How do you express yourself through fashion?
I wouldn’t consider myself a truly fashionable person, but when I do dress up, I do it because it makes me feel confident. Day-to-day, I usually go for a clean, sophisticated look, and I try to find unique pieces that still exude a confident, professional tone. In this phase of my life, I’m establishing myself in the workplace, so it’s important to me that I use fashion to enhance my presence in the workplace, while still commanding respect from my peers. I think that people will absorb what you put out for them so fashion and your personality go hand-in-hand. Because of this, I usually go for outfits that might be more simple, but impactful because that’s how I want other people to perceive me.
If you had to wear a Desi outfit for the rest of your life, which would it be? Sari, Anarkali, or Lengha
I would definitely wear a lengha! I’m a pretty practical shopper, so the first thing I check for when I pick up a new piece is if it’s comfortable to wear without needing to adjust it throughout the day - a lengha passes that test for me. The next thing I check for is if the piece is unique and will catch people’s eye. I think lenghas can be both traditional and modern so it has the dressy glam factor that I usually go for in Indian clothes.
How did you stay connected to your culture as a brown girl growing up in America?
When I was young, my mom signed me up for every extracurricular she could think of hoping that I would identify with one of them on my own. I ended up choosing to stick with ballet dance (from age 3-18) and it quickly became my life outside school. My mom was super supportive of my ballet lessons, but as I narrowed down my extracurriculars over the years, the one class she wouldn’t let me quit was my Indian classical vocal lessons and at the time, I hated it. She and my dad forced me to practice for hours a day, on top of school and my daily ballet classes. I dreaded going to music class every week on Thursdays (to this day, I still hate Thursdays for the same reason).Even though I lived in the Bay Area with a significant South Asian population, I realized I was the only Indian girl in my ballet classes. Each week I’d beg my mom to let me quit my music lessons, but she was insistent I continue and said “this music is your only connection to our culture. You might not appreciate it now, but I hope in the future you will continue on your own and have this community for your own family." As I grew older, I did form a community of friends and family through Carnatic music that encouraged me to get more involved in the South Asian community. I went on to join a Bollywood dance team in college at UC Berkeley, probably my most defining college experience and where I met some of my best friends. While I’m still learning to appreciate Carnatic music fully, it introduced me to my cultural community and along with my ballet family, shaped me into who I am today.