At the young age of 24, Tanvi Malik has already accomplished more than most would have dreamed of by that age: Tanvi, who is Indian, was born in Dubai and raised between Dubai and New York City, is a freelance designer who juggles a lot of different creative disciplines. She's an Interior Designer for Spear Head Architecture and Design in New York, and juggles a variety of other freelance design work, as well as being the co-founder of Elevate, a UAE born-and-bred activewear label. The self-described grassroots brand isn't just trying to clothe the women of the UAE in originally designed and produced homegrown, functional clothing either: They're also trying to inspire the women of the region to live healthier, fitter, and more active lives as a whole. After having experienced a number of health issues when she was younger, Tanvi tried yoga for the first time when she was 14 and never looked back from her active lifestyle.
After studying Fashion at Parsons in New York City, she interned for a fashion house, but didn't really enjoy the experience: "By some fate, at the age of 19, I found my first paid job at a small architecture firm soon after and over time, I transitioned my Fashion degree to a transdisciplinary one. I learnt about all kinds of design and how to make things beautiful and functional at the same time using design thinking, which is a principle that carries me through all my work. While I was at university, I did every side job I could get from apparel design to retail, blog writing, waitressing, set design for nightclubs, and, of course, interior design," she says. Tanvi has moved back and forth between the UAE, New York City, and India, but Dubai is her home - she's lived in the city for 11 years. After she graduated from her studies, she began working for an activewear brand in the USA full-time, before moving back to Dubai where she freelanced while figuring out her next move. Tanvi dreamed of launching her own activewear label, connected with her now business partner Dana Miskulnig (co-founder of Elevate) through a twist of fate, and the two are now not only fulfilling their dreams, they're also the closest of friends. Tanvi is also deeply passionate about aerial sports such as aerial hoop, and enjoys everything from CrossFit to lifting, boxing, and running in her spare time. Read on for her answers to our questions in the hot seat.
How do you like to keep fit, and what is your philosophy when it comes to nutrition?
It’s a tricky balance between varying my workouts, which helps increase general athleticism, but also consistency, so I can develop strength and precision in certain skills. Finding balance is actually a constant dance for me but knowing that it only exists in the moment you have it is a great comfort! I think the best thing anyone can do is to just start moving and keep moving in whatever way feels good to you. And don’t be afraid to try new things - I recently learned how to surf and it’s my favorite sport that I’ve tried so far! Nutrition is key for performance not just in the gym, but in life. What we put in our bodies affects everything from mood to skin, weight, digestion and more. But food is also a pleasure of life and like all pleasures, it requires indulgence from time to time! I know what works for my optimal performance and what doesn’t (which I figured out through elimination, no medical tests) and I try to stick to that for the majority. This way, I can occasionally treat myself to a burger or cookies and it generally doesn’t have much of a negative effect as long as I keep it in moderation.
Who inspires you?
As cliche as it is, I have to say my mother. She is, and always has been, a powerhouse. She’s worked incredibly demanding jobs my entire life, put three meals on the table every day and made sure that her children weren’t burning down the house. Outside of blood relatives, some notable women are Amy Poehler, Beyonce, Zadie Smith, MIA, and Zaha Hadid - all of them have passion, make art with purpose, and hold strong political beliefs which to me says know who you are, do what you love and you will be successful.
What's the best lesson your mum or dad ever taught you?
To adapt, but be determined in your path. You can’t always control the way life goes but that shouldn’t stop you from reaching your goals, it just might look a little different once you get there.
What might surprise people about you?
I have a degree in non-fiction writing and even before art or design, words were my first love. I started my “creative career” writing poetry in grade two.
Do you have any hidden talents?
I can read music, and have played a few different instruments and participated in choir at school for about ten years.
If you could pick any superpower in the world, what would it be and why?
Time travel. I’d love to be able to visit past, future and parallel universes.
If you could give one piece of advice that would inspire others personally or professionally, what would it be?
Never forget who YOU ARE or where you've come from.
What's your favorite dish to cook if you want to impress someone? And what could someone cook to impress you?
