“BIPOC women running a whole cannabis cartel? Of course I’d be down.”
The song by sisters Contra and Eboshi, and produced by Dom Dias, is an anthem for celebrating cannabis consumption and the ability for BIPOC women to own and be accepted into that space, free of stigma.
The song’s artwork features Guruparan pictured with a money phone to her ear and a spliff in her other hand, setting up the tone before you’ve even heard the track or seen the video.
The video includes diverse Toronto-based creatives, and celebrates women openly engaging with weed.
Selling, packaging, rolling, smoking -- they’ve got it all wrapped up into one beautiful, empowering video.
The 26-year-old Tamil-Canadian model and content creator is no stranger to the cannabis lifestyle, and through her own experience, has become an advocate.
It’s one of the reasons why Cartel Madras chose to make Guruparan the cover girl of the video.
“I only started smoking when I was 20 or 21. It helped get through a rough time in my life, and since has helped me maintain my mental health balance and anxiety,” said Guruparan in an interview with 5X Press.
However, beyond her own journey with cannabis, Guruparan’s advocacy stretches further, as she speaks up for those who are still incarcerated for selling or consuming cannabis, even though it’s currently legal in Canada.
She hopes to also challenge the negative stereotypes and views around cannabis that commonly come from the South Asian community.
“It comes from South Asia and has deep roots in our culture, but was erased through colonization,” she adds.
While her advocacy is one aspect of her identity, Guruparan is also passionate about carving out her own space in the scene of Toronto-based influencers and models.
She started posting content within the last few years, but noticed a lot of traction on her page in 2018, and even started her own YouTube channel in 2019.
From creating her own photoshoots, to establishing a strong social media presence, she’s been steadily finding ways to build her empire.
To date, she’s also been featured in two Sephora campaigns, one of them including a collaboration with her mom for mother’s day.
But she says it hasn’t always been an easy path.
Guruparan says she remembers a time when she was much more shy.
“It took a long time to get here,” she says.
“I’m kind of sad at myself that I didn’t have this confidence before, but everything is a journey and I guess everybody comes out of their shells at different times.”
Guruparan says one of the major issues holding her back was not seeing enough representation of dark skin bodies growing up.
She says she felt a lack of space for people who looked more like her.
“I mean, growing up as a Tamil woman, seeing Brown and Black representation was already kind of hard to find in the media unless you’re watching specific channels like BET or MTV and even Much Music sometimes,” she added.
Tamil representation is often lacking from mainstream culture, and even in a lot of Desi spaces. It’s one reason Guruparan has struggled with being considered South Asian, a sphere that continuously prioritizes North Indian culture or light skin bodies.
“Seeing how South Asians treat South Asians is very agitating and that’s why I’m trying to change that as well,” says Guruparan.
But she says the representation of dark skin bodies is also lacking in the Tamil media, including in film.
“You’re not seeing any Tamil bodies anywhere, and not just that, dark skin bodies in general were a huge piece that was missing growing up and honestly still is. I think that already took a toll on my self-esteem which is why I was so shy,” she says.
“I was obsessed with media, but for some reason couldn’t see myself in front of the camera.”
She set forth to create her own space and decided to start doing the work herself, oftentimes as a one-woman show.
“I’m setting up the camera, making sure my makeup is on point, and I’m my own stylist, editor, producer and social media manager, so it’s like a whole thing,” she says.
It’s one thing her 22-year-old sister and frequent collaborator Abiesha Guruparan looks up to.
The two run the Instagram account @twindripxx showcasing their joint creative ventures.
“She’s working her ass off and it’s really inspiring to see,” says Abiesha, who is a content creator on a part-time basis as she completes her post-grad certificate.
She says she respects Sharan’s work ethic, something she’s paid attention to when she tags along with her sister during her modelling shoots.
“She definitely makes me a more confident person,” she adds.
Guruparan also loves connecting with other creatives. She knows collaborating with others can produce some of her best work.
It’s one of the reasons she was so excited to get accepted into the BIPOC leadership and entrepreneurial development initiative with Black Hxouse, a creative incubator started by Toronto’s The Weeknd and some of his associates.
The program, which began in October of 2020 for eight consecutive weekends, was taught online due to COVID-19 restrictions. Nonetheless, she said it was a great way to connect with so many unique creatives.
“We were all able to bounce ideas off each other in so many different ways and everybody was on the same page on how to make more inclusive representation while also getting paid as marginalized people.”
Matters of inclusivity are always something that Guruparan is going to hold close to her heart. While she feels annoyed that it took so long to get any recognition for dark skin bodies, she says she is happy to see it even in a smaller capacity.
“I think just having this kind of platform now and just not seeing only me but seeing so many other dark skin bodies out there doing the same kind of thing on social media kind of like take up space, it really does feel amazing. And even though its not on a wider scale or a larger scale, at least it’s something,”
While she works at creating representation she’s also doing so by pushing the boundaries on what’s commonly viewed as acceptable in Tamil and other South Asian communities.
She knows some people in the community get offended because of how comfortable she is with her body and her overall confidence.
She says she doesn’t want to restrict herself from modelling opportunities just because some people have an opinion about it.
“That’s really just their problem,” she says.
Right now, Guruparan is working on trying to get the attention of one of her favourite brands, SavagexFenty. To promote herself, she took to the “Buss it challenge,” transitioning in the second half to SavagexFenty lingerie.
Even though the video exudes nothing but a bad b*tch attitude, Guruparan admits she was incredibly nervous for negative responses.
“Sometimes I have to remind myself that people already talk sh*t about me anyway so who cares? It’s like what am I so afraid of that they’re gonna be like ‘oh there’s the girl that shows her ass?’ People already say that about me anyways so I just don’t care.”
Rather than worry about the negative comments, she finds happiness in hearing encouragement from other Tamil women.
“One comment that I get that’s really sweet is ‘I wish you were around my time of growing up’ or ‘I wish you were around when I was 20-something,’ and I’m like ugh that’s so nice hearing from somebody who’s older -- not that age really means much but it’s very interesting to hear, because I’m concerned that they’re usually gonna have something negative to say about it but really they just wish they had that kind of representation too.”
For Guruparan, pushing the boundaries is a lot more rewarding when she sees the impact it has on those around her. It’s no wonder that she teamed up with Cartel Madras. With hopes to erase stigmas and empower women in their respective spaces, it was a perfect fit.
About the author: Monika Sidhu is a freelance multimedia journalist based out of Brampton,ON. She loves covering all things arts and culture and enjoys telling untold stories coming out of her community. Monika recently graduated from Western University receiving a Master’s of Media in Journalism and Communication. In her off-time, you can find her discovering new music, spending time with her dogs or hiding the fact that she is binging reality tv shows.