Like many South Asian families, my family has had an unfortunate history of heart disease and diabetes. Three of my grandparents died of heart attacks under the age of 60, with one passing away in her forties.
A few years ago, one of my cousins died from a heart attack at age 29. Unfortunately, this is a common phenomenon with South Asians having the highest death rate from heart disease compared to other ethnic groups.
Fortunately, Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal, the first South Asian woman elected to the House of Representatives, is on the case. Right before the August recess, Jayapal introduced H.R. 3592, or the “South Asian Heart Health Awareness and Research Act,” along with Republican co-sponsor Joe Wilson. The bipartisan bill primarily aims to address the high rates of heart disease amongst South Asian Americans by providing funding to the Centers for Disease Control and National Institute of Health for South Asian American cardiovascular research.
Studies on South Asian cardiovascular risk have shown that South Asians are at a greater risk for cardiovascular disease. South Asians are more likely to have heart attacks before the age of 50 as compared to other ethnicities and have a four-times greater risk of developing heart disease. Even further, South Asians are much more likely to be affected by heart disease at a young age, with studies showing almost one in three South Asians will die from heart disease before 65.
These are incredibly scary statistics. And the fact that South Asian Americans are less likely to smoke and have higher rates of vegetarianism makes these numbers even more worrisome. If South Asians are doing everything right, what is causing heart disease among us? And what can be done to reverse this seemingly inevitable fate for so many?
Unfortunately, research on South Asian American populations and their risk for cardiovascular disease is sadly lacking. Most research on heart disease in the United States has been conducted on white, male populations, and there has been very little focus on the specific needs of non-European communities who often come from unique environmental circumstances, cultural backgrounds, and genetic histories which all play a role in their likelihood of developing heart disease.
However, H.R. 3592 could significantly impact a group that has not reaped many of the benefits of CDC and NIH research. And as a bipartisan bill, it has a much higher chance of passing the Republican-controlled House of Representatives. The bill currently has 19 co-sponsors and is gaining traction as mainstream media and advocacy organizations for the South Asian community have picked up on the bill.
It took several decades of existence in the United States for a South Asian congresswoman to be elected and for someone to bring up the issue of heart health disparities within our community. But at least, this issue of great seriousness in my family has finally been acknowledged. Hopefully, it will also soon be substantially addressed.
Sravya Tadepalli is a student at the University of Oregon studying political science and journalism. She is a proud Indian-American-Oregonian and grew up in a small town in the southern Willamette Valley. Sravya is passionate about theater, racial issues, and politics. She is also particularly interested in figuring out policy solutions to problems of social justice and political partisanship.
Indian-American commercial real estate and land consultant Anita Verma-Lallian launched Camelback Productions at an event held in Paradise Valley, Arizona, Jan. 7. Billed as the state’s first women-and South Asian-owned film production and entertainment company, it will focus on South Asian representation and storytelling, according to a press statement issued by Verma-Lallian. The announcement follows “Arizona Governor Doug Ducey’s $125 million film tax credit for film and TV production that was introduced in July 2022, “ the statement added.
The Jan. 7 private launch party and meet and greet introduced investors and supporters to what’s ahead for Camelback Productions.
Noting the “major push to see minority groups represented in the media over the past few years,” Verma-Lallian said she wants to see more South Asians represented. “I want my children to see themselves when they watch TV. I want my daughter’s dream to become an actress to become a reality. Skin color shouldn’t be a barrier to that.”
The event opened with remarks from Phoenix Mayor Kate Gallego, who has served as the city’s 62nd mayor since 2019. She welcomes the company to “the greater Phoenix community.” She expressed confidence that “the team will attract some of the country’s top talent to the Valley.”
Guests at the event included actor and comedian Lilly Singh, actor Nik Dodani, Aparna of Netflix’s “Indian Matchmaking,” Bali Chainani and Anisha Ramakrishna of Bravo’s “Family Karma” fame, and Paramount+ executive P. Sean Gupta, to name a few.
