If you think back to your childhood, what was the one thing younger you couldn’t stop doing? For local Instagram-star Anisha Thai, it was hip hop and dance, both of which have turned into a lifelong passion.
In a financial hub like Hong Kong, arts are often overlooked, which is why we love shining the spotlight on rising stars like photographer Alan Wong, hip-hop artist Haysen Cheng, and dancer plus DJ Reanne Moe. It can be hard to balance a passion project and a career, so we sat down with Anisha Thai to discuss how she juggles being a dancer, a model, and a civil engineer, whilst also advocating for minorities’ rights.
Meet Anisha Thai
Born and raised in Paris, Anisha wanted to step out of her comfort zone and meet new people outside of her home. During her gap year, she took an internship in London, which involved relocating to Hong Kong for six months. She then headed to South Africa to finish her master’s degree. Now, having returned back to the +852, Anisha loves sharing her Comorian heritage with people while also discovering her Southeast Asian side.
Hi Anisha, tell us a bit about your dancing journey.
I grew up watching dance icons like Michael Jackson and was in awe of how charismatic and confident the pop star looked on stage. I also loved the bold style of hip hop and watching people let loose to music. After completing five years of ballet, I convinced my mom to let me take up hip hop classes as a pre-teen (she agreed!), and it made me feel strong and confident. I only started Afro Dance two years ago, after returning from South Africa.
Having lived in Paris, London, and South Africa, how was the culture shock when you landed in Hong Kong?
I have always been a city girl so there wasn’t much of a culture shock, in that sense. Hong Kong is so diverse and I enjoy being able to meet people from all walks of life. It’s why I love this city. I am fascinated by how hard-working and ambitious people in Hong Kong are. I quickly found myself surrounded by friends doing what they enjoy. Seeing my friends make a name for themselves drove me to seek recognition and build an image.
Your videos on Instagram and Youtube often go viral around Hong Kong. How do you feel about being Internet famous?
It’s amazing that social media enables me to reach so many people and that I can spread positivity and, hopefully, inspire people to pursue their own passion. My most important goal, when I started recording myself dancing to Afro beats on the busy streets of Hong Kong, was to be consistent with my content. It just grew from there.
What tips can you give on letting loose on the street in front of the camera?
Honestly, when I first started off, I did feel a little insecure when I would get glances from passersby, and judgemental thoughts would flood my mind. But, from the minute that I put on the music, all that matters to me is being present in that moment. It’s similar to your state of mind when you meditate.
I also have a mantra of sorts to help me keep me on track when I feel self-conscious. I repeat to myself that I am confident and I don’t care about what others think. And this constant repetition has helped me fake it till I made it!
People will see you dancing on the street but, chances are, they’ll just go on about their lives afterward, so you just need to train your mind to filter out negativity.
We are lucky to be alive and every single second matters, so go after what you love doing. Forget about people’s judgments and just do you. The only boundary you create is in your mind. Don’t let hurdles stop you, just surround yourself with powerful people who motivate you to be a better self.
How do you find balance in being a dancer, model, and civil engineer all at the same time?
I’ve never felt the need to give up on either dancing or engineering. My days can be packed and hectic from early morning till late at night. Sometimes I delete the Instagram app from my phone while at work to stay productive and not get distracted by notifications, and then re-download it at night after work. To me, it’s like having two full-time jobs and I love both. I like going after challenges and planning my next move to stay motivated, even if this means juggling meetings during my lunch hour.
You have a strong connection to your African roots. In what ways do you think Hong Kong can be more inclusive of African cultures?
I grew up with European, Asian, and African influences due to my family background. When I came to Hong Kong, I felt like there wasn’t enough African representation here so I chose Afro Dance as a way to share my roots with people. Art touches people’s souls. I love working with Harmony HK and efforts like Africa Center Hong Kong that bring different cultures together and empower minorities. I do believe Hong Kong is headed in the right direction in representing minorities in a better light.