December 4th, 2022 | Uplift, a series: Conversations to raise awareness, lift voices, inspire
Mehra Marzbani is an actress, writer, and advocate. From dance to piano to musical theater, the California-based high school student has immersed herself in performance from a very young age, recently starring as Yasmina in Brat TV’s teen drama Chicken Girls. Beyond acting, she has also devoted herself to civic engagement and racial equity. She is the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of MENAarts Newsletter, an e-newsletter that pays tribute to the multifaceted Middle East and North Africa (MENA) experience through art, and has drafted legislation establishing a National MENA Heritage Month. Her goal is to shift people’s perspectives of the world and create art and policy that promotes acceptance.
Recently, we caught up with Mehra for an interview.
Mehra, thank you for joining us today. And thank you for your work to raise the visibility of MENA artists and counter stereotypes of those from the region. Could you tell us a little more about MENAarts and what led you to establish it?
MEHRA: Last year, I had the privilege of acting in Brat TV’s Chicken Girls, where I played the first recurring hijabi character in the series. I was so proud to play her not only because she’s intelligent and confident, but because of the comments from viewers. Girls from around the world, particularly in the MENA region, were finally feeling seen in a positive way. That was when I realized the importance of authentic representation in countering harmful stereotypes. I decided I wanted to do more to bring awareness to and increase representation of the MENA community in the creative arts. With those goals, I established MENAarts Newsletter. In each issue, we feature original literary and visual works from members of the MENA community and interviews with MENA artists who use their work to advance human rights. In this sense, MENAarts is more than just a push for creativity and connectedness within the MENA community, it’s a push for more MENA voices in civic and cultural conversations.
I was given the opportunity to act, which was my dream; now I want to show girls all over the world what it means to feel seen so they, too, know it’s possible to fulfill their dreams.
Why do you think, Mehra, it’s still so challenging for MENA artists and MENA voices to be seen and heard?