In a world where filters, posed selfies and creating the illusion of a perfect life are all the rage, North Coast Instagramer Riona Maharaj finds beauty in the imperfect. The rebel ‘Insta-influencer’ showcases a refreshingly real and honest view of her daily life on social media.
We meet on a rainy afternoon for toasted chicken mayo sandwiches at Bellézar Beach Café in Umhlanga. The laid back Riona Maharaj a.k.a. CrazyRio (who has over 22 000 Instagram followers) arrives wearing a loose-fitting comfy top and jeans, carrying five pizza boxes.
Inside the boxes are her newly released Crazyhood hoodie dresses. “I’m an absolute tomboy. I have always been in love with hoodies and collected them over the years. I wanted to start this business two years ago, but the timing didn’t feel right. I feel like 2020 marks the pinnacle of change, which is why I put the numbers on the hoodies. I want people wearing them to tell me what it means to them, while knowing their hoodie purchase has donated a pair of shoes to a less fortunate child,” says Riona, who lives in Umhlanga with her husband, three children and golden retriever.
Giving back has always been a priority for the football fanatic who prides herself on being unconventional, fiercely authentic and true to herself. She does not have a perfectly curated feed, filled with #unboxing videos and #gifted products, and doesn’t merrily give every special delivery her stamp of approval. “If I get a press drop with beauty products for example, I will try it and, if I like it, I will go out and buy the products before posting about it. I think people often don’t know if influencers are actually endorsing the product or are just being paid to post about it.”
The mom of three says she never intended to become an influencer when she first started blogging. Instead it was a therapy tool during a dark time when she had a miscarriage at 20 weeks. “I knew I was depressed, but I come from a conservative family and was a very sheltered 24-year-old. I realised that speaking to my close friends was the best way to deal with what was going on inside me, so I started blogging. It became a good outlet. I started enjoying fitness for the first time in my life, I was doing obstacle training and I lost 30 kg. I was content with myself and found a space where I could really be me.”
As her confidence grew, Riona learnt to make fun of herself and laugh at life’s silly moments.
“I was bullied at school and was always uncomfortable with people laughing at me. Now I’m comfortable with myself and I think I have a good sense of humour and can take a joke. That’s why I sometimes post silly things, to show people that life isn’t meant to be perfect. You need to laugh at yourself and your children and teach them to do that too.”
When she isn’t on social media, you will find her going on adventures with her family, at quiz nights with her friends, competing in fantasy football or sneakily playing Playstation.
“I don’t really watch TV, except for the occasional Friends binge, but once the kids have gone to sleep, I love playing Mortal Kombat and FIFA!”
The name CrazyRio was sparked by her first webmail address as her name was already taken and ‘Crazy’ came up as a suggested option – CrazyRio stuck and she loves it.
Text: Elana Wagner Photo: Sam Swiatek