Orange County, California’s Nida Chowdhury and Yumna Khan have used their brown girl experiences to create their new show, “Unfair and Ugly.” That’s not all, these desi girls aren’t just bringing the struggles of Muslim-American life to the forefront with their sitcom but they’re also promoting women of color.
The duo created a trailer through crowdfunding earlier this year and are now poised to release six episodes of the show online in 2018.
Chowdhury is a first generation Pakistani-American and Khan is a first-generation Indian-American. The talented women met through a nonprofit for Muslim-American female entrepreneurs Chowdhury co-founded. They connected over the hierarchy, racism, and sexism they experienced in the film industry.
Their life experiences in the industry are part of the reason they producers made sure their production promoted diversity and women. They hope to change the lack of diversity in media with their dramedy series which has people of color in lead roles and the core production team comprises 100% of women of color.
Their connection over mutual experiences inspired them to create content that reflected their lives because they had never seen people like themselves on television growing up.
“We really wanted to feel like we belonged,” Khan told NBC News about her childhood. “Growing up, we felt like the ‘other,’ we felt people didn’t understand our background.”
“Unfair and Ugly” follows a Muslim-American family of South Asian descent living in Southern California. The plot follows Sana (Kausar Mohammad) and her “slacker brother” Haaris (Saagar Sheikh) as they maneuver life with immigrant parents while trying to live life as average American millennials.
“I have always wanted to see a show where I could remotely see my experience on TV,” Chowdhury told NBC News. “So I think it was important to Yumna and I to really dig into real problems and real experiences of people like ourselves and those around us, and put a mirror to that.”
Khan and Chowdhury are using their show to delve into life as a South Asian Muslim American and talk about many issues from racism in their own communities to lack of understanding of mental health issues.
“Our main character, Sana, deals with depression,” Chowdhry told The Orange County Register. “People in our communities often don’t understand the effects of depression and can be dismissive of it without realizing what the other person is going through.”
They hope to help their audience in a cathartic way by opening up about things that are never spoken about in the culture. While South Asians and Muslims may see their own life reflected in the show, non-Muslims also have a chance to see what the average Muslim family is like. With xenophobia rampant in the nation, Muslims in the media are either romanticised as the exotic “other” or represented as terrorists. There is no real portrayal of the average family. Pew Research shows 65% of Americans have never met a Muslim, perhaps through “Unfair and Ugly” they can gain some insight and exposure.
The name of their show, “Unfair and Ugly” is also a poke at things South Asians don’t talk about. The title is a play on the popular skin whitening cream in India, “Fair and Lovely” which feeds the stigma that light-skinned people are more beautiful. The stigma against the darker skin is found in South Asian cultures and America.
“This is meant to take a jab on how we have to hide who we are just to be ourselves,” Khan told NBC about the show’s title. “We all live this world with flaws because we are humans. ‘Unfair & Ugly’ shows you how we deal with it and try to keep it together.”
Parents, amiright?! We’re excited to be on Day 6 of our Indiegogo Campaign! People are so excited to see #unfairandugly and keep telling us, “This show will definitely get funded.” But if you’ve heard of the bystander effect, you’ll know we all think someone else is going to step in and fund it. They won’t. If it’s going to get funded, it’ll be by people like you who are so deeply excited about the show. Please check out the link in our bio and support our campaign as much as you possibly can, because you and only you can help make this show a reality. Shoutout: @sawgrrr @rshetty00 #womeninfilm #muslimamerican #southasian #diversity #diverseproductions #immigrant #peopleofcolor #millennials #generationgap
Like success stories Mindy Kaling, Hasan Minhaj, Priyanka Chopra, Aziz Ansari, Kunal Nayyar, Kal Penn and more, Khan and Chowdhury want South Asian roles to take the lead. They want South Asian characters on television to become more than just that token Indian friend who hooks you up with naan and butter chicken. They too, like most South Asians, feel ostracized in a country that belongs to them, these producers want their show to make a difference and open that conversation.
“We’re just this ‘other’ that is being discussed and in a dehumanizing way like we don’t have something to add to the conversation,” Chowdhry explained about a recent trip to the hospital where she had on a hijab and saw the television tuned into a report on Muslim Americans. “It was talking about us like we’re not here in America right now listening… So that’s something we wanted to capture in the show—that feeling that like you’re a human being, but constantly being called out as not a human.”
“Unfair and Ugly” promises to be an inspiring comedy that will connect with all children of immigrants attempting to manage their hyphenated identity. We can’t wait for the release of its episodes, how about you?