Interviews

Published on October 1st, 2018 | by Landon Buford

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Ami Desai, On a Mission to Change the Face of Beauty in the Media & At Home

Ami Desai is a woman who has worn many hats; she is a mother, an on-air beauty and lifestyle expert , she has been a contributor to media platforms such as CNN and Seventeen Magazine and she was the host of a show on Oprah.com. Desai has really worked hard to make a name of herself in the world of entertainment, lifestyle, and as an entrepreneur.

A first-generation immigrant born in the U.S., Desai was aware that there was a need for more South Asian representation in the media. Her desire and passion for broadcasting presented her with an opportunity to attend UC Berkeley where she majored in Communications. Upon the completion of her bachelor’s degree, she would go on to produce content at E! Network, and then Hollywood.com.  Desai is someone who studied her craft and wanted to take the necessary steps to be considered one of the elite journalists in her field. She made the conscious decision to attend grad school at Boston University, where she obtained her master’s degree in Broadcast Journalism.

In 2006, she worked at CNN’s head headquarters in Atlanta where she helped to implement the Middle East “Crisis Desk.”  The “Crisis Desk” helped stranded US citizens to connect with their families. After a successful stint at there, Desai relocated back to Los Angeles to become a producer with the tv show, Inside Edition. During this process, she was also able to use her platform to brand herself as a beauty consultant serving brides, models, and Hollywood talent. At this time, she began building herself as an influencer within the mom’s community, helping to inform others on how to juggle motherhood and their careers.

I recently had an opportunity to speak with Desai about how vital internships have been to her success in her career. She also shares how motherhood has changed her outlook on content creation and some of the hardships she has faced throughout life and how she found the strength to overcome them.

Courtesy of Ami Desai

Courtesy of Ami Desai

At a young age, what inspired you to most about the field of journalism?

I think the biggest draw for me was perspective and how someone’s POV could really set the tone of an interview and how a story was told. I’ve now learned that so much can be dictated by higher ups no matter what your own views are. I really wanted to hear what someone who I could identify with thought and had to say on certain topics. Growing up first generation Indian-American, it was really hard in the 1980s, finding people on tv that I could relate to.

Please share how your time at California Berkley and Boston University helped mold you into the person you are today?

Berkeley opened my eyes to what real acceptance and tolerance meant. I learned as much outside of campus as I did in the classroom and I carry those lessons with me still today. Going grad school at BU, to be honest, I mainly did it because I thought it would make my Indian parents proud. I new if I was going to really have a career outside of the stereotypical doctor or engineer, I needed to make up for it somehow. BU ended up being such an amazing experience because it really solidified my desire for broadcast journalism. The program was so hands on and I scored a huge internship at CNN while there.

You were fortunate to begin your career at E Network and Hollywood.com. Did you start as an intern and work your way up?

This was circa 2001 so Monstertrack.com was a huge platform for scoring jobs. I was entering my junior year in college and really wanted to work for a big entertainment based show in LA so I dropped my resume into the black hole of the internet and somehow got a call back from E! From there I was offered a full time job and went to Hollywood.com afterwards.

In today’s climate, how important are internships to the workforce?

I think internships are so crucial to really understand what it is to be a team player, which is vital in any role you take on. No matter if you’re the CEO of a company or an assistant, you should be game to roll up your sleeves and do any job to make sure the task at hand gets done right. Internships really help with learning the ropes of any industry and also help you figure out if this is the job you thought you wanted.

What do you look for when you are looking to hire interns?

The first thing I look for in a potential intern is their persistence. If someone sends me a resume and I don’t follow up in a week, and they reply asking if I need anything else from them, that shows me how much they want it. Tenacity is everything and you can’t teach that. The best piece of advice I was ever given at a young age was keep checking in with people and let them know what you’re up to. Maybe not every week but every few months and if they don’t reply it’s ok. It doesn’t mean they’re not reading your emails, they may just be busy but you are more likely to be top of mind than other candidates who aren’t persistent. I now always follow up whenever I’m trying to secure that job or partnership I really have my eye on. Also, being extremely organized is a huge plus. I get anxious with having a home office. Keeping my personal and professional life separate is a work in progress, so someone that can keep me in check is amazing.

Courtesy of Ami Desai

You helped create the Middle “Crisis Desk” while you at CNN. Can you talk about the beginning stages and some of the obstacles that you and your team had to overcome?

