5 South Asian Women in Sports You Need to Know

south asian women in sports

by Neha Contractor

As women’s sports continue to be a rising topic amongst sports enthusiasts, can you think of a South Asian female in this industry?

You may say great athlete Sania Mirza (Indian professional tennis player) or journalist Aditi Kinkhabwala (Reporter, NFL Network), however, there are others. South Asian women continue to make a big splash in this industry and as it seems right now the number will only continue to grow. But, who are some of those other women making an impact in sports?

Here is a Q&A with a few you may want to get to know:

NeenaCNeena Chaudhry (Senior Counsel and Director of Equal Opportunities in Athletics at the National Women’s Law Center)

Give us an introduction about yourself, and include where you are from and what you have done/do in the sports industry.

“My name is Neena Chaudhry.  My parents came to the U.S. from India in the 1960s and I’m one of the first generations in my family born here.  I grew up in Maryland, went to the University of Maryland at College Park where I majored in economics and minored in mathematics.

Then I attended Yale Law School, clerked on the Ninth Circuit, and through a women’s law fellowship landed at the National Women’s Law Center, where I am an attorney in the education and employment group.

A big part of my work centers on Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, which prohibits discrimination in all federally funded education programs, and is perhaps best known for its application to school sports programs.”

Share one or two recent stories of how your work has impacted the industry.

“I advocate for girls to get their fair share of sports opportunities and for girls’ sports to be treated equally in terms of benefits and services such as facilities, equipment and publicity.

Unfortunately, even though Title IX has been around for over 40 years, we still get calls regularly from families around the country because their daughters are not being treated fairly. An example of the work that I do can be seen in a recent resolution of a complaint we filed with OCR [Office of Civil Rights] a few years ago against the Chicago Public Schools.”

You can read more about it here.

What is something you did to overcome those barriers (family, co-workers, perception, etc.) that come along with being a South Asian woman in this industry?

“I try to challenge stereotypes when I encounter them, similar to what I do for my job, and work hard to win cases and other victories on behalf of women and girls.  Showing everyone what you’re capable of helps!”

What would you want to tell folks that are just learning about South Asian women in this industry?

“That stereotyping is not helpful to anyone and that there are women from all backgrounds who are interested in sports.”

gomez shah
NU Headshots October 23, 2013 in Evanston, Ill.

Alisha Gomez-Shah (NCAA Fencing, Northwestern University)

Give us an introduction about yourself, including, where you’re from and what you’ve done/do in the sports industry.

“My name is Alisha Gomez-Shah and I am originally from Mexico City, Mexico. I am half Mexican (on my dad’s side) and half Indian (on my mom’s side). But I now live in the United States in New Jersey and go to school at Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois.

I will be a junior at NU and I am a three-year varsity (Division I) starter for Northwestern’s fencing team. I am very involved in the athletics department in several ways. I was a squad captain my second year at NU and this coming season I will be the overall captain for my team.

I am a Purple Peer mentor, meaning that I am a liaison to my team and give them information about on-campus resources. Additionally, I am part of the student leadership for a new inclusion group within the athletics department called Engage.”

Share one or two recent stories of how your work has impacted the industry.

“Through working with athletics administrators on Engage, it has helped me see and realize the importance of supporting one another in every way possible. Through Engage’s programming I have been able to give other student-athletes a space that allows them to talk about inclusion and diversity within athletes and Northwestern [University]. We also talk about some problems student-athletes run into while trying to balance our dual roles at Northwestern.

In the coming years, I hope to expand Engage and hopefully extend membership to a handful of non-student-athletes at Northwestern so that we can foster an inclusive environment and bridge the two communities together.”

What is something you do to overcome those barriers (family, co-workers, perception, etc.) that come along with being a South Asian woman in this industry?

“Sit and talk, try to get family members to understand that what I do is very important for me and that it doesn’t take away from my educational experience. If anything, it gives me more opportunities to expand my own sense of self and learn about myself by putting me in spaces that I may not be comfortable in.

If there is one thing that matters most is that it is very important to do what you truly enjoy and that your family will eventually accept the decisions that you have made.”

What would you want to tell folks that are just learning about South Asian women in this industry?

“I would tell them not to judge South Asian women with what they hear or see in the media. Like any type of people there are so many variations, but also similarities to others and South Asian women are no different. I would also say be open-mined and ask questions if you have any.”

Nandi MehtaNandi Mehta (NCAA Soccer Player, Northwestern University and Big Ten Representative on the NCAA Autonomy Committee)

Give us an introduction about yourself, and include where you are from and what you’ve done/do in the sports industry.

“My name is Nandini (Nandi) Mehta and I was born in Boston and raised in Lexington, MA. I have an older brother, younger sister, two German Shepherds, and two of the most supportive parents I could ever ask for.

