Alumna Q&A: BuzzFeed video producer Michelle Khare ’14
Just two years after graduating from Dartmouth with a self-designed major in digital arts and media technology, Michelle Khare ’14 has found success in the world of internet video. She currently works at BuzzFeed and has 150,000 followers across various social media platforms.
How do you make your mark on your work?
MK: Within BuzzFeed, we’re really lucky to have a lot of freedom to create content that is really special, unique and speaks to us as individuals. So, for me, I’ve done a lot of content on being a minority, on being Indian. I have done a lot of content to provide these experiences to groups of people who have never experienced them before. I love doing videos that challenge societal norms and encourage people to think differently.
What artists inspire you?
MK: A lot of Dartmouth alums really inspire me. Mindy Kaling ’01 and Shonda Rhimes ’91 are huge, huge inspirations to me. I was really lucky to get to meet Shonda during my FSP to LA my senior year, and I feel so lucky to kind of have people to look up to who are women of color, especially Mindy, who is Indian like I am, who are totally killing it in the business. And so I also look up to their content a lot, I look up to their mantras and their brands. They inspire me because they work incredibly hard to get their job done, and they defy all odds while doing it.
Like you, my father immigrated from India, while my mother was born in America. I know for me, growing up, this had a big impact on the way I saw both Indian and American culture. Have these different cultural backgrounds influenced the way you approach different aspects of Indian and American culture in your life, and if so, how?
MK: So I am mixed race, and one of the things I love to speak about is identity. Growing up not being completely Indian but not looking white was definitely something that filled a lot of my childhood. It was a lot of explaining, you know, “Yes, this is my mom, even though she doesn’t have the same skin color that I do.” I grew up in a conservative, small town in Louisiana, and that one aspect of my life really affected the way that I grew up. So a lot of my childhood, I met being mixed race with a lot of confusion and frustration about it. I never saw my situation of a multiracial individual or family portrayed in the media, and I think that at first, I looked at them and thought, maybe I that means I’m not supposed to be in media. My goal, in life, is to let every person know, whether mixed race or different in any way at all, that just because you don’t see someone who looks like you doing the dream that you have, doesn’t mean you can’t be the first person to do that. As I grow older now, I see so many wonderful aspects of being multiracial and multiethnic. I recently got back from a trip to India where, with BuzzFeed India, I got to create a lot of pretty cool videos, and the whole experience was extremely eye-opening and beautiful. I was actually there for my grandfather’s funeral, and it really brought things full circle for me.
I know you’ve talked a lot about your role models, but who do you know in “real life” that has been most influential in your career?
MK: So probably my biggest influence and idol is YouTube comedian Lilly Singh. She’s also known as Superwoman. I really admire her work ethic. I also admire her for being a fellow Indian woman who I feel has succeeded in a very unique industry of internet video, and it would be a dream of mine to work with her one day. My dad is an immigrant, and I really admire and look up to him for that, and I respect that. I feel so grateful to have grown up in a household where my father was an immigrant because it taught me so much about work ethic. And it really, really taught me about being thankful for the small things, even, that we are afforded to have in America, most especially at Dartmouth. Dartmouth was an incredible privilege. Both of my parents went to local universities, and I was the first person in my family to leave our home state to go to college. And, you know, I wouldn’t have had an opportunity like that had my father not come to America and had I not seen his work ethic and tried to emulate that in my life. So, I’m very thankful to be the daughter of an immigrant.
Is there anything that you’ve worked on recently that you’re particularly proud of?
MK: One video, that I was not in, that I’m really proud of is — it came out last week — called “People Recreate Photos of Their Immigrant Ancestors.” In America, it’s a unique situation, where everyone here, except for Native Americans, is a descendant of an immigrant. Another video I’m really proud of that I did is “1 Woman, 8 Sarees,” which is like a beauty video that I filmed in India, and that was just an incredible experience to get to make a video on a very mainstream and American website for an Indian audience. And it ended up going viral, so that was really cool to see.
Where do you see yourself in five years?
MK: It’s very hard to predict where you’ll be in five years in an industry on the internet. I want to continue making viral videos for the internet. I wasn’t honestly really expecting for my personal following to grow as much as it has at BuzzFeed. Now I feel really blessed to have almost 150,000 followers on all platforms. And I found that speaking to large groups of people about the issues that I face and that other women have gone through has been awesome, and I would love to continue that. I really want to come back to Dartmouth, and share what I’ve learned with Dartmouth students. It would be super cool to do that in one way or another.
Khare may be reached on Instagram at @michellekhare, Twitter at @MichelleKhare and on Facebook.