Comedian Tasneem Afridi to Combine Humor, Social Justice as YouTube Fellow

With videos with titles like "My Hijab Story” and "Where Are You From From?" filmmaker Tasneem Afridi is used to blending humor and social issues.

“I find inspiration from random interactions, observances, and personal struggles,” Afridi told NBC News in an email. “I try to take all of my thoughts on various issues and experiences and articulate them through a four minute video.”

Comedian Tasneem Afridi moved to the United States from Pakistan as a toddler.
Tasneem Afridi moved to the United States from Pakistan as a toddler. YouTube

On Thursday, YouTube announced that Afridi will get the chance to take her message and unique style to new audiences as one of the the video hosting website's Creators for Change fellows.

Since the fellowship's launch in September, the Creators for Change program has been partnering with YouTube creators like Franchesca Ramsay and John Green to create videos on topics including hate speech and stereotyping. Afridi will be one of 27 fellows based around the world who will, in the words of YouTube, “create content that challenges tough topics like hate and extremism, and spread positive messages.”

As part of the fellowship, creators will receive mentorship and equipment and production grants.

“I really wasn’t expecting it to happen at all so it definitely made my day,” Afridi said.

Each fellow will focus on a particular issue over the course of their tenure and Afridi will concentrate on challenging stereotypes about Muslims, according to YouTube.

“I think storytelling is a very powerful tool we can use to shift perspectives,” she said. “We’ve all read books and watched movies that have helped shaped who we are.”

A Pakistani immigrant who moved to the United States as a child, Afridi had decided to prep for a career in business when she chose to major in information management at the University of Colorado Boulder. While she entered the corporate world as planned shortly after her graduation in 2013, she realized that she also wanted to explore her creative side further. She began concentrating on writing and producing her own videos in her free time.

“I think it’s funny because in every corporate job I’ve held, I’ve been very careful to never tell anyone about my YouTube channel … Sometimes I feel like I’m living a double life,” Afridi said. She credits her business background for developing her sense of professionalism. “[My corporate jobs] have kept me grounded and kept me in touch with reality which directly influences the content I create.”

Afridi also stressed the power of storytelling and communication when it comes to fighting issues like racism and xenophobia. “I think if you can masterfully share a story, you have the ability to tap into peoples’ deepest emotions and motivate them to do better,” she said.

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