In Conversation with: Manj Singh – Lionflex

Mancunian Manj Singh (AKA Lionflex) graced me for a conversation about his bodybuilding journey and how his determination allowed him to create a community and platform. After working a long day in his IT based role, Manj and I sat in the comforts of our homes for a chat just before his scheduled evening workout.

A young Manj was once 20 stone and comments from people around him is what fuelled his initial weight loss. He admitted that “it wasn’t the healthiest approach” and turned to a severe reduction on calories before he attended University in Manchester.

“I started to go to the gym, it was more of a sociable thing”

Following his regular gym visits, he began to educate himself in nutrition and saw his workouts as a form of self-improvement. This was the beginning of his fitness journey and building his body. As his body grew and got stronger so did Manj’s education and knowledge in fitness.

As I got more I wanted more, I wanted to see how far I could push myself”

As Manj’s body continued to grow and develop he noticed he was beginning to get some local attention, from other gym goers and his peers. As he began manipulating his calories and enhancing his regimen, he of course had to bring his lifestyle into his family home. Growing up in a South Asian household, Manj’s lifestyle was seemingly alien to the rest of his family. From weighing his food to intense meal preparation, it took time and explanation to his own family to understand what he was doing.

With his family working within the wedding industry, Manj often attended these events with his Father, prepared with his boxed meal. The initial reaction was one of misunderstanding, but as people began to recognise Manj from his content, it further cemented his lifestyle changes.

Lionflex became Manj’s brand as a means to unite him and other Sikh bodybuilders. With Youtube and Instagram being used to show progression and competitions, Lionflex is a means of breaking barriers and connecting people with the same mindset.

Manj’s full time job as a business analyst means that he has not only had to schedule his fitness around his job, but his mental balance too. In competition season, he was running on a calorie count of as low as 1500 calories and a body fat percentage in single digits.  He has learnt over time that self-care whilst competing is key.

“The longer I’ve been on this journey the more… I’ve balanced it”

Manj is very aware that Bodybuilding for now is his passion and love, and would love to engage with people and help improve their lives.  I asked Manj if the opportunity to pursue bodybuilding full time arose would he take it. The answer was without a doubt is yes.

“It’s my dream to open a gym”

The sport of bodybuilding is often thought to have a reputation for being solely about vanity. He disagreed with this. It was a way of showing resilience and building a community. With his own motivation wavering at times, it was his Mother, surviving cancer, that made him realise that he can do anything. Manj opened my eyes into realising everyone’s story is so different, even in extreme sports. His Mother was the first incentive for Manj to enter his first bodybuilding competition.

With Sikh bodybuilders being in the minority, Manj often felt different yet proud to wear his pagh (head covering) which is a way to identify as a Sikh. He expressed the importance of representation in the sport.

Wanting to encourage, motivate and inspire people to make steps into their own fitness journeys, Manj’s empathetic energy and determination has created a community to be proud of.

 “If little old fat me can do why can’t you?”

Quarantine Creatives: Two Chickpeas in a Podcast

Two Chickpeas in a Podcast

Initially gracing me with the perfection that lies in Zoom Greenscreen, Natasha Beghi (25) and Nikkita Beghi (26) sat in conversation with me about their podcast, Two Chickpeas in a Podcast. This pair of London based sisters, decided to create an unfiltered platform for all things South Asian. Giving their listeners an insight into issues affecting their community, this bubbly pair cover a range of themes in their episodes.

Born and raised in Hounslow, London, both Natasha and Nikkita had first hand experiences with issues that they reflect on in their podcast. From their family favouring their brother in certain situations to balancing Western and Indian culture, it is no secret that there is indeed a lot to discuss. Both sisters went to the same school in London and then went on into further education at the same university. The ‘Chickpeas’ revealed to me that even in a multicultural schooling system, there was still a rejection of being considered too ethnic

“if you had food that was smelly from home… the worst thing you could be called is a freshie”

Nikkita is the eldest of the sisters, and pursued her degree in Media and Communication at Birmingham City University, a path which Natasha then mirrored. With only 15 months between them, Natasha has a relatability with her older sister. With the infamous ‘quarter life crisis’ which many young people face, the podcasters admitted they weren’t exempt from this and were questioning their lives and future.

