Trisha Sakhuja-Walia: Are You a “Brown Girl” With a Dream?

February 6 - Sarah Ashlock
Media
 

FIRST THOUGHT: Different is Good

I’m beginning to wonder if we need to re-visit the qualities we teach children: listening, caring, tolerance, acceptance. There’s a kid’s book by author and illustrator Jess Hong called Lovely that will challenge even the most open-minded adult: A diverse set of characters demonstrates there’s no such thing as a “normal” person, and guess what? We’re all lovely. White hair, don’t care. Wrinkles, schminkles. Combat boots with a dress, yes.

It’s a reminder, too, that even though I have the same color skin and the same kind of body, I can change how I express myself in whichever way I please. How freeing is that?! Once we accept others’ differences, we can begin to accept our own. Imagine what life would be like if we actually looked in the mirror and said, “I look lovely.”

WOMEN IN NUMBERS: 466

Representation matters. We’re still dealing with issues of whitewashing, and racist and sexist hiring practices. Did you know that from 1930 to 1968, there was a set of guidelines at major film studios that stated actors of different races couldn’t have any smooches or steamy scenes on camera? Our newsrooms suffer from continuous misrepresentation, too. For instance, from 2009 to 2015, the number of Asian American women in newsrooms dropped dramatically, from 758 to 466. I recently watched a limited series documentary about a newspaper and could count the number of women portrayed on one hand. Oh, and the number of women of color? There was only one.

WOMAN TO WATCH: Trisha Sakhuja-Walia, Co-founder and CEO of Brown Girl Magazine

Over the last several years, people have asked whether or not we really need spaces just for a certain demographic. Do the Girl Scouts really need a girls-only club? Do women really need a ladies-only co-working space? The truth is it can be comforting and empowering to not be outnumbered, and in my opinion, that’s one reason publications like Brown Girl Magazine matter.

Today’s Woman to Watch, Trisha Sakhuja-Walia, created this independent, non-partisan platform specifically for South Asians in mind. By introducing the magazine, Trisha has been able to tell stories about women who so often are never even listened to. And guess what? They should be heard!

Trisha has the educational and career chops to back up the successful launch of her mag, with a master’s in Public Policy. She was one of those high achievers I envied who double minored in Journalism and Women’s and Gender Studies while pursuing her Bachelor’s in Political Science.

Trisha’s education is intimidating, but her biz is far from it. It only launched a couple years ago and has more than 50,000 followers on the ‘gram. Brown Girl Magazine’s message is straightforward: Challenge traditions and embrace feminism. With more than 100 regular contributors, Trisha has found a corner of the Internet that makes “brown girls” feel right at home.

That’s no easy feat. Publishing consistent content and offering authors’ bylines is one way to prove you’re genuine, and Trisha’s done just that. She also recognized that South Asian women want to meet up IRL, and thus, the Slashie Summit was born. Trisha and her team at Brown Girl define “slashie” as a millennial who works a traditional job with a side hustle—or five.

Part of what Trisha has provided talks about what other South Asian women have thought but don’t talk about: the ingrained privilege most content creators have. Creative, badass storytelling sees no race and no gender, so why do we only see Anglo-saxon faces on our video stream? Trisha shares that 35 percent of Brown Girl’s readers are men—a fact that shows if the content is authentic and relatable, the followers will come.

QUITE THE QUOTE

At the Indo-american Arts Council’s first South Asian Literary Festival, journalist and book critic Parul Sehgal said:

“Don’t get disheartened. Keep writing. People are reading.”

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