When we read Sahana Srinisvasan’s story, we couldn’t believe she is only twenty-three. An aspiring actor and filmmaker based in LA with a Netflix show, Nickelodeon pilot and feature film already under her belt, Sahana has quite a story to tell. But it’s not what she’s accomplished career-wise that has us wowed. It’s the diligent pursuit of her dream to tell stories in an entertaining and thought-provoking way with all the wisdom of a seasoned pro that caught our attention.
“Although I like creating work that directly addresses cultural identity or being a woman, I don’t have to,” says Sahana. “I have that choice. [My] being a woman of color creating art is already a statement in itself, and I want young girls to resonate with that. The stereotype of women not being funny or smart is so archaic and untrue.”
This is just snippet of this young Modern Muse’s inspiring journey of what it’s like to build a career in Hollywood and to discover, along the way, just how much of an impact you can make on the world with whatever gifts you are given!
In Her Own Words
“Through acting, I get intimate with all kinds of different characters and try to understand their motivations and emotions, which in turn helps me sympathize with all kinds of different people in the real world. I also just love making people laugh. I like being goofy and silly on stage, while also maintaining some kind of commentary or message without forcing it.
“Laughter is an uncontrollable feeling we emit for various reasons – it could be because we are pleasantly surprised or because we find something very relatable. Either way, it’s a way for a whole room of people so different from each other to agree with each other in a moment, to connect and to release stress. I strive to tell and promote stories that are absurdly funny. I want to champion unique voices that otherwise aren’t heard.
“I recently graduated from UT Austin (Hook ‘Em’!) with a degree in filmmaking. During my time there, I, along with a passionate crew, created a few fun projects, including a hip-hop dance video in the frame of an old Kollywood movie and a short film depicting Hindu God Shiva as a modern day hipster. I also got more into standup comedy in Austin and did some fun shows, including some interesting ones: standup on a non-functioning toilet in a basement, standup next to the highway, and standup while a Ghost Tour was happening at the bar, and no one knew the comedy show was even going on. Nevertheless it’s been a fun ride!
“I also took off a semester to film ‘Brainchild,’ a Netflix original science show. From doing crazy experiments in the style of woman-on-the-street interviews to talking with astronauts live on the ISS, every day was a new and exciting day, and I had no idea what to expect. Doing the show made me better understand the importance of inspiring young kids, especially young girls of color, to go into STEM and STEAM. I got to be my fun, goofy, entertaining self while promoting something very important.
“Although I don’t know if there will be more seasons (fingers crossed), I am currently working on auditioning for new projects and continuing my career in comedy and filmmaking. And I’ve been…hitting those weights at the gym…because I want to be in a superhero or action movie where I also have witty one liners. This, is an ideal role!”
How does the work that you do inspire, empower, and/or impact women and girls?
“Although I like creating work that directly addresses cultural identity or being a woman, I don’t have to. I have that choice. [My] being a woman of color creating art is already a statement in itself, and I want young girls to resonate with that. The stereotype of women not being funny or smart is so archaic and untrue.
“By doing what I do, I contribute to the idea that women definitely have interesting, compelling, and entertaining stories to tell, and the world should listen. On the other hand, I’ve been hearing that being a woman of color gets me more attention now that people are listening more. It’s great that people are giving us the spotlight, but I don’t think that it’s a shortcut as they claim.
“At the end of the day, if my work does well, it’s because of my talent and skills. That comes first. I never want to get a job just because I’m a woman or person of color. “
“I want to champion unique voices that otherwise aren’t heard.“
What inspired you to do the work that you do/motivates you today?
“I am motivated by my desire to make art. I want to say I do it for others, and I do, but I can’t make others laugh without having fun with it in the first place. And if I don’t have the motivation to do so, then I focus my time on something else until the energy comes back. Writing is hard, and writer’s block happens. But sometimes, forcing myself to write or create makes the task a chore. My material is so much better when I’m excited about it. When I feel out of it, seeing a really wonderful performance of someone else’s, or even revisiting old work that I’m proud of, reminds me to keep going.”
How did you get to where you are, and what challenges did/do you face?
“As a child, I was a big camera hog anytime my parents starting recording home videos. After seeing how naturally animated I was, my parents encouraged me to perform in local talent shows by dancing, singing, or acting. I took lessons in Bharathanatyam dance, piano, drawing and did a lot of theatre for school.
“Around middle school, with the help of my friend, I discovered a film acting studio called Cathryn Sullivan’s Acting for Film. Here, I realized my potential and passion for acting in movies and TV shows versus on stage. Through workshops at the studio, I gained agency representation with Kim Dawson in Dallas and Innovative Artists in LA, and soon after began auditioning for various projects. I got some yeses and many no’s.
