Zinnia Kumar – Scientist, Activist & Model
What makes you feel empowered?
Knowing that with each passing day I grow and become a better person.
What elements of your upbringing do you incorporate into your daily life?
Live with integrity, work hard, live simply & honestly.
How have you carried your Indian heritage with you?
I carry it in my heart and I live it with pride. I try to never forget my ancestors and the sacrifices they made for me to be here in this privileged country. To me that is powerful, I hope I too can make some small impact for future generations to look back on too.
What was the moment when you realised that being a scientist and activist was your destiny?
I don’t believe I have ever realised it was my destiny. My goals and interests are ever changing and I tend to follow whatever piques my interest. Today I may be a scientist & activist, tomorrow I might be a filmmaker or politician. Who knows. I think pigeonholing ourselves limits what we think we can become.
Can you take us with you to Australia? What are the sounds, sights, and smells that resonate with you?
It is January, the height of summer down under. The unmistakable synthetic scent of sunscreen wafts past your nose as Sweaty red, roasted bodies with awkward tan lines, slumber horizontal on the beach sand.
Not a soul stirs and yet, the empty streets are ablaze with the choral hum of cicadas and chirping insects, each trying to outcompete the other in sound. The pavement burns under my feet. The hazy sky, filled with smoked Eucalyptus from the surrounding bushfires, a surprisingly familiar pleasant incense-like odour.
As evening falls, the dry intense heat lingers around. The street lights have become miniature insect tornadoes, swirling incessantly around the lights.
The white sand glows under the moonlight, not a soul stirs on the empty beach, the roaring waves bring calm and glisten in the moonlight and the stars shone brighter than the Northern Hemisphere.
How did your heritage impact your work as an activist?
I don’t think I would have realised colorism was an issue if I wasn’t Asian. However, on the flip side I might not have noticed colorism at all because it is so ingrained in Asian culture that until quite recently, it was considered a non-problem (to this day many people are still unaware/refuse to believe colorism is a serious problem).
So I feel my activism came from a combination of my heritage and questionative nature.
How do you define success?
When what you do and how it makes you feel are aligned positively. As a society we have been taught to value ‘prestige’, degrees, awards, accolades and external achievements that some how give us worth at face value. However, success to me is an internal synergy of passion aligned with passionate action – no matter the risk. A way to walk your own inner truth.