No established economic or social activity is easy to crack, especially if you’re someone from a “non-mainstream” (read: ethnic) community. But by the same token, Canada’s “non-mainstream” communities are anything but defeatists. They continue to knock on doors, and if those doors don’t open, knock them down.
Show business is one of the areas in North America where ethnic aspirants have faced tremendous odds – but the barriers are slowly breaking down.
Increasingly, you’re seeing South Asian actors winning parts in mainstream films and on TV. The same is true for music.
Surrey’s Terri Sidhu is determined to make her mark as an actor and singer. She’s starting to make some waves, but is still at the beginning stages of her career.
Desi Today caught up with her and talked about her efforts to make her mark. And what comes across is her steely, single-minded determination to do just that.
But Terri is also a smart realist. She’s not put all her eggs in one basket. She’s a BCIT-trained health specialist and works as a Medical Radiation Technologist at a major hospital.
What’s even more impressive is that, at such a young age, she is already a homeowner, having invested in a townhome.
Right now, she’s focused on the Miss Canada contest that she’s taking part in in August. Naturally, she hopes to do well there. And that’s where we began our conversation…
Desi Today (DT): Tell us about the Miss Canada Globe contest that you are taking part in a few months from now.
Terri Sidhu (TS): Well, a previous winner of the contest – and a Miss Universe winner – contacted me. And she said I have a really good shot at this. So she in fact submitted my name to take part in the contest.
What I really like about this Miss Canada contest is that it focuses on more than just physical beauty. It’s more about the inner you, about how you are as a person, as a role model. And that’s something I can really get behind. I really believe that we can all make the world a better place. And this contest is looking for someone who is willing and capable of doing that.
I’m really excited to take part in the contest, which will be held in Toronto in August.
DT: And that should also help to open more doors for your show business career?
TS: I sure hope so.
DT: How did you get into show business?
TS: Well, in high school I was always interested in acting. I took acting and drama classes. In fact, when I was in Grade 11, I was named the Most Inspirational Actress in school. So it’s something I’ve always loved. I’ve had a passion for it.
After high school, I stopped acting as I went through post-secondary education and everything. And then when I started working, I realized there was something missing in my life. So I decided I need to do something about this. So I decided to start pursuing it again. I did (acting) classes again and started looking for agents.
So it’s been something I’ve always wanted to do.
DT: You sing as well?
TS: Yeah, I sing as well.
DT: So what do you consider yourself, an actress who also sings, or a singer who also acts?
TS: (laughs) An actress who sings. Acting is my first love. It’s my passion, though I would say I’m passionate about singing as well. But acting is my first love.
DT: Where acting is concerned, have you done any parts yet in movies or TV?
TS: I’ve done quite a lot of independent stuff – shorts and so on. I also act in theater (stage). In fact, that’s where I’ve done much of my work so far.
Where TV and movies is concerned, I’m just getting into it. There’s stuff that’s in the works, that’s going to be happening.
DT: Is it a tough field?
TS: Well, what I’ve learned from my acting teachers so far is that for an actress, auditioning (for parts) is your job. Getting a part is a bonus. That’s the way it is. So acting’s got to be something you really love, and you’ve got to go after it.
I love acting. If you find something that means so much to you, as acting does to me, you’ve got to get out there and go for it.
DT: As a budding actress, tell us some of your activities. Do you still go for acting classes?
TS: I’m continuously in acting classes. But I also read a lot about acting techniques, and of course I watch a lot of plays and so on with an eye towards honing my acting skills.
Acting is like playing a musical instrument. You know if you play the piano or something, you always have to practise. That’s how a great pianist becomes great. It’s the same with acting – you’ve got to be continuously working on your art.
DT: The danger when you’re just trying to make your mark is that you can get disillusioned. And show business in general is a tough field to break into. Does that ever happen to you?
TS: No doubt it’s a tough field. But no, I don’t get discouraged simply because I love it so much. I’m always excited about acting. I’m really clear about wanting to do it. And I know it’s going to happen.
DT: Who is your role model?
TS: My role model is actually my grandpa. He is such an amazing person, calm, open and always supportive. He’s always there for me. I was always very close to him when I was growing up.
Just being around someone who is so caring and so positive has been a tremendous experience for me. He is very open to things and knows what I want. He’s all for me being an actress, of being involved in show business.
And I’ve also got the full support of the rest of my family for what I want to do.
DT: How are things going where singing is concerned?
