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  • Writer's pictureAkshaya Pattanayak

What it was like moving to North America

This was the first time I recognized myself as a person of colour and as an immigrant

As a postcolonial urban Indian kid, living in New Delhi, I never particularly felt alienated by North American culture because of movies, TV shows and music. Having said that, my lived experience when I first moved to Los Angeles made me feel like an immigrant. This was the first time I recognized myself as a person of colour and as an immigrant. As inclusive as it may have been, doing my MFA in acting at the University of Southern California, it certainly had its share of challenges. I was the first brown person who spoke with an Indian accent who got accepted into that program. I never saw that as disparaging, because I was surprised as to how the program encouraged personalization and bringing yourself into the acting work.

Getting a visa felt like working towards a golden ticket

Working up the ranks of the North American immigration system sometimes gave me the feeling of odds being stacked against me. The insurmountable pressure of getting a visa often held me back from meaningful and well-paying opportunities. Getting a visa felt like working towards a golden ticket: it was completely out of my hands. To survive I worked under the table for hip-hop videos as a crew member, and I’d get paid in cash. My roommates who were working steady jobs as engineers would often feed me, and sometimes even allow rent to slide by. To this day I am grateful to them, they played a pivotal role in my survival during my early days of struggling to get auditions as an actor.



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