I am going into my second year as captain of the Northwestern Women’s Soccer team. I have also taken up numerous positions where I provide a voice and a vote for student-athletes within Northwestern, the Big Ten and a large part of the NCAA.

I am the co-president of the Northwestern Student-Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC), a member of the Big 10 SAAC, and 1 of 15 student-athlete voting representatives in the NCAA Autonomy Group.

It is through these positions that I have really been able to impact the student-athlete experience and the future of college athletics.”

Share one or two recent stories of how your work has impacted the industry.

“The biggest impact my work has had on the industry came at the 2015 NCAA Conference. This was the first time the full 65 schools and 15 student-athletes that are part of the Autonomy Group met in person.

There were five or six major proposals up for vote, and one that I felt especially passionate about had to do with prohibiting non-renewal of or diminishing scholarships from year-to-year. I have always felt very passionately that scholarship amounts should be guaranteed for the entirety of the athlete’s eligibility.

I essentially challenged the room to consider what the difference is between a salary and a scholarship, if we allow scholarships to be diminished or non-renewed from year to year depending on athletic performance.

I also raised the point that the scholarship is the only way for many athletes to afford the education they are getting. I was one of the last people to speak, and in the end, the proposal passed by less than 5 votes. I know that what I said played a role in swinging that vote just far enough.

Now, all 65 schools in the Big 5 conferences are required to provide 4-5 year guaranteed scholarships, and I am sure that other NCAA Division I schools will follow suit.”

What is something you do to overcome those barriers (family, co-workers, perception, etc.) that come along with being a South Asian woman in this industry?

“To be honest, I have faced very few barriers that one would typically attribute to a South Asian woman. For my entire life, I have been into sports and when I was little I was a huge tomboy.

My parents have always been extremely supportive. They embraced my love for sports and never forced any typical South Asian activities on me.”

What would you want to tell folks that are just learning about South Asian women in this industry?

“There is no other industry in the world that crosses cultures, races, genders and continents as much as sports.

It brings us together through a common passion, and all of us South Asian woman who have made it in this industry have a huge dose of this.

Although I have not faced many barriers in being a South Asian woman in this industry, many of us have and we have still made it.

We have defied the norms of our cultures, and we have excelled. This is made possible only through an intense passion and love for what we do.”

Ami ParekhAmi Parekh (Figure Skate Instructor & Mentor)

Give us an introduction about yourself, and include where you are from and what you’ve done/do in the sports industry.

“I am a Gujarati figure skater born in New Jersey and family is originally from Mumbai.

I competed seriously in figure skating in the U.S. for many years, in regional, sectionals and junior national competitions. When India became a provisional member of the International Skating Union (ISU), I then went on to be ranked first place in the Indian National Senior Figure Skating Championships from 2004-2007 and 2010-2014.

I represented India at international competitions between 2006- 2007 and 2012-2014, and I became the first figure skater to represent India at the ISU Senior World Figure Skating Championships.

During many of those years, I was also was part-time coaching and performing at shows in the U.S. and in India.

I retired from competitive singles skating in March of last year and have settled in Chicago for now.

I have kept up with skating by skating at local ice shows (there are many ice rinks here) and coaching others. Mainly, I have been teaching children and adults how to start skating on ice.

I also team up with full-time head coaches to teach more involved children. I focus mainly on jump and spin technique and skating skills. Occasionally I will work on choreography and off-ice conditioning too.”

Share one or two recent stories of how your work has impacted the industry.

“I can’t speak for myself, but others have said that my skating performances and practice have been inspiring and fun to watch.

What I do know is that for me, artistic skating is a means for me to share emotions and stories. Skating is also a means through which I can (at my own pace these days) constantly push my own boundaries and dare myself to face any small fear or doubts that I may have that day, on the ice. It is empowering for me, and it has also been my main go-to to stay fit.

Coaching has been exciting as well; hopefully more so for my students than for me. I have been teaching some of my regulars for over two years now on weekends, and it has been amazing to see how they have matured both on and off the ice.

For example, analogies and vocabulary they would never understand a year ago makes much more sense to them now.  As we have gotten to know each other, our coaching relationship has evolved too. Each child’s psychology, emotions, technical difficulties, and behaviors constantly challenge me all the time, and for the most part I love it.

It can get taxing sometimes, but when it brings the child another step closer to becoming a better person and a better athlete, it is beautiful to see.”

What is something you do to overcome those barriers (family, co-workers, perception, etc.) that come along with being a South Asian woman in this industry?

“Sharply defined gender roles and a strong emphasis on patriarchy played a big part in my parents’ generation. And, there were no sportsmen in my family. However, I was too young to understand these barriers and I excelled for the sake of excelling at my passion.

My single mother had dedicated herself to taking me to the rink every day so that I could pursue the sport that I also worked hard at and slowly, but surely also excelled at. And she was there with me every step of the way, taking care of my outfits, makeup, travels, diet, habits, discipline and injuries. She protected me from those barriers that did accompany being a South Asian female athlete.

