100 Colorado Creatives: Sahar Pazirandeh
#76: Sahar Pazirandeh
Sahar Pazirandeh left Iran with her family in the late '80s, when she was nine years old, in the wake of changes that followed the ancient nation's Islamic revolution. She'd spent her early years in the grip of Iran's new fundamentalist face; her own mother, a former IBM executive, had to leave her job and lost many of the rights she'd previously enjoyed. "What happened to her spilled over on to me," Pazirandeh remembers. The family settled in Denver, but the specter of that dark period still hung over her as she grew into a woman in a freer atmosphere.
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As an independent adult, Pazirandeh ventured to Florida, New York and Puerto Rico, excelling in careers as disparate as banking, accessory design, grant-writing, filmmaking, motivational speaking and salsa-dancing. But her fervor for equal rights eventually translated into a new way to empower girls. While living in Brooklyn, she created the first incarnation of the Free Your Star Foundation, which matches students ages fourteen to twenty with jobs in the fashion industry for school credit: "The idea," she says, "is to use fashion to trick kids into learning. That's my bait." And now she's returned to Denver, with hopes of keeping the good work she did in New York rolling here. To that end, she's been researching schools and areas where the need for such a program is great; tonight, she'll launch the project in Denver, as part of the Sie FilmCenter's new Hey Girl! film series.
Along with the ladies' schmoozer with shellac manicures and a screening of chick-flick Dirty Dancing, Pazirandeh, who calls herself a "fashionlanthropist," will be on hand to teach an on-the-spot salsa-dancing workshop; the fun begins at 6 p.m., and a portion of the admission fee of $10 will benefit a Free Your Star Foundation's 2014 spring scholarship fund. On May 8, Pazirandeh will give a short-story reading at Gypsy House (did we mention that she's an author, too?), and next fall, she'll partner with Fashion Denver for a fashion-career workshop for thirty high school girls. For more information on these activities, visit Free Your Star online.
Because we're glad the multi-talented emigre Pazirandeh is back in Denver, spreading her talents and dreams, we decided to give her our 100CC questionnaire and get her thoughts on giving back and moving forward in the free world.
Westword: If you could collaborate with anyone in history, who would it be, and why?
Sahar Pazirandeh: Benazir Bhutto and Joni Mitchell -- can't pick one person with a question like that. These two women are definitely top on the list of inspiration and possibility. Both pose very distinct voices they do not apologize for. Sacrificing love and even life, these women have created their own sound, fine-tuned their message and expressed it eloquently.
Continue reading for the rest of Sahar Parizadeh's 100CC questionnnaire.