Rajiv Surendra starred as Kevin Gnapoor, or Kevin G., the memorable Mathlete captain in the 2004 film “Mean Girls,” but disappeared from Hollywood shortly thereafter.
It was never Surendra’s intention to give up acting. In a recent interview with GQ’s Melissa Yang, he opened up about how he worked hard to pursue a leading role in the 2012 movie adaptation of “The Life of Pi” before eventually being rejected.
The rejection would ultimately alter the course of his life.
Surendra was in his first year of college while filming “Mean Girls,” and during this time he heard about how Hollywood was interested in adapting the bestselling novel into a film. “Determined to get that part,” Surendra subsequently took some time off from school to spend a few months in Pondicherry, India — where the titular book takes place — in order to prepare himself for the role of Pi Patel.
As it turns out, production on “The Life of Pi” did not go smoothly, and the project underwent a series of delays and changed its director four times. With each leadership change, Surendra worked hard to meticulously research each director and their filmography.
After six years, Surendra was ultimately turned down for the part.
“It was traumatic,” Surendra said. “I think I was in shock for a couple weeks. I felt dead inside for a long time.”
Following the rejection, Surendra briefly considered a banking job, but after realizing that he could not envision himself in a corporate environment, he worked for a year in Munich, Germany, as an au pair — a live-in nanny.
Now 33 years old, Surendra reflected on how his time in Europe became a pivotal moment for him as he reconciled his career aspirations with the reality of his situation taking care of two young children.
When he returned to his hometown in Toronto, Surendra started a small calligraphy business that took off before moving to New York City, where he now currently resides.
Since his home tour video for the YouTube channel HGTV Homemade went viral, Surendra has continued to feature regularly on the channel as a DIY and home decor enthusiast.
He has since taken up other artistic pursuits, such as pottery, chalk art and book binding, and in December of last year, Surendra launched his own YouTube channel (@rajivsurendra) with videos on a variety of categories like cooking, homemaking, and chair caning.
Surendra credits his unconventional career path with his newfound ability to incorporate “peace and calm” into his work. He strives to continue pursuing creativity, even if that means sacrificing security and being unable to afford medical insurance.
“Those other people are not going to live your life for you. You have to decide what you want out of life and you have to do it.”
And in the words of Kevin G.: “Don’t let the haters stop you from doing your thang.”