Following graduation Nikkita Special Education needs teaching assistant and is now a coordinator for the council. Although her initial feelings about her role didn’t match her desire to be in the media industry, she has now found it fulfilling and rewarding to work with children in difficult situations. Natasha on the other hand went to travel America and found that travelling got her out of a low time in her life. She went on to then work in private childcare whilst in the USA. Upon her return, she began freelancing on the Sky UK news team and still works there now within Critical Broadcast.

With their own family experiences fuelling the reason the podcast began, it became an outlet for both of them. Covering topics that are personal and intertwined in South Asian culture, the podcast aim has become a relatable platform. As a listener myself, you wouldn’t be able to recognise that this lively pair are in the infancy of their podcasting journey.

“We’re trying to open conversation”

Taking inspiration from the likes of Mindy Kaling to other podcasters, this hilarious podcast is a great platform to start conversations. The goals for the podcast are to get into the nitty gritty about these issues I am fully here for it!

“There’s more than one way to be Indian!”


With wellness being at the forefront of so many of our lives, Hannah Austyn has taken to her platform to share positivity and engage in conversations surrounding wellness. This young blogger sat down in conversation with me and shared her journey and goal to help others pursue their own journey into wellbeing. From the comfort of our homes in Quarantine it felt like we were catching up for a coffee in the sun.

22-year-old Austyn was born in London, then moved to Buckinghamshire and now Oxford where her journey into the blogging world blossomed. Having indulged in theatre and performance from a young age, attending Stagecoach ensured that Hannah was in London on a weekly basis and was a catalyst for her first full time job after school. Starting her part time job by running theatre clubs for children, Hannah also invested time in her own blog.

Fashion was the initial muse for Hannah’s writing and used her initiative to gain further experience. Completing a fashion retail course after leaving school at London Fashion Academy, Hannah wanted to go on to pursue fashion styling. Initially thinking this sector would be easier to break into than it was Hannah’s rejection is what fuelled her own blogging career.

“I did get quite a lot of rejection and I think that was a good thing now, because I was quite early in the process… it gave me the motivation and drive that I have now”

After a self-identified “organic” progression with her content platforms, a milestone in Hannah’s blogging journey was her attendance to her first London Fashion Week. Following a lot of “persistence” to designers and brands, she was able to attend shows and has been invited since then to write.

“So many opportunities…have come solely from sending a message on Instagram, we wouldn’t have met if it wasn’t for Instagram!”

Whilst working her part time job, at the theatre, the young blogger approached the marketing team and asked if she could work for free in order to educate herself. Continuing her blog, Hannah’s voluntary work resulted in a paid assistant role on the marketing team. Coming to crossroads in her education and future, Hannah decided against university in order to continue in the marketing world.

“That was the best thing I did, doing the marketing for free”

After educating herself in a new skill set, Hannah advises anyone to try and pursue experience in any field they would like to grow in, and even if it means doing a few hours for free if you can. 

Hannah’s fashion blog continued to grow and she decided to finally move away from her job and focus solely on her content. During this time, Hannah has covered different fashion and brand events, as well as growing her network. Becoming a content creator meant that Hannah was able to create a YouTube channel and evolve her network.

Following a period of time of solely blogging, Hannah learnt her preferences lay in working and loved the routine of having full time job. Revealing that she enjoyed having something else outside of her blogging, she engaged herself back in the marketing world.

“I think that’s why I chose to do another job at the same time so that my blog could be purely authentic”

During lockdown Hannah has been organising Wellness Wednesday on her Instagram Live as well as working from home with her marketing job. Wellness Wednesday Live comes paired with conversations with wellness industry experts. From fitness to food and drink, Hannah gives further insight with her wellness led conversations.

“During self-isolation there’s been a lot of content around staying positive… and that resonates with me”

Speaking with Hannah was a prime example of how consistency is key and to pursue your passion.

“Now is the best time to do it!

Quarantine Creatives: James Sahota

James Sahota

Sitting down for a conversation with James Sahota allowed me to understand the true meaning of hard graft. From educating himself on the property market to ensuring he gets the most out of his lifestyle, James is not one to shy away from hard work. This Property Investor oozes entrepreneurial spirit whose attitude is reflected across his different content platforms and became more apparent as we spoke. Locked and loaded with his headphones and mic, I got the full VIP podcast set up that I have seen on his content videos.

