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BWW Interview: Priya Mahendra of THE PRINCESS POSSIBILITY PROJECT

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Who's YOUR favorite Disney Princess?

BWW Interview: Priya Mahendra of THE PRINCESS POSSIBILITY PROJECT

Priya Mahendra has really hit on something, and it's something kind of cool because it brings the past and the present together, while presenting an important universal message, all in one gorgeous artistic undertaking - which is rather the point of being an artist.

Who among us didn't grow up with Disney? Who, as a child or an adult, hasn't felt a connection to a Disney Princess? Pretty much every one has - and Priya Mahendra has taken the beloved characters we all met in our youth and carried them throughout our lives, and is joining forces with them to create a video series that reflects the growing focus on the need for diversity.

Ms. Mahendra, an actress of South Asian descent, has used her time in lockdown to create The Princess Possibility Project. The Princess Possibility Project is a video series "created in the spirit of raising awareness for the news of conscious and inclusive portrayals of characters in universally known and loved stories and narratives." Each Wednesday at eleven am, Priya releases a video on her Youtube channel - the videos, Mahendra offers, "bring to life the hopes, constraints, drams and desires of seven popular animated princess through their 'I Want' songs. The project illuminates the power of purpose, possibility, perspective and resilience - especially in times when we need it the most."

With great interest in the project and the industrious Ms. Mahendra, I reached out to ask about her work, her thoughts on inclusivity, and which Disney Princess is her personal favorite.

This interview was conducted digitally and is reproduced in its entirety.


Priya Mahendra, welcome to Broadway World. We are very lucky to have you with us today. If I can speak personally, I am in love with The Princess Possibility Project - what was the spark that led to this series, the impulse that got you up off the sofa and in action?

Thank you so much, Stephen! I'm incredibly excited to be here with Broadway World today.


The spark to this project was the awareness that I seek to raise: the need to expand the way we portray known and loved characters so that everyone has the ability to see themselves in those stories.

After the shutdown, I was in need of some hope and possibility. I wanted to create something that is rooted in who I am, and the work I seek to be a part of. I wanted it to relate to what we were all feeling, and inspire hope and possibility in others also.

I think Theater has the power to make everyone feel like they belong (on and off stage), and the Princesses were super aligned symbols to start with.

 

During your life, what has been your relationship with the Disney Princesses?

I grew up alongside them, and they continue to shape me strongly into who I am. As a child, I connected deeply with their desire to belong while being themselves, and the way they followed their hearts even in the face of fear.

Many of the values I discovered and learned as I grew up were mirrored in their stories: love, equality, belonging, curiosity, and courage, to name a few. I still hold those values highest today. Plus (singing first in Tamil), their songs were the first I learned in English to sing along with!

The Princesses also played a big part when I decided to change my path from the business side of Entertainment to pursue performing (specifically Musical Theater). Their stories were ones that I saw myself in, yearned to belong in and be a part of telling on stage.

 

Why do you think people love them so, not just children but adults of many ages - what is it about the Disney Princesses that inspire people so?

This is such a great question and highlights something I truly believe: that the Disney Princesses are global symbols of values, dreams, and aspirations that have the ability to transcend boxes that we check and barriers placed on us.

I think what makes them inspire people so is their unyielding determination, indomitable courage, and always leading with who they are.

As a woman, and a woman of color, what motivates you in your life, in your work, and especially in The Princess Possibility Project?

I am motivated by following my heart, seeking possibility, my values, and creating change. I aim to graciously transcend any expectations and limitations put on me by our industry and society, and cultivate a legacy rooted in courage, compassion, and contribution.

 

During the New York City quarantine period, a lot of performers, especially musical actors, turned to video and social media to explore their creativity. Did you get your feet wet doing other things before The PPP bubbled to the surface?

Yes! I actually got an early start exploring my creativity through video last year, when I produced and performed in a short film version of The Last Five Years. We specifically chose to pursue that medium for the project in hopes of reaching and sharing inspiration with people outside of the NY market, as well.

To me, this story explores our humanity and relationships in a brilliant way, and it was incredible to dig into Cathy and Jamie's journey through the lens of two BIPOC artists. Raising awareness of the need for more inclusion in theater while exploring a story and score that we both loved and related to strongly, was deeply meaningful.

The live entertainment industry is in a holding pattern, with only outdoor performances happening, and quite spottily - as a singing actress, with creative and financial needs to meet, what will be the next step for you?

BWW Interview: Priya Mahendra of THE PRINCESS POSSIBILITY PROJECTWith the weight of everything going on in the world, not having the ability to connect with and express through Theater (in the form we knew it) has been especially hard.

I needed time to process and absorb how our world was changing. This time has allowed me to practice resilience. It has shown me that though the landscape of Theater may look different at this moment, my compass, desire to contribute, and pursuit of dreams have stayed the same.

Going forward, I'm planning an Ingenue Possibility Project to explore more Musical Theater roles. I'm also doing a Coaching fellowship at Jen Waldman Studio and taking Seth Godin's altMBA.

Priya, do you have a personal favorite Disney Princess, and if so, why that particular Princess?

My favorite Disney Princess is Jasmine. She is grounded, perceptive, wise, and fights for a more equal world. She questions the laws and rules that regulate her life and challenges the way she is told she can use her voice as a Princess and a woman. She is a change-maker and creates an impact on the world around her by following her heart and being herself.

I identify with her on a deep level, and the fact that her character is rooted in South Asian/Middle Eastern heritage and culture connects me to her in an innate way.

Thank you so much for speaking with Broadway World today, I can't wait to see the next videos you release!

Thank you so much for this opportunity, and for your support!

See The Princess Possibillity Project on the Priya Mahendra Youtube channel HERE

New videos for The Princess Possibility Project drop every Wednesday at 11 am ET

Visit the Priya Mahendra website HERE

The Princess Possibility Project is Directed and Edited by Garth Kravits | cut & dry films. Songs arranged and performed on piano by James Rushin. Mixed by James Rushin. Created with COVID-19 regulations and social distancing guidelines in full effect.

Photo credit: Garth Kravits

 


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