My favorite lifestyle influencer is Kevin G. from Mean Girls.
Instagram may be full of tastefully bland blonde ladies in blandly tasteful mansions, but only the erstwhile Bad-Ass M.C., real name Rajiv Surendra, offers the absurd levels of persnicketiness I crave.
Only Surendra stands ready to teach me how to do things I will never, ever do, such as: decorate my walls with elaborate calligraphy chalk art; use hand-woven dishcloths on the vintage silver I don’t have; and wrap my gifts not with commercial wrapping paper (garbage) and tape (abomination), but in vintage maps, sealed with imported sealing wax (French only). And let’s be real here: Surendra is certainly the only lifestyle influencer I trust to have his own beeswax guy on call for when he feels like hand-dipping some new candles. (The beeswax guy, of course, is French.)
Since 2021, Surendra’s craft videos have been showing up on the HGTV YouTube channel Handmade. They’re 15-minute snippets of pure beautiful nonsense, as relevant to my daily life as dispatches from 18th-century Versailles, and I watch them religiously. In a world of chaos, thank god Rajiv Surendra is there, fussily measuring the exact dimensions of his wool sweater before he demonstrates proper sweater-washing technique in his marble sink. He gives me faith that order and structure exist, and that someone, at least, is refusing to let his standards slip.
In January, Surendra launched the pilot for a planned lifestyle show, Homeboy, streaming on Discovery Plus, and I need the full series like I need air. It is the only thing I ever want to watch while I fold my laundry. (No air date for the full series has been announced.)
The premise of Homeboy’s pilot is that Surendra is having some friends over for dinner. Naturally, he needs to source large amounts of flowers to arrange for the occasion, as well as replenish his supply of homemade candles. So we follow Surendra through his flower arranging process, which he assures us can be done for the low, low price of $40, and then through his candle- and candle-label-making process.
The latter chore makes up the bulk of the episode and is where the true joy is to be had. First Surendra designs the stamp he will use to label his candles, and then he takes us to his stamp guy at an old Irish shop in New York’s Village to get it made. Then he calls up his aforementioned French beeswax guy. (This one’s based out of the Upper East Side, so Surendra spends a lot of his travel time on a vintage bicycle with a prim little straw basket.) Once he’s supplied, he gleefully begins dipping candles.
“Dipping beeswax candles is very meditative,” he muses. “It’s why nuns do it. Do they do it? I don’t know. I would imagine they do.” He explains that his candles pay for themselves when you consider that buying a pair of beeswax candles from someone else would cost $12 at least, whereas his beeswax connection charges only $40 for enough wax to dip 50 candles.
Anti-climactically, the only food Surendra makes for his planned dinner is spaghetti with tomato sauce. He does buy a basil plant specifically for this purpose, so I reluctantly allow it, but pasta with red sauce is not exactly up to the levels of snootiness that Surendra has taught me to expect from him. The pasta isn’t even handmade!
Still, Homeboy’s pilot does end on the kind of cliffhanger that will generally earn my forgiveness. We see Surendra pursuing one of his favorite hobbies: handwriting in calligraphy a letter to a friend of his in France, all about the next craft project he has planned.
This time, he’s planning a visit to a specialty hardware store. He’s getting a new faucet for his bathroom sink, and he wants it to be “in the shape of a swan’s head or some other mythological sea creature; I haven’t decided yet.”
Swans are my favorite mythological sea creature, too. I’m glad I can trust in Surendra to explain why the faucet of his choice is the only possible accompaniment to his homemade beeswax/goat’s milk soap with hand-designed stamped labels.
Homeboy’s pilot episode is available to watch on Discovery Plus and Amazon Prime. For more recommendations from the world of culture, check out the One Good Thing archives.