You probably know Vidya Vox as quite the celebrity on YouTube, thanks to her unique brand of music which mixes Indian with Western. With hit originals like ‘Tamil Born Killa’ and ‘Kutthu Fire’, Indo-American Vidya Iyer is known for mashing up Bollywood as well as Tamil, Malayalam and Telugu songs with Western pop songs to create her signature style.
But in the most recent video on Vidya’s channel, the 28-year-old opens up about her family, upbringing, racism and more. The 360-degree video is shot in India and is almost seven minutes long. Vidya talks about her abusive father, facing racism in the US as a brown-skinned girl and her struggle with mental health as well.
She begins her story by saying, “My music is a complete reflection of who I am as a person.” She talks about her training in Carnatic music since the age of five.
Vidya then talks about how, as she grew up in the US, her Indian heritage and her desire to blend in with the other white kids ensured that she lived in two different worlds. “At home, I’d be listening to Indian music, eating dosa and sambhar. On the way to school, the bus driver would be playing Destiny’s Child, Backstreet Boys and Shakira. I kept the two worlds very apart,” Vidya narrates in a well-shot sequence where both the Indian and western avatars of Vidya are grooming themselves in a mirror.
She reveals that she and her sister were the only brown kids in their school, and were bullied for it and for the food they ate.
The video then goes into the theatre mode with actors, which depicts the abusive household that Vidya grew up in. “My father was really controlling and abusive. He controlled everything about us, including what we wore. I had really low self-esteem and I felt trapped. I suffered from terrible anxiety,” Vidya says.
Her mother finally ran away with her children when Vidya was 16 because of the abuse.
Vidya further sheds light on the stigma around separation from a spouse in the Indian society, especially for women. “When my mom escaped my dad, my music teacher refused to teach me,” she says. “Music was my solace, my refuge.”
Vidya comes back to her musical journey… How she decided not to go to medical school, but pursue music, for which she came to Mumbai. Her mother supported her. And it was here that she unlearned that her Indian heritage and the violence she experienced at home were not universally intertwined.
In Mumbai, Vidya says she was able to embrace her Indian-ness, and immersed herself in music. It was here that she began to blend Indian music with Western pop songs and began her signature mashups. She then recounts how she went on to YouTube, and dealing with criticism online.
“If women do anything that’s a little bit outside of the box, everyone freaks out,” she notes. “But now, I just laugh it off, or write about it in my songs,” she adds later.
Vidya also talks about her unique fashion style, which she describes as: “What if Coachella happened in Rajasthan?”
“Indian music, western clothes, brown skin and an American accent – that’s me. I’m finally free. Free to be me,” Vidya concludes in a sequence where she can be seen rehearsing with a few dancers.
The video was uploaded on August 23, and in a comment, Vidya admits that she was scared to put her personal story out on the internet, which can be a mean place. “But reading some of these comments knocks those walls down and I’m so grateful for your love & support. I never ever ever take it for granted!” she wrote.