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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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Women filmmakers shine at the 2019 Indian Film Festival of Los Angeles

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IFFLA staff with the 2019 festival winners

LOS ANGELES (Diya TV) — The 17th annual Indian Film Festival of Los Angeles (IFFLA) concluded Sunday night with the zany slice-of-life film, The Odds, directed by Megha Ramaswamy. Complete with a glamorous closing night red carpet, and an awards ceremony, the festival ended with an after party at the Spice Affair in Beverly Hills.

(From Left to Right) Praveen Morchale, Christina Marouda, Shazia Iqbal, Anand Patwardhan, Nitin Sonawane , Divya Kohli Courtesy: Javeed Sheikh Photography

IFFLA was only four days this year (compared to five days in previous years), but there was still so much to see during that time. In addition to the curated set of films, there was an incredible panel discussion, Breaking in Brown: Making it to Series in TV’s Golden Age, that featured panelists working in various fields in the television industry and their struggles to rise up through the ranks in the Hollywood while being brown.

Panel Discussion Breaking in Brown. Courtesy: Javeed Sheikh Photography

This year’s film lineup boasted five world premieres, two North American premieres, two U.S. premieres and eleven Los Angeles Premieres, with films presented in nine different languages. The overall atmosphere was very relaxed, even with films that tackled difficult subject matters. Roughly fifty percent of the films were directed by women. Filmmakers and staff alike hoped for a future where it will be normal to have women and men equally making films.

Kicking off the awards ceremony, Director of Programming, Mike Dougherty, announced the winner of the Grand Jury Prize for Best Feature, Widow of Silence.

“We present the Grand Jury prize to a film that illuminates a condition that most of the world doesn’t get to see and shines a light on the characters that live through it everyday…This filmmaker’s civic disobedience illustrates their love and compassion for their country and their people, and the craft of their film-making was beautifully wise and refined.”

Director Praveen Morchhale was visibly surprised as he walked up to receive his award. The film he said was about those, “that nobody talks about and nobody treats them as a human.” Even though it was Morchhale’s first time at IFFLA, he felt as if he had been coming here for many years. He credited his win to the women in Kashmir the film portrayed.

The Audience Award for Best Feature went to Reason. Director Anand Patwardhan received a standing ovation when he went to collect his award. Patwardhan said, “most of the time our film is getting thrown out of festivals, I wasn’t expecting this.” He added that it meant a lot for the film to be well received at IFFLA and how that will hopefully impact its reception in India.

Shazia Iqbal’s Bebaak was a crowd favorite winning the Audience Award For Best Short Film. The jury mentioned how she almost gave up on filming because she was getting thrown out of mosques. Iqbal spoke about how when people think of Muslims, they only think of Muslim men and not women, many of whom experience tremendous misogyny. She hopes people will be able to “see beyond what misogyny and religion does to people.” Iqbal added, “a director is nothing without their team.”

“a layered portrait of a woman determined to pursue her needs and impulses,” the Grand Jury awarded their prize for Best Short to The Field from director Sandhya Suri. “the film takes images that normally evoke a sense of fear and flips the narrative on its head redefining a new more empowered world for the female protagonist and exploring an often unseen story of a woman’s drive and agency over her own body and life,” the jury added.

After the awards, Dougherty introduced the closing night film, The Odds by saying the film was the “perfect way to close IFFLA on a celebratory note.”


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Bollywood actress Tabu honored at 2019 IFFLA Opening Night

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Actress Tabassum 'Tabu' being honored before the screening of her film Andhadhun at 2019 IFFLA Opening Night

LOS ANGELES (Diya TV) — The 17th annual Indian Film Festival of Los Angeles (IFFLA) is officially underway, kicking off the festivities last night at the Ahrya Fine Arts Theatre in Beverly Hills with a tribute to the renowned Bollywood actress Tabu.

Actress Tabassum 'Tabu' in conversation before the opening night film Andhadhun at IFFLA
Actress Tabassum ‘Tabu’ in conversation before the opening night film Andhadhun at IFFLA

Christina Marouda, Founder and Executive Director of IFFLA, introduced Tabu’s notable accomplishments. “Her work and personality embody everything that IFFLA is about” Marouda said “being fearless, versatile, independent in spirit, unwilling to compromise, brilliant in the range of her performances, and simply beautiful. With half of the festival’s 2019 line-up directed by female filmmakers, this [year’s IFFLA] couldn’t be a stronger celebration of women in Indian cinema.”

The audience was treated to a moderated interview with Tabu in which she discussed her interest in flawed and immoral characters, as well as how she has enjoyed combining a career of commercial success with one of artistic reinvention.

The interview was followed by a screening of Tabu’s most recent film Andhadhun, directed by Sriram Raghavan and co-starring Ayushmann Khurrana. The black comedy is a triumph of chaos in all the right ways; weaving humor with horrible acts of violence, shifting storylines and ratcheting up the tension. Tabu brings her legendary intensity to every scene, flowing effortlessly from casual and comical to duplicitous and menacing. She is a villain in a story with no true hero, allowing her to flex her most manipulative muscles.

IFFLA is unabashedly confronting diversity in Hollywood, not as a trend, but as a mission. Not only featuring a curated set of film programs designed to support the growing interest in the Indian entertainment industry, but – just as importantly – supporting filmmakers of Indian and South Asian descent in career development and expanding opportunity as they establish themselves in various mainstream Hollywood systems.

This years programming includes Ronny Sen’s directorial debut Cat Sticks, which screened at Slamdance, Ashish Pandey’s Kashmir-set drama Nooreh, which won at Busan, family drama Love Goes Through Your Mind, directed by UCLA alum Ronak Shah and Safdar Rahman’s Chippa. Additional programming also features a TV-centric panel titled ‘Breaking in Brown: Making it to Series in TV’s Golden Age’ featuring the work of South Asian talent in broadcast and streaming.

The 17th annual Indian Film Festival of Los Angeles (IFFLA) is taking place April 11-14, 2019 at Regal L.A. LIVE in downtown Los Angeles. The Opening and Closing Night Galas will be at the Ahrya Fine Arts Theater in Beverly Hills. For tickets and information on programming visit https://www.indianfilmfestival.org

Diya TV is a proud sponsor of the festival

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Study finds Churchill responsible for 1943 Bengal famine, killing more than 3 million Indians

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Priyanka Chopra Jonas new Youtube Show

SAN FRANCISCO (Diya TV) — A new study using soil analysis says Former British Prime Minister Winston Churchill’s policies triggered the 1943 Bengal famine that lead to the deaths of more than 3 million Indians from starvation and disease.

Delta and Korean Airlines apologized to the family of two Indian-American teens who were kicked off a flight on their way to the Philippines because they asked the airline not to serve peanuts around them because of allergies. The teens, who were traveling by themselves, are now back safely with their family.

Dun & Bradstreet, a major player in business data and analytics, named Neeraj Sahai President of Dun & Bradstreet International.

Priyanka Chopra Jonas launched a new series on YouTube called “If I Could Tell You One Thing.” Her first show features Olympian Simone Biles, fashion icon Diane von Furstenburg and comedienne Awkawfina.

And we’ll have a round-up of the some of the best April Fools Day pranks, including one from Ola Cabs, who decided it would be the right day to launch a new line of portable restrooms.

Ravi Kapur & Alejandro Quintana contributed to this report.

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