Every June, the world celebrates Pride. It’s a month filled with celebration, love, and appreciation for everyone living unashamedly as their true selves. It’s also a time we spotlight the phenomenal LGBT people living boldly and brightly.
New York-based Ginni Saraswati, CEO and founder of Ginni Media, is one person who integrates a life of joyful authenticity into her work. Ginni Media is a one-stop-shop podcast production company that offers just about everything you need to get a podcast up and running, from audio production, writing, marketing, distribution, and everything else in between. Ginni Media recently rebranded to put the company’s inclusive values front and center, introducing the tagline “made offbeat.” This new brand identity reflects their ambition to bring individuals and brands with untold, niche, or underserved stories to the mic.
As a gay, immigrant woman, Sri Lankan-born founder Ginni Saraswati’s upbringing would play a huge part in establishing this branding in her work world. “Growing up, I didn’t know that homosexuality was illegal anywhere – let alone the country that I was from. I did, however, get a sense that it was frowned upon,” she says. When Saraswati was four or five years old, after her family migrated from Sri Lanka to Australia, she saw something on TV related to the LGBTQ community. “One of my aunts said something like, ‘These people are disgusting.’ Even though I didn’t identify as gay yet, I remember thinking to myself, ‘Aren’t people, people? Why does who they love matter?’”
Even growing up in Australia, LGBTQ representation was not a regular part of her world. “If you’re a Sri Lankan girl, all the movies and TV shows that you watch, the women always end up in marriage to a man…I grew up with a sense that a woman loving another woman wasn’t necessarily welcomed in my culture.” However, after learning about the harsh penalties for homosexuality in her home country, Saraswati acknowledges the privilege that comes with being LGBT in Australia. There, she could step into her authentic identity.
Her first New York Pride experience in June 2015 – having been sent by her then broadcaster Joy 94.9 (Australia’s first LGBTQ radio station) – was an emotional one. “I remember stepping off the train and looking up at the Empire State Building, which was lit up with rainbow colors. In that moment, I felt so seen and heard,” she says. “Being in a place where you’re both seen and heard, and embraced for who you are, that’s magical to me. Magical because, combined with New York City’s creative energy, you’re given permission to be yourself and you negate the stress, anxiety and emotional toll of working hard to hide and not be yourself. It’s exhausting.” The opportunity to work with Joy 94.9 was a formative part of her coming out experience. “When I began hosting programs on Joy, I wasn’t completely out of the closet. I felt that if I were to host a show on Joy, that would officially ‘out’ me as an LGBTQ person. “However, that was the place I was able to finally step into who I am, literally find my voice, and use it.”
Now with a company of her own, diversity is at the heart of Ginni Media. With team members from more than 14 countries, the commitment to diversity is also reflected in the impressive roster of shows they produce: from shows about being transgender, to spirituality, to aging. “We need to be mindful and create space for meaningful community and diversity at work, even as a fully remote workplace. We have people from all colors of the rainbow, many languages, and cultures. It lays the foundation for people to show up authentically as they are.”
Being an out and proud woman in the media has been integral to finding her voice and place in the industry. “I think having representation and visibility is incredibly important to encourage others to step into their most authentic selves,” she says. “I bring this knowledge to my business as well. When people feel emotionally and/or physically unsafe, it impacts them and in turn, the whole culture of that organization. When an individual feels that way at work, can you imagine what their life must feel like outside of it? Just like how you bring your personality to work, you take work, and it’s environment home with you too.”
Podcasting has been Saraswati’s safe haven that not only lets her live as her authentic self, but encourages others to do the same. “I love the fact that when you listen to a podcast and a person shares their story or experience, there is a point of connection. It’s all about being able to relate to their human experience.” she says. “All the positives that I’ve experienced as an LGBT woman out in the media drive home the fact that we are all human…how we relate to one another, how we build relationships. That’s what life’s all about – and that’s the foundation of podcasting, too.”
Find out more on the Ginni Media website.