Written By: Jayme Face
Aliya- Jasmine Sovani has written, produced, and hosted TV shows and documentaries and now you can catch her on her latest project NBC’s The Cycle now streaming on Facebook Live and YouTube!
upfrontNY: Can you tell us about your show, The Cycle.
Aliya-Jasmine: Yeah! For sure! So, we are kind of a really exciting show, if I can say that myself. It’s the first time that this kind of idea has spawned out of the NBC news group. The idea was that people around their twenties or thirties, we are kind of a generation that a lot of don’t have TV’s, don’t have cable. We’re non-traditional consumers of media. This idea was really cool because we wanted to make a news show, especially in light of everything happening politically, to keep young people in the know, but in a relevant way. I get all my news from twitter, basically. The idea was to do a new show that was quick, like under ten minutes long, that you didn’t need cable for, but that wasn’t part of the rhetoric A lot of websites and blogs right now will have these important issues and they’ll write about them without any journalistic credibility. NBC news brings that credibility. We are not trying to be super left, we are not trying to be super right. We’re kind of just trying to give people the facts. We actually have a segment called “The Left, The Right and The Truth”. We will take any issue and tell you what the left media is saying, what the right media is saying and just tell you what is really going on. So, Yeah, it’s very real, super authentic. We kind of give you the news the way you’d hear it from a friend to cut through all the stuffiness and the B.S. and really get down to the issues. You could watch on your phone no matter where you are; it streams on Facebook live and YouTube. It’s not just an L.A. show, it’s not just a national show, it really has the opportunity to be a global show. We’ve gotten messages from all across the United States, but also in different parts of the world. We did this story on Thailand and how it is the first country in Asia that has legalized gay marriage. We were getting messages from Thailand. It’s cool to reach people across the globe.
upfrontNY: In this current time of people accusing the news to be “fake news” how should the media combat these accusations?
Aliya-Jasmine: I think it depends on the media source. There are some really far right and far left media, that is their M.O. and how they get advertising revenue and they’re really entertaining their specific fan base. I think what happens is that, and this is totally a personal opinion, but our parents generation and our grandparents generation would tune into the news and they wanted their own world view to be confirmed, but, for a younger generation we are a lot more global and a lot more savvy of what is happening in the world simply because we have access to the internet and we have access to news around the world. I think for us we are far less interested in watching news that confirms our own world view and more about finding out what is going on globally. I truly think The Cycle reaches to that. I think it is a really cool innovative idea to just talk to people without an agenda. Just give them the information and let them judge for themselves. That all being said, the show is still very new and it is changing every day. It’s a different show than it was a week ago. So, we’re listening to the viewers and listening to the feedback that we get and putting that into the show. We have that liberty because we are not traditional, we are digital, we have the ability to change it day by day and respond to viewers in real-time.
upfrontNY: Is there something that really sticks out that the viewers are feeding back to you?
Aliya-Jasmine: It’s still really early, but the most common feedback I’ve gotten so far is for the “The Left, The Right and The Truth”. We have another segment too that people seem to really like that’s called “TLDR”, meaning too long didn’t read. People seem to click-through that link on twitter and you just read the headline. There are things I saw the night before and didn’t click-through. I was curious about them, but did not have the time to click through and really didn’t want to try to read through a huge article where I didn’t understand half of it. I’ll come to work the next morning and talk to our producers and we’ll kind of sit there and dissect it into regular everyday language. Our show is like a news anchor at home in a t-shirt just shooting the shit, for lack of a better word, with his buddy and explaining it on that level. We are still authentic and we still want to be credible, but we want to be able to be sarcastic or be funny while just trying to get to the truth. Honestly, how me and my friends do.
upfrontNY: What personally draws you to a project, cause, or news story?
Aliya-Jasmine: My passion, obviously, I am drawn to social issues, social justice issues. I’ve done documentaries about women’s rights across the world and environmental issues. I think those are my two. My parents are refugees and growing up as a woman and a woman of color I feel like I’m very drawn to women’s rights issues and social justice issues. My passion is environmental documentaries and environmental journalism and everything happening right now with climate change and EPA regulations. Those are stories, I am very drawn to.
upfrontNY: You have made documentaries all over the world what are some of the most stand out experiences you have had?
