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President of Diwali: Alicia Gresla ‘13

 

Even months later, Her Campus can’t seem to get this year’s incredible Diwali performance off of our brains! Hence why we decided to spotlight the gorgeous and talented President, Alicia Gresla, who I was lucky to be able to live with this past summer while we both interned on the East Coast. In my interview with this leading lady, she talks about her Indian heritage and how that has played out in her involvement with Miami’s Indian Student Association (ISA) over the years.

 

HC: What was the most rewarding part of being President for you this year? 

AG: I think the most rewarding part of my Presidency was seeing ISA grow and expand beyond its traditional boundaries. When I was a Freshman ISA included mostly Indian students, but now there are many members with East Asian, American, African and Hispanic backgrounds. Seeing these students participate in our events and join our family organization has been incredible to see, and I hope this continues into the future! 

 

HC: What is the significance and meaning of Diwali to you and your family? / What are the typical traditions that you and your family take part in for Diwali?

AG: Diwali is such a fun holiday and kicks off the start of all winter celebrations for me and my family. My mom’s side is Indian and my dad is American, so we celebrate Diwali more as a cultural event rather than a religious one. Usually we light diyas (candles in little bowls that burn oil), have Indian sweets and snacks, and watch a favorite Bollywood movie. And of course, my family has come down to see the show every year, so that is an important part of the tradition as well :)

 

HC: What do you value most about your Indian heritage?

AG: In terms of my Indian heritage, I truly value the different perspective and cultural awareness it has given me. I have a greater appreciation for other cultures and traditions, and love traveling to new places to understand people who live a lifestyle different than my own. I am proud to be part of a vibrant and colorful culture, and love to teach people about the traditions I’ve grown up with.

HC: What have you enjoyed most about your involvement in ISA and the community it fosters?

AG:  ISA has truly defined my college career; I joined first semester Freshman year, and have been on the Executive board all four years as well! ISA is place for students to find a family away from home. We are all close friends who share similar values and cultural traditions, and enjoy spending time with each other. ISA has grown an incredible amount since my first year, and continues to expand to include students from many different cultural backgrounds. This feeling of diversity and acceptance is something I’m proud to say ISA fosters on Miami’s campus. 

 

HC: What do you look forward to for the future of ISA and their Diwali performances?

AG: I expect ISA to continue growing in size and significance, and hope that one day it will be recognized as a fixture at Miami. For Diwali, I hope ISA continues to produce shows that connect audiences with Indian culture and all the fun aspects of food, dance, and clothing, and each year push the show to new levels in terms of quality of acting, performances and connection with the community. 

 

HC: What Indian products do you use, whether they are beauty/food related?

AG: Long luscious hair is always a big focus of Indian beauty, and my mom taught me to massage coconut oil into my scalp and roots to boost hair growth and shine. 

 

HC: Who is a Bollywood actress or figure that you look up to?

AG: Amongst current Bollywood stars, I always enjoy watching Priyanka Chopra perform. Not only is she gorgeous and talented, but she is aware of issues in the community and isn’t afraid to undertake controversial projects for films. 

 

HC: What’s your favorite style of Indian dance?

AG: This is almost too hard to answer! I love the glitz and glamour of Bollywood style dancing, where huge groups of people suddenly start dancing in perfect unison. My favorite traditional style of dance is Kathak, which is from Northern India and was commonly performed for Mughal kings in their courts. It is a beautiful fluid and feminine dance style, and I hope to pick up learning in sometime in the future. 

     The last style I love is Bhangra, which is a sort of folk dance from Punjab where my mom’s family is from. The music is so energizing and has great beats that just makes everyone want to jump up and start dancing!

 

HC: How was the plot of this year’s Diwali performance decided/can you give a little background description to those who did not attend?

AG: The Executive Board works together each Spring to brainstorm possible themes, and we have our general body vote on which one they like best. Indian weddings are known to be colorful, energetic and fun events; because weddings are such an important part of the culture, we wanted to use this has the basis of the show. Adding the interracial marriage was an interesting twist, as it connects to the experiences young Indian living in America face in balancing the values of their traditional Indian families with the norms of American society. 

     My Big Fat Indian Wedding was a true love story between Maya and Aaron, and how they navigate dating and marriage with Maya’s traditional Indian family and upbringing. It was a hilarious performance that showed all the traditional characters present at weddings – awkward suitors, gossiping aunties, and lots of difficult to understand accents. People who attended the performance all said it was a great look into what an Indian wedding is like from the inside. 

 

Her Campus wishes Alicia the best of luck at her job next year with RBS (Royal Bank of Scotland). We hope you make an alumna appearance at next year’s Diwali performance; you have left quite a legacy for ISA’s dancing feet to follow!

 

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Alex McNulty

Miami (OH)

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