To celebrate Pride 2016, TELUS is highlighting local leaders in the LGBTQA community who exemplify the power of inclusion and elevate the importance of diversity. We are absolutely thrilled to support their #ShareLove campaign and get to speak with Mandy Randhawa, a local business owner who is making the city more awesome by creating safe and inclusive events for the lesbian community via her company, Flygirl Productions.
We talked to Mandy about her philosophy as an entrepreneur, her upbringing in India, the state of acceptance in 2016, and the importance of visibility and becoming your own person. Read the full interview below:
VIA: Could you give us the story behind Flygirl Productions?
Mandy: Flygirl was born out of a desire to offer lesbian entertainment in spaces that were safe, visible and beautiful. Spaces that the individuals and the community would be proud off. We didn’t always have to party in a hall with crackly sound systems. It was ok to be out, proud and loud.
VIA: What did you want to do differently from other promoters in Vancouver?
Mandy: Like so many in the gay community, my family and the culture that I was born in did not accept me. I know the pain of not being loved and accepted unconditionally. I wanted to offer the very thing I never got – a space where absolutely everyone (all sexualities & genders) were welcome to be themselves, be proud, let go, have a good time, make friends and find community.
VIA: What’s your biggest source of inspiration?
Mandy: Sharing and enjoying our authentic lives one dance-floor at a time absolutely inspires and motivates me. For the duration of the party, we are united by the music and lost in the joy of dancing. In those moments, we are not our differences, but enjoying the moment as one people. It is an incredible high!
VIA: Do you have any advice for young entrepreneurs?
Mandy: This will sound like a cliché, but it is absolutely true, first and foremost, spend time finding out what fills your heart. If what gives you most satisfaction and peace of mind isn’t something grandiose or fancy, that’s ok. Only you can define what satisfaction and success mean to you. Write your own definition and live it. Self-awareness is the best tool, even in business. Have integrity, be honest and stay true to your principles
VIA: Do you find the world’s understanding of LGBTQA+ communities is becoming more or less accepting?
Mandy: There are 77 countries in the world where homosexuality is illegal. Even in the USA, there are 14 States that refuse to repeal anti-sodomy laws even though the U.S. Supreme court declared them unconstitutional in 2003. We are incredibly fortunate here! There is no greater pain than hiding your true self and no greater joy than living your true self. Wouldn’t we, as a society want to offer everyone and ourselves the joy of acceptance and freedom? I can’t think of a worthier cause.
VIA: You said in a past interview, “I felt I never belonged in India.” Do you feel a stronger sense of belonging in Canada or Vancouver?
Mandy: Canada is the ONLY home I have and I cherish it deeply. I couldn’t believe that I had permission to just be myself, all of the time. That I could ask questions and speak my mind. That I could love and marry the woman of my choice. That I could walk in a large crowd and not be harassed. That I could have men as friends. What an incredible privilege! There is no conversation around sexuality in India. To this day, I don’t know if there is a word for “gay” in Punjabi or Hindi. Homosexuality is illegal in India and the struggle of LGBTQA+ communities for equal rights is the same around the world.
VIA: You have previously spoken about the tension between your Sikh upbringing and your identity as a gay person. Do you have any advice for people that might be going through something similar? Do you feel conflicting identities such as religion and sexual orientation can co-exist?
Mandy: My different identities are just that, identities. They are parts of the whole and they aren’t a problem. The wholeness of my being comes from the experiences of its parts AND it is independent of the parts. It is much greater than the parts. We are taught to digest the meanings of great texts, but we aren’t taught to find our own meanings in them. Questioning something that doesn’t feel right in your being is a must. It led me to my own experiences of god or spirit. To me, god or spirit is a loving and uniting principle that is in motion. Not one that punishes and divides
VIA: So, bringing it back to where you’re at today, what makes Vancouver awesome to you?
Mandy: The people, the communities and the common love we share for each other and this stunning place!
VIA: You’ve already accomplished so much, but at the end of the day, what’s the main thing you hope to be known for?
Mandy: I hope I am remembered for being a kind hearted, authentic and fun loving person. Someone, whose heart never hardened by the challenges of her life, but blossomed because of them.
Huge thanks to Mandy for taking the time to share her story. Don’t forget to share your images and messages of love and acceptance through the TELUS #ShareLove campaign. Happy Pride!