6 South Asian Creators Whose Voices Are Changing Mainstream Media
Last Updated on September 17, 2021 by blendtw
You’ve heard of Mindy Kaling, Hasan Minhaj, Lilly Singh, and recently Maitreyi Ramakrishnan, but who else have you heard of? There are not many South Asian creatives and influencers who have been able to reach mainstream Western media.
Often within South Asian communities, there is a significant emphasis on finding a stable 9 to 5 job. This is common in Asian countries; due to large population sizes, there is always competition for positions. Fields such as medicine, engineering, and law are valued for their stability. The idea is that even if you are mediocre in these fields, you will receive a decent salary.
This concept, paired with the fact that Asians make up less than one percent of the entertainment and art industry, has resulted in a limited number of South Asian creators in Western media. However, there are still South Asian origin creators who are making significant strides and changes within the community.
Here is a list of South Asian creators and influencers, each in different types of creative fields, who are breaking the barriers of Western mainstream media and pushing societal norms through their work.
Raveena is a singer-songwriter whose songs mesmerize listeners with their warbling synths, soft piano, delicate harps, and hypnotic, honey-like vocals. Influenced by the Sikh practices and North Indian parents that she grew up with, Raveena’s music marries the experience of the South Asian diaspora with contemporary R&B and soul.
Raveena has released several EPs and a long album, each portraying a different aspect of her life. The title track of her first EP, If Only, discusses a broken, toxic relationship, but pairs it with a magical, whimsical sound.
Lucid, her 2019 debut album, tells the story of her healing process after an abusive relationship, as well as the intergenerational trauma experienced while growing up as a child of Indian immigrant parents, all while incorporating themes of sexual liberation and spiritual self-healing.
“It can definitely be challenging being a South Asian artist and not having a lot to go off of in Western music culture,” Raveena described in an interview with the website, them. “It’s easy to feel super displaced and confused, like ‘Where do I fit into all this?’ But that’s also the most exciting part about it; there isn’t a framework, so you can invent your own.”
Raveena is heavily involved not only in the music production aspect of her work, but also in her video production. In the music video for her song “Temptations,” Raveena created a dream-like garden sequence, a style often used in Bollywood, to come out to her family and friends as bisexual.
“Growing up, South Asian culture and queer culture felt like oil and water. Something that just simply couldn’t mix,” Raveena said via Instagram when the video dropped.
“I’m pretty sure I liked girls before I liked boys, but it took me until this year, in my 20s, to be able to verbalize and know in my heart that this is one of my truths. I hope that for lil brown girls in the future, their queerness will feel nothing short of completely, 100% mundane and normal,” Raveena said.
2. Alok Vaid-Menon
Alok (they/them) is an Indian-American gender nonconforming writer and performer. Alok is known for challenging the gender binary through fashion, performance, poetry, and prose. Alok’s mission is to create a new beauty paradigm based on self-acceptance and self-actualization rather than conformity.
According to their official website, Alok is “the author of Femme in Public (2017) and Beyond the Gender Binary (2020). In 2019, they were honored as one of NBC’s Pride 50 and Out Magazine’s OUT 100.” In an interview with CNN, Alok discussed the challenges they have faced in their quest to create a new beauty paradigm.
They described how a stranger told them they would be more “convincing” if they shaved their beard. Alok described this experience as realizing the “danger” of beauty.
“Marginalized people learn from an early age that beauty is often about power,” Alok stated. “We see the fair, thin, and gender-conforming among us called ‘beautiful,’ while the rest of us are meant to spend our entire lives aspiring to be like them.”
Alok also has a large presence on Instagram, where they advocate for the recognition of Black, Indigenous, and people of color(BIPOC) non-binary individuals. One of their most bold and groundbreaking posts addresses the concept of “white feminism,” a form of feminism that focuses solely on the struggles of straight, cis-gendered white women. It does not include BIPOC women and LGBTQIA+ women.
The post depicts an image of Alok wearing a dress, surrounded by hate comments including “You don’t need feminism to wear that ridiculous outfit” and “Feminism is about women, Alok. Make up your own movement.” Alok took to their caption to further discuss the severity and detrimental effects of these comments.
“Womanhood is far more expansive than reproductive function. There are plenty of men and non-binary people who can give birth and plenty of women who cannot,” said Alok.
“But this has never been about facts or even cognition. This has always been about a deep, ingrained hatred and distrust for us. In order for patriarchy to work, we must be demeaned and disappeared.”
3. Maria Qamar
Maria Qamar is a Pakistani-Canadian artist best known for her South Asian art, which she posts on her Instagram, @hatecopy. “Hatecopy” is a name that Qamar coined during her college years out of distaste for copy-writing, the career she was forced to pursue instead of the arts.
