Roveena Chand Jassal is releasing her first YA novel in the coming weeks, which is a major accomplishment for a 20-year-old. But, she wants everyone to know her creative ambitions go far beyond her book, Mirror Mania.
While writing, Roveena juggled a part-time job with her double major in Spanish and Media, Information and Technoculture at Western University.
Roveena remarkably also found time for her passions outside of school before the COVID-19 pandemic hit. She danced and choreographed as part of a Caribbean dance team, volunteered to play piano for the elderly while teaching on the side, and wrote feature articles for various online magazines. Needless to say, Roveena is a busy young woman.
“I’m someone that needs to be busy. I feel so much better when I’m working on something.”
Roveena speaks with the passion of a motivated young adult ready to show the world what she has to offer. She is a self-described “headstrong extrovert,” and puts this energy into her creative aspirations.
“I like to think of myself as quite an artistic, creative person. It’s a huge part of me,” Roveena says, starting to chuckle. “I’m pretty out there. I like to explore and create my own world in the things I do.”
Roveena sits in her pink, Chicago childhood bedroom. Behind her are hooks in the shape of a crown –– adjacent to her bed, which is positioned below a painted castle. “There’s not a one-to-one comparison you can make with Roveena,” her boyfriend Mandela Massina says. “She’s very unique.”
Nonetheless, Roveena was able to invest an enormous amount of time into one project she is very proud of: her novel, Mirror Mania.
“Imagine a society that has made all of your body image anxieties come true, and you are living through it. That is essentially the basis of Mirror Mania.”
Mirror Mania revolves around two young adults in university. The girl “has nothing to lose at this point,” Roveena explains. “She’s like: ‘I’m sick of this system, I want to destroy it.’” The male protagonist is a contrasting character who was bullied growing up and wants to make sure he makes it at the top of the system.
“They might get together, they might not. We don’t know!” Roveena teases with a soft laugh.
While many aspiring writers struggle to find exposure, Roveena’s dream came true. In the summer of 2019, a professor from Georgetown reached out to Roveena over LinkedIn and offered her the opportunity to write her own novel. Roveena eagerly accepted once realizing the proposal was not a scam, and became part of a program called The Creators Institute with writers from all across the globe.
“The only caveat was I had to raise my own funds to keep the rights to my book. Otherwise I would work with a traditional publisher, but lose the rights.”
That’s exactly what this young author did. In order to raise $4000 USD, Roveena took to social media and asked her friends and family for their help.
Within five quick days, Roveena had raised $4864. “It really made me realize who is there to help me out.”
Roveena also knew she wanted to write on something relevant in the public eye. “The topic needed to be really important to me, but also create an impact on people.”
She sat down to reflect on what has been a significant site of struggle and defined multiple aspects of her life.
“It was body image,” Roveena says earnestly. “I was my biggest enemy.”
“I grew up being ‘different’,” Roveena continues. “I was one of three coloured kids in my elementary school. I was also always a curvy person, and I never knew if that was okay or not. It was also made even worse because in my culture you’re expected to look ‘perfect’ all the time. It was an issue with guys too, but they would never acknowledge it publicly.”
Roveena’s body image issues started to take their toll on her mental health in high school. While Roveena was starting to discover her passions through extracurriculars, her insecurities held her back. “It got to the point where I was weighing myself every day. I would even lash out if I didn’t see the number I wanted and restrict myself from eating.”
“I let the scale control my feelings and emotions.”
Roveena was eventually turning down invitations to her friend’s birthday parties, which harmed her relationships. “They would get so mad, but I was just too scared to eat cake.”
By the end of high school, Roveena could no longer take the suffering. “When I finally realized that I didn’t need to meet a certain beauty standard, I felt free.”
“Mirror Mania encompasses all of these struggles together,” Roveena says. “The book is about embracing yourself and being able to understand that you define who you are.”
Roveena’s process of writing Mirror Mania was also not without self-doubts. “I felt like an imposter. I was worried about what people were going to think.”
Despite her anxieties, Roveena completed the novel between October, 2019 and August of this past year.
“Writing this book was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done, but also the most enjoyable. Something about myself that I’m proud of is no matter how scared I am I will always try.”
Now, back in Chicago for the winter break, Roveena is brainstorming ideas for a television series. “I just have no clue what I want to do after university! It’s not a bad thing, though. I see all of my interests as just having more options.”
“I used to feel like I should only do one thing because my parents were complaining about how I couldn’t commit to anything,” Roveena says, scrunching her wet hair from the shower in her hands. “I tried for a bit in university, but I feel like all of these creative outlets are too important to me. They all complement each other and make up who I am.”
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