"It's almost like I have superpowers when I wear it."
In a society that promotes different means of art forms, British Asians are starting to pick more creative careers.
Whether it’s becoming a musician, artist or model, creative industries are quickly becoming a staple in many South Asian families.
That’s not to say that the stereotypical ‘safe’ jobs in medicine, pharmacy and law are not still prominent choices in Desi communities, as they are.
However, the different avenues that the arts provide allow numerous British Asians to utilise their talent and imagination.
As of December 2020, the creative industries were growing at four times the rate of the UK economy and had already employed over 2 million people.
This intense rise of artists within these sectors shows the shift in economic importance. It may also help explain why more Desi families are accepting of their children having creative careers.
Creative careers were previously seen as ‘lesser’ than traditional jobs.
This is due to the longstanding thought that education equals success, therefore the harder your education then the more you will earn.
Although the spectacular prosperity of British Asian artists goes against this ideology.
Talents like Inkquisitive, Bambi Bains and Sangiev represent a plethora of South Asian talent who are succeeding in different creative avenues.
This comes as no surprise as the arts are more focused on a person’s talent, intuition and uniqueness. Especially with the inevitable rise of social media, being innovative is key.
Therefore within a modern world, more South Asian families are realising that a typical 9-5 is not always the best route to financial stability or even happiness.
As South Asians continue to prosper within creative careers, DESIblitz looks at the five areas where British Asians are flourishing.
As one of the most illustrious industries in the world, modelling has seen a rise in many British Asian models who have transcended the sector.
Representing more South Asian countries and cultures, British Asian models have infiltrated numerous big-name brands such as Burberry and Vogue.
Famous names like Aishwarya Rai Bachchan and Frieda Pinto have all graced the scene. However, more British Asian models are starting to build their own brand up from scratch.
Modelling used to be a case of being spotted by a scout or applying directly to an agency where, in most cases, they opt for a more western appearance.
However, in 2021, using social media sites like Instagram has become a formidable way to model and showcase a variety of styles.
For example, London based model Kajal has built up her following to an astounding 36,000 followers on Instagram and is now signed to the impressive agency, Fascino.
Kapre Bene is another household name on Instagram. The model who resides in Birmingham, UK, has been a catalyst for men’s modelling and South Asian empowerment.
It is these creatives who have been influenced by the artistic push on social media and in turn have started to motivate the next generation of models.
Isaac Ahmed*, a 23-year-old student from Liverpool revealed why he is looking to get into the industry:
“As a Muslim, becoming a model would have been blasphemy back in the day.”
He continues to say:
“Now, it’s becoming more accepted.
“I’ve always been involved in modelling and finding my own style. I’m sharing that journey with the world to show people that you can pursue whatever you want.
“I showed my parents my following on Instagram and what people were saying about my style, and they were impressed. I think the attention I was getting emphasised I wasn’t joking about this.”
Although salaries are broader due to flexible working hours and fluctuating rates, models can still earn anywhere between £40,000-£50,000 a year.
This does not even include sponsored posts or ads that companies ask models to do on social media.
Impeccable models like Neelam Gill and Simran Randhawa are perfect examples of how British Asians are managing to triumph with this creative career.
The UK has produced a phenomenal number of successful British Asian writers . Many have gone on to successfully publish their own books which represent their South Asian heritage.
However, many Desi families see this type of creative career as only attainable by chance.
Although it is true that writing as a sole means of income is difficult to survive on, it does not hinder the type of doors that can open because of writing. Especially when consistent.
Most British Asian families believe the occupation is representative of a person’s potential. Therefore, someone being a dentist is seen as a more knowledgeable person than someone who writes for a living.
What does not get taken into account are the different streams of writing which many British Asians explore. In the modern world, one of the most formidable means of writing has been poetry.
Popularised through poets like Rupi Kaur, poetry and creative writing has enticed many British Asians.
Especially when factoring in the success of British Asian poets like Ruby Dhal.
Starting off by posting her pieces on Instagram, Ruby has now amassed over a staggering 434,000 followers.
Having published five bestselling books and been one of seven South Asian women writers featured on Harper’s Bazaar Writer Hotlist in 2017, Ruby personifies this new age of ‘insta poets‘.
Whilst many South Asian families would be focused on numbers, Ruby explains blocking this ideology is the key to success:
“It’s easy to get side-tracked when you see how well the numbers are looking for other people.
“Just focus on your own work and how you can allow it to grow.”
Trishna Sandhu*, an English graduate emphasised her reasoning for working as a writer:
“My family is quite typical so when I said I wanted to be a writer, they thought it was a phase. All they kept saying is ‘what about law?’ or ‘what about medicine?’.
“It just kept pushing me to show them writing doesn’t mean just being an author.
“You can write for a newspaper, come home and work on your book and then publish some poems for a magazine. That’s the beauty of being a writer, it’s limitless.
“Now, I’m getting paid for something I love doing and I think that’s what most South Asian families now understand.”
With an abundance of talent and icons pushing this creative career amongst British Asians, there’s no doubt that the number of writers will continue to grow.
Famed British Asian musicians have been on an incredible trajectory since the 70s.
However, given the success of the numerous artists that have come before them, modern-day musicians are still discouraged from following this career.
Like many creative careers, becoming a musician is questioned because of its shaky salary and lack of ‘job security’.