As I got older and more independent, those barriers became more apparent to me and it wasn’t easy to deal with because they can work in elusive ways on the psyche sometimes.

Since being the best athlete possible can be extremely psychological, I worked on myself to divert my focus to the positive, focus on what my goals were and to plan exactly how I would reach them. I also surrounded myself with supportive people who understood and valued my goals too.”

What would you want to tell folks that are just learning about South Asian women in this industry?

“I would tell them that South Asian women make super exotic athletes!

Just kidding. I would tell them that South Asian women comprise a variety of personalities and can be cool people to get to know. And, if they are dedicated and have the support system, they can be great athletes too!

More recently, I am bumping into a few talented upcoming South Asian girls who figure skate. There weren’t many around before, so it’s nice to see that more [women and girls] are giving this artistic, athletic, and multifaceted sport a try.”

Payal PatelPayal Patel (Director of Public Relations for the NFL Players Association – Chicago Chapter & its Charitable Arm, the Retired Professional Football Players of Chicago)

Give us an introduction about yourself, and include where you are from and what you’ve done/do in the sports industry.

“Born and raised in a big sports town such as Chicago, it’s no wonder I ended up in the sports industry.

Upon graduating from Marquette University with my Bachelor of Arts in broadcasting, public relations and Spanish literature, I originally launched my career as a sports reporter. I was fortunate enough to land stints in TV, radio and print, allowing me to experience the full spectrum of sports journalism.

The recessive economy eventually rerouted me to public relations, where I’ve happily spent the past six years of my career. After managing PR for a few local sports organizations, I now serve as the Director of Public Relations for the NFL Players Association—Chicago Chapter and its charitable arm, the Retired Professional Football Players of Chicago.

My responsibilities include coordinating media interviews and appearances on behalf of the players within the organization, creating and distributing press releases, media advisories, newsletters, marketing collateral, managing internal communications, among other day-to-day PR tasks.”

Share one or two recent stories of how your work has impacted the industry.

“One of my favorite stories to share is of a crisis management incident with a sports organization, where I served as the Director of Public Relations.

We had a player who was verbally attacked by a fan in the stands during one of our games. This fan had apparently been shouting racial slurs at our player, who in response jumped into the stands and chased the fan down, which led to a physical altercation that left everyone in the arena stunned.

As you can imagine, we got a lot of calls and comments from angry fans following that incident, questioning the integrity of our team, staff and organization. From the outside, it appeared as though one of our players simply went berserk and lashed out at a random individual. And, understandably, many of our fans felt unsafe and uncomfortable bringing their families to another game.

It was clear that this had turned into a PR nightmare and called for some immediate damage control. My team and I met with the senior management of the organization the next day to strategize and devise a course of action. While my boss wanted to try to sweep it under the rug and allow time for fans to cool off and forget what happened, I advised we handle the matter head on and issue a formal statement.

I immediately drafted an apology on behalf of the organization, accepting full responsibility for the action of the player involved and assuring our fans that we have taken disciplinary action against him. But I also included an explanation that disclosed the nature of the altercation and the fact that it involved a fan shouting racial slurs at one of our players, which is also unacceptable.

I then released the statement not only to our fan base, but to the local media. I even called publications and stations to personally pitch the story, spinning it as a topic much bigger than sports; this was about discrimination and its existence in modern day sports. That angle generated a lot of interest, and the next thing I knew major media outlets were contacting me to cover the story and speak with the player who was attacked.

After the story broke, we experienced a significant spike in our attendance at the next game and an outpour of support from fans and local community members—many of whom brought signs with encouraging words for our player, who just a few days prior had been condemned for his actions.

It was an amazing turnaround, and I’m profoundly proud of the impact I was able to make by taking a potentially disastrous situation and turning it into a human interest story that brought a community together.”

What is something you do to overcome those barriers (family, co-workers, perception, etc.) that come along with being a South Asian woman in this industry?

“It’s never easy when you’re among the minority in any industry or situation—and it is even tougher when you have to face a double barrier in race and gender.

I’ve come across many challenges in this area throughout my career, but something that has worked for me in overcoming these challenges is vocalizing issues as they come up. I wasn’t always good at this, especially early on in my career when I feared that voicing my concerns any time I felt I was being treated unfairly or differently than my male counterpart would lead to unnecessary conflict in the workplace and potentially result in a job loss for me.

But more often than not, bringing it to someone’s attention in a calm, assertive manner and building a productive discussion around it tends to make people more conscious and aware of how they treat you going forward can command respect.”

What would you want to tell folks that are just learning about South Asian women in this industry?

“I would want to tell them that this is just the beginning and to expect many more positive contributions from South Asian women in the sports industry for years to come!”

