THE EIGHTEENTH INSTALMENT OF THE BELLEBOSS SERIES
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I hoped that with this series, I would find a way to appreciate the incredible South Asian women of our generation, who are breaking boundaries and paving new paths for themselves. Moreover, I would like you to take a little bit of your time to realize how incredible the women around you are.
Especially if you are a woman! I know that at least one woman’s story in my #BelleBoss series will inspire you to follow your dreams, your vision and most importantly your heart. Even if that means breaking a few rules and many societal prejudices along the way.
Could you please give us an introduction to yourself?
My name is Sharaneya Guruparan but most people know me by Sharan Guru. I’m 23 years old and currently a student at Ryerson University in my 3rd year studying social work.
Before this, I went to college and graduated in Broadcasting for Contemporary New Media with honours. I grew up in Canada in a city called Scarborough for most of my life and after moving to a few cities, I now live in Toronto. I was super shy and athletic growing up, was always opinionated, and stuck up for what I thought was right. My parents are originally from Sri Lanka and are both Tamil, but they first landed in England and then moved here a few years later. My mom started her own wedding/event decor and planning business after working for a corporate company here by herself and my dad first worked for CIBC (a bank) and after leaving that he managed a few restaurants, but now both are working together on the wedding business.
I have a younger sister who is doing her double major at Guelph University and we are incredibly close.The person who inspires me the most is my mom. South Asian women in western countries, in my opinion, are the bravest and the strongest people.
Our mothers came from a country that is completely different from this side of the world and if anything have faced the most oppression in both countries and to come to a western country and learn a new language, culture, it’s customs and to run your own business is incredible which is why she is who I look up to every day for inspiration.
You have been quite vocal on social media about how darker skinned beauties should love their own skin. Were you always confident about your skin … if not what made you change?
I wasn’t always this vocal about it because I used to think all the myths and stereotypes that came with dark skin is true.
However, in the last few years, I started to love my skin more and start looking at it differently.
My cousin who is also a dark skin woman had always loved her skin and taught me that hating dark skin is wrong and really derived from colonialism. However, it’s too much and harmful and I got extremely tired of hearing about it for 20 years.
So I thought at least if a few of us raise our voice on it then more women and other dark-skinned people will start loving their skin and not listen to their surroundings on it!
You have some amazing tattoos could you tell us a bit about them and what inspired you to get the tattoos?
I have always been obsessed with tattoos since I was a kid. I used to look up hundreds of designs, the history behind them and the process. And seeing as I started finally rebelling slowly near the end of high school, and I made the decision at 18 to get my first. My first was my grandma’s name and it was always the most important one to me. Her name is Gnanam which also means knowledge in Tamil, and my grandma was the first person to teach me about my roots and my culture.
I have about 9 now and decided I’m going to be getting a whole sleeve dedicated to feminism and women/goddess pieces. My next one will be a face of Kali on my arm.
3) How do you think your culture has shaped you as a person? Has it limited you anyway?
Culture has really played a large role in me growing up especially as a Canadian born – Sri Lankan Tamil.
It had definitely limited me a lot growing up since our culture is quite oppressive and close-minded when it comes to women/females. When I was younger I tried to separate myself from it as much as I could to fit in and assimilate into the community I was growing up in. However, after college, I met a few friends who were also south Asian and specifically more Tamils than I usually did before and started to really reconnect with my culture again. I also became closer to my cousins as I grew older which also helped me keep in touch with my culture. Now my culture has given me the voice to speak out about all the issues women face in South Asian cultures and western cultures.
I try to create awareness around intersectional feminism in both cultures to show that women everywhere face similar issues in different levels of privilege.
4) How would you describe your personal style and what would you think is your signature look?
I would describe my personal style as a mix of urban street style with a fusion of classic femme pieces. My signature look is usually a crop top and high waist pants with air force 1’s (shoes).
5) Do you have any tips for WOC who would like to start modelling?
So far I still don’t have professional modelling experience.
Everything you see on my Instagram is self-taught and I have a good camera.
I usually shoot and pose in my own photos. I know how to shoot photos and pose, however when I want to be in the photo I usually place the camera the way I want and my boyfriend will shoot it for me. I also edit and produce the final photos. However, if you want to even start doing photo shoots to at least post on Instagram, as a woman of colour and especially a Sri Lankan Tamil woman, you must be able to do it without worrying about what your family or friends will think.
They won’t always be supportive but when the time comes and you know this is something that you’re good at and is easy for you then don’t worry about others and do what you love!
6) Could you tell us a bit more about your degree and what you hope to do in the future after your degree?
The degree I’m pursuing right now is in Social Work and I’d like to focus my area of work with women, specifically women of colour and I’d also like to focus on sexual violence prevention and education work. I’d like to work for a few organizations in the futures but essentially I would like to combine my previous diploma with this work and integrate it into media!
9) A lot of south-east Asian girls are scared to date inter-racially. What would be your advice to the girls who are thinking about it?
My advice to girls who are currently in an interracial relationship who are south Asian to not waste their partner’s time.
Only be in an inter-race relationship if you know there is potential for that person and that one day you could take them to their parents. Unfortunately, it’s very looked down on in our community so it’s all about not caring about what others think of u and ur family. You must also be prepared for your family to not be okay with it and treat you differently because of the stigma attached to it. I come from a family who’s a bit interracial so it’s a little bit easier for me, however, it’s still a bit of a struggle because my partner is Jamaican and Italian.
However, I have always had this mindset since I was a kid and my parents knew that.
10) You are well known for mixing traditional gold jewellery with modern outfits. What inspired you to combine the two together?
I honestly have always loved south Asian jewellery and thought they were so unique, however growing up wearing traditional items to school always ended up with other kids making certain remarks or ridiculed you for it.
However, as I got older I noticed certain trends mainstream western retail store starting to sell south Asian inspired jewellery without giving our culture the credit and started normalizing by using white women to advertise it.
So I thought before they take all of our styles in jewellery and fashion and appropriate something that has been in our culture for centuries, let me show them who and how should be wearing it.
I think the fusion of western clothing and south Asian jewellery and fashion pieces also show the identity of many Canadian Born South Asians because as much as we love our culture and want to show it off, we are immediately ashamed and told to assimilate to be treated without as much judgment.
So by integrating both, you have a unique new look that stands out and it shows our Canadian side and South Asian side.
That’s it for this interview, but remember a Belleboss Interview comes out every Sunday. Just scroll down below and click the follow buttons to keep updated. Until then