We had the good fortune of connecting with Nila Varman and we’ve shared our conversation below.

Hi Nila, how do you think about risk?
Risk I believe, is rooted in many of the decisions we. make, but at the end of the day, it is up to us on how we incorporate it or modify it or use it. I’ve always been the one to express myself, whether I’m on stage, on screen, or on air. I am always doing something. I was born in the Isle of Wight into the most loving South Indian, Tamil-speaking family one could ask for. My Amma (mum), As a girl of colour, I received the standard talks growing up: what to do if someone treated me differently because of my brown skin, how to love the brownness of my skin, how to be proud of where I come from, how I might need to stand my ground in the future. Though these talks shaped my identity as a POC, the normalisation of various taboos and prejudices in wider society continues to astound me. There are innumerable societal issues not spoken about as much as they should be, instead relegated to taboo. I’ve always been passionate about amplifying the voices of minority communities, including my own, and I wanted to start having those emotional, raw, and uncomfortable conversations, so I began my radio show, The Nila Extract. But with that came certain risks too – but those only encouraged me to keep going.

Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
Last year, I began my radio show and educational platform, The Nila Extract, which strives to amplify the voices of various communities, including my own, and have those emotional, raw and uncomfortable conversations to dispel various socially pressing issues that have often been relegated to taboo. With this being my first experience with radio, I didn’t know what to expect, except nervous talkativeness, but hosting and producing The Nila Extract has not only given me the honour of having a platform through which to share my own voice, experiences, and perspectives, it has also provided a place to showcase the untold stories of underrepresented and marginalised communities. Over the past year, more than 1,400 people have listened to the show, from all over the world. I’ve enjoyed the privilege of speaking to some of my idols, including climate justice activists, celebrities, and educators. When I was growing up, it was not long before I noticed there was never anyone on TV, in movies, or even in books/magazines who looked like me. Those who did, never played the main character, just a stereotypical personality, the root of an ongoing joke, often by a white person in brownface. This led me to realise that so many marginalised communities have been unrepresented or misrepresented in fashion, film, literature, and radio; our voices have historically not been amplified enough. I knew that if marginalised and underrepresented communities were to make a mark, then we had to take that first step. Thus I began my platform on URN and Instagram, to share my voice, experiences, and perspectives – and showcase stories of underrepresented and marginalised communities. Listening to stories of those I resonate with affords a sense of belonging, and I realised I’d been yearning for that belonging my whole life, so I wanted to give that opportunity to other listeners too. The stories of people of colour and the LGBTQIA+ community have been silenced for eons, but in this time where structural barriers are finally being broken, and people around us are beginning to realise the rights and achievements of these long-marginalised communities, I believe it is important to contribute towards that change, by spreading awareness and normalising taboos. I am endlessly grateful to be learning from these incredible individuals who have come on my show, and in doing so, I’ve been able to more completely figure out my own identity. I’ve realised that I am not alone in my struggles with becoming comfortable with the colour of my skin, and that my worth is more than my weight. I’ve become prouder of South Indian food, music, and traditions, and of the contributions of Tamil people. Fundamentally, my show is founded on my belief that such representation is pivotal for authoring our own stories and making our mark in the world, and in so doing, improving student radio for a new generation.

Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
If my bestie was visiting, after the initial scream, dancing towards each other in the middle of the road and giving them a big fat hug, I would take them to Covent Garden for some breakfast and a walk. Maybe a cheeky riverside walk followed by every single dinosaur exhibit ever! Since it’s almost December (I know it is still November but let me go this once!) I’d take them to see the Christmas lights do some ice-skating at Somerset House or The National History Museum. Get some food, read some books at the bookshop, and go for a good o’l boogie !

The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
Oh, without a doubt, my Amma (mum), Appa (dad), and brother, who have always had my back, and are never afraid to tell me if they don’t agree with something I do. Though I’m grateful to have them, I’m honestly baffled they’ve managed to tolerate me, a girl who is constantly singing, with a vivacious personality and a weirdly deep voice that has often been confused with my brother’s over the years. My family made me fall in love with my brownness, our Tamil heritage and I adore them for it.

Website: https://nilavarman.wixsite.com/website

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/the_nila_extract/

Other: https://open.spotify.com/show/2k5jbGCQHFlCvhFzZWwU0C

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