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Avan Jogia: Creative, in every sense of the word

By:
Jeevan Sangha (@jeevanksangha)

Many of us remember Avan Jogia as our childhood crush Beck Oliver from the Nickelodeon show Victorious, but that was only the beginning for the multi-medium artist he’s blossomed into since then. 

Among many things, Avan Jogia is an actor, poet, musician, activist and above all -- a creative. 

2019 was a busy year for Jogia. As an actor, his roles included starring in the Starz show Now Apocalypse; starring alongside Woody Harrelson in Zombieland: Double Tap, and in Kenya Barris’ Shaft

In an interview for BUILD Series, Jogia discusses the space he occupies as a mixed-race person in Hollywood.

As an actor, Jogia explains how he is constantly affronted by his race, and repeatedly urged to define it in order to justify him playing a certain role in a movie or show — an affliction that he says has been prevalent through the course of his life.

Last year marked the release of Jogia’s debut book, Mixed Feelings, where he describes his relationship to his mixed-race and multinational identity. Jogia was born to an English-Gujurati father and an English-Irish mother in Vancouver, where he grew up alongside his brother Ketan.  

The book, which is a collection of drawings, poems and stories describes his experiences growing up as a mixed person in a world that seems to be becoming increasingly polarized by race, gender, sexuality, religion politics, and as he puts it,  “anything anyone can use as a vehicle of division.” 

In this work, Jogia dives into what being mixed-race means to him, and how this has polarized him in many spaces due to societal inclinations to compartmentalize and impose labels upon others. 

Jogia speaks at length about the experience of existing between brown and white spaces. Jogia talks about what it’s like to have increased access to white spaces, but also not being a white person either. This becomes evident in places where white people make racist remarks and comments around him, without realizing he’s Indian.

Moreover, Jogia suggests he doesn’t visually fit Western society’s perception of an Indian person: “because they have a monolith version of what Indian people are supposed to look and act like.” 

Mixed Feelings, then, is an exploration of this in-between place -- one that is not fragmentary but rather complex and fulsome. An experience that is a storm in and of itself. 

“I’m two, made into one. I’m proof that borders are just imaginary lines made to separate people. I’m anarchy, in my own way, rebellion against the norm.”

 This book is also a love letter to his ancestors, to recognize the people he came from and all the things they endured, and many countries they travelled through before he was born in Vancouver. 

Dispersed throughout the book are pictures from his childhood and pictures of his parents and grandparents in many stages of their life. Jogia merges his words with the images of his past, in what he describes as “an experience of my personal identity, in public.”

 As an exploration of the mixed experience, Mixed Feelings extends beyond the life of Avan himself. The book also features stories of many other mixed people from various backgrounds, who describe their personal histories and their journeys from ambivalence towards, to acceptance of, their respective identities.

“I wanted to really figure out if there was a community around mixedness: do we all have similar stories, and if we have similar stories, does that mean that we have a culture all to ourselves?  I’ve found that is the case and I have a feeling of belonging which is what the book’s supposed to do for the people as well.”

Through hearing and telling others’ stories, Jogia found a community of mixed-race people who understood the specific storm of emotions that are inherent to  existing in a world that seems increasingly fixed on reductive labels and classification.  

Avan and his brother Ketan also make up the band Saint Ivory, who released a genre-bending album, also entitled Mixed Feelings earlier this year. The album slips in and out of eclectic cadences and features Jogia’s poetry over bright electronic harmonies and hypnotic synths.  

Avan Jogia boasts a multidisciplinary career, one that exemplifies his rejection of compartmentalization that attempts to limit and hinder his creativity. In an interview for 1883 Magazine, Jogia describes his creative process as something fluid and instinctual.

“I just try to concentrate on what moves me in the moment, and sort of avoid conversations about, am I an actor, am I a director, am I a musician, am I an author. I think just making stuff, whether that’s a movie or a book or performing in a play, whatever it is.”

Avan Jogia leads with his intuition, building off chaos and creating expansive work that speaks to him at any given time. Depending on the core emotions he wishes to convey, he seeks out the best-fitting medium to have it flow through. 

In his defiance of uniformity and limitation, Avan Jogia has created a body of work that extends beyond genres, mediums and classifications. He has shown that creativity does not need to be controlled and managed, but rather nurtured and liberated.

And lucky for us, he’s just getting started.

The 5X Mainstage is just days away, featuring Avan Jogia, ALOK, Nav Banga (Browngirllifts), Sangtar, Sandy Lion, KayRay, Pallavi Sharda, BFunk, and special guests sharing some real talk about their journeys, about their creative expression, and about how they got there.

Have you ever wanted to know what it takes to level up in your creative field? We got to pick the brains of these incredible headliners, to bring you knowledge, real experience, and inspiration. 

Register for the Mainstage here

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