Sazan Barzani, A Kur­dish Face in Hol­ly­wood

The Kurdish Globe - - CULTURE -

In a world where in­no­va­tion is a must, cre­ativ­ity a gift and com­pe­ti­tion is fierce the ticket to in­dus­tries such as fash­ion and en­ter­tain­ment has proven to be a grand achieve­ment. Un­like many other eth­nic groups, Kurds have yet to mark their ter­ri­tory in the West­ern en­ter­tain­ment busi­ness par­tic­u­larly in the ruth­less Hol­ly­wood. With more than one mil­lion Kurds in the west­ern di­as­pora there is no doubt that fash­ion­istas, tal­ents and unique Kur­dish voices are en­thu­si­as­ti­cally and de­ter­minedly dip­ping their feet in the field of spot­light.

En­ter­tain­ment host, blog­ger and fash­ion en­thu­si­ast Sazan Barzani (23) is a de­ter­mined and proud Kur­dish-Amer­i­can girl who has claimed the stage in Hol­ly­wood. Like many other Kur­dish girls, Sazan comes from a tra­di­tional Kur­dish fam­ily valu­ing their roots and sup­port­ing their daugh­ter cur­rently work­ing in Los An­ge­les.

While the sun was still bright and shin­ing in Cal­i­for­nia, the rainy and freez­ing day in Lon­don had al­ready turned into night, with an 8-hour dif­fer­ence one of us had to make the com­pro­mise to stay up late for a dis­tance ap­pro­pri­ate Skype in­ter­view. Shortly af­ter a warm greet­ing on the voice call, Sazan warns that she ‘can talk for hours if not in­ter­rupted’ and the in­ter­view in­stantly turns into a com­fort­able con­ver­sa­tion where I am wel­comed to ask any ques­tions re­gard­ing her Kur­dish back­ground, in­ter­ests and ca­reer.

Sazan was born and raised in Texas with four younger sib­lings where her par­ents taught them the im­por­tance of ap­pre­ci­at­ing her Kur­dish back­ground and tradi- tions. But with a grow­ing in­ter­est for tele­vi­sion and en­ter­tain­ment Sazan’s par­ents were wor­ried that her involvement in such in­dus­try would be an un­safe and dif­fi­cult en­vi­ron­ment for their young Kur­dish daugh­ter. And the fear of Kur­dish crit­i­cism would of­ten be used to con­vince Sazan to pur­sue a dif­fer­ent ca­reer out­side fash­ion and en­ter­tain­ment, prefer­ably one closer to home in Texas.

“It was im­por­tant to ex­plain to my par­ents that a ca­reer in tele­vi­sion and film did not mean I would for­get about be­ing Kur­dish, but in­stead I wish for it to serve as a plat­form on which I can build con­fi­dence and ex­pe­ri­ence to bring back to Kur­dis­tan in­tro­duc­ing fash­ion and en­ter­tain­ment projects for other Kur­dish women to en­joy”.

With the long-awaited bless­ings from her par­ents, Sazan along with her sis­ter moved to Los An­ge­les where she is cur­rently jug­gling her fa­vorite jobs host­ing Reel Kandi TV show, man­ag­ing her on­line mag­a­zine SpazMag and mod­el­ing.

Sazan’s en­thu­si­asm for her ca­reer is eas­ily no­tice­able, her deep Amer­i­can ac­cent is per­haps a great con­trib­u­tor to the height­ened ex­cite­ment of her voice when she ex­plains her motivations, ‘I love en­ter­tain­ing and be­ing a pre­sen­ter at fash­ion week and be­ing a host on Kandee TV is a great way to kick-start start big fu­ture dreams’.

The joy­ful host had to do more than just smile to con­vince her par­ents that en­ter­tain­ment is where she be­longs. With ‘end­less nights’ in the stu­dio edit­ing and the over­load of col­lege work, Sazan says she was work­ing her fin­gers to the bone to show her ded­i­ca­tion and prove to her par­ents that she is com­mit­ted to chase her dreams to re­al­ity.

Sazan says she loves to dream big and she is work­ing hard to one day be able to host and pro­duce her own show in Kur­dis­tan, and bring Sazan’s own taste of fash­ion back to her roots.

