Culture 02 May 2019
Ready to embark on a new chapter in her life, the newly-wed actress, Priyanka Chopra Jonas recently interviewed three inspiring women who have shattered glass ceilings in their respective fields of work.
In her half hour YouTube special "If I Could Tell You Just One Thing," Chopra sat down with Simone Biles, Awkwafina, and Diane Von Furstenberg to ask them about one piece of advice that has made them the women they are today.
The Quantico star first interviewed Simone Biles, the most decorated gymnast to date, and asked her about her experience dealing with the expectation to always be perfect. Biles expressed that dealing with people's expectations has been the hardest part of her career thus far. "I feel like if I don't meet their needs then I failed," she confessed. Even after winning four gold medals in the Olympics, Biles was hard on herself after receiving criticism for only winning a bronze medal.
Biles credited therapy for not only helping her deal with the pressure she has been constantly put under by the world and even herself, but for also having helped her heal as a victim of sexual abuse from her then coach, Larry Nassar. Despite the hardships she faced coming out as a victim of sexual abuse, Biles did not regret her decision. "I feel like I'm a stronger woman today and I feel like telling my story has helped younger girls," she expressed.
When Chopra asked her what her one piece of advice would be, Biles said "If I could say one thing it's risk-taking." Taking risks has helped her realize who she was as a person and taught her more about herself.
For her next interview, Chopra met up with one of her favorite stars, Awkwafina, who most recently starred in the box office hit, "Crazy Rich Asians." Awkwafina shared that despite her success, she hasn't felt like a different person because of it. She stated, "When you think about going through such an immense change in your life, you think that everything is going to change but the truth is you're the same person, you're just going through different things."
Curious as to how Awkwafina's comedic nature developed, Chopra asked the star if her talent grew from a place of hurt. Awkwafina confessed that after losing her mother at a young age, she used comedy as a defense mechanism to prevent people from seeing her as an "emblem of sorrow." She wanted to make people laugh and feel joy. The comedian also confessed that another thing she has struggled with throughout her life has been people categorizing her under the typical Asian stereotypes of being quiet, shy, and fragile.
When asked what her one piece of advice would be, Awkwafina offered up some words of wisdom that her beloved grandmother had given her. "Life is only a series of ups and downs. When you go up there's nowhere to go but down and when you're down, there's nowhere to go but up," she said. They are words that Awkwafina not only finds to be relevant to her life today, but are words that she has and will continue to live by.
For her final visit, Chopra stopped by the home of famous designer Diane Von Furstenberg, to talk about life, love, and success. After getting married, starting a business, and having a child at age 22, and another child the following year, life seemed to be perfect for Von Furstenberg. She described the love between she and her then husband as being "very sweet," but believed that part of the reason why the marriage did not last was because she wanted something more. "I wanted a man's life in a woman's body. That was my dream," the designer confessed.
On the topic of getting older, the designer stated that, "At my age now, I want to use my voice to tell all women that they, too, can be the woman they want to be...'Cause I've never met a woman who's not strong. They don't exist." Despite being a strong woman, Von Furstenberg admitted that she still has days where she doesn't feel on top of her game even if the world sees her on top. However, she finds solace in knowing that life is simply full of ups and downs.
When Chopra asked what her one piece of advice was, Von Furstenberg said, "The most important relationship in life is the one you have with yourself." Working on that relationship comes before your relationship with anyone else.
Despite how much success these women have achieved, they have still endured their share of hardship battling sexism, stereotypes, and unrealistic expectations. Although their lives have been vastly different from one another, their overall message is the same—work on loving and owning who you are, take risks in order to become the woman you want to be, and know that life will drag you down sometimes, but you will always stand up stronger.
4 Min Read
During a recent meeting on Microsoft Teams, I couldn't seem to get a single word out.
When I tried to chime in, I kept getting interrupted. At one point two individuals talked right over me and over each other. When I thought it was finally my turn, someone else parachuted in from out of nowhere. When I raised and waved my hand as if I was in grade school to be called on (yes, I had my camera on) we swiftly moved on to the next topic. And then, completely frustrated, I stayed on mute for the remainder of the meeting. I even momentarily shut off my camera to devour the rest of my heavily bruised, brown banana. (No one needed to see that.)
This wasn't the first time I had struggled to find my voice. Since elementary school, I always preferring the back seat unless the teacher assigned me a seat in the front. In high school, I did piles of extra credit or mini-reports to offset my 0% in class participation. In college, I went into each lecture nauseous and with wasted prayers — wishing and hoping that I wouldn't be cold-called on by the professor.
By the time I got to Corporate America, it was clear that if I wanted to lead, I needed to pull my chair up (and sometimes bring my own), sit right at the table front and center, and ask for others to make space for me. From then on, I found my voice and never stop using it.
But now, all of a sudden, in this forced social experiment of mass remote working, I was having trouble being heard… again. None of the coaching I had given myself and other women on finding your voice seemed to work when my voice was being projected across a conference call and not a conference room.
I couldn't read any body language. I couldn't see if others were about to jump in and I should wait or if it was my time to speak. They couldn't see if I had something to say. For our Microsoft teams setting, you can only see a few faces on your screen, the rest are icons at the bottom of the window with a static picture or even just their name. And, even then, I couldn't see some people simply because they wouldn't turn their cameras on.
If I did get a chance to speak and cracked a funny joke, well, I didn't hear any laughing. Most people were on mute. Or maybe the joke wasn't that funny?
At one point, I could hear some heavy breathing and the unwrapping of (what I could only assume was) a candy bar. I imagined it was a Nestle Crunch Bar as my tummy rumbled in response to the crinkling of unwrapped candy. (There is a right and a wrong time to mute, people.)
At another point, I did see one face nodding at me blankly.
They say that remote working will be good for women. They say it will level the playing field. They say it will be more inclusive. But it won't be for me and others if I don't speak up now.
- Start with turning your camera on and encouraging others to do the same. I was recently in a two-person meeting. My camera was on, but the other person wouldn't turn theirs on. In that case, ten minutes in, I turned my camera off. You can't stare at my fuzzy eyebrows and my pile of laundry in the background if I can't do the same to you. When you have a willing participant, you'd be surprised by how helpful it can be to make actual eye contact with someone, even on a computer (and despite the fuzzy eyebrows).
- Use the chatbox. Enter in your questions. Enter in your comments. Dialogue back and forth. Type in a joke. I did that recently and someone entered back a laughing face — reaffirming that I was, indeed, funny.
- Designate a facilitator for the meeting: someone leading, coaching, and guiding. On my most recent call, a leader went around ensuring everyone was able to contribute fairly. She also ensured she asked for feedback on a specific topic and helped move the discussion around so no one person took up all the airtime.
- Unmute yourself. Please don't just sit there on mute for the entire meeting. Jump in and speak up. You will be interrupted. You will interrupt others. But don't get frustrated or discouraged — this is what work is now — just keep showing up and contributing.
- Smile, and smile big. Nod your head in agreement. Laugh. Give a thumbs up; give two! Wave. Make a heart with your hands. Signal to others on the call who are contributing that you support and value them. They will do the same in return when your turn comes to contribute.
It's too easy to keep your camera turned off. It's too easy to stay on mute. It's too easy to disappear. But now is not the time to disappear. Now is the time to stay engaged and networked within our organizations and communities.
So please don't put yourself on mute.
Well, actually, please do put yourself on mute so I don't have to hear your heavy breathing, candy bar crunching, or tinkling bathroom break.
But after that, please take yourself off mute so you can reclaim your seat (and your voice) at the table.