Founder, President, CEO, Brand Ambassador: ANOKHI MEDIA
Founder, Creator: The ANOKHI List, The ANOKHI Awards, The ANOKHI PRESTIGE Experience
Founder, President, CEO, Consultant, Coach, Speaker, Media Personality: OPEN CHEST
“This Is My Beauty” Event Host
“I created The ANOKHI PRESTIGE Experience (T.A.P.E.) to bring together like-minded people to IDENTIFY, EXPLORE, LEARN, SHARE lifestyle-based themes, with the aim of curating an incubator type environment to assist our members in creating their greatest and most rewarding life. I’m so excited for the launch of the inaugural event this Spring on Sunday April 30th, called “This Is My Beauty” which will be showcasing 360 degrees of beauty – glamour, self-image, pop culture perspectives, empowerment. We have an incredible line up of speakers and performers, each hand-picked for their expertise, life journey, and shear inner and outer beauty. I look forward to seeing everyone come out and join in the TAPE movement because together, we will shift, elevate, give back, and pay it forward.”
Raj Girn is a multi-award winning entrepreneur and brand strategist, who is widely recognized as the premier expert in niche media and target marketing for and to, the South Asian diaspora in North America. Having worked with a vast array of multinational corporations as well as personal brands in the fashion, beauty, lifestyle, and entertainment spaces over the past fifteen years, she has developed an enviable reputation as being one of the most innovative niche branding experts within this arena. Additionally, she is an acclaimed, award-winning media personality who has amassed an immense portfolio of in-depth interviews with some of today’s most prolific A-list celebrities from around the world; personalities like Priyanka Chopra, Kim Kardashian, and many more.
Amongst her many accolades include: Winner of the 14th International Women’s Day Achiever Award (presented by PCHS, Toronto, ON – 2016); winner of the Inspirational Achiever Award (presented by Roshni Media, New York, NY – 2015); and winner of the ICCC Female Entrepreneur of the Year Award (presented by PricewaterhouseCoopers, Toronto, ON – 2013). She has also been featured in two coffee table books and a feature length documentary, and is often called upon for her expertise on the diaspora and her global knowledge in media, marketing, and entertainment.
Raj attributes her ability to produce mass and fast results for her clients to a three-pronged approach: meticulous due diligence and planning, where she doesn’t rest until she has mastered a workable formula; an extensive team of internal and external experts to successfully execute the plan; a substantial rolodex of diverse, global connections to pool from, as and when needed.
British-born and of Indian heritage, Raj has lived across continents in places like England, India, and Wales (in that order), and currently resides in Toronto, Canada. As a single, working parent, she has successfully juggled the work-life challenge by raising a son who is currently a nineteen-year-old university student, as well as developing two successful niche brands, both founded in 2002, and both of which have seen a continual upward trajectory of success ever since.
ANOKHI MEDIA – a highly targeted multimedia, multiplatform brand that has developed and incorporates media production, events, e-marketing, and social communities to target the South Asian community as a B2B and B2C business. She has spear-headed many successful campaigns that have brought together, A-list celebrities, multinational corporations, media, and the public; the most successful to date being the company’s 14th annual awards show this past August 2016, which brought in over 3.1 billion documented media impressions from around the world.
OPEN CHEST WITH RAJ GIRN – a boutique media, consulting, and coaching business, where she personally cultivates the corporate culture of brands that are looking to get to that next crucial level. Raj’s approach includes aligning organizational, personnel, and marketing efforts to position her clients’ enterprises to best capitalize on reaching their target goals. She takes on a maximum of 11 clients per calendar year under this umbrella, so as to ensure to provide optimal as well as personalized service at all times.
Since inception, both marques have provided significant contributions to the pioneering efforts and forward movement of the South Asian pop culture scene within the diaspora, to which Raj credits her involvement in part to her personal growth barometer which has continued to develop through the many life lessons she has been exposed to over the years.