Af­ter a short con­ver­sa­tion in Kur­dish, Sazan feels guilty that her mother tongue is not flu­ent, but with a blend of So­rani and Bah­dini ac­cent she is not wor­ried and with more prac­tice she will be a na­tive speaker, ‘I un­der­stand bet­ter than I can speak but my goal is to be great at both’, she says per­sis­tently.

Nearly two hours into the Skype con­ver­sa­tion Sazan’s at ease at­ti­tude is even more ob­vi­ous when she will­ingly re­veals that be­ing a Barzani comes with its own ad­van­tage and dis­ad­van­tages. ‘I am very proud of my par­ents and our back­ground be­ing a Barzani, it’s a rec­og­nized name among Kurds and I’m hon­ored to carry that fam­ily la­bel. But with big names comes big ex­pec­ta­tions and per­cep­tions, my fam­ily’s ini­tial re­luc­tance to sup­port me was due to the fear of peo­ple’s per­cep­tion that I may harm an en­tire name’.

The Barzani name has be­come synonyms with pol­i­tics and Kur­dish lead­er­ship; with a deeply em­bed­ded root in the po­lit­i­cal arena it’s al­most nat­u­ral to think that fu­ture gen­er­a­tions will per­sis­tently fol­low the same path. For Sazan pro­mot­ing the Kur­dish name is im­por­tant. How­ever, she be­lieves she can con­tinue to man­i­fest such pride through her pro­fes­sion in the en­ter­tain­ment in­dus­try in Hol­ly­wood.

The as­pired Sazan ex­presses that, de­spite the chal­lenges she had to face both cul­tur­ally and within her fam­ily they were no hin­der to her com­mit­ment to con­tinue chas­ing her dreams, in­stead they mo­ti­vated and now sup­port her to over­come any ob­sta­cles. ‘My fam­ily and the Barzani com­mu­nity both abroad and in Kur­dis­tan have ex­tended great sup­port for me to con­tinue to work my­self to­wards success, the ini­tial re­luc­tance was only from fear and based on pro­tec­tion from which I learnt great lessons. How­ever now, to have gained their trust and ap­pre­ci­a­tion is al­ready one great achieve­ment’.

Ac­cord­ing to the Hol­ly­wood based host­ess, many Kur­dish girls may not fol­low their pas­sion and their de­sired ca­reer due to lack of fam­ily sup­port and fear of re­jec­tion from Kur­dish com­mu­nity. ‘It’s a vi­cious cir­cle that can only be bro­ken if we are com­mit­ted to try, crit­i­cism can some­times be nec­es­sary and it is im­por­tant to not let the ‘who said’ stop you from try­ing to re­al­ize what once was a dream.

Sazan draws from ex­pe­ri­ence with Kur­dish girls email­ing her con­cerned that they have to give up hope be­cause of is­sues at home.

‘I specif­i­cally re­mem­ber just re­cently re­ceiv­ing an email from a young Kur­dish girl in Dal­las Texas, strangely enough that’s where I was born and raised and I have never met or spo­ken to her be­fore. She was ask­ing me for ad­vice on how to con­vince her fam­ily to move from home to pur­suit med­i­cal stud­ies in Hous­ton. Her story is very sim­i­lar to my own and so I replied back telling her about the best in­gre­di­ent that brought me where I am to­day, hard-work, ded­i­ca­tion and man­i­fested com­mit­ment. In other words, don’t give up’.

On an op­ti­mistic note Sazan ends by stat­ing that de­spite liv­ing far away from Kur­dis­tan, pos­i­tive changes are no­tice­able. ‘Last time I vis­ited Kur­dis­tan was in 2006, and although it was a while ago I still no­ticed the role of women had changed pos­i­tively com­pared to other years I had been vis­it­ing. See­ing young girls like Dashni Mu­rad with her unique and mod­ern style of re­port­ing, I un­der­stood that de­spite the long way ahead there are many lead­ing ex­am­ples of suc­cess­ful Kur­dish girls over­com­ing ma­jor bar­ri­ers’.

Sazan’s on­line mag­a­zine can be ac­cessed via the fol­low­ing link

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