If you could name only one topic you are most interested in, what would it be?
Do you have to debate with yourself before answering that because too many things come to your mind and you can’t decide which you like more?
Well, if you became a journalist, you wouldn’t have to pick up only one.
Not every field allows you to work simultaneously on unrelated topics like technology, agriculture, food, and theatre.
Journalists are often looked down upon for being ‘generalists’ but if you were forced to have dinner with one of them, you will never be bored.
Like Leeza Mangaldas who can talk to you about business, lifestyle, sports, food, travel, love, and gender, all in one conversation.
Leeza is a Business Writer, a Sports and Lifestyle Presenter on Television, a YouTuber, and an artist. You may already be familiar with her from seeing her as a presenter for the Indian Super League on Star Sports or Luxury Time, a show on brands that appears on the Times Network.
As a child, Leeza went through many phases of wanting to be an astronaut, photographer, artist, primatologist, economist, and an actress. This confusion meant that when career counsellors asked her what she wanted to become her answer was always ‘I don’t know’.
Finally, she chose Journalism because she thought it would allow her to pursue multiple interests.
We spoke to Leeza because we were really eager to know how she happened to work in all these areas and her work as a TV presenter.
You work on Business, Sports, Lifestyle, Dating, and so many other topics. How do you maintain such a diverse range of interests and keep yourself updated on them?
I have always had trouble making choices. There is so much about the world that is fascinating to me.
But if I absolutely had to narrow it down, love, sexuality, food, and travel have always been what I’m most naturally drawn to write or speak about.
Sports and Business became interests a little later on in my life. The opportunity to cover these two genres were among the first that came my way as a TV presenter. I learned about these on the job, doing a ton of research by reading about, watching, and having conversations on the topics I was covering.
And I cannot overstate how important it is to put in that work to really learn about something if you are expected to write about or speak about it. It’s the only way you’ll be credible.
How does one get their first break if they want to enter the TV industry and become anchors themselves? Do you need to have contacts in the industry?
I never had any contacts, to begin with. I strongly believe you have to first be good at what you do and you’ve got to put it out there. With social media and Youtube, you can go live right from your smartphone.
Start a blog or a vlog, or whatever you find to be a suitable outlet for your voice and your work. Begin building yourself an audience of your own right away.
Intern with people or organisations whose work you admire. Hustle. And if you’re good at what you do, before you know it, you will discover or create an exciting opportunity for yourself.
Is it better to be a freelance TV presenter or work full-time for one channel? Why did you choose to work as a freelance presenter?
It depends on what you want to do. Full-time sports presenters have to work with only one channel and they also have to work as producers. I chose to be a freelance presenter because it allows me to work with different channels and also pursue my other interests on the side. And freelancers do get paid well.
Being a woman sports presenter, do you need to work extra hard to be taken seriously? How receptive is the Indian sports industry to women?
As a woman, you definitely do have to work harder to be taken seriously but that’s not just in India.
The prevailing stereotypes globally are that women don’t know or care about sports and that women who are “pretty” are dumb.
So you’re often coming up against these misconceptions head-on, but once you prove yourself, I’ve found people to be very receptive and supportive.
You have presented on TV, you have your own YouTube channel, and you are a writer. So which is your personal favourite medium of storytelling?
Writing. But sadly so few young people seem to read anymore!
Why did you choose to start your own YouTube channel?
I started my YouTube channel to initiate safe, open, non-judgemental, nuanced dialogue about love and sexuality. I think these are two of the most fundamental aspects of the human condition, and yet they remain so taboo in India. They can be a source of wonder, joy, pain, confusion-they impact how we see ourselves and others and yet we struggle to discuss or analyse them openly. I wanted to change that.
I also wanted to share an unfiltered, fun window into my own life, interests, and travels.
Who are the people you are inspired by?
Ellen DeGeneres, and Chelsea Handler on TV, Anna Akana on YouTube, and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie in writing.