Growing up as a female British Indian in a predominantly Caucasian British community, personally was a challenge for me, but these challenges are definitely what has made me who I am today.
Being a British Asian, and now fully embracing my culture, I feel strong enough to talk about my fears and the issues I faced as a young girl.
Being the only Indian person on my street and friendship group, I always felt that I was different. I felt as though I couldn’t merge into the crowd, and I also felt a lot of judging eyes on me (whether that was just in my head or not) there was always a dull sense of – I don’t fit in, I’m different, why can’t I be like everyone else?
I grew up wishing and praying to wake up a white girl. (Silly I know)
Like one of the popular girls in school, the girls who seemed to be liked by the boys and had a confidence about them that everyone moved towards. As silly as it sounds, this is what I wished for. It over took my life.
Hanging around with school friends and neighbours, feeling happy one day for being included as their friend, to feeling so alone and secluded the next because they didn’t want to be seen with the Indian girl that day. These people of course were not my real friends, but at the time I didn’t know this.
I never felt a sense of belonging, a sense of understanding or acceptance. I always felt as though I was given the short straw, I was being tested constantly. And this was all part of growing up, and I was the unlucky one to have been dealt this lonely life. Will I ever be accepted, will I ever find love?
When I discuss my childhood, even to this day people say that they had experienced racism and that it’s “not a big deal” or “it doesn’t matter, it’s part of life”. But it does matter, it really does matter…
It effected me in a completely different way to how it’s effected some of my friends or family. It was constantly on my mind, I was being challenged daily, by confrontations from girls and boys.
Nowadays my city is so diverse and eclectic, with various communities and diversities all around. When I was a young girl, I didn’t feel accepted, I was challenged, bullied and singled out. But those challenges are what made me the strong and tough woman I am today. Without those challenges I wouldn’t be as head strong, as fearless, as truthful and as first and honest as I am today. But it’s because of those experiences, as lonely and horrible they were at the time, that has built me into an empathetic and powerful woman today.
I feel stronger today than I have ever felt in my life. And that’s something that I wish I could have shown the young girl in me. That I wish I could show young girls facing the same issues I was facing. Because it matters, it always matters. And we have to talk about them, not hide them away.
Today, I compete in national and international pageants, building my confidence and being a part of a huge pageant family where we all support each other and are proud of each other.
I am a radio presenter for a community radio station which unites all communities together and brings everyone a voice. I am passionate about bringing people together, communities and nations. These are two things I am very passionate about, and both of these things I couldn’t be without.
Diversity is what makes this world a divine and interesting place. A place of contrast, of colour and variety. We were not all made to be the same, and without all of our differences, the world would be a very different and dull space.
We all bring something different to this world which is what makes it as amazing as it is.
If I could reach out to every young girl who felt or feels the same way I did, I would want to show them that there is a start line. And I say start line, because that is what I always hoped for.
There is a day that comes where you feel your life has begun properly, once you have fully accepted yourself and finally can embrace who you are and not care about what others think about you because you embrace who you are and you are helping others move forward in their lives, you are making a difference.
It was simply an honour to be shortlisted for the 2016 National Diversity Awards, and to see so many people embracing who they are, and having a positive impact to others around them in their lives.
I will continue to work with charities and in pageants to raise money and awareness, as well as helping young girls find themselves and have someone to support them through the hard times in their lives. Presenting and appearing at various charity and company events is not only an honour for me, but a platform to show other girls of my age or colour, that you can do it, and you can fight against all those people who doubted you.
Thank you to everyone who has supported me from day one, and to those who made it a challenge.
Aryana Vashisht, 29 years old, British Asian radio presenter and writer.