Raised as a second generation Indian in the UK, James is a through and through Londoner. Completing A-levels in Design and Business, he gave himself the platform to go and study at University. Being averse to living at home during his educational years, James decide to further study up North, in Manchester. Admittedly he ended up getting up to “all sort of mischief” and frankly trouble. Fights caused by James led to arrest and being faced with a judge in court. Thankfully for him the case was thrown out and so marked a turning point in his life. Graduating with an undergraduate degree in Product Design, James went on to remain in the city to pursue a Masters Degree in Industrial Design in 2003.

Showcasing a talent in design proceeded a teaching opportunity for James upon his return to London. Although it was simply an avenue to earn a wage, James made his debut onto the property ladder because of this and began paying his first mortgage (as encouraged by his Mother).

“It was almost like entertainment; I was on the stage and the kids were my audience”

As a qualified teacher, it didn’t take James long to realise that teaching wasn’t his calling and after a couple of years walked out. Yes, “walked out”. After an annoyance with another staff member, James simply got up and left, accompanied with the applause of his students.

With 24 days until his next mortgage payment was due, James delivered the confidence that he would be able to resolve his circumstance in time. In came the saviour that was E-Bay. James took to selling small prints online which then became the catalyst for him to start his business in print. This satisfied his need to work for himself, which wasn’t an easy-going journey. Within the first 5 years of his print business, he took to supply teaching on the side in order to allow him to continue developing his own company.

After 10 years in print, and admitting that it had “somewhat failed”, this was an end of a chapter in James’ life, which was the gateway to his development in the property world. It was at this point that I realised James was not shy of making mistakes and used his experiences for lessons in the future. Educating himself in property, flipping houses, and educating himself constantly has led to his successes and developments today.

“You should only have a plan A”

James gave me an insight into his work ethic, which was rooted in streamline planning. Utilising Trello and joint calendars, James is now very strict with his time allocation – something he learnt from working in print. At this point I was sitting cross legged out of sight from the camera, and felt the same satisfaction you do when indulging in organisational content online.

“Try not to have more than three or four things on your to-do list”

Having solidified his experiences in property, James creates educational content also. Advertising a ticket for a property conference is what allowed James to meet Tej, his Partner in crime for The Property Duo Podcast. Tej is also a property developer and has developed a strong working relationship with James. The Property Duo, as well as James’ own podcast, The J2 Hub podcast is a platform, for all things property, led by James and his featured guests.

Personally, I do not gravitate towards jargon laced podcasts, which is why the love is there for the J2 Hub Podcast. It is not only a place where James shares the dos and don’ts of property, but you can hear the stories and journeys of his panel. The relatability of the podcast is something that has been cemented for me after my chat with him.

Quarantine Creatives: Nicky Rose Roshini

Nicky Rose Roshini

Quarantine graced Nicky Rose Roshini and I with the beauty of a dodgy Wi-Fi connection and a video cut off, but after our resilience I finally manged to get into conversation with this gorgeous theatre head and actress. With a beaming smile and a mound of curly hair, Nicky delved straight into how she became integral to the Paines Plough team.

As a Londoner, Nicky has become used to diversity being part of her day to day life, but this wasn’t always the case during her school years. Her girls’ school didn’t surround her with many people from South Asian or minority ethnic backgrounds which meant a contrast from the culture of her home life. It astounded me to find out that Nicky was a shy child in school and didn’t fully come out of her shell until university. Pursuing Performing Arts for a-level, even Nicky’s peers were surprised to see her grace the subject.

 Going on to graduate in 2018 with a Bachelors in Drama and Theatre Arts from the University of Birmingham, Nicky pursued her passion and love for acting and theatre and had flipped her earlier shy persona on its head. Embracing her talent early on has stayed with Nicky through the rest of her journey and her creativity still continues to ooze.

At this point our Wi-Fi then permitted us a forced break and upon my return, a quick change of scenery. Nicky took our conversation in to the garden where all was well and good until a bee decided to scare the shit out of her and gave me a first hand look into her theatrics!

Nicky’s energy during our conversation was cool, calm and collected. This actress and all-round creative powerhouse, admitted she is constantly bubbling away with her ideas. Her journey into her first theatre role, was through Creative Access. With the initial application being for an administration role at Paines Plough, it came from a space of getting her foot in the door with a theatre company, but the interview panel saw more in Nicky.