The company is Verma-Lallian’s first venture into the film industry. She is known for providing full concierge services for land seekers and developers of all types of sites and assists investors in discovering viable properties in the Phoenix area through her company, Arizona Land Consulting, the statement added.
Named in honor of the iconic Camelback Mountain in the Valley, Verma-Lallian says she wants her production company to have the same indestructible foundation. Camelback Productions plans to begin its first project later this summer.
The room erupted in applause when actress Poorna Jagannathan said: “In America, I feel like I am just getting started,” during The Juggernaut Summit that took place on Sept. 23, 2023 in New York City.
The particular statement, reflecting on Jagannathan’s career trajectory since shifting from Bollywood to Hollywood, also captured what seemed to be the overarching message of the day: South Asians aren’t having just a moment; they’re starting a movement.
Hosted by The Juggernaut — a subscription-based online South Asian magazine chronicling what it calls “the unstoppable rise of South Asians” — The Juggernaut Summit was a day-long gathering that welcomed over 200 attendees from inside and outside of the diaspora.
“This is the first summit, but hoping we can make it an annual event,” said Snigdha Sur, the founder and CEO of the outlet.
Sur shared that she noticed how segmented professional conferences tend to be — specific to tech, entertainment, and business, among others — and wanted The Juggernaut Summit to be different.
“Our generation really wants to connect across sector lines and support each other without competition. I’ve always really admired how the Black community has managed to come together in that way with Essencefest and the NAACP, and I thought ‘we [South Asians] need that.’”
The summit welcomed 24 speakers across seven diverse panels discussing topics including mindset, investing and innovation, retail in a 21st-century economy, geopolitics, artificial intelligence, food and entertainment.
The event was filled with a number of poignant and memorable moments.
The summit began with investor, entrepreneur and creator Sahil Bloom getting candid about his professional journey and upbringing in a biracial household.
Later, there was passionate discourse amidst the geopolitics panel of journalist Rana Ayyub, CEO of Bodhala and former Kansas State Representative Raj Goyle, Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative reporter Azmat Khan — and even audience members.
While the topics were serious, there was also no shortage of laughs. When the investment panelists were asked “Team Gulab Jamun or Ras Malai?” both sweets were even distributed on stage.
Attendees and speakers alike were able to connect on shared experiences like grappling with guilt and taboos surrounding money, prejudice, and bias when trying to advance in their careers; social and political responsibilities as South Asians; familial expectations as immigrants or the children of immigrants, as well as little things like the event running just a bit on “Indian Standard Time” and not finding any restaurant that can cook as well as your mom.
Time was even allocated to enjoy samosas and a cup of chai during breaks.
It was refreshing to hear many speakers including angel investor Arati Sharma and actress Richa Moorjani mention the importance of taking care of your mental health as individuals with ambition.
Oscar-winning director Mira Nair, food writer Priya Krishna, and director Sri Rao also urged everyone in the room to follow their passions and stay diligent noting there is so much work to be done in terms of South Asian representation and inclusion.
At one point in the day, Sur took to the brightly-branded summit stage to read a statement from the US Vice President, Kamala Harris, that reinforced these calls to action.
“The Juggernaut’s stories echo stories like mine and my mother’s,” Harris’s statement read.
“She raised my sister and me to take pride in our South Asian heritage and to believe that nothing was out of our reach. It is because of the values instilled by my mother that I serve as your vice president. Each of you here today has your own story too. We stand on the shoulders of those who came before us and continue to dream with ambition to achieve the impossible….May today’s summit motivate you to continue to move us forward and toward a brighter future for all.”
Today, there are many more South Asians in prominent public positions than ever before in America, but geopolitics panelist Goyle raised the question of what happens should the country reach what he called “Peak Brown” or issues abroad affect South Asians domestically.
While there are no clear-cut answers to this or many of the questions raised as of yet, they all come back to the same fact: South Asians are finally getting their seats at the table and change is upon us.
The Juggernaut Summit sparked inspiration and motivation and crucial conversations like this one that will continue outside of the Spring Studio venue.
