By Iman Sadri
November 7, 2019
Sara Alavi is a model, actress, singer and social media influencer based in Texas. Sara has appeared in TV commercials, billboards, and print ads. Alavi has amassed over 154,000 Instagram followers, with a verified account, making her a public figure. Sara has appeared in advertisements for Fortune 500 brands such as Samsung and Exxon Mobil. She has performed in front of President George H.W. Bush and First Lady Barbara Bush. She is also a volunteer at UNICEF and an Ambassador for Peace World Wide. Sara has performed in countless musicals and live theater, and her career is just warming up.
To catch up with this prolific Persian and to gain further insight into Sara’s career we caught up for a Q+A with Sara Alavi.
Iman Sadri : Thank you for meeting with The Persian Observer. Please describe your early life and upbringing ?
Sara Alavi : I was born and raised in Texas to my Persian dad and Caucasian mom. They have the cutest love story by the way, that I will have to share for another Q&A round. Growing up, I was one of four children and we all remain absolute best friends. I couldn’t have asked for a better upbringing with my family. My parents were dreamers who came from poverty, believed in each other, and pushed hard to fulfill their dreams. So, they always taught me and my siblings that we could do anything we put our minds to in life, with a no excuse mentality and knowing that everything is possible with hard work, passion, dedication, and a genuine spirit. Because of my amazing parents, I’ve never given up and never stopped believing.
IS : What were the early influences that led you to a career in entertainment ?
Sara Alavi : Two remarkable teachers pop to mind immediately with this question. One of which was my elementary art teacher, Mrs. Daily. And the other is Dr. Radionoff. I will start with Mrs. Daily. In one of my first semesters in college, I took a Humanities course and was asked to write an essay about art, it’s history and universal symbolism. I remember opening my essay with a few words about Mrs. Daily and how she inspired and helped ignite so much of my artistic creativity in early childhood. When my Professor read and later returned the essay back to me, she asked me if my elementary teacher I mentioned was in fact Mrs. Daily from BC Elementary. I replied proudly, ‘Well, yes’. She then informed me that my beloved art teacher had passed away and my Professor had just seen her obituary in the paper a few days prior. I was deeply saddened to hear, but I knew her legacy lived on in every student that she taught over her several years teaching. As a child, I remember her teaching us all about Vincent van Gogh, and his life, his love interest, his challenges, and how he put that emotion into his color palettes and art. She would show us how to dive into the smallest details of watercolors, sketches, and mixed media and create a story within our work. We were elementary students, but in the district competitions, our elementary school children always won best art pieces among thousands. I took that same concept of art that she taught us so beautifully, and I applied it into all my creative ventures with singing, creative writing, acting, and performing. She brought out my creativity young, and it then sparked a deep passion within me.
Now, Dr. Radionoff, who I deeply admire and will always adore. When I was 12 years old, I was singing, performing, and cheerleading at the top of my lungs which led my vocal cords into extreme fatigue. I hadn’t been taught proper form and technique before, and pretty soon I was visiting the medical center in Houston, and then referred to see a speech pathologist and singing specialist to re-learn how to speak/sing to prevent surgery and prolong longevity of my voice. I would wear a little button to school and provide letters to my teachers, implementing that I was on “voice rest” and not to speak at school, to teachers, or other classmates in order to help heal my chords. I would only speak at therapy sessions to create new habits there. Dr. Radionoff took a vulnerable, fragile 12 year old girl, who literally felt like it was “the end of the world” in that dramatic year, and nurtured me to health. She not only taught me proper vocal techniques as my singing specialist but was the biggest blessing and inspiration to me during those years. She taught me to never let adversity win, and once again like Mrs. Daily, she reminded me of the connection, understanding and sharing of art as lead importance. Dr. Radionoff inspired me to take my childhood passion into adulthood as a career, fearless and strong, knowing my worth and abilities. She taught me that it is not how high or how low or how loud you sing/act/write/create, but it is the way you connect with your audience and share that creativity that is the true talent.
IS : Were there any specific actors / actresses / artists / who influenced you to pursue a career in music and entertainment? If so, who ?
Sara Alavi : Yes, definitely. Early on, I just loved Celine Dion. Actually, before I knew how to write a melody, myself and two other girl friends in 5th grade decided to write and record a historical song with self-made lyrics to the beat and melody of Dion’s, ‘It’s All Coming Back to Me Now’. It was for an American colonial history project. We recorded it at my home, and even convinced my older brother to make toy gun noises in the background to symbolically create a sad war vibe. You just had to hear it to understand, as it was quite epic. Safe to say, we were giggling the entire time that song played for our presentation in front of the class and thought our teacher would think we were crazy fools, but in fact she loved it more than we did. According to our teacher, it was the first song ever written in the history of the school for a project and she sent our little cassette tape to the Board of Educators later on. That tape must be somewhere in my house still, but I’d have to dig for it in keepsakes and find a cassette player to bring the song back to life. Anyways, I have Celine Dion and her songwriters to thank for the melodic line. And Dion is truly an entertainer of pure talent, elegance, and beauty.
