From Gal Gadot’s Wonder Woman to Ruby Rose’s Batwoman, female superheroes are beginning to reflect greater diversity. But for Sanjana Nagesh – the founder of popular Instagram account, BrownGirlGang (BGG) – there’s yet to be a superwoman the Indian-Australian can relate to.
It’s for this reason she recently made an online callout to BGG’s 66,000 followers, asking them to illustrate and send through their own “interpretation of a South Asian superwoman”.
Forming part of an artwork series that will launch on International Women’s Day on March 8, Nagesh said each illustration depicts the “skin tone, facial features, body shape and fashion” of South Asian women around the world.
“Growing up, I never had a role model in mainstream media who represented dual cultural identities like being Indian-Australian,” the 23-year-old told HuffPost Australia. “So I’m always so inspired by those women who are now shining on a global scale who are trailblazers in their field.
“To me, those are South Asian superwomen as they had to shatter so many glass ceilings to get to where they are today.
“However, on a deeper level, I believe every South Asian woman is a superwoman as there are challenges many of us face every day such as colourism, mental health or sexual identity that our culture is yet to destigmatise.”
From wearing saris and traditional gold jewellery to bindis and ghungroos (musical anklets typically worn by classical Indian dancers), Nagesh said the superwomen in the submitted artworks represent “the magic and might that lies within our melanin”.
Nagesh was born in Sydney after her parents migrated to Australia from Bangalore, India in the early 1990s. In 2017, she established BrownGirlGang after scrolling through the social media platform and seeing a gap in the market for an online space that showcases “inspiring and badass South Asian women”, no matter what field they work in.
“I thought to myself, ‘I wish I could just find all these women in one place. Like a ‘girl gang’, or more specifically, like a ‘brown girl gang’ so I can see myself reflected in the media’. So I searched up the handle ‘@browngirlgang’, saw no results found, and just made the account myself,” she explained.
Three years later the account boasts over 65,000 followers, including South Asian celebrities such as actress Mindy Kaling. From memes to quotes, photos and Q&A’s, the account’s Instagram grid is a collection of inspiring content that represents and connects South Asian women, whether they are living in India, or perhaps are the children of immigrants in a Western country.
“It’s the most humbling experience ever to read that BrownGirlGang has helped someone embrace their culture, feel more comfortable with their skin tone or empowered them to pursue their passions,” said Nagesh. “These moments of raw emotion reiterates that sometimes all it takes is a single post on your daily feed to make minorities feel seen, heard and validated.”
Now with International Women’s Day around the corner, the Sydneysider said she hoped the ‘South Asian Superwoman’ series will again inspire BGG’s female followers across the globe.
“It’s fusing our cultural identities to create things we wish existed. It’s our visual love letter to you,” she said.
Brown Girl Gang’s ‘South Asian Superwoman’ series will officially launch on Sunday March 8.