And Just Like That, Carrie Made it to a Diwali Party That Never Quite Was

Fans across the globe had been eagerly waiting for the much-hyped reboot of “Sex and The City”— “And Just Like That.” Despite the fact that the show was about four privileged white women, with no room for diversity whatsoever, its characters, particularly New York’s favourite fashionista Carrie Bradshaw, left quite an imprint on television history. Perhaps the era was such. But 17 years later, and at a time when cultural representation is finally getting some of the attention it has longed for, one hoped the makers would demonstrate greater responsibility. That they would learn from the mistakes of the show’s past and its sheer lack of inclusivity. At least that was the assumption when we heard there was an entire episode titled ‘Diwali.’ Until of course, the time came for us to watch it and feel gutted with its tone-deaf approach.

[Read Related: It’s 2021 and Cultural Appropriation Isn’t Trendy Anymore]

Episode six of the series, which aired last Thursday, has since then become a hot topic of debate on the Internet. Though outrage really is the predominant emotion, and not without reason. Here’s what some of our own community members have to say about the Diwali that never quite lit up our lives (pun intended). On a side note, a huge thank you to all the contributors who emailed us your opinions in such a timely manner, we truly appreciate our community for always showing up. Starting with Rajbinder Grewal, aka This Mama Needs a Vacay, who summed up sari gate perfectly in the post below. 

Ami Jain (@amijain)


Los Angeles, CA

Fans of “Sex And The City,” especially South Asians, were ecstatic when over the summer we saw teasers of Carrie Bradshaw, a fashion icon, wearing none other than Falguni Shane Peacock, in the upcoming reboot, “And Just Like That.” I started watching the season looking forward to this very episode, excited to finally see South Asian fashion showcased on the much-talked series. While the “representation” was great to see on screen, ultimately, it was misrepresented.

From Carrie’s lack of knowledge of Diwali to her showing up in a lehenga when her realtor Seema (played by Sarita Choudhury) said she’d wear a sari to Seema tying the red string with a cigarette in her hand to the entire episode being called “Diwali” when in fact the actual Diwali celebration lasted a total of three minutes, I was disappointed, to say the least. In my opinion, it lacked simple due diligence and cultural sensitivity. 

Putting aside the cultural appropriation that prevailed, many South Asians feel grateful to see representation and our culture on the map. For many years, we’ve been desperate to see representation, but should we let negligent, incorrect pieces of information about our culture slide? The issue here could be deeper than what we know. After all, I’m not in the industry working on a show like this. But don’t South Asians working behind the scenes have the courage to point out any misrepresentation? Are they the ones to blame? Or should they be applauded for even getting us through the door? 

I’m just a millennial brown girl, standing in front of a TV, waiting to see me and people like me on screen. When will this be normalised, accurately, in roles that are not doctors, hotel or convenience store owners, with no fake accents and no American-ised names?

Sejal Sehmi (@sejalsehmi)


U.K. Editor at Brown Girl Magazine 

Sarita Choudhury’s entrance as the “fabulous at 50” Seema Patel in HBO’s “And Just Like That” was the much-needed breath of fresh air and diverse representation that had been missing in its predecessor “Sex And The City.” Seema oozes confidence and sass — particularly when Carrie embarrassingly commended single for “still trying to find the one,” be it the digital way, I applauded Seema for not allowing herself to be shamed by ageism. Halfway through the series, however, as I watched the trailer for episode six — titled “Diwali” — I could sense that all the stereotypes around the one South Asian character had been clumsily cluttered in one. My gut feeling was right, and I cringed through the entire episode. As a South Asian single woman in my 40s living in the U.K., I love that HBO has continued to follow these core characters in their later stages of life, but am equally disappointed that the attempt to bring diversity into the show is at times confusing.

Though not a resident of NYC (but a HUGE fan and frequent visitor), I failed to understand how the once savvy and intelligent writer Carrie Bradshaw, who wrote for publications like The New Yorker, Vogue, had her own book published and lived in Manhattan (bursting with multiple ethnic groups), had NEVER heard of the biggest Hindu celebration throughout her writing career, given the diverse crowds you would expect such a figure to be amongst. As her new best friend Seema takes her on a shopping spree for a sari (it seems ok to call a lehenga a sari apparently!), she also announces how Diwali is deemed the appropriate time for her parents to jump on the “why have you not found a man bandwagon?”

