By Dinesha Senaratne

Ever imagined what life is like for celebrity children? Born and grown up in the eyes of the media and constant attention drawn to the glory and falls whether it’s wanted or not? Imagine growing up to find out your parents sold your first picture to the highest bidder.

Well luckily for us Sri Lankans, it’s not quite the frenzy as the international media but we do however have child stars who have had their own experiences growing up in the public eye. One such celebrity figure is sunny and bubbly Miss Keshiya Leitch, the daughter of non other than the great entertainer Ronny Leitch.

Born on 17th September 1989, Keshiya (you can figure out how young she is) insists that she loved every bit of her childhood. She was constantly prone to attention and unfortunately for her she was also blessed with chubby cheeks which meant everyone loved to squeeze her cute little face. She struck perfect balance when it came to play time for although she enjoyed her Barbie’s she always made time to join the neighbors for a round of cricket every evening. She didn’t feel the least bit annoyed when she was referred to as ‘Thattaya’s daughter’ because for a little kid, nothing is more fun than being in the spotlight.

However this feeling tends to change when we enter our teens, Keshiya reveals “I was always referred to as ‘Thattaya’s daughter’ which I wasn’t very fond of as a teenager. And I was noticed the moment I revealed my last name. It was demanding to live up to people’s expectations even as a kid, because you’re noticed one way or another. But I never let it get in the way of anything I did.” And of course being the daughter of someone who was known for making people laugh and lighten up could only have more ups than down.

Fortunately for Keshiya her parents were always by her side as friends, guides and as she puts it her ‘bodyguards’. They always made sure that she mingled with friends from all walks of life and she was also blessed with wonderful friends who saw her for the person she was irrespective of her star status.

When it came to choosing her career path Keshiya had many interests “I wanted to be a professional dancer as a kid, and would dress up in shredded clothes and dance in front of a mirror with super loud music. When I was growing up I found a strange fascination in political debates, issues, human rights and wanted to be a Politician/Activist at some point. But I never expected to find myself in Media; it was something I ruled out as a teenager. I guess what you grow up with is what you become used to.” However Keshiya reiterated that she was never pressured by her parents or had to face any hardships where her career choices were concerned for her she knew she always had the support of her parents and blessed that it was so. There is still the occasional ‘can you sing like your father?’ inquiry tossed at her from time to time which never ceases to amaze her.

Keshiya was never a stranger to taking the stage but she was introduced to the depth of acting, techniques and understanding the theatre by her drama teacher Mrs.Claire De Silva while preparing for the All Island Inter School Shakespeare Drama Competition. The experience helped her land her first commercial play ‘ Boeing Boeing’, a farce written by French playwright Marc Camoletti, and was produced and directed by Jehan Bastians and Neidra Williams. In which she played the American airhostess Janet. “I was the youngest in the cast and had an amazing time with the cast and crew.” She was then cast as ‘Mable’ in Bengal Bungalow, a comedy directed by Jehan Alosiyus and also played Gabriella in a dark contemporary play ‘What If’ directed by Wassam Ismail.

Keshiya made her debute when she was just 2 and was featured in various commercials and skits. But the star moment was when film director Roy De Silva approached her in 2009 to cast her in ‘It’s a Matter of Love’ – the sequel to his 1990 hit ‘It’s a Matter of Time’- which is due to be released later this year.  “Stepping into the silver screen was a new experience, and having to witness the drama and excitement behind the scenes was fascinating.”

Although she had rules out joining the media while growing up she eventually realized that it was her calling, in 2009 while joining a certain radio station as a radio presenter she was singled out and encouraged by her CEO to keep at it and pursue a career in media and has not looked back since. In 2010 she joined MTV/MBC as a news reporter and continues as a freelance journalist and TV presenter and is currently pursuing her career in PR and media “ To me, Media is a bug, I always end up being the ‘Media’ person even in a non media venture. It’s something I can never part from for as long as I live.”

Keshiya is also an ardent writer and enjoys writing mostly based on her hobbies travelling and food and also new ideologies, she reveals that when she writes is the ONLY time she is found silent. “When I write, I create a little world of my own. I like putting new ideas and new ways of looking at things out there into the world. Either way, I come up with my own way of saying things and the great thing about writing is that you get to do it all the time.”

Growing up known as ‘Ronnie Leitch’s daughter’ can be quite a shadow but Keshiya feels that the attention from the media and public, the criticism, can have profound effects, especially if there isn’t a parent on guard to keep the child grounded in reality. Keshiya does not feel the need to go out of her way to make a mark for herself because her individuality has already been received by the public.  “I have always been an independent achiever with my dad’s blessings. He has equipped me with a platform and a mindset to establish myself as a successful person and strive for what I want in life. He has taught me how to love and live. And that’s all there’s to it.“ (Courtesy The Nation)