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Ready for dolls that are Diverse, Ambitious and Feminist? This Harvard grad says, its about time!

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Screen Shot 2016-03-24 at 1.41.52 PMSTATEN ISLAND (Diya TV) — Neha Chauhan Woodward, an Indian-American Staten Island native, created a startup toy company with a specific vision: Create dolls that more accurately reflect the modern girl.

Woodward, 29, said she came up with the idea while she was a Stanford MBA student — a degree she pursued after a brief career as an investment banking analyst at JP Morgan and completing her undergraduate studies in economics at Harvard. She recalled playing with barbies growing up, dolls which accessorized hairbrushes to match the dolls shoes, and rode around in a bright pink Jeep.

She and her friends fancied themselves as ambitious professionals from a very young age, and these dolls didn’t reflect how they viewed themselves when growing up, she said.Screen Shot 2016-03-24 at 1.40.55 PM

“The toys I played with had such an impact on me, but they weren’t a great reflection of me or my friends, who were so smart and so diverse in their interests and backgrounds. I knew we needed to do better.”

She drew inspiration for her company, Willowbrook Girls, after remembering a doll store that neighbored a coffee shop she frequented during college. This store, she said, embodied and embraced the same message in their dolls that she and her friends called into question so many years ago.

“Next door to the coffee shop I studied in was a very popular doll store,” she said. “The emphasis on appearances, with these doll hair salons and doll tea parties that parents were expected to bring their kids to really upset me. If anything, this company had a huge opportunity to empower girls.”

Woodward spent years working in e-commerce, logging tenure with sites such as Blue Apron and Diapers.com, and decided to use her tech market savvy to form the concept for Willowbrook Girls. Her company currently produces seven dolls, each reflective and complete with a story series that is based off the similarly ambitious childhood friends she grew up with on Willowbrook Road. When fully funded, each doll will have a corresponding book about their endeavors. The first book will be about the Willowbrook Girls starting a business at their school, she said.

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Growing up Indian-American, Woodward made paramount the issue of diversity in her dolls — she’s all too familiar with the diversity her dolls were lacking while growing up, and it hasn’t gone unnoticed by people of color, she said.

“A lot of girls I spoke to said that they wanted dolls that looked like them,” she said. “They wanted characters that were relatable. You have to see something to know that you can be it.”

Though Willowbrook Girls aren’t for sale yet, Woodward said she is nearing the completion of her Kickstarter Campaign, in an effort to raise money for the first doll, Cara, a half-Latina with brown eyes and long blond hair, who is an entrepreneur and is always coming up with new company ideas. She’s crafty, curious, opinionated and sharp. After Cara becomes available for sale, Woodward hopes to use the proceeds to begin bringing other dolls to the market.

“I’ve always had a very entrepreneurial spirit, and this was a mission that I cared about,” she said. “This was the right time to do it, and it’s something that I really wanted to see happen.”

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Indian American Illustrator Nidhi Chanani Premieres Pashmina

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Nidhi Chanani
Nidhi Chanani

Indian American illustrator Nidhi Chanani has released her first graphic novel Pashmina.

SAN FRANCISCO (Diya TV) — Indian American illustrator Nidhi Chanani has released her first graphic novel Pashmina.

Pashmina was partially inspired by Chanani’s childhood. Both she and her main character Priyanka “love samosas and drawing comics.”

In the graphic novel, Priyanka’s family and friends encourage her artistic pursuits. Chanani says “I can only speak from my own experience but I wasn’t encouraged towards art. Most

often I heard about engineering, accounting, law and medicine as viable career tracks. In Pashmina I chose to show a community we can strive towards rather than one steeped in old values and ideals. And yes I hope that Pashmina will inspire young artists to pursue different tracks. I also hope that parents will see the book as an example of how being an artist is also a viable career,” she said in a ComicsBeat.com article.

The creator of Every Day Love, a “whimsical” look into the life of immigrant children, the digital illustrator was given the Champion of Change award by the White House in 2012.