“I think getting rejected at a young age thickened my skin. It humbled me. It was hard hearing ‘no’ at first, but after years of doing it, I’m able to move on quicker and reassure myself that there will be more opportunities. Sometimes I just have to give the project everything I’ve got because the final decision is not in my control.
“At the beginning of high school, I booked a feature called ‘Space Warriors’ and a Nickelodeon sketch comedy pilot. At this point I thought, my career is going to go up from here, right now. It was an adrenaline rush! However, that wasn’t the case at that time. I quickly learned that this industry may provide a bunch of opportunities for some time, then suddenly there may be nothing. During this time, I began pursuing an interest in filmmaking. If I wasn’t going to get cast in everything I wanted, why not make my own stuff?
“I continued auditioning throughout high school and college, but also focused on comedy and filmmaking. Once I told myself that I didn’t have to book everything I went for, I began creating because of the original reason why I starting performing in the first place: because I liked it and it made me happy. This is something I still struggle with coming back to, but when I do, my work is much more fulfilling. I booked ‘Brainchild’ with this mindset and had so much fun doing it. I also am proud to have pursued acting, comedy, and filmmaking all while still getting a degree; it’s totally possible to accomplish!
“After ‘Brainchild’ came out, I did some interviews about my work and was suddenly labeled as a role model and representative for young girls and women of color. To be honest, it was an honor, but also a little overwhelming. I knew I didn’t represent every woman of color out there: there are so many of us and we are all so different. It was hard for me to accept. Initially, a lot of the questions I answered addressed my cultural background, and how the show was great for representation in the media. I felt like a broken record, saying almost the same things, and to some extent felt like I was saying what media would like to hear. Eventually I learned to be more honest with myself. I made the realization that I could still be a role model for kids while taking 3 naps a day or living my life as a young college woman in her twenties. Binge watching reality TV for just a few hours didn’t change how smart I was.
“My cultural background wasn’t my whole identity, and I started to talk about that in the interviews. I learned a lot about myself through this process. I moved to LA a little over a month ago to focus on acting and comedy full time. I spent most of my first month here at IKEA looking for furniture and eating their vegetarian meatballs, but I am finally settled in! I am trying to further my career by enrolling in comedy and acting classes, workshops, and practicing scripts, while also making time to go to the beach or do yoga (yes, LA has really changed me). That’s been my biggest challenge yet: trying to stay present and do things outside of my career.
“There are so many things I want to try, like becoming better at cooking, maybe boxing, putting together a huge puzzle, making money…(jk jk). Without getting too wrapped up in the business side of Hollywood, in the end, it’s about making great stuff and putting it out there. I’ve learned that if I use my resources, if I constantly work on my craft without exhausting myself, and if I take advantage of opportunities I get, I can make some surprisingly cool things happen for my life and career.”
Who is your she-ro?
“Ah! This is a difficult question. I have many, but I’d have to say right now, I’m very inspired by Constance Wu and Chloe Fineman.
“I just saw the movie ‘Hustlers’ (not for children lol), and Constance Wu’s performance blew me away. She was so captivating and raw. She is also a natural comedic actress. She was funny and adorable as a young immigrant mother in ‘Fresh off the Boat’. Although ‘Crazy Rich Asians’ (for which she received a Golden Globe nomination) may have really brought her to everyone’s attention, she has been delivering great performances for some time now, and I’m so glad her career is taking off. I’m excited to see her journey.
“Chloe Fineman recently became a cast member of ‘SNL’, and I just found out about her. Her Instagram page is filled with her celebrity impressions and original characters; they are so accurate and so hilarious. I enrolled in improv/sketch classes at the Groundlings school because I was inspired by how good her characters are. I’m excited for her career, and seeing her comedy makes me want to create funny stuff all the time!”
What is your favorite quote?
“Break a log.”- My Mom (One time she accidentally texted me break a log instead of break a leg, laughed about it, and now she only uses log instead of leg.)
Do you know a #ModernMuse who has an amazing story to tell? Send us her story to firstname.lastname@example.org. We’d love to know her: 1) Name, 2) Age if under 25, 3) Location, 4) Relationship to you, 5) Why you think she is a #ModernMuse (what is she doing or has she done to make Inspire, Empower, Impact the world or the community around her?). We’ll let you both know when we’d like to publish her story, send her a few more questions and will share it on our social media channels. Looking forward to your submissions!