Rising Star Rasha Goel: “Why it is essential that we recruit writers from diverse backgrounds”
We need to recruit writers from diverse backgrounds –there are plenty of talented people that are looking to get into a writer’s room, but they don’t have contacts or resources. This talent pool needs to be diverse so we can hear and share different stories. Writers give an authentic voice. You cannot expect a writer of one culture to accurately represent other cultures.
I had the pleasure to interview Rasha Goel. Rasha Goel is an Emmy nominated Television Host/Producer, Red Carpet Reporter, and International Correspondent. With a Bachelor’s Degree from UCLA in Communication Studies — Mass Media, she has worked for outlets such as CNN IBN, ESPN, REELZ Channel, TV Guide Channel, AOL, HBO Asia as well as Warner Bros., Sony Pictures, and Disney. Recently, Rasha was one of the co-hosts for Dick Clark Productions Live Red Carpet Show for the Golden Globes. She is also the Host of Star Talk on TV ASIA and leading the way to provide content highlighting the South Asian American Diaspora. She has also been an invited speaker at the renowned World Communication Forum in Davos, Switzerland and University of Southern California, and has served as an Emcee for local charitable events in California. Rasha enjoys traveling, exploring marine life, working with kids, and trying new vegetarian cuisines! She enjoys giving back to the community and is also involved with groups and activities promoting women empowerment.
Thank you so much for doing this with us Rasha! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
From a very young age I knew I wanted to be a storyteller. At seven years old, in elementary school, I did a history project about Martin Luther King Jr. I decided to create a newscast. I had my mother tape 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 real and creative as possible. I had my mother record it over and over until we got it perfect. 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.
Sometimes, I say I must have been born with a microphone in my hand — I have always enjoyed being on stage and engaging with people in interviews. A few years after graduating from UCLA with a Bachelor’s Degree in Communication Studies, I heard that one of the largest Indian networks was opening an office in America. I could become their Hollywood Correspondent where I had the opportunity to report and produce stories. Having been brought up in an Indian household, I was taught to embrace the best of both the American and Indian cultures. I knew then, that broadcasting was my destiny.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?
One of the stories that impacted me was a recent interview with the filmmakers of a short documentary about women in a rural village of India. Period. End of Sentence showcases how the lack of education and lack of access to sanitary products leaves girls feeling ashamed and helpless. They found up to 57% of adolescent girls left school after starting their periods. What was intriguing to me was that women from the United States were inspired to make this film and through the creation of it, realized this is an issue that impacts women around the world! It hit home for me because as an Indian American woman I also dealt with the stigma of being on my period and how I was not allowed to do certain things during that time of the month. It never made sense to me. I was touched by these filmmakers and the story they were sharing. At the same time, they are very inspiring as they have created an organization to help promote education and availability of sanitary pads and have also earned an Oscar nomination for their film! They are truly making a difference in the lives of girls around the world.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
One of the funniest mistakes I made was during one of my earliest shoots. I was wearing a lavalier (or lapel) microphone, which is connected to a wireless transmitter that clips onto your clothing. After we were finished filming, I headed for the restroom and forgot to turn it off. Not only did I continue transmitting to the sound person, the transmitter fell into the toilet!
Can you describe how you are helping to make popular culture more representative of the US population?
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 South Asian presence.
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 Asians. 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. When I finally did see them, they were almost caricatures, with a simple “Indian” accent or small and stereotypical roles. We are a vibrant, creative community -full of beauty and diverse in our talents and interests. Hollywood needs to learn to see past the stereotypes.
I am launching a podcast, “Under the Rug with Rasha”, which helps create more awareness about Indian Americans living here in the US, giving a voice to the South Asian community, and helping educate others about the people and culture. I hope to be able to do this for other minority groups as well.
Lastly, as a media coach with Sena-Series Media Training in Los Angeles, I share my stories with students and encourage them to share theirs, as we are all from various backgrounds and cultures. It is important to me to share challenges and successes and I want to encourage students to pursue their dreams with confidence. Media is a powerful tool and we need to use it to our advantage to promote diversity, culture, and inclusion.
Wow! Can you tell us a story about a particular individual who was impacted by the work you are doing?
A student I had been coaching saw several of my aired stories, and made a point of telling me how much she enjoyed my on-camera presence. She felt I was authentic and appreciated seeing another Asian woman on the air. She was questioning if journalism was the right career path. As we finished our conversation, she gave me the biggest hug and said “Thank you. Thank you for being real and telling me the truth on what I need to do. I am tired of getting the run around by so many people and I appreciate you being authentic with me.” I could sense the joy (and at the same time, pain) in her eyes, and it left me feeling touched and empowered to know I could make a difference in her life. She decided to continue her career in Broadcast Journalism!
Can you share three reasons with our readers about why it’s important to have diversity represented in film and television and its potential effects on our culture?
It is crucial to have diversity represented in film and television because:
1. Representation in film and television helps us share knowledge and gain insight into other communities and cultures by creating more awareness and understanding. It’s important for future generations to see people like them in this medium so they are encouraged to pursue their dreams and talents. I grew up with insecurities about making it in the entertainment industry and didn’t think my dreams could come true. It was RARE to see an Indian person hosting or reporting, let alone on a billboard advertisement. At times, I would feel, if I was Caucasian, then maybe I might have an opportunity. It was a struggle emotionally, as I couldn’t live in India and work in Bollywood as I wasn’t “Indian” enough for them, and then as an American, I was a brown girl wanting to make it in Hollywood. My hopes are that we can help create an environment where young minds wanting to work in Hollywood don’t have to feel the way I did.
