New York, NY – The Association of South Asians in Media, Marketing & Entertainment (SAMMA) held its 4th annual conference and gala over the weekend in New York City bringing together 300+ top South Asian leaders and innovators in digital media, television and film, marketing and advertising and music and entertainment for two days of insights, ideation and industry building. The SAMMA Summit, co-presented by Time Warner, was followed by an evening gala where the organization presented its 2013 SAMMA Trailblazer Awards to four individuals for significant contributions to their industry and helping pave the way for South Asians in their respective fields.
The awards went to:
● Mindy Kaling –Actor, Director, Producer, Writer and Author
● Russell Peters –Comedian, Best Selling Author and Actor
● Vijay Iyer - Jazz pianist and Composer
● Anjula Acharia Bath – CEO/Founder, DesiHits!
“It is strange to be called a trailblazer because I’ve never really considered myself one,” said Mindy Kaling, lead actor, producer and writer of The Mindy Project on Fox. “In general, I try to tell stories that are relatable to everyone. I’ve always aspired to be the funniest person out there, not just the funniest South Asian,” she said in a video acceptance from the set of her show. “I am privileged to have had these opportunities in show business. Thank you so much for this incredible award.”
Kaling is best known for her work on the NBC sitcom The Office in which she acted, wrote, and produced.
“I’ve never been called a trailblazer,” said Russell Peters, who celebrated his 43rd birthday at the SAMMA gala and had the audience in stitches through the night. “When I was younger, I always wanted a Chevy Trailblazer, but this trailblazer I never imagined. I am honored and proud especially to be recognized by my own community. The more doors we can open for each other the better for everyone. I see more of us in the industry every day, and I want to continue seeing more of us.”
Russell Peters was presented his award by actor, fellow comedian and previous Trailblazer recipient Aasif Mandvi of The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, who roasted and toasted Peters saying, “Let me introduce someone who is like worth 60 billion dollars,” playing off of Peters being the first South Asian to have been ranked as one of the highest paid comedians in the U.S., after working in the industry for 20+ years.
Trailblazer recipient Vijay Iyer, one of the most awarded jazz artists in the world and winner of the prestigious 2013 MacArthur Genius Award said, “I am proud to receive this award from SAMMA. Music is a universal language. I hope in some way I have helped push the dialogue forward and have inspired others through the beauty of music and jazz, both South Asians and people at-large.”
Presented the award by David Taghioff and business colleague at CAA, Anjula Acharia Bath shared: “We have so much to learn from one another. I encourage everyone to live their dreams. Bringing different cultures and viewpoints together in the arts and industry, whether in music or any field, takes passion and perseverance.” Bath, named Billboard’s top 40 women in music for her work in blending Indian talent with mainstream music in the U.S., continued, “Helping one another, we can achieve anything.”
Built to network and advance the industry of South Asian professionals across media, marketing and entertainment, the SAMMA Summit 2013 was keynoted by: Priyanka Chopra, one of India’s top award winning actresses who was recently signed by Interscope and DesiHits! and is now the opening musical act for the NFL Network; Dr. Mehmood Khan, EVP and Chief Innovations and Science Officer at PepsiCo., one of the top innovators in global marketing; Keli Lee, EVP and Head of Casting at ABC and regarded as one of the most influential women in entertainment.
SAMMA’s diverse set of participants and panelists included:
● Sanjay Sharma – SVP, Strategy and Business Development, Machinima
● Dr. Raj Sisodia – Best Selling Author, “Conscious Capitalism”
● Ritu Trivedi – SVP, Digital Strategy and Partnerships, MediaVest
● Sakina Jaffrey, Actor, Netflix “House of Cards”
● Jimmy Soni, Managing Editor, The Huffington Post
● Nirali Shah, Gatekeeper of Innovation, Quirky.com
● David Taghioff – Corporate Development, Creative Artists Agency (CAA)
● Sruta Vootukuru, Director, International Programming, Dish Network
● Sharad Devarajan – CEO/Founder, Graphics India
Among the many supporters were Time Warner, Disney/ABC, FOX, Zee TV, ARY Digital Media, Comcast NBCUniversal, SAAVN, Publicis, Zenith, The Weinstein Company, HP, Microsoft and AOL.