Empowerment #LikeaGirl: Interview with Asha Dahya
“I fall prey to the way the world and the media forces women to form barriers between themselves. I think it starts with having empathy for one another, especially those who are different from us.”
Asha Dahya is one incredible lady. Working in American media as an Australian is hard enough, now top that off with being a woman as well. Dahya created her blog GirlTalkHQ back in 2012 and has been creating a space for women to be simply empowered. I was lucky enough to snag a interview with Dahya, and I am pleasured to announce her as the next installment for the #LikeaGirl Interview Series.
Miss Millennia Magazine: First of all, tell me a little about yourself?
Asha Dahya: I am Indian by ethnicity, born in England, raised & educated in Australia, and have been living in Los Angeles for 7 years. I am a TV host, blogger, and producer. I have worked in TV for 11 years for networks such as Fox, MTV, Disney, Nickelodeon, MSN, ABC, Myspace and more. My passion lies in the area of women’s rights, feminism and the representation of women in media. I am an avid world traveler and in my spare time I love reading books and binge-watching shows on Netflix!
M3Tell me about GirlTalk HQ and why you started it?
AD:I started GTHQ because after working in TV for so long as an entertainment host, I was bored and felt like what I was doing was a little superficial. I felt like I was different from all the other red carpet hosts and didn’t care much about the jobs I was auditioning for: to talk about the real housewives, or the Kardashians or the latest celebrity gossip. I was desperate to find a TV show or media website that catered to the things I was interested in: stories of everyday and well-known women changing the world in a range of different industries, while supporting each other. After trying to unsuccessfully pitch a TV show, I decided to start a blog which I launched in November 2012. I had NO idea what it would grow to be like, but nearly 3 years later I am getting over 100,000 views a month, I have bloggers from all over the world write to me each week to share their story or an article, and I finally feel like I have found the piece of media that I have desperately been searching for for many years – it is something I created!
M3:What are some of the important issues you believe that millennial women deal with today?
AD: I think it depends on where you are from and the social climate. Some of the major things that I see from a media perspective are body image, identity, and gender equality. I also think that women want to have a voice, not just as one collective mass, but as a community of individual, complex, flawed, interesting and capable human beings who all have something valuable to share with the world.
M3: Women have a stereotype of being catty with each other, do you think it is important not only to break that, but also help and collaborate with other women?
AD: Yes, I absolutely believe it is important to break that! The scary thing is that sometimes the cattiness is so subtle. I find myself having to stop what I am saying mid-sentence as I fall prey to the way the world and the media forces women to form barriers between themselves. I think it starts with having empathy for one another, especially those who are different from us. Everyone wants to be understood and respected, whether we agree or not. Once we learn to do this more often it will become second nature and perhaps there will be less and less shows teaching women that catfights are “entertainment”.
M3: What/who has inspired you?
AD: Ooooh so many women, and there are more and more being added to my list almost every week! First up, my mom who as one of the oldest of 6 kids who migrated from East Africa to the UK with her family as a young woman never got the chance to go to college. After getting married, having three kids and a range of temporary jobs, she bit the bullet and went to university in Australia. She not only got her bachelors but a masters in teaching and this was after she turned 50! She taught me by her example that you are never too old to achieve something incredible.
I am also in awe of documentary producer Abigail Disney, Spanx founder Sarah Blakely, activist Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Youtuber Laci Green, actress & humanitarian Freida Pinto, Jamaican politician Lisa Hanna, Compton Mayor Aja Brown, Vday founder & Vagina Monologues author Eve Ensler, and Salma Hayek. There are definitely more I could add to the list, but these women each have compelling story or issue they are fighting for and they inspire me to continue waking up every day with passion, drive and determination.
M3: What has been your biggest struggle?
AD: With my blog the biggest struggles are always trying to grow your following and social media reach. It can be tough to break through the noise on the internet but slow and steady (and consistent) wins the race. In my personal life my struggle has often been my identity as an Indian girl growing up in a western world so saturated by the media and celebrities that to find my fit has taken 30 years. I am still figuring out where I fit in with my career and my passions but because I know what I truly care about, the journey is a little less daunting.
M3: You’ve mentioned that you worked in media on your site, what were the kind of things you dealt with being a woman in that industry?
AD: I have been very blessed in my TV career and haven’t faced blatant discrimination for being a woman. But there have certainly been subtle ways that I recognized my gender was a huge factor rather than my talent. I once was hired to co-host a live weekly music show in Australia along with a guy who was a popular radio personality at the
time. I started getting the sense that I was hired just as the “pretty sidekick” when they would assign him all the big interviews and didn’t give me many lines. I spoke up about it to my producer who then realized her mistake. I was not only better at interviewing than my co-host, but he was hopeless at turning up to work on time, writing his scripts on time that I definitely carried the weight of work between us two. He ended up being the “pretty face” hired for his notoriety on the radio, and I became the host who was darn good at her job and professional. I was extremely proud of how I proved my worth by working hard.
M3: What’s been your favorite thing you’ve done with GirlTalkHQ?
AD: I can’t just pick one! I honestly love waking up every day and writing blog posts. I also have really enjoyed hosting and organizing our quarterly event called ‘The F Word’ with Emmy Award-winning filmmaker Sarah Moshman. We designed the event to be like a mini TED Talk event. We have 4 speakers talk for 10 minutes each on a topic related to, or helping to redefine feminism for the modern generation. We started in March 2014 and every event we have had has been sold out. I love that I can take the GirlTalkHQ brand offline and bring it to audiences in person.
M3: Any tips for women who want to create their own women empowerment blog?
AD: Start with passion. Find out what it is you truly care about, whether it be fashion, cars, food, babies, feminism, politics or whatever! Readers are smart and get drawn in by authenticity. Don’t just start a blog that you think might be popular because someone else has done it. Really draw on the power of your own voice and don’t be afraid to share your vulnerabilities.
M3: Top advice for Millennial Women?
AD: Be bold, be authentic, be passionate, and be determined!
Check out GirlTalk HQ on Instagram @girltalkhq and follow Asha on twitter @Ashadahya
Have someone who you believe is a candidate for the #LikeAGirl Interview Series? Comment below or shoot me an email at [email protected]