Roshni Patel: A Medical Condition Should Not Stop You

Roshni Patel Vasram is strong, bubbly, and tenacious. Despite having overcome huge challenges since childhood. Now the Urban Asian digital publication she launched 12 years ago, fusing Eastern and Western culture with the latest news and entertainment, podcasts, videos, and live interviews, has a strong and established following. SEEMA spoke to the driving force behind all this about her life’s journey, challenges, and aspirations.

You were diagnosed with epilepsy as a young child. Can you tell us how that affected your life?

Yes, I was diagnosed with the condition when I was 12 after a bike accident. It affected my life in many ways. I always relied on my parents to drive me places since the law in Florida was you could not drive if you weren’t one year seizure-free. It was tough. There were times where I would sit and cry and write about my thoughts. There were times I went into depression and had thoughts I never want to have again. Obviously, as I got older and more mature, I realized that life isn’t over yet. That is when I started picking up hobbies, crafting the talent I had and using it. I think when someone goes through tough times, the key is to find a few good hobbies that you might enjoy and stick to them. It helps keep the mind off negative thoughts.

Could you describe your media journey?

I sort of was genetically driven into this industry. I actually got my degree in integrated marketing communications. [But] my father was a radio jockey and host for the Indian community in Tampa in the late 80s and early 90s [at an outlet] called Radio Asia. I used to help him from time to time by answering requests on songs he was to play for the audience. He used to show Bollywood films in a small theater in Tampa in the 90s which were always fun to watch.

As I got older I became more fascinated with media, news and entertainment. Not only did I learn about entertainment but I learned a lot about the Hindi film industry from my father. With my marketing degree, obviously, I used a lot of the communication skills I learned in school and applied it to real-life situations.

What led to the formation of Urban Asian?

This is a funny story. So I worked for a company based in NYC while I was in college and I ran an online street team of college students who were to go out on social media platforms, forums, radio blogs and promote the client’s track and song. The company sort of dissolved after several years and the owner, who is still a mentor, decided to change industries. When things sort of simmered down, the South Asian [singers, dancers and other performers began] hitting me up to promote their brand. So I started a small blog called Miss Roshni, which is just for fun and not a full-time gig.

I was approached by a friend of mine in LA, who is now a co-founder, to launch UrbanAsian.com as a media news website with stories about South Asians/music/fashion and more. We just got to talking online. They had great connections to the Hollywood scene while I had great connections to the Bollywood scene. We decided why not bring both east and west together and launch the site. So here we are 10 years later, still grinding and telling great stories of the South Asian diaspora.

You’ve also worked extensively with Bollywood. Could you discuss your role there?

As I said, through my dad I learned so much of the good and bad of the industry that with me being a fresh generation (a millennial), things were changing [when it came to] how films were being marketed. I was learning so much about the digital age – that many in India were not as adaptive to social media. I started consulting with different actors and musicians on how to promote their brand to a larger audience. I really wanted to help out in this because, as South Asians, we tend to target our work to only South Asians. But I was all about promoting the brand to a larger audience (non-South Asians) because those were the people we needed to target the most so they can learn about our culture, our music, our thoughts, our creations and our art.

How do you plan and prioritize your work?

UrbanAsian.com is a side hustle. I work from 8-5 in the corporate world. I’ve worked in the health care sector for 12 years. After I finish work it’s more cooking, cleaning, a workout if I have the time and back to the computer doing emails. Weekends are really my most packed days as I try and get the work out to our team or slide in a few interviews. It’s difficult to plan your day as working in media can be challenging. You might get a call to do an interview one minute and the next thing you know you are writing a few articles on deadline. This year, I worked on my management skills and also had more time to myself.

What makes for outstanding content?

Crafting your words in such a way that the audience feels engaged and wanting to know more about the story. We love telling stories about South Asians across the globe. Not only that but many other stories that the audience may be interested in. I think the key idea is to find out what the audience will love to read. Ensuring that your article is well written and has great storytelling is also important.

What do you think is the best way to engage an audience?

Well with things changing so rapidly, I think it is social media. We now tend to have more text conversations through social media apps than meeting in person. That one comment on an Instagram post can turn into a debate or even a friendly conversation where multiple people join in. With the pandemic still here it’s the only way we can engage with audiences.

How do you juggle work with your private life?

Oh gosh, it’s definitely challenging but again time management is key. I am 3 years into my marriage and all I can say is I am so grateful to him. He’s been supportive through this entire journey of mine after we started dating. We women tend to be superwoman sometimes and that’s what makes us so unique. But from time to time when I am overworked, I love to meditate or work out with my partner. My private life always comes first, then self-care, then work. You can’t always be burned out.

Where do you see yourself taking the publication in the future?

Well, we have a mobile app coming in the near future, and we are super stoked about it. We are telling more and more stories about the South Asian diaspora and to work on more mental health topics since that has been the trend for the last few years. We aren’t telling enough stories, so we hope to continue to write those. We also have a music label that is growing really fast so we hope to take it to an international level at some point. Other than that, well, you will just have to wait for some surprises.

You’ve overcome a lot in spite of facing health-related challenges. Care to share some inspirational advice for other women dealing with hurdles?

We all have ups and downs in life. Those downs are probably the best things I have ever experienced in life. It made me stronger and more passionate about my goals. Don’t allow anyone to tamper your goals. Keep them to yourself. Write a goal every month that you want to achieve in this lifetime.

I was always put down by people saying it will never work out, or that you won’t be able to achieve anything. I actually loved it when they said that because that made me even stronger and created even more goals. A medical condition should not stop you from achieving your dreams. It should make you stronger. Remember, everyone has a purpose in life. Find that purpose and stick with it. Everyone is unique in their own way. Get creative and remember that no idea is silly. Keep faith and keep shining!

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