Updated: Mar 31, 2021
By Sarina Patel
Founder of NovelMinority
This week, we selected Trishna Rikhy, an NYC-based fashion journalist whose work has been featured in BrownGirlMag and V Magazine, among others. We sat down with Rikhy to talk interviewing The Neighborhood, redefining journalism in a viral world, and attending New York Fashion Week.
The following interview has been edited for clarity and length.
NovelMinority (NM): What inspired you to start writing?
Trishna Rikhy (TR): I think I've just always been a writer, from a very young age. I was always writing something. In high school, I was on the school newspaper. That's where I began to develop my editorial writing and my news writing. Writing has always come easier to me [as opposed to other artistic outlets].
NM: How did you decide on your major of journalism and art history?
TR: I knew going into college that I would be a journalism major. I applied to the journalism school that I'm attending now, but [at NYU] I had to double major. During my freshman year, I took an art history class to fill up my schedule, and I completely fell in love with it. The courses, the lectures...amazing. I'd always loved going to museums, but I'd never really understood [the significance of] what I was looking at until I took that class.
NM: Good to know! I applied to NYU for journalism, actually. So I was wondering: what has that been like for you? TR: It's been pretty great! The journalism school has so many opportunities, so many resources. Have you gotten your results yet?
NM: No, I'm Regular Decision.
TR: Okay, so excited for you. Fingers crossed! When you get in, let me know.
I think if you know journalism is something you want to pursue, NYU does a really good job of making sure you're on that path.
NM: Thank you! Is there a specific class or time where NYU has helped you out?
TR: Well, the internship that I'm at right now [at V Mag] is something that I actually found through the NYU journalism department. I really love where I am right now, and I wouldn't have known about it if not for those NYU emails.
NM: Speaking of V Mag, you've gotten the opportunity to interview some pretty cool people. Like Chip Chrome [a.k.a. Jesse Rutherford, lead singer of The Neighborhood] himself! How has that been for you?
TR: Interviewing Chip Chrome specifically was the craziest thing in the world for me. I've loved The Neighborhood; I've been one of their biggest fans since 2013.
NM: Me too.
TR: Yeah, I listen to the music constantly. And then out of the blue one day, my editor texted me--around the time that "Stargazing" came out--and she was like: "Hey, any chance you want to interview Jesse Rutherford from The Neighborhood? If not, let me know. I'll pass it on to someone else", and my jaw dropped! I was like: "Are you kidding me?" She had no idea that I had even liked them. I think that's the article/interview that I'm most proud of...and by far, the longest, too! We were on the phone for forty five minutes; it was so surreal to talk to him as [both] a fan and as a journalist. And Jesse was so supportive of the interview--he reposted it on his Instagram feed and on his story. It was insane. Still can't believe I made that happen.
NM: I saw that he posted it on Instagram! TR: [laughs] Yeah, it's like my pride and joy.
NM: So now I've got to know. Do you prefer Chip Chrome, The Neighborhood, or Jesse?
TR: Everything that Jesse Rutherford is a part of is amazing.
NM: Are you often asked to write outside of pop culture and fashion? TR: All the time in school work. What I'm good at [and what I do at my internship] is pop culture and fashion. But in journalism school, they want you to write hard stories, like breaking news. I did political writing during the election, and that pushed me out of my comfort zone. It's scary, but through practice, I have gotten better at it.
NM: In an article for BrownGirlMag, you said that in New York, you found a motherland away from the motherland. What has it been like to navigate the New York publication space as a creative of color? TR: I've been so lucky. I'm still a novice--not even on the tip of the iceberg, I'm like...before you meet the iceberg. [laughs] In my experience, I've been very lucky to have mentors, advisors, and editors who were willing to work with me. I can't complain, but I know a lot of brown people have not been so lucky. Maybe things will change once I graduate...though I hope not.
NM: Given that both of us are Indian-Americans, I was wondering: what was your experience transitioning from where you grew up to New York, where you're constantly inundated with Indian culture? TR: Oh god, it was so great. Wait, where are you from?
TR: Okay, so I grew up in three different cities. All suburbs, all very white. I was always either the only brown kid in the classroom or one of two. And of the two, I was definitely the more "whitewashed" one.
NM: Same, yeah.
TR: The other brown kid in the room had always either just arrived from India or something.
NM: Right! I know here, at least...like I grew up listening to Taylor Swift instead of Bollywood music, because my parents weren't raised in India either. Growing up, a few brown kids called me "whitewashed" or "coconut" because they were straight from India, or their parents were, and they found my interests weird.
TR: [laughs] Right, I was called "coconut" and all of those things...you couldn't even say anything back. If they start talking in Hindi, I can't say anything back!
NM: [laughs] Exactly. What were we supposed to do?
TR: Yeah. So coming to New York was good, in that way. Unless you actively seek it out, you're never immersed in just one culture. My friend group is so multiethnic. My classes...eh, my classes could be more multiethnic!
