The Tara Sharma Show Celebrates Your Family
BY PAKSY PLACKIS-CHENG
Former Indian actress and model, Tara Sharma, is in her sixth season, co-producing and hosting The Tara Sharma Show. The talk show is dedicated to mothers and children. Unlike most shows, it was not created to push products. It discusses family matters with Indian’s celebrities and experts.
Recently, she started dedicating her show to childrearing and issues that concern dads. Each show also features a favorite charity of a famous guest. Sharma speaks to impactmania about forging your own path, being a mompreneur, and why she is always touching wood.
You must be the only woman ballsy enough to address dads’ issues on TV?
[Laughs.] I don’t consider myself as ballsy. The most important thing to me is being honest. Dads are such a big part of parenting. The show has evolved more into a platform to discuss topical parenting issues with a view to helping bring about positive change. Honestly, most are audience-generated topics: children with special needs; child sex abuse awareness; health and fitness.
How did you come up with such an unusual show? I haven’t seen anything that solely focuses on parenting and giving.
I never went into it knowing what was out there. It wasn’t like I did market research. I just jumped in. If I’m truly honest, being a mom gave me that inspiration and the confidence. In India, although I don’t want to generalize, most often if you are an actress after you’re married and with kids, that’s the end unless you’re a super star.
Even now, it’s not a money making venture. We have our sponsors that cover the cost of production and the dealer of the channel. One thing that I am very careful about is the integrity and honesty of the show.
Finally, after six years, I’m seeing a little bit of traction in terms of the business side, where brands are seeing it as a credible platform and seeing it as different.
As you said, something that’s sort of quite unique. Because you do get a lot of shows which are sort of about parenting. Or at least they call it that and that’s fine. My biggest thing in life is never to judge anyone’s mood and job.
Something like parenting or families is about whom the audience trusts best. That why it’s a longer journey, I hope it makes it more credible.
What is an important thing you would like dads to know?
India is such a huge place and it is such a mixed bag of different types of people.
The first two seasons, the show was in Hindi on a general entertainment channel, which has more mass shows. I felt to be true to myself, growing up in urban India, English is a first language. It was easier to have these kinds of discussions in English. Consequently, our show is targeted more at an urban audience. The audience is more global because so many of these issues are universal.
All these topics break all boundaries. We’re all going through so much other stuff.
In terms of Indian dads typically, they may not have been as involved, but I think that’s changing. Having said that, my dad was always very involved because he was an author and a playwright. He worked really hard but he also could work on his own time.
That meant that he would be able to spend time with us when he was able to make that day. That’s why actually on the show I have all the different points of views.
We have a segment called the dads parenting powwows, which are three or four people with different views discussing the issue. When we did the episode on dads, we had a traditional dad who believes that the wife should be at home looking after the kids, then we had a dad who was a completely stay at home dad, and one in the middle.
The whole point is to show that there are so many different views. You shouldn’t judge anyone. Any one way’s right for them and everyone’s situation is different. It isn’t a show where everyone wants to give advice. Especially when you’re pregnant and when you’re a new mom. Quite soon you figure out that it’s best to do what works for you.
Some of the statistics are really amazing. Apparently India has the highest percentage of new moms who want to go back to work: 54 percent. Which amazes me because you think of the Indian mum as somebody who may stay at home. What’s also interesting is, it also has the highest percentage of new mums who feel guilty about going back to work.
Tell me a little bit about being a mompreneur instead of an entrepreneur.
It’s a term that came up through the show, suddenly people said, “Mompreneurs.” By definition it’s a mom who’s balancing being an entrepreneur and a mom. We had really interesting discussion on the last season. Again, I had people with different points of view. I actually had my husband on the panel as well, because I wanted the view of an entrepreneur. I had a bunch of mompreneurs and also some women entrepreneurs, who are not mothers. The general consensus is if you’re passionate about what you do and creating your own venture, then you can call yourself any X-preneur.
It doesn’t make a difference, but with the mompreneur, at least in the way that I am, I don’t have as much business responsibility as my husband. My husband made a valid point about entrepreneurs; it’s about creating value for other people. Financially.
Of course, some of the mompreneurs, on the panel are doing that. Personally, I do have some people who work for me. I’m actually doing it in a way where I co-produce the show or have sponsors.
For me, clearly my family is my biggest priority and is all my ambitions. I am very passionate about making a business, but I am also trying to help bring about positive change. Everything I do is around the family.
So, it’s like tonight, walking a fashion ramp after the kids are in bed. That’s one of the differences; my husband will have to answer to certain people and certain things because he’s taken on all of that responsibility.
With me, I can always deliver, but I think that’s why scaling is not always the answer. I hear about people, even other mompreneurs, who got VC funding. I’m like, “Wow, it sounds so exciting. I want to be there.” But then deep down, I don’t know if I do.
Your value is also for-purpose. There’s something beautiful about how it is right now, maybe?
That was my take from that episode that the rules are different for mompreneurs and entrepreneurs.
For me personally, I don’t have the responsibility of scaling up. I love the fact that I have a small team. I write each and every one of my social media posts. Even though I have the opportunity to have a big team, I don’t want someone else to do some of the things for me because it’s too personal.
Business-wise maybe I’m holding myself back. There are certain things you have to keep the personal touch with. It doesn’t mean that it won’t grow and become more successful, touch wood, but it just means that it’s that kind of venture.
Otherwise, I’m kind of feeling my way through. This is the first season that I can honestly admit that two big brands have signed me on to be their brand ambassador. Hershey’s and Baby Dove.
Congrats! That is amazing.
It’s really amazing, because I’ve acted in films and have full respect for films. I would love to act again if I got a good offer. But in India, it’s all about the big endorsements. It’s basically for the stars and sports stars.
