We had the good fortune of connecting with Akanksha Manna and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Akanksha, what are some habits that have contributed to your success?
I don’t think I’ve reached success yet. I mean, I still have a very long way to go. That is also a habit that led to where I am today. Not limiting myself to a particular goal, you know? I think having a habit of being ambitious has led me to where I am today. I think an essential habit is putting yourself out there and taking action. When you are building some sort of platform, it’s important to know that most of the time, nobody is going to come to do things for you. You have to put yourself out there and be like your own marketing team and pitch yourself in order to get optimal opportunities. Also, I think the organization is so so important. Like it’s very cliché advice but it honestly helps out so much. Once you are organized in how you run your creative outlet, it makes life so much easier and leads you to put more effort and improve your work with that extra brain space. I think different habits would benefit different people but these are some things that helped me get to where I am.
Please tell us more about your work. We’d love to hear what sets you apart from others, what you are most proud of or excited about. How did you get to where you are today professionally. Was it easy? If not, how did you overcome the challenges? What are the lessons you’ve learned along the way. What do you want the world to know about you or your brand and story?
I think how this show started off was really unexpected. During the summer of 7th grade, my dance teacher (who was also an RJ at the time) had called me right before lunch. She asked me if I’d be interested in hosting my radio show on this channel called Shuddhdesiradio. I was ecstatic and took the opportunity right away; however, I didn’t know how to run this show. It was definitely a learning curve. It took, I would say, 1 or 2 episodes and a whole lot of introspection ( as much as a middle schooler can do) to figure out what my niche would be. I knew that I wanted to incorporate my Indian-American identity into this show. After many cheesy names and name rejections from friends and moms, I decided to stick with “Spilling The Chai.” The name was chosen, but what was some 13-year-old going to talk about for 30 mins straight? After episodes of just reading a script and staring into the camera, I knew that something else was in store for “Spilling The Chai.” I’ve always loved talking to people and have been a curious person since I was a kid (still am). So one day, I was thinking of topics to present for an episode and started thinking about Indian-American representation in media.
I had always thought of it as a big problem because it has impacted me. I had to do something about it. I’m am incredibly grateful to my dance teacher Sareena Nagpal and Shuddhdesiradio, for giving me a platform, so I wanted to do something meaningful. Now, Spilling The Chai has become a place where we highlight south Asian voices in their respective fields to offer a fresh, new perspective to our viewers. It has become a community where we don’t shy away from sharing our POC experiences in different walks of life. It was definitely not easy to do, especially when I had to start balancing high school with the show. However, I think this might sound cliché, but hard work and just toughing it out is what got me through any challenges I had. Some lessons I’ve learned is probably about not doing things just for the heck of it.
I think when you’re a creative that has deadlines to meet and are balancing it with either work or school in my place, we often compromise the quality of our work. I mean, it’s a given for it to happen, but when you realize it often, times it’s better to take a break if possible, and it’s better to produce your best work than BS-ing it. If there’s one thing I would want to know about my story, it would be about the impact of representation in different fields. I think a lot of south Asians like myself are constantly pushed to choose out of 3 options: doctor, lawyer, or engineer; however, I made my platform to represent the other fields south Asians excel in for inspiration for future generations as well as to highlight people in my area. So, Make sure to listen to the show at 6 pm EST on Shuddhdesiradio.com every other week!
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
Going along with my Desi theme, I’d like to take them to places to show the immense diversity in Atlanta. First I would take them to Global mall and get a glimpse of the beautiful Indian clothing in stores such as my favorite Ladlee. Next, I would take them to the food court and snack on some delicious indo-chinese food. I would take them to the artifacts store to look at the amazing craftsmanship. The next place I would take them would be Patel brother Plaza. There I would take them to the Gokul sweets and restaurant for some authentic food and paani puri.
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
Thanks a lot to mom, dad, didun, Sareena and the Shuddhdesiradio team for making this happen! At times, I felt like I couldn’t continue anymore and that I didn’t have any more resources but my mom always helped me to tough it out. Thanks to dad for being my personal camera man and helping me out majorly with my technology problems. Thank you so much to Didun for being proud at whatever I’ve achieved and encouraged me to continue. I’m grateful for Sareena for giving me this opportunity and thinking I was fit for this . Last but not least, I would like to give a big shout out to Shuddhdesiradio for taking out so much time and effort to show me the ins and outs of RJing and cooperating with me through out.