Krishna Jackie Shroff: This girl is on fire

Conformity just isn’t her thing. Slaying one expectation at a time, the mixed martial arts star charms us with stories of her family and an honest retelling of her rocky journey to prime fitness

krishna shroff punching bag double spread Sports bra, Myriad; Pants, fkns by Narendra Kumar Ahmed; Watch, Fossil; Shoes, Melissa; Hand stacks, Cartier, Bvlgari; Rings, Louis Vuitton, Hermes

Krishna shroff has spent a chunk of her life being famous by association. Jackie Shroff’s daughter or Tiger Shroff’s sister — take your pick — and that’s just for starters. Over the last three years, this fiercely independent 28-year-old has stepped out of the shadows and created a niche for herself in the fitness industry. Since founding MMA Matrix in December 2018, Krishna has become a poster child for martial arts and muscle in her own right. But there’s a downside to that as well: these days the ab-packed girl boss is making waves on social media for her swimsuit pictures and, consequentially, she has been pigeonholed for those posts. 

Krishna Shroff, however, is much more than a bikini body. She’s a rebel with a cause — a game changer, who is constantly pushing boundaries without ever overthinking it.

krishna shroff cover

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“When I was younger, I was struggling with my identity… with who I was, and who I wanted to be,” Krishna explains. “I think I felt this added pressure to be somebody I didn’t want to be. People expected me to get into the same line that my father has been in for over 30 years, and that my brother is now in as well. There was this constant suggestion that I had a career in films laid out on a silver platter and I was being silly not to take it. It would really get to me back then, but now I’m done with feeling like that. I’ve always had a really strong, stubborn personality and I’m so big on staying true to who I am. I knew I wanted to do something that I was truly passionate about, and acting wasn’t it. There’s just something about that world that doesn’t click with me and I kind of let go of all those pressures and expectations as I grew up.” 

Finding fitness filled a void for Krishna; building as much strength and fortitude on the inside as it did on the outside. “I am grateful to fitness because it has helped me find that path that I am passionate about. I finally feel as if I am doing something that makes me happy and that, amazingly, is inspiring other people as well,” she adds.

Having recently signed her seventh gym franchise agreement despite the pitfalls of a pandemic year, Krishna has a lot to be proud of — especially because she’s had to wrestle with a fair few personal obstacles along the way. “I’ve been sporty all my life, but I certainly wasn’t thin,” she confesses. “I think my brother and I will both be pretty honest and say we attended school just so we could play sports! I played varsity soccer, basketball, badminton and volleyball. I even captained the girls’ teams for a few years,” says the American School of Bombay alumna. While Krishna — ‘Kishu’ to family and friends — was never bullied or body-shamed for being overweight in school, the world outside wasn’t as kind. 

krishna shroff red skirt Red printed jacket, Nike; Crop, Adidas; Red white stripe skirt, Zara; Shoes, Puma; Socks, HRX; Watch, Tag Heuer; Neckpiece, Misho; Rings, Louis Vuitton, Hermes

At 13, she accompanied her actor father to a charity event and remembers being stung by the ferocity of vitriolic comments that were directed at her in the days that followed. “Dad asked me to attend this breast cancer awareness event. I was always super-conscious of the cameras and I knew that the media would be there, so I was hesitant, but I went because he wanted me to. We had a great time and it was for a good cause and all of that, but when the pictures came out… I remember the comments on how my feet looked choked in my sandals and how my clothes fit me. As a young teenager, this sh*t sticks in your head.” 

