“Somewhere in that interplay of your skills and talents and passions, lies the reason you’re here and the reason the world needs you.” – Golriz Lucina, SoulPancake
I’m super excited to share this week’s WCW Spotlight as SoulPancake has always been a favorite destination of mine. Watching their videos, I experiences all the emotions – laughter and tears, inspiration, encouragement, and hope. They make me think. But more importantly, they move me to action. From launching my own #Socktober drive to expressing more gratitude for people in my life, I can honestly say SoulPancake routinely pushes me to be a better, more thoughtful person.
I recently had the opportunity to chat with Golriz Lucina, the Head of Creative of SoulPancake. As this week’s WCW Spotlight, she share everything from the early days of SoulPancake to what to inspires her creatively daily.
Me: You graduated college earning a BA in English then went on to pursue your Masters in Publishing. What did you imagine for your life then? What do you think younger you would say about this life you’ve created?
Golriz: When I was in high school I did a bunch of those quizzes that are supposed to help you figure out what to be when you ‘grow up’, but I felt so constrained by the answers. Because I love writing, the top results were always journalist or lawyer, but I wasn’t convinced that either direction would fulfill this insatiable thirst I had to create. Younger me would be SO excited to know that one day I would smash together all the creative outlets I love into one job – filmmaking, writing, design, art directing, music, photography, etc. while working alongside other heart-centric super creative humans.
Me: Many years ago, your family fled Iran due to religious persecution. How do you feel this experience affects the way you look at the world and the stories you want to tell?
Golriz: Growing up in a beautiful place like New Zealand I was always really grateful, but I also felt like a bit like the ‘odd one out’. I was aware that the freedoms and privileges I had, were not universal, and I didn’t take that for granted. I was also the only half-Iranian, half-Armenian kid in our town and so I was the only one eating parsley, walnut, and feta cheese sandwiches for lunch.
I think my experiences definitely informed my desire to tell stories about (and give voice to) people who are not fully ‘seen’ in our society. It excites me that through media we have the power to open minds, touch hearts, and disrupt the assumptions and prejudices we have about each other. I’d love to go back to Iran one day and tell the stories of the fierce, creative, courageous women there who didn’t allow the current political regime to squash their brilliant light and voices.
Me: Has giving back always been a major theme in your life? Or something that came about later in life?
Golriz: Being of service to others was a big theme in our household growing up – my dad is a doctor, and my mum constantly finds ways to bring joy to every person (or creature) that needs it. I’ve always recognized that there is a bigger purpose to all of us being here – and that has to do with bettering ourselves and the world around us. However, it wasn’t until SoulPancake entered my life that I realized that my day job could also be something that directly ‘gives back’ to the world.
Me: You’ve been with SoulPancake since the very beginning. What is it that drew you to the mission and continues to motivate you all these years later?
Golriz: When Rainn first started the company, he wanted to cultivate a safe space for people to ‘Chew on Life’s Big Questions’ and the idea of celebrating the questions and championing curiosity has always been attractive to me. We’ve gone through several evolutions as a company, but our mission to create content that seeks out truth and stamps out stigmas is embedded in our DNA. I’ve had some very flattering invitations to work for other companies and creative agencies but SoulPancake’s intrinsic focus on making content that matters and telling stories that result in real-world impact are why I wake up excited to work here.
Me: SoulPancake is known for its mission to create content that celebrates people doing good and attempting to crack the deep philosophical life questions. What inspired the team to focus specifically on these topics?
Golriz: I think the Baha’i Faith definitely inspired all four of the founders of SoulPancake in a major way. We all believed in the investigation of truth for oneself, using our talents to better the world, championing art as a tool to unite, embracing diversity, and the importance of justice. I think it was out of these shared views that SoulPancake stems, and as a result, our content usually can be traced back to one (or more) of these principles also.
Me: We consistently hear that people do not respond to happy news; it is tragedy and fear that make ratings. Given the success SoulPancake has achieved, how do you respond to this philosophy?
Golriz: I think it’s human nature to pay attention to the tragedy and fear – after all, our survival instincts are what kept our ancestors alive back when they had to worry about wild animals, treacherous journeys, and poisonous berries. But I also think SoulPancake is proving that there is a growing audience today that is thirsty for entertainment that leaves them feeling more ‘whole’, more awake, and more connected to ourselves and each other. Yes, it’s easier sometimes to numb out with superficial entertainment, but I think that that escapism is just covering up a deeper need we all have to know that we belong and that we matter. When the media you consume reflects back only the worst of humanity (greed, selfishness, materialism, etc.), it starts to make you feel insignificant and empty. We’ve always believed in creating an alternative type of entertainment that reminds people that they are crucial and that we are all interconnected.
Me: What has been the most surprising part of your adventures through SoulPancake? What about the most inspiring part?
Golriz: The most surprising part is that this passion project that we all quit our ‘real’ jobs to be a part of ended up being commercially viable and has grown into what it is today with a robust creative agency arm, a dominant presence on YouTube and Facebook, and a steadily growing television/long-form department. I will never forget the early days of working out of coffee shops and doing all-nighters because we had the conviction that the work we were doing mattered. I’m beyond proud of our team for their determination and courage to push back against all the naysayers and lead the way as pioneers of making content that matters in a somewhat grimy entertainment landscape.
Me: How has your outlook on life changed working for company that focuses on creating content that asks the difficult questions and creates ways for people to step out of their comfort zone to make deeper human connections?
Golriz: The content we make helps to fuel my hope. Seeing people open up in front our cameras to talk about subject matters we’re not discussing enough as a society because of fear of judgement or alienation, is deeply inspiring.
Me: Your most recent campaign with Vitamix encourages people to make a meal as an expression of gratitude to someone who had a positive influence on their life. How did this campaign come to life?
Golriz: Vitamix is such an incredibly conscientious brand and they wanted to celebrate the idea that making and preparing a meal is truly an act of love. We were excited by bringing this theme to life and it felt very natural to work with up-and-coming chefs and have them surprise someone in their lives with a home-cooked meal.
Me: If you could make a meal for someone in your life you are grateful for, who would it be? And why?
Golriz: I would make a meal for Oprah. Partly because who doesn’t want to have a dinner party with Ms. Winfrey as a guest (?!), but also because I feel like SoulPancake began its journey of creating digital content because Oprah saw what we were trying to do in our early days and gave us the opportunity to make content for her channel. I think of Oprah as one of the pioneers of building an empire that stems from love, exudes authenticity, and is unapologetically inspiring. I have a LOT of gratitude for her.
Me: What is the one piece of advice you would want to share with someone who wants to follow in your footsteps of using their own unique talents and life experiences to give back?
Golriz: I think one thing I’ve learned (the hard way) is that it is really important to figure out first and foremost, what your design feature is and then to do the work of sharing that with the world – even if you come up against resistance or inertia. We all have certain design features – these are talents and skills that come easy to us or that we’re inexplicably drawn to…and it is SO important to identify them. They usually show up when we’re kids…so pay attention to what you paid attention to when you were young, and consider the stuff that sparks your soul, and recognize when you’re doing “work” that doesn’t really feel like work because it stems from love…because somewhere in that interplay of your skills and talents and passions, lies the reason you’re here and the reason the world needs you. Figure it out and have the courage to share it with the world.