December 22, 2020 December 22, 2020 < 1 min read 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 ›
Emily Harwitz is a journalist, photographer, and podcaster whose work focuses on making the outdoors a more inclusive place. Coming from a background in chemistry and ecology, Harwitz uses her knowledge to tell stories about the environment. She has written for many publications including High Country News, Hakai Magazine, Mongabay, Chemical & Engineering News, and more. Harwitz is an ambassador for Girls Who Click which is a nonprofit that empowers women to forge their paths in conservation photography. Her creativity does not stop there as Harwitz is also the host and producer of the Save the Redwoods League podcast: “I’ll Go If You Go.” Harwitz has explored a range of topics such as forest bathing, skateboarding, and building an inclusive community in the outdoors. Her stories do not stop there as Harwitz is always on the move looking for her next story. Continue reading to learn more about Emily Harwitz’s journey.
The outdoors is inherently inclusive because, the moment you step outside, you’re outdoors, regardless of who you think you are. What needs to change is how we think about who is and isn’t “natural,” or what’s a “natural” way to behave. The natural way to be is however you are.
When I’m in nature, I feel the smallness of my being in the context of the bigness of the natural world. But the amazing thing is, when I slow down to look around, smell the air, touch the dirt, I feel like I’m a part of that nature, too. It’s really comforting to feel connected to something so vast outside myself. I no longer think it’s hoaky to say that appreciating nature’s beauty is spiritual for me. It just feels so good to look at water sparkling in the sun, or a dusting of purple and yellow flowers in a gently waving field of grass. Watching how animals and other creatures seem to flow through their landscapes is also a spiritual experience. How perfect they seem! And wow, I’m an animal, too!
This brings up some important questions: In what context do I exist that effortlessly? How can I foster that feeling for myself in my daily life? How can I foster that feeling for others? And how can I connect other people to that feeling of “I love being alive!”? That fuels so much of my work—wanting to share the feeling of what I experience in nature with others.
I just wrote a story about biophobia, or the fear of nature, for Hakai Magazine and it got picked up by The Atlantic. I’m pretty stoked about that because this is a really important topic. The story’s about how certain aspects of modern life, like urbanization and the ensuing lack of daily nature experiences, are driving people to feel increasingly disconnected from nature. This not only impacts conservation, but also human health because nature provides so many benefits to physical and mental health. Here’s a good article introducing a growing body of research about the health benefits of nature immersion. Nature also provides the opportunity to feel connected to something bigger than ourselves, which I believe is an important thing to experience.
Absolutely. Animals from all walks of life, I like that! I eat a pretty pescatarian diet and try to use Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch to look up the seafood I eat. I feel strongly about what I put in my body and where it comes from. Beyond the sustainability and health concerns of factory-farmed animals, I am deeply disturbed by the conditions animals are subjected to in factory farms. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, look it up. If you do know what I’m talking about and you’re still eating conventionally-raised factory-farmed animals, I’d urge you to take another look. We all exist in systems, though, and I know it can be hard for people to totally overhaul their diets—especially with things like ag-gag laws in the US blocking the spread of information about the conditions farm animals are raised in. It’s a privilege to even be able to consider where I’m getting my food from, considering the vast food deserts in the US and how inaccessible fresh produce is for many. So, my hope is for a growing collective consciousness about our food systems that eventually leads to regenerative agriculture that’s healthy for all of us on this planet.
I think we should all consume less, so I’m going to recommend a few organizations promoting equitable outdoor access, diversity, and inclusivity: Skate Like a Girl, Feminist Bird Club, The Outdoorist Oath, Brown Girl Surf, Queer Asian Social Club, Hike Clerb. All of these orgs have great Instagram pages so you can fill your feed with diverse stories and faces. I guess this is still a kind of consumption, but hopefully an inspiring and generative kind!
Girls Who Click connected me with an incredible filmmaking mentor, Dewi Marquis, who is also mixed Asian American. In addition to practical advice for film shoots, we’ve talked about work and life as women of color and the importance of listening to our own intuition during the creative process. Dewi’s involved with some great filmmaking organizations that I think the Brown Girl Magazine community would be interested in: Asian American Documentary Network, Brown Girls Doc Mafia, and Film Fatales.
Thanks for this question! This new season is all about building community outdoors—hearing guests’ stories about how they started and grew their awesome community groups and organizations. My hope is that people can hear these stories and then go foster their own communities, wherever they are. All of our guests started with the desire to connect more with nature and others who can relate to their experiences as BIPOC and/or LGBTQ2S+ folks in the outdoors. If you identify with either or both of those categories, this podcast is for you! It’s by us, for us. The best way to support would be to listen, rate us 5 stars (if that’s how you feel), and share with friends. You can also follow the podcast on IG at @illgoifyougopodcast.