NehaHSNeha S. Contractor is originally from Chicago, IL and currently lives in the Washington D.C. area. She’s focused on building a platform and having a voice for South Asian women in sports. She hosts a Twitter chat called South Asian Women in Sports (#SAWSports) that focuses on various topics throughout the industry which brings the community together and allows one another to have a voice. To learn more about South Asian women in sports contact her on Twitter.

By Brown Girl Magazine

Brown Girl Magazine was created by and for South Asian womxn who believe in the power of storytelling as a … Read more ›

In Conversation With Kevin Wu: Creating Content in a new Generation

Kevin Wu
Kevin Wu

Kevin Wu, previously known as KevJumba, is an American YouTuber, from Houston, Texas, with more than 2.68 million subscribers on YouTube and more than 323 million views. His content consists of vlogs, social commentary, musical parodies and more. Wu also streams on Twitch and has released original music as well as freestyles. His most popular YouTube video is titled “Nice Guys” with Ryan Higa. Wu has also worked with many individuals including A-Trak, Chester See, David Choi, Globetrotters, Iyaz, Jamie Chung, Jeremy Lin, Ryan Higa, Wong Fu Productions, and more. He has also appeared in movies such as “Hang Loose,” “Revenge of the Green Dragons,” “Man Up,” and more. Wu is one of the first original YouTubers gaining popularity in 2008 and even had another channel, titled JumbaFund, now known as Team Jumba. Continue reading to learn more about Kevin Wu’s journey!

[Read Related: Superwoman and Humble the Poet’s #IVIVI Music Video Celebrates Toronto’s Diversity]

We really enjoyed the project ‘Underneath the Lights.’ On the track “WHY U IN LA” the lyrics, “Don’t know who I might be, it might surprise me. I could be a hypebeast, That’s nothing like me, It’s so enticing.” How do you feel this speaks to the idea of self-discovery? What have you learned about yourself, diving back into making content?

I love that song we did. The artist who sang those lyrics his name is Zooty. I really provided the energy and direction for the musical piece, but I give credit to my producer Jonum and Zooty credit for the lyrics. Both guys are a slightly different generation, gen-Z, whereas I grew up as a millennial. I find that I left a lot on the table when I left YouTube at 23, so when I work with gen-Z I have so much that I want to give. Coming back to YouTube this time around, it’s all about self-reliance. Coming from movies and television, you have to depend on people to get a better product. But with YouTube, I’m going back to my roots and putting my wit and effort into every part of the process again (writing, directing, performing, producing, editing). I want the result to be authenticity and a homegrown feeling.

[Read Related: JusReign’s Reign on YouTube]

When you started your YouTube channel you were known for your vlogs and social commentary. How do you feel about the new age of content creation — where content is in surplus but individuals aren’t feeling the content?

It’s hard to say whether or not individuals are or aren’t feeling content — the taste is just so wide now. It’s like living in Los Angeles; food is very competitive, and when picking a restaurant you have every ethnic variety and even fusion foods. I imagine opening a restaurant in LA to be very competitive and the attention to detail in what you make has to be authentic or hit a certain demographic. I feel on the Internet, YouTube does a decent job of catering to your sensibilities, the so-called algorithm. However, the personal connection you get with content creators has somewhat been shifted, and now it’s become more interest-based (ie gaming, how-to, music, politics, etc.)

How do you feel the original algorithm has changed, and what do you miss most about that time?

I don’t remember talking about algorithms back in 2010 to 2012. People watched their favorite Youtubers because their homepage included their subscriptions first and foremost, and then if your subscriptions hadn’t posted anything new, you would typically check the most popular page. Then trending became a thing and now you have algorithms generating your timeline based on a bunch of data. I think it’s forced creators to think externally and hanging onto identities i.e. what are my interests? Am I a gamer? Am I a streamer?

We parodied your music video for “Nice Guys” for our orchestra music camp skit back in high school. If Chester, Ryan, and you, had to recreate “Nice Guys” today, would you focus on the concept of self-love for the current generation? We also really loved “Shed a Tear.”

I definitely think self-love would be a very nice theme. Recreating it would be nice, actually. I think it’s hard to get three people to all be in the same room again, especially after leading different lives. But “Nice Guys” was something special for each one of us, and Chester See deserves a lot of credit because of his musical talent. It’s made me realize today the impact of music. I really enjoy the expression of music because it forces you to be more artistic, versus just saying what’s on your mind. Like poetry, or hearing harmonies.

You’ve worked with many individuals and groups in the past including, A-Trak, Chester See, David Choi, Globetrotters, Iyaz, Jamie Chung, Jeremy Lin, Ryan Higa, Wong Fu Productions, and more. If you could create content with any group of individuals who would be your dream collaborators?

At this stage in my life, I really enjoy coming back and rekindling those creative connections and checking in with previous friends or acquaintances. Doing a video with Ryan Higa, Jeremy Lin, Chester See, David Choi, Wong Fu, Jamie Chung, those would all be very fun. But the first step would be to just see how they’re doing. So that’s the closest thing to a best case scenario for me. I’m not trying to force any collaborations at the moment (haha!). Unless it’s convenient.