Her art gives her 196K followers a peek into the trials of the young South Asian woman’s 21st-century experience. Her comic-like desi pop art displays humorous, relatable situations for those who have grown up in Western countries. Qamar’s artwork encourages female empowerment through witty Hinglish responses to taboo topics within the desi community.
Not only has Qamar’s art been hugely successful on social media, but it has also been successful in the physical world. Qamar has decorated the sets of The Mindy Project, painted a large mural on New York City’s Bombay Bread, and even graced the cover of Elle Canada.
Qamar’s most notable work, however, was her exhibition titled “Fraaaandship!” in Richard Taittinger Gallery in New York City. The term “fraaaandship” is a euphemism of sex used by many South Asian men towards women. Qamar’s artwork counters the patriarchal undertones of this phrase by depicting strong, freethinking, sex-positive South Asian women.
While her work may portray Bollywood-esque beauties, Qamar also aims to direct her work towards other women of color.
“These are specifically the things that I have gone through that have been obstacles in my life,” Qamar stated in an interview with Art News.
“But don’t we all get bullied or picked on for being different? We’re not that different—we’re fighting for basic human rights for women and women of color.”
4. Deepica Mutyala
Deepica Mutyala is a South Indian American beauty YouTuber and social media influencer. Mutyala is best known for a viral video that took the beauty world by storm when she used red lipstick as a color corrector to cover dark undereye circles. Dark circles and hyper-pigmentation are skin conditions that South Asians and other BIPOC face.
Since that viral video, which now has over 10 million views, the 31-year-old beauty influencer has worked with The Today Show, collaborated with several makeup brands as an influencer, and starred in commercials for Samsung and L’Oreal.
Last year, Mutyala launched the Huestick, a product inspired by the Instagram community she built called “Live Tinted.” The Huestick is the first of its kind; it is a color corrector and multi-stick product. It can be used as a lipstick, eye-shadow, blush, or color corrector that can be dabbed on dark circles, hyperpigmentation, and dark spots.
In an interview with Forbes, Mutyala described how she built a “community first” product. She mentioned how it all began with her asking for product recommendations for dark circles. Mutayla even went a step beyond simply digital engagement and had members of the Live Tinted community try the products.
“We want to continue to ethically and responsibly reach the heights of financial success so that we can feed this process of social listening, product development, and continuous improvement,” Mutyala said.
“Above all, we want to disrupt the beauty industry and normalize diversity and representation.”
5. Sandhya Menon
Sandhya Menon is a New York Times bestselling young adult fiction and romance author whose novels tell wholesome, heartwarming, romantic tales of Indian-American teenagers. Menon’s books contain stories of growing up in the South Asian culture that do not succumb to the stereotypes of an oppressed and depressed Brown community.
Each of Menon’s characters represents a diverse range of the Brown experience. However, what is unique about her characters is that being Indian is not the driving factor of their stories.
Her debut novel, When Dimple Met Rishi, is a love story between two college freshmen: Dimple, who is driven to prove herself as a coder, and Rishi, who is afraid to take the leap to pursue his passion as a comic artist.
From Twinkle, With Love is an epistolary novel about a 16-year-old who wants to be a filmmaker but is afraid that there is no room for her voice.
There’s Something About Sweetie tells the story of Sweetie, a confident, plus-size track star, and Ashish, a heartbroken basketball player, and how the two hide their relationship from Sweetie’s fat-shaming but well-meaning mother.
“I really just wanted to tell more fluffy, rom-com stories about all different kinds of people,” Menon said in an interview with YouTube channel xreadingsolacex.
“I feel like we don’t have enough of that, especially with marginalized communities, and so I just wanted to tell a story that wasn’t an issue book. And those are so important, but I wanted to tell a different kind of story.”
6. Hari Kondabolu
In Hari Kondabolu’s Twitter bio, he describes himself as a “Comic from Queens living in Brooklyn.” The 37-year-old stand-up comedian uses his platform to tell jokes about the racism and the divide that American politics has created among his people.
However, he is best known for the documentary The Problem with Apu. Apu Nahasapeemapetilon is a character on the Simpsons that is meant to be a caricature of the South Asian immigrant community in the United States. It is meant to represent the “white man’s perception of Indian immigrants.”
In the documentary, Kondabolu talks about how the stereotypes Apu perpetuated hung over the heads of many South Asian Americans in his generation. Kondabolu does not argue for the removal of Apu, but rather for a discussion as to how stereotypes in the media can be harmful.
