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.
Nehal is a marketing professional, lifestyle blogger, and co-host of 'The Woke Desi' podcast (@thewokedesi). She uses her blog (nehaltenany.com) to offer up tips on travel, style, and dating for the modern woman. Read on to learn about how Nehal's relationship with her heritage has evolved, as well as some her favorite episodes of 'The Woke Desi'.
On Her South Asian Heritage:
What's your background?
I'm Rajasthani, born and raised in the USA.
How has, or currently does your heritage play a role in your life?
Growing up, I was definitely embarrassed to be Indian due to the stereotypes thrown around in high school and how different my upbringing was than those of my white friends. As you can imagine, sleepovers were limited, boyfriends were out of the question, and taking Indian food to school was "weird" - I struggled with finding that balance of being "too Indian" at school and "not enough Indian" at home.
It wasn't until college came around that I learned to appreciate and love my culture and background. I immersed myself in the Indian Student Association and was captain of the Bollywood dance team, Om Shanti. Through those diverse experiences, I met a lot of like-minded individuals who taught me the meaning of loving where you come from.
Your podcast with Annika Sharma, 'The Woke Desi', has established itself for taking on taboo topics in the South Asian community. Why do you think the topics have resonated so strongly with South Asian women, and what can first-time listeners expect from the podcast?
Already in Season 3 now, what are some of your favorite or most memorable topics/episodes? Has anything been particularly hard to discuss?
My favorite topics have been a mix of things that have been relatable to me and things I haven't yet experienced. Some of my favorites I can directly relate to include dating in the brown community, taking control of your sexual health and pleasure, cultural appropriation, anti-blackness and breast cancer.
My all-time favorites thought are the episodes that really made me feel for the guest sharing his/her story (whether or not I could relate). Those particular episodes touched on infertility & child loss, inter-faith relationships, adoption, honor-based violence and divorce. The fact that these guests wanted to come and share their story with hopes of connecting with other South Asians going through the same thing really touched me.
As far as difficult topics go, people always ask me if it's weird for me to talk openly about sex. Although it was a bit uncomfortable at first, I realized I had to stay true to the purpose of the podcast, and that meant having these conversations publicly. The sex-related podcasts focus on your sexual health/pleasure, self-love, and learning to be comfortable with YOUR own body. I think that's a perfectly normal and important conversation to have in the South Asian community.Your personal blog (nehaltenany.com) takes on everything from travel and fashion, to dating advice and marketing tips. What inspired you to create this platform, and what are your future plans for the blog?
What do you love most about South Asian fashion?
I love the ability to customize and mix/match things dependent upon your taste and style. Fashion trends change constantly, but my favorite South Asian pieces are anything that blends together American and South Asian culture. You see this fusion a lot in emerging trends like South Asian blazer/pant suit pieces, off-the-shoulder blouses and backless tops (there are so many!).
As a 'basic' South Asian girl in America, I can't help but grovel over the beauty of luxury brand Saabyasaachi - I always say, I'm not getting married unless I'm in a Saabyasaachi!
What's your favorite thing in your closet right now?
I love designer accessories. I think you can wear the most simple outfit ever, but if you have one designer luxury piece on you, it just spices up the whole outfit and makes you look like a million bucks. Right now, a few of those pieces for me would be my Gucci belt, Tiffany necklace, and Chanel purse.
What's your go-to cocktail, spirit or drink?
What are you currently watching?
Mindy Kaling's show, 'Never Have I Ever'!
Name of the best book you've read in a while?
Morning person or night owl?
What's 1 small thing you couldn't give up (daily ritual, accessory/personal item, etc.)?
My Tiffany necklace :)