Monika Samtani, Writing Her Story through The Fem Word

By: Ranya Fischer

I wanted to interview someone who was having an impact and using their voice to make a difference in our community; I learned about Monika Samtani and The Fem Word and I’m so glad I did. Monika Samtani started The Fem Word with her daughter, Natasha Samtani, two years ago to bring attention to women’s stories in a way that wasn’t being done. Her own story is one of lifting yourself up when the chips are down and not letting society decide what you can and cannot do. 

 

Monika was a very successful news anchor and the first Indian on television in Washington D.C.  As a result of multiple challenges that women face in the industry, including ageism, after 25+ years as a media professional, she started to feel overlooked. But she didn’t let this hold her back. She used her experience as an inspiration to make a change and start her own media firm, Ms. Media, and a women’s platform,The Fem Word. She now uses this platform to bring attention to other women’s stories, fight for equality, and bring change. 

 

Using your voice to make a difference is a cornerstone to The Fem Word, just like in Sayva. Her advice to young voices: “Find your platform and find your passion. Even if it’s baby steps you start with, if you love what you are doing, and change the life of even one person - that's one more than yesterday.” That’s great advice for all of us as we embark on our future community events. Just having an impact on one person is tremendous. And if we all work together to combine our voices, we can have an even greater impact. Whether you are famous on the world stage or just trying to make a difference in your own community, we all have stories of failure, hurdles, and fear to overcome in order to succeed. The Fem Word might be the inspiration you need.

 

Check out The Fem Word here and read the interview below to learn why she would want to have lunch with Billie Eilish and who else she would have her dream lunch with.

 

Here is the abridged version of my conversations with Monika Samtani

 

Ranya: What gave you the idea for The Fem Word?

 

Monika: When I was in college and even as a teenager, I always wanted to be in broadcasting, but it was very unusual at that time for Indian women to be in that field. I built my career over the next 25 and 30 years and became the first Indian on major market television in Washington in the early 1990s. I was super proud of it! But when digital and social media started to take precedence, I realized that young people especially weren't relying on the television as much to get information. So in 2014, I decided to pivot and leave television to start my own endeavor. Ever since I left, I never looked back. 

 

With The Fem Word, I want to dig deeper into the female story. Back in 2018, my daughter Natasha and I were having conversations about the fact that we only saw the ‘good stuff’ on social media. Everyone always seemed really happy and at the top of their game. But how did they become successful? What was their story? Everyone has a story - storytelling is what unifies us as human beings, it’s what inspires us. I mean, there's a whole journey and path that I took to get to where I am today, too. 

 

Ranya: Do you have any stories of failures or challenges from your career? 

 

Monika: When I was thinking about leaving my job, I had started to feel that I was being overlooked. Now, looking back, I realize in the media industry that people start to see women differently as they get older. Just as a generalization, men don't face that as soon as women do. It was tough at the time, but I do not consider it a failure because it was a moment that launched my media business and this new platform, and something really great came out of it. 

 

Ranya: What is it like working with your daughter and do you think the project has brought you closer?

 

Monika: I love working with Natasha, co-founder of The Fem Word, because I get to know her on a deeper level; not just as my daughter but as a woman in this world. I love the strength of women today. We’re two women with the same mission: to tell stories of bold women in creative spaces. 

 

Ranya: Was there ever a time when either your daughter or any of the guests in your show surprised you or challenged the way you thought?

 

Monika: We interviewed a woman named Serena Kerrigan. She actually changed her middle name to a cuss word. She said, “You know what, I was tired of being overlooked and I deserved more attention that I was getting and it's if it meant changing my name, so be it.” She doesn’t care what people think and shows women that they have a voice and deserve to be heard. I learned from her that we are never alone because we always have ourselves. She’s right - because wherever you go, there you are…

 

Ranya: If you could have lunch with any famous women, who would you choose? 

 

Monika: I would have loved to have met RBG and had lunch with her. Another one would be Billie Eilish, who is only 18, but is so unique in her approach to empower and lift young women through her platform. I also love that her mom, Maggie Baird, runs an organization called ‘Support + Feed’ which provides plant based meals to people experiencing food insecurity. I would love to meet with model Winnie Harlow, and speak with Gloria Steinem, the pioneer of the women’s movement in the sixties. I would have loved to have tea with Princess Diana and Frida Kahlo! There are so many more women with great stories that I’d love to meet, the list is endless.