In an interview on Emily Todd VanDerWerff’s podcast I Think You’re Interesting, Kondabolu said, “I feel like the story isn’t ‘What do we do with this Apu character?’ The point of the whole story was really to do what Whoopi Goldberg did. She’s not saying ‘go and destroy all the blackface artifacts from the past.’ She’s saying ‘let’s talk about it and put it up out front. Let’s recontextualize these things and put it in front of you and talk about them.’ This was my ‘Minstrel Black Americana’ collection. She calls it her ‘Negrobilia.’ This is what it was for me.”
Kondabolu received severe backlash from many people for his work. He often received death threats and hate mail for “bad-mouthing the Simpsons.” The Simpsons even alluded to the documentary in the episode in one of their own episodes.
“Something that started decades ago and was applauded and inoffensive is now politically incorrect. What can you do?” said Simpson character Lisa after glancing at a frame of Apu, with the phrase “Don’t have a cow!” written on the photo.
While this might not have been the response many South Asians wanted, this scene proved that Kondabolu’s message had been heard by the creators.
“In The Problem with Apu, I used Apu & The Simpsons as an entry point into a larger conversation about the representation of marginalized groups and why this is important,” the comedian tweeted in response to the episode. “The Simpsons response tonight is not a jab at me, but at what many of us consider progress.”
Since then, Kondabolu has released his Netflix comedy special Warn Your Relatives, and he continues to address issues such as homophobia, racism, and sexism with his work.
These are only a few of the brilliant South Asian creators who are paving their paths into Western media. There are plenty of other fantastic South Asian creators who are making their marks and initiating changes in their own ways.
As the South Asian diaspora continues to grow, it is becoming even more pivotal for the community to share their experiences and their work. It is our time to shine and show the world the change that we are capable of creating.
Meet Dr. Cheryl Robinson: The Entrepreneur-Turned-Model Helping Women Embrace The Pivot
Wondering how to pivot to a new career? Check out the story of Dr. Cheryl Robinson, the entrepreneur-turned-model helping women embrace the pivot.
Last Updated on July 22, 2022 by blendtw
Dr. Cheryl Robinson is an international speaker, the founder of Ready 2 Roar, a leadership coach, and a regular contributor to ForbesWomen, where she writes about businesswomen who have successfully pivoted through their careers.
She is a clear example of a woman who does not give up when facing any inconvenience because, as she says
“When you get knocked down, you get yourself back up, dust off, and keep going.”
After imagining herself in various job positions when she was younger and trying out a few, she realized her interest in sports was even greater.
So, she went back to the East and worked in sports for 15 years, from the collegiate to the professional level.
That’s when she decided to open her own business. Moreover, Dr. Robinson decided to get a doctorate degree, making her a Doctor of Education in Organizational Leadership, to give her validity and credibility for the books she writes and the workshops she hosts.
After going through all of these different paths and accomplishing various goals, she set out to become a commercial print model.
“I set out to become a model, which is something I’ve always wanted to be, and that’s what I’m currently working on.”
So, now, at the age of 40, she signed with a modeling agency.
Dr. Cheryl has been writing for local newspapers and journals since the age of 14-15 and continued writing in college and even after graduating.
“Still, to this day, my goal is to be a New York Times best-selling author, and to do that, you have to write.”
After starting her own company, she committed to herself that 80% of her time would be spent on her writing and the other 20% on her business.
“Three months after I made that commitment to myself, I was attending an event, and I saw a woman speaking on a panel, saying she was a contributor at Forbes. I sat there thinking, ‘if she can do it, I can do it,’ so after the panel, I went right up to her and asked her how she got there.
Then, I spoke to her about my background and who I am. And what I didn’t know was that the former editor was in the room with her.
I introduced myself to the editor, who told me to send her my portfolio; three days later, she invited me for a mini-interview process, then a week later,
she called me and said ‘welcome aboard.’ ”
Based on Dr. Robinson’s experience, the best ways of changing and adapting to a new career are the relationships you make, so that it becomes easier for you to make any move in the future.
“It’s all about the quality of the relationships you foster. Ask people in the company out for a coffee. Get to know your colleagues and what they’re working on; develop that relationship, so when you are ready to make a move, you have allies to help you in your pivot.”
There are many ways to pivot in a career, but there are also mistakes that should be avoided in doing so, and according to Dr. Cheryl, “not doing enough research is one of them.”
There are a lot of industries or companies that sound sexy to work for, but the reality may be the opposite or the learning curve might be more intense than you had thought.
Being ill-prepared can hinder your development and progress.