I was interning when this was created in 2006. There was no Instagram and Facebook was still in it’s beginning stages. With that said, we were trying to connect families stuck overseas with loved ones in the States. It was a 24-hr hotline that we set up and would loop calls in live to air and help families know their loved ones were ok. The biggest obstacle was not having enough manpower to deal with the influx of people that were stranded and trying to reach their families. Now, looking back, it’s amazing how powerful of a tool technology is with immediately being able to connect you with anyone from around the world.

You have had a very successful career in broadcast production and field of journalism. What were some of the hardships you had to endure throughout your career?

One of the biggest hardships has been trying to prove myself as not only a valuable asset behind the camera but also in front of the camera. Being Indian is probably one of the biggest factors as to why I was drawn to the media and journalism field in the first place, because I didn’t see enough diversity on the screen. However, because I have an almost ethnically ambiguous look, it has both hurt and helped me when landing on-air hosting jobs. I often get grouped with various ethnicities and am judged on that before my actual skill level as a journalist. Because of this, I have had to work even harder to prove myself, which I don’t mind because my successes are that much sweeter when they do come to fruition.

How were you able to pick yourself back up after these hardships?

Growing up to immigrant parents I was always taught to show up not only ready but armed with more than what is asked of you. My parents migrated to America with literally nothing and took a risk on themselves and I saw them create an amazing life for my brother and I first-hand, but not without it’s downsides and sometimes failures. Through that I have learned to hustle hard and really learn from my mistakes. Without them I wouldn’t know where I need improving and I wouldn’t know how to reflect on past choices. Basically, I’m not afraid to fail. Failure is another steppingstone to greatness.

What is the best piece of advice you have ever received and by who?

My husband, who is not only an amazing businessman but also father and partner told me a long time ago the best thing you can do is invest in yourself..and most importantly, believe in YOUR brand and what you stand for. Then and only then will others believe too. I’ve carried this with me ever since and try to practice it daily.

Courtesy of Ami Desai

How has motherhood changed your mindset regarding content creation?

Motherhood has changed my mindset, in so many ways, for the better! I found love young and therefore got married young. I thought if I had kids it was going to end any type of successful career I was creating for myself. I was so wrong– having children has been the catalyst for me wanting to shoot for the stars and hustle harder than I ever have. When I hosted for Oprah.com I had a 1-yr-old and was pregnant with my second baby. I started learning ways to work smarter so I could spend more quality time at home with my family. This has led me to finding new ways to not only prioritize my personal life but myself as well. I feel like my platform helps women, especially new moms and women of a certain age, get back to themselves and teach them how to be their best selves without spending a lot of time or money in all aspects of their lives.

 Your work has been featured in Seventeen Magazine and many other lifestyle media outlets. Is print journalism something that you still enjoy?

There’s nothing like picking up a magazine to read but I mainly save that for airplane rides. I now rely heavily on social media and my Iphone to get up to date news on current events and even beauty and fashion related topics.

You are a producer, on-air beauty and lifestyle expert. Is there anyone that you still want to work with?

OMG, yes! I can cross Oprah off my bucket list but I would love to work with so many people! News wise I’d love sit down with Diane Sawyer and just pick her brain as a woman journalist and explore her career. Beauty wise I’d love to sit down with makeup artist Hung Vanngo.  He is someone I always draw inspiration from. And as a fellow mompreneur, I’d love to sit down with a boss like Jessica Alba to just hear how she juggles it all!

What is next for Ami Desai moving forward?

A lot more!! I’m really taking my time as an, “influencer,” to not only create content that my demo wants from me, but also utilizing my followers as a focus group for the next big thing.  I’m working on a product line with my best friend who is a dermatologist to really bring our passion for beauty and skincare to the next level, especially for POC.i/

To follow Ami’s tips and tricks, please visit : amidesai.com
Instagram:@amidesai|| https://www.instagram.com/amidesai/
YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/user/amirawal


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About the Author

Washington State Graduate Past Interviews include Grammy Award Winner Kenny G, David Banner, WNBA President Lisa Borders, What's Trending's CEO Shira Lazar, Ice Cube, NBC's Chicago PD LaRoyce Hawkins, Family Matters Darius McCrary, En Vogues Maxine Jones, Team USA Track & Field Member Norris Frederick, James Kyson, WNBA Great Lauren Jackson, and more.


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