Maitreyi Ramakrishnan Learned on 'Never Have I Ever' That Asking for More Money Is About "Respecting Yourself"

Ramakrishnan opens up on the 'Marie Claire' podcast "Nice Talk" about how she navigated overnight success.

maitreyi ramakrishnan nice-talk podcast
(Image credit: Future)

Welcome to Nice Talk, hosted by Marie Claire Editor in Chief Nikki Ogunnaike. Each week, Nikki will sit down with fascinating women—entertainers, entrepreneurs, creators, athletes, and changemakers—to discuss money, power, and style. “Well-behaved” women have long been discouraged from speaking on these topics—style should be effortless, and conversations about money or power aren’t “proper,” “ladylike,” or “nice.” But Nikki's definition of a Nice Talk is one where all parties walk away feeling empowered. You can listen to Nice Talk with Nikki Ogunnaike on Apple Podcasts and Spotify.

Not every 17-year-old negotiates business deals, but when Maitreyi Ramakrishnan went from a typical high schooler in Ontario, Canada to the star of Netflix's Never Have I Ever, that's exactly what she had to consider—on top of her overnight fame.

On the latest episode of Marie Claire's podcast, "Nice Talk," the actress opens up about how she learned to navigate financial negotiations while still a teenager, starring on the hit teen show from 2020 to its fourth and final season in 2023.

"At a very young age I had to learn that money is power and to ask for more does not mean that you're greedy, but actually respecting yourself," Ramakrishnan revealed on "Nice Talk."

The star, who landed the lead role of Devi on Never Have I Ever through a self-tape open call on Twitter, said, "I remember having to learn that sometimes you've got to ask for more because others are asking for more and people are gonna cheap you out if they can. They will walk over you. And it's not that you need X amount of dollars to live the life that you live, it's just that dollar value is the sign of respect."

maitreyi ramakrishnan in season 4 of never have i ever

Maitreyi Ramakrishnan as Devi in season 4 of Never Have I Ever.

(Image credit: Netflix)

The star, now 22 and a human rights and equality studies student at York University in Toronto, shared that her internal dialogue about her self-worth as it relates to money, and in general, has shifted over time. She explained, "I'd treat myself like a make-a-wish kid. Like, 'Congrats. You won this little raffle on Twitter. You actually didn't send a tape. It was actually just a random giveaway. They were giving away the lead role on a Netflix show and you won. Congrats!' I adopted that mentality for myself, which is very bad because it's not true."

"I definitely was in the right place at the right time. There is 100 percent an element of luck, especially in this biz," she continued. "But I do give myself credit for the fact that talent is what kept me there."

Ramakrishnan also credits her mother with helping her to pull those feelings out of herself. She said, "I went about learning how to advocate for myself [by] just growing some courage, understanding my self-worth, and where I want to be and how I want to be respected and how I want to be treated."

maitreyi ramakrishnan at the never have i ever season 3 premiere

Maitreyi Ramakrishnan at the Los Angeles premiere of Never Have I Ever season 3 on August 11, 2022.

(Image credit: Tommaso Boddi/Getty Images for Netflix)

With that in mind, as she takes on more roles and brand deals, and tackles video game streaming on Twitch, Ramakrishnan shares her team has had to advise her on what passion projects may be worth doing for free, and getting paid what she's owed for others. "There's a reason why they call it the movie-making business. Not the movie-making passion. It's the movie-making business first, which sucks," she said.

"There are times where in this lovely capitalist society they will take advantage of you when they can," the Netflix star added. "It's not always about being greedy, but sometimes it's actually just about respecting yourself in an industry where my services as an individual that entails my likeness and my name, my person, it has its spot in a marketplace."

"That was kind of weird to wrap around at 17," she shared. "You are part of a marketplace. Your entity as a being, you yourself as a person, Maitreyi Ramakrishnan is now a business. Where do you fit in the marketplace?"

Ramakrishnan also acknowledged that she's still working on being confident in her career and herself. "I like to say I am 5 years old in the industry. That's it. Just a 5-year-old," she shared. "There's so much left to do to not prove to others, but just prove to myself—to add more ammunition for my own overthinking thoughts, for that one annoying voice in my brain that keeps saying I'm a make-a-wish kid."

Ramakrishnan opens up more about navigating her whirlwind success while still a teenager, her decision to pursue a college degree outside of acting, and more on the latest episode of "Nice Talk," which is available now wherever you listen to podcasts.

Sadie Bell
Senior Culture Editor

Sadie Bell is the Senior Culture Editor at Marie Claire, where she edits, writes, and helps to ideate stories across movies, TV, books, and music, from interviews with talent to pop culture features and trend stories. She has a passion for uplifting rising stars, and a special interest in cult-classic movies, emerging arts scenes, and music. She has over eight years of experience covering pop culture and her byline has appeared in Billboard, Interview Magazine, NYLON, PEOPLE, Rolling Stone, Thrillist and other outlets.