NM: Say it louder!
TR: Still, it's a lot more multiethnic than high school. I live in a part of Manhattan where there are a lot of brown people. Every time I step outside, I see someone who looks like me--which I could never have said in the suburbs, unless I was talking about my family! There's Indian food everywhere and people love it...which is crazy to me, because in the suburbs, it's not as popular. I think New York has been a gateway between white suburban culture and the motherland that is India.
NM: That's so nice! Would you say your culture doesn't really define your identity in New York [as opposed to your story]?
TR: Everyone comes from somewhere in New York! But it doesn't feel alienating, because it's such a patchwork of identities.
NM: How do you find stories in your community to write about? What piques your interest to think: "That's a good story"?
TR: I write about the music I listen to. I've done several articles on Harry Styles-- always something to write about Harry! I've done articles on The Neighborhood, too. A lot of my [other] pitches just come from scrolling on Instagram or Twitter, seeing a trending topic, and reaching out to my editor about it.
NM: What's been your experience on the internship scene?
TR: Love it. I think it helps that every single summer of high school, I was involved in some kind of editorial or fashion work to get me where I am now. I was always either working in retail or my local newspaper. Before my [fashion journalism] internship at V Mag, I was on a beauty and skincare company's editorial team. They've all kind of aligned nicely with my interests, but V Mag is by far my favorite.
NM: You did New York Fashion Week. What was that like? TR: Pre-COVID? Yeah, I did go to New York Fashion Week for this really cool brand. They put on shows in Brooklyn, invite everyone, and host after-parties. That was really cool! Made me feel like a real New Yorker my first year here. It wasn't Gucci or anything, but it was super cool to sit on the runway and see how things flow. And [seeing how things flow] still helps me today...New York Fashion Week is right now and so, at work, I'm covering a lot of shows. It's so easy for me to analyze the digital runway and figure out what's going on behind the scenes because of my experience attending it.
NM: What is something you wish young BIPOC creatives knew about fashion journalism? Say they had no experience... TR: I wish they knew that it's not as scary as it seems. It is scary, but it's really just like a shoot-your-shot thing. I tell myself this all the time now, and I wish that I had realized this years and years ago, but the worst thing that can happen to you is just: you fail. And if you fail, then you move on. That failure stays with you, but you can learn from it to do better. This goes for anything in journalism. One day you are going to crack the perfect pitch or the perfect story, and that's because you've been rejected so many times. Does that make sense?
NM: That does, actually. I've never understood why people are so afraid of failure. Cut your losses and move on, you know? TR: Yeah. Even at your age, I wish I had that mindset. I only started a year ago.
NM: [laughs] Trish, you're only two years older than me. What do you mean "your age"?
TR: I'm still young! But if I knew this at your age, the first half of college would've been so much easier. Beginning college with that mindset will be good for you! You're going to feel thankful for that.
NM: Thank you! So at Novel Minority, we like to expand our storytelling beyond traditional diaspora narratives. We want young BIPOC creatives to know they can write whatever they want, and not just for white entertainment. So we wanted to hear your input: beyond mango poetry, what are some things you want to see BIPOC creatives write?
TR: Whatever they want. Just write about it. Someone's got to do it; there's no reason why it shouldn't be you. Oh, and also...whenever writing about race, culture, and relations, I think BIPOC writers--you know what, including myself!--should get more comfortable talking about other BIPOC communities outside of our own. We need to talk about how we've historically treated those communities, and how oppression isn't equal. Beyond that, I don't think BIPOC should only write about race or identity things. Anything that a white person can write about, so can a person of color.
NM: It's interesting how every Writer Of The Week has raised that last point! What is something you want to see more BIPOC writers do to establish solidarity in the writing community? It can be so toxic and competitive.
TR: Yeah, it really can. I think that there is so much gatekeeping within the writing community, and especially within BIPOC writers. There are so few opportunities for us, which creates fear. But I think a success for one BIPOC writer is a success for the entire community, you know? We're all trying to make it in a white person's world. Why not also uplift each other?
NM: Yeah. It's really funny; I've experienced the most gatekeeping from other BIPOC writers.
TR: Really? Wow. That's really sad, because: what are they going to gain from that, you know? Something like [what you have at] NovelMinority is great. It's not only for brown people; it's not only for women. This can help so many people.
NM: Yeah. We're totally anti-gatekeeping here. Just because of how much I've experienced gatekeeping in the past! It's our villain origin story.
TR: [laughs] I love that; I love that.
NM: Okay, last question. It's a Writer Of The Week series tradition, and something we do at the end of every interview. Basically: you have one sentence of advice to offer young BIPOC writers. What will it be?
TR: Said this before & I'll say it again. If you're afraid to write it, you need to write it. This applies to any type of writing--diaspora, politics, pop culture. I think that vulnerability can strengthen your writing. Having the confidence to share your intimate ideas with the world will help you stand out. [laughs] Whoa--that was way more than one sentence!