Gracing the airwaves for more than a decade, proud Surrey resident Nira Arora is a staple in many people’s daily morning commute. She’s a jack of all trades, with fourteen years of experience in the media field; not only as a radio host but a television host, reporter, writer and producer too! Co-host of Virgin Radio 94.5’s Early Morning show Jonny, Holly & Nira, Nira is not one to shy away from her thoughts. She’s real, quirky, and refreshingly opinionated. As a small town island girl turned Surrey local, we spoke to Nira about how she’s stayed true to herself through all her endeavours.
Discover Surrey: How long have you been a part of the Surrey community?
Nira Arora: I moved to Surrey in 1999
DS: What made you and your husband choose Surrey as the place to raise your family?
NA: I grew up on Vancouver Island- Nanaimo, I’m sort of a small town girl at heart and I love it. I was looking for that small town feeling for my kids- neighbourhood feel, the community feel and that’s how I feel about the neighbourhood that we live in, in South Surrey. Close enough to the big city and far enough to feel away.
DS: This question has two parts! You hail from Nanaimo, a small town on Vancouver Island where the South Asian community makes up less than 2% of the population.
(Part 1) How was it growing up in such a predominantly white community?
NA: It was hard at first, really hard, I was different but I wasn’t as aware that I was different as were those who were looking at me- they reminded me that I was different. Not necessarily in a bad way- but there were always little reminders. That clearly began to affect me and I realised that I needed to touch myself that being different was a good thing and not something that I needed to be embarrassed about. Once I owned being different- things started falling into place. There were constant obstacles, but I just became better and better at dealing with them.
DS: (Part 2) How is it different for you (and how will it be different for your sons) living and growing up in Surrey where your community is so much better represented? (Over 30% South Asian.)
NA: Moving to the lower mainland was a huge culture shock to me- it was such a surprise! It was pleasant experience but also confusing at the same time. I was friends with people based on who they were as people and if we clicked and got along- not what they looked like.
It felt great to feel like I belonged- I had a great sense of pride in that, but I also wanted to make sure that it didn’t change my perspective on who I chose as future friends.
My children are pretty lucky to be able to be a part of a complete cultural mosaic. The best part about the way my two boys view the world is that they have no concept of colour and only see people because that is what they’ve been exposed to for their entire lives thus far and I take pride in that.
DS: You’ve mentioned in past interviews that some people were surprised when you chose to work in mainstream radio rather than Indian Radio. Can you speak to your thoughts about how being a South Asian woman in mainstream media makes you a role model to young girls, especially those from the South Asian community?
NA: I hope that the path that I have chosen provides a form of inspiration for young South Asian girls and all young girls in general. I hope it allows them to envision a path that is separate from the stereotypical jobs that may have been ingrained in their brains. I am a strong believer of passion and that is how I ended up where I am today- and that is what I hope people can get a sense of if they listen to the show. If you have passion for something you have to at least try and give it your all- that’s what I hope to inspire.
DS: How has living in Surrey inspired you professionally or personally?
NA: I take pride in whatever I am involved with and if I live in Surrey then I feel involved with the Surrey community. On the show I mention that I live in Surrey and I take pride in mentioning it. If there events in Surrey I love supporting and attending them. Speaking of- there are numerous charity organisations and events in Surrey and I try to be a part of as much as I can.
DS: One of the great things about Surrey is that even though it’s a huge city in size, it’s made up of six neighbourhoods, each with their own communities and features. What neighbourhood do you live in and what are the things you love most about it?
NA: I live in South Surrey and I love the small town cozy factor that comes along with this neighbourhood. We have a wonderful community and a wonderful mix of all different types of people. I love all the parks, the shops and restaurants- everything you need is here!
DS: Can you describe a typical weekend in Surrey with your family? Where would you go? What would you do?
NA: We love taking the kids to White Rock beach or Crescent beach- so easy, so fun and that’s exactly what mom of two little boys needs! Fish and Chips and the beach- how easy is that?
DS: How have you witnessed Surrey change in the time that you’ve lived here?
NA: It’s becoming bigger and better! More and more people are realising how amazing the city is and are bringing their families out this way. Affordability, family orientated, culturally stimulating, nature at your fingertips- sounds pretty amazing to me.
DS: Where do you imagine Surrey in the next ten years?
NA: Research suggests that Surrey is the future of the lower mainland – with the way things are going this theory seems pretty accurate!
** Photo credit: Michelle Moore