The Heroine’s Journey of Shivani Desai

What is the best thing that I love about my work?

That I can bring people hope, comfort, and a smile through my work. Knowing that what I do changes lives is the best, best part about my job!

What is my idea of happiness?

Waking up at my own time in the morning – no alarm clock – and making a beautiful, yet simple breakfast for myself that I can enjoy while watching my favourite TV show.

What is my greatest fear?

Not leaving a mark on the world. The idea here is not to be memorable – but rather, to have impacted lives in such small but significant ways that you become a part of people’s stories forever.

What is the trait that I most deplore in myself?

Sounds cliched, but perfectionism. I’m someone who’s been a victim of perfect inaction for far too long and am now working on diving headfirst into messy action instead.

Which living persons in my profession do I most admire?

No other actor in the entertainment industry will ever come close to Shah Rukh Khan’s journey to stardom for me. It’s not so much the sheer magnitude of his movie star status that I’m inspired by – rather, it is the insurmountable challenges that he overcame to get to where he is that leave me in awe every single time.

What is my greatest extravagance?

This might not be the most serious of answers but…avocados. They’ve gotten so expensive!

On what occasion would I lie?

If someone asks me “do I look alright?” – I’ll almost always say yes instinctively even if they look like they haven’t slept in 2 days.

On a day-to-day basis, though, I find myself lying about the tiny little things that would protect others or prevent a commotion. For instance, if Mum asks “did Dad eat my share of the cake?”, I’ll lie and say “no, sorry, I ate it” even though the suspect is indeed guilty. It’s hilarious and borderline unethical, but I continue to do it anyway.

What is the thing that I dislike the most in my work?

The culture of gatekeeping information in the film & TV industry has got to go.

In my work as an actor and a business coach for actors, I’ve found that this is often a top reason that so many talented artists quit before their time: because they don’t have access to the resources and information that they should in order to take their acting career to the next level.

This is the primary reason why I started my coaching business – to support actors in their journey and give them access to information that they otherwise would not have had.

I believe it’s about time that we understood that knowledge does not decrease when it is shared. Rather, it grows and deepens beyond imagination.

When and where was I the happiest, in my work?

My time in London during film school was the happiest I’ve been in my life. Imagine being surrounded by incredible industry professionals, a community of like-minded artists, gorgeous weather, and some of the best food you’ve ever had – that was what it was for me. Even just thinking about it fills me with joy.

If I could, what would I change about myself?

My inability to handle noise. A cacophony of various sounds instantly overwhelms me and puts me in a bad mood. I do wish I had a stronger threshold for chaos!

What is my greatest achievement in work?

Living in Singapore as an actor has proven to be a challenge for various reasons: the opportunities are fewer compared to LA or NYC, we only have a handful of agencies, no union like SAG-AFTRA or AEA, and a surface-level appreciation for the arts.

Despite limited resources available at my disposal, I’ve gotten creative and built a solid working actor life for myself nonetheless. I audition frequently, book jobs consistently, make a decent income, and brush shoulders with decision makers because of my ability to build genuine relationships with people. My biggest achievement is just that – I’ve mastered a business that is next to impossible for actors in my unique situation to get a grasp of.

Where would I most like to live?

I would love to live in either LA or London. Both of these cities have lovely weather, delicious food, a thriving artistic landscape, and people who exude warmth despite being complete strangers!

What is my most treasured possession?

I don’t know if this is genuinely my most treasured possession, but it’s the first thing that came to mind: I have a shoebox full of earrings that I’ve been collecting ever since I was a child. I don’t wear 70% of them anymore, but jewellery has always been a really easy way for me to express my personality and artistic inclination since young – especially at a time when I had no other means of really expressing myself. Up till today, I never leave the house without a pair of nice earrings on – even if I’m just going grocery shopping.

What is my most marked characteristic?

I’ve been told by dear friends that I’m the only person they know who speaks in full sentences even in day-to-day, casual settings. I’d never realised this before it was brought to my attention and every time I notice myself doing it, it cracks me up!

What is my most inspirational location, in my city?

I absolutely love Keong Saik Road in Singapore. It’s one of those tucked away streets that isn’t as popular as Orchard Road (which is in the heart of the town) but is still always bustling with life, good food, and culture. The entire stretch is lined with eateries – from really high-end, luxurious ones to ‘mama shops’ that offer quick, cheap, hearty food. It’s a real joy to dine alfresco at one of these joints and watch life happen right in front of you.