I’ve been working on the show hard for six years. I’m not doing it for any kind of acknowledgment. I want to help bring about change. But obviously, I am working hard and sometimes wondered, “When will a brand knock on my door?” Finally, it seems to be happening. I’m still very cautious. I do feel that maybe the low and steady and being true to something is the way.
I’m learning as I go along. Obviously, the show costs a lot of money to make so there’s a big business side. For example today, I wanted to feature these children and try and help raise funds for this NGO.
In order to do that, I need sponsors to fund the show. I have a celebrity in almost all my episodes, which is another very difficult thing for me. It’s personal. I’m the one who asks them and invites them.
I’ve had some wonderful guests but I’ve also developed a new pride, a new attitude. I don’t want people to laugh saying, “Tara is gonna invite me on her show. I have to do it because it’s Tara.”
What has been a surprising learning building the Tara Sharma show?
The big learning is that if you put your mind to it, it sound so cliché, and if you have a dream, I really do think you can make it happen.
All I dreamed of was having my own talk show ‘cuz I acted. This is me. I love chatting! I love hearing people’s stories. I love listening to people.
My dad, he was known as a communication guru. He did all these voice and communication workshops. In some way, all that debating and discussing has been a big part of me.
What has been an amazing learning is that the industry is changing. In many ways, I had a great career, but it’s much better now. For me to say that as a woman with kids, in the entertainment industry, it’s quite cool. In the West, I know every second big star in Hollywood is a mom. It’s cool. Six years ago when I would invite guests, I wasn’t yet established, but most people didn’t want to talk about their kids. Now it’s cool.
Why do you think people didn’t want to talk about family life?
I have to grovel and ask. Sometimes people do it easily. Sometimes it’s tough. I do it because I believe that there are causes that they can help raise awareness for.
They always have a great time when they come. In the beginning, I think, because a lot of women were not as open to talking about having kids or being married even. That’s changing. I always say each to their own; because I fully understand if celebrities don’t wanna talk about their private life.
I never even ask awkward questions on the show. In fact, I always say that we don’t even have to talk about their lives. If we’re talking about say something like children, pursuing a passion. As a parent, it’s often difficult to know when to push a child and when not to.
If a child has a talent — how do you know if it’s a talent that you should focus on? That’s when I had like a huge cricketer; it wasn’t necessarily about his family. It was about his view as somebody who’s been through that.
Are you looking to take the Tara Show beyond India?
What was really exciting was we talked to a few big companies, who were really quite excited about the idea of licensing the format. Perhaps doing an American version.
One of the best pieces of advice that my husband gave me six years ago when I kept hinting I wanna have my own TV show was, “Don’t say TV. It has to be multi-platform.” Writing a blog, which becomes the show, which became the YouTube channel, which has now crossed 1.6 million views, organically. My husband tells me that is not a big number. That’s when we saw that 40 to 50 percent of the views are from the U.S. and the U.K! Well you know what? It makes sense. It is cross-cultural.
What would you say to moms who would like to restart their career?
I would say, “Go for it!” You’ve to do what works for you. Whether it’s going back to work or whether it’s a corporate job or whether it’s your own enterprise. So much of that depends on circumstances. I’m grateful for the fact that during my years of experimenting, I didn’t have to be the primary breadwinner.
Those are factors which go into it. If things are sort of in place, and you wanna do something different, go for it.
My husband always says, “Content is king, and distribution is God.” If you have a good idea, and you can figure out how to get it out there, I think you can do so much. Thanks to technology I was breastfeeding my babies while I was writing a blog. [Laughs.]
Again, very cliché, but you have to be unafraid of failing because nothing’s ever that easy. I’ve been through seasons where I didn’t know if people were watching.
I’ve been very driven by what I’m doing. I’ve never really ever got disheartened. It’s hanging in there and enjoying what you do.
What would your father say looking down?
Yeah, I believe he’s always with us. I’m very close to both my parents.
My mom’s English, she came to India 45 years ago, over land, fell in love and married my dad. They were happily married and my dad sadly passed away. He was a huge inspiration for me; he was quite daring and creative. I learned much of what I do from him.
He always gave me the best advice. He would be proud, but not overpraise. He would also give me good advice on what to do next. He’d be really happy that I’m using so many of his tips. [Laughs.]
Every time I communicate, every time I speak on stage, so much of it is what he’s taught me. I think he’d be having a whiskey and grinning.
You have been involved in many private, public, and nonprofit ventures. What do you think in general for social impact?
Each of my celebrity guests pick a charity of their choice. We run an auction to raise money for the charities. Hopefully that’ll help with making a change and impact and funds being raised.
I have the platform where people can come and talk. It’s very important to let people talk about the causes that affect them. The names and faces of celebrities bring awareness to causes.
I had a huge superstar on the show; he’s doing a lot for farmers in drought-affected areas. For me it felt natural to ask him what he’s concerned about. Whether we raise funds or whether it’s about awareness.
Ahmed Khan said on the show, “Tara, everyone has a voice. Everyone can say something.” I said, “Yeah, but some people’s voices are louder than others.”
For me, I’m building that voice. The more credible my platform gets, hopefully the more people will wanna come on it, and raise awareness for various things. Hopefully there’ll be enough people listening.
Give me a word that describes your journey so far.
Everyone laughs because I say, “Touch wood” all the time. I’m so cautious that I want everything to keep being good.
Family. The funny thing is because I do a show on family and parenting, everything I do is in a way, work. I’m running around with the kids on the tennis court and trying to decide which racket to get or even when they’re fighting each other.
Yeah, so I think family is a big part and touch wood. [Laughs.]