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Neerja Patel: Amplifying Underrepresented South Asians in Mainstream Pop Culture

Neerja Patel: Amplifying Underrepresented South Asians in Mainstream Pop Culture

Ladderworks is a publishing platform of diverse picture books and an online curriculum with the mission to empower over a million kids to become social entrepreneurs. Our current series features interviews by our interplanetary journalist Spiffy with inspiring Social Entrepreneurs, Entrepreneurship Ecosystem Builders, and Changemakers who are advancing the UN SDGs. 

Spiffy here with the scoop on the entrepreneurial leaders of Planet Earth. As the only interplanetary journalist stationed on this blue planet, I’m thrilled to present this galactic exclusive with Neerja Patel, the founder of Neerja Public Relations. Let’s learn about what’s happening there and how Neerja is making a positive impact in the world.

Spiffy: Hi Neerja, thanks a million for talking to me today. Tell me, what challenge are you addressing through Neerja Public Relations?

Neerja: Thanks for having me, Spiffy! Neerja PR is dedicated to amplifying South Asian voices and underrepresented talent. We recognize that within the realm of fashion, certain voices and perspectives are often overlooked or marginalized due to race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, socioeconomic status, and more. Our work aims to challenge these systemic inequalities by actively seeking out and amplifying the voices of underrepresented founders, designers, models, artisans, and creatives within the South Asian fashion and lifestyle community.

Spiffy: What motivates you to do it?

Neerja: My motivation is driven by the power of inclusivity and the importance of representation. Through our work, we aim to challenge dominant narratives, dismantle systemic barriers, and create opportunities for those who have been traditionally excluded from mainstream fashion spaces. It’s important for our work to provide a platform for these individuals to showcase their skills, celebrate their cultural heritage, and express themselves authentically through fashion and beyond. 

Spiffy: What is the impact of your work?

Neerja: The impact of our work contributes to empowerment, providing platforms, expressing creativity, and showcasing talent. By actively promoting diversity and inclusivity, we push back against dominant narratives and beauty standards, creating space for a more diverse range of perspectives. Our impact contributes to a more nuanced and inclusive understanding of fashion as a global phenomenon; ultimately contributing to larger conversations around identity, representation, and social justice. 

Spiffy: Tell me about a recent organization milestone or initiative. What impact does it make on your community?

Neerja: A recent initiative I was a part of was the formation of an Advisory Board by South Asian New York Fashion Week (SANYFW). This comprised individuals from varied backgrounds, particularly with expertise in South Asian fashion, business, and culture. The impact of this initiative is significant as it enhances the credibility and reputation of SANYFW within the fashion community, attracting top-tier talent and partnerships. It also provides invaluable guidance and mentorship to emerging South Asian designers and helps to showcase their work on a larger platform.

Spiffy: That’s awesome! Is there anything else you would love to tell our audience?

Neerja: It's important to be proud of who you are and where you came from. Our heritage is a gift to cherish and celebrate, so wear your cultural identities as badges of honor in every aspect of your lives, including your fashion choices!

Spiffy: Thanks for speaking with me today, Neerja—it’s been an honor!

Neerja Patel is the founder of Neerja Public Relations, a boutique branding agency in New York. She is deeply rooted in the South Asian community and works to serve the brands and talent that are underrepresented in mainstream pop culture. She continues to champion the South Asian diaspora across industries with a focus on food, fashion, beauty, arts, and entertainment.  Neerja was recently honored as The 100 Women to KNOW Across America, presented by JPMorgan Chase. (First published on the Ladderworks website on March 14, 2024.)

The views and opinions expressed herein are those of the interviewee and do not necessarily reflect those of Ladderworks LLC.

© 2024 Ladderworks LLC. Edited by Anushree Nande. Spiffy’s illustration by Shreyas Navare. For the Ladderworks digital curriculum to help K-3 kids advance the UN SDGs, visit Spiffy's Launchpad: Creative Entrepreneurship Workshops for K-3 Kids and their caregivers here.