More on the South Asian Women’s Leadership Forum

FYI, My post for SAJAforum on Saturday’s conference can be found here.


Challenges with Working in the Industry

While NBC was casting the Nirvana pilot, Sonia said that many of the actors brought their parents and grandparents and started encouraging them to audition as well.  This was a welcome contrast to when she did casting for the Jungle Book in 1990, Sonia described getting a “dismal response”, only about 25 actors showed up.

Sonia also encouraged South Asian actors to try to change stereotypes that writers and producers might have.  She gave the example of Ajay Naidu, who almost did not accept a role in the late 1990s sitcom Lateline because he found the script riddled with stereotypes.  He eventually did take the part and worked with the writers to reshape the character.

A new hurdle that casting directors are currently facing is finding actresses who have not been to plastic surgeons or who have changed their appearance in other ways.  Giving the example of the West Wing, Sonia said it is “harder to find the Allison Janneys out there.

Dove’s Beauty Campaign

Shafi just showed one of Dove’s famous ads with real women.”Beauty is actually getting in the way of life,” said Shafi.  She also said the number one reason for subway delays in New York City are caused by women fainted due to hunger on the subway.

The commercials for Dove’s real beauty fund are particularly powerful.  I’ll try to find them on YouTube and post them shortly.

Shafi also gave the example of Fiji as a country that did not have any eating disorders before the introduction of beauty magazines.

The final clip that was shown was from the Tyra Banks Show after Tyra gave her famous speech decrying the tabloids that mocked her supposed weight gain.  The end of the clip drew loud applause.

Clips of from the Media Panel

The speakers from today’s panel are Sonia Nikore, a former casting executive for NBC and Shafi Saxena, the Global Vice President for Dove Skin.

We are about to watch a series of clips from American television shows that illustrate diversity on television

Clips include:

-who wants to be a millionaire

-american idol

– ugly betty

– the never picked up pilot “Nearly Nirvana”, which starred Kal Penn

– High School Musical- which is being translated into Hindi

Notes on SAWLF’s Discussion on Fashion

The first question posed to Roopal Patel, the senior women’s fashion director for Bergdorf Goodman was “what are you wearing?” (Answer: Chanel).

Describing herself as “incredibly blessed”, Patel described first becoming interested in fashion when she took a part-time job at Urban Outfitters while an undergraduate at NYU.  “I realized there was a whole industry devoted to fashion,” she said.  She decided to become a marketing major and embarked on her career in the fashion industry.

Patel was preparing to enter business school when her career in fashion began to take off and then had to have that classic talk with her parents.

Here are some of my notes from the discussion:

On celebrities: “There is a reason there is that old Hollywood glamour is associated with the red carpet.”

On Indian designers: “They are used to designing for the Indian market, as they should be.  More is more in India, and we know that.” (big laughs from the crowd.)

Her advice to customers: “Invest in a good pair of shoes, that will never go wrong.  Always have a little black dress…. allow yourself options and don’t be afraid to experiment.”

On style in the workplace: I think in the workplace, it’s a reality that people take things at face value.

How should young designers approach Bergdorf: Most people call and meet with me or my assistant.  We require workbooks, prices…. I always say to young designers ‘timing is everything.'”  She also noted that persistence is key

Upcoming trends: Lots of color, lots of prints.

Scenes From Coogan’s Annual 5K Run

Washington Heights hosted one of its March traditions on Sunday with the Salsa, Blues and Shamrocks 5K Run.  The tenth annual run attracted community members of all ages, college athletes and members of New York’s Road Runners Club, which was one of the race’s sponsors.  The route was lined with spectators and led the athletes through Ft. Tryon Park.

While the 5K run counted a handful of children among its competitors, there were separate races for children after the run was completed.  Children as young as two participated in races in front of the National Track and Field Hall of Fame on Ft. Washington Ave.

The streets along the route also featured many neighborhood musicians and dance teams who came out to display their talents.  Walking along Ft. Washington Avenue, I saw bagpipers, drummers, and dancers from several neighborhood schools.

Click here for a photo slide show of the event.