Gina Doost is a blogger and journalist I’ve been following closely and can’t get enough of. Her awesome website, WhatTheDoost.com caught my attention because of the wide variety of it’s content. It’s almost like a go-to-guide for everything – there’s no shortage of fun on Gina’s blog, as it covers fashion, inspiration, food&travel, and more. I was even happier to find out Gina was Afghan-American and attended Cal State Northridge, like much of my family. I love love LOVE to see Afghan women putting themselves out there, especially when it comes to the entertainment/media world. Coming from a nation that stifles the voices of women, it’s refreshing to see empowered Afghan women who create their own paths. That was the biggest reason why I chose Gina Doost as my WCW for this week. That, and the Caribbean/Middle Eastern recipes I copped off her site! I am extremely happy to announce I’m an official “Doost” on her awesome blog – be sure to check out more collabs between Gina jaan & I! Here’s what I got to learn about Gina:
How did you enter the entertainment & arts and can you elaborate on your work?
I started working in entertainment when I was in my early teens. My mom thought it would be a good idea (for work-ethic) for me to get an internship while I was in high school so I could get an early start on the whole trying to decide my career path. I started interning for a show on international Persian satellite television that was like a Persian version of TRL and it also aired on cable TV so that was huge for me. I started off assisting the host and on my first week we had a cool outing — the premiere of Coach Carter. Knowing I was going to meet the entire cast and help assist interviewing Samuel L. Jackson and Ashanti, I did the whole “mom take me to the salon” thing. Long story short — the host didn’t show up, the producer freaked out, I convinced him to put me on instead and let me wing it. He really didn’t want to but we were in a jam and bailing on the interviews would have been worse. He put me on and I killed it… it didn’t seem like an interview so much as me hanging out with the cast. Samuel L. Jackson even turned the tables and started interviewing me! I was raw and unfazed by the celebrities — it worked. Maybe a little too well, because ratings went up and shortly after that I replaced the host. She was a bit of a diva anyway.
I loved the whole hosting gig so I decided to pursue journalism at California State University, of Northridge. They have an excellent accredited program and I was able to learn from professors who actually worked the field from CNN to NBC. Right after college I moved to New York. I figured NYC is where media headquarters are at and I want to be working among the bosses. So I did, within my 3rd day here, I managed to get my resume to one of the execs at CBS’s Inside Edition, and on my 5th day I had an interview where I asked most of the questions and told her “I’ll take it” – and was hired on the spot.
Your blog covers everything! I got my fix of travel, fashion, and culture all in one visit. I love the collaborations from other members of WhatTheDoost.What do you want people to get out of it and what purpose do you aim for it to serve?
I can sum up what I want people to get out of What The Doost and its purpose in one word: ‘inspiration’. I want to be able to inspire others to follow their dreams and learn from others. We cover such broad topics because that’s what life is about. I’ve brought on writers I admire because I’ve found my audience is able to connect with them on different levels that I can’t reach. I love collaborating with these people because I’m a big believer that we win when we’re elevating each other.
How did you like working at CBS? What was your biggest lesson learned?
I loved working for CBS—I met some fascinating and dedicated people. The biggest lesson learned was that it never hurts to ask, whether it’s for a story or in my personal life. At Inside Edition, I definitely grew in both my professional and personal lives. There are just some stories that hit close to home, leave a mark, and teach you things. There were interviews that left me speechless and experiences that changed my outlook on life.
You have a pretty awesome background, ethnically and nationally. Can you tell us more about this? How has it shaped you?
Thank you! I’ve found so much comfort in my ethnically diverse background and especially my nationality. I’ve always been different, and different is awesome. My parents were born in Afghanistan and Iran and met at college in Germany where I grew up before moving to Los Angeles at 10 and then New York City five years ago.
This diverse background of mine has helped shape me in many ways, in good ways and some tough ways. Growing up, being different wasn’t something to be proud of – different was weird. But different is what I knew and ultimately I wouldn’t have it any other way. I carry a piece of culture from every place I’ve been. My parents taught me the importance of good morals and that no matter where I come from or what I believe, the secret to life is being a good person. One who doesn’t lie, cheat, or harm others. I wouldn’t say my parents are religious—they wouldn’t even say that. What we are is traditional, we love our culture – the colors, the music, the elaborated ceremonial traditions – it makes me so happy!