[Read Related:The Discussion We Need to Have: Cultural Appropriation vs. Cultural Appreciation]

Let’s be real, many South Asian families never “need” an occasion to raise that question, but to add to the cringe factor, in 2021/2, the writers thought it would be appropriate to throw in the “arranged marriage” card, and making Carrie question if Seema would consider that route since her parents are so happy (apparently!). It’s Seema’s “No, I am just a bad Indian girl” response that really irked me! Her character has just played right into that aged narrative that so many single, sorry, happily single, women are trying to break away from. Such poor scripts only add to that difficulty. Why can’t, for once, there be a South Asian protagonist who is successful, happy with her single status, without appearing as if she is a rebel with a cause? It would have been so refreshing to have seen a Diwali party where the subject of “when will my daughter marry?” is not the focal point and is replaced with a funny, witty conversation. Legendary Madhur Jaffrey’s talent was completely wasted in that cameo, but more shockingly, how did the producers not realise that the character playing Seema’s dad was the SAME actor that once played a busboy who hit on Samantha Jones in the first few episodes?? HBO, this is not the representation we were looking for!

Safeera Sarjoo (@safeerasarjoo)


U.K. Contributor at Brown Girl Magazine 

An entire episode titled “Diwali” definitely piqued my interest but in the end, I did find myself torn between what the producers were trying to convey and responses from the internet. Out of all the new characters introduced in “And Just Like That,” Seema has to be my favourite. She embodies that strong, independent South Asian woman we often see lacking in entertainment. A Vogue India op-ed rightfully critiqued the episode by saying “not all Indian parents are obsessed with marriage.” But here’s the thing, there is some truth to this stereotype. I have lost count of the number of people at numerous events — even a funeral! — who have asked me if I’m married or when am I getting married and if anything, Seema being an independent woman but still having to navigate traditional expectations is something I can actually relate to.

Would it have been nice and refreshing to showcase parents who didn’t place such importance on Seema getting married? Of course, and such parents do exist. But what also exists is the tug of war we face between being happy with the single life we’re living and entertaining the idea of settling down or agreeing to meet prospects just to stop the nagging, which is probably why I resonate a lot with Seema.

It’s very clear that “And Just Like That” is trying to present a modern-day reboot by tying in so many characters from diverse backgrounds. When you do this, you can’t truly capture the essence, customs and intricacies of an entire community through one character. So while it is a letdown that Seema’s parents aren’t as supportive and unfazed by her single status as we’d like them to be, how can we honestly expect producers to explore these different viewpoints when they can’t do basic due diligence on smaller details like Carrie’s sari actually being a lehenga.

Raunak Tejani (@traunak)


Suwanee, GA

Indian culture takes on many facets in the western world — from yoga, chakra readings, chai tea lattes, Vastu Shastra and henna art at carnivals to Indian-inspired designs in clothing and home decor. I believe if we as Indians have given so much of our culture and ethnicity to mainstream America, it’s time all of it is represented correctly, not just adequately like by letting a lehenga be mistaken for a sari. 

Over the years, many shows in Hollywood have portrayed South Asians in a stereotypical manner; with thick Indian accents and a “curry smell.” Case in point: Simpson and the gas station worker. Spices in grocery stores actually have a spice called “curry” and, in an effort to be more “culturally appreciative,” your friends or co-workers will say, “I made ‘curry’ last night” or “I tried ‘curry’ last night.” Heck, emojis have a symbol for curry. What the world tends to forget is that Thai, Jamaican and Malaysian cultures actually use curry-based dishes a lot more than what the Indian culture refers to as curry. Yet somehow the term has been associated with Indians. 

It’s time we set the record straight, especially for all the terms that have been attached to us, without our permission. Sari is not a lehenga, all South Asians don’t have a thick accent, not all of our dishes are “curry” and lastly not all desi parents are stereotypical and pester their children to get married.

Vaani Kaur (@vaani.kc)


London, England 

There has only ever been one other American television programme in history to have a Diwali episode (“The Office,” thanks to Mindy Kaling’s hard work) so I was beyond excited to see that Diwali was the name and focus of the latest episode of “And Just Like That.” Representation and showcasing our culture felt like a win until I hit play…

New York was hailed as the “fifth character“ of “Sex And The City” but fashion was the not-so-silent star of the show. For decades all the clothing and accessories were at the forefront, treated with respect and clearly represented in the way European designers desired. The mislabelling of the sari infuriated many viewers, and rightly so because we have waited so long for our culture to be visible on this scale. It being done incorrectly felt like lazy tokenism. 

A simple explanation of the differences between shalwars, saris and lehengas would have not only been helpful for the audience (and completely within Carrie’s character interests to learn about) but most importantly it would have given our heritage the respect it deserves. 

I’m proud of what our culture has to offer but I can’t help wonder…when will viewers be able to watch an episode about our culture and not have the urge to break up with it on a post-it note!

Lahari Rao (@downtobrown_)


Oakland, California

With one floral mohawk, our culture became a prop for a show that has shown itself to cater to one audience: privileged, wealthy white women. 

