Sahil Bhutani

My parents immigrated to New York with maybe $10 to their name. My dad’s coworkers told him to wear his white lab coat while walking to work, so that people wouldn’t shoot him— they couldn’t afford to live in a better area of town. From my parents who are doctors I learned the importance of education to becoming successful. Naturally, my brother wants to become a musician and me? An actor. 

Growing up, I always felt like my culture was a burden. I only realized I was different in middle school, mostly because girls rejected me with “you’re funny… but you’re Indian". My best friend told me he thought that if I looked exactly the same but were white, I’d have girls all over me. 

Now my culture doesn't feel like a social burden anymore, only a professional one: there are limited roles written for people who look like me, and the roles that we do have are so limited. For most roles that I audition for, the people in charge have to ask themselves "can we tolerate making that character brown?" Recently I auditioned for two roles written for people with brown skin and I was so confident that I would get them— and I did. I couldn’t help but think— dang, is this how white people always feel when they audition? 

For most roles that I audition for, the people in charge have to ask themselves ‘can we tolerate making that character brown?’

And that’s why I think that stand-up is much more diverse than acting because in stand-up we write our own stories, where we aren’t a stereotyped version of ourselves, where we can just be who we are- Americans. People. The problem is that at the same time that there aren’t enough roles being written for people of color in acting, it’s culturally looked down upon for first-generation Indian Americans to be in acting. I feel like I'm going against the values of my culture to pursue an art form that doesn't even want me. 

Here's my advice to anyone who wants to go into acting as a person of color: Be so undeniably good that they have to cast you. It sucks that I have to say that and that you have to be better just because of your skin color, but you just have to. Until we can change the situation ourselves. 

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