Sazan Barzani, A Kurdish Face in Hollywood
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 www.SpazMag.com