Not thinking anything more of the interview, Nicky went on her way. The next day Nicky received a call from Paines Plough suggesting she might be better suited to the role of a Trainee Producer. “oh ok cool” was Nicky’s reaction (playing it cool) when deep down she was ecstatic, shocked even that a company had considered her to still come on board for something else. After acing a second interview Nicky went on to become a Trainee Producer at Paines Plough in spring 2019. Smashed it.

As a Trainee Producer Nicky had to be “very organised” and was thrown into the world of agents and actors and soaked in all the theatre. As described by Nicky a producer within a theatre company is “embedded in the creative process of creating a production”. Paines Plough provided Nicky with opportunities to educate herself and even experience Edinburgh Fringe!

“The producer is the person you go to for everything”

Nicky delved into her experience about Edinburgh and highlighted how it was an amazing immersion of all things theatre and a relocation of “the whole office”. Although it was a highlight of Nicky’s time at Paines Plough, she admitted it was difficult as she had to navigate her work mode and relaxation mode. She balanced this by making the most of the Fringe on her working days and using her days off to zone out and not puting any pressure on herself to be productive or even leave the accommodation if she didn’t feel like it.

Loving her job hasn’t stopped Nicky from pursuing extra projects outside of Paines Plough and has showcased her creativity in an array of art forms. From dance, to sketches, to singing and acting, Nicky has still kept her creative cogs churning during lockdown.

Although, Nicky’s professional creative journey is continually developing, there is a life-long condition that often tunnels and is the muse for a lot of Nicky’s creative indulgences.


Having suffered with severe eczema for her whole life, Nicky has often worn a mask to protect her skin and give her sense of comfort when leaving her home in London. The pollution in the air is very triggering for her skin and revealed that quarantine brought about her feeling comfortable going out in public as so many people are wearing them in lockdown. She documents her experience wearing a mask on her social media pages and gave me insight into her daily life in a mask, even outside of this pandemic.


Going on to chat to Nicky about her future plans,she delved into her idea of staging a one woman play where one of the primary themes would indeed be eczema. I for one am ready to see what the future has in store for Nicky.

Quarantine Creatives: Harpz Kaur

Harpz Kaur

Harpz Kaur, Harpz Kaur, Harpz Kaur! What a household name this presenter has become. Broadcasting from the heart of London, Harpz reaches over half a million listeners nationwide on the BBC Asian Network and is a proven example that with hard work and dedication you can achieve what you want, even if your path doesn’t seem as linear as others. With both of us conversing from the comforts of our loungewear the talented presenter, revealed to me that her successes today weren’t always plain sailing.

Born and bred in Huddersfield, Harpz was always an energetic personality and revealed that throughout school she “wasn’t the strongest when it comes to being academic”. Although she wasn’t theory orientated Harpz was “hyped up all the time” which allowed her to excel in more practical subjects. Coming from a South Asian background, this practical skill set didn’t necessarily align with what her family expected from her, which caused initial confusion for future Harpz. This is something that is often echoed for many young South Asian creatives. As she progressed through school her strength continued to lie in the arts and when she got to college was still unsure about what career path she wanted to pursue.

Outside of school and education she was always a “confident child when it came to home videos, filming myself, dancing around, being really loud”. Participating in dance performances and involvements in home town events allowed her to recognise that she was talented on stage. As the eldest the pressure was felt to advance more theory-based subjects in school, such as business studies, whilst working part time within the family business. It was actually Harpz’s Dad (Founder of the local Punjabi school) that reminded Harpz of Punjabi GCSE that was the final gateway to her desired college.

“My Punjabi GCSE saved my life in education; I would not have got into college”

 Uncertainty about what to pursue remained with Harpz until her final year of school where she was drawn to Media Studies in TV and Radio Broadcast. Fighting against the grain, Harpz convinced her parents that this was what she wanted to do.

Throughout our conversation Harpz uncovered more about her frustration with what is considered the norm with regards to education.  After graduating with a 2:2 from Leeds Trinity in 2011, Harpz is passionate about people recognising their own talent and skill set in their own way. There were many times that the hardships throughout university nearly catapulted her into quitting

“I never thought I would ever have that picture on the wall that every family had!”

