Creativity is our rocket fuel at LDJ, and we’re especially boosted by women whose work is an authentic extension of their passion, love and light—who transform challenges into golden opportunities and who are redefining what it means to be a “creator.” This article is part of our Conscious Creators series of West Coast wonder women, whose creativity comes from their innate and unadulterated passions, photographed by the legend with a lens, Todd Selby.
Madonna, La La Land, Adele, Kathryn Bigelow. The hyper-talented dancer Reshma Gajjar’s glittering portfolio reads like an all-star who’s who of Hollywood – and that’s before you add her swathe of acting, writing and choreography credits to the list. If you don’t recognise Reshma’s striking ability to flood emotion through her veins from Adele’s internet-shattering video for ‘Oh My God’, then you’ll know her for smiling and skipping her way through the opening scenes of La La Land as the enchanting ingénue in the sunny yellow dress.
Yet Reshma, a first generation American of South Asian descent, almost didn’t become a dancer at all. “I never considered dance as a career because I never saw anybody that looked like me doing it,” she says from her home in Los Angeles. “I’d see movies and I’d see TV shows and I’d see musicals and I’d see concerts and I’d see all these dancers, but I never saw anyone like me. So I assumed it was a profession that was not made for me.”
Thankfully, her talent is so blinding (hand-picked by Madonna for her Confessions and Re-Invention world tours, thank you very much) the universe has been forced to catch up.
Reshma grew up dancing. Her mother, newly settled in America, was keen to enrol her in Bharatanatyam, a classical Indian dance. When she couldn’t find any teachers, she signed Reshma up for ballet, tap, jazz and gymnastics. A flame was instantly set alight. “I just loved it,” Reshma reminisces. “[Dance] was my best friend, my first love, my therapist, my first expression of self. It was how I connected with myself. Emotionally it was my outlet.” The creativity and self expression that dance offered became an antidote of sorts to a home life that Reshma describes as “conservative”. “I was not really allowed to have a lot of social engagements. It was like you had to be productive. So I had to get really creative on ways to spend time with people.”
“I’m going to show up to all the castings, whether it’s for a model, actor, dancer – whatever. People need to see that people like me exist and it’s normal. We are everyday life.”
What home also instilled was a sense of spiritual intrigue. “My Mom is very spiritual, my Dad as well, but they were never religious, so I always had this really nice sweet spot where my parents were not forcing anything on me.” A desire to drop seeking validation on the outside and to find out who she is spirituality – as Reshma puts it, “to go in” – sparked an interest in meditation, of which she has become a diligent disciple for over 10 years. “I still feel like a child in this practice. I don’t feel like someone who is enlightened and at bliss with myself all the time. I have had moments of feeling it, sporadically, randomly, not even consistently. But I know it exists. I’m trying to practise getting closer and closer to that thing, which is just the truth, who you are. Not getting caught up in the worldly stuff, but also enjoying it while you are here.”
Being in the present moment is a stretch for anyone – let alone a spirited multihyphenate. Reshma’s ability to translate movement into storytelling, emotion into action, has led her career, via writing a script with her husband, most recently to acting. “I think it’s so fascinating to see how the body keeps evolving and how it tells stories through the ages,” Reshma says. “I’m not in my prime, I can’t do the things I could do when I was in my early twenties. But this body can still tell stories, it will just look different.”
Challenging difference is exactly what Reshma has spent her career thus far doing, and she doesn’t intend to stop now. “Representation matters and I am going to keep showing up in the room. You don’t know when your time is going to happen. It’s so nebulous, nothing makes sense, there’s no formula, there’s no path, you just have to stick around. So I’m sticking around. I’m going to be here. I’m going to show up to all the castings, whether it’s for a model, actor, dancer – whatever. I am seen. People need to see that people like me exist and it’s normal. We are everyday life.”
Our heart-felt love and gratitude to Reshma Gajjar and Todd Selby.