RESHMA GAJJAR

We are very excited for our YGTGirls to meet this week’s #FEMMEFEATUREFRIDAY: Reshma Gajjar. What a fabulous woman, inside and out. Reshma is a stunning beauty with an extensive list of talents, a contagious sense of humor, and a vibrant heart. When we say Reshma is everywhere, we really mean it! This badass woman has done it all and continues to inspire us with her power to stand out. She fully embraces being first generation American-Indian and glows where ever she goes.

Reshma was raised in California in the Bay Area and she moved to Los Angeles on a scholarship at the EDGE Performing Arts Center at the age of 19. Her talent has taken her across the globe and she’s toured the world with both Madonna and Ricky Martin. She is most known as the beautiful actress that welcomes us into the magical music world at the very beginning of the film La La Land. She had a recurring role as Sondi on two seasons of VH1's smash television show Hit The Floor, and can be seen in various projects such as American Beauty, 500 Days of Summer, The Muppets Movie, Glee, Crazy Ex Girlfriend, The New Girl, Parks & Recreation, Dancing with the Stars, The Oscars, The Grammy's, VMAs and Oprah. Also, her music video work includes Prince, Kelly Clarkson, Hozier, The Black Eyed Peas, Justin Bieber, Years and Years, Logic and she has been featured in commercials for Levis, Diesel and Apple. In addition, she just finished shooting a film with Ryan Heffington, the remake of Valley Girls with Mandy Moore and Cabira, Charity, Chastity, the Kenzo short fashion film directed by Natasha Lyonne.

We could go on and on about Reshma’s never ending resume, but the most amazing thing about this woman is her kind and giving spirit. Reshma is absolutely the perfect role model for our YGTGirls. Growing up trying to follow her desire to become a dancer all while paying respect to her Indian heritage was definitely a challenge. Reshma is living proof that perseverance, patience, and love for life will guide you in the right direction to creating the life you want to live. Thank you for sharing your wisdom Reshma!

Artwork by Chloe Bruderer (@chloeheartsart). Photography by Brinson Banks (@brinsonbanks).

Artwork by Chloe Bruderer (@chloeheartsart). Photography by Brinson Banks (@brinsonbanks).

As a first generation American, can you tell us a bit about the obstacles that you faced transitioning into your professional career and as a female in the entertainment industry? 

As a first generation American, with immigrant parents from India, I dealt with a lot of obstacles trying to maintain the balance of being an American while holding onto the values of where my family came from.  A major obstacle I remember facing was the decision to pursue dance as a profession. When I was 19, I had been accepted to a scholarship program at the Edge Performing Arts Center in LA. The arts, dance, and the entertainment industry, were understandably foreign, scary and unstable career concepts for my parents. My being a girl did not help, and they did not approve of my choice to follow this career path. I was willing to do it without their support but I wanted their blessing, so we made a compromise: I could pursue dance as long as I got a college degree. In a more stable field. This was very challenging but I did it! Beyond my family, I faced challenges in America simply for being a woman of color. When I first started auditioning for dance jobs, for years I was good enough to get to the end of auditions, but I wouldn’t get the job because I was too “ethnic looking.” My ethnicity was not yet the mainstream. I was different, a little too different. 

We know that you spent time volunteering in the Mumbai slums. What has that experience taught you about yourself?

Disheartened and uninspired by the self-obsessed nature of show business, I made an attempt to salvage whatever love I had for the craft of dance. I took a break from the discriminating environment of the entertainment industry and chose to serve in my mother-land, India. Through a non-profit organization, I choreographed a musical for a group of kids from the slums of Mumbai. The experience put things into perspective for me. These kids were brilliant, and so incredibly talented, yet would never be offered the opportunities I am, for just simply being an American. I felt that if I didn’t go back to LA and follow my dreams, it would be an insult to them. I made the decision not to define success by frequency of work, but by my happiness.  I was a dancer not because I was making money doing it, but because I was dancing everyday.  It’s because of those kids that I returned to Los Angeles. As soon as I did, I booked my first major tour, with Madonna. I had to let it all go, for it to come to me. I was ready, and so was my world…timing is everything. 

What do you do to find inspiration and motivation in this industry? What have you found is unique to you and your creative voice?

I heard a clever woman say once that it’s about perseverance. It’s not about how beautiful or talented you are. There will always be someone more beautiful, more talented, more connected than you. And, some of the most talented, beautiful, and connected people don’t even make it. This is a ‘last man standing’ game! This sentiment motivated me.  What motivates me is knowing how rare it is to be a dancer, how lucky I am to have a healthy body, and how grateful I am to have such a beautiful way to express myself. My inspiration comes from taking class, watching performances, and collaborating with artists that I admire. I find inspiration in nature, art, film, fashion and wise old people. I think my creative voice is about connecting with people and presenting a sense of humanity. To me performance is not solely about technical ability. It is about storytelling - evoking emotion that moves the audience. 

What do you consider the greatest challenge that women face in the industry and what can we do to overcome that? 

Being a woman in any field is difficult. I feel discrimination based on age and physicality are challenges for women in this industry. More and more these are challenges men face too. The way to overcome is through self confidence, cultivating your intuition (which is a woman’s super power) and cultivating self worth. Do this, and none of the negativity can touch you. Check in, have patience, love, and connect with yourself. I find meditation is a beautiful path to  self empowerment. 

What is your definition of a YGTGirl?

In this world we are taught that there isn’t enough for everyone, women compete with each other, bully or belittle each other. Yes it is still a man’s world, but I believe if women really know their value as individuals and unite, we’re more powerful than we can imagine. You Got This Girl is about women supporting other women, and that will profoundly change the world.