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Identity, Mental Health, and Persian Dance

Updated: Jan 2, 2021

Identity and mental-health are the two reasons I do music - Since I can remember, I've had a bruised relationship with my Iranian identity. I wasn't Iranian enough for the Iranians, I was too Iranian for the Iranian Americans. My fair skin, red hair & green eyes continues to be a source of doubt when either of them meet me. I can stand beside someone with typical Iranian features; we both say we're Persian, but I'm the one that gets interrogated:

Oh, but you're like.. half P

ersian? No I'm full. On your dad's side? No, everyone on both sides, I'm 100% Iranian. How? You don't look it... ? Do you speak the language? I do. Fluently? ... *sigh.* But you don't cook Persian food. I ONLY cook Persian food. But you were born here. YES - SO WERE THEY. SO WHAT I WAS BORN HERE. You're an American Pop artist, so you like Western music over Eastern music - you don't sing in Farsi - you don't understand the musical tradition, right? You don't like Persian guys right? ... (it's about this time where I find an excuse to leave & never come back).

This is a big reason I rejected the community while growing up because I felt like they were searching for any reason to reject me. It's exhausting just trying to meet people. Iranian Americans wanted to make sure I'm not too fresh-off-the-boat to be intimidating & Iranians seek reasons as to why I'm not a "real Persian" like them.

I was bullied a lot by Iranians growing up as well - bullied into silence & shame and out of my identity. And yet - the one thing no one could ever take away from me was #dance. They could make me doubt my thoughts, my voice, myself - but if they wanted to challenge my dancing? They were fucking lying & I knew it -- Dancing was my flex - it was the secret weapon I'd take out my pocket when I didn't know anyone in the room or what won me acceptance from those denying my DNA. It was as if when I stepped on the dancefloor, they'd go - oh. Okay. Yeah she's Persian. Despite being surrounded by eyes, I don't see anyone around me when I dance - it's my bubble - & if others are looking? Khosh bahaleshun, I couldn't care less. Dancing (namely #iraniandance) is one of my greatest joys & comforts in life, ever since I studied under @mohammad khordadian as a child.

I'm much more confident with who I am as an Iranian now, but once in a while I still trip up. #FakinIt was written about an Iranian, & that's why the classical Persian dance is juxtaposed with the contemporary choreo. Despite all the preparation I'd done - on shooting day, I choked. I got really nervous - what would the Persian community say, what will they think? Classical dance is so serious, what if I don't do it justice? I'll just look like the Iranian imposter that everyone already thinks I am.... (#identity & #mentalhealth are the reasooons). I stopped the music --- asked them to play "Khushe Haye Gandom" by Sima Bina... breathed it in, and everything changed.

I watched the footage back while editing the video & as much as I love to dance, lemme tell you I HATE watching myself. That ruins the peace for me. I have a terribly analytical brain, so when I dance (even alone) I cover/turn all the mirrors in the room so I can do it freely. But for the first time in my life, I watched myself dancing & I didn't wanna look away. I could see I was in my element; I had transcended elsewhere. Here is a quick clip that pierced my heart & reminded me of my unique identity as well as the journey I have travelled for my mental health. I hope this narrative reminds you that your identity is unique to you & does not need to be confirmed by anyone, and that #selflove/celebration/& #selfacceptance are our best friends on our mental health adventures.

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