AZITA GHANIZADA
Actress, Advocate & Founder MENA Arts
TOPIC: Plight of a Lost People: The Importance of Seeing Yourself in Film and TV Heroes

Azita, a political refugee from Afghanistan, learned English and American culture through TV. Dreaming 1 day she would become an actress. But her strict upbringing prevented her from even speaking it. After University, she bought a 1-way ticket to Hollywood and never looked back. Azita quickly appeared on several hit TV shows and soon became one of the 1st Afghan-Americans to star on a TV series in the US. Confronted with stereotype and refusing to play into them, Azita’s path soon revealed that in order to see true unbiased representation for her community, she would have to disrupt Hollywood from the inside. In 2017, she successfully lobbied SAG-AFTRA to include Middle Eastern North African (MENA) as a diversity casting category. The first time in 37 years a new casting category has been introduced in Hollywood. Then her org, MAAC, presented the 1st study of MENA performers on TV, titled “Terrorists & Tyrants.” Slowly planting the seeds of change for a community long overdue.

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