“Diwali” is the title of the episode, despite the fact that it was released in January and the holiday actually takes place in November. We have 10 other South Asian harvest festivals coming up in January and February…but I guess I’m asking for too much! 

This episode’s true focus is the character Carrie attempting to move on from her husband’s death. Diwali is used as a convenient prop to tell that story. Despite living in one of the most diverse cities with one of the highest concentrations of South Asian people, Carrie has never heard of Diwali. (Carrie, maybe even start with watching “The Office”?) It is represented as a Hindu holiday, which disregards other South Asian cultures who recognize it. She wears a lehenga without a dupatta (not the sari we were told she was going to wear) and has a Coachella-style hairdo…or whatever the heck that was, I feel perplexed by it all. Diwali’s celebration of light over dark is clumsily connected to Carrie’s new apartment, which gets so much sunlight that she has to wear a hat indoors. Ultimately, Carrie rejects the light-filled apartment, thus contradicting the concept of the holiday altogether. 

The real tragedy of this episode is Seema. Writers, do you know how much seeing a South Asian character means to us? Seema had so much potential, yet she is reduced to a one-dimensional trope who schedules her white friend’s doctors’ appointments and gifts her religious bracelets to get over Big. Despite Seema being a successful realtor (I mean, the woman travels with a personal driver in NYC, y’all!) she is reduced to the stereotype of a brown woman who disappoints her parents because she is not married. But don’t worry, Carrie vouches for Seema’s success after knowing her for just 30 seconds! 

The writers for this episode are Rachna Fruchbom, Michael King and Darren Scott. While there is one token South Asian representative in the writer’s room, it is still written through the white male gaze. The episode is a way for white people to see desi culture; it is not intended for desi people to feel seen about desi culture. In my opinion, “And Just Like That” is worse than “Sex And The City.” More than a decade later, it had the opportunity to know and do better — yet, it didn’t. 

In my podcast, “Down to Brown,” we talk about this episode in full length — which you can listen to here

Dr. Samyuktha Anand (@dancelasya)


Greenville, South Carolina

I was excited to watch the “Sex And The City” reboot as much as the next fan. This show got me through some long nights during college and was a nostalgic reminder of the “good ol’ nineties!” Moving into the future, it’s refreshing to see representation (because it matters!) in western media and entertainment. When the episode title was displayed, “Diwali,’ I, probably like many other South Asian viewers, sat up a little straighter, put away my phone, and focused on the show. However, I finished the episode extremely dismayed. The content did not reflect the title at all.

What was shown in the episode was a poor portrayal of South Asian culture and barely scratched the surface. Diwali is not just about parties and chiding 50-year-old women in gatherings for being single. I was also fairly offended by Seema tying the red thread on Carrie (something meant to be sacred) while smoking a cigarette. It was a poor and frankly disrespectful way to show South Asian culture and Hindu beliefs/traditions. I don’t even need to mention the very obvious mistake in calling a lehenga a sari, something that could’ve easily been corrected by the writers with a one-line dialogue!

I, too, am left wondering if this is the very reflection of appropriation, or can we actually say appreciation like the show did?

Rashi Bindra (@rashistyles)


Toronto, Canada

Can we please rename this episode, “lawd, have mercy?” I feel it would be way more fitting than “Diwali.” Earlier in 2021, we saw teasers of Sarah Jessica Parker aka Carrie Bradshaw wearing a beautiful lehenga by Falguni Shane Peacock and every brown person who follows “Sex And The City” was over the moon. Desi representation in such an iconic show? Hell-to-the-ya! But, in all honesty, the “Diwali” episode was a little insulting and lazy when it came to representing Indian culture. In short, it was a mess!

[Read More: Hey, White Folks, This is What Cultural Appropriation Feels Like]

Firstly, we have Seema meeting Carrie at a “sari shop,” which up until this part, it’s all cool, we are all excited. But not too long after, it goes downhill. As a viewer who has followed Carrie through it all, you can’t seriously tell me someone like her, who has lives and breathes the melting pot that is New York City, makes her first brown friend and has never heard of Diwali until now? You may not need to know the hardcore details of the festival or our culture, but like, come on! You’re in your 50s with the Internet at your fingertips. Why make aging look and sound ignorant?

And then we have Seema and Carrie at the “sari shop,” which is actually Ave India Design Collective, a beautiful New York City storefront housing multiple South Asian designers, and it clearly carries a lot more than saris. Carrie shows up in what is obviously a lehenga, and a floral mohawk, and yet the show refers to her wearing a sari. The fixation with the term is almost absurd. It is very disheartening to see mainstream media not educate the public between a lehenga and a sari when given the opportunity. 

