Choosing an unconventional path from the very beginning has always been a norm and has had its share of highs and lows for influencer/entrepreneur/Bollywood TV host, Shivani Bafna. Since the inception of her intriguing journey through Bollywood, moving across continents to Mumbai, and making her mark on social media platforms, Bafna has undeniably charted her own journey in the era of influencers through her organic and genuine content. Presently, Bafna holds an ever-growing fanbase of over 138K followers on Instagram and over 89.3K subscribers on YouTube. She belongs to the new breed of ‘desi influencers’ in the United States who is making waves across social media while lending major inspiration to South Asians worldwide to follow their dreams and take on new challenges.
Born in Houston, Texas and having lived in West Lafayette, Indiana for 10 years and Solon, Ohio for the next 10 years Bafna majored in Communications and minored in Entrepreneurship at the University of Michigan. Bafna’s early life decisions were momentarily met with hesitations from her family; however, her parents ultimately supported and encouraged Bafna to pursue her aspirations. Talking about her choices and content Bafna reveals, “It was extremely important to me that anyone could learn from my successes and failures and apply the same to their own journey. But I’ll say it has been a rollercoaster ride. There was no set path and no certainty, but I think that’s what made it even more worth it!” The Indian SCENE spoke with Bafna about her experiences, impressions, and life-journey as a ‘desi influencer’ so far.
This interview has been lightly edited and condensed for length and clarity.
The Indian SCENE: How and when did you start documenting your life on social media?
Shivani Bafna: I’ve always loved making vlogs and videos of our family vacations, and I think I started doing that as early as 5th or 6th grade! But I made a more conscious effort of sharing my journey on social media when I moved to Mumbai in June, 2018. It was definitely weird at first to talk into a camera, but I think over time it’s become more natural. I never feel like “I have to share” as a part of my job, because it’s something I genuinely enjoy doing.
IS: Describe the challenges you faced while growing your brand as an influencer.
SB: I’ll be honest, Shivani Bafna the brand is synonymous with ‘Shivani Bafna’ the person. And I often struggle at separating my online and offline world if that makes sense? Today I’m in no makeup wearing sweats and tomorrow I’m in a lehenga posing in 30 degrees weather. So figuring out the balance between both worlds has been a work in progress.
IS: Your thoughts and feelings on your viral Paris proposal video.
SB: The less I say is more! Shyam (Shivani’s fiancé) truly created the most surreal, thoughtful, and magical experience for me. From coordinating with 90+ family and friends to send in videos, to dancing with our friends in Times Square to asking my parents for my hand in marriage in front of the Eiffel Tower, the efforts and creativity were out of this world. You can see the full video here!
IS: What positive or negative reactions did you receive after the proposal video went viral?
SB: The reactions have overwhelmingly been positive… people have shared with us that they watch this video every night before they sleep, that it’s reinstated the power of love for them and have even created gorgeous artwork of the moment!
IS: Tell us in detail about your content and brand as a ‘desi influencer’ in the United States.
SB: As a desi influencer in the U.S., my goal is to share what’s relevant to me as a 24 year-old-woman — navigating entrepreneurship, sharing my love for Indian fashion, creating fun videos with my family and friends, and throwing in a little Bollywood and skincare to the mix as well. As humans, it’s impossible to bucket us into just two-three categories. My goal is to continue building a community that enjoys following along my personal journey in the different roles I play, while encouraging them to embrace aspects they can relate to in their own life!
IS: Do you have any brand affiliations? Do you promote branded content as an influencer?
SB: I do — I work with brands that I genuinely would spend my own $ on and would recommend to my friends and family. Content creation is a huge business of its own and brand affiliations make that possible.
IS: How do you plan on growing your brand in the future?
SB: I plan to continue to create honest, intentional, value-driven content that connects with audiences!
IS: What is the best advice you have received and from whom?
SB: I’ve received a lot of good advice over the years, but one that my dad lives by and has emphasized to me is: “Hard work beats talent, when talent fails to work hard.” I may not be the most book-smart or talented person in the room, but I believe a strong work ethic and a willingness to put your head down and do the work can compensate for that.
IS: What advice would you offer to our Indian American youth who want to pursue a career in social media or as an influencer?
SB: I see so many young adults pursuing their passions and side hustles, but six months in, they stop. Because they get bored/ aren’t seeing the results they thought they would and are impacted by the negative comments. And if and when that happens, I cannot stress enough how important it is to take your time off, embrace what you’re feeling, but then, bounce back. Don’t give up just because you’re not getting instant gratification. Plan for the long term investment!
IS: What is next for you?
SB: Lots! I’m launching a new community driven platform at the start of 2021 and I am beyond excited to share this with the world!!