Sri Lanka’s first female car reviewer Rudisha Nammuniarachchi is as adept with the wrench as she is with a makeup brush. From a 9 year old obsessed with planets, to completing a Degree in International Relations and finally deciding to take the road less travelled, Rudisha is someone who has always followed her heart and her passions. Proving that you don’t have to stick to and pursue just one passion, Rudisha never gave up on her love of makeup to pursue her love of and interest in cars and mechanics. Instead, she managed to find a perfect balance between them, while focusing on her priority - her son and her family. The Daily Mirror Life caught up with Rudisha to talk about cars, mechanics and more!
Q Tell me a little bit about yourself - what was your life like, growing up?
I was born in France and have two sisters. We led a very simple life but enjoyed it really well. I enjoyed college a lot and was always second or third in class. My favourite subjects were maths and physics and that is why I got accepted to a university there to study planets. One day at age 16, my mom came and told me that she would like to go live in Sri Lanka because my father’s business was prospering in Sri Lanka and there was no point in leading separate lives and that it would be best for us to live together as a family.
I had no choice but to accept. After moving here, at first it was really nice to see my entire family - it was fun, but then I started seeing clearer and reality came and hit me in the face. I couldn’t speak much English, and I didn’t know what to do with my life. So the first thing was to head to the British Council and learn English. I joined Alliance Francaise too but it was always a piece of cake as french was my mother tongue. But in both places, I met wonderful people who became friends and some of them suggested I do a Degree in International Relations. I did that at the Royal Institute affiliated with the LSE and got my Bachelor’s in International Relations. I interned at the UNDP and at the European Union, which was nice because I met lovely people but then I felt something was missing and it’s the fact that I wasn’t happy. I basically wasn’t enjoying what I was doing. At the time I used to drive a sports car and I’ve always loved driving and speeding. Then I met my husband who owns a service station. Funny how we met really. I was driving a lorry at the time and the petrol shed person had pumped diesel instead of petrol and I couldn’t start the vehicle thereafter. So a friend of mine told me she knows this service station in Wellawatta and he could help me out. So we towed the lorry to my now husband's service station and that’s how we met.
Q Tell me a little bit about what you do.
After getting married, I wanted to start a clothing line but then decided that wasn’t for me and then ended up getting pregnant. After my son was born, I wanted to just focus on makeup and start a YouTube channel and teach people how to apply makeup. BUT Every time I walked into my husband’s garage, I felt I belong there. I always felt some sort of connection with vehicles, that entire engineering, and the drive. One day I decided I should review cars. I felt more comfortable in front of a camera after doing makeup tutorials and nothing was going to stop me. So I started reviewing friends’ cars, as a fun thing but then within a few months my following on Instagram started rising and then I knew I could do much more in this field. So I started reviewing cars and called my channel 'Rudi on Wheels Sri Lanka'.
A few automotive companies approached me to review some of their cars, car parts etc…. I’m really happy about that and now I do reviews in Sinhala as well. It was challenging at first, but anything is possible. It's amazing to be known and loved for being the first car reviewing girl in Sri Lanka, first mechanic girl and JDM lover. JDM stands for Japanese Domestic Market and I just love those sports cars that include the Toyota Supra, Nissan GTR, Subaru STI, Mazda RX7 etc… On my Instagram, 4 times a week I put JDM car quizzes and mechanic basic quizzes on my story with the right answer and my followers love it. Because they challenge themselves and they learn from it too. If I happen to miss a day for the quiz, they are always there to remind me.
Q What is a typical day like for you?
A typical day for me is - well, my son comes first. So I do as much as I can for him, educate him, play with him and spend quality time. In the afternoons I will focus on my makeup channel which is 'makeupbycleopatre' on Instagram which I restarted recently and YouTube 'Rudi on Wheels' channel. I was raised in such a way that I remember to take care of my home first and the rest comes after that. I do exercises or go for long walks. I enjoy going for drives alone, as that’s the time I can plan things and clear my head.