The cherry on top is the conversation between Carrie and Seema’s parents at the short-lived Diwali celebration. Seema is said to be 53-years-old in the show, yet she has to make up a fake white boyfriend to please her parents and is considered a “bad Indian girl” for not being married. Never mind all her accomplishments and success, her validation still comes from her marital status. This scene was insulting to all women who’ve worked hard to prove we are more than just wives. 

The bigger question, however, is why is Diwali being celebrated in the middle of the summer? Didn’t the writers do their research? And how is it okay to smoke a cigarette and tie a red dhaaga on Carrie’s wrist to symbolise strength? 

In plain simple words, the show just ended up mocking us instead of educating the world about us.

Harika Manne (@harikitiki)


Los Angeles, CA

The episode title “Diwali” alone had me cautious, but I was obviously going to watch to see how the makers approached it. It’s a 30-minute show, so I get the need to quickly sum up Diwali but closing it off to Hindus is just inaccurate. Different religions within the South Asian diaspora celebrate Diwali, but at the very least the summation of light over darkness hopefully clears up any confusion that Diwali is the “Indian Halloween” (I’m not being hyperbolic, someone said this to me this year).

Maybe to Carrie, it is Indian Halloween because she gets to dress up, but hey, she “culturally appreciates” it. I found the exchange between Seema and Carrie, where the writers tiptoe around the idea of cultural appropriation, tiresome. I understand they’re trying to show Carrie isn’t another white woman only interested in the fashion aspect of it, but the dialogue between them trivialised the issue of cultural appropriation. Even Seema’s breakdown of appropriation vs. appreciation sent my eyes rolling. It felt like a lazy way for the writers to absolve themselves of any criticism. It’s then topped when Carrie cheekily says, “I saw one back there that I really culturally appreciate” confirming that the idea was more about appearing to be “woke.”

Initially, I thought the use of sari over lehenga was careless writing. However, as I finished the episode I realised (or as Carrie would say, “I thought to myself…”) that laziness is an excuse. “Sex And The City” has been rightfully critiqued for its lack of diverse characters throughout the years and it’s something the creators of “And Just Like That” said they prioritised remedying in this reboot. While the show does feature characters of diverse backgrounds, the misstep in calling a lehenga a sari seems like a cut corner and a way to easily check a box in showing that the newly revamped series is in fact inclusive.

I love seeing South Asian representation in the media, but if it comes at the expense of accurate portrayals then it’s better to just pass and wait for storytellers who will illustrate authentic versions. Media is an effective tool to educate people, but if it’s not correct and just whitewashed, that doesn’t qualify as representation.

Nina Mehta (@msmehtaifyourenasty)


New York, NY

I loved “Sex And The City” when it was first on. As a 20-something woman working, dating and struggling in New York City at the time, it felt like there was finally something that spoke to women the way women spoke to one another and dared to ask the questions we may not have asked out loud. As the series closed, the problems were apparent –  mainly it didn’t look like New York City and Carrie sucks. But we’ve all known someone like her and even called her a friend at some point, which is why I still watch the reruns and love it.

Seventeen years later, there is a lot of promise with additional, fully fleshed-out characters but are rather just a band-aid fix to the “diversity problem” of the original series. The sticking point is who are they written for? In the latest “And Just Like That” episode titled, “Diwali,” Carrie is taken to an Indian clothing store with her realtor-turned-friend, Seema Patel (played by the legendary Sarita Choudhury), which is constantly referenced as a “sari shop” and all we see are lehengas. Carrie, who has lived in New York for the majority of her life, doesn’t know what Diwali really is and Seema informs her (and the audience). Carrie wants a beautiful lehenga but is concerned it’s cultural appropriation and Seema informs her (and the audience, thereby absolving them) that it’s “cultural appreciation” instead because she’s being invited by Seema. So, what’s the problem? It’s treating the audience like they are stupid and have to be “educated” by the POC in the scene as does Carrie, which clearly shows the show is being written for their white audience (Carrie) and them alone. And there’s the rub. Just tell the story. Don’t dumb it down.

Rachna Hukmani (@whiskeystories)


Firstly, I feel that overall the episode was very tastefully done as part of an important Indian celebration that digs deeper. 

This episode was more than just a depiction that Diwali is about dressing up and a party. So I am surprised how many people are only focused on that. The part about the Diwali celebration was a small part of it. The episode is called “Diwali” because of what it stands for. The triumph of light over darkness comes from within and they did a beautiful job of elevating that in this episode as Carrie deals with her loss, her dislike of her bright sunlit new downtown apartment suggesting that light comes from within and her walking into her bright light at the end as she is authentic to herself representing true light. It was beautifully done; it was soulful and symbolic. 

