The Joy of Letting Go: In Conversation with Priya Sharma

The Joy of Letting Go, In Conversation with Priya Sharma

During these unprecedented times, many people have archived what was once considered their ‘normal’ life. From unemployment to home offices, it appears that there has been many a life evaluation and what truly makes individuals happy. Taking the plunge out of our comfort zones is alien and scary to many, but Priya Sharma has made the decision to do just this.

With her occupational status changing from Engineer to Traveller, Priya and her boyfriend Sid decided to sell their belongings and purchase a van to travel Australia. With her social media reach and views equating to thousands of viewers, her introduction has fast become part of people’s for you page.

“Hi my name is Priya”

Priya has documented her van life, and has adopted the mantra of living to work not working to live. Born and raised in Sydney, Priya and Sid worked together in mining engineering in remote and central Australia – nowhere near their hometown. Working long days to then coming home and waking up to work the next day again, this pair used any spare time they had to travel and gave them insight into how they wanted to live their life.

 “We wanted to work to live not live to work”

The couple then made the epic decision to leave their jobs, sell their belongings and move out of their flat. Following which they bought a van, which only had a bed frame in at the time. It was then kitted out with a small kitchen, fridge and decor, a great first van for travellers. This vehicle would not only become Priya’s home, but the tool for her adventures and vlogs.

“Little things make it feel bigger and homely”

I had the pleasure of video calling Priya whilst the pair were in the Queensland leg of their travels, and the cosy nature of the van matched that of Priya’s social media videos. It was funny to see that they couldn’t quite stand up fully in the van, but for later travels would invest in a bigger one. In all honesty it made me excited for when I could travel again and to have an element of fearlessness.

“We just wanted this tiny van, our home, to be able to travel from this tiny town…it makes sense, it feels free”

Showcasing their travel life, Priya began using Tik Tok to make short videos about their travels and sharing her recipes. Building a quick fire following, Priya admitted she was shocked and began using her new found community to sell her Dad’s famous spice mix! This mix was an amalgamation of spice blends that saw Priya through her childhood and often uses it to flavour the amazing fruits and produce she whips up in the van kitchen.

Finding that her van life meant less consumption over all, made it a more sustainable way to travel and explore. Using less electricity, water and power, this way of living contributed to a more-free way of life.

The lockdown rules in Queensland were so relaxed, which is contrastingly not the case in the UK at the moment, so it was interesting to witness some sense of normalcy on the other side of the world.  So as my day on this side of the world began, Priya’s was ending so I bade her goodnight and went about my day with a sense of adventure.

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!”

QUARANTINE CREATIVES: Hannah Austyn

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: 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.

Eczema.

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.

THE WOMAN BEHIND THE MASK

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: 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.