A Peek Inside Tamil Creative Sheerah Ravindren's Alternative South Asian Resistance

 Sheerah Ravindren speaks about the issue of tokenism within the industry and uses their own experiences to explore issues of intersectionality and identity.
Sheerah Ravindren speaks about the issue of tokenism within the industry and uses their own experiences to explore issues of intersectionality and identity. Sheerah Ravindren

A 27-year-old social mover who channels their inner creativity through mobilising support for under-represented communities and by spreading awareness about their lived experiences, Sheerah Ravindren is a model currently residing in between Birmingham and London. Their unique perspective on South Asian representation critiques the biases present within the community itself. The creative also speaks about the issue of tokenism within the industry and uses their own experiences to explore issues of intersectionality and identity.

They recently spoke to Homegrown about their personal journey and life at present. Sheerah is also the founder of an ‘alternative’ music space especially meant for Queer Black and Brown youth and shares the unique challenges that come with spearheading an indie music scene initiative for POC in predominantly white spaces. 

As part of the Panel on Tan France’s documentary ‘Beauty & The Bleach’, you spoke of exploring blackness as a means of appreciating your brown skin and the rich heritage it upholds. Could you elucidate on the experience which led you to this point?

Growing up I did not personally know of or see South Asian/movements even in my own Tamil Community that spoke of upliftment. In fact a lot of my internalised hatred was developed from the racism I experienced at the hands of South Asians. There was no real celebration of dark skin or non-eurocentric beauty furthermore the representation that was out there in regards to ‘South Asians’ was predominantly focused on North Indians, mainly Punjabi and Pakistani backgrounds and or light-skinned people. So naturally for me I saw Black people especially Black women in closer proximity to me, I also thought there was more relatable representation. As a young individual trying to learn more about the world around me and to come to terms with my own experiences and I came across Black Liberation.

I should also add that for me Black Women and Black Queer people welcomed, embraced and uplifted me even when they did not have to and in a way that I know that South Asians would never. As I say this, I am also very aware that the Black Community have their own issues and that dark-skinned Black Women and femmes experience colourism in a different way than Brown people do.

You have collaborated with some of the biggest names in the industry, from taking part in Beyonce’s global spectacle ’Black is King’ to Rihanna’s Savage Fenty Campaign as well as featuring in British Vogue. As one of the few ‘South Asian’ faces representing a culture that is ethnically more diverse than perceived, what are the major takeaways from the entire experience?

There’s several things I have taken away and for a lot of my notable moments I have the Black community to thank especially Black women. They have continued to do the work that they should not have to do to do whilst South Asian media still has a long way to go.

I can also add that, in my personal experience, so many of my opportunities were mostly given to me by Black, White and non-South Asian people. I personally feel that with South Asians as a whole especially our platforms, have jumped on the bandwagon of representation. I have in the past been tokenised and used to make SA platforms look radical and inclusive. I often say they like me for my aesthetics and the clout but not my politics. As soon as I bring my intersectional nuanced opinions and critical thoughts to South Asians and their spaces, I am immediately set aside because of this experience. I realise I am so lucky that my career was not built or created through the South Asian communities or the SA creative scene.

What made you start HOT TRASH and what is the ethos behind it?

I like Indie music and felt there was a massive gap in nightlife events and spaces available when it came to Queer, Black and Brown indie music fans. So many of the Indie spaces that I have come across purely focus on Indie ‘Football’ Rock which usually is attached to straight cis white men so I wanted a space where the full spectrum of indie music could be enjoyed, especially focusing on electronic indie music as well as other genres with random eclectic moments all whilst catering to Queer, Black and Brown audiences. I also just wanted a safe space where I could just exist, be weird/stupid, listen to music I like and party with like minded people without being judged.

Hot Trash is definitely a night I want to feel authentic and reminiscent of eclectic, eccentric vibes of past indie-electronic nights whilst bringing in fresh perspectives to the music scene which allows Queer, Black, and Brown people to feel like they belong.

What are some of the challenges you’re facing?

I haven't seen enough spaces or support for spaces that centre and allow Queer, Black, Brown, POC kids to just exist and enjoy ‘alternative’ music genres. Nights like ‘Not OK’ is changing this by creating magical spaces to allow Queer Black and Brown people into emo music to finally have something that’s for them. I think that’s rather inspiring, I’m definitely on my own path to create my own magic for my indie club night, 'Hot Trash’.