EXCITING NEWS!! We are so blessed to be living in a time where a side hustle is now becoming the norm that I decided to launch Project Passionista – a series dedicated to promoting projects done by the people around me. As you can see, I’m huge on community. For this project series, I reached out to enthusiasts around me to not only highlight their personalities but to also showcase what they’ve been working on… because COMMUNITY OVER COMPETITION, RIGHT?
For our first highlight, I am so incredibly proud to present Milana Ayvasova from Starring Milana. She is seriously one of the most ambitious and passionate visionaries I’ve ever met. Read her interview down below!
I know that you started off as a political science major during your early undergrad years. What inspired the transition to further your career in communications?
Milana Ayvasova: I guess the best way to put it is it wasn’t “fun” enough for me. I love politics and always thought I would go into public policy, but when I began to look into job descriptions and day to day work, it turned me off. I am a Gemini, the most communicative of all signs. I always had a yearning to speak to any and everyone that I come across. For me, it seemed natural to change my major to communications and study the process of human communication. I attended Loyola Marymount University which offers a B.A. in Communication Theory with a focus in Rhetoric. Unfortunately, LMU doesn’t offer broadcasting as a focus in the Communications major, I would’ve taken that otherwise.
You have an impressive resume in the media world. How did your web series develop as far as bringing your vision to life?
MA: I’ve always wanted my own talk show but didn’t have the courage to start. I was also very busy with the web series and radio show that I had with Stevie Wonder’s Radio Station 102.3 KJLH and Accelerated Radio. After a few years working on both shows, my co-host and I realized it was time to go our separate ways and pursue our own projects. After praying for a few months and talking to a lot of family and friends, it just kind of came to me. My friend Lena and I sat down and created everything from scratch. I wanted to do a talk show that featured different topics with a curated panel of guests for every episode. At the time of filming, my boyfriend had a studio where I was able to build my sets. I work full-time at an event design and rental company, so I used a lot of the items we had in stock, including draping, paneling & furniture to create each set. From the time the idea came to me, to actually filming the first few episodes, it took 3 months. Putting out the actual content took longer than that. We had to create the website, edit promo clips, create copy for all social media posting, etc.
Describe your show in three words.
MA: Entertaining. Inquisitive. Enticing.
What key lessons did you learn as you began establishing your brand?
MA: One thing that I learned is people are watching. Regardless if they tell you or not, they are observing what you’re doing and paying attention, especially people that I never thought would. So I learned that you can’t be sloppy. Once you decide to put yourself out there and become your own brand, you have to be very aware and mindful of your perception and reputation.
Each episode is distinctively curated with unique perspectives. How do you keep the content authentic to yourself while also providing value to your audience?
MA: My inspiration comes from different places. Sometimes a decor element for a set will inspire the topic, or vice versa. But all of the content is created and developed by myself and Lena, and we try to be very conscious about how we represent the brand. Every topic is based on something I’ve experienced or am interested in. I vowed to myself to not conform to what is desired in order to pull more viewers. There is always that itch to give the audience a little more of what they want, which is fine if you don’t cross the line and step out of your element. It’s hard for me because, not only am I representing myself and my beliefs, but also my family’s. I have to make sure that I say whatever it is I want to say and not hold back, but also do it in a way that is tasteful and appropriate.
Who is your biggest inspiration and why?
MA: This is a hard question for me because I’m inspired by a lot of people for different reasons including my mom, my old co-host Carlton Epic and Bill Gates. My biggest inspiration however is Oprah. She has an incredible and unique way of connecting with people. Besides her obvious successful talk show run, her work ethic is what inspires me the most. I consider myself to be a hard worker, very restless and hungry. Oprah has accomplished so much and is still going, and she did all of this through a talk show in which she made people feel comfortable by just being in her presence. She’s the greatest of all time!
How do you want your audience to feel when they watch your show?
MA: One unique aspect about my audience is that I definitely appeal to both men and women. I want to talk to men, just as much as I want to talk to women and I want both men and women to watch my show. Co-ed guests & viewership has always been very important to me.
I want my audience to feel inspired, empowered, entertained, motivated, connected, understood, and included at all times. I want them to to feel like they know my guests & I and can relate to us and our and opinions. At the same time, I want to educate people on controversial topics and offer a different perspective. Lastly, I also want to be a resource on taboo subjects and sensitive topics for our millennial generation and open the doors of communication on issues within our generation.
Any advice for those aspiring to pursue their own “passion projects” out there but are hesitant in doing so?
MA: IT’S NOW OR NEVER! That’s how you have to think about your time on this earth. Don’t waste it wishing you were doing something else. Your mind is your worst enemy when it is working against you. Only allow positive thoughts in and take a leap of faith! One thing that I am even having a hard time with is patience. Nothing happens overnight, so you have to prepare yourself for the process, however long and exhausting it may be!