“Sex And The City” has come a long way since their last movie shot in Abu Dhabi where they referred to magic carpets and kept saying “haanji” as Arabic for “yes” when in fact that’s Hindi. I feel we should celebrate that as more than just a small win. The symbolism is pretty significant.

I do agree that the final cut of that dialogue exchange in the Indian designer store came through as confusing when Seema says, “Let’s find you a sari” and Carrie says, “I saw one back there that I really culturally appreciated.” If that had been edited with Seema saying “Let’s find you an outfit,” Carrie’s response would have been more appropriate. But to take that one misstep as a full blown cultural appropriation situation and diss the entire episode is a very reductive way of looking at it. 

[Read More: ‘Invisible Brown Man’: Pritesh Shah Short Film Calls out Underrepresentation & Tokenism in Hollywood]

One of the “And Just Like That” writers is Indian (Rachna Fruchbom) and she is great (known for “Parks & Recreation,” “Fresh Off The Boat”). She mentioned in an interview that the Diwali scenes are a depiction of her own Diwali experience. With a team present who is definitely more than just token service (anyone who says that is doing Fruchbom a disrespectful disservice), I think it would be good to get a take on the final edit of that dialogue exchange. 

That one dialogue may have made the end result sloppy, but the entire episode is not a fail. I don’t feel this win falls flat because of that. The episode was much bigger and deeper than just a Diwali depiction of outfits and a party, and we should celebrate that.

Urvi Vora (@spiritualpharmacist)


Scottish Highlands, U.K.

When I saw an episode named Diwali, like every Indian die-hard “Sex And The City” fan (I have the Carrie necklace to prove it), I braced myself to be bowled over. After all, Diwali is the new á la mode right? I’ve never seen so many high fashion celebrity parties for it on Instagram as I have in 2020, so my brain was overworked with possibilities! Which Indian stylist were they going to consult? Would Carrie be donning an iconic Sabyasachi or give the spotlight to help elevate a new designer? Would she be wearing a tikka, bindi or bangles? Maybe, just maybe, we’d get a wardrobe run-through of her trying different saris and lehengas in a boutique, eeek! The world would finally know why Indian girls across the world love dressing for occasions! 

Imagine my horror, when she walked out of those iconic apartment doors and pretty much none of the above happened?! Actually don’t, if you’re reading this article you are probably already as horrified as me. The lehenga by Falguni Shane Peacock was beautiful but what a missed opportunity to showcase the beauty of a dupatta? And oh yes, like you I’m also aghast as to what was on her head, what were they even thinking?! I honestly have loved each and every outfit SJP wore in “Sex And The City” purely for her dedication to the cause; she always puts her signature on things beautifully. So I won’t lie, I was brutally let down here. 

Carrie, where have you been in New York all these years if you’ve never heard of Diwali in such a diverse city? There was also a great opportunity to educate people on the meaning of Diwali and how it signifies new beginnings, bringing light into your life. What a great arc for the Big/Carrie story, right? Alas, no one thought to mention it…

In a podcast interview on January 10th, Sarita Choudhary said the scenes were fully discussed but they wanted them to be honest as people often get the terms between sari and lehenga mixed up… but wasn’t this a great opportunity to actually educate people on Indian culture rather than show someone bumbling it up yet again? She also stated, she knows people in her family would be happy and grateful if her friends just showed in Indian clothes, they wouldn’t care about terminology. Being grateful that a 55-year-old white woman just takes an interest in my culture rather than ensuring she’s understood it right…something doesn’t sit right with me here. 

Somebody failed her but if I’m being honest, this isn’t a white appropriation problem. I firmly believe if we want to change, we have to be the change and be prepared to speak up and educate others (in a kind way) when something isn’t right. Otherwise, we just feed into the cycle of misinformation. This is really a failure of the many South Asians involved behind the scenes who didn’t raise their voices, maybe to avoid putting themselves in a difficult position? These conversations aren’t easy but in current times, they are necessary. Living in a rural and remote location and being one of the few South Asians in the area, I had to educate people on a whole host of preconceived notions about Indians and arranged marriages when I first moved here. I don’t see these things as a negative though, it’s a great opportunity to help grow our communities through conversation but we need to step up in the media and be responsible for what we are showing people around our culture. I hope this serves as a lesson to all of us who see this appropriation happening in our day-to-day lives, inspiring us to step up and change the conversation!

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 ›

3 Tips on how to Rock Viva Magenta, the Pantone Color for 2023

The results are in — the Pantone Color for 2023 is here — and it looks like Viva Magenta will be ruling runways, the streets, and (even) your wardrobes.

Viva Magenta is a deep shade of red, and Pantone describes it:

Brave and fearless.