Other guests and speakers at the event included: Benchmark General Partner Chetan Puttagunta, Anchorless Bangladesh founder Rahat Ahmed, Vice Chairman of SUN Group Shiv Khemka, CEO of LVMH USA Anish Melwani, Founder and CEO of Poshmark Manish Chandra, Unapologetic Foods co-founders Roni Mazumdar and Chintan Pandya, Vinay Menda, Sajani Amarasiri, Rohini Kosoglu, Keith Peiris, Samyutha Reddy, Amish Jani, and George Mathew.
The expansion of digital content across radio, television and the internet has allowed audiences to engage with media rapidly. As technology advances, the entertainment industry has grown exponentially and people have a wealth of information at their fingertips in the blink of an eye. Since high school, Deepa Prashad was fascinated by this power of media and aspired to be an on-air personality who could interact with viewers through creative content whilst representing her Indo Caribbean heritage. After navigating the competitiveness of Canadian broadcast hosting for seven years, Prashad continues to push herself into various modalities of media and add to her growing successes, while championing others to share their own authentic content.
Self-confidence and the desire to show a different perspective on entertainment prompted Prashad to be interested in broadcasting. While initially nervous about her family’s reaction to a nontraditional career path for Indo Caribbean women, Prashad received her parents’ full support and became the first person in her family to study broadcasting at Ryerson University in Toronto, Canada.
She began applying for television-hosting positions in her first year despite not having any experience or a finished degree, affirming, “I totally believed in myself and my capabilities.”
In an interview with Prashad, we delve into her career path, diverse representation in media and her courage to create and promote content that reflects her individuality.
How did you begin your career in hosting and digital content production?
The kids channel I watched growing up, The Family Channel, was doing a nationwide casting call for their new TV host. The host would host interstitials between shows, digital series, and do TV show and movie interviews. I didn’t have an agent at the time so I applied on my own. I was called in for my first audition ever and it was quite shocking. A room full of 10 to 15 people just observing me as I delivered lines and did mock interviews for fake shows. Two months later, I was officially cast as the host of The Family Channel!
While ecstatic about her first job, Prashad was met with racism. She stated,
Someone else, who applied for the position, made it a point to come up to me in person to say that they hoped I knew the only reason I got the job was because I was brown and the company obviously just needed to fill a quota.
Brushing the words aside, she continued hosting on The Family Channel for five years. She has also worked as an entertainment and food reporter on Canadian shows, Breakfast Television and Cityline. By advocating for herself as capable, personable and multifaceted, she did not shy away from new opportunities to advance her career and showcased herself as a leader who could resonate with broad audiences.
Wanting to explore new horizons, Prashad approached the social media company blogTO and pitched herself to be their first full-time video host focusing on Toronto food hotspots. After being hired, she visited multiple restaurants daily to host, film and edit her own content and curated personalized food videos for viewers to immerse themselves in. Prashad later forayed into the world of radio, one she never thought she would join but quickly fell in love with. She was most recently the first female voice on Toronto’s KISS 92.5 channels, The Roz and Mocha Show. Prashad enjoyed the greater flexibility of being on the radio compared to television and video hosting,
All I had to present was me. It became such a personal experience for me getting on that mic, sharing stories with listeners about the way I was raised, coming from a Guyanese household, being part of an (interfaiths marriage), [etc…] That created an incredibly strong bond between myself, our listeners and our friends that I’m so grateful for.
Tell us about your current position.
“I’m moving onto new adventures now and adding sports reporting under my belt. I will be joining BarDown | TSN to cover Formula 1, this includes doing content for TSN in the digital and TV space. I’ve never dabbled in the world of sports, so this is going to be an interesting new road for me.”
What topics are you most passionate about when creating digital content and why?
Food has to be my number one passion when it comes to digital content. Obviously I love eating and trying new things, but food is such a universal language. It connects people, it excites people and often teaches people about different cultures. I love to see how that content can generate conversations and I love to see when people admit they’ve never tried that particular food or cuisine, but added it to their list.