As an NBA fan you expressed you would like to talk more about basketball on Ryan’s “Off the Pill Podcast.” How do you feel watching sports and has playing sports helped you become more in tune with yourself?

After going through a lot of physical adversity after my car accident, reconnecting with sports has been really helpful. I played basketball for a while and I’d like to get back into soccer. I wanted to talk about basketball on Ryan’s podcast because I was still dipping my toes into Internet content/social media and didn’t want to talk too much about myself at the time.

As a content creator how do you balance not letting validation get to your head and authentically connecting with your audience?

We all seek validation. It’s innate, but it’s about where you seek it. Nowadays I remember to validate myself first, by starting with my mind and body. After a while, you can get a sense of when you need validation versus being totally unconscious of it. Sometimes that sense of validation is important, so we know to check in with our parents, or see if a friend needs positive feedback. To connect with the audience, that’s like number five in my priority list (haha!). Having an audience can be scary; you definitely want to be in tune with yourself first.

How do you deal with comments consisting of “I miss the old KevJumba?”

I just smile. I miss the old KevJumba too!

[Read Related: The Authenticity and Individuality of 88rising’s Niki]

As live streaming has become a new form of content now, how have you enjoyed live streaming on Twitch for the Head In The Clouds Festival both in 2021 and 2022? We really enjoyed seeing Ylona Garcia sing “Nice Guys!”

It’s fun, I enjoy live streaming and I really appreciate 88rising and Amazon Music for inviting me both years to be the host for their livestream.

What was the decision behind putting your family in your videos?

I put my Dad in my videos accidentally; we were on a ski trip. I think people responded really positively in the comments, and then I just sat down had a conversation with him on camera, and it became a hit. After that he just became his own character. I think I tend to come alive more when I am interacting with someone on camera.

We really liked seeing you upload videos to Team Jumba. Is the mission still to donate earnings to a charity that viewers suggest?

At the moment, no. The Supply, which was the charity I donated to before, has since shut down. I also don’t make much money on YouTube anymore, since I was inactive on my channel for a while, so that format from 2009 will be difficult to replicate.

We really enjoyed the ‘KevJumba and Zooty Extended Play,’ specifically the track “With You in the Clouds” featuring fuslie. How has Valorant inspired your music as well as other forms of content creation?

The album was really experimental. I find the personal connections I made in gaming to be the most enlivening. “With You in the Clouds” was inspired by TenZ and, since he’s such a legendary figure in the pro FPS community, we had to do a worthy tribute. I think paying tribute to the things you like is a really great way to think about content creation.

How do you feel your childhood experiences in Houston, and playing soccer, have shaped you to chase your dreams of acting? How have you enjoyed acting in comparison to YouTube?

I love acting. It’s a wondrous lens at which to see your relationship with others. I find that in studying acting, you are often really studying the human experience or the mind. It’s like learning psychology but you are on your feet, or you are reading great theater. Playing soccer and growing up in Houston don’t really contribute directly to why I enjoy acting, but I very much enjoy coming from Houston and thriving in soccer. It made me commit to something and seeing how consistently “showing up” can really ground your childhood and prove to be valuable, later in life.

How do you feel we can uplift each other across the Asian diaspora and unify to create ripple effects of representation?

I think listening is probably the best thing you can do. Just genuinely hearing about something, or someone, helps you really invest in them during that time that you are there. So I think that’s probably the first step.

What made you go back to school and finish your degree at the University of Houston in Psychology?

No one reason in particular. I was also studying acting at the time back in 2017-2018 when I completed the degree, so it was just testing my limits and seeing what I could balance. I finished it online.

What are your upcoming plans?

Just experimenting on YouTube for now. Making videos with my own effort.

Your first video was uploaded back in 2007 and was titled ‘Backyard,’ where you are dancing to a song called “Watch Me” by Little Brother, off of the “The Minstrel Show.” We also really enjoyed your video with Ryan Higa titled “Best Crew vs Poreotics.” Are you still dancing these days?

Yes. The body does what the body wants.

Lastly, what do you hope individuals take away from this interview with Brown Girl Magazine?

Nothing in particular. I try to let my mind flow when I answer questions. I may have jumped to conclusions before fully investing in some of the questions, so I apologize. If you are reading, I thank you for your time and patience. I also thank Brown Girl Magazine for putting together a vast array of questions that allow my mind to stretch and work out a bit. I hope you find a stronger connection to your own truths, and I hope I did not disturb those in any way. Regards.

Photo Courtesy of Kevin Wu

By Arun S.

