‘I’m an activist and a storyteller’: Malala wants to further brown representation in Hollywood

‘I’m an activist and a storyteller’: Malala wants to further brown representation in Hollywood

"If we can watch those shows, then I think audiences should be able to watch shows that are made by people of colour," says the young activist.
28 Sep, 2022

Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai may be an author and an activist but she’s also a young woman who loves binge-watching, just like everyone else. And much like everyone else, she also likes seeing representation on her TV screen.

In an exclusive interview with Variety for its Power of Women celebration, she talked about her likes and dislikes and how she enjoyed Stranger Things recently, especially the antics of Dustin Henderson. She also discussed her growing interest in the entertainment sphere as well as her political interests.

Yousafzai may talk about some serious stuff when she campaigns for girls’ right to education, but she’s also a Netflix addict like the rest of us. Yousafzai, who grew up in the Swat Valley, told the publication that she is a TV enthusiast who watched shows like Mind Your Language and Ugly Betty in order to improve her English speaking skills and to decipher Western culture.

She’s now making TV more than a hobby — she’s a producer and has her own company Extracurricular Productions. “I want my name to be there in TV shows, documentaries and movies,” she said.

“When I fill out forms that ask for a profession, I always struggle, because I’m trying to figure out what my role is. I feel like I’m an activist and a storyteller. I’ve been doing activism for more than a decade now, and I’ve realised that we shouldn’t limit activism to the work of NGOs only: There’s also the element of changing people’s minds and perspectives — and that requires a bit more work,” said the 25-year-old.

She expressed that one day she hopes to work with Hollywood star Angelina Jolie who is known for her work not only as an actor but as a humanitarian and how she’d “love to do” something with her, either a documentary or film through which they could “share the experiences of children, refugees or of women and girls”.

Last year, Yousafzai signed a multiyear programming pact with Apple TV+ in order to bring dramas, comedies, documentaries, animation, and children’s series to the table, to inspire people around the world.

“You’re often told in Hollywood, implicitly or explicitly, that the characters are too young, too brown or too Muslim, or that if one show about a person of colour is made, then that’s it — you don’t need to make another one. That needs to change,” Yousafzai said.

“I’m a woman, a Muslim, a Pashtun, a Pakistani and a person of colour. And I watched Succession, Ted Lasso and Severance, where the leads are white people — and especially a lot of white men. If we can watch those shows, then I think audiences should be able to watch shows that are made by people of colour, and produced and directed by people of colour, with people of colour in the lead. That is possible, and I’m gonna make it happen.”

She added that she hopes to bring the voices of women of colour to the table and debut Muslim writers and directors. She also hopes to challenge some stereotypes that are present in society but most of all, she wants to make sure the content she brings forward is entertaining and that “people fall in love with the characters and have the best time together.”

Yousafzai said she wants to share the stories of refugees. When she goes to a refugee camp and meets the people, she said her goal is not to be their “ambassador or representative” as they can speak for themselves, but to “bring attention so that the camera is shifted towards them.”

In her book I Am Malala: The Girl Who Stood Up for Education and Was Shot by the Taliban, she hinted at a future in politics and maybe her return to Pakistan but as a leader instead of an activist. She graduated two years ago from Oxford University with a degree in Politics, Philosophy and Economics — the same course that has produced at least four British prime ministers.

When asked about her future, she told Variety, “I don’t want to get into British politics for sure”. Yousafzai added that the activism is for girls’ education and gender equality, which one way or the other launches her in politics. “I’m not sure if I’ll become the prime minister of a country. We’ll see in the future. Maybe that is also a political answer.”

October 9 will mark 10 years since Yousafzai survived an assassination attempt by the Taliban at the age of 15. The militants claimed responsibility for attacking her when she was on her way back from school in Mingora and blamed her pro-peace, anti-Taliban and ‘secular’ agenda.


