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.
Rasha (@rashagoel) is an Emmy nominated Host and Producer in Hollywood. She has worked with many major networks and companies and also works on her own creative projects including 'Raw with Rasha' which is a YouTube series that provides a platform for discussion on various topics that affect the South Asian community. When she's not interviewing both Hollywood and Bollywood celebrities, you can find her enjoying nature, cross-stitching, candle-making and taking time for herself through meditation. Read on to learn about how Rasha's hard work and determination has paid off and made her one of the very few and sought out South Asian female entertainment journalists in Hollywood.
On Her Indian Heritage:
What's your background? I am South Asian (Punjabi).
How has, or currently does your heritage play a role in your life?
I have been fortunate to grow up in two worlds as an American, and as an Indian, which does have negative and positive benefits! However, the one thing that's really played a role is my spiritual practice as we have a deep rooted foundation from the South Asian culture.
I would say it's also helped strengthen me as an individual. Growing up, people didn't understand what being "Indian" was. I was made fun of for wearing an Indian outfit or was embarrassed if my mom wore a bindi. Funny, how it is all now considered "exotic" in the Western world. But, understanding the richness of my culture helped me realize it was a part of who I am and made me appreciate my heritage. It has also been a part of my career as I have been one of the few journalists to crossover between the Indian and American markets. I am one of the few South Asian female entertainment journalists to work both nationally and internationally. I am one of the only South Asian entertainment journalists to represent at Hollywood events, as well as at the Golden Globes and Oscars. I have had the opportunity to work with Disney, FOX, SONY Pictures, HBO ASIA, France 24, and Warner Bros. on international platforms. I am the host/producer of "Star Talk" on TV ASIA which highlights entertainment, lifestyle, and provides inspiration to the South Asian audience.
You've had a wonderful career thus far as an Emmy-nominated TV host and producer, with a diverse set of experiences at networks across Hollywood. As a South Asian woman, what challenges did you face breaking into the industry, and what lessons have you learned along the way?
Rather than wait for opportunities to come to me, I create them. For example, I reach out to production companies and studios to have a presence at their coverages, not only as a woman of color but as a representative of the South Asian American community. I also regularly participate in panels, attend conferences, and network to ensure there is a South Asian presence. It's not easy. I still get "no's" even with my credibility, but I am persistent and keep moving forward.
I am still one of the only South Asian Entertainment Journalists at many Hollywood film press junkets and premieres. Why is that? I want to help pave the path for future South Asian individuals who may be interested in this career path. At every opportunity, I encourage executives to recognize the value of offering a seat at the table (which is still challenging). I grew up feeling discouraged about my career path as I hardly saw South Asians on television. I hope to be able to open doors for those who are coming after me.
Sometimes a leap of faith is all it takes- For a few years I worked in corporate marketing at one of the studios. Though my heart was set on working on-camera and hosting professionally, I gave into family pressure and the fear of not succeeding. I took a full time 9-5 job. After two years of office work ( and using my lunch break to create a reel and look for auditions), I finally took a leap of faith. I quit the guaranteed paycheck and decided to pursue my dream of hosting on television. If I hadn't left my job, journey would not have been what it is today! I would still be sitting behind a desk.
Don't forget to have "me" time- Carving time out for yourself outside of work is extremely important. Working in the entertainment industry requires a lot of hard work and commitment and often, for that 'one' opportunity, we will drop everything. I was so driven and focused, that at times, I put aside my personal life, hobbies, and endeavors. It's important to find balance. At the end of the day, life is a more than a job.
Enjoy the process- It is really about the journey. This may sound cliche, but it's true! Don't lose yourself along the way. Enjoy learning, meeting people, and make the most of work opportunities. The most important lesson: Be Grateful. There is always someone else wanting the same opportunity you have. Appreciate your good fortune.
As you know, South Asian households traditionally place a strong (sometimes overbearing) emphasis on pursuing careers in math and science. When did you decided you wanted to pursue a career in entertainment, and how has your family supported this decision?
From a very young age, I new I wanted to be a storyteller. At seven years old, I did a history project on Martin Luther King, Jr. by creating a newscast. I had my mother film me as an anchor on a news desk. In fact, we created an entire set, and inserted an image over my shoulder, just like a real newscast! I wanted it to be as authentic and creative as possible. I knew I wanted to tell the story through media. I don't think my parents had any idea I would eventually pursue a degree in Broadcast Journalism, specializing in Entertainment. I must have been born with a microphone in my hand, as I have always enjoyed being on stage and interviewing people. Raised in a South Asian household, hopes were I would go into medicine. I was a Pharmacy major at one time, when I realized that I just couldn't pretend to be someone I wasn't. My grades were above average and the money would have been lucrative, but inside, my soul was suffering. I realized I was an artist and that was my true calling.
