Born Svetha Rao in Claremont, Calif., to Indian parents who emigrated to the U.S. in the ’70s, Kumari was 13 when she found her calling. “I feel like I’m a seed from the motherland that was sent across the world,” she says. “Culture is part of my identity because we, as Indian-Americans who grew up away from India, have to be the vessels of culture. We have to hold on because it’ll be lost within one generation. That’s why it so heavily influences my music and look. It’s not a gimmick to me. It’s an expression of a lifetime of trying to preserve it.”
At 14, she adopted her stage name, which means “princess” in Sanskrit. “That’s when I personified this strong, female goddess character called ‘Raja Kumari,’ the daughter of the king, and the king was God. So in my mind, I was the daughter of God.”
Kumari also went on to co-write hit songs for Fall Out Boy (Centuries), Fifth Harmony, Lindsey Stirling, and Gwen Stefani.