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It took another decade — and more heartache — before Krishna was finally able to muscle out all the negativity. “I could eat pizza for breakfast, lunch and dinner and I could easily finish a whole bottle of Nutella in a day,” she laughs, looking back. “I was in a live-in relationship at 20. He was my first love and we were really serious and, for three years, I let everything else go and let everything revolve around him. When we broke up, my entire focus shifted to me. I hate to relate it to a man, because this power should be all about me, but that’s when I genuinely began my fitness journey. I had always been active — playing downstairs with the building kids, trying to keep up with my brother and his friends and acing sports in school — but this was the first time I truly felt like something struck in my head and I needed to do something transformational. I decided it was time to do something for myself; to divert my energy and time towards bettering myself — not just how I looked. I feel like if you are truly happy with yourself, you don’t need anybody. So I was 23 when I first stepped foot into a gym. I remember being nervous and not knowing what to do, but now I can own any gym — not just my own! I’ve used everything (negative) that ever came my way as motivation to fuel me, and now none of it can touch me. Through working on my physicality, I have automatically gained so much more confidence and strength on the inside. What people think or expect doesn’t bother me anymore. No troll is ever going to bring me down. I’m stronger than that. ”

With a growing influence on social media — 877K followers and counting on Instagram alone — the trolls are certainly still around. “Most of the people who follow me are super supportive and super positive,” says Krishna, who generally ignores cyber bullies, but there are days when the gloves come off. “Sometimes, when I’m in a mood, I might leave a comment and give it back. I did that recently and that sh*t went viral. My Dad was all like, ‘Silence is the best response,’ but that’s not me! I want to show people that you should stand up for yourself — you have the right and the freedom to have your opinion and if someone has a judgment to pass about you, don’t be a pushover. You don’t have to take it. You can look past most of it, and I do, but once in a while you’ve got to put people in their place. I’m big on that. People sound really fierce behind a computer screen, but come say it to my face — I’d like to see you have the guts!”

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Shielded by sheer muscle, Krishna is no feeble opponent — nor has she ever been. In conversation with fashion designer Anna Singh, who has known Kishu since she was a baby, we learn that the MMA star has always “held her own” in a family of proverbial heavyweights. “She is her own person. Balanced. Happy. Responsible. She is very conscious of the environment; very much like her father. She loves animals. She’s real. She doesn’t conform to Bollywood and she is really good at simplifying things — just getting straight to the core of the matter. Both Tiger and Krishna, I’m proud to say, are really great kids.”

It’s high praise and a shared sentiment amongst people who have known the star-child before she earned her own spotlight. “There are people I care about, my family and a handful of really close friends, and they are the only people whose opinion matters to me,” says Krishna. “I am who I am and what some random person says about me on the Internet or anywhere else will never take me a notch lower. As a kid, I didn’t choose the spotlight and living under a lens can be difficult. But where I am today, I am comfortable with being open about who I am, who I am dating and what I believe in. My greatest strength is that I can adapt to any situation and just go with the flow. I am proof that you can have the body that you want and, more importantly, the life that you want. If that inspires other people to better themselves, I consider that a huge accomplishment. That’s what fuels me to go forward now.” 

krishna shroff weights Black jacket, Saltz and Sand; Pink bra, Nike; Yellow shorts, H&M; Shoes, Timberland

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THE POWER OF FAMILY

Only her family and a handful of close friends can get past the barriers that Krishna has built to strengthen herself. “I am very reactive with them. I don’t care what anyone else thinks, but what they feel matters to me. Honestly, if I could change something about myself, I’d say I wish I was a little less reactive.” 

‘Daddy’s girl or mummy’s baby?’ we ask. Krishna insists it’s impossible to decide. “These are two very different relationships. I can share every single thing with my mother, down to the nitty-gritties. We’re like best friends. Then, with my father, it’s like no one else in the world makes me feel more secure. Both of them are very non-judgemental and considering some of the sh*t I’ve brought home, they’ve been very understanding. They’re really good at remembering their youth and putting themselves in our shoes; allowing Tiger and I to experience life without being overly possessive or judgmental.” 

krishna shroff cover option Puffy jacket, Zara; Sports bra, Nike; Shorts, Kicca; Jewellery, Whatthefunk; Watch, Breitling; Shoes, Puma

Though he is three years her senior, people often assume Tiger is Krishna’s younger brother. “Everyone thinks I’m older. Who knows why?” says Krishna. “He has tried to give me advice in the past, but now he has given up! I am not really one to listen. I’ve always been into bad boys; I have always attracted those. I don’t know why or what’s wrong with me (laughs), but Tiger sees through that and has had his little two cents to say. He’s the best brother.”

