Could you introduce yourself to our community? Tell us a bit about yourself and your journey to where you are now. 

My name is Golriz and I was born in Shiraz, Iran. From an early age my family moved around a lot - I lived in France, England and Wales until we planted roots here in New Zealand when I was 8 years old. One of my earliest memories is being the kid at school who had ‘weird’ lunches - feta cheese, walnut and parsley sandwiches! Luckily my friends were curious and open-minded and they loved coming over to my place after school to see what kind of concoction my mum had made for dinner.  It makes sense why I was always fascinated with what it meant to ‘belong’ but I also learned that even with all our differences, we are essentially a part of one human family - all striving to figure out our purpose here and wanting to find joy and fulfilment.  

Along with my core belief in the oneness of humanity, I’ve always been captivated by great storytelling - I see it is a vehicle that can change the world. A decade ago I co-founded a media platform in the U.S. called SoulPancake. Our content was designed to get people to connect with their own hearts and to one another. It was my dream job as it was a merging of all my favourite ways to spend time - curating art, writing, photography, filmmaking. As I was growing SoulPancake, I also birthed three high-energy, sparkly-eyed kids. Half way through 2020 my longing to give my kids the same kind of peaceful and safe childhood I had in Aotearoa became really important to me and so we sold our home in California, packed six suitcases and moved here. We are now nestled under the Remarkables mountains in Queenstown and we are all so grateful to be here.

In December you travelled to New York to give a ted talk about 18th century poet, Tahirih. This is an incredible achievement, could you share a little something from your talk that our community could take with them? 

I could give a whole TED talk about giving my TED talk! I learned so much and it was actually one of the most challenging things I’ve ever done. One of my biggest takeaways from Tahirih’s example is that we cannot just sit around and talk about changing the world. We have to take action. Change happens when each of us do what we can, whatever is within our own capacity and resources, to stand up for human rights. I think sometimes we get daunted by the challenges and think the only activism that ‘counts’ has to be loud or affect millions - but there are tiny, imperceptible forms of activism, like tending to a community garden, or befriending a stranger that actually lay the building blocks for a better world. My talk is a reminder that we are not going to ‘fix’ everything in our lifetimes. It is going to take a multi-generational effort so we have to keep our eyes on the horizon and not get defeated because we are not seeing things change fast enough. 

Do you have a favourite piece of jewellery? What does it mean to you?

My favourite piece of jewellery right now is a bead and elastic string bracelet my 5 year old daughter, Amelie, made for me for Mother’s Day. I am still in awe that I get to be a mother and to be honest, it’s been a role that I haven’t always had an easy time with because for many years I felt stretched thin between the time and attention that my work demanded and what my kids deserved. I also love my Zoe and Morgan emerald necklace and I wear it every single day. I vividly remember going into the shop on a trip to Auckland and trying on the necklace and then having a whole internal debate about whether or not I could get it for myself. I even walked away thinking it was too big of a purchase. I then walked around the block and couldn’t stop thinking about it. I know this is going to sound a bit ‘woo-woo’ but I really think this necklace is more than just a beautiful piece of jewellery. It is a symbol to me of recognising what lights me up and honouring this aspect of me. Also, it inspired the colour of the emerald green dress I wore for my TED talk! It’s a colour I associate with freedom and growth and renewal.

When do you feel most alive in terms of your creative process? 

I feel most alive in my creative process when I’m collaborating with others on a shared vision. I love the feeling of a group of people excited to create something out of nothing, working together, problem-solving, and everyone doing their part. I think this is why I love film sets so much - everyone has a role and every role is a key ingredient of the whole. When we all work together in a unified way, we can create magic!

 

Could you share what brings the feeling of freedom into your life, and how does that feel for you?

Being immersed in Tahuna’s magnificent landscapes with its giant mountain ranges and deliciously crisp and clean lakes and rivers is where I feel so alive and free. And I realise I’ve never felt as free as I do today. I’m in my 40s and I’m no longer plagued by as much insecurity, or the trappings of competition and comparison. I have shed a lot of my workaholism and reprioritized my time and energy into community building. With all the injustice, hurt and disintegration in our world, I do not take any of my freedom for granted. I continue to wake up eager to figure out how I can contribute to a more unified and just world.