Asif Sep 28, 2022 04:55pm
Doesn't she look like Angelina?
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Bunny Sep 28, 2022 04:55pm
what happened to the girls school she promised in her home land nearlya decade back. she won a million awards after that but has she done anything progressive till now ? sorry, just a reminder.
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Hyra Sep 28, 2022 05:16pm
When her drama will get over
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NoVoice Sep 28, 2022 05:26pm
Weird. So weird.
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Armagan Sep 28, 2022 05:44pm
would be good to see better representation of Pakistan from the west, particularly the Pakistan not in the context of terrorism, politics. Pakistanis are great story tellers, our drama & film industry is testament to that fact. Its time we grow it abroad and announce ourselves on the world stage similarly to the way Korea recently has.
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Truth be told Sep 28, 2022 06:07pm
Won't be long before she will lose her identity. Give her 20 years.
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zarmeena azeem Sep 28, 2022 06:10pm
You are an activist, you are a story teller, you are admirable.....only because of an unfortunate incident that you are now cashing on. Now you are everything!!
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Fast comment Sep 28, 2022 06:17pm
At least in US & UK there is no color concepts. Malala is exaggerating . She wants to be in News one way or other.
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Shaun Sep 28, 2022 06:19pm
Malala instead of making speeches, try to donate towards the poor Pakistani flood victims.
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Riaz Sep 28, 2022 06:29pm
Useless. Only publicity. Nothing else. Where is she when people of Pakistan are dying and displaced due to floods? Oh wait, she only helps girls get educated. Nothing else.
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Ehsan Sep 28, 2022 06:37pm
Impressive as always, what a powerful girl Of Pakistan. Only if Pakistanis trust, believe and promote their women.
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Reddy Sep 28, 2022 07:10pm
She should return to Pakistan to help people of Pakistan
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LOL Sep 28, 2022 07:25pm
We want good actors, not any particular color.
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T-man Sep 28, 2022 07:32pm
Well done. We are proud of you.
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Chacha Chaudry Sep 28, 2022 08:03pm
If all you want is women empowerment and do social work, why do you want to be in Hollywood???? Stay and work in Pakistan unless you are just looking to be in limelight without any real work.
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kamal chowkidar Sep 28, 2022 08:04pm
No comment on Pakistan's flood and people's sufferings.
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Joe Sep 28, 2022 08:09pm
Any contribution towards flood relief?
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Secular Sep 28, 2022 08:12pm
Yes she needs to be next PM appointed for Pakistan she will rule better than all these corrupted leaders
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Multani Sep 28, 2022 08:59pm
Malala was always a show biz person, she may really do a great job introducing Pakistani faces in Hollywood which Bollywood has been trying unsuccessfully for years.
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Jon Sep 28, 2022 09:35pm
Too much hogaya hai ab
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Basit Khan Sep 28, 2022 09:55pm
West will try to make her the next Prime Minister of Pakistan- work is in the progress
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Ally Sep 28, 2022 10:02pm
An other great effort , Malala is making for people who deserve more attention and deserve their talent is recognized in main stream films & TV
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Dr. Crack D'Pot Sep 28, 2022 10:13pm
This is Bollywood!
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Tamilselvan Sep 29, 2022 12:10am
@Ally How about if she starts making trips to her home country and donate for the flood victims?
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Nik Nak Sep 29, 2022 12:13am
She’s a good actress should win a Noble Oscar.
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Sal Sep 29, 2022 12:52am
@Bunny she has sponsored three schools in the swat valley alone so maybe get off the internet and do something productive.
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Nadeem Shah USA Sep 29, 2022 01:20am
She makes Pakistan proud, what a darling lady.
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Texas Tariq Sep 29, 2022 01:21am
@Bunny what have you done for Pakistan??? Except pointing fingers at others.
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Zoltar Sep 29, 2022 02:41am
She watches a lot more Bollywood than Hollywood.
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RS Sep 29, 2022 04:26am
No comment from her for Iranian women???
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Rehana Bounse Sep 29, 2022 05:47am
@Fast comment who says that ? And you’re wrong . There definitely is color concept like white, black & brown .
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Omveer Singh Sep 29, 2022 07:17am
@Ehsan What powerful work has she done for the girls of Pakistan? Only publicity hungry.
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Joe Sep 29, 2022 07:20am
I’m not sure if I’ll become the prime minister of a country " Of a country!!! Why is she not mentioning Pakistan.Dors not want to return.
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Mahmood Sep 29, 2022 11:03am
@Joe Would you?? She's enjoying the fame, fortune, comfortable life, British Passport, world recognized, meeting with kings, world leaders, UN speaker and now heading to Hollywood fame. She will never return to Pakistan, I guarantee you that. Her life depends on it.
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Mrs.Khalil Sep 29, 2022 12:11pm
Time will tell , who are you and what you did …..
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Tajammal Sep 29, 2022 12:22pm
Her homeland SWAT is drowned, what she did for them.
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Ilovehelen Sep 29, 2022 12:36pm
Well she truly is a story maker, that no one has any doubt on. She will be very successful in making it a profession.
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Tauqir Sep 29, 2022 12:52pm
An ambassador for bright future for our country.
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Que Sep 29, 2022 01:16pm
@Asif Get your eyes checked!
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