It’s meant to be celebratory, and joyous, and encourage experimentation. If you were thinking of toning it down a notch with your wardrobe in 2023, it’s time to think again. It can really be your time to shine in something bright and colorful!


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But, for anyone who’s used to wearing neutrals, Viva Magenta can be daunting.

How do you incorporate this vibrant hue into your everyday looks?

Where can you find just the right pieces?

How do you rock the color without going overboard?

Well, popular South Asian designers and maestros of color are here to answer all your questions.

[Read Related: Decoding Dopamine Dressing This Summer]

Aprajit Toor, Arpita Mehta, and Rahul Khanna break it down for you — what to wear, how to pair, and everything in between. Their takes on the Pantone Color for 2023 are simple but they’ll help you make a bold statement anywhere you go!

Take a look at what they have to say.

Rahul Khanna of Rohit Gandhi + Rahul Khanna:

Viva Magenta is a color that suits all skin tones. It’s a color for all occasions; women and men can both wear this color with [the] right styling. Cocktail saris, jumpsuits, and reception gowns are some great options for women whereas, for men, the color has started picking up a lot lately. Men have started experimenting with their looks and we as designers have more options for men as well. Recently, we made a custom-made silk velvet fit for Ranveer Singh in the same color. Apart from your everyday clothing, Viva Magenta is also going to be the ruling shade for the upcoming wedding season.

Arpita Mehta:

The best way to do Viva Magenta in your everyday wardrobe is to go top to bottom in [it]. Be it in co-ord sets or a kaftan or any comfortable outfit. It’s such a bold & beautiful color that it looks the best when it’s self on self rather than teaming it up or breaking it with another color.

Aprajita Toor:

Viva Magenta is a very powerful and empowering color that descends from the red family. It is an animated red that encourages experimentation and self-expression without restraint; an electrifying shade [that] challenges boundaries. One can easily incorporate this color by picking a statement footwear, bag, or jewelry in Viva Magenta which can be paired with neutral or monotone colored outfits.

And there you have it — three ways you can easily take a vibrant hue and turn it into something you can wear every day. Take cues from these top designers on how to wear the Pantone Color of the year and get started! We’d love to see how you style Viva Magenta!

By Sandeep Panesar

Sandeep Panesar is an editor, and freelance writer, based out of Toronto. She enjoys everything from the holiday season to … Read more ›

‘BollyWed’: Toronto’s First-Ever South Asian Bridal Series is Here!

For the Singh family, Chandan Fashion has always been bigger than simply a bridal showroom. Located in the heart of Gerrard Street, a bustling Little India in Toronto, the bright blue and pink building can be spotted from a distance. Over the years, Chandan has garnered attention from customers from all over North America, even as far as California and Virginia.

For Chandan and Roop, who work alongside “Mom and Dad,” Chandan Fashion is a family business and a way to showcase the beauty of South Asian culture while playing a helping hand in allowing every bride and groom to feel special on their big day. Chandan is their legacy and one they hope to be able to showcase the beauty and intricacies of throwing that “big Indian wedding” on their new CBC show, “BollyWed.”

“BollyWed” follows this tight-knit family through the joys and difficulties of running a multigenerational business. Throughout the variety of clients, discussions of new generation business practices versus old generation, many lehengas, and plenty of laughs, this is one whirlwind journey through the marriage industry.

Brown Girl had the opportunity to interview Chandan and Roop Singh, who were incredibly down-to-earth and a joy to speak to. Here is the interview down below!

What was the inspiration for opening Chandan?

Chandan: My mom and dad started the vision back in 1984 — they started the business. I have a store in India that was started by my grandfather which my father worked in as well, so it is kind of multi-generational of being within this industry of clothing and fashion. My father had a dream of starting what his father did in India, in Canada. While visiting friends in Toronto, my father knew that the Gerrard Indian Bazaar was the right place for them to start, it was the largest Indian market in the Northern America area. He rented a space for two years a couple of doors down from where Chandan originated and then in 1986 we had the opportunity to purchase the corner unit and grow it from one floor to two, to now a four-floor showroom.

Roop: And it should be noted that 1986 is also the year that Chandan was born, hence the name of the store. Chandan Fashion.

Many cities have their own versions of Little India. What was it like growing up/operating in Gerrard Street East? What do you think makes Gerrard Street unique?

Roop: It is funny you say that because even now when we have people traveling to Toronto, checking out Gerrard Street is on their itinerary. So we get a lot of clientele that are visiting from out of town whether it be visiting for the day or weekend. Some of them will sometimes get a hotel nearby for about a week and do their entire wedding family shopping with us.