Arun fell in love with music at a young age by way of his middle school music teacher Mr. D. … Read more ›

Meet Fashion Blogger and Media Star Dolly Singh

Dolly Singh
Dolly Singh

Dolly Singh is a content creator who is from South Delhi. She earned a bachelor’s in political science from Delhi University. Singh then attended The National Institute of Fashion and Technology. She even had her own blog called “Spill the Sass.” Fashion is a true passion for Singh as she made her outfit of the day debut on Netflix’s Bhaag Beanie Bhaagon. She has even appeared on Modern Love Mumbai Edition! Singh was awarded Cosmopolitan Blogger Award in 2021 and IWM Social Media Star in 2022. Continue to learn more about Dolly Singh’s journey!

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What parts of your childhood pushed you into the world of content creation?

I have always been an introverted-extrovert kind of person. During my early teens I wouldn’t speak much at home but in school I was quite the talkative showgirl. When I look back it seems so paradoxical, almost as if I suffer from a split personality. Somehow my earliest childhood memories are of my loving to be on stage. I remember when I was in the 12th grade, I cajoled my teacher to include me in a singing competition since I had never ever sung live on stage and I was persistent in my effort for over 4-5 years and eventually she gave up and she said ‘okay its your last year why don’t you go do it ‘and of course in the process I realized what a bad singer I was. But just the sheer joy of being on stage, performing to a live audience and entertaining people is what stirred me at a deeper level. I think on the other hand my reserved side allows me to study people and their nuances and store all those observations in my memory data bank which helps me create great content. I wouldn’t speak much at home, but you know when I did, it was just 2 punch lines and everybody would either laugh or get awkward. I think I always knew that I was born to entertain, and it was my destiny’s calling. I would always get jealous seeing child actors on newspapers and television and I was like ‘oh my God, I am a child, and I could be an actor, living my dream life but I’m still stuck here’.

Do you feel what you do can inspire and impact the world? Please elaborate.

Of course, I think anybody with a decent following on social media has the potential to positively impact the community. Content creators enjoy a certain reach and it’s so important to handle that responsibility meticulously and the kind of message that you’re putting out needs to be respectful of certain socially expected parameters and mindful of the basic laws of the universe. It’s better to say nothing, then to say something stupid something that is going to just bring out the worst in people or send out misleading signals. I feel like the amount of content that audiences are consuming these days can trigger positive change if it’s done in the right manner. I feel strongly about a lot of topics, and I make sure that my platform is a reflection of that in some way. With content creators as opposed to film stars and celebrities, there is a direct engagement with audiences and a more one-on-one connection and hence content creators stand at a more leveraged position to influence audiences positively. I love body positivity as a topic.

Who were your fashion icons growing up?

Any fashion events that you envisage yourself at in the future to represent the brown renaissance? I think a lot of my inspiration came from the indie pop movement of the 1900s and the 2000’s. I started watching Hollywood movies and a lot of my inspiration started coming from the Bollywood Hollywood section in glossies and I made cutouts of the media, the models, the people. Then came Disney Channel and FTV and I used to watch those when my mom was away at work. I would love to represent India at the Paris, New York and London runways and walk for Indian designers who are using sustainable fabrics and indigenous designs and helping skilled artisans make a living in India. I love Madhu Sapre, Naomi Campbell, Tyra Banks, Cindy Crawford.

As you started a style blog in college, what were some of your favorite pieces of clothing in your early years?

Yeah, it was called Spill The Sass. I love blogging on T-shirts because there are so many ways that you could style a basic white T-shirt. Another blog I enjoyed back in the day was 5 ways to style maxi skirts. If I had to choose two pieces of clothing it would be a T-shirt and jeans!

How has your style evolved over the years?

It’s evolved from minimalistic and pocket friendly to being experimental and qualitative. The more I visited fashion weeks and events, the greater I experimented with outfit ideas that I curated personally. Over the years, I’ve started leaning more towards keeping it classy, chic and comfortable.

Tell us about your favorite online character since you make a bunch of them?

My favorite online character of mine would be Raju Ki Mummy because it’s based on my own mother.

If you could collaborate with anyone in the world, who would it be and why?

I would love to collaborate with Jenna Marbles. I love her to death. I discovered her few years ago and I would love to meet her in person. I mean she’s just a person who if I meet, I will just start sobbing like a child.

[Read Related: Malvika Sitlani on Content Creation, Entrepreneurship and Womanhood]


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Have you faced adversity in your field? How have you risen from it?

Adversities are just an everyday fact of life but I like to believe my dreams and goals are bigger than my fears and setbacks. I know at the end of the day I want to be something; I want to give back and quitting isn’t the solution. Every time I face a creative block, I just tell myself this ‘get up and get to work, there are many who look up to you, you can’t disappoint them’. Also, the support from family, friends is nothing less than therapeutic especially when you’re having that typical bad day. I run towards therapy when I hit rock bottom, which happens quite often. We often feel burnt out, exhausted, tired, and just sad. I’ve been taking therapy for the last two years. It’s been beneficial. I’m not saying all my problems have vanished; that’s not how it works. It’s a continuous journey and a continuous process, but I think therapy is my mantra.

