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Why this queer South Asian couple’s breakup is ‘devastating’ for their fans

For their fans, Anjali Chakra and Sufi Malik were an example of bold, stigma-defying love. "Many people looked up to them," one says.

South Asian influencers Anjali Chakra and Sufi Malik announced their breakup and called off their wedding after five years together, shocking their niche community.

The couple's candor about the cause of the split also amplified the chatter. Malik in a post admitted to being unfaithful to Chakra shortly before the planned wedding.

"Hey everyone, there has been a major turn of events in my relationship with Anjali," Malik, 27, wrote on an Instagram post. "I made an unrecognizable mistake of betrayal by cheating on her a few weeks before our wedding. I've hurt her tremendously, beyond my own understanding.

"I'm owning up to my mistake and will continue to do so," Malik continued. "I understand the gravity of the situation and can only ask relentlessly for forgiveness, from Anjali and Allah."

In her own statement, Chakra wrote that she wishes for "absolutely no negativity" toward Malik and that she will choose to remember how "magical" their relationship was. The 28-year-old also publicly cited infidelity as the reason for their breakup.

The couple have a combined following of nearly 500,000 dedicated followers on their respective Instagram accounts and more than 135,000 subscribers on their shared YouTube channel, which they launched after gaining popularity in 2019.

The news of their split shocked fans and caused waves on social media, with people expressing their devastation over the end of a now-famous queer and Desi relationship.

Who are Sufi Malik and Anjali Chakra?

The pair first gained traction on social media in July 2019 after photographer Sarowar Ahmed shared images of the couple posing in the rain commemorating their one-year anniversary and promoting South Asian designer clothing rental service Borrow the Bazaar.

The tweet received more than 42,000 likes as the internet fawned over a queer South Asian couple that seemed to break down multiple barriers: Malik is Muslim and Pakistani while Chakra is Hindu and Indian.

Given the historically tense relationship between the two South Asian countries, coupled with the stigma surrounding queerness in both cultures and religions, the couple quickly became viral and a source of representation, visibility and pride for queer South Asians.

As explained in a video on their YouTube channel, the two originally connected online, where California-based Chakra was searching for other queer Desi women to talk to. When she planned a trip to New York City, where Malik was born and raised, the rest became history.

"I grew up witnessing and watching different kinds of love, some in my family and some in Bollywood,” Malik wrote on an Instagram post in 2019 commemorating their one-year anniversary. “After I got a little older and realized what my sexuality was, I never saw representation of people who looked like me. I’m so glad I have the opportunity to be that with the love of my life.”

As they gained a following, the pair shared much of their life together on social media, including their engagement in September 2022, when Malik proposed to Chakra at the Empire State Building — which was also where their first date took place.

"Easiest yes of my life!!!!" Chakra captioned her engagement photo, which has more than 155,000 likes.

The wedding was scheduled for some time in April 2024.

Why did the breakup go viral?

After the pair announced their breakup on March 24, fans expressed their devastation at the split and the cheating scandal. Though Malik, who openly admitted to cheating on her girlfriend, turned off the comments on her Instagram post, Chakra's post received thousands of comments of fans reacting to the end of a relationship that had seemed so strong and culturally momentous.

Especially because the pair had been chronicling their wedding preparation together, with updates as recently as wedding dress shopping just last month, the dramatic split came as a shock to fans.

"As a South Asian who has never found queer representation and comfort in our community, Sufi and Anjali were the two people who we’ve closely looked up to and now they’ve broken up too,” one user on social media platform X wrote.

For 21-year-old Zuvariya Shaikh, who had been following the couple's relationship since 2020, the news of their breakup was "nothing short of devastating."

"I was very impressed with how they were able to work past so many stigmas surrounding their relationship," Shaikh, who identifies as Desi, tells TODAY.com. "I was also equally delighted with how they had created a safe space for POC queer people... many people looked up to them and found comfort in knowing they could maybe make it through like them too."

Shaikh says she now just hopes that each of the influencers find their own peace and happiness soon, even if the news was hard for her to hear.

Similarly, 21-year-old Fatima Bhatti tells TODAY.com that she felt "numb" and immediately thought it couldn't be true when she saw the cheating news. Though she was sad that the couple is no longer together, she said she realized things like this happen.

But more than anything, Bhatti said she was worried about the geopolitical fallout of the breakup because it was interfaith, cross-cultural and queer in a South Asian context.

"I feel like people are being homophobic and Islamophobic and dragging nations," Bhatti said. "We should respect their privacy at this point instead of spreading hate."

The shocking split left fans grappling not only with the loss of a trailblazing queer South Asian couple, but also with the daunting reality that not all relationships work out — even the ones that seem so picture-perfect.

"They were the one couple that made me believe in true love and now I don’t anymore," one X user posted. "Maybe this whole idea of 'being in love and living happily ever after' is an illusion after all."

Chakra and Malik did not immediately respond to requests for comment from TODAY.com.