Chandan has literally grown up in Gerrard Street, but I grew up in Toronto as well. I spent a good chunk of my own childhood in Little India on Gerrard Street. Growing up in the 90s, it was the only Indian bazaar in the greater Toronto area, so anyone who wanted to meet members of their community, have really good South Asian food, shop for upcoming events, or celebrate Diwali or Holi, this is where [they’d] go. This is where my mom would take me on the weekends and I remember popping into Chandan Fashion when my mom needed an outfit. In that way, our childhoods are connected over Little India and I feel like a lot of first-generation kids will sympathize with me, when we wanted to feel a little bit at home, that is where we would go.

How did you get the “BollyWed” opportunity on CBC? What is it like working with your family? What roles do you all play in the business? How do we get to see this in the show?

Roop: It has been quite a journey. It wasn’t necessarily such a drastic transition because already the family was very close-knit in the sense that they are working day in and day out. We do our social media together and our buying together, go to fashion shows. So naturally things we were already doing as a family were just translated to the TV. That is what I love the most about the show, it is just an authentic following of what we do on a daily basis as a family and as a business. It has been a great experience and something that we are super grateful for. It was actually seven years in the making and I’ll let Chandan tell you how “BollyWed” came to be.

Chandan: It started out in 2014. I was at a wedding show and I was approached by the executive producer, Prajeeth and we shot a shizzle. He had an idea of a wedding show with a family narrative and I had been watching ‘Say Yes to the Dress’ extensively. I knew that there was this really interesting market and this fascination with South Asian outfits and bridalwear given that it was so colorful and the beadwork was so ornate. There was a lot more interesting subject matter, especially if we tie that into a seven-day-long wedding and you tie that into multiple events and families. That is more prevalent in South Asian culture: what the mother-in-law thinks, what the mother thinks. But five to six years went by and we got 22 rejections over that period by almost every network imaginable. I was always excited that we were getting rejected because I knew that eventually, we would get a yes. Eventually at the end of 2021, around the end of the COVID era, the production company reached out asking if we were still interested in the show. I said it was never a question of ‘if,’ it was a question of ‘when.’ From the get-go, I knew that this show would be picked up, I knew it would be a success. In March 2022 we got greenlit. We had this amazing journey of seven months of continuous filming. It has been an amazing journey to be able to represent South Asians on television in a way that has not been done before. I like lighthearted programming and I am glad that we were able to influence the show because of our lives and make it a lighthearted family show that people can watch. But we still get to have important discussions.

Roop: I love that Chandan mentioned this. We get to showcase a lot of pivotal subjects in today’s society. For example, we made sure that inclusivity was showcased across all 10 episodes and that is something that I give credit to our directors and producers, they did a wonderful job showcasing how inclusive not just us as a business, but as a brand and as a family we are. These are values that have been instilled in us, that when somebody crosses your threshold and comes into your store, it doesn’t matter what their background is, their color, or their orientation, that is irrelevant. It is something that we don’t factor in, we just consider that this is the patron, the client. There is no judgment — not in our store, not in our family. And I love that we were able to share that on a big screen for everyone to see. That was one reason why it was so important to do this, but the other reason has a lot to do with Chandan and his childhood.

Chandan: So for me, I was born and raised in Toronto. I went to a very small school where I was the only South Asian for a long time in that school. I was the only Punjabi kid, the only kid with a turban, and eventually the only one with a beard, so I noticeably stood out compared to all my peers. My father with his best intentions sent me to a really small school, a private school, that he could not afford to pay for. Where at times the check would bounce every month, but he had a very strong belief that if he provided me a quality education [so] I would keep something really dear to him —keeping the belief in religion — I wouldn’t cut my hair, I wouldn’t cut my beard, I wouldn’t conform to society. He wanted to give me the best chance to succeed as is, [but] the unfortunate truth was I was bullied, I was picked on. I wouldn’t tell him, but people would grab my jurra, my turban, and my hair. And as a kid I would just let it go because you do not want to go home and tattle to your parents, but also because I knew how sensitive of a topic it was to my dad. And I think that my experience would have been different if people didn’t ask me every month, ‘How long is your hair? What do you keep under that?’ All these questions made me feel really uncomfortable, but the other kids also asked because they had never seen anyone like me. If I had grown up with a show like this, I would not have felt so alone, such a strong desire to belong. This is one of the reasons I really believed in the show, I really wanted to have representation. Even if there is just one other kid who watches this show and grows up in a suburb where there aren’t many South Asian kids; if he is able to turn the TV on and see my dad with such a thick accent — English isn’t his first language — but he still owns it so confidently. Or they see a guy like me with a turban and a beard and see that frankly he still has such a hot wife.