Have you met hurdles, from our own community or those outside of it? How have you encountered negative stereotypes?
I’ve encountered hurdles from all over. When I moved to Los Angeles I was called a ‘Nazi’ by kids because I was German and then 9/11 happened and people at school freaked out because I was Afghan. I’ve been pulled aside by the TSA multiple times and once a TSA worker even yelled out that I had a bomb on me -__- it was a heating pad on my back. But the hurdle that hurt the most was from a Russian manager at The Bowery Hotel’s restaurant Gemma in NYC, he started going off about Afghans and when I asked him to stop because I am, he went off about how happy he is we’ve died and hopes our kind is wiped off the Earth. The staff and general management did nothing about this, that was a wake-up call for me — AS IF THIS WAS NORMAL TO SAY.
When I was younger, my mom did a great job shielding me from these types of comments. I appreciate that, I wasn’t ready until I grew into someone who wasn’t fazed at people’s stupidity and lack of knowledge. Ultimately that’s what it is: ignorance and anger.
There’s a lot of issues surrounding Afghan-American representation in the media, specifically the representation of young Afghan women. What’s your take on this?
The way Afghan-Americans and especially Afghan women have been represented in the media really hurts my heart. But it shows me that now more than ever, people with my background need to have a voice too. The western media has painted us with a dark brush — the brown girl covered with her veil, who is not valued in her community, and married off at a young age against her will. Or one with limited opportunity — I don’t know that stereotype nor have I ever been exposed to that. What I do know is what I’ve experienced, and that is ‘value’. I thank god every single day for the family I’ve been given, one that is the most loving, the most kind hearted, and the most accepting. That is what I know of the Afghan culture — someone who will give you the shirt off his/her back with a smile even if it is their last. I’ve never heard my family bad mouth anyone, but I also know I come from a special clan — one that has always put love above everything else.
The images of our land that the media show are ridiculous. If I took you to Skid Row and told you “this is Los Angeles” you’d be shocked too — I feel like that’s what’s been happening with Afghanistan and the media surrounding the land. A couple years after 9/11 my uncle and cousin went to Afghanistan, my cousin documented the entire experience from the moment they stepped off the plane. The footage was breathtaking, so much greenery! The thing with America is that it’s a baby in terms of a culture and hasn’t had to stand the test of time. The Middle East and Asia have been around for millennia — we’re still discovering new artifacts that show us how advanced our community was.
What kind of advice do you have for other young Afghan girls who want to do what you’ve done?
My advice for other young Afghan girls is to follow your heart. At times this may be the most difficult thing you’ve had to endure thus far, BUT if anything the struggle only validates that you’re on the right path. Because doing the right thing takes strength and patience. It’s scary to step outside your comfort zone, but it’s also where you can find yourself at your best. I advise people to travel more, experience different cultures, and embrace the unknown. I hope we can learn from these times, to leave judgment behind and embrace acceptance.
I absolutely loved Gina’s insights on Afghan women’s representation in the media. Gina stated something that resonated with me, “I don’t know that stereotype nor have I ever been exposed to that.” In between the poor widows or the jihadi wives or the child brides, the greater media forgot to include average Afghans who don’t fit the stereotypical glove. And that’s where myself and Gina, as Afghan-Americans, fall on the hyphen; not quite fitting in here, but not fitting in there either. Not relating to or understanding the roles that Hollywood regurgitates over and over again. And that’s why it’s so important to tell out stories, to let the world know that we don’t all need saving, that there is humanity within Afghans, that just because someone is Afghan doesn’t mean they can’t be an average Joe. I think that’s another reason why I love Gina’s blog so much. Sure, it’s Afghan owned and operated, but it’s useful for everyone, and is more evidence that Afghans don’t need to pursue careers that fit the cookie-cutter desires of our communities.
It is so vital to support Afghans in the arts and entertainment, because those are the people that will tell our stories to the world. I’m so glad I stumbled upon Gina’s blog, loved hearing her insights, and even more excited to be collaborating with her at WhatTheDoost.com!
You can follow Gina & WhatTheDoost on Twitter