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OF BREAK-UPS AND BEING REAL

FAMILY TIES: Everyone who knows us will agree that I am more like my Dad and Tiger is so much like my Mum. My father and I are both Aquarians, so we can adapt to any situation and just go with the flow. We love to go out and meet new people. My mother and my brother and more reserved and a little shy. They love the comfort of their own home; they’re happiest within their close circle of people.

STUDENT LIFE: In school, I excelled in English. If we text regularly, you’ll know I’m a grammar Nazi. If any of my friends need to send a formal message or anything, they will always ask me to proof-read it. I also loved Psychology. In fact, I’ve always wanted to be a relationship councillor.

krishna shroff boxing gloves Bra, Nike; Shorts, H&M; Shoes, Christian Louboutin

THRILL SEEKER: I’ve thought about sky-diving, but then decided against it. I got all into my head and thought: ‘Will my heart be able to take the pressure; will it stop?’ I am a super outdoorsy person though. I’ve camped out in a forest for three days, in the middle of a thunderstorm, while in Wyoming. There was a night we even heard a grizzly (bear) outside our tent. That’s the kind of sh*t I want to experience!

TRAVEL JUNKIE: I’m a water baby — a total island bum. Anything to do with the water I will happily experience, but I also need things to do. Mikonos is like the ideal destination for me: beaches, clubs and good looking people (laughs)!

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FITNESS MYTHS: People say carbs make you fat and fat makes you fat. That’s BS. Your body literally needs every nutrient, including fats and carbs. People complicate fitness, when it’s the easiest thing in the world. As long as your output is greater than your input, you are going to see a change. It’s as easy as portion control and energy expenditure.

CHEAT DAYS: I’m very close to Disha (Patani) and my last cheat day was on her birthday (June 13). There was so much good food at the house! We just ordered a bunch of things from all our favourite places and I picked at everything that I liked. I do give my body that break that it deserves.

TATTOO TALES: I was 15 years old when I got my first tattoo. I tried to hide it from my Mum, but she found out immediately. She wasn’t mad — she simply said she liked it and that I should have told her first. Then she went out and got like four of her own after that! I do have one massive piece down the side of my body that I kind of regret, but it is what it is. If I had to pick a favourite, I have these flowers (on her lower abdomen) that I love because their colour is so beautiful.

DATING PUBLICALLY: I’ve never consciously thought about wanting to hide a relationship, or even about putting it out there publically. It’s not really something I think about. If you are with a person, I don’t get the reasoning behind wanting to hide it. Obviously I can’t speak for everyone, but if I am with someone, I’m proud of the person I’m with and I wouldn’t want to hide it. Hiding the fact that you’re with someone is very foreign to me — but to each their own.

krishna shroff punching bag

DOING AN ‘INSTA DETOX’ ON EBAN HYAMS: He (ex-boyfriend Eban) was a part of my life and that’s over. The one thing that annoyed me was that we were constantly bound together and I didn’t have my own identity away from that. He’s out of my life now, so he has no space on my (Instagram) page any more. That’s it.

Navigating the spotlight as a star-child was particularly difficult for Krishna as an overweight teenager. “I’ve been sporty all my life, but I certainly wasn’t thin,” she confesses. “Then, when people make comments about how your feet look choked in your sandals and you are 13, that sh*t sticks in your head”

Styling: Eshaa Amiin

Location: MMA Matrix Gym, Mumbai

Make-up:  Shweta Melwani (represented by Eficiente Artist Management); 

Hair:  Sourav Roy

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