agarwal was with Rizwanullah, who accompanies her on many of her jaunts. Rizwanullah has his own avatar on the website, and is often referred to in Agarwal’s posts as “Nowshie.” On Instagram, where he set up a profile in June 2014, he describes himself as “C.O.O. and Mr to Miss Malini. I’m OK with that.”
Agarwal was wearing a salwar kameez, an unusual outfit for her. She came through the hotel lobby to greet me by the doors of the banquet hall where the show was to be held. Even in Delhi, no longer on home turf, she seemed entirely comfortable, as if she were welcoming me to her own party. Rizwanullah got us drinks— sweet-paan martinis—and joined our conversation. I asked him if he was enjoying himself. He nodded. “It’s more exciting than banking,” he said. Agarwal’s mother, who lives in Delhi, was in the crowd with a friend, and seemed to be revelling in the atmosphere.
Rizwanullah seamlessly helped Agarwal with her socialising. He snapped pictures whenever needed, held drinks for people, said hello to everyone who stopped by, sipped on fancy drinks and was happy to give Agarwal and me the space to talk. He seemed relaxed, completely at ease.
Rizwanullah is more private than Agarwal, but has much in common with his wife. His father was with the United Nations, and as a child he travelled the world with his family. He went to Yale University in the United States, and spent a few years working in Washington, DC, before, as he put it, he went “stir crazy” and moved to India. “I’ve always wanted to be an entrepreneur, so the dream was to move here, meet some interesting people and start a company,” he wrote in an email. “Little did I know I’d also find a wife in the process.” He punctuated the sentence with a smiley face. After meeting Agarwal at the Friday Club, he continued, “I moved back to the US for two years of business school to get my MBA. I came back to Mumbai to a job in finance, but before long I made the jump over to Miss Malini when it showed some early promise in 2011.”
While Agrawal had an agenda, Rizwanullah had a business plan. “We started thinking seriously about monetisation when advertisers began enquiring about ad space on the blog. As site traffic and the volume of requests started to grow, we decided it was worth Malini giving it a shot full-time for six months while I still had my day job”—at a financial firm—“to pay the bills. Before long, we had to bring in outside help to deal with the incoming advertiser requests.” Since the company was cash-strapped, the couple used their own savings and wedding fund to make it work.
Neither Agarwal nor Rizwanullah could remember the first advertising deal. “It was so long ago,” Rizwanullah said, “and it was a lot of little things from various brands.”
Rizwanullah explained the “native ad” strategy that the company quickly adopted. They started creating posts tailored to promote sponsors’ products, folding advertising into the content, almost like mixing bitter medicine into a spoonful of sugar. For example, a post sponsored by a brand of vodka might ask readers “What Kind of Vodka Are You?” But, Agarwal told me, she is clear about distinguishing sponsored posts from recommendations for products she likes.
Agarwal has also used the website to drum up awareness about issues such as breast cancer. She told me she is staunchly apolitical, and is happy to promote “pretty much anything, if someone comes to me with a cause and it makes sense.” When it comes to products, though, there are limits. “I’d never put a fairness cream campaign up,” she said.
“From a business perspective the founders have a mature, realistic point of view,” Shan Mehta, an angel investor in Miss Malini, told me in April via email. “It’s pretty amazing to me that they can balance these two worlds—celebrities, parties, etcetera, and building a business—so well.” Mehta was introduced to Miss Malini during a meeting of investors in India in March 2012. “I’m bullish on brand and content in India,” he wrote. “While there are challenges with traditional infrastructure, content can take advantage of advancing web and mobile-internet connectivity. And as the noise increases on the content side, brands that have long-term staying power will be the ones that rise to the top.”
For the near future at least, Miss Malini looks set to keep growing. Agrawal and Rizwanullah did not share exact figures, but both told me the company’s revenues were sufficient to cover expenses completely—no small feat for any Indian start-up, most of which struggle to break even. Six years and two months after her first post, Agarwal’s design of making a living as a celebrity blogger is now a reality. And she’s not done yet. I asked her one day where she wanted to take Miss Malini next. “In my head,” she said, “if I picture it, I’m sitting in a big pink building—a high rise.” What she dreams of now, she said, is a “Miss Malini empire.”