Raja Kumari's Must Haves: From Nike High Dunks to a Brightening Serum

Getty | Future Publishing
Photo Illustration: Ava Cruz
Getty | Future Publishing
Photo Illustration: Ava Cruz
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Singer, rapper, and Grammy-nominated songwriter Raja Kumari, born Svetha Rao, has been in the global music industry for more than 10 years. She's written for Fall Out Boy, Gwen Stefani, and Iggy Azalea and created her own projects under Nas's Mass Appeal Records and Epic Records. The Indian American artist blends her identities seamlessly into her work, with lyrics and visuals inspired by her heritage and upbringing, all based in a pop and rap sound. But Kumari enters a new era this year, which she is telling POPSUGAR all about — along with divulging some of her favorite must-have products.

First, she discusses her recent surprise guest appearance at Coachella, where she performed "Pasoori" with Pakistani singer Ali Sethi (the song is also featured on Disney+'s "Ms. Marvel"). Having attended Coachella several times, Kumari felt honored to perform there — and also with an artist she looks up to and a song she personally connects with. She took pride in helping showcase the South Asian diaspora in unity on "the largest stage in the world," she says. "I was really thankful at Coachella; it's such a sign of the times, seeing so many South Asian artists at Coachella. The first time I performed at Coachella, it really meant something."

On the heels of that performance comes her new album, "The Bridge." She says it signifies a transition from a tough, masculine sound to something more feminine yet still fierce. "If you love me from a certain time, there's a piece of that in there. But by the end of the album, it progresses to this fully pop music space," she says. She wrote the album during the pandemic, describing it as a time she felt doubt and fear. After finishing the record and taking time for some much-needed self-reflection, she accepted and healed the parts of herself she previously hid. With "The Bridge," Kumari speaks about having one foot placed firmly in both worlds; it's "the bridge from who I was to where I am now and who I'm going to be, and the music that's following. 'Raja Kumari' built the bridge, but after finishing this album . . . I could say that Svetha Rao walked across it." In other words, a reflection of her rebirth and her independence.

"'Raja Kumari' built the bridge, but after finishing this album . . . I could say that Svetha Rao walked across it."

In stepping into her independence, Kumari also launched her record label, Godmother Records. "It came out of this understanding that there was a need in the industry for a safe space for women in music," she says. Kumari wants to create space and deliver resources for more women in music, including by building infrastructure for music education, advocating for artists' rights, and even creating an all-women festival. "I want different types of voices, different types of stories, different types of genres. As a writer and as a label head, I would like to develop all different types of artists."

As she creates music as her true self and builds a legacy with Godmother Records, Kumari is sharing the products she considers must haves. From a luxurious Ayurvedic brightening serum to a stylish pair of Nike Dunk high-tops, these are all the go-to items she can't live without right now.

Raja Kumari's Affordable Must Have
ulta.com

Raja Kumari's Affordable Must Have

Live Tinted's Hueglow ($34) is an all-over illuminator with a serum-meets-moisturizer texture that Kumari loves for a natural, sun-kissed glow. "I just love the formula, because it's so much like skin care. It just lasts throughout the day, and it just never gets cakey. You can layer it on top of powders, and it'll just sit," she says. Although she loves both shades, Kumari adores how the rose-gold Dawn looks on her skin tone. "You can just put a few drops in like your lotion, put it on your arms and your legs, and you'll just be glowing," she says. A little goes a long way, according to Kumari: "I've had like one bottle forever; it takes a lot of effort to finish that bottle."

Whenever she goes to India, Kumari packs extras for her makeup artists abroad so they can use the Hueglow on their clients as well. "Ever since Live Tinted came into my life, honestly, I mostly only wear Live Tinted," Kumari says. Check out the brand's founder Deepica Mutyala's must haves here.

Pro Tip: Kumari loves to mix a few drops of the Hueglow into her SPF for a glowy, natural look. "If my arms or legs are exposed, there's Hueglow mixed with lotion on my legs . . . I like to use it just on like the tip of my nose, in the middle of my eyelid, just wherever you want to bring a highlight to the face," she says.