Following conversations with her mentor, Harpz decided to go on to do a post-grad with the opportunities to “get out into the real world” and be a lot more practical. “It was really hard…but at the same time the best thing I did”. Harpz’s journalistic repertoire continued to widen and allowed her to encounter a variety of situations

Developing her resume and work experiences, Harpz delved into the world of news reporting.

She “hated it”.

With the cons of freelancing shifts claiming the forefront of Harpz’s experiences, she began to doubt her career choice. Showcasing her resilience, Harpz navigated a freelancer lifestyle from the ages of 21 to 24. She returned to Huddersfield with an extensive resume from her experience all around the UK.

A self-titled turning point for the presenter as she started volunteering for Fever radio (a Leeds community radio station). After being offered her own show, Harpz gained positivity and realised “how much I love radio”. Being offered her own show allowed creative direction on her own platform and Fever became the gateway to Harpz having her “light bulb moment” as a presenter. After cementing herself at Fever, the breakfast show presenter in the making began to utilise social media to create content.

 “Now I’m going to hammer the hell out of social media. Why? Because it’s free, we’ve all got access to it”

When talking about her 6 years at Fever Harpz’s conversation become animated and joyous. A saving grace for her at the time, Harpz networked and connected with the likes of Jay Sean and Jazzy B and got herself into a range of press conferences and event.

“If you don’t use your initiative, it’s hard”

Her love for music fuelled her next move. Learning how to DJ.

Recognising the lack of Asian female DJ’s in the North Harpz put herself out there and “got booked left right and centre” for a range of events, including sangeets and birthdays. Another milestone for Harpz uplifted her once more and as a bonus was “making money from it”.

Beginning to release mixes and more content, Harpz got noticed by Nihal Arthanayake who was a radio DJ on Radio 1 at the time. Wanting to play her mix on his final show on the station, had Harpz questioning the legitimacy of his Twitter DM. It was the real Nihal…

A national broadcaster was playing Harpz’s mix! It became a catalyst to getting her noticed by even more people in the industry. Approached by the team for the Asian Media Awards for Outstanding Young Journalist of the Year, Harpz’s support network encouraged her to enter. Getting her entry in 15 minutes before the deadline (after much persuading) she got shortlisted to the final 4.

“It blew my mind that they considered someone like me to be in the final four”

The Asian Media Awards, was a magnet for the creative community and top tier talent. Taking her family along for the ceremony, had her soaking in who she was sin the same room at. Although she didn’t win the award, this award ceremony was about to become the biggest turning point of her career.

“You won’t know where your name is being bought up in certain conversations!”

With Nihal being a prominent media name in the room, he instigated an introduction. Having no idea of who she was speaking to Harpz received a card from the introduction and left with the knowledge that Nihal had put in more than just a good word for her. After returning to her family from this conversation, Harpz looked down at the card to see who she had just spoken to.

The Head of Programmes for the BBC Asian Network.

Even I felt the frenzy of emotion when Harpz revealed who this perfect stranger was. Admitting she still got goose bumps from reminiscing that moment, Harpz went on to reveal that he didn’t get into contact for months after their meeting. She reverted back to feelings of uncertainty and revealed her relapse into a “dark space”. The following March, the Asian Network offered her the opportunity to come to the New Broadcasting House in London for a meeting. Getting to know 26-year-old Harpz, she wowed enough to bag herself a demo recording in the studio.

Returning to the BBC to record her pilot, Harpz was consumed with illness and couldn’t deliver to her highest standard. Little did she know she had done more than enough. She left thinking that was the end of that.

August 2015, Harpz got a call whilst on holiday in Morocco from the network. There were offering her the Sunday Breakfast show on the Asian Network! Rendered speechless, it hit Harpz that all this hard work has finally paid off. Making her debut in December 2015, Harpz went on to progress to get Saturday and Sunday breakfast shows. Bliss.

Building her weekend breakfast presence, Harpz took over the weekday breakfast show. Her multi-tasking was pushed to the ultimate limit as the time slot came paired with her new life in London. It took just under a year for Harpz to adjust to being one of the main faces at the BBC Asian Network, but it has become what she is known for today. It is apparent how passionate Harpz is in her slot and how much pride she takes in putting “a smile on the nation’s face” first thing in the morning.

