People Who Inspire Us: Joya Dass

This month (January), we are launching the “People who Inspire Us” series through which we will interview and profile people who amaze, move and inspire us in our work.We begin with a leading South Asian woman in media, journalism and NYC’s social scene  – Joya Dass. TV Anchor, Filmmaker and organizer of the women’s group LadyDrinks.

We chatted with Joya to ask her how she balances her strengths and vulnerabilities, how her experiences as a secondary survivor of domestic violence has impacted her choices, and what message she has for women.

“One of my strengths is my laser sharp focus; It’s something I’ve honed as a TV news anchor. While reporting from the stock exchange floor, I’ve developed the innate ability to block all the noise and bustle around me to focus on the camera — and the camera only.  The little thing nobody ever tells you about show business:  ‘You always have to bat a thousand.’  Whether I’m tired, ill or suffering from heartbreak — all of that has to take a back seat in my brain when the camera comes on. It’s not allowed to surface for those three minutes.”   

In her recent TEDx talk, Rethinking Failure, Joya shares her story of challenge after challenge.  She shares with us some deeply personal experiences about living with and escaping abuse.
“I grew up in a household where my father would physically assault my mother in front of the kids. I counted the days till I was out of the house.  At the tender age of 11, I didn’t know much, but I knew ‘Anything had to be better than this.’ Gaining that freedom eventually, without my parents backing was really hard. But worth it.”
Joya shares some thoughts on moving forward by supporting herself and others.

“I am single and still searching for that special someone to spend my life with. In the interim, My father and I haven’t spoken since 1999. My mother and I have a touch-and-go relationship. My brother has been incarcerated in federal prison for the last ten years. Admittedly, I walk around with a  gap in my heart, wondering what it would be like to have a supportive family enveloping me. Experts say the best way to alleviate pain is to help others. I channel some of that pain into doing good for others.

I co-founded LadyDrinks about a year and a half ago. Monthly, I host events for women in business. I don’t believe women build best practices and realize synergies in one meeting. It takes several. So I work hard each month to make each event special and unique. For example, January LadyDrinks was a poker night where women learned important negotiation and strategy skills — but through the game of POKER! February LadyDrinks will be focused on pampering and wellness. We as busy businesswomen tend to put ourselves last. It’s so important to take care of ourselves. It affects the way we SHOW UP for all the other roles we play — mothers, daughters, wives.”

Joya reflects on what she gained in her personal experience with Sakhi.

“Years ago, I emceed a Sakhi Gala at Chelsea Piers.  Through the process, I got  valuable counseling to integrate the trauma of DV into my story.” I also tried to get my mother some help.   I’ve learned that counseling women like her and getting them outside their comfort zones is sometimes the biggest hurdle.   Sakhi has created a ‘safe space,’ populated by folks who understand the hurdles a South Asian woman faces and knows the subtle nuances of her culture.  For that I value what the organization does.”

We invite you to come and meet Joya as she emcees our 25th anniversary celebration on May 15th, 2014 at Tribeca 360.

Our series continues here and on Twitter. Tweet @SakhiNYC with #InspiringSakhi and tell us who is a source of inspiration and action in your life.