Meet Daya Vaidya - a vibrant, passionate, kind-souled woman with a drive and authenticity that has brought her acclaim in her role as Jen Kowski in the Amazon Prime series 'Bosch'. We met Daya through our dear friend and photographer Morgan Pansing and were instantly taken by her welcoming spirit and no B.S., straight-to-the-heart-of-it manner. We hope you enjoy our honest conversation with Daya about her experiences as a mother, working in Hollywood, and raising three Black children in America today.
xo, Kelly + Paige
We are living in a very potent time. How are you talking to your kids about the pandemic and the Black Lives Matter movement?
Our family tries to approach every difficult situation with the same motto: lead with truth, justice and love. Sometimes the truth is painful, messy and scary...especially when dealing with children, as there is an obvious added layer of being ‘age appropriate.’ While we don’t speak to our kids with overt adult themes, i.e. the specific violence associated with systemic racism in our country, we DO tell them the truth in a blunt way. For example, while we didn’t show them the actual footage of George Floyd’s murder (we have 8 year old twin boys and an 11 year old girl), we did explain to them exactly what happened. We then tried to put it into context by explaining slavery and being black in America, all while trying to teach them deep pride in their lineage. There were a lot of questions and it was not easy. Before the pandemic, we’d taken our kids to quite a few protests. They learned at a young age that remaining silent is not an option and we will call out injustice, no matter who it is against. As to the pandemic, it’s the same, we don’t sugar coat and we don’t walk on eggshells. But I also think we let them know they’re safe and we will protect them with every fiber of our being.
What is your experience and feelings around raising Black kids in America today?
I worry about my boys and daughter getting older and their lives being in jeopardy. The terror is real and not over stated. I also literally worry about my husband every time he walks out of the house. I’m not exaggerating. It’s not always said, but I’m always thinking about it. He is a dark skinned black man from Hollis Queens, NY, who experiences racism in a way most cannot understand unless they’ve walked in his shoes. Because of his background and the fact I was also raised in a tough city - Oakland, Ca., we both feel it’s important not to coddle our kids. I don’t know if anyone has noticed, but OMG kids are so coddled these days! Maybe it’s because we live in Los Angeles in an environment that is much more affluent, but it’s surprising how hard some play dates are because kids are spoiled and parents often over parent. I see it a lot. Not to say I don’t fall into this trap (I do!); and my kids of course have their days, but we really can't raise them that way. That’s where privilege comes in. My kids are black and they have to be stronger and more resilient than their white friends to achieve the same things. I know there will be people who read this and think that’s not true, but sadly it is. I don’t want to oversimplify that fact as many children experience hardship, but the implicit bias that exists for black and brown children in schools, sports programs, dance, etc is well documented and is real. We give them unconditional love and support, but I have a low tolerance for whining, indulging and blaming. Personal responsibility and facing your fears is huge in our family, as well as being kind and compassionate. I believe true vulnerability that comes from confidence and love is pure strength! I feel like all children, but especially black and brown children, have to be instilled with a strong sense of self love and respect. Then they can fly!
What drew you to acting and what is your dream role?
I started dancing when I was three years old. My mom introduced me to theater when I was 10; I always loved performing and when I saw a youth performance of “Guys and Dolls,” I was hooked. I was forever changed by watching live theater; I knew that’s what I wanted to do. The next day my mom enrolled me in that same theater company and I performed there until I left for college at UCLA. Everything about the arts moves me. I love the classics, namely Shakespeare, I love film and television and I love studying the overall craft of acting. I’ve spent many years training with Stuart Rogers at Stuart Rogers Studios. He is a true artist and taught me how to keep my love of art and theater alive even when the business of Hollywood tries to take you away. I have so many dream roles! But I’m mostly drawn to strong, morally ambiguous women. I’m very very ethical, so I like playing people who break rules. I like getting into their head space and bodies. They think so differently than me and I want to go on that journey and learn from them.
What people, living or deceased, would you call your muse or guru or biggest inspiration?
My dad. No question. He passed away over 20 years ago, but he was my best friend, my cheerleader, my protector and my teacher. He was a very deep and brilliant man who instilled me with hardcore values. He was an immigrant from India and met my American mother in Kathmandu, Nepal. Yet my parents decided to move our family to the states when I was 2 years old. My dad pushed me towards excellence, truth, love and education...my mom was all unconditional love and support. The two of them were powerhouse parents. I’m very very lucky...if I can parent with half of that special sauce, my kids will be A-OK!
What about your childhood/upbringing prepared you for this phase of life?
My parents had this rare ability to give us tremendous freedom to make mistakes and find our bliss, but without any neglect. They were able to find that right balance of boundaries and discipline, without micromanaging and stunting our ability to figure it all out for ourselves. I feel like it completely prepared me to be an actor in a tough town and raise 3 little human beings, all while fighting breast cancer! My parents taught me grit and I use that everyday. But I find that damn hard as a parent! Especially in this day and age. Kids are on a short leash and when they’re home, the devices and media take over their lives. Their interaction with kids (especially during Covid) is all virtual. It’s a trip! How is this generation going to turn out?? Maybe this will create intelligent human beings that will acclimate perfectly to the 21st-22nd century. Or they will all be something else…yikes! I imagine most of us are anxious as to what this time is going to do to our children.
With an hour of free time what would you do?
Well my answer is different during Covid times. Before, I would watch news and obsess on some audition I’d just had. But NOW? I bake bread, drink wine, listen to my music and swim with my kids in a small above the ground pool that you can’t tell me isn’t an Olympic pool in the middle of the Bahamas! Lol! Covid has made me very sad, but it’s also slowed me down, centered me and has forced me to be present in a way that I’ve never experienced. I’m soaking up what is good during this time: my family, friends, quiet and love.
What would be your top three Midland purchases?
If you had one quote to live by…
“When you get into a tight place and everything goes against you, until it seems as though you could not hang on a minute longer, never give up then, for that is just the place and time that the tide will turn.”
- Harriet Beecher Stowe
Photos by the beautiful Morgan Pansing.