These photographs are all about embracing South Asian beauty in America. As an Indian woman born and raised in New York, the culture I grew up in was primarily Western. Although my ethnicity is a huge part of who I am, I never felt entirely connected to my Indian background, and that largely had to do with Western culture being my norm. I was always timid in embracing my background; it was never something I allowed myself to touch upon or truly embrace when living in New York—especially in terms of my appearance and how I dressed. I avoided beautiful Indian clothing, jewelry, and patterns in fear of standing out or not looking “American”. Only recently have I begun to explore and take ownership of my dual Indian and American identity.
For these photographs, the model, Shazi, was my muse—she is fearless in the way she incorporates her Pakistani culture into her clothing and lifestyle. In these photographs she wears beautiful saris, dupattas, and lehengas, all flowing with sheer, intricate fabric bearing incredible detail and colors. Shazi talked to me about taking ownership of her Pakistani culture: it’s hers, and she can weave it into her personal style as much as she wants to. She incorporates beautiful nose rings, bangles, headpieces, and necklaces into her daily wear—a beautiful way to celebrate her ethnicity in a dominantly Anglicized environment. South Asian self-expression is severely lacking in the United States, and my journey of introducing it into both my art and my lifestyle—with the help of role models like Shazi—has been continuously freeing.