And then of course, Oprah Winfrey was a huge influence. Always loved my Aquarius twin. No explanation needed for her, as I would potentially write a novel on my love for that humanitarian woman alongside my birthday twin Ellen DeGeneres. Both total inspirations that you can be authentically known, yet remain humble and compassionate at the same time.
IS : Were there any films / music videos / commercials / that influenced you to pursue a career in music and entertainment ? If so, please elaborate.
Sara Alavi : Definitely used to watch Fiddler on the Roof as a kid. My adorable Persian dad reminds me so much of character Tevye in the film. The music, the traditions, the symbolism, all remind me how much in common the religious teachings and cultures are – whether Jewish or Muslim, Persian, Arab… etc and to many others too – we all share common ground on togetherness, family and love for one another. We all strive for peace and cherish our intimate relationships. I simply love that movie, as it teaches so much and (of course) is a musical.
IS : Did you have a career / jobs outside of modeling / music prior to entering the industry? If so, what were some of the influences / learning lessons from them ?
Sara Alavi : Yes! Dreams do not come true over one night. You plant seeds daily and watch it bloom over time. I went to school, studied International Affairs, as I love humanitarian efforts in the non-profit sector. I worked with a few companies during and after my Bachelor’s Degree, taught music to children, performed in theaters, volunteered for UNICEF for pure fulfillment, and all this while still pursuing and planting seeds for future long term career goals. I always knew that some jobs were a stepping stone and teaching me life lessons along the way, so never ever called it a ‘back up plan’ nor do I believe in the ‘back up plan’ mentality. I believed and still believe in myself. I did all of the above simultaneously to succeed. I had a dream, a lot of goals, but had to pay my bills in the moment and meantime. I am currently full time in creative arts now and can appreciate it thoroughly because I worked so hard and earned it; it wasn’t handed to me on a platter. I am always creating new dreams and goals and keep planting new seeds daily. Life evolves, and dreams do too, such is enjoying the beauty of the journey and pursuit.
IS : Can you describe some of your early projects, either as a model, actress, or performer ?
Sara Alavi : Hmmmm, definitely music led the way and then acting/modeling followed pursuit. I did a lot of musical theatre. I wrote a lot of music and songs, some published with BMI and a lot in journals. I began modeling and acting naturally with stage. Stage required acting while performing, and modeling was required for publicity efforts and such. It all kind of started to evolve together on its own under the creative arts umbrella. Of course, stage led into TV and commercial work, which later got me into film.
“Music led the way and then acting/modeling followed pursuit. I did a lot of musical theater.” – Sara Alavi
IS : What have been some of your favorite acting / commercial projects to date? Can you share some of the experiences from them ?
Sara Alavi : That’s a tough one! Performing at Jones Hall was quite prestigious, and I performed with traveling Neal Berg’s 100 Years of Broadway alongside my favorite NYC Broadway stars. That was a cool experience, and former President H.W. Bush with First Lady Barbara Bush were there to watch us on stage.
I also loved a lot of the commercial and print work I’ve done – Space Center Houston at NASA, Methodist Hospital, Exxon Mobil, Academy Sports and Outdoors, H.E.B., Samsung, etc. Loads of fun working with such talented teams! Some of the experiences were quite awesome with Methodist, as I would have friends text me left and right with pictures of my billboard around Texas areas. My friends and family are the cutest, and it was special to have them capture me and share in the excitement with me. Truly special.
IS : Can you elaborate on the process of getting an agent? What an agent necessary to get your initial print / commercial modeling jobs? If so, can you elaborate on how up and coming actors and models can break into the commercial print / modeling business ?
Sara Alavi : Yes, agents want to have a package to sell; they want an ‘already made’ package without having to create one. In other words, they do their homework and make sure that you have put in training, passion, etc so they feel confident in selling your ‘business package’ to clients. I always tell other talent to really work on areas to showcase your abilities, such as current day social media platforms. A lot of it is ‘who’ you know and not ‘what’ you know like most industries, and you have to engage and network with others in the industry too. I also advise all talent seeking representation not to worry a second if not a fit for an agent when submitting, because you have to realize that if they already have a full roster and/or too many short curly hair brunettes, they may not choose you based upon the color and texture of your hair and NOT your talent. That simple. No joke. So always think of finding an agent a lot like “dating” in American culture, either it is a fit or it is not compatible, and if the later then move on to more a compatible match. Take nothing personally. Not with agents or booking any gig.
“I always tell other talent to really work on areas to showcase your abilities.” – Sara Alavi
IS : Can you describe some of the music that you’ve created? Do you sing at concerts? What type of musical background do you have? Did you have vocal training?