TS: I’ve got a manager to handle that side of things. We are in the process of producing my first song. We`re putting it together. I hope to release it as a single once it is completed.
I’m also a budding songwriter.
I was singing for a while but then, just like acting, I stopped after high school. But then I felt like the Universe kept pestering me to start singing again. And I also kept interacting with music people – music producers, vocal coaches – and they started saying I sound like I could sing.
So that was an encouragement to pursue singing.
DT: Is the song a ballad?
TS: Well, it’s going to be a sort of R ‘n’ B pop piece once it is completed.
DT: Is it a good idea to try and make a go of it in two rather different areas of show business, acting and singing?
TS: I think so. One reason is that I manage my time really well. I think I’m pretty good at keeping things separate and being able to focus on one thing at a time.
DT: From outside show business, one reads about the difficulties aspirants like yourself often face, things like the difficulty of opening doors and getting your foot in. Tell us your experiences.
TS: Well, as with anything else, there are what I consider obstacles to overcome. For me, these are just challenges I need to tackle as I pursue something I love. Like I said, when you love doing something, things like that don’t bring you down.
Of course I do run into such obstacles – everyone does in any activity they undertake – but they are there to be sorted out.
DT: What have been the best and worst moments of your showbiz career so far?
TS: Well, the worst moments are when you try to land a part, you know you did your best and then you fail to get the part. Of course very often it is not because you did something wrong, but because they were looking for a particular kind of personality for that particular part or because they’re looking for someone who fits in with the rest of an ensemble cast.
I don’t carry these things with me. As long as I know I did my best, I’m OK.
The best moments are of course just being involved in an activity I love!
DT: As an ethnic person, do you find it easier or tougher to land parts? There aren’t too many parts on TV or film for people with ethnic backgrounds, though that appears to be changing.
TS: That trend is still very new. And that’s part of my motivation actually because I want to be one of those who changes that situation. We are a multicultural world. That’s everyday life. And that should be reflected on TV and in films as well.
As you said, the situation is already starting to change. So I’d like to be one of those who pushes those boundaries.
In doing so, I also hope I will become a role model for those who follow.
DT: In the roles that you get offered, do you get typecast?
TS: Well, in some of them I get typecast as a South Asian character, but you know you cannot be choosy about roles in the early stages of your career.
DT: Have you made a lot of connections in the industry?
TS: Well, I have an agent. And you do keep meeting new people and getting things going. And it’s all really exciting.
DT: You say you’re a budding songwriter. Are you also involved in other behind-the-camera aspects of the business, both creative and technical?
TS: I’ve been dabbling a little bit in that. I’ve always loved writing. I did a lot of writing in high school. And there are so many stories out there to be told – everyone has a story! – and I’d like to do more of that in the future. But right now, my concentration is on what you may call before-the-camera activities.
DT: The whole concept of marketing in showbiz has changed dramatically in recent years. A lot of things are done online, and social media is now a huge thing. Have you done much in that area?
TS: Frankly, I haven’t done much of it so far. As I said, I have an agent/manager and he looks after that side of things, things like promotions and so on.
DT: Obviously one tries in life to go as far as possible in your chosen activity, and there really never is a limit you set on yourself. But what are your goals at this point in your career?
TS: Well, I want to try and do a bit of everything at this point. I love comedy, I love drama, action. And I’m very into cars!
DT: Well, that’s usually a guy thing!
TS: (laughs) I know! But there you have it – I love cars!
I actually have tinkered with cars, though I wouldn’t call myself any kind of expert car mechanic or anything. But yes, I do know how to do things under the hood.
DT: We were talking earlier about how social media has provided new avenues for lots of do-it-your-own efforts. There are people who have become YouTube stars all through their own efforts. Are you interested in that sort of thing?
TS: I’ve thought about it. I haven’t really put too much effort into that. It’s fun, some of the things people do. But it’s more rants and skits rather than acting. So I’ve not really looked seriously into how I could use that sort of platform and be able to practise the craft of acting.
I think it would be a lot of fun, but I’ve not given it my immediate attention.
DT: Finally, what is your target for 2015? Where would you like to see yourself by the end of this year?
TS: Right now, I’d just like to do my best in the Miss Canada contest. And to continue the development of my career in acting, singing and modelling.
But I’m also very keen to be of help to people. That too forms a big part of what I am. I volunteer at The Door Is Open, a soup kitchen in East Van once a week or so. And it’s a really neat and satisfying thing to do.