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.
Priya is an Atlanta-based finance professional and budding stand-up comic and entertainer (@pripri1021, @inspriyation_). Her talents are wide-ranging; she's done everything from MC'ing, comedy skits, and choreographed dances, to playing the dhol and videography. Additionally, she loves traveling and planning epic reunions and trips to unique destinations. Read on to learn about Priya's South Asian pride and inspiration for pursuing stand-up comedy.
On Her South Asian Heritage:
What's your background?
My parents are Gujarati, but I drink and dance like a Punjabi :P
How has, or currently does your South Asian heritage play a role in your life?
Growing up as an Indian-American, there’s always going to be a clash of cultures because our parents grew up following certain customs and norms that we didn’t or don’t necessarily agree with now because times are constantly changing. I recently binged Mindy Kaling’s new Netflix series “Never Have I Ever”, which gave me all the feels as it accurately depicted the dual identity struggle a lot of us go through in middle school and high school, and how reluctant we were to explore the Indian side to us. I think because I was so young, I didn’t fully understand the importance or meaning behind my parents’ beliefs and actions, but I've developed an appreciation for them over time. I can’t imagine what it was like moving to an entirely new country in your 20s and creating a whole new family and life here. Just because they moved didn’t change who they were as people, so it makes sense that they’d want to carry on traditions and teach us about our ethnic background.
Overall, I’m glad my family has always been so connected with our culture, whether it be through traditional/religious occasions, music, and dance. Our household was one in which on any given day you could walk into a cricket game on the TV in one room, Bollywood music playing in another, and my mom cooking up an Indian feast in the kitchen (while simultaneously talking to family on the phone and yelling at a bunch of kids running around!). It makes me smile looking back on what all our parents did for us and the family values they instilled, day in and day out.
You've started to dabble with stand-up comedy, including performing at venues in Atlanta. What inspired you to pursue stand-up, and what are some of the biggest challenges you've faced as a newcomer to this industry?
I first started taking improv comedy classes because every time I saw people having such a great time on stage using their creativity to make people laugh, I envisioned myself doing something similar. I’ve also been asked to be an MC at weddings and other events, so I started to get comfortable behind a mic. In fact, I've even been asked to 'roast' one of my cousins at their engagement party a couple years back. He’s one of my biggest role models and has always encouraged me to light that fire within. I ended up delivering a 10 minute bit where I surprisingly received a lot of positive feedback from people I barely knew, many of whom asked if I did stand-up (which I hadn’t started at the time). I literally googled ‘stand-up classes in Atlanta’ the next day and started taking them the following month.
I genuinely love making people laugh, but stand-up comes with many challenges. Things like knowing and reading your audience, developing a stage presence, crafting punchlines and jokes that are relevant, and learning how to deal with being totally humiliated. Roasting my cousin was somewhat easy because the entire audience knew him, so they all understood my references and jokes. But when I’m trying to come up with new and unique material, I’ll often question whether something is actually funny or I just think it’s funny… and I think everything’s funny so that really doesn’t help! Being South Asian and also a woman has its own setbacks because of the double standards, stereotypes, and biases that will always be out there. A woman can’t be too loud, too vulgar, or too much of anything really, but I’m glad women are now starting to put themselves out there more and finding their rhythm and edge. Confidence plays a huge role in all of this because believing in yourself is half the battle.
We're so excited for the quickly approaching arrival of your new podcast! What will be the premise of the podcast, and how have you decided on which topics to discuss?
My podcast is about self-empowerment, helping people feel better about themselves and gain confidence to try new things and explore hidden talents. We don’t dedicate enough time to really discovering ourselves and listening to our inner voices that are always trying to tell us something. I want to awaken the younger, more daring parts of us that have gotten washed away with societal norms and standards. Self-discovery is a lifelong process, but I’ve taken the time the past few years to put myself out there more and realize my potential.
I genuinely believe every single person has their own superpowers. They can be strengths, skills, talents, and hobbies, but we need to stop discounting ourselves just because we’re not famous or because there are so many other people doing what we want to do. Passion is still passion and has many different forms.
Right now, there is also a huge movement of people wanting to make an impact by elevating and helping spread South Asian voices and stories, and I want to be a part of it! While I respect my culture and heritage, there are taboo topics I want to challenge and shed light on. When life doesn’t go as planned (which it usually doesn’t) and you have to take a different path, it can be hard navigating through that when you feel pressure to be a certain way. Whether it's topics like quitting your job, getting married at a later age, hurdles of interracial relationships, moving to a different country, or deciding whether to have kids or not, I want to open up conversations that people can learn from. You know when you have a thought-provoking and stimulating conversation with someone that was so good, you think to yourself, “Man I wish we recorded that!”? My goal is to make that happen on the podcast.
What do you love most about South Asian fashion?
I’ve always loved how colorful and intricate South Asian clothing can be and how royal they make you feel. There’s a wide variety of styles that cater to all different sizes, and now more than ever, fashion designers are getting extra creative with trying to blend different cultural trends together. My go-to outfits are anarkalis since I dance ALL the time at weddings. Seriously, like energizer bunny-level for every event, so I prefer something that’s comfortable and won’t come undone on the dance floor!
What's your favorite thing in your closet right now?
My Elephant pants! I’m all about comfort so they’re my lounge pants (often mistaken for pajamas but they’re not!) that I love wearing around the house and when I travel as well. I like to buy a pair, or something similar, from every place I visit as a keepsake that ties to the culture.
What's your go-to cocktail, spirit or drink?
Champagne when I want to feel classy, but my absolute go-to is White Claw! I know, I know... so basic, but so refreshing!
What are you currently watching?
'Never Have I Ever', 'Four More Shots Please', 'Upload', 'Ozark', 'Modern Family', 'Good Girls', and a ton of old school, classic Bollywood movies!
Name of the best book you've read in a while?
'Daring Greatly' by Brene Brown, 'Unlearn' by Humble the Poet, 'Start With Why by Simon Sinek', and 'How to be a Bawse' by Lilly Singh.
Morning person or night owl?
Totally a night owl. I get most of my ideas and creativity staying up late, but eventually I want to change that to waking up early. My goal is to join Robin Sharma’s 5 AM club!
What's 1 small thing you couldn't give up (daily ritual, accessory/personal item, etc.)?
Depending on the day and what I need to accomplish, I have different pump-up jams that I like to play at various times to boost my energy and get me in the zone!