Raja Kumari's Investment Must Have
amazon.com

Raja Kumari's Investment Must Have

Kumari's job takes her all over the world, and her Apple AirPods Max Wireless Over-Ear Headphones ($450, originally $549) help the musician through those long-haul flights. She's not a fan of the in-ear options that are on the market, and she has high praise for the AirPod Max headphones because of their comfortable fit that's easy to wear while sleeping. "I get a little tension in my ear with the altitude, and they're noise canceling, so sometimes I'm not even listening to music. I have them on the plane," she says.

Kumari uses all Apple products, so these headphones seamlessly fit into the rest of her life. In fact, she listens to her own music with these headphones before she releases the songs. "Most people listen to music through an iPhone or AirPod, so it's always important to check your music on those speakers," she explains. Kumari currently loves listening to music from Canadian Punjabi artist AP Dhillon and the audiobook of "The Immortals of Meluha" by Amish Tripathi.

These headphones are also an editor favorite; read our review of the Apple AirPod Max headphones.

Pro Tip: "I use them for binaural beats if I need to sleep, especially when I have jet lag and I need to get a nap in," she says. Binaural beats are "where they put two different frequencies in the right and left ear, and it causes this, like, calm. I have this 90-minute power nap that basically takes you into the nap and brings you back out," Kumari explains.

Raja Kumari's Morning-Routine Must Have
kolkatachai.co

Raja Kumari's Morning-Routine Must Have

"Everyone that knows me knows that chai is my morning ritual," Kumari says. And as a chai connoisseur, she can't stop raving about the blends from Kolkata Chai Co.'s Variety Pack ($57, originally $62). She has the subscription delivery, and she's sure to take a few pouches of the chai blend whenever she travels. She appreciates that this chai has spices already mixed in, including cardamom, ginger, black pepper, and the works. However, she likes to add more depending on her mood. "I do a giant chunk of ginger, and I just crush it in my mortar pestle with my cardamom pods, sometimes fennel seeds, and cinnamon sticks," she says. Although she enjoys the masala flavor in the mornings, she treats herself to the rose flavor, too: "When I have a rose chai, and I can see the rose petals, I feel really fancy."

Pro Tip: Kumari recommends throwing spices into boiling water, then adding the tea blend a little later so the tea doesn't become bitter. Once the tea and spices have boiled on low for a bit, she adds in milk. To get the perfect milk-to-water ratio, she recommends having equal amounts of both. "The most important thing about chai is when it boils over. You need to be there for the action, but you've got to wait. You've got to wait until it's about to boil over and turn it down, blow on it. I do that three times to make the milk light and frothy and for a deeply rich chai," she says.

Raja Kumari's Sleep Must Have
sephora.com

Raja Kumari's Sleep Must Have

The Ranavat Radiant Rani Saffron Brightening Dark Spot Treatment ($135) is an integral part of Kumari's nighttime skin-care routine. "Going from climate to climate, my skin would just really dry out," she says. "I feel like whenever I use it, I like to lather it on; I just love the way it smells, it feels. There's something about this formula; it's super light, doesn't feel greasy, and it absorbs into my skin." Featuring ingredients like vitamin C, saffron, licorice root, turmeric, and ashwagandha, this oil-based serum helps to diminish dark spots and balance out the skin with anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial properties. "I feel that I could recommend this to anyone and that they would see results that they would love," she says.

Pro Tip: You can use this serum in the daytime, and it works well underneath makeup as well. She recommends adding a few drops to your foundation or moisturizer for a dewy complexion. For an extra brightening boost, Kumari loves using the Ranavat Radiant Rani Resurfacing Saffron AHA Masque ($75) twice a week.

Raja Kumari's Must-Have Pair of Sneakers
nike.com

Raja Kumari's Must-Have Pair of Sneakers

Kumari's go-to pair of sneakers at the moment are the Nike Dunk High Panda Shoes ($125). "For me, the Pandas are a really good investment," she says. Kumari carries these shoes with her whenever she is traveling or wants a break from her heels. "If I'm doing four to five looks, and I have like some daytime looks, I always pack the Pandas, because they'll look good with mostly everything. The black and white can really add to any look," she says. She pointed out that Punjabi artist Diljit Dosanjh wore them on stage while headlining Coachella this year. Plus, these are also a must have for Ashley Graham.

Pro Tip: To keep these sneakers in pristine condition, get the editor-backed Jason Markk Repel Spray.