Manjot Bains; @manjotbains
How do you describe your job to your family?
I’m a freelance writer and the editor-in-chief of jugnistyle.com, an online magazine covering South Asian arts, culture, style and history. I also produce the Jugni Style Podcast and The Nameless Collective podcast [which shares the untold histories of Vancouver’s South Asian community].
Where did you go to school and what did you study?
I graduated with a honours bachelor in communication and a minor in sociology from Simon Fraser University, and went to York University for graduate studies in communication and culture.
What was your BIG break? How did you land it?
In undergrad, I took a non-fiction narrative writing class with the editor-in-chief at Geist Magazine. It was hard, but I found my voice and the way I approached creative writing changed. One of my pieces [ “Coffee with Tourists,” detailing Bains’ encounter with a British couple in a Vancouver Starbucks, and their ensuing discussion about belonging] was published in Geist a few months later, and it transformed how I saw myself as a writer, giving me the confidence to pitch and write more.
Name one piece of career advice you always give.
Experiment. Try different roles in different sectors if you can, and if it’s not financially viable, volunteer. Pushing myself outside of my comfort zone has been both the most painful but valuable lesson I’ve learned.
What’s the worst career advice you’ve ever gotten?
Stay in a job that you hate and where you’re undervalued. And when older men are being inappropriate, smile and shrug it off because we work for them and they’re our clients. I can’t tolerate that kind of bullshit. I’m sure that has negatively impacted my career growth, but it’s not something I will compromise on.
When you’re feeling low about your work, what’s the one thing you always do/watch/read/listen to bring yourself back up again?
Reading beautiful literature or poetry often pushes me in the right direction when I’m having trouble writing. Currently, I’m re-reading Citizen: An American Lyric by Claudia Rankine. I’m inspired by the depth, anger and pain articulated in the book, which inspires me to be more thoughtful, loud and less complacent in my work.
Who is your favourite person to follow on social media from your industry? What do you love about their social feeds?
There are so many! I love Eva Chen, and have followed her since her days at Teen Vogue to her appointment as the editor-in-chief of Lucky magazine (the youngest editor in its history, and a woman of colour!), to her current position with Instagram. Another favourite is activist and writer Harsha Walia, who offers sharp commentary on decolonization, climate justice, indigenous rights, race and feminism.
How would you describe your industry in terms of representation and inclusivity?
Jugni Style emerged because of the deep lack of representation and inclusivity in Canadian media. There wasn’t a space for brown women to read culture, style, makeup, music and lifestyle content that reflected our lived realities. A lot has changed since we launched, but I still hear from our readers and podcast listeners that they don’t feel like they have a voice because their experiences aren’t reflected by mainstream media.
What’s the most pressing issue facing women in your industry right now? What would fix it?
We need more women, particularly women of colour, in decision-making positions at the executive and senior management level. Hiring people of colour as reporters and photographers is important, but deeper organizational change needs to take place with editors, managers, and executives. We need a culture shift.
Have you ever asked for a raise? If so, how did you phrase it and did you get it? If not, why not?
I haven’t asked for a raise, but I negotiate my writing contracts. Being clear with yourself about what you’re willing to accept is important. I’ve had my work undervalued, and made the decision a couple of years ago that I wouldn’t take on work where I wasn’t going to be adequately compensated.
Looking to the future, what excites you the most about your career?
The opportunity for renewal at Jugni Style. I’m excited about bringing on new writers and editors, and launching a new season of the Jugni Style Podcast later this fall.
What worries you the most about your career?
Finding financial stability and a balance between creativity and business growth is top of mind for me right now for both Jugni Style and Anara [her textile and home decor company].