Take the time to research what you want to get into and meet the people who’ve done it before you. Learn from their mistakes before jumping with two feet in; know what you’re getting yourself into. Dr. Robinson believes that there are some ways to know when it’s time to pivot in a career.
“If you’re not growing or being challenged in your current role, or there is an idea that you just can’t stop thinking about, take the risk and step out of your comfort zone.”
Dr. Robinson always dreamt of becoming a commercial print model, and after interviewing over 500 individuals for her column, she realized
“it does not matter how old you are. you can always pivot.”
As we grow up, society tells us that we have to reach certain milestones by a certain age. However, it’s just not realistic sometimes.
So, you have to permit yourself to be okay with not hitting certain milestones as quickly as you imagined.
Dr. Robinson has always wanted to see her face on a billboard somewhere, and as she got older, she gained more self-confidence so, at the age of 40, she said “it is now or never.”
Through networking, she met a model agent with whom she talked, did her photos, and her potential got noticed to the point where she got signed with that modeling agency; and has now booked her first gig.
With all of what Dr. Robinson has already accomplished, she still has her head on plans for the near future. Her new leadership book is coming out at the end of this year.
In the new book, she wants readers to understand that pivoting or transitioning in a career doesn’t have to be scary.
“People might get fired, get laid off, move, and then be obligated to find something else, which can seem scary, but if they see it as a positive experience, it is not. Instead, it is an opportunity to develop a strategy to get to where they want to be.”
Want to connect with Dr. Cheryl? You can find her on IG and LinkedIn.
Meet Scott Hughes: The Entrepreneur Who Built One of the Largest Online Book Communities
Are you a book junkie? Find out how Scott Hughes built OnlineBookClub, a free online community for book lovers with over 2 million members.
Last Updated on September 20, 2022 by blendtw
Are you a book lover?
If you are, then you need to check out OnlineBookClub.org, a free online site for book lovers around the world.
The online site features book reviews, book & reading forums, and useful tools that enable you to store, track and list books you have read or want to read.
Scott was only 19 when he launched OnlineBookClub.
The idea of creating OnlineBookClub originated after Scott, a book fanatic, realized that there were too many restrictions for in-person book clubs such as tight deadlines on book reading, a limited selection of books, and little freedom to pick books to read.
Scott wanted to leverage the power of online discussions and create a flexible space where people all over the world could easily find people to chat about any book at any time. That is how OnlineBookClub came to life.
Building the online platform was a rewarding experience for Scott, but it was far from easy.
For 7 years, Scott ran the business and paid himself nothing from it. During those years, he worked odd jobs to pay his living expenses and put food on the table for his two kids.
“I remember one month I had to go to the coinstar machine at the bank with my spare change on the 10th of month just so I could cover the rent, but I did it.”
The hardest part of creating the platform for Scott was finding time to run the business while juggling his day job and raising two kids. It was difficult for him to find a work-life balance but he made it work despite the hardships.
At the end of 2014, Scott finally took a leap of faith, gave up his side jobs, and went full-time at OnlineBookClub. He knew that to make it work, he had to devote himself completely to the online site.
And his efforts paid off.
The platform is thriving with over 2.7 million registered users as of November of 2021.
Scott’s team recently released an e-reading app meant to compete with Amazon Kindle, called OBC Reader, which is available on both the Google Play Store and the Apple Store.
The revenue of the platform primarily comes from paid online advertising and professional services to authors and publishers, such as editorial reviews and manuscript editing.
Scott is proud of the work he has accomplished so far, especially of the community he has built.
“OnlineBookClub has always been filled with kind people who have a strong sense of togetherness and community. It’s like a second family for us.”
Scott’s journey has been full of ups and downs, but through it all, he is grateful for all the experiences-good ones and bad ones.
When asked to advise young entrepreneurs just starting, he has the following to say:
“The journey never really ends. If you make a million dollars, then you might chase a billion. Even if you reach all your financial goals and lose interest in that side of things, your mind will create new different goals. So it’s never about reaching some destination. When you look back on it, in many ways the most challenging times are also seen most fondly.”
He also believes that entrepreneurs need to be driven by something other than money.
“I’ve found in my anecdotal experience and just from watching the world around me that those who desperately chase money are the least likely to find it. In contrast, when you work hard on yourself and your real dreams, money chases you. Money–and even health and physical fitness–are only really ever a means, not an end in themselves. Without some kind of vision or passion to be the real end, the real goal, the real dream, it’s like driving a car with no gas.”
Scott’s story is a great reminder that anything can be achieved with perseverance, passion, and hard work.
So, if you are just starting, make sure to stay tuned for his upcoming book, “In It Together: The Beautiful Struggle Uniting Us All,” which will be released soon.
