Aashna

17 Jul

It has been a very long journey and every minute has been wonderful.” – Aashna

Aashna is one helluva talented and organized gal. Talented, because to her resumes credit, she is a model, a singer, a television host, a traveler and an actress; and organized, because she has managed to successfully achieve great heights in all these fields nearly simultaneously. And if you think she looks familiar, then its more than likely you’ve spotted her on CNN or on the Travel Channel. However, at the end of the day, Aashna is just your ordinary American-Indian girl who is living the ultimate American Dream. She’s spontaneous and lives life in the moment—just as she should. All it took was a quick message to the globetrotter, who was on the beaches of Hawaii when she agreed to an interview with Roshni Magazine. Read on to be inspired by her zest for life and take heed to her credible advice for aspiring television folk.

You were born in Mumbai and to your credit a television host, a travel host, a singer, “model and an actress in the U.S. How did it all happen?
As far as I can remember, it all began after moving to Toronto.  I was almost four years young and would direct plays and performances with my little friends. My parents patiently watched every show and encouraged me to use my imagination. My father genuinely loved everything I created, but my mom told me much later in life that every performance was terrible. (Laughs) I’m so happy she never told me as a kid. I would have been devastated.

I sang and danced pretty much all my life but the first time I appeared on television was in high school on City TV in Toronto. I co-hosted “Sounds of Asia” and hosted my own segment called “Hidden Talent” for free. I just wanted to get the experience. My first paying job was singing and dancing at Canada’s Wonderland.  Can you imagine being a young teen getting paid to sing, dance and act in musicals all summer long? I was on top of the world.

After graduating from University, I worked at YTV, Canada where I hosted a number of shows: The Breakfast Zone, Shift and The Hit List, Canada’s top music video countdown show.  Following were hosting, reporting and producing jobs with TV Guide Canada, CNN’s World Beat, TV Guide USA, Extra and The Travel Channel.

Having the opportunity to host “Travel Ala Mode” and “Vacation Home Search” has allowed me to visit some of the most beautiful destinations on our planet. What I love most is being exposed to the local culture and people.

Music has always been a passion of mine. I recorded a self-titled album with MCA Records in Canada and have sung the American and Canadian National Anthems for the MLB and NBA for the past fifteen years. It is truly a high to be in a packed stadium with 50,000 people singing and cheering along. The first time I heard my single on the radio, I was in shock and called my mom to tell her that someone on the radio sounded exactly like me.

Modeling and acting just fell into my lap. I haven’t had much time to pursue either; I focused more on television and music. Nonetheless, I continue to take on projects mostly in animation. Yes, I can do many accents and weird voices.

So as you can see, it has been a very long journey and every minute has been wonderful.

Courtesy of hosting shows on the Travel Channel, you’ve globe trotted all over the world. Is it really as great and glamorous as it looks? How did you land up on the Travel Channel?
It’s always great, sometimes glamorous and very exhausting but when you love what you do, working in stunning locations up to 20 hours a day is paradise.  I’ve always wanted to work on the Travel Channel. I was called in to audition for Animal Planet and instead of getting that job, I landed a job on the Travel Channel. I have auditioned hundreds of times and I never had to audition for “Vacation Home Search.”

After all that travel, is there one place in the world you haven’t yet visited and want to? Which is your favorite holiday spot?
I really want to visit Santorini, Greece. These days, my favorite holiday spot is Santa Monica. I travel so much that being home is the only time I feel like I’m on a holiday. All kidding aside, I love St. Martin. It’s safe, multi-cultural and has beautiful beaches, tons of outdoor activities and a fantastic nightlife. The Caribbean water is truly the best. It has many shades of blue and green and most importantly, it’s warm.

CNN is one of my favorite channels. What was the experience like working at the well renowned news channel?
I loved working on “World Beat.” I had the opportunity to interview some of most popular singers and musicians from all over the world. I also hosted the show from St. Lucia’s Jazz Festival and from the Junos (Canadian Music Awards). As you already know, entertainment segments have become shorter and have less substance. What I loved about CNN is that my segments were around five minutes. It really gave me the opportunity to allow viewers to experience a more in-depth look at the artists.

You’ve also worked at NBC’s “Extra” and TV Guide’s “Hollywood Insider” interviewing celebrities including Tom Hanks. What was the experience like?
The first Tom Hanks movie I saw was “Big” and I’ve been a fan ever since. I interviewed Tom Hanks on the red carpet where Hollywood was honoring him with a lifetime achievement award. That didn’t make much sense to me; he’s still going to make many more films. He was just as I expected – charming and hilarious.

Who are some of the more famous personalities you’ve interviewed and what are some interesting things you’ve learned?
I’ve had the opportunity to interview celebrities including Dustin Hoffman, Madonna, Mariah Carey, Celine Dion, Justin Timberlake, Jennifer Anniston, Britney Spears, Steve Martin, Michelle Pfeiffer, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Jamie-Lee Curtis, the late Bernie Mac, and many others.

I have only had positive experiences with Hollywood’s top celebrities. They have all been gracious and appreciative. I love interviewing and I’ve learned to be attentive, intuitive, fearless, and spontaneous.

My best interviews have been in settings where the celebrity is most comfortable. I interviewed Bernie Mac on the set of his show and spent the entire day hanging out with the cast and crew. He was a good soul and because his positive attitude was contagious, everyone on set was just as happy as him. I interviewed Justin Timberlake while go-carting. We had a lot of fun but by the end of the interview, we both felt sick…haha.

What advice do you have for young Indians who want to get involved in television?
This industry is filled with very talented and creative people so embrace the energy. Be prepared to deal with long hours and criticism – both positive and negative. Like anything, be the best at your craft and learn as much about production as you learn about being on-camera. Write down your ideas and turn them into stories, segments, shows and films. And most importantly, be as humble as possible. No one likes to work with someone with an inflated ego so stay down to earth.

Do you feel it’s hard to constantly fight the stereotypes associated with Indians?
Not at all. Most people don’t know where I’m from and I hardly get cast for Indian roles.  I like to focus on the positive and spend my time professionally and personally with forward-thinking people.

Do you believe Slumdog Millionaire has really made a difference in how Indians are perceived or is it simply a phase?
I think it has made a huge difference in the industry and to the millions of people who saw the film. I saw it opening day and left the theater dancing.

How do you stay connected to your roots and Indian culture?
It comes naturally. I love the literature, the food, the music, the films, the musicians, the artists, the different dance styles, and most of all the people. I also embrace all cultures and don’t care to be defined only as Indian. I have lived in India, Canada and now the US.  I’ve traveled to many places and the cultures I experience also become a part of who I am.

Is Bollywood something you would be interested in perhaps later in the future? Who are your favorites?
I’m open and interested but at this time, I’m not pursuing work in Bollywood. Amitabh Bachchan, Rekha, Rani Mukherjee, Abhishek Bachchan, Kajol and Ajay Devgan are my favorites.

What is one achievement you are most proud of?
My desire to nurture my relationship with God, my family and friends.

What is coming up for you?
I don’t have a clue and I’m excited about the possibilities.

Any message for your fans and readers?
Thanks for your support all these years. Check out modeling photos of my best friend and brother, Chirag Amin at www.aazin.com. Roshni, thanks for contacting me and I wish you much happiness and success.

Spread the joy!!!

~ Roshni M.
(July 2009)

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