Raj was born in Leicester, England in 1970 as Rajwant Bhondy. Her earliest memory is of being woken up in the middle of the night by screams from a family member who she witnessed being beaten. If asked, she says she can still see the haunting face of the woman who looked up at her crying as she told her to go back to sleep. This experience was to set the trajectory of most of her childhood and teenage years as she struggled with her own self-image. Raj was an extremely shy girl growing up, who spent much of her pre-teen years witnessing and being the brunt of incessant social bullying due to her ethnic background. Although this was the norm at that time, it took a deep toll on her because she had to face it daily from teachers and classmates alike, and it added heavily on to her perspective of self-worth. Coupled with the constant moving due to her parent’s entrepreneurial lifestyle, Raj felt a perpetual sense of displacement which contributed heavily to her inability to maintain meaningful friendships.
This followed her throughout her teenage years which led to a crushing state of emotional solitude and resultant depression, where she would fantasize about being anyone but who she was. Her teens brought with them an added layer of challenge, where she was perpetually torn between her need to please her parents and their way of life, and her desire to fulfill her personal yearning to pursue the arts, a career which the culture (and in turn her parents) frowned upon, considering it to be a “low class” expression of life. Raj fought continuously with her self-image at the crossroads of two conflicting cultures, where one (Indian) taught her how to follow pre-determined rules (collectivism) and the other (English) encouraged her to make her own rules (individualism).
To offset the raging internal war, she poured herself into amateur comedy improve (unbeknownst to her parents) and song writing (where she would record Indi-fusion songs in a self-build studio in her bedroom), as an outlet to relieve the pain of her circumstance. At the age of seventeen, she was approached by Indipop Records (co-owned by 80’s Indipop sensation, Sheila Chandra) to record a song for a new compilation of fusion artists they were launching. But Raj cowered at the thought of having to record in a studio environment in front of professionals, because she never felt that her musical talent was good enough for public consumption, despite Sheila’s encouragement of her unique style of music. As such, Raj forwent the opportunity.
During her latter teenage years, she was trained in the family catering business, where she began as a waitress and eventually ran the business when her parents would go on sabbaticals. This was her first taste of entrepreneurial responsibility.
To amplify her internal struggle, Raj was coerced into an arranged marriage (like her sister before her) at the age of twenty-two, which displaced her to Canada in 1992, a country she had never-before visited, and to a man she had only met three times before she was promised to him in marriage. Suffice to say, her first few years in Canada proved to be very difficult because not only did she not know anyone before arriving, but she had to deal with getting to know the man who lay beside her every night, as she fought to manifest her secret desires to belong to something greater than what the marriage had to offer. During the marriage, Raj sought an associate’s degree in dental hygiene (where she graduated with distinction and was awarded the Warner Lambert Award in Dental Hygiene in 1999), to assist her husband in starting their own dental practice (her husband was a dentist). Together, they built a successful business and raised their son during his infant years. Raj was responsible for the branding, marketing, and client experience at the practice, which became her first foray into brand building and the psychology of the client experience.
Eight years into the marriage with a three-year-old son in tow, Raj finally sought the courage to break free and filed for divorce in 2000; not because of her husband’s failings, but because of her courage to finally seek to find herself. After two years of soul searching, she began her media career after a chance meeting with a media executive who introduced her to the ideology behind media as a platform to voice opinions. This led her to taking some continuing education courses which in turn, coupled with her previous portfolio of skills acquired from the family and marriage businesses respectively, she proceeded to found her two brands in 2002. When asked why she decided to start her own media enterprises instead of working for others to learn the ropes, she said it was because she didn’t think that she was good enough to be hired for pay by other media companies so she decided to start her own, initially just as an outlet for expression. Moreover, she wanted to create a platform that spoke to and for the community that she had struggled all her life to live in, with the hopes of providing misfits like herself with an inclusive, different, and unique (anokhi) environment to voice their identity as South Asians within the diaspora. Little did she know that this lack of confidence (which followed her throughout her life), that pushed her to form her own companies would lead her to creating brands that would impact an entire generation of confused, displaced, dual identity South Asians like herself.
Over the years, Raj has been a strong advocate for supporting numerous causes through her companies and personally as well. These have included: Doctor’s Without Borders, the Heart & Stroke Foundation, Canfar, and the Aga Khan Foundation.
Raj has finally come to know, accept, and celebrate the fact that she is a self-made, empowered woman who has immense value to add to her own life as well as to others. She continues in her pursuit of learning and teaching; forever the student, forever the guru.
Agnes Kiesz, Pure Studios