What is my favorite place to eat and drink, in my city?

There’s a beautiful restaurant at a walking distance from my house called Spruce that I visit from time to time – not because of the food (although the food is delicious), but because of the ambience. The restaurant is tucked away in a park and surrounded with so much lush greenery that you feel like you’re miles away from civilization. In the evenings, the wooden mahogany furnishing combined with the warm fairy lights and gentle sound of the fountain nearby truly come together to form an oasis that doesn’t even feel like Singapore.

What books influenced my life and how?

I grew up as an avid book reader but I must admit I find it increasingly difficult to commit to a book these days in the age of the instant gratification we get from Netflix and Youtube.

However, I recall books like Kira-Kira, lots of Enid Blyton classics, and I, Coriander sparking my love for literature when I was around 10 years old. I ended up taking literature in school, which then sparked my love for plays like The CrucibleA Streetcar Named Desire, and Shakespearean classics – which then ultimately sparked my love for theatre and acting.

It’s funny how when you look back on your journey, you end up finding a through-line that you didn’t even know existed.

You Only Die Once. What music would I listen to on my last day?

Your Young Voice by Jon Hopkins and King Creosote.

Who is my hero or heroine in fiction?

This is so hard. But the first character who comes to mind is Piku from the movie Piku. This is a Hindi language movie and while Piku isn’t a “hero” by traditional definition, I believe she’s an everyday hero. As a 30-something year old working woman with a mountain of responsibilities at home who’s struggling to find a little piece of joy in her own life, she redefines the very idea of a strong female character on-screen. 

Who are my heroes and heroines in real life?

It would be unfair for me to pick just one. I want to say that every artist in this  world who’s working day in, day out to make the world a more beautiful place to live in has my complete and utter admiration.

Which movie would I recommend to see once in a lifetime?

Veer-Zaara. It puts every other romance movie in this world to shame.

What role play stories in my life and work?

The very basis of my career is stories. Acting, film, TV, theatre – is all born from the root of the simple desire to tell stories and share it with the world. Without stories, there is no art. Without art, there is no life.

What do the words ‘You are the storyteller of your own life’ mean to me?

That I am not powerless against the external forces of the world. That I sit in the driver’s seat of my own car and am in charge of my own destiny.

Who is my greatest fan, sponsor, partner in crime?

My family. It’s cheesy to say, but they really are. And it took them so much growth and learning to get here. When I first told them that I wanted to be an actor at 18, they were beyond confused and borderline disappointed. It’s taken 7 years, but I finally have them in my corner and they’re my strongest supporters.

Which people or companies would you like to work with?

1. Sarah Finn: When I think of casting directors who changed the very landscape of this industry and continue to make strides with their work, she’s the first person who comes to mind. Her vision and ability to cast the very perfect person for the role is absolutely unmatched and some of the biggest stars in Hollywood today would never be household names if it weren’t for her.

2. Jennifer Kaytin Robinson: I adore Jennifer’s work because I think she has crafted a space for herself in this industry that no one else has been able to so far. She’s spearheading a new age of cinema that reinvents the teen chick flick and lends it purpose – it wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say that her movies belong to an entirely unique genre of their own.

3. Justin Baldoni: I started out enjoying Justin’s work for his sheer talent and ability to entertain, but stayed for his humanitarian spirit and the sheer warmth and light that he puts out in the world. While it feels impossible to choose between his works as an actor and as a director based on quality –
I think it’d be a great joy to work with him as a director because he’s one of the only people in this space who makes movies for its original purpose – the storytelling of it all.

4. TEDx: This might feel like a bit of a stretch, but one of my life’s goals is to be able to share my journey of going from being a teacher in Early Childhood Education to a working actor + business coach for actors in under 2 years. I believe I have a lifetime’s worth of experiences condensed into 2 years that many people would benefit from hearing.

What project am I looking forward to work on?

Currently, I’m just super busy working with my clients as an actor coach! I’m grateful to be supporting actors in their journeys and am so excited to see them making strides in their acting careers.

Where can you see me or my work?

@itsshivanidesai on Instagram is the best way to find me!

What do the words “Passion Never Retires” mean to me?

It’s all about building a life that you don’t feel desperate to take a vacation from.

How can you contact me?

LinkedIn  OR

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