Rupi Kaur is an internationally recognized poet, performer, and illustrator whose profound works have resonated with millions across the globe. Embodying themes of love, loss, trauma, healing, and femininity, her words and illustrations carry a deeply personal yet universal touch.
Rupi Kaur was born into a Sikh household in Punjab, India, on October 4, 1992. At the tender age of three, she and her family moved to Canada, though her father had relocated earlier and was absent during her birth. Due to their financial challenges, he would occasionally send back essentials that catered to Kaur’s needs. She, along with her parents and three younger siblings, initially lived in a compact basement apartment, all sharing a single bed. Eventually, they made their home in Brampton, Ontario, which boasts a significant South Asian community, with her father earning his keep as a truck driver.
Interestingly, while her father resided in Japan, he would pen Punjabi poems to Kaur’s mother, who was an enthusiast of painting. By the age of five, Kaur was encouraged to immerse herself in her mother’s passion for painting, symbolizing the deep-rooted connection to their cultural heritage. Kaur remembered how poetry was deeply woven into the fabric of their faith, spirituality, and daily lives. She recalls evenings when her father would spend hours pondering over a single poetic verse. Growing up, she sometimes felt awkward about her mother’s accent and her own identity, often attempting to create a distance. Her mother, influenced by their cultural norms, often maintained a distance, especially during Kaur’s menstrual cycles. These experiences, combined with the emotional challenges of her adolescent years, made her relationship with her parents, especially her mother, somewhat strained. Observing friends and family endure domestic violence, and witnessing her parents face racial prejudice, shaped Kaur’s reserved nature. She describes her younger years as being in “constant survival mode.”
Kaur had a musical side, performing kirtan and Indian classical music for many years. As a child, her aspirations varied, ranging from dreaming of becoming an astronaut to showing interest in fashion design, although her father discouraged the latter. Reading was a solace for young Kaur, helping her combat feelings of isolation, even though she grappled with English being her second language, which she only began learning at age ten. By fourth grade, however, she had gained more confidence and social competence.
Despite her initial struggles with the English language, which rendered her largely silent for a while, she discovered her voice in middle school. She took part in speech contests and even won one in seventh grade. This achievement, along with her involvement in writing and performing, became a turning point, helping her overcome challenges of bullying and feeling out of place. High school, according to Kaur, was a particularly challenging period marked by emotionally draining relationships. Throughout her educational journey, she sought comfort in literature, drawing inspiration from a range of authors including Amrita Pritam, Maya Angelou, Roald Dahl, Dr. Seuss, and J.K. Rowling.
Kaur further honed her skills at the University of Waterloo, where she studied rhetoric and professional writing. While there, she also taught creative writing to both high school and college students. When diving into poetry, she often painstakingly deliberated over every word, reflecting her commitment and dedication to the craft.
Rupi’s foray into the world of poetry began on digital platforms, primarily Instagram, where she shared her minimalist-style illustrations paired with poignant verses. The simplicity yet depth of her work captivated a vast audience. It wasn’t long before she became one of the most followed and recognized poets of her generation.
In 2014, she self-published her first collection of poetry and illustrations titled “Milk and Honey.” The book delves into the themes of pain, love, heartbreak, and healing. It struck a chord with readers around the world and went on to become a massive bestseller. “Milk and Honey” sold millions of copies, was translated into numerous languages, and remained on The New York Times bestsellers list for over a year.
Following the success of her first book, Rupi published “The Sun and Her Flowers” in 2017. This collection further expanded her exploration into themes of ancestry, migration, and the journey to find one’s roots.
She didn’t just restrict her talent to paper; Rupi has performed her poetry across the world, sharing her words and connecting with audiences on a profound level. Her performances are a testament to her belief that the spoken word is as powerful, if not more so, than the written one.
Kaur has carved a unique space for herself in the world of contemporary literature. With her blend of evocative poetry and striking illustrations, she speaks to the heart and soul of her readers, leaving an indelible mark on the literary landscape.
Though exact figures of her net worth can be elusive and ever-changing due to the various streams of income, book sales, performances, and collaborations, Rupi Kaur has undeniably established herself as one of the most financially successful poets of her time. As of 2023, it’s estimated that her net worth stands in the multiple millions, a rare feat in the world of contemporary poetry.
Throughout her career, Rupi Kaur has amassed several accolades and achievements: