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Meet Shivane Chandool: The Creative Behind Indo-Caribbean Beauty Magazine

By: Chandra Persaud

Art is the way I live. It’s like romance. We find ourselves searching for it when it truly is something we cultivate,” says Shivane (Shiv) Chandool.

Shiv, 26, is a queer Indo-Guyanese dynamic storyteller based in Queens, New York who has been cultivating her artistic approach since she was a child. Her first book of poetry, The Broken Coconut, was self-published in 2021 and centers on themes of identity, belonging, healing, and living authentically in a world of prescribed ideals. Since its publication, Shiv has experienced a personal and creative awakening that has led her to be more bold and fearless both in her art and life.

These days, Shiv pours her creative energy into her business, Indo-Caribbean Beauty Magazine, where she serves as the platform’s Editor-in-Chief/Creative Director. Her most recent project on body shaming in the Indo-Caribbean community with beauty influencer and award-winning producer, Sarita Nauth has garnered considerable attention and praise for its vulnerability, professionalism, and creative edge. For many it was also the first time seeing an all-women Indo-Caribbean production team, with Leeanna Hari serving as project’s photographer and Jasmin Nessa Ali as designer. 

Still, writing is very close to Shiv’s heart. She is currently putting ink to page for a second, highly personal poetry collection and is using her newfound confidence and self-acceptance as her compass during the process. The following is an interview with the artist.  

You found your way to creative expression through words. Can you recall your earliest childhood memory where you found comfort in words?

Stories, for sure. My grandmother used to tell stories. She told me a story once of when she prayed in Guyana, there would be snakes that would stop in their tracks and look frozen. It made me think she was a superhero and, at the time, it inspired me to write short stories about adventures. 

Speak about your poetry collection, The Broken Coconut. Who did you write it for? What is a fun fact about the book that most people don’t know?

I wrote it for me. The Broken Coconut felt like everything I held back from saying for years. It was a book that I started when my grandmother passed away. It felt like this overwhelming grief [from the passing] started a bigger emotional release that I just needed. 

A fun fact about the book is that it was actually tough for me to write the love chapter. I wrote this book before I came out, and love to me was not the love I experienced after coming out. I spent the longest time on this chapter. 

What do you mean by "love to me was not the love I experienced after coming out?"

I think for me, I was in love with the idea of being with a cisgender male. I thought that was the way I had to love. So I wrote that love chapter based on that thinking. But after coming out, I actually felt like I didn't have to fall in love with that idea, which always felt so forced anyway. I was genuinely in love with who I truly am and had acceptance of my sexuality and all of that self-love and acceptance gave me confidence to love in the way I am meant to. 

How have you changed, both as a writer and a person, since the publication of The Broken Coconut?

I have changed drastically. Much like a broken coconut, I have created a new identity for who I am. I also evolved as a writer and now my writing focuses on stories and returning to my roots. As a person, I am more evolved. I find myself fearless and connected with who I always wanted to be.  

Can you elaborate more on this new identity? How would you describe it?

This new identity is just who I am meant to be without the conditionings of who I was made to be. Not who my strict Hindu Indo-Caribbean parents wanted me to be. This is actually me. 

What current artistic mediums are you most passionate about? 

I really cannot say that I am most passionate about one. They are all connected to me. Writing, photography, and creative directing all are aspects of storytelling. One helps the other. If I have a story to tell, usually I can write it and create visuals for it. If I cannot write it, I will be able to photograph it. 

Speak about your latest creative endeavors and upcoming ones you are passionate about. 

I have been focusing time on my business, Indo-Caribbean Beauty Magazine (ICB), and silently writing a new book. With ICB, we have upcoming projects for Caribbean Heritage Month and are creating with other Indo-Caribbean artists across the globe. My book is currently in the works. It has a lot of fantasy/storytelling elements and is so personal to me. 

How would you describe the purpose/mission of Indo-Caribbean Beauty Magazine? Can you tell us how this idea originated and sprouted into what it is today?

ICB started because I loved creating shoots and in school, when studying media, I noticed that if I wasn’t the only female in my classes, I was the only Indo-Caribbean. It dawned upon me when I was in graduate school, I would be entering a predominantly white field, while also working to find my footing in a creative field. I knew that if I could not find a seat at another table, I could create my own this way [through ICB] and others could have a seat, too. Being a classically trained dancer, I thought weddings were what I knew and was so familiar with. So I decided to focus there, but when the pandemic hit, that and other life factors took a toll on my mental health. I found myself not wanting to be put in a box with restricting ICB to just weddings. 

I took a year to fully plan what ICB’s mission would be and what I wanted it to be. I decided that it would focus on the beauty of being Indo-Caribbean. Essentially, the beauty of being you. The purpose and mission [of the platform] are to have Indo-Caribbean visibility in the media, have a seat at tables we aren’t usually invited to, and cultivate a footprint. I hope that in the future, when you google Indo-Caribbean and you want to know more about your identity, it isn’t as hard to find information as many of us experienced and I hope ICB is part of that. 

Can you expand further on your upcoming book? What are some themes readers can look forward to? What are your personal attachments to it? 

I am stepping into the queer world of poetry, and my new book has themes of a queer love story written in the form of poetry and relates to my spirituality. It mirrors aspects of actual things that have happened to me. Like my first crush on a girl in middle school and questioning and exploring love innocently. 

I am also working on a live show honoring ancestry through poetry, and most of the poetry I’m considering revolves around stories of Indo-Caribbean ancestry. 

How has social media helped and hurt your art and creative process?

Social media has helped me create in ways I never imagined possible. With ICB, I can connect and create with so many other Individuals, which feels incredible. I think I am sometimes the victim of being unable to miss a notification. I always have to return to why I create in the first place and not fall entrapped by what people want to see and please others. 

What advice would you give to a fellow Indo-Caribbean who feels an artistic urge, but may be afraid to follow it because art is devalued or misunderstood in their close circles?

If you are in a circle where your friends do not encourage your art or to be you, it is not the circle you deserve to be in. Even if it's family, and you are afraid to follow an artistic urge, I would say do it. If it feels so personal and it's calling you, absolutely do it. People who truly believe in you will find you, and you will find them. 

To follow along with Shiv’s creative endeavors, you can find her on IG @shivanechandool_ and @indocaribbeanbeautymag

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