You can connect with Scott on Instagram, Facebook, or Twitter for more information about OnlineBookClub and get updates about his latest projects.
‘Halloween Kills’ Cast & Crew Explain the Slasher
Last Updated on October 23, 2021 by blendtw
Article by Riley Farrell
The cast and crew of Halloween Kills told Blendtw why the latest slasher’s gore is anything but gratuitous in a year like 2021.
Jamie Lee Curtis, Andi Matichak, Anthony Michael Hall, Kyle Richards, Malek Akkad, David Gordon Green and Jason Blum tell horror fans to expect carnage. After all, Halloween Kills must live up to its title.
Chainsaws buzzing and bats swinging, Halloween Kills is a current-day cathartic catastrophe – and no character is safe – according to producer Jason Blum of Blumhouse Productions.
Halloween Kills is the 12th movie in Michael Myers’ macrocosm, with the 13th, and allegedly final, movie coming out in 2022. When seriously injured Laurie Strode thought she killed Michael Myers after 42 years of trailing him, his annual bloodbath recommences. Sick of living at the mercy of “pure evil,” the town’s vigilantes revolt against the boogieman.
“Subtlety is not this film,” said director David Gordon Green, on fitting in as much bloodshed as possible in 105 minutes.
The cast filmed Halloween Kills two years ago and shelved it due to the pandemic, until now.
Picking up where Halloween (2018) left off, the film explores the aftermath of collective trauma, said Green. Given everything that’s ensued in the last two years, viewers do not have to live in Haddonfield to understand suffering, and inversely, resilience.
“We’ve taken a slasher movie and it’s landed in a time of cultural relevance because of our public consciousness,” said Green. “Though [the movie is] grotesque, there are moments when we feel the humanity underneath the surface of this movie monster.”
Halloween Kills brought back two characters from the 1978 Halloween in Tommy Doyle (Anthony Michael Hall) and Lindsey Wallace (Kyle Richards), the two children who Laurie babysat during Michael’s initial attack. Hall and Richards did not require much persuasion to hop on the franchise, said Green.
The callbacks of all-grown-up characters, of course, evokes nostalgia. But the twist on the trope is that, instead of running from Michael, the kids now face him head-on, said Richards. Hall, who described Halloween Kills as a “thrill ride” and “freight train,” said the slasher hinges on human resilience.
“We summoned something deep in themselves and decided to fight back, we’re not just survivors but fighters,” said Hall.
Resilience as a motif snugly fits within the cultural zeitgeist, even earning a title as Forbes’ 2021 word of the year. Though coincidental, the visceral and violent images in Halloween Kills harken to audiences’ nihilistic experiences of the past 18-months. Producer Malek Akkad said the slasher film can paradoxically be pertinent yet escapist for viewers who’ve experienced the horror genre by simply reading the news.
“It’s tough for everybody right now and this movie’s just a fun release,” said Akkad. “There’s nothing more cathartic for people watching than to see a final girl like Laurie.”
For reference, the final girl trope, pioneered by the character of Laurie Strode in John Carpenter’s 1978 Halloween, represents the heroine left standing at the end of a horror movie who is charged with defeating the antagonist. Film theorist Carol J. Clover coined the term in her 1992 book, ‘Men, Women, and Chainsaws: Gender in the Modern Horror Film.’ The final girl has been observed in many films, including The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, Alien, Friday the 13th, A Nightmare on Elm Street and Scream.
Scream queen Jamie Lee Curtis said she was unaware of the meaning and dialogue surrounding the final girl until recently. She argued, even though the trope has immense cultural significance, the original idea of the final girl is uncomplicated.
“The term is just about the tenacity of women to survive because, the truth is, women have survived through a lot,” said Curtis.
No characters know survival better than the Strode women. Andi Matichak, who plays Laurie’s granddaughter, and Curtis agreed that their favorite behind-the-scenes moment centered on feminine resilience in spite of harsh conditions.
It was a frigid 4 a.m. shoot, and the three generations of Strode ladies were alone in a truck, coated in fake blood, with only each other and a camera rig for warmth, Matichak described. This moment was the last time Laurie, Karen and Allyson were on screen together.
“It was a powerful moment to lean on each other and feel the weight of the project,” Matichak said.
Cutting through the sweet moments is the slasher at the heart of the story, said Curtis on the “high octave, frenzied” plot of Halloween Kills. For audiences who’ve lived through the chaos of the past two years, Halloween Kills should match their fast pace of existence.
“The past is irrelevant, you’re so in the present moment,” said Curtis.
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