Welcome back to You Did That!. In this episode, Parisa, a visionary artist and entrepreneur, takes us on a journey through her experiences in the fashion industry and the challenges she faced while promoting inclusivity – at a time 20 years ago when no one knew what that word meant. We explore how the fashion industry has become more inclusive over time, the financial benefits of diversity for corporations, and the impact of Rainbow Capitalism on Parisa’s career.
Parisa Parnian is an Iranian-American multi-disciplinary visual artist and culinary creative. She uses art, design, food and performative storytelling to build bridges and connect communities. As a multi-passionate creative, Parisa has been combining her extensive experience in fashion + lifestyle design, event curation, and food/culture-related art installations and events in LA, NYC and SF/Bay Area for over twenty years. Parisa plays with and subverts the colorful layers of ancestral traditions of the SWANA and Latin American cultures through her creative and interactive culinary and art projects. She tells the stories of modern life from the lens of the diaspora and Third Culture Kids, as well as from her lived experience as a part of the QTBIPOC community. In addition to the visual art and culinary projects Parisa is currently working on in collaboration with art and culture organizations and brands, she has a few of her own projects under way. Most notably are her recent projects at the intersection of Persian/SWANA and Mexican/Latinx cultures. This includes Perxican, a Persian-Mexican spice blend and cultural platform to explore “layered” or “mixed” identities and Aziz Amor- a DJ-driven party in downtown LA that is a mashup of SWANA/Middle Eastern and Latinx sounds, cocktails, visual art and vibes featuring women and non-binary talent.
- Challenges and Struggles in the Creative Industry
- Taking risks and leaving toxic work environments
- How knowing yourself will protect you in the long run
- The underground club scene in New York City
- Organizing your thoughts when you’re passionate about different fields
What is the experience of managing multiple projects, products, and various areas of focus like for you?
Parisa: The honest truth is, this has been a very long and often lonely and painful process. I’m taking advantage of this alone time because even at my age, I’m still “figuring” it out.
Here’s the thing, just like the entire theme of your podcast, when you are a thought leader or a creative visionary or an activist or whatever kind of human you are, where you’re seeing things, you’re seeing gaps between where society has been and where society is going. When no one has given you a compass, except for your internal compass, there’s no path. And often in society, you’re trying to do stuff at a time where you’re told you’re ahead of your time, which means the organizations, media outlets and powers that are gatekeepers, the people who could potentially provide resources and support who could amplify your voice. Don’t! Because they don’t see what you see yet.
I really think it’s important for people to understand and also maybe feel validation that the people around you, the authority figures, the people in power, are the ones who can often decide for you especially in your earlier life when you’re blossoming, whether or not your ideas and vision have a chance. That is at least how it was. Now, we’re in this whole new very much more democratic world where we can bypass that. And if we have it in us, we can put our voice out in social media and find our people. Because like many other people out there who are multi passion creatives, whatever that means for you, whatever form your creativity takes, artists are not the only creatives, you know, all doctors are creatives. You can be creative. You can be a creative accountant for all I know. You’re making something of nothing, you’re creating. You are part of creation. You are creating. So these are all the gatekeeping things that kept knocking me down in the beginning. And I truly am internalized, which is why at 50, I’m still working on myself because when you’re young, and you’re given certain messages, it really can sink deep into your subconscious.
What are some of your guiding lights or the things that helped you make really hard decisions in your career?
Parisa: For me, hard decisions are twofold. Some of them are hard decisions like, I’m gonna risk the comfort of a steady paycheck to branch out on my own and do this thing because I can not do it. And then there’s also hard decisions around this entrepreneurial or self-employed project, whatever I’m doing is not sustainable, and I don’t know if I have it in me to do what to do or what it’s gonna take to try to make this work or maybe it’s just not the right time for this. Trying to figure out when it’s also time to not quit, it’s time to put this to bed, it’s not working or it’s not serving me well. And so, for me, taking the risk to leave a steady paycheck to do multiple things, the only reason I did that is either because the toxicness and the unhappiness I had while in the corporate steady paycheck was so unbearable that anything would be able to be better than that.
So, in that choice, the risk wasn’t that difficult. It’s like, If I continue down this path, I might continue to be able to pay all my bills, but I’m literally getting sick. It’s too toxic for me. I have to leave for my own well-being, or I’m gonna take a calculated risk. I’ve saved up some money. I wanna give this venture, this idea, this project, a chance, But I know that if I need to, I can find other ways to take care of my basic expenses while I see this through.
What is the advice or some sort of guidance that would have been helpful to you?
Parisa: When you’re someone who’s moving forward with your life without a road map, and it feels lonely and often, you’re not gonna get the validation and support that you really do want and desire to nurture your vision. Some of the stuff that I wish I could have had someone help me with when I was younger was to have had the knowledge or support when I was ashamed around wanting to do like, gender queer fashion. I have so many stories of all the ways that older people have tried to cut me off at the need with many different ventures and projects.