Grilled salmon with a side of baked stuffed mushrooms that are topped with prosciutto and a balsamic rosemary glaze - it’s easy to make, tastes good and people think I’ve taken quite a bit of time over it! As for me, I’m a pretty simple girl so some well roasted veggies, lean meat and a fresh salad goes a long way.
What's your favourite city in the world and why?
For now New York, partially because it’s like a home to me and partially because it’s this magical, mysterious place that I can’t help but love and want more of.
What's your go-to shower song?
Anything by Etta James, D’Angelo or John Mayer (I accept any and all judgement for this list).
When was the last time you were scared, and why?
I had a car accident back in April and flipped my Jeep in the desert, it was probably one of the scariest moments of my life.
What's the best gift that anyone's ever bought you?
Three months after I moved from NYC back home to Dubai, my sister reached out to my close friends and sent me a surprise box of gifts and letters from all of them. It was like getting a piece of my heart delivered to me, it was so special.
What do you think is your best and worst quality?
I think my best quality is passion - I care so deeply about pretty much everyone and everything. I think my worst is the very same thing, sometimes that immense amount of fire is so unnecessary!
What's the best way to make up after a fight?
Kisses, cuddles and a good laugh.
What's your guilty pleasure?
Creme brûlée with an espresso, that’s my go to when I need an emotional pick-me-up. Also, animated movies.
What's the best compliment you've ever had?
To never change. I think everyone always has a list of things about themselves they wish were different so to hear that is pretty awesome (even if it’s not entirely true)!
What's your biggest regret?
I try not to regret much, but I do wish I hadn’t quit ballet or piano at such a young age before I really understood either.
If you could give one key piece of advice to your younger self, what would it be?
Do more of what makes you happy and less of what makes other people happy.
What are your hopes and dreams for the future - both long and short term?
In the next year, I hope to have some clarity on all the different work I am involved in and be more stable in one city rather than bouncing between two. In five years to ten years, I just hope that stability continues to grow, I manage to settle somewhere in the world that truly makes me happy, and have time to run through my endless list of places I want to travel to!
What's one thing you'd never give up for anyone else, even the love of your life?
If your life were a movie or reality TV show, what would it be called and why?
“Broke and #Woke” because I’m a millennial with a million jobs and just as many opinions about pretty much everything.
Of all of your life accomplishments so far, what are you most proud of?
In one year, I quit my salaried job, opened two companies in two different countries and moved across the world. There’s no telling if these decisions were really for the better but it makes me proud to think I had the courage to take risks (big ones)!
Three key items on your bucket list?
Travel through South America by motorcycle, see the Northern Lights, and become really good at one sport (which means I have to pick one first).
What are the first three things you notice in a person?
Energy, appearance and eyes.
What are some of your biggest pet peeves?
Comparative mindsets, stinginess and undervaluing your body.
What are three of the most attractive qualities in another person?
Passion, generosity and wonderment.
What's the secret to finding happiness, in your opinion?
Realizing that happiness is a moving target and it’s ok to only have it for a brief moment because it will exist again in another one, as long as you continue to work towards it.
What's one of your best childhood memories?
My favorite childhood memory would easily be my family driving through the wadis of Ras al Khaima when I was a little girl in the backseat of our GMC Jimmy, racing through the streams so the water poured in from the open windows and singing along to my dad’s old school classics.
If you knew you had one year left to live, what would you change about the way you're living right now and why?
I would work much less, spend my time with all my loved ones that I don’t see often enough right now and travel to all the places I tell myself I will see “when I have time”. These people and adventures give me genuine joy and are the reason I work so hard to begin with so I’d probably focus on just doing more of that and knowing that I’ve lived a fulfilled life.
How do you get through life's challenges when things get tough - any particular mindset or mantras that you rely on as a go-to?
There is no bad, only lessons. Although it’s hard to really internalize that in the midst of a terrible situation, I try to remain calm and let the moment just take it’s course. Once it’s passed, I like to reflect on what happened, why it might have happened, and what I can learn from it for the future. If I don’t try to learn, I might manifest the same challenge over and over again until I do so it’s best to see it as a gift rather than a hardship.