Sway Bhatia’s mother cultivated her love of dancing and performance. “I started loving the arts at a very young age. My mom was very much aware of the way I connected to music, especially Bollywood music,” Sway remembers. “I remember being in dance classes and just enjoying the music, and the next thing I knew, I was on a stage at the Meydan doing a live performance with Priyanka Chopra. After a few years of enjoying local competitions and events in both the UAE and India, my parents decided it was best that my mom and I come back to New Jersey to round me out in acting, singing, and dancing.” Her parents marked her entrance to the world with a boldness that she has carried with her ever since.”Swayam Ranjeet Bhatia sounds powerful to me but there is an element of pride I take from it. My parents assumed that they were having a boy and not knowing for sure, decided to pick an Indian name for males. My parents were overwhelmed with myths told by grandparents and relatives. When I was born, everyone was surprised that it was a girl. I love that even 15 years ago, before the real push for inclusion and equality, my parents decided to keep the chosen name. They were confident that a name has no gender barriers, even though many questioned their decision. I cherish that every day, and we as a family have always believed that young girls can pursue their interests and goals. My name in Sanskrit means ‘oneself,’ and I always remember that. It keeps me motivated in what I do.”
Isolation followed her when she relocated to America, but luckily, the momentum is shifting. “Growing up in Dubai, I was surrounded by different nationalities and religions worldwide. When I moved back to New Jersey and started grammar school, I struggled to fit in. When it came to auditions and performances, there would often be very few girls of Asian background. Over the years, I have seen the percentage of inclusion grow, and I’m thrilled that more of the industry is accepting of our talent, capabilities, and stories. I’m confident that this will continue growing.” Sway is invigorated to advocate for further representation in the arts. “Being motivated on a topic that I stand for, such as representation, comes easy to me. I grew up looking at billboards and screens all over the UAE and India, with women that looked like me. I just had to keep that drive and hope for all the possibilities once I started my career here in the United States. I started learning the arts from the ground up to fully commit and understand the process. Since then, I’ve never looked back. I’m honored to be on a platform where my voice can motivate and help others, especially those that look like me.”
The actress currently stars in The Mighty Ducks: Game Changers as Sofi and Succession as Sophie. “It’s such a coincidence that I have the same name on both shows, the difference being the spelling. Sofi Hanson-Bhatt is a young teen trying to discover the balance between friendships and her passion for hockey. She struggles figuring out who she truly is and where she fits in the world. On the other hand, Sophie Roy is still trying to have as much of Kendall Roy’s time as possible. I think she still has a lot to learn about her family, but right now, it seems she’s just enjoying the perks of being a child from an affluent family.” Both roles represent great strides in the industry that she is thrilled to embody. “Playing Sophie Roy, which started over five years ago for me, is still a ‘pinch me’ moment. When I was cast, I didn’t believe I would book it. My team constantly reminds me to focus on the audition; the rest will happen in time. When they cast me as Sophie, it led me to believe that people would be happy to see representation on the show. For Sofi Hanson-Bhatt – it was meant to be. In our world now, it’s even more critical to show representation in all possibilities. Showing a brown female athlete on a Disney+ show can hopefully open people’s minds and allow for young girls to fulfill their desires.”
Sofi has imparted important lessons for her own life. “Sofi Hanson-Bhatt has reminded me to trust myself and have more self-confidence. Sofi has a way of speaking her mind and telling her truth. Your voice is a power many of us need to use. She has taught me so many things (including calculus).” Both characters provide the shining example of complex, multifaceted role models that girls of color deserve. “I hope Sofi will inspire girls of color to know it’s okay to be strong yet vulnerable. Yes, she is confident but there are many sides to her character. We all go through rough patches, and I hope people learn from Sofi that it is okay to have those moments. I think both Sofi and Sophie can represent that.” To Indian American girls and women, Sway’s message is concise: “It’s so simple but so strong – DON’T GIVE UP—three simple words. I want my community to hear this, but know this is for everyone to hear.” Resilience is the key to thriving.
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Sway Bhatia is a Proud Role Model for Girls of Color. Photo Credit: Corinne Louie.