Sara Alavi : Yes! These days, I write a lot of EDM and main stream pop, though enjoy writing just about any genre. I released a very “easy listening” adult contemporary pop album as my debut back in 2013, though it was more a representation of my writing in the genre, verses my singing or natural personal niche for me. Many of the experiences I wrote about in that album for example, were more mystical verses reality, or holistic verses specific to me. Of course, that’s part of the writing style I was aiming for and wished to express in that genre. I do love writing anything and everything. Lyrics mean a lot to me, however. I do love raw, real feels from genuine artists, relatable to others. So, I am always that girl who listens to lyrics in a new hit, verses just the melody or just the music. It’s important to me to be able to connect, feel and share the message in more ways than just one. This is how I feel and how I enjoy to express myself and connect through my work.
IS : Can you elaborate on the humanitarian efforts that you’re involved in?
Sara Alavi : UNICEF and aiding children globally have served as my number one passion in the non-profit sector for over a decade now. I volunteered quite a bit with them since 2009 in different areas, much of which were fundraising events while also giving speeches at schools to raise public awareness. I started to realize that I also wished to educate and create opportunities for the mothers of these children in crisis, as many of them were without fathers. So, I joined my dad Dr. Mehdi Alavi’s non-profit organization as an ambassador to spread peace initiatives with our annually published Civility Report, in what inevitably encourages women’s rights and education for global peace progression. I am very proud to volunteer side by side with my compassionate father and aid his life-long dream of creating Peace Worldwide Organization (PWO). There have been several PWO chapters opening across the globe, and amazing projects implemented, such as a water well built in Kenya to ease tension among two tribes over sanitary water, orphanage assistance in several areas of Africa and the Middle East, collaborative efforts with other non-profits for educational enhancement and child protection, and many other projects annually developed overseas.
“I am very proud to volunteer side by side with my compassionate father and aid his life-long dream of creating Peace Worldwide Organization.” – SARA ALAVI
IS : What more can be done globally to help with the charitable organizations that you’re passionate about ?
Sara Alavi : Well, our annually published Civility Report is free to download as a PDF from our website, where we analyze all countries within the United Nations and provide democracy, peace, civility, and human rights scores for all those countries. This allows individuals to view his/her country and see in what ways it may improve to better serve international peace. Our report is based upon all data collected from collaborative non-profit global entities, then calculated in an algorithm to generate overall score for each country within the UN. I think reading our Civility Report is the perfect place to start in order to know how better to aid yourself, family, and communities. Peace starts within ourselves and permeates into our families, friends, communities, our countries, and all around the world.
IS : If you could play in the biopic of a historical / popular figure in a film, who would you play and why ?
Sara Alavi : Susan B Anthony, Lucy Ball, Julie Andrews, Anousheh Ansari, Celine Dion, Amelia Earhart, Elizabeth Taylor, Princess Diana, JK Rowling… the Legendary list goes on and on… but I will start there!
IS : What does your schedule consist of during the week? Does commercial acting / music / take up your entire day? / your full time venture ?
Sara Alavi : It’s funny you ask that. Every day is shaped a bit differently. I will say that if I am not writing music, performing, singing, modeling, acting, or pursuing non-profit passions, then I am living in the moment with my family and friends. I would not be daily inspired or intrigued to write stories about life if I do not live my life. Ideas do not come from the sky, they come from experience. Therefore, living and connecting with my loved ones I hope to never take for granted and am sure to do that as often as possible.
IS : What are some other acting / commercial / film projects you would like to be a part of ?
Sara Alavi : Anything that speaks to my heart and conveys a meaningful message to society. Of course, to work alongside any Scorsese, Spielberg, Cameron, Scott, Eastwood, and Tarantino… would be an insane dream come true. But of course, to work on more films and create extraordinary movies that teach, would be on my radar for my next set of projects. I have some in the works right now but have to keep it a bit confidential for a bit. But, I am honored to be a part of any production that serves humanity even in the slightest of powerful ways.
IS : Imagine you’re 100 years old and reading your Wikipedia page. What other career / personal highlights would you like to see on there ?
I know what brings my heart most fulfillment and enjoyment. In high school, I was nominated at the end of the year as ‘most likely to become famous’ and truthfully had no clue to why. My friend asked me if I ever wanted to be ‘famous’, and I said, ‘not really, unless I feel like I can use my platform to make a positive difference in the world’. When I am 100 years old and reflecting on my Wikipedia, I hope that I find more ways I was there for others and encouraged positive development, progression, and change. I would rather see I gave more than got in this world, and that maybe my being alive encouraged another to breathe a little easier because I have lived. I want to see my accomplishments in the arts and see that I fulfilled all my goals. But most of all, I want to be a loving woman, mother, aunt, sibling, daughter, wife, … family member, and friend. If I see that I have used the arts, my passions, my knowledge and platform to make a positive difference in our world, then I would find I have accomplished my intentions on Earth, and I have lived a life of true success.
Follow Sara Alavi on social media @TheSaraAlavi
Iman Sadri is the founder of @LASmileMagazine and @ThePersianObserver