Roop: But beyond that, this gentleman with a turban and thick accent, they are such normal people. They love takeout, they like to play tennis, and they could be your neighbor. Other than their outward appearance, they are very much like you, very similar.

Your support in styling Priyanka for their drag performance was inspiring and refreshing to see. How do you change your styles/designs to foster inclusivity?

Roop: I think that goes back to what I was saying about how Mom and Dad have fostered this universal approach to our clientele. We do not look beyond their needs. I think it is also important to note that some people had thought that we had Priyanka come onto the show to make it more interesting, but their relationship with the store spans over the past five to seven years.

Chandan: Twenty years. Priyanka and their family have been shopping at the store for the past 20 years since they were kids. When Priyanka started exploring the world of drag, they came and said they needed a costume that they would be designing. It also wasn’t even any of my peers or me that made that connection with Priyanka, it was actually my dad, the older generation. He said, ‘Don’t worry beta.’ He actually corrected himself and said, ‘Beti, we will be there for you.’ And he got them a really nice sari and lehenga which they converted into a costume that won the first season.

Roop: And Priyanka put their own spin on it and created something amazing. Only because we were the designers of those pieces could we tell that that is a piece from our lehenga. They did such a fabulous job with it.

Chandan: I think we sometimes think of the older generation, like our parents, as being more conservative, but I think that it is a one-sided narrative. Not all of the older generation is as conservative as we think. And my dad just took it as a paying customer is a paying customer. It doesn’t matter what their orientation or beliefs are, and that just naturally unfolded into the story that we are sharing. He did not treat it as a big deal.


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For our readers currently planning their weddings, do you have any pieces of advice on how to balance all the heavy details of wedding planning without losing sight of why they are doing it for?

Roop: One thing for the bride and groom is not to lose sight of themselves in all of this. I’ve been there and done that. You plan this extravagant seven-day affair, you have all these people flying out to your wedding, and you feel this really heavy responsibility to make sure that all these guests are taking time out of their lives to celebrate your union. And like myself — and I am guilty of this, which is why I want to tell my fellow brides — [you] tend to make it less about [yourself] and more about everyone else who is attending. And yes, of course, everyone is important and I owe them respect for joining us. But remember what you want in the heart of heart, if you want a small wedding, go for a small wedding. If you want a big wedding, go for a big wedding. If you want the seven-tiered cake, go for it, if you just want cupcakes, go for that. At the end of the day don’t forget what makes you happy. Don’t lose sight of it, just be authentic to yourself.

Chandan: Oftentimes in the wedding industry, people are really looked down upon. Like, ‘Oh my gosh, you are spending so much for this wedding!’ Or, ‘You are obsessing over these details!’ If it is important to you, it is okay. I would not let judgment get in the way of doing what you want whether it be a small intimate 20-person wedding or a having a 1000-person wedding. This is your moment. The biggest thing I hear is, ‘Oh, it is only for an hour.’ But, if you have a photographer, nothing is for an hour. It is for a lifetime. Those moments last a lifetime. If it is something that you hold near and dear to you, you will cherish it. I wish people would stay true to themselves.

Roop: Yeah, agreed. Be mindful of what sparks joy in you and let that be your compass. The most important piece of advice though: At every function please request that your caterer create a to-go container of the meal at the event for you and your partner to enjoy after because often, and it is so sad to hear this, the bride and groom will eat last at their own event or not at all. And you spend all these months planning [an] extravagant menu and then you don’t even get to eat your own wedding cake. Hah! That happened to us!

Do you have any future plans that you feel excited about sharing with Chandan?

Chandan: Yeah! I would say concrete plans are in the pipeline. In the first episode of ‘BollyWed’ [you] see that we come to the realization that there is just not enough space and we would love to expand into another space.

Roop: And this is where you get a lot of the new generation, old generation beliefs. Because mom and dad believe that the family should stay very close-knit and together to run the one location. And Chandan has the belief that [the] true success of a business is when it is scalable, and has multiple locations nationally, globally even. In Episode 10 you get a conclusion, but we will let the readers watch it for themselves!

You can now watch the inaugural season of CBC’s “BollyWed” on CBC TV every Thursday at 8 p.m. EST or stream it for free on CBC Gem! And that’s not all from the Chandan Fashion team! They’ll soon be featured in an Instagram LIVE chat with Brown Girl Magazine, so stay tuned!

By Vashali Jain

Vashali Jain is a medical student at Virginia Commonwealth University. In her spare time, she likes to experiment in the … 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!

[Read Related: Fashion Influencer Ritvi Shah on how to Nail Content Creation]


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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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By Brown Girl Magazine

Born out of the lack of minority representation in mainstream media, Brown Girl Magazine was created by and for South … Read more ›