It's always so good to know the folks doing the work you're doing — so it is with Ravneet. I met Ravneet briefly at Jes Baker's book signing and knew immediately that I wanted to be her friend. We were able to coordinate a phone chat and subsequently this interview. Ravneet is every bit as interesting and intelligent as I thought she'd be. As founder of Wear Your Voice, her work will continue to be a voice for those who need to be heard. I'm pleased to share this interview with you.
Can you tell us a little about your background?
I am British-born Sikh with East African-Indian heritage, now living in Oakland.
From as far back as I can remember, I recall the intensity of patriarchal ideology in Indian culture, and the underlying suppressed voices of our women. I yearned for what I could only then call freedom, and as I have evolved and grown, the word is feminism. I desired feminism! I often felt like I was born into a world that did not hear or understand my opinions and views. I realized that if I was going to make an impact, if I was going to create a movement solely based on people finding their voices and using them powerfully to express and bring into fruition the change we so desired, then I would need to find my voice too.This is one of the first moments where I realized the immense power in wearing my voice, I started to acknowledge the sexual abuse I had experienced as a child and my abusive marriage –– took back the control to my life and refused to continue with a veil of secrecy over my traumas. I gave it all voice and it was the most exhilarating time of my life. I felt free. In order to make change, we need to have the conversation. In order to inspire change, we need to lead the way so people can follow. I would say that WYV thus far has achieved this and much much more, all the while bootstrapping our way to success. It’s no surprise that WYV grew out of Oakland, the hub of activism.
I know you have a history in the fashion industry. How did that impact your own self-worth?
The fashion industry was an amazing experience for me. As a new graduate with no previous fashion background, I managed to carve out a successful career for myself. My best learning experience occurred when I went to work for a smaller fashion house, where I could do anything from PR, cleaning floors, and hopping on a plane to attend Paris Fashion Week. I learned some of my biggest entrepreneurial lessons there. However, working in the fashion industry with its perceived glamour was anything but this. It was cutthroat and appeared to lack diversity and inclusiveness, which always disturbed me. When I exited the fashion industry, I left with great insight and knowledge on the underlying, restrictive messaging our imagery portrays. It was becoming very apparent to me that fashion and its corresponding fashion spreads were made for only one type of woman; where was the size and color diversity?
And how was Wear Your Voice born?
When I flipped through the pages of my favorite magazines growing up, I never saw images that I could relate to; I did not feel seen or heard. I realized later in life that media had been the source for many of my insecurities, and I knew if I didn’t see myself represented in the media, other women didn’t see themselves represented either. I decided that I wanted to change that, so I took the essence of a glossy lifestyle magazine and put an intersectional feminist spin on it, and out of this was born Wear Your Voice Magazine, a magazine to redefine the way we are represented in the media.
What does WYV talk about? Is mental health in your umbrella?
Mental health is definitely something we cover at WYV — we’ve actually just taken on two new very talented writers who focus solely on issues of ableism and mental health related issues/topics. For the other half of your question, sharing an excerpt from our story:
Wear Your Voice Magazine (WYV) is an intersectional feminist media publication committed to deconstructing mainstream media’s approach to news and culture. Unlike traditional media outlets, WYV digs for the non-gendered truth and seeks to amplify the collective voices of today’s generation.
WYV tackles the latest in news from around the world, from an intersectional feminist point of view. We deal with pressing issues such as LGBTQIA rights, race and gender, body politics, sex, and entertainment. WYV seeks to create a dialogue where everyone’s voice is represented and heard.
WYV’s signature is retaining the authenticity of the voices merging in this feminist space to illuminate the minds of our audience. Our writers take a fresh, bold, and radical approach to stories, and offer unique perspectives on the contemporary issues that matter most importantly to you.
WYV is applying a whole new approach to creating content — we’re not just talking about the issues, we’re creating solutions for them.
WYV is most known for our provocative, global viral campaigns. Our first campaign, #KillTheSilence, launched in March 2015, with the aim of helping to end the stigma rape and domestic survivors face when going forward with their story. In the summer of the same year, we launched our first body positive campaign #DropTheTowel, and launched #BeyondBeauty campaign on Black Friday as a reminder that no one can sell you your confidence.
In summary, if Wear Your Voice was a lovechild, we’d be the offspring of James Baldwin and Margaret Cho.
WYV is Oakland-based. Can you tell our readers a little about Oakland?
I moved my family over to Oakland on a whim three years ago, and within weeks of being in Oakland I started to feel the energy and vibrancy of this city seep into my pores, seep into my soul, and envelop me in its courageous love. It felt like Oakland scooped me up and gave me a huge hug, Oakland has been a very deep and healing journey, where I have been able to address and deal with many of my personal traumas experienced in my childhood and adult life. For the first time in my life I did not feel alone.
What would you like to see WYV accomplish?
Wear Your Voice is more than a magazine, it is a media movement. Wear Your Voice Inc is not just one magazine, but something with many more variations of this in the pipeline. WYV as a company is taking a whole new approach to creating content — we’re not just talking about the issues, we’re creating solutions for them. As the mother of two young children, I want to make sure the next generation of young people don’t feel silenced by not conforming to unrealistic societal standards. I want for the next generation to have a sense of freedom in thought and expression — I wish for them to not continue to inherit our insecurities and be dominated by negative media messaging.
Do you like pizza?
Really, this is a question? Which means there is someone out there who doesn’t [like pizza] — what is happening with the world?
Italian sausage and green chilies, lots and lots of chilies, extra chilies on the side, on top of the pizza — everywhere! (You can take the Indian out of India but you can't take the India out of the Indian)
Can I come have pizza with you? If you don't like pizza, can we have some other food/dessert time?
Yes, you can have pizza with me, as long as you get your own. I rarely share my food!
Tell us something odd about yourself.
I don't and can't eat the ends of a Kit Kat, or any chocolate bar, for that matter. And I am building a very reputable following for my crisp packet selfies (crisps, aka chips for you Americans!).