She could be capturing the hearts of television viewers with her earnest characters, calling gamers to battle with inspiring voice lines, or offering fun and empathetic companionship through the prose of her beloved book: I Am Fun Size, and So Are YOU! For Anjali Bhimani, the medium may change, but the message doesn’t. “I’ve got you,” that’s what this artist’s on a mission to say.
What unites the ancient art of theater with the thrill-a-minute juice of the modern world’s most popular video games? What’s the link between the emotional boom we get out of our favorite TV characters as well as the advice of the authors we love?
If we chip away at the boxes – or the mediums – which make up the global media landscape, a truth is revealed: it all boils down to one particular art. If one can identify this art and master it, there is no limit to the beautiful change their work can bring to the world.
Want proof? Look no further than actress, author, and speaker Anjali Bhimani. You’ve seen her in Ms. Marvel, Dead to Me, and many other of your favorite TV shows. If you play Overwatch or Apex Legends, you’ve either been on the good or bad end of one of her character’s ‘ultimate’ voice lines (let’s hope it’s the former).
Bhimani is also the bestselling author of I Am Fun Size and So Are YOU!, the speaker behind The Hungry Artist,and the perfect person to teach us about the art that unifies all our favorite mediums.
Bhimani’s passion for storytelling also extends to behind the camera, as she lights up when discussing producing The B Word, a groundbreaking new series by emerging writer Sabrina Besla.
“The things that I’ve been a part of that became hits,” the actress says, “did so because they came from creators wanting so badly to touch people. They didn’t come out trying to create a worldwide sensation – but instead a desire to share a story that affects people.”
If you ask Bhimani, who has a marquee name across many genres and mediums, what her craft is, she’ll tell you she’s in the “storytelling arts.” Therein lies the answer to our initial question. If we take any of our favorite media – no matter how different it all may seem – and boil it down to its essence, we find people with a deep desire to tell an impactful story.
Naturally, this sparks another question: what makes a good storyteller? Once again, it is Bhimani who we can learn from.
“It’s important for us to come from a place of wanting to lift each other up,” she says. “We should tell stories to increase each other. For me, that’s the whole collaborative process of life, not just in the storytelling arts.”
A storyteller’s magic is only as potent as their desire to give. It is through generosity towards the audience – whether a reader, viewer, listener, or anything of the sort – that the collaboration between the artist and their fan can begin.
“Every A-list actor I’ve met,” Bhimani says, “is also wildly generous, humble, kind, and supportive.”
“To see why this is true,” the actress explains, “we only have to think about the opposite. When we are selfish in our art, we are thinking first of ourselves. We are so wrapped up in our own needs and trapped inside our own minds – how can we be open to the distinct characters, plots, and everything else in the worlds we are aiming to create?”
“When we are generous,” Bhimani says, “we get to ask the story what it needs. This opens us up to play a big and beautiful role in it.”
This is something that Bhimani has learned well from her friends and collaborators over at Critical Role, known for improvisational genius that puts a character’s needs over the wants of its player.
As an audience, we’re certainly getting something from this generosity. Is it the reason we cherish time with loved ones around the TV, retreat to a cozy nook to read after a hectic day, or log onto Discord to laugh and play games with friends who live far away. What is it that we are receiving?
“Everybody deserves to feel the full breadth of the human experience,” Bhimani says. “When I’m performing, I want to convey this: ‘Hey, I’ve got you – sit back and relax. Without you doing anything, I’m going to take you on a journey. I’m going to give you this experience: I’ll do the crying, the fighting, and the laughing. We’ll go up and down, diagonal and sideways, and if you invest in it as much as I do – if we lean into the story together – we’ll both have had this experience that we wouldn’t have had before.’”
This reveals something reciprocal about the relationship between storyteller and audience. It is a collaborative experience, one in which the artist gives magic and the viewer grants faith. It starts with somebody like Bhimani, who makes herself less, so that her characters can be more.
As Bhimani’s star grows it is accompanied in the blossoming of her fanbase. This collaboration is no more apparent than in I Am Fun Size, and So Are YOU!, the bestselling book that started as an online community and a desire by Bhimani to give back to the fans who meant so much to her.
With a message as her mission, and all the mediums of the modern era to tell it to the world, Anjali Bhimani’s global career has one purpose. “You’re not in this alone, I’ve got you,” she says, to everyone who needs a good story.
I Am Fun Size, and So Are YOU!: Thoughts from a Tiny Human on Living a Giant Life, Anjali Bhimani’s best selling collection of essays is available here. To keep up with the superstar actress, follow her on Instagram.
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