However, in some ways, acquiring a job in the arts can be more daunting than becoming an engineer, for example, because of its unpredictable nature.
In addition, many old fashioned Desi ideologies associate music with negativity like drugs, alcohol and partying.
The new wave of musicians are hoping to eradicate this.
With the emergence of culturally proud musicians like producer Sevaqk and singer Pritt, more Desis are following suit.
Sevaqk had an emotional interview with DJ Bobby Friction in which he announced:
“One of the major keys of my whole situation is that I wear a pagh. That’s my crown.
“It’s almost like I have superpowers when I wear it.”
Like Sevaqk and many other British Asian artists, they take this proactive approach in showing off their culture to the fans.
Not only does this set them apart, but also gives them a more authentic look. On average, musicians can make anywhere between £27,520-£43,617 making it a very attractive occupation financially.
Again, this does not take into account fees for performances, appearances and collaborations. This is one of the best features of having a creative career.
Although the career itself is focused on a specific art form, the artist is not tied down to a singular job or avenue.
Instead, they can market themselves and have companies reach out to them, making these careers even more rewarding.
Impeccable British Asian singer, Asha Gold, is symbolic of this.
Fresh on the music scene with a growing 2,500 followers on Instagram, Asha gave a beautiful performance at Lord’s cricket ground in August 2021.
Achieved through a relentless work rate and notable aid from media outlets like BBC Asian Network, Asha was already able to have a pivotal moment in her career.
It personifies how much awareness British Asian musicians are now receiving the number of opportunities that can surface, especially for budding British Asian creatives.
Another creative career that has seen an influx of British Asians is becoming an artist such as a painter, illustrator etc.
This kind of occupation was most notably made famous by Amandeep Singh, also known as, Inkquisitive. The vibrant creator uses a range of techniques to produce stunning pieces that captivate thousands.
His diverse illustrations have an abundance of colour, detail and connotations. More impressively, some of his paintings address social problems, whilst others celebrate South Asian culture.
It is this penetration of ability that has motivated more British Asians to pursue art as a career.
Neha Patel*, a Gujrati artist from Leicester revealed how she got into illustrations:
“Most of my friends liked science and maths in school but I loved art. When I picked it for A-Levels, nobody saw the worth in it.
“I kept explaining to my dad how much artists can make and all the pros of it but he wouldn’t listen. My mum was a bit more understanding.
“Then I entered a talent show where I won a cash prize. After that, people came up to me asking for commissions. It was then when I and my dad knew I had made the right decision.”
Many artists have a persevering attitude similar to Neha. British Asian artists like Daya Illustrations and Pav Bharaj are examples of this determination to show off their ability but also their Desi pride.
They represent the growing number of British Asian artists who are beginning to achieve wonderful things within the industry.
Not only does their artwork portray the richness of South Asia, but it also motivates other British Asians to pursue art as a career.
Ranjit Singh*, an art student from Leeds emphasised this:
“I’ve met loads of Asian artists on my course and it’s funny because our families all questioned why we picked art.
“But we’ve all spoke about how our art will take us places beyond just paintings and drawings. That’s the great thing about being an artist.”
There is no doubt that iconic artists like Inkquisitve have transcended the outlook of art amongst British Asians.
Whilst many families still hone in on the salary of these creative careers, there is no doubt how progressive these jobs can be.
Although becoming a painter may not have a definitive salary, it does not mean it’s an irrelevant career path to take.
Although the term ‘influencer’ is associated with a person being solely social media-based, many British Asians are still seeing success showcasing their unique fashion.
From the early foundations built by fashionistas like Kavita Donkersley and Pardeep Singh Bahra, more stylish British Asians are emerging.
Dapper icons like Gian Surdhar and Sangiev have sent shockwaves within the fashion world. Not only as South Asian influencers but for their daring ensembles as well.
The latter, who first burst onto the scene through YouTube has built his brand through fashion.
Sangiev first started as a stylist in Harrods but has now progressed and gone on to release the third collection of his own clothing line.
This illustrates how more British Asians aren’t shying away from creative careers but also their creative personalities.
The days where your reputation was dependant on more statistical and medical occupations are slowly dying.
This rebellious attitude was also signified by fashion model, Harnaam Kaur. Her unapologetic attitude towards fashion helped empower and pave the way for more Desi women.
Featured in numerous publications, including Vogue Japan, shows the dynamic appeal of British Asians. It reinforces the magnitude of success when these creative careers are pursued.
Fashion icons can earn a salary through photoshoots, campaigns but with the help of social media, they can also be paid per post.
In April 2021, the Evening Standard found that fashion influencers can earn £500 per post if they have a minimum of 10,000 followers.
Impressively, this fee can raise to over £2750 per post if the person has over 100,000 followers.
This shows the fluctuation of how much a person can make within the fashion industry, but does not take into account potential deals with fashion shows and brands.
Again, this demonstrates the immense potential that British Asian fashion heads can have within this illustrious creative career.
Within a range of areas and industries, creative careers are quickly solidifying their place amongst British Asian communities.
As mentioned before, traditional jobs are still poignant within Desi families, but artistic jobs are more widely accepted.
These careers have already seen an invasion of British Asian talent, most of whom take honour in representing their backgrounds and culture.
With the support of media outlets and social sites, creative careers are immersive and imaginative.
With the help of those South Asians who have already succeeded in these sectors, British Asians will undoubtedly continue to prosper and open a new wave of Desi artists.