I am still baffled by Harpz’s energy source. From waking up at 4am to host her show in the week to committing to her content outside of the studio to hosting a morning Saturday show on CBBC, Harpz’s growth is admirable.  She dances, she presents, she DJ’s and yet remains such a relatable soul. I can’t think of anyone more deserving of the opportunities that are coming her way and the support she shows for other upcoming creatives is just commendable.

Quarantine Creatives: Dilly Carter

Dilly Carter

As a Queen in the organising game, Dilly Carter has already been labelled as “London’s Marie Kondo”. With global organisational dominance on the cards for Dilly, this visionary takes full assessment of a personal space and makes it work for you. My conversation with Dilly revealed her passion for helping people and making their life a little bit easier.

Dilly’s personal journey began when she was adopted at the age of three, from Sri Lanka, and began her life in the UK. She revealed she always had an intrinsic eye for space and organising. From a young age, “even in the orphanage” Dilly always helped with the tidying. As she told me more of her story, it became apparent that organisation was wired within her.

 Growing up, Dilly cemented the empathetic side of decluttering as she was helping her own Mother, who suffers with mental health issues. Tidying wasn’t just about “immaculate kitchen cupboards” it was about providing a space with functionality and making it work for different people.

“I used to hang around supermarkets waiting for my Mum to pick me up and I would help with people’s shopping, it’s always been around me somehow”

Whilst at school, Dilly was helping her neighbours and organising local homes as well as her own house. She didn’t always know she could make a career out of her skills and went on to become a personal assistant for sales directors and large companies following school. She continued to refine her knowledge by her experience in a small fashion boutique where she “learnt to fold and organise clothes”.

Working in various office jobs to then becoming a Personal Assistant for private families, Dilly applied her intrinsic skill set to some of her live-in situations. By simply suggesting ways for families to improve their home organisation, Dilly fuelled this organisation with function and still carries this ethos to her business today.

 “I really like organising, I really like tidying up”

Following a trip with a friend, Dilly decided that she wanted to use her skills to help other people and set up as a business. The brainstorming began! The brand name, Declutter Dollies, was conceived in 2018 on a plane journey and now has a growing client base and social media following (her dollies!). Still very much in the infancy of the business, Dilly began with local homes and using leaflets as a way to spread word about her services. As her platform grew, Dilly delved into the Instagram world and began explaining what she does.

Dilly’s social media presence is one that differs from other organisers, and is a big reason why I followed her initially. Her stories reveal a very open side to her, including insight into her family life and how she organises her own home. During Lockdown, Dilly cannot enter people’s homes, so has navigated her online presence as a way to continue helping people. From her virtual cleanses to daily Instagram live videos, it is recognisable that even with the current circumstances she is committed to her business. With Declutter Dollies still in the early stages, I know Dilly has this in the bag (a very organised one at that!)

“These are good times to be in our homes, to focus on our homes, to look at what we’ve got, assess what we’ve got and think how we can improve on certain areas…we’re never gonna get this time again”

Dilly can now help you even more with her new book, Create Space, and catch her on BBC One’s new show Sort Your Life Out where she is one quarter of a dynamic team.

Quarantine Creatives: Dan Khan

Daniyal Khan

Repping an Urban Panda hoody from the comfort of his living room, Daniyal Khan indulged me with an unfiltered conversation into his creative journey. It was apparent that confident energy and a fearless approach was primary to a lot of doors being opened for Dan. As the Brand Creator of Urban Panda Clothing, it became clear, that for Dan, clothing was only a piece in his creative jigsaw puzzle.

Born in Greater West London, Dan travelled back and forth between the UK and Pakistan and admitted he identifies more as a “Pakistani and a Londoner, rather than British.” Always the chatterbox, Dan favoured English and Drama whilst in school and used to relish in his grades even if they weren’t contributing to his final mark. This positive energy is something that I could see mirrored in his later years and was apparent throughout our conversation.

“Because of my upbringing, I was always polite, I was never a dickhead”

After making the decision to study outside of London, Dan went on to pursue Journalism in Sheffield. Choosing Sheffield Hallam over the University of Sheffield, Dan knew off the bat that a less traditional media approach is something he knew would navigate better. With an initial passion being sports commentary, Dan realised he wanted to encourage conversation and would later become primary to his ethos and business.

“If I score a goal on FIFA, I will fully commentate as though I’m commentating a game”        

During his final year at University, Dan began building the foundations for what was to become Urban Panda. By tapping into his natural entrepreneur, he realised that one of the quickest ways to be recognised and circulate a brand name was through clothing. The wheels got turning as a friend of his channelled his ideas into empirical designs. The band name, Urban Panda, came from a family trip to China.

Whilst in Beijing, a panda sanctuary sparked love for the animal. Being very aware that a panda is the animal of China, he didn’t want consumers to think the brand name was reflecting authentic Chinese style. By taking his interest for the panda, Dan added Urban at the front in order to “reflect the viewpoint of a Londoner or a major city in the west…Panda means pioneering, artistic, noble, daring and assertive”. With Panda initialling these personality traits, Dan wanted this to be reflective of his consumers and their engagement with Urban Panda.

P AN D A | L I F E

“You know pandas are the only animal in the world that are black, white and Asian all at the same time”

I tentatively asked Dan how he initially funded his ideas and his response left me speechless. Whilst at university, he saw the opportunity on Instagram called Rate me Please, a networking event hosted by Remel London which opened up a platform for budding entrepreneurs to win a cash prize for their pitch. With only £40 in his bank account, Dan halved that by making the trip to London from university. After getting some last-minute business cards printed, this Londoner was back on home turf ready to pitch. No product, no protype and no presentation, Dan used a rap to a panel of industry judges. From explaining the concept of Urban Panda to what he needed to progress Dan wowed the judges and won a sweet 10 grand… I know. Madness.

With the financial boost, he admitted he learned some life lessons about business and how sometimes baby steps are more effective than going whole hog straight away. With his primary focus being centred around wanting to start conversations, Urban Panda was the perfect platform to aid other creatives. From talking his way into Adidas launch parties, befriending Big Narstie to hosting phenomenal live events of his own, Dan utilised Urban Panda as a vehicle for development.

With Covid-19 putting many content creators and creatives in a different mental space, Dan is taking this time to reflect and not stress too much. His genuine energy is not only inspiring to other people, but I, myself, felt inspired from our conversation. With such faith in the South Asian community to grow together in a creative space spurred on the creation of South Asian Creatives networking event in Wembley. Once lockdown is over I will most certainly be present.

Quarantine Creatives: Kirx Diaz

Kirx Diaz

From the streets of LA to the urban sets of London, Kirx Diaz is no stranger to a busy schedule. This 27-year-old music video director has navigated the videos for the likes of Not3s and Mabel to establishing a space for upcoming creatives in the process. We conversed from our lockdown hangouts and was definitely a contrasting change of pace for Diaz.

With an international upbringing, young Kirx was born in Guildford and moved through Barcelona, Switzerland, and Valencia during his childhood, before he completed college in Portsmouth. During this time Kirx discovered that he was a much better match for the capital and decided to further educate himself in London. Studying Media and Communications at the London College of Communication, Kirx cheekily admitted that he chose this college in order to make the move to the city.

Kirx’s love for the London music scene and diversity, was a primary reason he decided it was good to settle in the city. “All of my friends are from everywhere…it’s nice to have a good mix of everyone”. Following graduation, Kirx worked a series of jobs, including shifts in a shoe shop, pizza delivery and then an estate agent.

“That was like the worst job ever, I hated that. I used to go and say I’m handing leaflets out and then go in my car to an estate where I knew none of the other estate agents would go and just watch movies in my car”

Whilst working at the estate agents, a friend of Kirx was running video projects in Antigua, during carnival, and invited Kirx to go along with him.  After spending two weeks of making video and promo material in the Caribbean, Kirx returned to the UK and quit his job that same day. He’d found his love for content creation.  Although still very amateur to the video industry at this time, he returned to Antigua to continue his video work. On his return Kirx was a set runner for brands such as Michael Kors and H&M and was taking every opportunity that came his way. “There was one time where I was holding a boat in place for like 4 hours, but I loved it” Kirx worked on the island for 3 months before finally returning back to London.

“I just need the sun man”

His nickname from friends (Kirx) soon evolved into his industry brand and is now seen across his music video credits. Kirx admitted that he added Diaz as his surname as a way to weave in his Latin and Argentinian heritage and thought this would be a organic way to do so. As Kirx’s exposure became increasingly more present in the music video world, he used his showreel from his work abroad to circulate to artists on social media platforms. From this he grew his portfolio breadth, created his own opportunities and honed his craft.

“You have access to the whole world on the internet”

The turning point in Diaz’s career was when he had the opportunity to direct Not3s’ music video for Addison Lee and work with GRM Daily. Following on from this he continued working with Not3s on one of the most viewed UK urban music videos of 2017. As Kirx’s profile continued to expand, more people were noticing him and requesting to work with him – including Mabel and Ramz. It was interesting to see what development can happen in just a few years, “as a creative, I came up from literally earning like £100 a video and people telling me they didn’t want me to do their videos”.

As our conversation progressed, it became increasingly apparent that Diaz often thought outside of the box as he revealed he wanted to explore different ways to use his skills. He often questioned the materialism that stereotypically came hand in hand with grime music videos and revealed it can sometimes become normalised, “but it’s not normal”. This isn’t to say he doesn’t love working on these types of videos, but is now looking to evolve and his expand the types of project he works on. This is cemented with his entrepreneurial endeavours. Currently setting up a studio space aimed at creatives and the founder of his agency, Block Shots (a house of videographers and creatives) he is contributing to buliding platforms for upcoming creatives alongside his video projects.

It’s apparent we still have even bigger things to see from Mr Diaz, and with his goal to one day live in LA, I believe the world is yet to see more of Kirx, his active mindset and work ethic.

Quarantine Creatives: Amber Sandhu

Amber Sandhu

Amber the firecracker has an absolute abundance of energy, but don’t let that fool you, this young radio producer has her head screwed on and her hands in all the right pots. Speaking from her home in the Midlands, Amber’s animated conversation brought much entertainment to us both whilst in lockdown. Even during quarantine Amber is keeping her creative juices flowing and bringing the finesse to her skill set.

Born and raised in Wolverhampton Amber went to an all-girls grammar school and was always known to chatter. Reminiscing on her teacher’s words telling her “to put that voice to good use” paired with her love for radio is what spurred Amber on for a career in media from a very young age. Whilst completing A-Levels she got her foot in the door at Wolverhampton Community Radio (WCR) and lied about her age- saying she was 18- to gain some hands-on experience. It was at this point Amber’s go-getter attitude was cementing more and more for me and her cheekiness didn’t make it hard for me to believe.

Whilst growing her experience at WCR, Amber applied for media apprenticeships but to no avail and decided to pursue her other passion in physical activity and study Sport Science. This Active Alice indulges in cricket and loves sport so educated herself further and went on to play games at a high level. Amber’s passion for the media still hadn’t extinguished as she completed internships at Sky for Soccer AM and the Daily Mirror, but radio was still where her energy lay.

Following graduation, Amber went on to be a PE teacher at Silkmore Primary school and admittedly went to school every day and “had tennis balls thrown at her”. Her gruelling schedule at this time, meant she was still putting in the hours in at WCR, working as a PE teacher whilst upholding her sports commitments and looking for full time jobs in radio. She admitted that this was a time where her “self-care didn’t exist”. Although loving her job at the school, she knew this wasn’t her long-term dream.

After applying to the BBC Asian Network through Creative Access, Amber made her way to London for her first interview, not realising that this would be the first step into the world of national radio.  Off the back of her interviews, Amber was a top-notch candidate for an internship at the BBC as an assistant radio producer.

Starting on a Tuesday in the spring of 2019, Amber walked into the Birmingham studios to be greeted by no team (little did she know that people typically work from home on a Tuesday). “I didn’t meet anyone; I didn’t meet anyone on the team… and as the week went on I met the team, everyone was super nice and welcoming”. She revealed that her first few months at the BBC, she “struggled to come out of her shell” in fear that she wouldn’t be taken seriously. As an intern in the media industry, this is a commonality for many trainees as it’s often their first step within their chosen enterprises.

“I think I got a bit of imposter syndrome”

As Amber continued to develop, she showcased her potential. By working on the cricket world cup to going on to assistant produce weekend shows, her proactivity ensured her success amongst the team. An example of her initiative is shadowing the social media team in the London studios and then learning to create social media content for the Birmingham studios too. This thirst for learning and continually wanting to advance is a tip that Amber gives to anyone starting off in a creative industry. The importance of finding a work life balance is something that is apparent to Amber’s journey and reminds future interns to make sure to enjoy time.

“You’re still learning and you’re new as well…be proactive and be creative”