You recently turned into an entrepreneur with your own line of candles. Tell us more on what drove this decision and are there any other lifestyle products you will be launching?

As a creator I think it’s just natural to want to extend your brand trajectory to newer realms and not be stagnant in your growth path. It’s hard to gauge the shelf life of any creator considering there is stiff competition and there will be a sense of redundancy that seeps into the algorithm at some point. It’s always beneficial to expand your forte and explore multiple revenue streams is what I’ve gathered from so many interactions I’ve had with my industry peers over the past few years. There were many opportunities where people wanted to create merchandise of mine or partner on a fashion and accessory line but I wasn’t very mentally ready given my hectic schedules. I was a customer of Rad Living and after the pandemic I went into this zone of binge buying so much self-care stuff and you know candles was one of them. So when this came about I think I was ready to experiment and expand and was looking for an avenue to invest my energies on something enjoyable. I had already made a content piece on candles before this offer came my way so I had a list of quirky candle names, taglines for fragrances, matching the fragrance notes with the names. I think with this inning the whole ‘Creator’ part to me really came to use here as well and that’s what was exciting about this and it was funny because it was such ‘a life comes to a full circle’ moment for me. My mom was into candle making because Nainital at that point was known for its candles and she used to make such variety of candles, 100s of types of candles and all my life I mean the first 16-17 years of my life I’ve just seen my mom make candles at home and our house were full of wax and everything was just candles. My father used to sell candles and it was my family business. Let’s just say that I’m taking forward the family legacy and I’m very excited to go home and to my father’s shop in Nainital and put my candles there and sell them!

Will there be any lifestyle products you’ll be launching?

I was so nervous about this candle launch as I never wanted to mislead my audiences and have them indulge in something that’s mediocre. I really invested my heart and soul in this venture, and thankfully the response has been beyond phenomenal. Courtesy all the good word of mouth publicity, I’m thinking of maybe launching my own beauty and fashion line in about 2 years!

What have been your favorite content pieces that have you worked on this far?

I love most of my content pieces as I’m very particular about each one of them so it’s hard to pick a favorite. One of them is a mini film called Aunty Prem Hai and it’s about an orthodox lady finding out that her nephew is queer from his ex-boyfriend, and this is a first time reveal since the nephew has never come out of the closet. There’s also this series called How Aunties Talk About Sex, and I’ve given a twist to how old-timer desi Indians broach the topic of sex based on how I’ve seen my mother interact with her friends, post dinner conversations amongst relatives, and how it’s more like a taboo.

What are your favorite social media trends?

Anything that emits positivity and gratitude. It’s important that social media trends invoke a sense of intellectual enhancement. Anything that kind of teaches you something that enriches your existence or makes you want to live life more wholesomely. I also enjoy throwback trends, something to do with special memories and nostalgia, because I feel old school is always timeless.

Do you feel people are so trapped in social media that they forget about the world around them outside of their laptops, phones, and tablets?

Yes. Personally it’s been a task for me to get detached from technology and balance the real and the reel. In the last couple of years, I have consciously cut down on my screen time, even though it’s all work and no play for me. Social media is so omnipresent and it’s sometimes scary to see this crazy social media obsession where people forget there’s a real world out there with real people and you need to forge real connections that are deeply rooted in authentic exchanges. It’s scarier to see how social media trends have now become rules to live by for a more meaningful existence for many when on the contrary that shouldn’t be the case.

[Read Related: Filmi Nights: A Love Letter to Vintage Bollywood]

How do you feel about the term content creator?

It’s a word that invokes a sense of pride in me because for me it’s all about being innovative, authentic and self-made. Influencer on the other hand is something that doesn’t resonate with me because there’s no real job description. I’ve always maintained my stand of not being an influencer as I create content and make a living out of being creative and curating an audience for myself over the years.

As you’ve worked with Priyanka Chopra, Kareena Kapoor Khan, Aayushmann Khurrana, and others do you hope to be more involved in Bollywood? Tell us about your acting projects.

Of course, I would love to be more involved in the film industry not just in India but globally too. I think there is so much scope for the South Asian community to make a mark in world cinema and it’s time we pick up more Oscars and Grammy’s in the coming times. Anyone who is a creator is also a film star at heart. 90% of creators who make sketches and skits are facing the camera 24×7, making original content, improvising on scripts and all of that stems from that innate ability to be great performers who can keep an audience engaged. I would love to someday have my own podcast where I interview film personalities and get into their skin. I love the dance and song sequences in Bollywood films, and I think I’d be great doing that as well! I’d love to see how I can get out of my comfort zone and do something that doesn’t directly relate to my online alias in the future. I got a lot of offers during the lockdown and shot for a film in 2022 which sees me in a leading role and I’m excited for it to launch later this year. I’m working on some writing projects as I would love to script a documentary or a short film.

