Interview with author, activist and former actress, Reema Zaman
A former actress, Zaman says she has strayed from the traditional path of the theater industry to create more agency, power and voice in her life and career.
I’m yours is the story of Reema Zaman’s relentless fight to protect and harness her voice as she learns to release the societal and cultural restrictions that plagued her and many other women. From his childhood in Bangladesh to his life in Thailand, New York and finally in Oregon, I’m yours reveals the reality of the female and human condition.
I met Reema when we both spoke to the Hippocampus Conference last summer (I’ll come back to it this summer, this time on the mainstream publications pitch), and I followed its fabulous trajectory. I recently had the opportunity to speak with Reema and ask her about her powerful transformation.
This is your second career. Tell me about your first actress and why you made the decision to change?
I needed to create a bigger agency and a bigger voice in my life. Playing had become very overwhelming for me. Every day I felt underutilized and underemployed, even though I received a lot of social rewards for playing. It was an attractive role to have in society, and I felt comfortable in that identity. I think I was committed to a destiny that was smaller than my potential. In acting, you are assigned words that someone else has written, and you have no control, because it all depends on the vision of the producer or director. Also, a lot of the roles I encountered were anti-women. After experiencing an abusive marriage, I began to write with a new kind of urgency. I had written and produced plays in college and dabbled in screenwriting, but never focused on writing until I got married.
It was as if my inner voice was trying to protect me, comfort and strengthen me and through writing I started to become a completely different woman than the one my husband had fallen in love with. But writing my own story made me see that I didn’t need to settle. I felt I had a responsibility to put my stories into a book to give validation to others.
I had been trained in a dramaturgy and film school and recognized that my own story contained all the elements for a powerful, inspiring and relatable story. The role I had always coveted was that of a brave woman, but I realized that the story I’ve auditioned for my whole life is the story I’ve lived. “
What steps have you taken to achieve your dream of becoming a published author, speaker, and activist?
I made the difficult decision to leave an environment that no longer served me and bought a one-way ticket from New York to Oregon. I went into the unknown because I had a bold vision and I dedicated myself to succeed.
I took on all the menial work to make this vision a reality. I was an elementary school crossing guard and teacher assistant, then I worked at KinderCare as a daytime attendant from 2 p.m. to 7 p.m. I was making eleven dollars an hour working eight hours a day. I wrote between my jobs and would do it again the next day. I believe success is the intersection of preparation and opportunity and I have been preparing for this role for six years. It was a confluence of cultural moment and editors that crossed my life when I was ready to take advantage of the opportunity. “
Your story is to find your voice. Can you expand?
We are all born with voices. We are hidden and silenced by the cruelties of life. Our task is to erase and heal the traumas we have suffered. Watching all of my hurtful experiences filled me with contempt for myself, which is why I had become anorexic and insecure. I wrote a book as a healing manual for myself and for anyone else who needs it. In the process, I replaced self-loathing and shame with self-esteem and a positive outlook. “
How do you suggest to others to make their dreams come true?
Identify for yourself what success looks like, and then hold yourself accountable for that metric. People will find excuses – so it is important to practice radical self-responsibility. I also say that when the world fails to provide the role, relationship or love that you need to realize your highest potential, it is up to you to create that role. .
The basis of all success is self-reliance and mental well-being. It’s different for everyone. For me, running, being a Buddhist, a vegan, diligent in filling life and body with energies, food and healthy people, adds to success.
Watch Reema talk about I AM YOURS and the power of the human voice, here.