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DIJI SHUJAHI: LEVELING UP TO BE THE BEST

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A proud mother to two girls, Diji Shujahi is the Managing Partner of an International Events and Media company: Pinnaclemena Events Corporation. Brought up in Abu Dhabi – UAE, with exposure to a multi-cultural and colorful life, Diji had the fortune of growing up in a talented family who encouraged her to stand on stage and find her voice. With a vast experience in public relations, marketing, media, public speaking and hosting, Diji has been in the media scene for the past 18 years.

In her interview with Storiyaan, Diji shares her experience of hosting various acclaimed shows, difficulties she had while rising up in a patriarchal society and about her recently published book “Leveling Up: During a Pandemic”. Have a look at this interview to know about the world of media and much more.

Interview

Questions and answers

You host the acclaimed show "Women of Arabia" which requires adept communicative and public-speaking skills. Did you inculcate them over time or are they something innate in you?

Communication and public speaking is something that keeps getting better with practice. I have been on stage from the age of 13 and over the course of time, I have had the opportunity to perfect my craft better and I believe that we never stop learning. Whenever I find someone who inspires me, and if I find they have a course that interests me, I will take it.

Could you tell us about your first experience performing in front of the camera and what changes it brought out in you?

I was 15 when I did my first show. At that age, I was filled with wonder and joy in front of the camera. I have already had a couple of experiences being on stage by then and therefore speaking came naturally to me. However there is a lot of difference between the two. When there is a camera in front of you, presentation matters a lot. On TV, you mostly have the opportunity to retake but it is not like that on stage. Authenticity is of utmost importance to connect with the audience.

In your initial days of entering the industry, what were the challenges that came your way and how did you deal with them?

Being a woman in a very male-dominated industry isn’t easy. I have been very blessed to be in UAE for the larger part of my career as women are safe here. But the point is that you are often taken for granted because you are a woman. I have often come face to face with the patriarchal norms but I learned to be persistent and ensure my work speaks for itself. 

Being the producer of "My Ride Expo Manilla" and "YxO Manila TV show" what are some of the aspects of the media industry that you were enlightened with which were unbeknownst to you?

My Ride Expo Manila not a TV show. It is an international car and bike expo. I am one of the owners of the Pinnacle group of companies. It’s one of our flagship international project. However YxO Manila is a TV show amongst other 2 TV shows we are doing in the Philippines. Producing shows across different countries brings to light the various industry practices in different countries though some international standards are practiced worldwide. Different industries have different sets of practices and that is something we need to adapt to, irrespective of us being in the industry for so long. 

Can you tell us about your upcoming show "Women of Asia" and perhaps provide us with a sneak-peak into some of the familiar faces we might see on the show?

Women of Asia is a spin-off of my show Women of Arabia. I believe businesswomen have stories to tell as they have fought a great many adversities that brought them to their current successes. It’s a spin-off of that for Women of Asia. I’m not at liberty of mentioning names yet but I have women all over the Philippines and other parts of S.E Asia lined up for Women of Asia.

As a female businesswoman, what is your mantra for keeping daily negativities at bay and remaining on top of your game?

Every single day I wake up to insecurities, fear of rejection and fear of failure; but also to a lot of potential. I also believe immensely in myself and my potential. I have an unbelievably supportive partner who is also my mentor and guide. Every time I feel overwhelmed, he helps me to see clarity and focus on the immediate goal. The main mantra is to calm down and to rethink your ways. There will always be highs and lows and that’s just a part of life. We have to accept them and work around them.

For your book "Leveling Up: During a Pandemic", who had been your greatest inspiration to enable you to finish the work?

I have been my own inspiration. Leveling UP: During a Pandemic is my story. My story of how I got stuck in a new country. I was away from my family and I haven’t yet seen them for almost 15 months. I always thought I was a positive person and I used to help others a lot. However during the lockdown, I went into the pit of depression was it was a very demotivating period for me. The main thing I learned last year that it is incredibly brave to be able to ask for help and in this book I have 9 incredible influencers who helped me in various aspects of life to help me become a better person. They gave me practical advises on how to take my life in my own hands and to LEVEL UP. I decided to write it as a book to help the millions of others who are battling insecurity, depression and other anxieties especially now. The book is available in Amazon as an e-book.

From the conception to the publication of the book, what had been the most daunting step for you during the entire process, and what lesson did you take back from it?

Interestingly writing the book was the easy part. The marketing and the publication, to get my book reach the targeted circle was the hard part. The next time, I would work on marketing my book better because that’s more important for spreading the cause of my book and the message it portrays.

An entrepreneur, host, author, and a mother - you have a plethora of personas. How does each persona bring out the best in you?

Each of the roles you mentioned has one common point – communication. I have had trouble communicating my feelings because I have been suppressing my feelings for a large part of my life now. From all these personas, being a mother requires me to really step up and communicate better because I want my kids to confide in me and know they can come to me with anything and I would be there for them. 

With the lockdown toppling the mental and emotional balance for millions, India still lags in acknowledging the significance of addressing mental health. What do you think can be done to alter this societal outlook?

The only solution is to talk more about it, make it mainstream and remove this stigma about it. Many people still preach about suppressing our emotions. In this day and age, we still have people who don’t take their loved ones seriously when they talk about being depressed. Men are still asked to “man up” and not talk about their feelings. Such small things needs to be eradicated. They need to feel validated as well because, at the end of the day, your mental health is the most important thing in your life. People shouldn’t ask people to just “get over it” but to connect and open up about it.

How has multi-culturalism helped you evolve in your perspectives on redundant societal norms?

Being a south Indian woman, I have had a very conservative family background. I have had my shares of stigmatized societal norms and being abroad really doesn’t change that. However, I believe I am a global citizen. I love exploring and I never say no to experience another culture, food or language. Every experience helps me learn and evolve more. I heard someone say “after all, we’re all the combination of little experiences we have had along the way” which has stuck with me forever.

Despite being one of the most impactful countries in the world, UAE criminalizes LGBTQA+ communities. What is your take on this issue?

I prefer not to answer this question because people just say things without knowing anything really about the country. It’s a wrong generalized notion. UAE is one of the most liberal, safest, open countries with amazing people. I’ve lived here all my life, it’s my home, and when people talk about it, we need to dig deeper and know the real truth and not entertain the rumors. 

Quick 5

1. The best form of fitness for you? – Yoga and Horse-riding

2. One dish you love to cook for your kids?– Biriyani

3. Your greatest achievement?– I love that my kids have grown up to be very sensitive, fun-loving and caring individuals and I’m proud, especially because I’m a single mom.

4. Your greatest regret in one word?– I don’t have any regrets, except sometimes I feel some things could be different.

5. Your work to you is?– Fun and enjoyable; I’d never want to retire. 

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