She uses digital media applications, such as Flash and Photoshop, as well as wood burning and watercolor in creating her art.

According to her website bio, she “creates because it makes her happy – with the hope that it can make others happy, too.”

Here is a brief animated preview of the release: https://everydayloveart.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/10/pashmina_promo_fullvideo.mp4?_=1

Pashmina was released by First Second Publishing on Oct. 3 and premieres at the New York Comic Con this week. A number of tour stops are scheduled for Chanani.

Chanani is a freelance illustrator, cartoonist and writer. She recently illustrated Misty – The Proud Cloud, a children’s book by Hugh Howey and is an instructor in the Master of Fine Arts, Comics program at the California College of Arts.

Chanani has appeared on CNN’s Anderson Cooper 360 and BBC Radio. Her work has been featured on the Huffington Post, the Women’s March, My Modern Met, Bored Panda and India Times.She has worked with Disney, ABC, Airbnb, Sony, Microsoft, State Farm Insurance and a variety of other clients. Her non-fiction comics have appeared in the Nib. Everyday Love Art products are sold across the country, including the San Francisco International Airport, Books Inc., and Therapy stores.

She was born in Calcutta, India and raised in southern California. She holds a degree in Literature from the University of California, Santa Cruz.

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Pixar Partners with Khan Academy to launch online storytelling course

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SAN FRANCISCO (Diya TV) — Pixar Animation Studios is partnering with Khan Academy to launch the first of six free online lessons covering the art of storytelling, the course is taught by Pete Docter, Mark Andrews, and other filmmakers from the renowned Disney-owned studio.

The new series includes Pete Docter, director of “Inside Out,” “Up” and “Monsters, Inc.”; Mark Andrews, director and screenwriter of “Brave” and story supervisor on “The Incredibles”; Sanjay Patel, director of “Sanjay’s Super Team” and animator on “Ratatouille,” “Cars” and “Monsters, Inc.”; and Domee Shi, story artist on “Inside Out.”

The rest of the “Art of Storytelling” lessons will roll out through the rest of the year. The internet classes include videos, exercises and hands-on activities to guide them from an initial idea to a final storyboard.

The first of the storytelling lessons is available now at PixarInABox.org.

It’s the third season of “Pixar in a Box” on Khan Academy, which first launched on the site in 2015. Past lessons from the studio have covered simulation, color science, virtual cameras, character modeling and rendering. Disney funds the Pixar collaboration with Khan Academy.

Information from Variety contributed to this report. 

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Anish Kapoor Awarded Prestigious $1M Genesis Prize

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SAN FRANCISCO (Diya TV) — The Genesis Prize Foundation announced this week that Anish Kapoor, the Turner Prize-winning artist, has been named its laureate for 2017. The annual prize recognizes an individual who has made significant contributions to Jewish politics and culture, it comes with a $1 million cash prize.

Kapoor, whose mother is Jewish, has produced several major public works, the most recognizable of them being the bean-shaped Cloud Gate sculpture in Chicago’s Millennium Park. He also designed the Holocaust Memorial at London’s Liberal Jewish Synagogue. In 2015, for the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz, he designed a series of Holocaust remembrance candles.

Occasionally, Kapoor’s passions have spewed over into the world of politics. Kapoor said he will put the money from the Genesis Prize towards helping the Syrian refugee crisis, which has displaced an estimated 12.5 million people. No specific details have been announced, but Kapoor said he will make a much more elaborate presentation in June.

“The profound impact of Anish’s work continues a long history of Jewish contribution to the arts, while his social activism reaffirms the commitment of the Jewish people to humanitarian causes,” the Genesis Prize Foundation’s chairman and cofounder, Stan Polovets, said in a statement. “We particularly admire how, in an age frequently characterized by cynicism and indifference, Anish continually advocates for the world’s disadvantaged—challenging all of us to do more to help wherever and whenever we can.”

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