Journalist, Producer, Dreamer, Student, Traveler, Los Angeles, USA
Most of the time, a short string of descriptors does not serve a WOW WOMAN justice. Such is the case here. I could add passionate, achiever, strong, curious, outspoken, risk-taker and on and on. I’ve watched Aliya Jasmine’s career and if I had to sum up her journey it would be with a quote “progress doesn’t move in a straight line” (Ben Rhodes). What a treat to see this woman grow and follow her passion all over the world, reporting on things that matter - environment and animal protection, post-earthquake devastation in Haiti, but also having a heck of a fun time being a woman on the football field, staking her claim in the ultra-competitive world of sports journalism. This proud Canadian transplant is carving out a career in Los Angeles, working for NBC and is in a graduate program at the University of Southern California. I loved spending time chatting and watching her file stories from anywhere (literally anywhere, as photos here show).
Aliya Jasmine (@AliyaJasmine).
2. Where is your hometown?
I'm from Canada's capital, Ottawa. But spent more years living in Toronto, Canada, where I owned homes, built my career, and where all my friends still live - so I consider both cities to be my hometown.
3. What is your profession/career/title/self-label/designation?
TV Producer & Reporter.
I'm also a graduate student currently in the process of getting a masters degree in environmental journalism at University of Southern California.
4. What was the journey like to get where you are (in life and career-wise)? What are some accomplishments you’re most proud of, and what was the turning point to set you on a current path in life?
I wanted to work in TV for as long as I can remember. My mom has tape recordings of me from when I was four years old, standing inside our fireplace (it echoed) pretending I was a reporter hiding from bombs, after I saw my grandfather watching a reporter do that on CNN or the BBC. I remember vividly, around 1993 when I was about 10 years old my dad got a VHS video camera. Although it was a massive piece of metal for my little arms, I proudly dominated total control over it in our household. In all our family videos I'm behind the camera, producing mini TV shows, or doing documentaries about my family.
5. What did you study in school?
I was about to start my second year of college when 9/11 happened. It made me so passionate about becoming a journalist. I had just survived an intense car accident that summer and decided to come back home for college so I could get the right medical care. Stars aligned for me when the college I transferred to had a broadcast communications program. Years later I noticed the TV industry was losing money and viewership to the digital world, so I took a post-professional certification program at Harvard so I could really understand social media storytelling and digital marketing. Now, at 36, I've decided to go back to school again. I'm currently mid-way through graduate school, where I am a candidate for a Masters Degree specializing in Environmental Journalism.
6. How is your life different from what you pictured at 20?
Ha! A part of me may have thought I'd be more settled, that I'd have a daily show in a major market, be a well known anchor, married, maybe with kids. The other part of me would have bet money that by now I'd be living in East Africa saving elephants full time.
7. What was your biggest disappointment and plan to overcome it?
I was up for a reporter job for a wildlife related series, and it seemed to be my dream gig. But I didn't get it. I was told that I wasn't credible enough because I had dabbled in so many things: sports, entertainment, music etc... my plan to overcome this disappointment was to go back to school and become credible! Which is why I'm focusing on Environmental Journalism and documentary film-making.
8. Advice for other women?
Please, please, please support other women. This industry is so hard, and competitive. But if we don't have each others backs we will be alone. And you can't succeed in this industry alone. You see men supporting other men and we need to do the same. We all need to push back...together.
9. Knowing what we know now in current political climate, can women be "all that we can be" in today's world? What is the way forward, as you see it, for "feminist values"?
I've never experienced anything like the current political climate. I don't have an answer to this question. I feel - almost weekly - the sensation of being punched in the stomach for being a woman in this country. If you feel that way too, know that you're not alone. I cried with awe watching the women's marches that took place after the new president took office, to see women fighting for our rights and for "feminist values."
10. Where in the world do you feel “tallest” (i.e. where is your happy place)?
At the ocean! Preferably with my toes in the sand and the sea.
11. What extra-curricular activities/hobbies are you most proud of? Why?
I just started cartooning again! It's something I loved doing when I was growing up, but brushed it aside when former colleagues made me feel like drawing cartoons was juvenile and that I wasn't very good at it. My graduate school is on the same campus as an world renown animation school, and I took a directive study (one on one) with legendary Disney animator Tom Sito. I'm still not very good, but I remembered why I loved it so much. Because its fun! So I've taken that up in my spare time again.
12. What do you want to be when you grow up? Future goals/challenges?
Director of Wildlife Documentaries of National Geographic Channel.
13. What fears are you still hoping to overcome?
Sharks and Surfing (because of sharks!)
14. Anything you'd do differently, if you had another go at life?
I would do it all again I'm sure. But perhaps the second time I would slow down, and really lean in to the early days of what I was drawn to. Not care so much about pleasing everyone, and concentrate on only a handful of things, to get really good at them.
15. What inspires you?
Strong women who speak fearlessly and fight fiercely for social justice. The tiny singular flower that finds a way to grow in a sliver of sunlight in between giant sheets of concrete, amid miles of grey sidewalk. The raccoons that teach their young to adapt within urban city living. The birds that migrate across the world, despite all obstacles, and pollinate as they go. The sound of ocean waves crashing into shore. And, butterflies.
16. What are you hopeful about?
I hope we find a way to clean our ocean. I'm hopeful and cautiously optimistic.
17. What are some ingredients to a good life?
Appreciating the simple things in nature - the free things.
18. What advice would you give your 14-year-old self?
Be proud of your scars and birthmarks, don't hide them, don't be embarrassed by them, don't let them hold you back. They are beautiful. And (despite the buck teeth, unibrow, thick glasses, and mustache) so are you.
19. What are you reading now? (what books do you gift most and what are your favourite reads?)
Right now I'm reading a ton of textbooks for grad school - and in between I'm getting through the Bob Woodward’s book “FEAR”. I just finished “Born A Crime” by Trevor Noah and LOVED it. Highly recommend it!
20. Who is a WOW Woman in your world who inspires you and why? Can you nominate three women you know who perfectly fit WOW WOMAN description?
My mother, Zaina Sovani.
Scientist and Wildlife advocate, Elizabeth Hogan.
21. Where can others find you/your work (links to websites, blogs, etc.)?