Lastly, what do you hope to take away from this interview with Brown Girl Magazine?

I think the questions have been great. The questions have been answered in a way that I feel so confident about myself right now, and I feel so proud about myself and that says a lot. I would like to thank Brown Girl Magazine for taking time out to interview me. I hope this inspires the brown community across the world!

Photo Courtesy of Dolly Singh

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Op-Ed: An Open Letter to President Biden in Light of Prime Minister Modi’s Visit to the States

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s state visit
The following open letter is written by Hindus for Human Rights, an organization advocating for pluralism, civil and human rights in South Asia and North America, rooted in the values of Hindu faith: shanti (peace), nyaya (justice) and satya (truth). They provide a Hindu voice of resistance to caste, Hindutva (Hindu nationalism), racism, and all forms of bigotry and oppression.

Dear President Biden,

As Indian-Americans, human rights organizations, and concerned allies, we are writing to urge you to engage publicly and meaningfully to push back against the Indian government’s escalating attacks on human rights and democracy, especially ahead of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s state visit to the United States.

Despite objective evidence that India’s democracy is under critical attack, you have not spoken out about this crisis. In early 2023, Indian authorities conducted retaliatory raids on the BBC’s Delhi and Mumbai offices for releasing a documentary about Prime Minister Modi. The week before the Summit for Democracy, the Indian government made three successive attacks on Indian democracy. First, the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party expelled Rahul Gandhi from Parliament. Second, the Indian government shut the internet down in Punjab, severely impacting the rights for Sikhs to peacefully organize and protest. And third, the Indian Supreme Court ruled that Indians can be found guilty by association for terrorism. And yet, not one representative from the Biden Administration said anything about even one of these developments. Instead, while Islamophobic violence gripped India in late March, you invited Prime Minister Modi to speak at the Summit for Democracy. Mr. Modi visits DC at a time when the state of Manipur has experienced heavy communal and anti-Christian violence after Modi’s ruling party pushed an initiative to undermine Indigenous rights in the state.

Even when confronted with questions by Indian reporters about human rights in India, your administration has only had private two-way conversations about how both of our governments can always improve. Quite frankly, we find it unacceptable to see such equivocation on Indian democracy from an administration that has been strident in its defense of American democracy and the rule of law. 

India is one of the fastest autocratizing nations in the world, mostly thanks to the current government. Freedom House has rated India as a “partly-free” country for the past three years, and has blamed Prime Minister Modi’s government for a rise in discriminatory policies, including persecution against Muslims and caste-based violence against Dalit and Adivasi communities; harassment of civil society, protestors, academia and the media, and the targeting of political opponents. It has also rated Indian-administered Kashmir as “not free,” citing violations of human, civil, and political rights after the Modi government revoked the territory’s autonomous status. In Reporters Without Borders press freedom ranking, India has dropped to 161 out of 180 countries in 2023. India has appeared in the Committee to Protect Journalists’ Impunity Indexwhich examines accountability for unsolved journalists’ murders — every year for the past 15 years and currently ranks in 11th place worldwide. According to PEN America’s Freedom to Write Index, in 2022, India was one of the top 10 countries that jailed writers globally. The Varieties of Democracy Institute characterizes India as an “electoral autocracy” and blames India’s descent into autocracy on Prime Minister Modi. And the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum has said India has been one of the top 15 countries at risk for a mass atrocity event every year since 2017, which reflects the toxicity of Indian politics under Modi. 

Given the magnitude of this crisis, we ask you to engage directly with Indian-American and human rights civil society leaders to explore solutions to address India’s human rights crisis. We also ask you to employ the tools at your disposal to ensure that the Indian government cannot attack Indians’ human rights with impunity. As the 2022 Bureau for Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor report details, several government individuals have committed human rights violations that, under U.S. law, would qualify them to be sanctioned under the Global Magnitsky Act. Indian security forces that have engaged in human rights violations should have security assistance rescinded, under the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961. 

Finally, we urge you to publicly call on the Indian government to honor its commitments to human rights, including calling on Prime Minister Modi and his cabinet to halt the use of anti-terror laws to arbitrarily detain political critics. You can publicly denounce the rising numbers of political prisoners and the weaponization of the rule of law in India to shut down criticism. Even if you are not willing to personally criticize the Prime Minister, you have ample opportunity to criticize the Indian government’s misuse of public trust and public institutions to consolidate power and undermine the will of the Indian people.

As President of the United States of America, you hold a unique position to lead the fight against authoritarianism. Prime Minister Modi will listen to you when you speak. But he and his allies will only change if you take a stand publicly. We urge you to listen to those of us who care about India and ensure that one man cannot steal the futures and the rights of our loved ones in India.

— Signed by countless organizations and individuals leading the charge (linked here).