Malavika Kannan is a 17-year-old rising senior, writer, and activist from Orlando who founded The Homegirl Project: a girl-led movement dedicated to empowering women of colour. Emma Barnes interviewed her about the project. This is her story.
Who helps manage and operate The Homegirl Project?
‘I founded The Homegirl Project with the support of three incredible women — Zyva Sheikh and Aishwarya Babuji, who are brilliant writers and serve as our Features Editor and Outreach Managers respectively, and Manaal Sheikh, our crazy-talented Visual Director. The four of us form the core management team, but I’m also fortunate to work with a team of over 20 writers from more than 10 countries. Together, we form The Homegirl Project!’
What inspired you to start The Homegirl Project?
‘Growing up, there were very few Women Of Colour (WOC) role models for me to look up to—not because WOC aren’t talented or accomplished, but because our talents and accomplishments are often not recognized and nurtured for future growth. It’s a sad reality that women of colour don’t always get the hype, support, and inspiration that we deserve. I founded The Homegirl Project because I wanted to create a positive space for young WOC to see themselves in positions of success—essentially, to know that they’re not alone, and that their dreams are valid.’
What does The Homegirl Project strive to achieve?
‘There are many things I intend to accomplish with THP. Firstly, I recognize that you can’t be what you can’t see. Therefore, by sharing the stories of inspiring WOC, I hope that we inspire our readers to reach for the stars. Secondly, I want to create a positive space for WOC to be celebrated, even if their stories aren’t generally told. That’s why we try to interview “unsung heroes” wherever possible—women who don’t usually have the luxury of limelight. Thirdly, I hope to foster a network of empowered Homegirls by connecting aspiring writers with inspiring women, and giving them a platform to publish their work.’
What are some of the lessons you feel women can learn from the stories shared by other women on your platform?
‘I love this question! Every Homegirl’s story is different, and every reader will take away a different message. But I’ll share what I’ve learned from my interviewees. I’ve learned that women who support other women are forces to be reckoned with. I’ve learned that it takes immense courage to be a trailblazer, and successful WOC have to overcome a LOT. Regardless, I believe that there’s much to be gained by being fearless. Because when we overcome barriers, we’re also paving the path for future generations. We’re taking one for our team. I can’t think of anything nobler.’
Lastly, what are some of your favourite stories shared on The Homegirl Project and why are they your favourite?
‘Every story has touched me in different ways, but two interviews stand out to me in particular. The first interview I ever conducted was with Stephanie Kersten, who is a dancer, fellow Orlando resident, and survivor of the Pulse shooting. The stories she told me were so powerful and touching, I cried. I was incredibly honored that she had shared something so personal, so sacred, with me, and I knew I had to do it justice. It took me three hours to write that story. That’s the interview that convinced me that storytelling is a massive tool of empowerment. The other interview that touched me was with Shanzey Afzal, a badass tattoo artist who started a women-only parlor in NYC. I saw myself in her in many ways, and I was inspired by her willingness to break barriers and smash conventionality in the pursuit of what she loves. I aspire to have that kind of courage one day.’
Images from @homegirlproject
You can find their website here: thehomegirlproject.com/homegirls