I also love creating Formula 1 content because Formula 1 is a massive passion of mine! I currently Twitch stream playing the Formula 1 video game F1 22. I’ve been on a pursuit to continuously learn more about the sport and to even get better at the game, because let’s be real, I’m terrible at it but I’m also OK with that!
Prashad is not immune to online mockery and negative comments about her work. When making the switch to Formula 1, she was ridiculed by some male viewers over her love of the sport and was inundated with comments like “Go back to the dishes” or “Go do laundry where you belong.” Antiquated and sexist notions about being a working woman in the media led to her looks being graded; there were comments regarding her extroverted personality and rampant discussions over her weight. There was a moment in her career where Prashad admits,
I actually wanted to make changes to myself — try to be a little less outgoing, not be so loud, change my hosting style from this incredibly bubbly style to a more laid back informative take.
Drawing on her self-belief, she soon realized that, “This doesn’t work for me. I began to appreciate all my quirks.”
Is there an area of hosting or content production that you believe you’re better at?
I really love to host digital content in particular because there’s a certain freedom that comes with it. I don’t always have to be prim and proper like sometimes I do need to do for TV. I can be me — loud, goofy, and incredibly dorky. I never want to have two different personas — one for the public eye, and then a private. On social media, what you see is exactly what you get. Digital content has allowed me to love myself even more.
Prashad plans to continue in the industry for the foreseeable future. She recognizes the impact of being an Indo Caribbean woman at the forefront of media and defines her success as “…I can continue to represent my culture and how I make others feel.” Her best moments are connecting with others through their lived experiences and offering a different lens on growing up in Canada.
How did you feel breaking into the industry as a woman of color?
What a great feeling that was, and even better, being an Indo Caribbean woman. I went through my fair share of hardships. I’ve faced racism, sexism and bullying throughout my journey of getting to where I am today. But, I have stood up for myself every single time. I will never allow myself to be walked all over. And believe me, people have attempted MANY times. But I pick myself back up and continue along my way.
I think it really hit me that I was making an impact when I started to hear from people how much they related to my childhood stories, the way I was brought up, the movies I watched as a kid. It’s those moments that made me realize I accomplished my goal.
How has your background influenced your interest in hosting and digital content production?
I never saw people like me in the media growing up. I always wanted to change that. I didn’t feel that I had anyone I could personally connect with when I watched TV. And to me that was always so mind blowing because the media, although so broad, is such a personal industry.
I have always been proud to say on air that I’m a Guyanese woman. I have made it a point to fight for more Caribbean content on air. I’ve made it a point to share stories about my family, where they came from, and even the experiences I’ve had growing up in a Guyanese family. Promoting Caribbean culture in general has always been important to me. And progress has been made! At my previous radio job, I pushed incredibly hard to start interviewing Caribbean artists and to highlight them. I had the opportunity to interview artists like Sean Paul, Kes and Konshensand those interviews aired nationally which was massive.
Prashad often infuses cultural content into her work by showcasing Indian and Caribbean food, offering Bollywood movie recommendations, detailing her trips to Guyana, talking about new music and sharing information about Caribbean events in Toronto. She does not believe that cultural content needs to be pared down for the masses but instead advocates for aspiring Indo Caribbean creators to keep releasing diverse and authentic content that is representative of themselves.
She notes that the Indo Caribbean experience is not a monolith and that,
We need more representation! What feels most authentic to you can be vastly different from other content creators. I don’t think there’s a right or wrong way of creating content, but the best version of content you’re going to create is when you’re being true to who you are, and having fun.
At only 27 years old, Prashad’s journey has taken her across multiple forms of media. From interviewing Hollywood and Bollywood celebrities to hosting various television shows and being an online and radio voice, she continues to explore different mediums as a means of storytelling and connection. Hardships were plenty during Prashad’s rise to fame, but a steady belief in herself and a willingness to take on new endeavors with authenticity have provided her the grit to overcome challenges.
Prashad is eagerly awaiting to leap into her next digital venture and is actively commending more Indo Caribbean content creators to step into the spotlight with their own personal stories.