Meet Leena Manro. This lawyer turned actress, is also a writer, director and a comedian. Previously, the co-founder of I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter Chicken,
she is now working on her own stand-up comedy. Leena is also the Co-Founder and Director of All Purpose Creative
, a steller
digital media design agency made up of 30 super creative and empathetic humans who design for experience. But most importantly, deep down, Leena’s just your average spiritual warrior who follows her heart and makes her dreams come true.
Tell us about your career journey? How did you get involved in your industry?
Which industry? There are a few! That said, I do believe they interconnect. Law school and legal practice helped sharpen my critical thinking, and developed work ethic (and it paid well), while the Butter Chicken sketch comedy show allowed me to develop my “funny bone” and practice comedy timing on stage. All of that set the basis for my work today – I lead our video team and help create interesting, fun and engaging media (ie. training and promo videos) to help expand our clients’ businesses. And finally, all of that combines to add fuel to my stand-up comedy work which helps to open hearts and expand minds (and because it’s so darn FUN!)
What is the hardest challenge you have come up against in your personal/professional life? What was your biggest lesson learned?
I think the hardest challenge is and continues to be, is standing in my truth, despite the pressures of this world. Truth in terms of what you really want to do in life, or whether or not you want to be married or have kids is extremely difficult, because of societal expectations that we internalize. But you see, we always have choice. While it seems easy to give in and just do what’s expected, in the long run, you will suffer. But when we make the choice to stand for truth, we will face friction – and that’s the hardest part… its uncomfortable. And yet, what I have learned again and again is that what you seek is on the other side of that discomfort and those difficult conversations. I work from a place of spiritual belief; that we are indeed spiritual beings who have come here to learn lessons, to connect, to grow, and to save this world (both physically and emotionally). We cannot do this work if we do not operate from a place of love and truth.
What advice would you give young South Asian women wanting to do what you do?
Don’t. It was way too hard. JUST KIDDING!!!! Hehe. I’d say the same thing NIKE says: Just Do It!!!!! Really. It’s that simple. NO ONE has power over you. You hold the keys to your cage and to your success. You are here for a reason… and what a blessing it is to be in one of the best countries in the world, in a time that has offered more opportunities for women than EVER BEFORE IN HISTORY! I feel that not only should you go for all your dreams, but you MUST, otherwise you committed a terrible crime. Your life will be truly in vain… I am sorry if that sounds harsh, but I wonder how many people avoid living their truth and simply living for weekend bbqs? And then time passes, we get very old and we die. Now, that might sound dramatic and dark, but I believe this to be true and actually quite motivating. You will die one day, as we all do, so whatever you do will not matter as time goes on EXCEPT in the ripple waves of people it touches… so make those ripples ladies, make waves, and make them count.
What do you do to help South Asian women feel empowered?
What do I do to empower women? I’m not fully sure; I’d like to do more. I hope I’ve done some of my part simply by being a woman who forges down unconventional paths to success… this unconvention marks everything I do – in my varied careers which led to a job I love and in my choice to not go down the path of marriage and kids – ultimately if I can be a role model to others who wish to live their lives from a place of inner truth, then I hope that I have done something good simply by being me.
If you could tell your teenage self something, what would it be?
This is a difficult question because that advice might change something that I’ve endured in the past (good and “bad”) and I like where I am now and truly believe all my experiences led me to this place. So in theory… I might not give any advice. Well, I might say: “Don’t freak out cause I am you, but I am you from the future.” I’d say this because in theory, meeting your teenage self would freak them out. Then I might say: “Can you please get more sleep cause if you don’t your hair will turn white in your early twenties (and it did). And maybe try to avoid coffee, you’ll become an addict and its worse then heroin”. Oh wait! I might also say “if your hair does go white, ignore people who tell you to colour it. You just do you boo.” Mind you she will be a girl of the 90s and she will not understand that reference ’till later. Oh well.
What is your personal motto or mission statement?
How about: “You do you, boo”? I didn’t create this one, but I like it; doesn’t it so say much? Just go forth and do your thing cause in the end none of it matters, and everything matters. Don’t listen to the naysayers.. cause one day they too will die. (I know I know, morbid and yet wise and true, no?) Also… stay connected to your family. That’s not a motto or mission statement – but I credit my amazing family (my amazing siblings and best friends) for helping me to stay grounded, connected and maintain my course in this life. There is so much I could say about them… I just feel deeply grateful for them and love them TOO MUCH YAAR.
Besides your work, what are you passionate about?
I don’t separate my “work” from my other passions (ie. creativity, acting, directing, comedy etc.) All of my passions are displayed in my work and all of it is simply about: bringing light and love to this planet using my unique gifts, experiences and opportunities, and using my voice to help others find theirs. I am simply passionate about life. (Oh, and my wonderful family!)
Where can one find you on your days off?
What are “days off”???? hehe. I work hard both in my job and in my stand-up comedy work etc. and I find that “relaxing” days are really me working on stand-up, going to comedy shows and I guess enjoying red wine. That said, I also do indeed love spending time with my friends and family (especially at comedy shows with red wine).
How do you balance work, life, family?
In the realm of balance, I think from an outside perspective one might not describe my life as “balanced” per se, and yet I am finding my deepest truths honoured in this way, and also finding deep happiness. You see, I didn’t go down a traditional path of marriage and children and home and career. I came pretty close (a few times)… but each time it meant giving up some of my time (precious time that we will not get back) to events and weddings etc. that one is obligated to attend if you get married. And then of course, there is the time one must give to raising children… and while that is so wonderful if you want that in your experience, I think I am a bit too engrossed in my own goals to be able to devote that kind of time to children… and so I have deliberately chosen to stay out of the marriage / children arena (at least for now) and allow myself the utmost freedom in my work here as a creative, spiritual woman.
Contact Leena Manro
Catch Leena at the following upcoming events: