Lateefa Farah, Content Producer
Meet Lateefa, a content producer from Toronto telling hers and others’ stories through as many mediums as she can master. See our conversation below for more on her purpose in life, what it means to create authentically, and how she balances it all.
Lateefa, you host a podcast, a radio show, and you volunteer as a video producer all on top of your 9 to 5. How did you find yourself involved in all of these things?
Growing up, I always imagined myself as an investigative journalist on the ground telling people’s stories in various countries abroad like Yemen, Syria, and Egypt - especially if it’s during a time where revolutions are taking place. Then when I was in school, one of my journalism professors started talking about how’d have to be prepared for situations like getting shot at or kidnapped, and I was like, ‘Nope. I am just not built for that kind of life.’
As I explored other avenues I found myself doing an internship at Al Jazeera, a not-for-profit focused on social issues in South America and South Sudan. I loved the way they were telling peoples’ stories as an international news organization. I worked with freelancers who took footage on the ground and helped to produce and edit shorts that captured moments in history better than words could. By giving those without a platform a chance to tell things from their perspective, I realized that it wasn’t about journalism for me, it was about storytelling. No matter what I do, my work has to be for the people, by the people, and that’s my purpose.
I’m involved with a podcast, radio show, and video production as an active choice. It might seem like a lot, but this is my story and journey to becoming a better storyteller. For now, I’m tapped into those three mediums, but I want to try everything, even if it’s just once, to see what it’s like.
For those who don’t know, tell me about the projects you’re working on.
The Two Peas in a Pod podcast is hosted by myself and my best friend from high school, and it’s all about life as a third culture kid. That’s when you’re born in one place, raised elsewhere, and then living in another. For me, that’s Toronto, Qatar, London (England), and then back to Toronto. Every two weeks when we come together, we talk a lot about the culture shocks we’ve experienced and some of the challenges that come with being in your twenties, like getting a raise and the concept of ‘a calling’. A big part of it is just us catching up and giving each other perspective, but we’ve heard from our listeners that a lot of what we’re putting out there is something they can relate to, too.
On alternating weeks, I host a radio show where I DJ and play songs that I’ve found through the week. This means anything from slow jams for cuffing season, to positive, upbeat tunes you can run to. There is a lot more to mixing than meets the eye, but I love learning how to do it and pulling together music in a way that pieces together and reflects my current headspace.
Lastly, I volunteer my time at JAYU, which is a charitable organization that tells human rights stories through the arts. As a video producer, I’ve worked on human rights films like the May exhibition of Am I Wrong To Love - a short highlighting LGBTQ refugees who migrated to Canada. The thing I love about this type of work is not just hearing stories of resilience, but being able to authentically capture raw feelings and thoughts. Personally I feel like the most important thing about being a storyteller is making people comfortable enough to be vulnerable with you. When you find that moment where you do tap into their vulnerability is when you uncover some of the most inspiring moments. Right now, myself and the team are gearing up to show something new we’ve been working on at the upcoming Human Rights Film festival.
I love that you’re in this constant state of creation and sharing. How does it make you feel when you lay it all out like that?
Looking at it this way, it kind of puts me in awe. I work in PR at a start-up during the weekdays so these projects are a lot of extra time and effort, but I’m proud to be part of them. Connection is like a drug, and that’s what drives me to keep creating and sharing the way I do. Everything I put out there is an extension of myself and I know that in the end, this will be my brand, my legacy.
How do you manage it all?
I really try to discipline myself to carve out time every week to do nothing and be still. Self-care Sundays are my thing, I do a facemask, hit the sauna, take a bath, and just unwind. I think when you’re constantly searching for something you hit a wall. Boredom is when creativity strikes so it’s good for me to try to be as bored as possible!
I also journal to keep tabs on how I’m feeling and to unravel after a hectic week. The older I get, the more I’m focused on being centered with myself because if I’m not, I just can’t produce the things I do. What ends up happening is I worry too much and I overthink. I think about how I haven’t done certain things, or what people think, and if people are even watching or listening. It’s scary how quickly it can get out of hand. On the flip side, when I am centered and secure, I turn inwards to ask myself if I like what I’m doing and how it’s making me feel. I truly believe that this self awareness is what breeds authenticity in my content.
What's next on the horizon?
I definitely want to master the skills that I have right now in video and audio, maybe even shoot and produce my own documentary. Outside of my craft, I also want to get more involved in JAYU’s mentorship program. A lot of the things I’ve done are self taught, and so to have been a part of their first filmmaking course for Toronto youth, I was able to give back and show someone else the ropes.
My goal has always been to connect and create impact, but something that I’ve come to learn over time is that it’s not always about trying to impact the world or every single person I meet. It could literally be one person and that would be enough. All it takes one encounter, or one conversation to instil enough confidence in someone to say they can do it too. I think that’s why I love being a content producer and why I want to be an amazing storyteller. There is so much potential to move people and create meaning, but also so much learning and new perspective that come with the territory that ultimately just make me a better person for this world.
Check out Lateefa’s podcast here, her radio show here, and her work with JAYU here.