Business Insider Edition

A same-sex couple took pictures in traditional South Asian clothes, and now the stunning photos are going viral

Samantha Grindell , Business Insider US
 Jan 10, 2020, 05:29 PM
Sufi Malik and Anjali Chakra went viral in the summer of 2019.
  • A California-based couple named Sufi Malik and Anjali Chakra met on Tumblr, and they've been together since 2018.
  • They went viral in the summer of 2019 after they did a photo shoot spotlighting their queer, interfaith relationship.
  • Malik and Chakra are now using their platform to advocate for others in marginalised communities.
  • "People message us so often to say that they're so happy they found us because they didn't realise that there were any other queer South Asian people out there," the couple told Insider.
  • For more stories go to www.BusinessInsider.co.za.

A California-based couple named Sufi Malik and Anjali Chakra met on Tumblr.

Chakra is an event planner and producer, and Malik is an artist and teacher. The two had connected online seven years before they became a couple.

"We had followed each other's blogs on Tumblr for seven years, and somewhere in there we followed each other on Instagram," the 23-year-olds told Insider.

"I DM'd Sufi one day asking if we could talk about her experience as a queer South Asian woman, and she agreed," Chakra said. "Eventually, we met in New York, where Sufi lived at the time."

The couple has been together since July 2018.


The couple went viral in the summer of 2019 when they took part in a brand's photo shoot.

"The shoot was actually for a brand called Borrow the Bazaar, which rents South Asian clothes to people for special occasions," they said.

"Sufi and I were attending two weddings that weekend, so we did a photo shoot with the brand in exchange for free outfit rentals to wear to the wedding," Chakra explained.

Their photographer, Sarowar Ahmed, tweeted photos from the shoot with the caption "A New York love story," and he got over 50,000 likes.


Malik and Chakra then posted additional photos of themselves a week later, which also went viral.

Sufi Malik and Anjali Chakra went viral in the summer of 2019.

"The photos really took off on Twitter, and then we actually hit news websites, papers, and TV within a couple of days in India, Pakistan, and the UK," they told Insider, with people celebrating the representation the photos provided for same-sex couples from South Asia.

"I grew up witnessing and watching different kinds of love, some in my family and some in Bollywood. After I got a little older and realised what my sexuality was, I never saw representation of people who looked like me. I'm so glad I have the opportunity to be that with the love of my life," Malik wrote in an anniversary post.

"We were just in disbelief that so many people loved our photos," the couple said of the online attention.


People showed enthusiasm for their relationship both because Malik and Chakra are queer and because they are an interfaith couple — Malik is Muslim-Pakistani, while Chakra is Hindu-Indian.

"We found that the media fixated on those aspects of our relationship a lot when they covered our story, which was interesting to us because our differences have never really been something we dwell on," they told Insider.

"We are careful not to focus on those differences in our content because that wouldn't be true to life for us."

The couple does teach one another about their cultures, however. "There's so much similarity there, because our countries were once one, but also so many differences to explore," they said.

"We cook together and talk about the different types of dishes from each country," they said. "We share music with each other, and Sufi is teaching Urdu slowly but surely. There's so much more to our cultures than those things, but those are the easiest to exchange every day."

"Sometimes Sufi plays the Quran in the car, and other times we'll read prayers to one another just for the sake of sharing how they sound and what they mean," Chakra added. "Both religions have so much to offer and learn from."


"People message us so often to say that they're so happy they found us because they didn't realise that there were any other queer South Asian people out there," the couple told Insider.

"The fun part is that every time we get one of those messages, it's another person also telling us that we are not alone," they said.

"It goes both ways, and that's a really magical feeling."

"Both of us had our own battles to accept our sexuality, so having such widespread support was wonderful and validating to another degree," they added.


Now, the couple is trying to use their platform to help other minorities through their YouTube channel.

"We're aware that a big part of our having the audience that we do is because of certain privileges we hold - cis privilege, and also thin privilege and light-skin privilege, which are especially emphasised in the South Asian community," they told Insider.

"To us, using our platforms responsibly means sharing about others doing important work for our communities without those privileges."

"We also love sharing about artists and small business owners who are queer, trans, or people of colour," they added.

You can follow their YouTube channel here, as well as find out more about their individual businesses.


Chakra and Malik also use harassment from people as an opportunity to advocate for others who are dealing with prejudice.

"I think the most important thing we did was remind ourselves that the people attacking us with homophobic mindsets are from places or communities that are more conservative than the people we've chosen to surround ourselves with," they said of harassment they have experienced.

"It comes to us online, but for others, it's discriminatory laws, closed-minded communities, and real-life violence."

"That's typically how we frame discussions about the hateful messages we get - we try to amplify the voices of those facing the real-world issues those words reflect," they added.


"We always make each other's lives easier," they said of their relationship.

"We are each good at really different things, so in our everyday lives, we just complement each other so well," they said of their relationship.

"Sufi helps me slow down, prioritise, and be mindful when I'm overworked, and I help Sufi believe in herself and jump in when she has new projects and opportunities but doesn't have the confidence to take that first step," Chakra said.

"One thing we're both really good at is making the other person belly laugh, and we do that often," the couple added.

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