2. Sameness breeds more of the same — If we don’t share stories of diversity, we are going to be seeing the same types of stories and the same types of characters. We must bring diverse talent into gatekeeper positions to enable engaging, inclusive stories. This is crucial, so that individuals and ethnic groups don’t feel isolated.
3. Embracing diversity means giving people a voice. When I see another Indian person on television or film, it inspires me and gives me hope that our stories matter and we aren’t lost in a melting pot. It was exciting for me to see Priyanka Chopra in “Isn’t It Romantic,” co-starring with Rebel Wilson, as I had never seen a major Indian actress in a Hollywood mainstream Romantic Comedy. It was encouraging to see that Rom-coms are now something we can all relate to and no longer skewed towards one ethnic group. After all, I was brought up watching Bollywood movies — which are full of romance and fantasy. By having representation, we are creating community and a way for human beings of all backgrounds to be connected around the world.
Can you recommend three things the community/society/the industry can do help address the root of the diversity issues in the entertainment business?
- I feel we need to have a real dialogue — executive panels discussing issues isn’t enough. We need to have an authentic dialogue. We need to be able to reach out to the decision makers without fear and they need to hear what we are saying. We have heard the conversations, but it’s time to step up and take action. Perhaps, one way to do that is to create more job opportunities that bring ethnically diverse talent, in all realms.
- We need to recruit writers from diverse backgrounds –there are plenty of talented people that are looking to get into a writer’s room, but they don’t have contacts or resources. This talent pool needs to be diverse so we can hear and share different stories. Writers give an authentic voice. You cannot expect a writer of one culture to accurately represent other cultures.
- As a South Asian woman, I can tell you my community doesn’t always speak up and voice their thoughts and feelings as do some other communities. We can’t be afraid to call for change. We need to come together and take a stance. Representatives from various communities need to ensure their voices are being heard in the places where decisions are made. I do want to mention this is about co-existing and co-creating together with people of all ethnic backgrounds, without isolating any community.
How do you define “Leadership”? Can you explain what you mean or give an example?
Leadership is taking the initiative to create change without fear, while having the ability to co-create with others. Leadership is the willingness to be able to find solutions and create new ideas, either as a team or individual. Leadership is not looking out for self -interest, but what serves the greater good. It’s standing up and facing challenges while finding a way to tackle obstacles. Leadership is paving the way, and guiding others down the road.
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.
Trust in myself and my talent — When I was younger, I was insecure: Insecure about my talent, my age, my race, my gender and my ability to survive in a competitive world. I doubted myself and questioned if I was good enough. There were plenty of auditions and interviews where I would have knots in my stomach simply because I didn’t trust myself. Today I have confidence, a strong mindset, and belief in my talent and myself. I own the room when I walk in.
Trust a mentor — I wish I had a mentor earlier in my career as I did a lot of different jobs and pursued many opportunities thinking it would lead to my goal. Having a mentor would have strengthened my self-confidence and helped me gain some guidance on where to invest my time. In hindsight, nothing was a waste as it was a learning experience and helped take me to the next step on my path.
Perfect my craft — Practice, practice, practice! That is what I preach as a media coach now and it’s something I feel is important in this business. I wish I had taken more classes, sought out internships, and learned pro techniques for developing my skills.
Don’t forget to have “me” time– Carving time out for yourself outside of work is so 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 often, I put aside my personal life, hobbies and endeavors. It’s important to find balance.
Enjoy the process — It is about the journey. This may sound cliché, 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. Remember, there is always someone else after the same opportunity that you’ve earned. Appreciate your good fortune.
You are a person of enormous influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most number of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. :-).
I would like to inspire a “success philosophy,” encouraging people to believe in themselves, maintain balance between their work and personal lives, and appreciate their journey. I envision a movement where we truly support one another in a non-judgmental space especially as we are living in a time where there is a lack of empathy and compassion. There should be room for honesty and real conversation, leading to action and meaningful change. Leaders and gatekeepers must be part of the process, contributing and learning with us as we all explore the challenges of creating true diversity. It all starts with our mindset! It could start with having a page on social media where people can post videos of their experiences or share their challenges in this industry.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
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 in to family pressure and the fear of failing. I took a full time, 9–5 job. After two years, of office work (and using my lunches and off-time 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, my dream simply wouldn’t have come true. I would still be in that office.
Today, I am an Emmy nominated host/producer and 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 press junkets and premieres, 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 of “Star Talk” on TV ASIA which highlights entertainment, lifestyle, and provides inspiration to the South Asian audience.
Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. :-)
I would love to sit down with Michelle Obama. She utilized her platform for the greater good and continues her work even now. As a woman of color, she didn’t allow any challenge or obstacle to stand in her way. She successfully balanced her professional and private life, which isn’t easy. She was authentic in her voice, which sometimes takes courage and could leave you standing alone. In so many ways, she is a source of inspiration: As a young Indian woman, who has had to overcome my own insecurities, Michelle Obama is a model of strength, confidence, and compassion. I feel there is still so much I could learn from her, even over a cup of chai!
How can our readers follow you on social media?
I am @rashagoel across the board- Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter