Will India-born Gurmeet Sodhi be next Oprah?

New Delhi, July 5 (Calcutta Tube) She might step into Oprah Winfrey’s boots, you never know. India-born Gurmeet Sodhi is among the few South Asians vying to host a new programme produced by the American chat show legend and says she has overcome racial bias and other odds to reach where she is.

Sodhi, who is originally from Mhow in Madhya Pradesh and now has her own talk show in the US, is taking part in a contest that could make her the host of Oprah Winfrey Network’s (OWN) ‘Your OWN Show’.

‘I’m sure no one will ever be able to replace Oprah’s legacy. I am here to make my own mark and identity and leave my legacy behind. We all carve our own paths and ways and make a journey for ourselves,’ Sodhi, a 35-year-old Sikh, told IANS in an e-mail interview from New York.

‘The best thing about Oprah is she can relate to an average person, and at the same time with the president with great ease and makes everyone feel special. She is a self-made woman and is proud of where she comes from. I don’t think anyone can fill Oprah’s boots,’ said Sodhi.

‘However, to be at the platform where Oprah is one needs to have confidence, perseverance, dedication and commitment,’ she added.

Sodhi shifted to Long Island in New York from Mhow when she was 12 years old. Before setting up her own show ‘GS With GS’ – short for ‘Gup Shup With Gurmeet Sodhi’ – in April 2009, she hosted a live talk show about real estate and finance on South Asian channels for eight years.

Now she lives with her husband, a 13-year-old daughter and two sons aged 10 and eight and is craving to carve a niche on a big platform like OWN.

Life hasn’t been a cakewalk in the US for Sodhi.

‘I have faced discrimination in my life here at different stages. Initially, when I came here, I faced racial discrimination at school to the point that all I wanted to do was to go back to India. There were many racial slurs and objects thrown my way to outcast me. My classmates could not accept the fact that an Indian girl could be good at studies and sports.

‘It took them a while to get used to it and they saw me for who I am rather than the colour of my skin,’ she said.

Even when she started her career in the finance industry, she felt resistance from her clients as well as business associates ‘for being a woman and doing a man’s job’.

‘It took me several years till everyone started to recognise me for my knowledge rather than my gender and started looking past that discrimination – and this was from within my own community in the US,’ she said.

But she is raring to go.

Online entries were called for ‘Your OWN Show’. OWN will soon announce the top five online finalists who will join 35 other finalists chosen from open casting calls and other online entries. After that show producers will cast 10 out of the group of 40 to be on the show. The show will be aired on OWN in January 2011.

Sodhi is not the only South Asian competing for a spot. There are around five others too. If she succeeds, she wants to talk about ‘anything and everything that the audience would like to hear’.

‘I’m a self-made person. I don’t come from a rich family; neither did I have a chance to go to a regular college to teach me what I know. I am hungry to learn and adapt to every situation.

‘If I win, I will have opened the doors to many young girls in believing no matter where you come from, no matter how rich or poor you are, you can make it on your own with hard work and determination. I want to inspire an average person like myself to dream big.’

(Radhika Bhirani can be contacted at radhika.b@ians.in)

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