It is no secret that telling our stories teaches us about the things we may never be able to experience first-hand. It binds the past to the present that affects the future. During these trying times, this is the simplest yet one of the most effective ways of making people understand that the AAPI community is beyond the bondages of stereotypes. It is best if the stories about the community are told by them as well.
A self-coined “hype coach,” artist manager, and event producer, Shereene Manimala understands this concept greatly. She sets out her life encouraging people to show up and tell their stories fully and honestly even with societal pressure, trusting that it is through this that we can empower more to lead and take action.
Shereene believes in leading by example—on how stories and experiences can inspire many young people. With this, she created the Upside Down Smilie Show, a virtual podcast aiming to dive deep into real-life stories, empowering people to push through those uncomfortable feelings to tell their truth. She also passionately supports Black and Brown creatives, and serves as a community leader for Malayalees for Social Justice (formerly known as Malayalees for Black Lives Matter) which is an organization where she commits to educating the Malayalee community against injustices as she has also seen how this affected her own immediate family.
Her show’s latest theme, Knanaya series, did not just tackle the surface level of this cultural community. It also featured personal stories from four members of this sect who shared their experiences and the pressure of marrying someone exclusively within the group. Endogamy is not a practice widely accepted and observed. Although there were perspectives that did not see eye to eye, she respected these conversations and encouraged her viewers to continue it for them to grow. This is only one of the many thought-provoking, nontraditional topics her channel has touched.
Dig deep, show up real, bring people together, and tell genuine stories—these are what Shereene advocates for and what she dedicates her life to do. Indeed, she exemplifies what she promotes. Shereene is an #AsianWhoCAN enlighten!