I’d like to introduce my readers to my friend, Dr. Samita Nandy, who just happens to have a very interesting story and is the founder of The Centre for Media and Celebrity Studies in Canada. Dr. Nandy holds a Doctorate in Media from Curtin University in Western Australia, a Masters on Communication and Culture from York University in Toronto and is a certified Broadcast Journalist. Her research and writing focus on celebrity culture, shifts in stardom, and intersection of cultural meanings of fame and social identity. Her work has been sponsored by international and national grants and awards in Canada and Australia.
Her international media relations and work led her to be featured with Global Television’s Anwar Knight and Allison Annesley on Daytime and prime-time show First Local on Rogers Television, CBC News, CTV’s Breaking News CP 24, OMNI TV, The Globe and Mail, ANOKHI Media, SNAP Downtown Toronto newspaper, Eternity Watch magazine, ATN Television Network, CINA 1650 AM, Rivaaj, Starbuzz Weekly, Cineblitz, Mississauga News, and J-Source in Canadian Journalism Foundation. Nandy has taught postgraduate and honors degree courses at University of Toronto, Ryerson University, and Curtin University. She is the Founding Director of the Centre for Media and Celebrity Studies (CMCS) and Director of Communications at non-profit organization Nouveau iDEA (International Dimensions of Entertainment and Arts) with over 8,000 members and 80,000 online readers. She has spoken at many international conferences and her published writings on social and cultural issues inspire many readers.
Samita and I initially became acquainted on Facebook when she wrote to me. She was still studying in Western Australia and wrote to me about an organization called Nouveau iDEA, for which she is Director of Communications, because I’m a big supporter of the Arts. I told her that my best friend had lived in WA for many years and she shared that her boyfriend lives in Kingston, Ontario where I live and she calls Kingston her second home when she’s not in Mississauga. Samita told me that she’d get in touch with me when she was back in Canada and she did. We met in person over a year ago and became fast friends. She is one of those people who actually walks the walk and talks the talk when it comes to living her life with passion, integrity and spiritual purpose. She’s a truly lovely, intellectual and creative soul and I’d like to give her this opportunity to tell you about The Centre for Media and Celebrity Studies.
Dr. Nandy, please tell us a little bit about your background and what led you to pursue your particular course of studies.
Dr. Nandy: First of all, thank you for wanting to interview me for your Scully Love Promo blog. A bit about myself: I am an academic, artist and activist. Prior to joining university, I had a science background. With a passionate interest and score of 86% in biology, I had the option to become a medical doctor. However, I preferred communication that brings social justice and change in representations of talent. For me, media is a tool in communicating the change that I intend to see. This intent and fearless determination led me to conduct my Doctoral research in media and celebrity studies.
What is the primary mission of The Centre for Media and Celebrity Studies?
Dr. Nandy: The primary mission of The Centre for Media and Celebrity Studies is to administer and facilitate teaching, training, research, creative productions and an international network of scholars in critical studies of media and celebrity culture. We are committed to developing courses, conferences, seminars, workshops, discussions, writing retreats, exhibits, and performances in open-access formats. Since we aim to restore the Latin root celebrem in the etymology of the celebrity, we recognize its connotation of celebrating distinction and merit in both academic and non-academic career paths.
What inspired you to create it?
Dr. Nandy: While I was conducting my Doctoral research, I saw the growing academic and public demand for knowledge of fame and its practices. Soon after my Doctorate, the Routledge journal Celebrity Studies in the UK and its inaugural conference in Australia offered a formal and honorable introduction to its study and practices including creative arts. I always felt the compelling need to bridge gaps between higher education and arts that Celebrity Studies enable. I also felt the urgency to make research and creative practice available to the public in artistic spaces, and empower social change through knowledge communities. There were a number of faculty members that were inspired to make a significant difference in the public sphere. I took up the inspiration to apply theoretical perspectives and methodological concerns, and enable social change that academic teaching and research often seek.
Who are the people who would most likely benefit from affiliation with The Centre for Media and Celebrity Studies?
Dr. Nandy: Faculty, graduate students, and creative practitioners in academic and non-academic career paths will benefit from affiliation with the Centre for Media and Celebrity Studies.
Are you presently looking for staff and/or volunteers for CMCS?
Dr. Nandy: CMCS will appoint an educational outreach coordinator and social media manager to disseminate our growing content. Apart from that, we are always open to interns who are determined to develop and contribute academic knowledge and professional skills. We have qualified faculty members, post-doctorates and media professionals that can support the development with adequate supervision.
What exactly does a Fame Critic do?
Dr. Nandy: A Fame Critic is a critic and commentator on celebrities in higher education and media industry. The function is similar to that of a film critic offering reviews, analysis, and evaluation of films but in this case, media representation of celebrities is examined. For a Fame Critic, criticism does not mean negating a celebrity’s work. Rather, the critic positions talented personalities within varied yet specific contexts of fame, thus adding intellectual and aesthetic value to media representations. In tabloid journalism, talent and emotions of celebrities are often commodified and sold as standard objects of trade. In this respect, gossips, scandals and rumors are common but overlook journeys and contexts that are central to creating and understanding celebrated artists. Through written reviews, spoken words, and performing arts, the Fame Critic offers an empowered understanding and appreciation of celebrities as well as media that represent them.
Why do you think that Celebrity Studies deserves to be considered as an important course of study?
Dr. Nandy: Celebrity culture has a pervasive presence in society and effect on our lives. In tabloid journalism, images of celebrities represent what Richard Dyer calls a ‘success myth’. It is based on lucky breaks, special talent, hard work and ordinariness. The basis of this success is not complete. The reality is that fame is a media construction that conceals the role of publicity and promotions, and is not inclusive. From this perspective, a celebrity need not be talented. Rather, as Daniel Boorstin asserts, “A celebrity is a person who is well-known for their well–knownness.” Many talented people do not know of necessary tools, remain unknown, or limit themselves to future hopes and standards of fame. In order to celebrate one’s path and shine as a star, it is important to carve out a niche talent and know necessary tools but, more importantly, to focus on the journey and its moments that unfold limitless possibilities of the talent. Celebrity Studies is important because it focuses on the critical exploration of fame in historical and contemporary contexts. It also demystifies the industrial and political processes of production, circulation, and distribution of talent. Since fame is a media construction, Celebrity Studies is indispensable to critical understanding of knowledge and practices of media.
Tell us about what you’ve most recently been working on.
Dr. Nandy: On behalf of the Centre for Media and Celebrity Studies, I am developing courses, publications, and performances. The performances are based on music composed by Australia’s Myles Wright (www.myleswright.com). The work has been an exciting part of the post-doctoral phase of my career.
What is your primary goal right now in terms of your career?
Dr. Nandy: Right now, my primary goal is to facilitate integration of teaching, research, and creative arts in academic and non-academic programs.
What can students learn from the courses that you’re currently developing and teaching?
Dr. Nandy: Students can learn theoretical perspectives, research methods, and practical tools that are essential to understanding media and celebrity culture. Since I incorporate an element of performance in my courses, students are able to use an arts-based approach in their career as well as their personal journeys in developing talent.
What role does spirituality play in your writing, public speaking and course development?
Dr. Nandy: For me, spirituality is a shared non-physical relationship with self and others. A unique creative self is rooted in one’s spirituality and is expressed through embodied practices. In order to push material and social boundaries, it is necessary to explore and accommodate one’s spirituality in the act of creating. In my writing, speaking, and course development, spirituality is often expressed as unconditional love, which I bear in my relation to self and others.
You talk about unconditional love a lot in your writing. What does unconditional love mean to you?
Dr. Nandy: There are two kinds of emotions: love and fear. I choose love and yes, I often mention it – I am passionate about it! For me, unconditional love is a commitment to care that is free from past and social conditions including sexism, ethnocentrism, speciesism, and class discrimination. From this perspective, unconditional love starts with self and ends with non-judgmental recognition of others. If we question a practice, it should be about the conditions of society and not victims of the conditions. Unconditional love is not meant to be perfect but rather a progression that includes taking one step at a time. I believe that unconditional love is one of our highest talents that are not taught for the privilege of few. Yet it is easy and empowering once explored. When we release ourselves from conditions, our creative core is free to recognize its distinctive path and shine as a star, which is the underlying message of all my work.
What is Nouveau iDEA all about and how can people get involved?
Dr. Nandy: Founded by media personality Tushar Unadkat, Nouveau iDEA is a non-profit arts organization that offers an inclusive and motivational space for diverse artists. I started working with Nouveau iDEA as the Director of Communications in 2004. Currently, Nouveau iDEA supports independent artists by sharing and promoting their upcoming work through our regular newsletters and posts. The best way people can get involved in it is by joining the Nouveau iDEA groups on Yahoo and Facebook. In the near future, we will be holding public events where artists can meet and share information in person.
Tell us about your favourite form of creative expression.
Dr. Nandy: I would say performance. Writing is an embodied act and I find it fascinating to extend it into performances! I am particularly interested in contemporary dance that offers living examples of change in intimate spaces as well as on stage or screen.
Who are you most interested in connecting with and how can they reach you?
I am always interested in connecting with individuals open to learning in both academic and non-academic careers. I can be reached at email@example.com.
Thank you very much Dr. Nandy for your thoughtful and insightful answers to my questions. It is always such a pleasure to have a conversation with you and I hope that my readers will find not only information but inspiration in this interview that will resonate with them and inspire them to look at fame and the study of celebrity culture in a different way.