One young woman dares to dream

Alvi’s audition video is among 5,000 other online videos. In addition to these videos, there were in-person casting calls that took place last weekend, resulting in an added number of people competing for a place as the top ten finalists who will appear on, “Your OWN Show.”
“My show would be a conventional talk show with a young and unconventional host.” That is 21 year-old USC Broadcast Journalism major Kiran Alvi describing her potential talk show as a contestant on, “Your OWN Show,” a contest for Oprah Winfrey’s new network OWN TV. The people behind the contest are Oprah herself and Mark Burnett, producer of shows like the “Apprentice,” “Survivor,” and “Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader.”

Alvi’s audition video is among 5,000 other online videos. In addition to these videos, there were in-person casting calls that took place last weekend, resulting in an added number of people competing for a place as the top ten finalists who will appear on, “Your OWN Show.”

On her audition video, Alvi says enthusiastically, “having my own show would be the forum for me to do what I’m meant to do.”

Alvi describes herself as a member of a “multi-ethnic and multi-religious family” which includes South Asian and Muslim roots. Fluent in three languages, and working on a fourth, Alvi emphasizes the importance of her diverse background as a contributing factor to her show, “Call me Kiran.” She hopes “to talk to the powerful, the marginalized, those who have a voice, and those who never thought they would and share their stories with everyone in between.” This is her proposed action plan to fulfill her mission statement, which is “to work against ignorance and apathy.”

Alvi officially entered the contest in mid-June. Since then, she has been using social networking sites and personal contacts to get the word out. It was her mother that first told her about the contest. “My mom was googling me and found a place where I had mentioned that I wanted to be the next Oprah…Oprah is probably one of the most inspiring women in my life. She’s been so successful in developing a name for herself and now she can affect change just by talking about something.”

Although aware of the high degree of competition she faces in this race, Alvi nonetheless is driven by her dream to have a stage where she can promote dialogue and change.

In a decade where we are seeing “grassroots” television taking over, this contest is but one of the many that will come upon or create rising stars in the future. For people like Kiran Alvi, contests and opportunities like these make for the new “American dream.” Whilst the last generation envisioned owning a home, a car, and a dog and a cat, Alvi’s generation is about that and more.

Yet another aspect of this grassroots movement is the method by which Alvi and many others are petitioning for votes: social networking sites. Posts on Facebook by contestants and their friends and family, twitter updates, and the ever-trusty mass e-mails are leveling the playing field for everyone. One of the challenges lies in the fact that people can vote as many times as they want. Even so, if the contestant can catch the judge’s eye despite a low number of votes, they may still become a finalist.

Video: http://myown.oprah.com/audition/index.html?request=video_details&response_id=8784&promo_id=1

Women have been quite successful in this arena, from Oprah herself to Rosie O’Donnell and Martha Stewart, and now Rachel Ray, Ellen DeGeneres, and Tyra Banks. They have brought distinct styles into their shows, as well as education, controversy, and the extension of their microphones to the nation.

In the Harvard Crimson, in the article, “Female Talk Show Hosts Face Comedic Challenges,” author Molly O. Fitzpatrick speaks specifically on female comedians and their disproportionate presence on late-night as compared to male comedians and talk show hosts. While this article is specific to comedians, this current situation can be posed as a question and a challenge for people like the contestants of “Your OWN Show.” As this contest explores the new faces of television talk shows, there is also a space to have a parallel discussion about the social climate surrounding talk shows, the perceptions of male and female hosts, and what makes a host “unconventional.”

You can find Kiran Alvi’s audition video and many others at http://myown.oprah.com/audition/index.html Votin.g is taking place now and will continue until July 11, 2010. The winner will appear on their own show on the OWN network in 2011.
Shazia Kamal is a writer and activist in interested in social justice issues living in Los Angeles, CA.

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