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ashna Patel is not afraid to get her feet wet. As a young reporter at YTV, a youth entertainment cable channel in Canada, Patel had the enviable task of interviewing superstar Mariah Carey. When Carey suggested being interviewed in her swimming pool, Patel was game. She jumped in, clothing and all, to conduct the interview—it was a huge success with Carey and viewers alike.

Patel’s stunt is not surprising, given that she’ll do whatever it takes to get the job done. Or in her case, jobs—she’s a jill of all trades who has worked as an entertainment reporter, hosts Vacation Home Search on the Travel Channel and is pursuing her true passion—music—at the same time. Yet she still squeezes in time to host and produce Travel A La Mode for US Airways, write proposals for new show ideas, and throw fabulous dinner parties for her friends. Her relaxed and warm demeanor makes it seem like she accomplishes everything effortlessly.

I wish I was a person who just got discovered. But I’ve never been that lucky.

But she’s quick to point out that she accomplished everything the old-fashioned way—through hard work and persistence. “I wish I was a person who just got discovered,” she says. “But I’ve never been that lucky.”

Climbing the ladder

Growing up in Canada, she had a very traditional, academic Indian upbringing. After high school, she realized that journalism interested her. Her parents encouraged her interest, and soon, Patel was hosting various local shows on Canadian television, where she learned about writing, production and being in front of a camera. She enrolled at Ryerson University in Toronto to study journalism. But everything was not smooth sailing.

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“When I was in university in my final year, I applied for on-air positions. I got tons of rejections. People told me I couldn’t get my start in television on camera … Then YTV called me for an audition. The first job I got, I had to sit in a pretend treehouse and make puppets and do storytelling. It was all live.”

Of course, Patel has come a long way from hosting a local Canadian children’s show. Soon, she moved up the ranks, advancing to a morning show on YTV. She also worked for TV Guide Canada. “At one point, I was working for three different stations,” she recalls.

Then, tragedy struck. Her mother and father both died within a short time of each other—her father of a heart attack and her mother of colon cancer. After mourning her losses, Patel decided it was time for a change.

“I really didn’t have much reason to stay in Toronto,” she says. “I decided to quit my jobs and start a new chapter.” So she packed two suitcases and a beloved stuffed bunny rabbit and hopped on a plane to Los Angeles. That’s as far as she had gotten in her planning. “When I landed, I had no idea where I was going to stay. I ended up staying at this really ghetto hotel,” she recalls, laughing. “I came here without knowing anything. My parents raised me not to be fearful, so I was more excited than scared.”

Moving on up

Life in Hollywood was a bit different from the safe comforts of Canada. Patel had never had an agent, but she couldn’t work without one in California. No one cared that she had a degree in journalism—it mattered more how she looked. “It was completely frustrating. I might be smarter than these girls [I’m competing against], but it didn’t matter,” she says. “You had to have the right look.”

Being Indian in this business was a bit of a hindrance. I got some of the jobs I did because I had a crossover look—I could look Latina or like I’m from southern Italy.

Her unique look was both an asset and a drawback at the same time. “Being Indian was a bit of a hindrance,” she admits. “But I think the reason I got some of the jobs I did was that I had a crossover look–I could look Latina or like I’m from southern Italy.” Among those jobs were stints at the TV Guide channel and then later with Extra. Soon, she was chasing down the likes of Tom Hanks and Dustin Hoffman at various red carpet events—a job that seems glamorous, but one she insists is not. “You really have to hustle to get the interview short on the red carpet. After a while, it’s not glamorous at all. Now I know why they kept sending me out there for this—because no one wanted the job!”

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Aashna Basics

In her stereo: I’m listening to a lot of bhangra, because I love it. Also a lot hip hop and soundtracks. I still love classical music, like Ravi Shankar or Bach or Mozart.

In her travel plans:
My next trip is to India. I’ve been to Singapore, London, Paris and tons of places in the States and Canada. I’ve never been to Africa or Australia. I’m hoping my job will take me to one of those places!

In her stomach: My favorite Indian food keeps changing. Right now it’s dosa. I really do like south Indian food. I love all the rich Punjabi dishes, minus the meat. I love all the snacks. You know, the things that are so bad for you—chaat, bhel, pani puri.

But her big break came while she was still working at Extra. Patel had always been interested in travel, so she’d been sending the Travel Channel her film reel and resume for years. Last year, they called her up to set up an audition for a quirky show on Animal Planet. But her look proved problematic once again. “I didn’t have the right look, so I didn’t get the job,” she says. “But then they offered me Vacation Home Search.”

Patel jumped at the opportunity to host her own show about enchanting vacation homes in exotic locations. The show began airing on Labor Day in 2004, but Patel quickly realized that she wouldn’t be jetting off to far-flung destinations for the job. Instead, she shoots the introductions and voiceovers from Malibu. She’s not complaining—it just gives her more time to pursue her other interests. She always makes time for fun, too—“I’ll sacrifice sleep to have a social life.”

Looking ahead

She won’t, however, sacrifice her dreams, which include having a successful music career. Journalism and travel programs aside, it’s music that gets Patel excited. “It’s really the time I write about exactly what I’m thinking. I sing about what I feel. It’s very much who I am. I’d abandon the other stuff if someone would pay me a lot of money to do it.”

She already has a head start—she released a self-titled album in Canada on MCA Records, and she’s hoping to launch her second album this year. “The first album was very bubblegum,” she explains. Now that she’s more comfortable in her own skin, she’s returning to her roots. “This one will be entirely different. It has more of a world sound, with a lot of Indian elements. My first single is a ballad with a Latin and Indian feel … My Indian heritage plays a huge role in my life. It’s really important to me. I still speak Gujarati. I’m extremely spiritual. I got that from my parents and the way they raised me.”

Patel carries that confidence with her through all her endeavors. It has served her well. Whether she’s in front of the camera, in the studio or on the red carpet, one thing’s for certain—she makes a splash wherever she goes.n

Ismat Sarah Mangla believes she is a good reporter, but not good enough to jump into pool with a source–with clothes or without.
Published on February 7, 2005.
Photography: Courtesy of Aashna Patel.
Comments are closed.
  1. January 18, 2007, 3:22 pm Donna Fry

    Hi…where are you? What are you doing now?

    Donna

  2. June 9, 2007, 11:24 pm Inteaz Cheema

    You’re still so beautiful, Aashna, not just physically, but spiritually and mentally as well. –Inteaz

  3. January 30, 2008, 3:14 pm Mason

    Aashna…you have the most beautiful energy I’ve ever experienced via TV. You do a great job. You have the kind of beauty and intelligence that frightens some people, but don’t let that bother you; those who are real see the real you, in and out. Do you sing any jazz. I think it would be incredible to hear you sing jazz standards.

    Writer, producer, host, singer, model,…Go for it Patel!

    Mason, Naples Fl

  4. February 5, 2008, 10:52 am Andrea Garnett

    Hi Aashna,

    Do you remember me? Your old friend from high school? We use to dance and sing our hearts out?

    It’s been a long time. Looking good girl! do your thang!

    send me a line when you have time,

    Andrea

  5. May 4, 2008, 3:25 am masod

    sallam