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Why Diversity is an Imperative in the Workplace: An Interview with Nathalie Varli

Updated: Mar 12


We all aspire to achieve our dreams; however, when our dreams are presented to us as unattainable, we are forced to let go of them and choose goals that “fit us better.” For me, I knew that some dreams were impossible to achieve, so I did not even consider adopting them. These dreams included contributing to the media, as a writer or as another type of creator. Growing up, a great majority of the influences I received came from the media, specifically, the TV shows that I watched and the celebrities that I saw on the covers of popular magazines. When I was younger, the American film industry casted mostly White actors and actresses as the main characters of its movies and TV series; on Disney and Nickelodeon shows, I rarely saw any protagonists who were people of color. Any South Asian character on the screen would usually fit into the “model minority” mold—in other words, stereotypically awkward and academic-oriented. Some examples include Ravi from Jessie and Baljeet from Phineas and Ferb.

When I watched these shows as a kid, I never really acknowledged their racial stereotypes; in fact, I never even considered race at all when watching TV. I always admired actresses and actors for their roles and looked up to them, but I knew that I could never become them, mainly because I did not look like them. I accepted this from a young age and looked towards professions that I saw more people of my race working as, like an engineer or a doctor.

Over time, I began to realize that STEM-based industries were not the only place I could belong. While I have a passion in healthcare, I also have a passion in literature and writing that I used to mask by not pursuing any of my interests in the subject. Only when I read When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi did I understand the true importance of pursuing both of my passions equally, as Dr. Kalanithi had degrees in both healthcare and English and professionally practiced both. Dr. Kalanithi also serves as South Asian representation in the intersection of literature and medicine, which as a young teenager reading his book, reassured me more that I could pursue the same topics.

Interviewing Nathalie Varli on Diversity and Inclusion in the Media Industry:

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