Keeping your Mental health in Check: A Conversation with Dan Draper

Releasing the stigma around Mental Health, A Conversation with Dan Draper

With mental health being at the forefront of Dan Draper’s podcasting journey, this presenter, influencer and friend is determined to remove the stigma surrounding mental health. Speaking from the comfort of our homes, Dan’s set up screamed podcaster mode. From his mic to his professionalism, it was time for me to reverse the roles and delve in Dan’s journey.

Beaming and smiling, Dan began by telling me about his childhood and growing up in Harlow, Essex. Paired with the hustle and bustle of his large family (not forgetting his dogs of course), he was also exploring his creative side as a drummer. It was apparent that Dan’s extroverted personality has been a big part of who he is from a very young age.

“I was bouncing off the walls”

Following his school life, he went on to work various jobs, and got well acquainted with HSBC for 4 years. It was during this time that a 2-week trip to Thailand left Dan with a thirst for exploration. It was at this point that Dan realised he didn’t want to be living his 9-5 any longer.

“I can’t do this anymore; I can’t just be a corporate number”

 This feeling became a catalyst for Dan to fly out and begin his travels within South East Asia. Reminiscing the people who he met along the way, who he referred to as “family” as well as being humbled by the contrasting lifestyle, Dan soaked in the sites.

“It grounded me”

Revealing that his own mental health was in top form whilst travelling, he was “on a constant high” and having the freedom to do whatever he wanted was a foundation for that.

Little did he know that the amazement and experiences of this trip were to be paired with the most devasting news.

Following the news of a close family friend passing away from terminal cancer back home, alongside aiding an ill travelling companion to hospital, the trip’s course began to change. Whilst navigating a Vietnamese hospital, Dan returned to his place of stay to receive the news from his family that his Nan had also passed away as a result of Dementia.

Already an emotionally tolling week for Dan, he made the decision to fly home early for the funeral. Prior to his journey back home, Dan was staying with a local family where he received news about Dean.

“Dean was my cousin, we grew up like brother, we were genuinely inseparable… we had that sort of twin effect”

An initial call from his Dad informing Dan that Dean had suddenly collapsed, spurred Dan to accelerate his journey back home and get on the next available flight back to the UK. Making the journey from the remote village he was staying in to the airport was over 6 hours before he made it to the airport.

“Even if he was gonna be alright, I knew I had to go back”

Arriving at the airport and connecting to the Wi-Fi was when Dan was able to video call his family back home.

Dean had not made it.

Finding out this news in such a public setting manifested grief in a way that led to Dan being stripped from processing in a private setting. Nearly missing his flight, Dan was processing the news whilst trying to make it for the flight. With Dean’s cause of death being an underlying, undetected heart condition, he lived a very healthy lifestyle and this condition could’ve affected him at any time.

21 hours and 4 hours later, Dan landed back in the UK to the support and love of his family. Running to him in the airport, Dan admitted he had exhausted himself on the journey and “had run out of tears”.

“It was like a scene from Love Actually”

It was the time following Dean’s funeral that proved detrimental to Dan’s mental health. Feeling a lack of motivation as well as bottling up emotion, led to Dan experiencing a panic attack on a Christmas gathering at the pub. Paired with a feeling of confusion and sadness, Dan interestingly noted that he didn’t want anyone to know he had suffered with a panic attack and felt he had to put on a “brave face” and continued to enjoy his night.

“There’d be times where the lights were on but no one was home for me”

With a ‘keep calm and carry on’ mindset regarding his mental health, Dan thought his feelings were just what grief was and never suspected that his mental health could be suffering. With the offer of grief counselling, Dan admitted that he let his male ego get in the way of getting help for how he was feeling.

It was at this time that Dan was offered a job with a London start up, where he built new connections and new friends. Delving in the London working life, Dan decided to make the move the city (which is where Dan first came into my life), and has been living there until the present.

2020 has become a transitional year for Dan, from changing work circumstances to getting ready to travel, it’s not been all bad for this amazing podcaster.

