This year, Brown Girl Magazine is launching its very first youth vertical, filling a critical gap in South Asian journalism that until now didn’t have a dedicated section for young South Asian Millennials and Gen Z’s to write for and read about. Designed and led by editor Shriya Bhattacharya, this new vertical aims to create a safe, inclusive, and diverse space for young people to express their opinions about a range of issues – from health to politics to fashion – while also giving writers the opportunity to hone their journalism skills, thereby cultivating a new generation of storytellers.
“Youth voices are often vastly underrepresented and deprioritized in the media, especially when they belong to minority communities. This new youth vertical will give the power to young people to express themselves in a whole new way,” Shriya says.
As a publication, Brown Girl Magazine heavily influences mainstream South Asian culture in terms of its writing, partnerships, and community building. To sustain this momentum, it is necessary to integrate younger voices and give them a platform. BGM hopes that the community created by the youth vertical will encourage those in middle school, high school, and college students, young professionals, influencers and thought leaders, and anyone with a hyphenated identity to engage in dialogue and connect with one another. Currently, the youth vertical has four writers and two advisors, each of whom brings a unique experience to the table. Keep reading to learn more about the team, including why they joined the vertical and their plans to change the fabric of South Asian journalism.
Shriya Bhattacharya is the youth editor at Brown Girl Magazine. She is an Indian American journalist based in New York City and recently started her full-time reporting career as an editorial fellow at Washingtonian. She also freelance writes; her portfolio includes Teen Vogue, Dance Magazine, Prism, and more. Originally from Pennsylvania, Shriya has lived and worked in the United States, India, and Belgium. She graduated from Agnes Scott College in 2018 with a B.A. in international relations and dance. In her free time, she can be found teaching dance classes, exploring the outdoors, and traveling to different parts of the world, always on the lookout for stories that should be told.
Kavita Rai is a passionate youth activist and journalist centered around creation and thinking out-of-the-box. She is a storyteller and public speaker at heart and uses journalism as a platform for her activism, writing about global and national politics as well as her South Asian identity. She served on Girl Up Campaign’s international youth consultant board, advising the organization on communication and advocacy strategies. Building off of her activism, she lobbied on Capitol Hill with the ACLU and Girl Up for bills ranging from immigration reform to protecting girls abroad. She has been invited to speak on behalf of organizations including Los Angeles City Hall for the 70th Anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights day and Girl Up for the Annual Global Leadership Summit in Washington D.C. She’s excited to continue her education and advocacy work as a student at University of Southern California.
A powerhouse, Pranjal is an Indian American organizer, founder of Global Girlhood, and Co-Host of Brown Sugar. She first started organizing when she was 12 years old, creating an anti-cyberbullying campaign with her district attorney. Now a sophomore at Cornell University, Pranjal has created numerous social justice events, curriculum, and workshops and built organizational and digital power from the ground up. From fueling conversation around sex and sensuality to proudly claiming her identity as a previously undocumented South Asian woman, Pranjal is adding the representation you wanted when you were younger.
Medha Gollamudi, Writer
Medha Gollamudi is a writer for the youth vertical and is currently interning at Soft Punk Magazine and Urban Asian. She loves to write about women’s activism and entrepreneurship, environmental justice, sustainability, and rising artists in the music industry. She is originally from India, grew up in Sydney, Australia, and now resides in New Jersey where she is currently a high school sophomore. Her hobbies include listening to music and going thrift shopping. Medha is looking forward to uncovering new stories and learning more about her Indian identity.
“As a young South Asian woman, this outlet of being able to write about topics in the South Asian community that matter to me and could help others break the barrier of a topic being too taboo, is certainly important to me and beneficial. I think it’s about sisterhood at the end of the day, and finding comfort within your community knowing that your experiences could be shared by others, and the inputs from those conversations are ones that you can carry with you for the rest of your life,” Medha says.
Surina Venkat, Writer
Surina Venkat is a writer for Brown Girl Magazine’s youth vertical. She currently lives in West Melbourne, Florida where she can frequently be found volunteering at her local library or caught listening to a podcast while walking with her dog. When she isn’t reading or writing, you can find her @SurinaVenkat on Twitter.
“Young people often struggle to get their stories told and when they do, it’s the adults that get to control the narrative and write their stories for them. BGM’s new youth vertical empowers South Asian youth to tell their own stories and offer their own perspectives on the problems that affect their generation, filling a crucial gap in media coverage of youth issues,” Surina says.
Sakhi Kulkarni, Writer
Sakhi Kulkarni is a high schooler from Holliston, Massachusetts. She currently serves as a writer for the youth vertical and has a deep interest in the fields of public health and politics. Sakhi has worked alongside various organizations within the youth activism space since April 2020 to elect progressive candidates and mobilize youth to engender change in their communities by training them in advocacy and education skills. In her free time, she likes to read, spend time with family and friends, listen to music, and bake!
“Our words as young people hold so much power, and the opportunity to share my thoughts with so many other South Asians across a wide variety of backgrounds excites me. I’m looking forward to writing with and interacting with all the other brown girls participating in the youth vertical, and can’t wait to see what we will achieve together,” Sakhi says.
Born in New York but raised in Africa and India, Ritika Agrawal is a global desi paving her way through the media industry. She currently studies at Iowa State University where she will graduate in May 2021 with a degree in advertising. She has interned at NBCUniversal three times and is a budding digital creator and the founder of Young Media Professionals Foundation. Apart from her side hustles, you will often find Ritika traveling around the world, watching a ton of Bollywood movies, and trying on the latest trends in fashion and beauty!
“Youth is often a confusing term and is underrepresented globally. The youth vertical of Brown Girl Magazine is here to bridge that gap. I am thrilled to begin my journey as a writer with a community that supports all kinds of South Asians and holds important conversations with a futuristic approach,” Ritika says.
If you’re interested in learning more about the youth vertical, want to partner with us, have a story idea, or want to join the team, please contact editor Shriya Bhattacharya at email@example.com
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!
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.
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.
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!