At BHAV, we believe in empowering women to find unique ways to embrace their cultural heritage. We started 'The Culture Connection' to explore the impact (both good and bad) of heritage on a variety of incredible women, and understand how it continues to play an influential role in their lives. We invite you to join us on this journey, with the hope that you find value in these conversations.
Kristin is an Assistant Professor and Program Director of Health Science, with a Ed.D. in Interdisciplinary Leadership from Creighton University. Outside of work, Kristin loves to cook and travel with her husband, with whom she recently visited Bali on their honeymoon. They're also busy preparing for their first baby (a boy!) in June. Read on to learn about Kristin's heritage and motivation for documenting her Indian-American fusion journey (@patel_mashup).
On Her Eastern European Heritage & Multicultural Marriage:
What's your background?
My family is from Slovenia and Croatia, but I'm a second-gen American. I've been living in Chicago for a while now with my husband, who is a first-gen South Asian American.
How has, or currently does your heritage play a role in your life?
My Eastern European family heritage has provided me with values that are at the core of who I am today. My grandfather (who is now 97 years old and doing well!) is for sure the patriarch of our family. He always emphasized the importance of education and family supporting each other. Now that I'm an adult, I recognize how important family relationships and a quality education are in my life, and I attribute this to my upbringing.
Can you speak on your experience being in a multicultural marriage? What have been some of the challenges, and what have you been pleasantly surprised with?
My husband's parents are both Gujarati (from Ahmedabad) and came to the U.S. in their 20s after they were married in India. Although my husband grew up here, one of my biggest fears when we first started dating was that the relationship would not be able to progress too seriously because I assumed we would hold such different values on deeper issues. However, I was pleasantly surprised and pleased to find that our values matched each other very well.
Even though there are some obvious differences in the cultural traditions of our families, I've been thrilled that both sides have embraced an attitude of respect for our differences. We had two ceremonies for our wedding: one traditional Hindu (3 days of celebration and fun!), and a Christian ceremony as well. Everyone participated in both, and it was such a beautiful merging of the cultures.
What made you decide to share your multicultural journey on Instagram (@patel_mashup), and how do you hope to help others by documenting it?
I've shared my Indian-American fusion journey because I recognize that we've been able to navigate very well through something that frequently divides couples and families. I feel very lucky that we haven't had major struggles (and I don't want to diminish those that have), but our relationship still requires work and an open embrace of cultural differences.
I also wanted to show how part of my individual growth in a multicultural marriage has been to add to and enhance my own identity by being open to learning about new things. I've found I've really connected to learning about Indian food and fashion. One of the biggest bonding moments I had with my mother-in-law was her teaching me how to make Chana Masala. I love cooking but have always been intimidated with Indian spices because I didn't understand how to combine them. Nonetheless, I was genuinely interested in learning about this, and the bond I've formed with my mother-in-law through cooking together means so much more to me than just learning how to mix ingredients in recipes.
What do you love most about South Asian fashion?
I LOVE fashion because of the way it empowers individuals to express themselves. I've been newly exposed to South Asian fashion, and I've embraced the chance to wear vibrant Lehenga Choli designs and gorgeous saris that beautifully highlight colors through intricate draping techniques.
My favorite thing to do overall is to mix different textures, patterns, and colors in a fusion of both Eastern and Western looks. I really enjoy putting outfits together that have depth, creative thought, and showcase areas of my body and personality. I love highlighting a specific statement piece such as a bold shoe, high-waisted pant, or patterned top, and pairing it with pieces that complement and balance out the look.
What's your favorite thing in your closet right now?
Pre-pregnancy was a perfectly tailored light pink jump suit that tied on the side. Beautiful light fabric with great movement and lines. Paired with the right pair of heels, I feel unstoppable!
Pregnancy favorite has been a form-fitting dress in a bold pattern and color that shows off the bump in style! I love that maternity wear has come a long way and now can offer fashionable prints, cuts, and options that make a woman feel beautiful at every step along their journey!
What's your go-to cocktail, spirit or drink?
I love a glass of red wine, but during the pregnancy I have been sticking with water (sometimes I go all out and add some grenadine or cherry flavor!)
What are you currently watching?
Greys Anatomy… love it! I have seen every episode and there is no way I am stopping now!
Name of the best book you've read in a while?
'Being Mortal' by Atul Gwande. I started reading his books last year and he has quickly become one of my new favorite authors! He is a surgeon who has written several books and 'Being Mortal' emphasizes the notion that people nearing death should be given the opportunity to live a meaningful life and still have purpose.
Morning person or night owl?
MORNING!!! It’s amazing what I can get done before noon. But after about 7pm, I am pretty useless and am usually in bed by 9!
What's 1 small thing you couldn't give up (daily ritual, accessory/personal item, etc.)?
Ice cream! Any flavor, any time of day. I’m up for it!