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

Hi Riji, what habits do you feel helped you succeed?
Ah! Treating my Acting Career like an actual 9-5 job. Well, we have heard this multiple times but if you think about it, it rings true. What if we time-block our tasks & assignments throughout the day. For example, 1 hour for Script Analysis, 30 mins for Cold Read, 30 mins for Networking, and so on. It would prove to be effective, and efficient! And if you already have a 9-5 job, treat your Creative Career as your second job: your night shift. It’s still a job and it deserves the time & energy too if you want to see results. It’s all about persistence and consistency without worrying about the outcome. And this works!

Please tell us more about your art.
I am an actress & a writer. I am also in the planning phase of launching my very own small business.

We’d love to hear what sets you apart from others, what you are most proud of or excited about.
I am a majority in the world, but I am a minority in America. Hence, it’s my ethnicity that sets me apart. But Los Angeles is a melting pot of diverse communities, so I believe I am now a part of the “usual crowd”. However, I would stick out like a sore thumb in Dallas, TX, which is why my husband & I packed our bags and made the leap of faith to Los Angeles. The part of me that I am most proud of is my faith and my persistent demand with God for miracles and breakthroughs. I don’t think He’s ever going to get a break from me. Haha! And, I am always excited about what every day has in store when I wake up. There are 24 hours in a day, out of that, 16 hours are spent awake. So literally, anything can happen in those 16 hours, right?

How did you get to where you are today professionally? Was it easy? If not, how did you overcome the challenges?
Hollywood can be full of rejection, and being immigrants of Indian descent, the number of opportunities offered to my husband & I would likely be even smaller.  So, we knew it was going to be hard to break into the industry, but we never imagined we would wind up homeless. With the high cost of living in Southern California, and lack of affordable housing, our living situation quickly fell apart, forcing us to downsize from a two-bedroom, to a one-bedroom, to an apartment shared with ten other people, to living in our car, for almost 2 years. But thanks to our employment at The Giving Keys, a company that employs the homeless to help make inspirational jewelry, we not only have a place of our own but we’re also now able to financially invest in our acting career.

What are the lessons you’ve learned along the way.
Faith, Gratitude & Patience. Lots and lots of patience. And it’s absolutely okay to be weak because it is an opportunity to become strong. Although, I do I wish I was handed a handbook on “How to Ace Homelessness”. So, I had to learn how to train my mind to not give up and instead keep on hustling; to march forward and not look back. And the major life lesson that I took away from my enduring journey has been the long chapter on living with nothing, the important chapter on meeting other kindred souls going through homelessness like us, the good chapter on humility, and the great chapter on learning there are no dead ends, but they’re just detours. I don’t believe in dead ends. And my bout of homelessness was just a detour. Oh, also, me annoying God worked! Haha.

What do you want the world to know about you or your brand and story?
My husband and I never knew the emotional strain, or the financial impact homelessness would have on us until we were forced to live it. Our GOAL is to tell our story, be successful in the entertainment industry, and then strategically leverage that platform to launch a social impact Production Company that can help tell under-represented stories and simultaneously hire those who are transitioning out of homelessness, recovering addicts, and ex-convicts. Our DREAM is to build a legacy together, to be a voice for the forgotten, and to help cultivate a community of change-makers where we can all bloom and thrive together regardless of race, skin and color. We know we did not stake our lives for nothing. Our whole world revolved around this dream…this dream that burnt every inch of our souls. Our HOPE through all this is to give a face to homelessness. It can happen to ANYONE but not EVERYONE wants to tell the world about their struggles. But together we can help transform them from Homeless to Home to Human. Everyone deserves a second chance!

So…what’s your story?

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?
I couldn’t think of anyone who is a better inspiration than my husband who deserves a BIG shout-out because he is the ONE thing I can ALWAYS depend on regardless of the weather in our lives. Waking up next to him is a gift I will never take for granted, and I am profoundly grateful for an incredible husband & a terrific cheerleader!

Website: https://www.imdb.me/rijiraja  
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/rijiraja/
Linkedin: https://www.linkedin.com/in/rijiraja/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/RijiRaja

Image Credits
Riji Raja, Melween Varghese