“This year was meant to be my year, I’m turning 30, I’m gonna travel, I’m gonna get my first tattoo…and then corona hit”

Lockdown was the reason that, for many people, mental health issues had manifested. A change of pace in life, followed by intense uncertainty, not only created stress for people but also fear. Working in the hospitality industry, Dan was also affected. The pub was closed and Dan was put on furlough. Recognising how lockdown was making him feel, Dan knew that other people must be feeling the same way.

The Dan Draper Podcast

Alongside the emotions that lockdown was stirring Dan was fuelled by the memories of Dean. Putting aside his search for another corporate job, he had decided it was time to pursue and indulge his creative side. The Dan Draper Podcast was born!

The Dan Draper Podcast is a set of conversations, hosted by Dan, that explore mental health. From mental health charities and sportsman to presenters and influencers, Dan’s goal is to release the stigma surrounding mental health. Consistency and passion are what drive Dan Draper and being a guest on his show myself, I am very excited to see what it around the corner for this amazing presenter.

This natural conversationalist, allows his guests to open up in a way where there is room for vulnerability and uses it as a tool, to educate himself further. Using exercise as a means to keep his own mental health in check, Dan is continually exploring the intricacies of mental health and checks in with his audience daily. Being transparent in this way, shows the genuine care that Dan has for connecting with his audience and showcasing both the ups and downs in his quest to get people conversing abut mental health.

In Conversation With: Armana Rai

Londoner Armana Rai took her love for running and turned it into a platform to connect runners from all over. From marathons to daily running Armana sat in conversation with me about her athletics journey and shared how she evolved her hobby and went on to become an ambassador for Underarmour.

Upon discovering Armana’s social media platforms, it was seemingly apparent that she was a full-time runner and influencer, but in our chat I discovered she was actually a full time accountant. The ultimate side hustler, if you can call it that! Having studied Sports Management at the University of Loughborough, this young runner knew she needed athletics in her life, however, never found a sport she specifically wanted to specialise in. Following a year in industry at EY, during her study, Armana pursued the finance route and continued to nurture her running outside of that.

From the age of 16 Armana worked for her local athletics club in London and honed in on her love of sport, but her interest in sport wasn’t always there.  Armana’s Father was a professional Hockey player and competed internationally, but Armana’s talent for running wasn’t developed until her teenage years.  A 200m sports day race at the age of 10 is where her own running journey began.

“I didn’t think anything, I just ran…and I won by so far”

Going on to pursue cross country and long distance running throughout secondary school, Armana continued to better herself at University and mingled with the running community there.

“it was an amazing place to meet people and be”

Being at a top sports university was a very privileged platform for Armana, but she shined a light on the negatives that she discovered amongst the running community and clubs. Eating Disorders were rife amongst some of the runners in the clubs she was a part of whilst studying, so Armana decided to train solo for her university time. Her final year was when she went on to complete her first half marathon and since then has trained solo with the knowledge she has acquired from studying. In recent years, Armana has used an online coach to continue to develop her running style.

Prior to her online coaching, Armana found herself mixing within the fitness and influencer space and decided to post about her running as a way to meet like-minded people. This grew from regular running updates to brand partnerships, the most recent of which being Underarmour.

With her role in finance taking priority, Armana works around this to accommodate her social media platforms. Maintaining balance between this is something that Armana revealed she has had to navigate. From using annual leave at her full-time job to accommodate for trips with her brand sponsors, she has to decide which events to attend and what to prioritise.

“It’s like having a second job sometimes”

Not imagining the success that would have come from her social media interactions, Armana’s Instagram involvement led to her gracing the cover of Women’s Running magazine in August 2019. Becoming more and more prominent in the running world, it is clear that running is more than a hobby for Armana, it is a passion.  Having aided her through hard times in her life, Armana is an adamant believer that there is no such thing as a bad run.

“it’s giving me another focus outside of work”


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: 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: 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: 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”