The Year of Redirection
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The last year of my life has had some monumental changes for me. I graduated from college last year with a degree in graphic design. Last year was also the first time I got laid off (twice).This, however, was a blessing in disguise. But before these moments revealed themselves as blessings, I struggled to accept change and feared any kind of risk in my life. From the day I was born in Chennai, India up until now, I have always had a straightforward path. Go to school, try to fit in with a new culture while growing up as a first-generation immigrant in New Jersey, then go to college and get finally get a job. Of course, I would daydream about creating art and entertainment professionally but I barely ever saw people like me on screens. Despite this, I was still hopeful and naive to the struggles and politics of the industry.
"...I felt out of place at work, knowing I was trying to fit into a mold I didn’t belong."
I’m not sure at what moment in university I stopped believing in myself, but at some point, I decided to take whatever corporate job gave me the most security/money with the creative skills I could offer, despite not wanting to me another cog in the machine. I thought this was the mature course of action, assuming I might not be ecstatic about work but everyone feels that way, right? Well after two attempts at this and giving it my all, I noticed I was no longer the best at what I was doing, nor was I motivated to try to be the best. The passion and drive I had when I was younger had died, and I felt out of place at work, knowing I was trying to fit into a mold I didn’t belong.
"...I remember watching the Emmys, Oscars, and Grammys, thinking about how we severely lacked South Asian nominations/winners."
2023 came along, I started to do a lot of reflecting with all my new free time. I forgot about the issue I felt strongly about, non-stereotypical south asian representation in entertainment. The most discouraging part wasn’t even forgetting, It was not knowing how to solve it. I remember watching the Emmys, Oscars, and Grammys, thinking about how we severely lacked South Asian nominations/winners. I dont know about you, but I would love to get to a place where my dad doesn’t yell out “hey look, its an indian!” every couple times we see one on TV. Yes, it's great that people like Mindy Kaling, Riz Ahmed, Priyanka Chopra, Dev Patel, Hasan Minhaj, and more are out there pushing boundaries for us, whether it be by taking stereotypical parts just to gain more credibility in the industry in order to eliminate those very roles, or prove that we not only have a good sense of humor, but have important stories to tell as well. But what good is it if they pave the road for the next generation, only for us to not have the courage to fill their shoes in the future?
"I yearn for the day when a film featuring a South Asian cast can gain widespread recognition purely because of its compelling storytelling, without any consideration for the ethnicity of the actors involved..."
The notion that the entertainment industry could solely fix racism is absolutely absurd. Hell, the industry itself has many systematic issues it must overcome itself. However, I am a firm believer that great creators can alter minds and perspectives, just as a politician changing policies can. Now, we would be foolish to be ignorant of the strides we have made in modern cinema already.
Over the years, I've observed with great interest that other cultures have succeeded in producing Academy Award-winning films that aren't solely focused on their ethnicity. This is because what truly matters in a movie is the story being told, rather than the skin color of the cast. I yearn for the day when a film featuring a South Asian cast can gain widespread recognition purely because of its compelling storytelling, without any consideration for the ethnicity of the actors involved.
"All it takes is some free time and innovative ideas."
In today's era of viral videos and influencer dominance, POC creators have more opportunities than ever before to make their mark, without all the risks. No, you don't need a niche audience or expensive equipment. All it takes is some free time and innovative ideas. And believe me when I say, our stories are best told by us, who have lived through the experiences, not by the people watching from the outside.
Nevertheless, achieving success in this field can be challenging, and often requires personal sacrifices from us and our loved ones. However, if we continue to suppress our aspirations to please our parents, the world will never have the chance to hear our unique perspectives. Would you rather spend your days in wonder, lamenting why your brain doesn’t function like your coworkers, or, pursue your dreams and make your voice heard?
Edited by Madelaine Telford
Pretha Prabhakar is a 22 year old designer based in Princeton, New Jersey in the USA. When shes not working on a project shes playing with her dog Jojo!