Aliya-Jasmine: I think it’s so hard to narrow it down to one. I was working for the discovery channel when the tragic earthquake happened in Haiti. I was able to be on the ground after the earthquake and report from the ground. Through all the devastation it was one of the most incredible experiences for me. It was the poorest country in the western hemisphere before the earthquake so after this tragedy to see how they are able as a people to come together and find really innovative solutions. It might be the spirit of humanity or it might be specifically the spirit of the Haitian people. On a scale of humanity and human spirit it was really incredible.
The one in South Sudan was incredible too. We followed a girl who was 14 years old and she was engaged to be married to a man in his sixties. She would have been one of five of his wives and he was HIV positive. That was a really normal story for South Sudan. It was interesting to see how she was changing the dialogue of people in her country. At 14 years old educating her society on how young women should have education. It was eye-opening for me.
Although, I got to be on a boat in the middle of the Great Bear Rainforest for like two weeks, which was pretty cool too. They are all really cool experiences. They all center around these documentaries that I did. Those world experiences totally shaped me and my story telling. Maybe, that is what draws me to doing a digital news show and I’m so excited with this project with NBC. It really does reach a global audience of young people and tell stories non-traditionally.
upfrontNY: How did you get into this business, have you always wanted to be a host and producer?
Aliya-Jasmine: Yeah. I definitely always wanted to work in TV. My grandparents used to look after me when I was younger. My grandfather was an old school news junkie and still is, he watches the morning news, the 11 news noon ,6, the 11 pm. I remember being a kid and asking “Why don’t you just watch the 11 pm news and get the rundown of the whole day?”. He was such a news junkie. I remember I was living in Calgary Alberta and I remember my grandfather watching BBC. It was the first time they had the night-time cameras. They were bombing somewhere in the middle east and they had these night-time cameras where it was all black and you would see the bombs drop, in that lime green color. We have this rock fireplace and I would stand inside the fireplace, because it would echo, and I would talk in a British accent. I would pretend I was in a cave in the middle east reporting on the bombs going off behind me. My parents have a tape recording of me doing that, so I think I’ve always wanted to tell stories about what is going on in the world. That’s always been in me.
I started out as a producer. My first job was a cable wrangler for the Star News or what’s E! News now. I used to walk behind the camera guy and wrangle their cables. That was my first job and then I got to be a writer and a producer. I was a producer for a very long time before I ended up on air. For the last ten years, I’ve had the privilege of writing and producing most of the shows that I hosted. All those documentaries we talked about, I was a producer of those as well. Which is like a dream come true for me because it is what I’ve always wanted to do.
upfrontNY: You are a host, if you were me what would you ask yourself?
Aliya-Jasmine: Oh, my gosh. That’s a good question. Maybe, is there an untold story you are dying to tell?
upfrontNY: So, is there an untold story you are dying to tell?
Aliya-Jasmine: I hate that I asked that because I don’t know the answer. You know what, I mentioned this earlier and you kind of asked me this earlier, but I’m really drawn to environmental stories right now. I think we’re in this interesting time of conservation that’s going to determine how history talks about us. I feel that there’s a lot of untold stories with conservation specifically wildlife habitat conservation that we’re overlooking. I know national geographic is doing an incredible job of telling these stories. I do feel like there is this divide between people who love animals and love wildlife environment and nature nerds on one side and then people who believe in our fiscal responsibility and economic opportunity and oil and gas on the total opposite side. I do feel like there’s this shared interest there. I think there’s stories that need to cross over, not just preach to the choir. So, I would love to figure out how to tell that story, what media to tell the stories in and how to do it. I think that would be really interesting, but I don’t know the first thing on how you’d go about doing it. Definitely, drawn to that type of environmental journalism.
upfrontNY: When you’re not working, what to do you like to do?
Aliya-Jasmine– I have adopted a senior dog. He’s half blind, but his other senses are amazing. I had been living on the east coast. I lived on the east coast my whole life and it’s very work oriented. So, when I moved to L.A. I wanted to adopt the west coast life style. So, we moved a few blocks from the ocean. In my spare time, I love going to the ocean with my dog. It’s so cute to see him light up. He’s almost blind now and we get to the beach and you just see this animal instinct and his other senses just come out and he’s like the happiest thing in the world. It’s just so incredible being in nature with an animal. That is most of my spare time on the beach or doing yoga or meditating or taking my dog for a walk.
upfrontNY: What’s your dog’s name?
Aliya- Jasmine: His name is George Hamilton, named after the actor because he looks in the mirror all the time. I think it’s because he’s half blind. I don’t think he knows he’s seeing himself or another dog, but he will just sit in front of the mirror and stare into the mirror for so long.