Q You’re also a Mechanic. What can you do/fix? At what age and where did you learn?
I started learning mechanics at age 28. My first project was converting a Volkswagen with a Subaru WRX engine, that’s when I really got the taste for mechanics. Right now I can fix a tyre, change brake pads, jumpstart a car, engine cleaning, fix a steering wheel, service a vehicle, fix an oil leak etc.
Q Were there any challenges you faced?
At first, I didn’t know how I was going to go about with my makeup and my car reviews while being a mom. I just didn’t know how to do it. But then I realised, this is my life and I should be able to finally do and focus on something I love so I had to find a way. My mother in law and my husband are both very supportive, I suppose that made the transition much easier.
Q What is your favourite vehicle, Why?
I love the 90s JDM sports cars as mentioned above. But I have always been fond of the Subaru STI and Chevrolet Camaro. Both are sports cars, I suppose the Camaro because it reminds me of the Bumblebee character in Transformers. I am an avid Transformers fan and I fell in love and now own a Subaru STI too because of a review I did on a friend's car. When driving his STI I felt really really great and instantly fell in love. Another reason is when a friend came to pick up my husband and I heard his STI which was really loud and I mean that rumble Subarus have is just amazing to the ear, I called that EARGASM.
Q Was there a memorable moment where you surprised someone with your knowledge of cars or managed to fix a car?
I suppose many people get a little surprised with my knowledge and interest in cars. Especially on Instagram, I get so many messages daily from both men and women and it’s really a great thing to be able to inspire others and to be able to start a chain of something great. I get messages saying - I want to be just like you akki, can I join you?, can I work for you? - it’s a nice feeling and makes me want to be better.
In the past, I used to have a lot of trouble with my lorry so I suppose I learned a few things by myself and when I'd get stuck in the middle of the road, people would be shocked with the things I could do to mend my lorry.
I take my reviews very seriously. I study the entire car from top to bottom, and the fact that I know what I am talking about and have that knowledge makes it even better. One should always do something they are passionate about. And not just rely on google and share that information. It takes much more than that. That passion and love for cars have to be there. I drive in every review because it's important to share how the car that is being driven feels like. I have taken part in car drags using my Nissan March K11 and it was super fun. Hoping to take part in future races too.
Q Many females drive in Sri Lanka, but a few women and men have knowledge of anything beyond that. What are the most basic things you believe every driver of a vehicle should know?
Yes, there are a few things drivers need to know, as a matter of fact, I am currently working on something similar with a company. A few things would be:
How to check tyre pressure and change a tyre using a jack
How to check different oil levels
Understanding each warning light that appears on the metre box
How to check taillights / headlights / blinkers functioning
How to change viper blades
How to care for the outer body of the car
All these are to make mainly women more comfortable around their vehicles and to be less prone to being cheated at garages etc.
Q Do you already have classes or do you hope to one day start something to help teach women how to do this?
One of my aims is to empower women in relation to the automotive sector, bring about more female mechanics, start a few courses in ladies schools and make them independent in relation to their vehicles and be able to also help other people who would have issues with their vehicles.
Q How has the response been to your videos? Do people assume you don’t know much about the subject as you are a female?
To be honest, I’d say 90% of the males who follow me and are new to my page, are very supportive and I haven't come across discrimination. I don’t leave room for that honestly. I dress appropriately, use appropriate language in order to avoid unnecessary comments because I want the focus to be on the vehicles, not on me.
Q Who are your role models?
I don’t have any role models as such. I try to build myself and correct my mistakes. I have my own style of reviewing and doing things. I just rely on my ideas and creativity, which would pave the way to uniqueness.
Pic credit: Rudi On Wheels
You can follow Rudisha on Social Media:
Auto: Instagram: @rudi_on_wheels_srilanka
Youtube: rudi on wheels
Facebook: Rudi on Wheels Sri Lanka
Makeup: Instagram @makeupbycleopatre
Youtube: Makeup By Cleopatre