I knew my path wasn't going to be an easy one - going against my parents wishes and the guilt of crushing their dreams, having no mentor or family member in the industry, and being a woman of color. But , my determination, passion, and perseverance kept me going and committed to the game.
A few years after graduating from UCLA with a Bachelor's Degree in Communication Studies, I started off my career in corporate at Sony Pictures. Again, realizing the desk job would not really lead me into the the creative world, I took a leap of faith and quit! It was nerve-wracking but I had to trust the path.
Shortly after, I heard one of the largest South Asian networks was opening an office in America. I was able to become their Hollywood Correspondent, where I had the opportunity to report, produce stories and interview celebrities. From there, I built a reel and worked my way by networking. I eventually became the "Hollywood go to gal" for Sony Pictures, FOX, CNN, Warner Bros., and others. In the meantime, I was developing my relationships and building my skills in Hollywood and freelancing at local networks. I have interviewed former Presidents to celebrities to city officials. I have also covered local LA news and built a repertoire with many of the government officials at City Hall.
Along the way, I was always connected to the South Asian community. I felt I wanted to make a difference in the community and help break some of the sterotypes. I was even in Mumbai for a few months at one time for a project and thought since I am here why not see how Bollywood works. That experience made me realize I prefer working in Hollywood and living in the US.
Fast forward, I am now an Emmy nominated Host and Producer. I am the first South Asian American female Host for Dick Clark's Live Red Carpet Coverage of the Golden Globes. I have covered the Oscars, Emmys, and Bollywood 'StarScreen' and IIFA awards. I have built myself from scratch. While I got many "no's" along the way, I kept pushing until the "yes's" came. No joke, my parents still ask if I can change my career path.
You've had the pleasure of interviewing some amazingly talented actors/artists in your career - are there any in particular that stand out for you and why? What kind of prep work do you typically do in advance of a sit-down?
One of my absolute favorites is Jennifer Aniston. She truly is the person you see on the screen – down to earth, humble, and funny. During the interview we had a few fun moments to laugh! I still remember I asked her ‘what dating advice would she give’ (because it was related to the film) and she was laughing about how she might not be the best person to answer since this had been right after her separation from Brad Pitt.
I also enjoyed Leonardo DiCaprio. Right away we were talking about the Taj Mahal and visits to India. However, he is such a finely crafted artist, that as a journalist you don’t want to ask him any fluff questions. He knows how to have an impactful, yet interesting conversation. And yes, he is very handsome in person!
My prep work includes researching the artist, the work they have done, the film or tv show I am covering and finding any hidden gems or fun things about the talent! Research, research, research so I have an idea of what I am going to ask.
We love your new interview series, 'Raw with Rasha' on YouTube! What inspired you to start the series, and what kinds of topics are you looking to take on?
Thank you! This series is very special to me because I am creating, producing and hosting the show. Since we were in quarantine, I felt that people were feeling disconnected, so I wanted to create a show that could inspire or empower them.
I wanted to create a platform to have uncomfortable discussions and was inspired by growing up in the South Asian community where things are often ‘swept under the rug’. I developed RAW as a place to have these engaging conversations. If I could even impact one person’s life with this show, then I feel I have done my job.
Topics have included: Being Gay & Muslim, Postpartum Depression/Suicide, Tantra & Sex, Being an Immigrant in the US, talking to African American friends about Black Lives Matter, Mental Health Stigma especially in the South Asian community, are some of the topics.
What do you love most about Indian fashion? Any favorite pieces/outfits growing up?
I love the colors, the fabrics, the jewels - South Asian fashion is so rich and vibrant. It can be playful and yet sexy. Growing up I loved saris because they were elegant and I loved how Bollywood actresses could dance in them, even in the snow! But I feel the most comfortable in lehngas because of the different styles and they're easy to walk in! Designers I love are: Satya Pal, Tarun Tahiliani and Gaurav Gupta
What's your favorite thing in your closet right now, or the piece that gives you the most confidence?
Honestly, as I am at home a lot, I love hanging out in a pair of shorts because at this present moment I am all about the comfort! I'm even wearing them now!
What's your go-to cocktail, spirit or drink?
Not much of a drinker, but I like Mojitos especially when I get to pick mint leaves from my herb garden and use them!
What are you currently watching?
Catching up on the Ozark! Also watching Cobra Kai & Masaba Masaba
Name of the best book you've read in a while?
'The Power of Now' by Eckhart Tolle
Morning person or night owl?
What's 1 small thing you couldn't give up (daily ritual, accessory/personal item, etc.)?
My morning cup of desi (Indian) chai with cardamom