|Asa in the bathtub in her house in Venice. One assumes the tub found its way to the bath, eventually.|
Asa Soltan Rahmati is to me the most fascinating member of the cast of Shahs of Sunset. Her journey to Beverly Hills was not the straight road most of her castmates took. I know from personal experience that when you spend your childhood in more than one country, whether the experience is fantastic or something less than that, the constant flux has an effect. Relationships, both good and bad are built and torn apart. For some, it becomes easy to embrace the ways of the Nomad, set adrift with no definite destination and no emotional ties. Entertaining yourself is often the only source of entertainment. You become your own art that follows you everywhere.
|Asa, Self-Portrait 1983|
The revolution began in Iran when Asa was three years old. When she was 8, her family fled to the perceived safety of Hamburg, Germany as refugees with very little money. It was her first step into the world as a child of the diaspora. She lived in a poor area of Hamsburg as a refugee for seven years. The family maintained their traditions within the new culture in part by taking the bus and carrying with them all the equipment for a BBQ. They cooked together in the park without regard to season or temperature. It was important to maintain their culture and their family traditions. While her homelife was distinctively Iranian, at school she was influenced by western culture. She learned to speak English by listening to Public Enemy, Michael Jackson and other artists. Music impacted her deeply. During this time, immigrants to Germany were not particularly welcome. After the fall of the Berlin wall the anti-immigrant sentiment worsened and within a couple of years the family once again found themselves refugees fleeing to a new land.
So they loaded up the truck, and they moved to Beverly. Hills that is. Swimmin’ pools, movie stars.
At age fifteen, Asa moved to the United States. Her parents took a small apartment in order to be in the Beverly Hills School District. By the time she arrived at Beverly High, Asa had already developed a style of her own. She was a rebellious teen who did not wish to conform. She expressed herself in fashion which was not, shall we say, what the typical Beverly Hills student wore. She listened to rap. She had little regard for fitting in. In her answer to an interview question I sent her, Asa said that she went to High School with Mike Shouhed. Maybe it’s me but I can’t see Asa and Mike hanging out much in High School. Mike was probably driving a BMW and sitting with the cool kids at lunch. Asa likely came to school having already covered much of the material in Hamsburg, did well in class with little effort, and spent her time with a different crowd, smoking cigarettes and listening to music. That’s my theory, not something she told me. I could be wrong.
|Asa in a photo shoot for the artwork on her soon to be released single, Gold.|
Today, Asa lives as a true Bohemian in an amazingly beautiful house in Venice. Along her journey she has aquired wealth, and love in various portions. Yet the refugee girl hasn’t really grown up. Her artistic work both as a musician and as a painter are intended to shock the recipient. Asa is an Iranian rapper. In her songs and in her paintings you can hear and see, if you try, the longing that has not gone away since childhood. Perhaps only if you are familiar with the feeling.
I opted not to use the Q &A format for Asa. It just didn’t seem appropriate. I kept two of the interview questions below with regard to the show. When it comes to the show, I’m not sure mainstream America is going to “get” Asa any more than the average Iranian does. People tend to dislike those who are different, those who do not mirror their perception of the norms of their culture, and especially those who challenge them to think about things from another perspective. You may choose to make judgements about Asa because she is unique. Just don’t expect her to care. She’s busy being Asa.
Jesse Leed approached me in the very beginning of his conception of the show. A few people had referred to him to my work and facebook page. I totally had a to sit with the idea for a while whether I wanted to have my life on a reality TV show or not. Authenticity and ‘being me/doing me’ are very important to me. After meeting with Jesse, I had a better idea and decided to go for it. And plus I’ve known Sammy since I was 15 and Mike and I went to Beverly Hills High School together!
What is your goal for the show?
The Persian culture is super old school and very traditional. While that is a beautiful thing, it’s also important to move forward as a people, particularly when we have moved our families to a new country. I am actually very traditional in many ways, but I live a very unconventional lifestyle. Many young Persians, in and outside of Iran, reach out to me all the time and ask me if it’s “ok to be gay”or if its ok to do this and that – while I am not gay myself, I have many gay friends and many artist friends who design their own lives and don’t live by somebody else’s rules. I don’t let society tell me how to live my life. And this is why I am doing the show, for other young people, Persian or not, to see that it’s not only “ok” but essential to think to for yourself. Every human being is a beautiful unique individual and should not be judged by their cover. There is no box you can fit me in.
To read about other cast members of Shahs of Sunset, my post about Mike Shouhed can be read here, my post about Mecedeh Javid can be read here, my post about Sammy Younai can be read here. and my post about Reza Farahan can be read here.