Friends, it’s 2020, and one of our biggest goals as a South Asian collective is to make sure the next generation never has to worry about “log kya kahenge” (what will people say?). There’s so many new examples every day of badass desi women who have made serious personal and professional boss moves, and don’t give a flying f*ck about what society has to say about it. In honor of International Women’s Day, here are a few of our faves! We hope they inspire you to get up and do something new this month without worrying about all the damn log (people).
1. Lilly Singh
Lilly Singh convinced her brown parents to let her keep making videos into her late twenties – if that’s not a big f*ck you to all the aunties out there then I don’t know what is. Known for her hustle and work-ethic — Lilly is one of the most influential and successful YouTubers of the past decade. She sky-rocketed to fame with her comedy sketches and relatable desi parent characters and is now worth over $16 million – take that safe, traditional, career path! Lilly also recently came out as bisexual, and became the first woman of color to host her own late night show – a huge step in representation for Women, the South Asian and LGBTQ communities!
2. Raveena Aurora
Raveena is a Punjabi American singer and songwriter who has been making serious moves since the release of her first independent EP Shanti in 2017. Having performed at Camp Flog Gnaw and now set to perform at Coachella this April (the first South Asian artist included in the lineup since MIA), Raveena is bringing a refreshing mix of her Indian roots and American upbringing to the mainstream music industry. The influences of her dual identity are evident in her work, and she is also a powerful champion and advocate of queer representation within the South Asian community. She came out publicly as bisexual with her 2018 single Temptation, and her most recent video for her song “Headaches” features a beautiful queer love story that is NSFW (heteronormative, gossiping aunties).
3. Payal Kadakia
Payal Kadakia took the risk of leaving her stable, well paying job at Bain & Company to found her own company six years ago – a small startup that became a tech unicorn known as ClassPass. Inspired by her passion for dance and fitness (she also founded and ran her own dance company), Payal took a leap of faith and went all in on her dream. The company is now worth over a whopping $1 billion, and she is an established golden child and sought after advisor in the tech industry. She’s also married and just welcomed a beautiful baby, so take that aunties! Sometimes we can do it all. 😉
4. Deepica Mutyala
Deepica is the CEO and founder of Live Tinted – a cosmetic line and multicultural brand driving inclusivity in beauty, especially in regards to people of color. Being a beauty entrepreneur and boss businesswoman, Deepica is definitely shattering the boundaries of a “traditional” career path. Her viral YouTube video where she shares her secret to hide dark eye circles with red lipstick was a key instigator in kicking off her career, and she just launched her very first product – the huestick (available in 4 different shades) – just a few months ago. Plus, her transparency and personality through social media where she shares all her ups and downs just makes her even more of a gem.
5. Hafsa aka Haf and Haf
Hafsa Khan is a Pakistani artist, coffee enthusiast, and avid Drake fan currently based in Ohio. She graduated from Ohio State University with a degree in International Relations & Arabic, and she is now a full-time artist and social justice advocate. Her art often portrays women as “maharanis” (queens) – she says she wants all women to feel like queens through the regality of her art. Some of her more recent dope and “provocative” pieces have definitely stepped out of the South Asian societal comfort zone as well, and her work has been featured across many avenues including the most recent Miami Art Basel, Dil Mil shop, and Mickey Singh’s latest album cover.
6. Shivani Bhagwan & Chaya Kumar
These two soul sisters have built a dance empire like no other – more popularly known as “Bfunk,” Shivani & Chaya teach a fusion style dance form related to both Bhangra and Bollywood. With each video basically going viral on YouTube, their following and passion for dance has evolved into an entire community (wassup FunkFam). They’ve also worked with some key players and artists in the South Asian industry like Jaz Dhami and Yo Yo Honey Singh. Having started Bfunk just a few years ago, these two badass babes are definitely making BIG moves.
7. Divia Meka & Nikita Meka
“Old culture, new take.” – Rebel Ranis
These two badass babes from San Francisco are defining the norm everyday with their fusion looks, combined with their fusion personalities. As many of us may have experienced, coming from immigrant families and growing up in the best of both worlds often leaves one feeling a little confused. These two rebel ranis choose to embrace their two cultures and use their fusion, fashion looks as a means of expressing themselves. Plus, every caption on their Instagram page includes a typical quote from an aunty or desi society member that you’ve probably heard at some point in your life, and provides a reason behind every look.
8. Pramila Jaypal
Pramila Jayapal is not here to be your model minority. As an Indian immigrant who moved to America from Chennai at the age of 16, Pramila has been a strong advocate for immigrant rights in this country throughout her career in the public sector. Post 9/11 she founded Hate Free Zone, an advocacy group for immigrants that worked on several key issues surrounding immigration reform, including preventing unjust deportations. In 2018, she was one of 500 people arrested for protesting the Trump administration’s illegal immigration policies, and had #noregrets about it. Pramila is the first Indian American woman to serve in the House of Representatives, and we can’t wait to see what she does next.
9. Taran & Bunny
These two sisters are the curators and founders of Blume – a self-care brand that “goes with your flow.” With products specifically designed for your skin, periods, mood swings and everything in between, Blume is all about going au-naturale and giving girls the confidence to be comfortable in their own bodies. From articles and campaigns ranging from sex education to how to properly insert a tampon or get glowy skin — this duo is on a mission to de-stigmatize periods and create the next generation of confident, tenacious, and conscious women. Periods are one of the most stigmatized topics in the South Asian community, and these two women are pushing unconventional boundaries to the max – we’re here for it.
10. Raeka Panda
Raeka is the founder & CEO of Raeka Beauty – a brand that has stemmed from Ayurvedic traditions in India that have been around for more than 5000 years. Combining ancient practice with modern day solutions, Raeka has managed to create products for the modern woman that are affordable, easily accessible, and total brown-mom approved. The main ingredient in everything is turmeric – or commonly known as haldi in South Asian households – and all of her products are free from parabens, synthetic fragrances, and sulfates. Raeka is passionate about changing beauty industry standards through New Generation Ayurveda, and she definitely wasn’t thinking about “log kya kehenge” when she decided to forge her own career path.
11. Sabreena Haque – Ritual by Design
Sabreena Haque is a classically trained henna artist based in San Francisco, whose intricate designs have helped her connect with multiple communities around the globe. The body is a canvas and the person she is working with becomes her muse. From festival to maternity pieces, Sabreena embraces her style by fusing her respect for ancient teachings with an innovative, modern approach. She has been featured in countless magazines, online publications, and more, including @airbnb experiences! Talk about defying the typical doctor & engineering path and cultivating a career from something you’re truly passionate about!