I love this question! For hiking, aka a big walk outside, I always bring: a least one 32 oz. water bottle, a thermos of tea (oolong or green), a notebook or sketchbook, a pen or pencil. Sometimes I’ll bring a book that I don’t end up reading (how can I when there’s so much pretty nature to look at?), a tub of strawberries or other in-season fruit, my camera (currently shooting on a Sony alpha 6300 and a G200-600 lens). One of these days, I’m planning to bring my flute and a field recorder (Zoom H5). For going camping, I’d say: Make plans with a friend who already has lots of gear and likes to plan camping trips! Or there are lots of organizations that host camping trips you can sign up for. One day, I’ll go solo-backpacking, but I really enjoy camping with friends.
My Chinese grandpa who recently passed away. He loved nature, especially flowers, and I would love to go for a hike with to appreciate the beauty of nature together.
Personally: my grandmother who worked as lawyer to protect the environment in Florida, where I grew up. She introduced me to the whole world of conservation at an early age and I have so many joyful memories sifting through sargassum weed with her for tiny little shrimp and crabs, or looking for monarch caterpillars in the garden.
Thinking globally: Indigenous peoples around the world who steward and protect the lands they live on—including 80% of the world’s biodiversity. There’s growing recognition of this, and I hope to see more respect, protection, resources, and political action dedicated to Indigenous peoples who are doing this important work.
Definitely! It’s already happening. Social media has actually been really beneficial in this regard because people can form their own communities online and share media and resources relevant to them. The outdoors industry is moving slower, but I’m seeing more initiatives to diversify marketing and such. The industry will have to adapt to include the people of the global majority if it wants to survive.
Biodiverse (including humans!), inclusive, healthy, thriving, accessible experiences for adaptive skill levels. I am optimistic!
True! Maybe an animal in the bushes nearby and a human friend to share it all with :)
We’re all natural and we’re all nature people. There are as many ways to love and be loved by nature as there are people.
Photo Courtesy of Dani Shi
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.
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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.
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.
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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.
“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.”
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.”
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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.
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.
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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 Konshens and those interviews aired nationally which was massive.
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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.
Kirin Sinha, founder and CEO of Illumix, has been in the entertainment-tech space for almost a decade. She grew up with an interest in technical spaces (math) as well as creative and artistic pursuits — specifically dance — and wanted to bring both together.
Enter Illumix, a company born out of her passion for both tech and the arts.
Sinha has set out to help foster creativity but in a tech-forward way that will make a huge impact, and she knew that a tech company is what will help her drive the change she’s looking for.
I believe that the most impactful companies in the past several decades have been tech companies, the ones that can make a huge impact. I wanted to be part of that for the future and redefine who the voices are that are creating this next layer of technology. For me, that was the passion around women in tech, other voices being heard in the tech space, and how they can shape what the future looks like.
Here’s the in-depth conversation that we had with Sinha:
I started ideating Illumix in 2015/2016 and then the company was officially formed in 2017. We are a tech infrastructure focusing on bringing together the digital and physical worlds; an augmented reality platform that lets anybody easily create augmented reality content, without having to invest the time, and money building out the technology themselves. So it’s really about how can we make this form of content accessible to brands and companies around the world.
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Augmented Reality (AR) is bringing the digital and physical worlds together. It’s when there is a digital layer on top of your real world. So, you see something through the lens of a camera but it’s not actually there. The most common example is Pokémon Go.
The growth of social media really gave a lot of power back to the consumer. It really became about user-generated content, and even more recently, it’s become more about personalized content — what you see on your TikTok feed is probably dramatically different from what I see on mine. I think that has really led to the core underlying trend here, which is, that content is more personalized, it’s more interactive, or immersive, and those two pieces take us to the next logical step: augmented reality.
One of the things [AR] does is it allows our content to be even more interactive and immersive than what we see on a 2D screen. It also allows things to become much more about you. For example, in e-commerce, it’s very different to see a 2D image of a model wearing something that may not at all correlate to you versus actually seeing what that product would look like on you as you’re making a purchase decision.
Being able to take all these different components and bringing them into your world, I think, is very powerful and is the foundational trend that’s driven, at least most recently, in social media.
I really found my passion for tech and media in 2016. I always knew I was passionate about technology; I always knew I had a creative component. I always thought I was going to be a professor. But when I first started to explore entertainment as a real industry or field that I was interested in, it completely lit me up. I think it was such an interesting time around then, when you saw these big traditional tech companies — like Apple and Netflix — moving into more of a media space. So, that intersection was fascinating to me and it was the perfect blend that I was really excited and passionate about. That’s when I knew that my career was going to be about media and technology.
The lifestyle component is something that I think a lot about because as an entrepreneur, you give 100% of yourself to your company. It always trumps everything in your life and that’s very difficult. It requires a lot of sacrifices, and it can be very grueling, but it’s also long-term; it’s not a sprint, it’s a marathon. You have to think, ‘If I want to be running this company 10 years from now, how can I make it sustainable for me when it takes so much of me?’ So I think that’s where I became really focused around lifestyle pieces and what you can do day-to-day to help drive your success; how you can create habits, discipline, and lifestyle choices that give you the ability to show up 100% every day, but still maintain that for a long period of time.
It’s something that I’ve been experimenting with for years. I feel like I’ve treated myself like a scientific experiment since I was in high school. I’ve tried all sorts of sleeping schedules and diets — I’ve done everything in highly regimented ways and I think that’s given me decades of information on what’s effective and what works for me.
There are many things! There were two avenues that I had to grow the most in: perseverance and my relationship with rejection. I think that in most traditional jobs, you might see ‘no’ or see some elements of rejection, but as a founder, a huge part of your job is just to take rejection. It’s to fundraise, it’s to tell your stories, it’s to try to sell and be rejected in every way. I think [knowing] to not be demotivated by that, and actually treating that as motivation to keep going, realizing that no ‘no’ is a no forever, it’s a ‘no’ right now, is important.
That reframing has been really important and I feel every entrepreneur will have moments when they think everything is going down. I think being able to get used to that churn and the volatility that can be there, and always maintaining a level of certainty and vision in where you’re going, is incredibly important.
For me, it’s not about the work and the sacrifice — I was actually quite well-suited for that — it’s the emotional component of feeling like everything is on your shoulders, you have this responsibility to your employees and investors, to reach certain outcomes. You just have to keep going. You have to reframe your attitude towards ‘no’ in such a profound way.
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This is 100% a male-dominated industry even today. The number of [female] entrepreneurs has been declining and I think that one of the things that always stood out to me was that there are not a lot of women who are starting their own companies, so that’s already an important space to continue to grow. Further, there are not a lot of women who have technical backgrounds, and who are starting technology companies. Of that pool, you see a lot of consumer-focused brands, but it’s not technology companies, and that’s a whole different ball game to some level. It’s a different set of investors [and] more of a tech focus automatically means it’s more male-dominated.
I would love to see more women pursuing companies that are not gender-specific. It is important for women to serve other women because we have an understanding, but there’s no reason why only men should be running technology companies of the next decade. To my point earlier, the largest and most impactful companies will be technology companies, and that is an opportunity for minorities and women to have a voice and really shape the future in a way that’s huge and far-reaching.
For me to be growing up, and being in the space, and really not seeing a lot of other women [in this industry], I didn’t have that mentor figure for me who could help figure things out, and at some point, I decided this is what I want to do and this is the version of the world I feel passionate about, and want to live in. I’m just going to go and do it and hopefully bring a lot of other women up alongside me. Even if it’s not me in the end, I feel like I made an impact and cleared the way for us.
The most important thing going in is what is your vision of the world? Not your product, not anything specific to you, but if you can answer the question, ‘in 10 years the world will look like, X,’ and you know your reason for WHY we get there, that’s where the big impact is, in terms of the ways we shift how we operate. If you know that, and that’s your north star, and that’s what you believe in, then there’s always flexibility in how you get there.
I definitely want to say something about the expectations around being a South Asian woman in business. I think in general for women, at least I felt this for South Asian women, there are expectations on balancing family and career and which pieces ultimately come first. And that is always a line I’m trying to dance around because family is the most important thing to me, and I will always be there for my family first, but at the same time, you do need that level of dedication and willingness to give yourself over entirely to your company. I think solving for that balance, and this is part of why I’m so passionate about those lifestyle pieces, and figuring out a way for that to be sustainable for me in the long run, is a big motivation behind why I do that kind of content.
It’s not just a pure optimization game, it’s about figuring out what types of work, moments and crises, and opportunities I decide are at the top of my list and worth me setting that time [out], and what types of family things have to be at the top of my list always. I experiment with that in so many different ways — i.e. no meeting days where I can really just think about the company but also spend more time with family.
Figuring out what those balances are, in being successful in both day-to-day, is one of the most challenging things I go through. The reality is that you never feel great about either. You never feel like you crushed it on both sides. It’s more about stepping outside of the ‘everyday’ and thinking on a wider scale. Like, this year, how do I fill that balance plate?
We have historically been, in the majority, in the entertainment-tech field. As an infrastructure play, this year will be about us expanding into new verticals. So for us, commerce is one of the biggest verticals to expand into; we might look at other forms of entertainment like sports or music. So it will really be about creating new use cases and creating new verticals that can leverage Illumix to create their own stories or express content in a new way.
Sinha’s Illumix has made great strides in the entertainment-tech world since its inception. It was also part of the Disney Accelerator Program with which the team had the chance to work with an incredibly talented and creative set of individuals. It’s only up from here!
Stay tuned for an Instagram LIVE session with Sinha in the near future! Watch our IG for more!
Featured Image Courtesy: Kirin Sinha.