The thing that I have struggled with the most in my life and maybe other people hearing, understand what I mean, is when you’re constantly other, when you’re constantly different, it can really affect your self esteem deeply. Even if you’re somebody like me, I’m very confident in my capabilities. I know that I am a wizard of creation. I know how to take an idea and execute it.
So I have confidence in that way, but because the essence of my projects, all the things I’ve done that are outside of a job for a corporation have all been around communities and themes of belonging. When you’re in another, whether it’s because you’re queer and trans, whether it’s because you’re middle eastern, whether it’s because you were raised in a Muslim family, whatever the things that makes you different, because everything I’ve done has been around that. And the times I’ve put it out in the world, have been at a time where it’s mostly been met with resistance and people trying to shame me around it. I did not develop the correct self confidence that I need to move forward often in the face of 0 support.
But the thing that I wish when I was younger, I had an older person who actually wanted to be of some sort of guidance or support. I wish I knew how to advocate for myself better. and to understand my worth and to not think it was cringy to outwardly celebrate myself and my achievements and accomplishments.
What are some of your current things that you’re working on or something that you’ve done recently that’s really exciting for you?
Parisa: I launched a Spice blend. It’s been 2 years now and it’s called Perxican, which is Persian and Mexican spices. But I didn’t launch the spice blend only because, this is the most bomb ass, all purpose seasoning ever that you can use on everything. But also because I created it, the original form it comes in is in a glass bottle where all the spices, 11 spices, and herbs are in layers. And, I wanted to use the spice blend as also a metaphorical tool to talk about how all of us are layered people. And just like different spices and herbs, when you shake them altogether, they create a unique taste, a unique flavor. Each of us is like our own unique spice blend.
I also wanted this to be like the beginning of a bigger vision and project that’s around all sorts of things that are about layered lives and experiences and spices. And there’s a whole lot to be done with that.
In addition to the Persian spice blend, which itself can become a whole world. I’m still figuring that out. I also have started a party. I started officially in January, and I think it’s really an important party and it matters. It’s called Aziz Amore. It’s Downtown LA at my wonderful friend’s bar and secret disco space.
Aziz Amore is a DJ driven night. It’s a free DJ driven night where I have created a culture and a sound that is a true mashup of Middle Eastern and Latin music, cocktails, and vibes. And I’m creating a space for the diaspora to come and mingle together. And I’m only booking women and non binary DJs.
Could you share a grounding practice for listeners who may relate to you, helping them connect with your experiences?
Parisa: Anyone who’s close in my life, like my family or my close friends know that I am not the same person if I don’t do my morning grounding practice.
I’m one of those people who, when I wake up in the morning, I wake up with dread and anxiety. I start my morning thoughts thinking that I am a failure. Instead of waking up and being like, Oh my god. This is awesome. I can’t wait to conquer the day. I have so many exciting projects going on. I wake up and I’m like, Oh my god. I’m fifty years old. I’m still single. I don’t own anything. I don’t have a home.I don’t have all the things you’re supposed to have at my age. And, every creative entrepreneurial thing I’m doing is so precarious. There’s no guarantees. So I wake up every morning feeling like I’m on very wobbly ground. And somehow I have to get from that energy to becoming the fierce badass woman who actually goes through my day and is making shit happen.
I do know that I am very blessed and privileged to be self employed right now where I don’t have to specifically be somewhere at a certain time. So that means I can have a very slow morning. I know that is not an option for many people, but this is what I do. I have to start my day slow instead of fast. So, when I wake up, I make my hot water and apple cider vinegar. I make my French press coffee, and I make my little athletic green powder drink. And then, I go right back into bed. I prop myself up, sit in my bed, and light candles. Sometimes it’s just electric battery operated candles depending on what’s not going on. I need inspirational talks in the morning to help me.
And then I need to make a list. Making a list, figuring out what’s important for me to do during my day, calms me and helps me regulate myself. And everyone has a different relationship to lists. But for me, I’ve created so many different types of lists. I’ve kept so many different notebooks and journals and for me, what’s working now is to organize my list by the different categories of my life. And then after I do my list, I can get that mental real estate that was occupied with that is now clear. Then I’ll put on some soothing music. Some sounds, some music with no words, and then do my version of meditation. I’ll sit still and finish drinking my drinks and then I’ll take some deep breaths and be like, you can do this. You can get up and do one more day. And do a little gratitude.
Learn more about the authors Parisa Parnian:
Aziz Amor: @aziz.amor.la
Pérxican Spice Blend: Persian-Mexican layered spice blend and social platform to explore our “mixed” or “layered” identities.
Aziz Amor Party: Monthly mashup of Middle-Eastern and Latin music, cocktails and vibes featuring women/non-binary DJs, visual artists and creatives from the SWANA and Latinx diasporas.
I hope you enjoy this episode!
If so, please leave a rating and review wherever you listen to your podcasts.