by Jennifer Emily McLean
I don’t know Aarti Sequoia, the latest winner of The Next Food Network Star, I almost know her. Her husband, Brendan McNamara, is in our web series “and Boris”; we have two scenes together where we both revel in the extreme evilness of our characters. I am friends with people who know her, but I have never actually met Aarti. Yet watching her journey, as she struggled with her own insecurities in pursuit of a lifelong dream, as someone I almost know was instrumental in helping me find the spine and determination to continue to pursue my own dreams.
My Life and Aarti’s have some strange parallels. Like Aarti, my husband and I found ourselves unemployed at the same time. Like Aarti and her husband, we made a web series on our own to hone our skills and hopefully get someone to hire us. And like Aarti, for the past few months I have been in a situation where everything I have been working toward has the possibility of coming to fruition very soon, dependant only on whether I can withstand the pressure and actually do what I always said I wanted to do.
Aarti’s story arc for the show centered around her confidence in herself (a theme I am more than familiar with). From the beginning it was clear that Aarti had all the tools necessary to be the star they were looking for, yet time and again she would undermine herself through her own insecurities. This is a theme I understand well. After a year of being unemployed my confidence in myself was completely shot. I felt adrift and without any clear direction. I knew where I wanted to go but had no clear way of getting there. Then an opportunity materialized and I learned that magic happens when opportunity meets preparation, as long as my neuroses don’t get in the way.
Each week, Aarti articulated the fears and negative thoughts that plagued my mind. As she had to step up to the plate and deliver whether or not she felt worthy or not, I was constantly re-inspired to keep going and do what I had to do. I even started to get annoyed with her insecurity as I could look objectively at her and know that she was born for this job and was destined for this show; her need to cut herself down felt almost insulting. I knew she was good and I hate to be disagreed with. I suddenly had a greater compassion for my husband who keeps telling me how talented I am, but has to suffer through my constant insecurities and neuroses. It made me realize, I should stop worrying about being good at what I do, and just be good at it. No apologies.
The expectations of modern womanhood are hard to live up to and navigating the path from girl to empowered woman is treacherous to say the least. Aarti gifted me (and the rest of the country) the opportunity to watch her take those final steps and in so doing encourage and inspire the rest of us to do the same. As Susie Fogelson said, (who ,by the way, is to me the epitome of the modern executive and the business woman I want to grow up to be) “It’s time to put on your big girl pants”. Thank you Aarti and Susie, for helping me have the courage to put on my “big girl pants” and live the life I was meant to live.