Who am i? with Daniel Pillai.
Daniel Pillai, the Canadian TV host and personality, is helping us Create Space for self-exploration, self-acceptance and self-care within the queer community.
Daniel Pillai is the wonderfully exuberant writer, producer and media host based out of Toronto, Canada. He's also an openly gay man of south asian heritage who has what I'd describe as a very healthy obsession with the colour pink. As a boy he was bullied growing up for being flamboyant and effeminate. Today, it is refreshing and uplifting to witness how comfortable he clearly feels owning all aspects of his personality and multiple identities.
Whether it be through his own social media channels or on mainstream television as a host, Daniel is always using his platform to uplift others. He doesn't shy away from "telling it how it is" and sharing his unique story of navigating the trials and triumphs as a gay man.
We're elated to have Daniel join the Create Space team in September as our guest speaker on the 'Who am i?' Virtual Retreat Programme exploring identity as a gay man.
I caught up with him over zoom a couple of weeks ago and had the pleasure of listening to him talk about his life, his career and his journey so far.
Daniel grew up in Canada surrounded by a very large family and lots of strong women, including his mother, the youngest of 14 children - 9 of which were sisters. Daniel admits,"Women have been very prominent in my life. It was around women that I felt the most acceptance. I didn't feel like an outsider." Yet he acknowledges that it was still a very conservative family - half Christian and half Hindu - which contributed to a certain shyness and 'closing up' as a child struggling to come to terms with his sexuality.
"If I am honest, I didn't allow myself to come out. I didn't ask myself the questions, or allow myself to have experiences. In some respects it didn't just feel as though I'd be disappointing my family. It felt as though I'd be disappointing an entire village!"
It wasn't until he went to university that he truly came into his own. He also came out to his family and was shocked by some of the positive reactions he got. In particular from his Grandma, whom he told when she was in her 70s. "She had such a beautiful reaction. She was able to have a very loving conversation with me and accept me as I was."
This experience has clearly influenced the way that Daniel approaches family life now. "Education and talking are key when it comes to navigating conflicting values and traditions. If there is an ear, there is an opportunity for a conversation."
Speaking about his early early days as a gay man, Daniel recounts that he has never quite fitted into a pre-defined box within the LBTQ+ community. "I was always heavier set physically. I didn't fit into the norm in terms of what was considered attractive. I also was often one of very few people of colour 'on the scene'. So I found it a little bit uncomfortable at times. But I was lucky enough to meet some of my best friends, whom I still have today. For me it was almost like working backwards. I resonated with people, as opposed to a community. But by connecting with people, I found a sense of community."
One thing Daniel admits that he is still working on is patience. But he recognises the power it holds. “Time can fix a lot of things. We are all evolving constantly. Accepting my sexuality, and all the other parts of what make me unique came from radical acts of self-love. From learning that I have the power and ability to be who I am despite the conditioning of my ethnic background, my religion, my society and my family."
Daniel understands fully the importance of sharing, supporting and guiding others struggling with their identities and sexualities, which is why he is so excited about joining the Create Space team for the month of September as our guest speaker.
"If I can encourage someone to love themselves and believe they are worth it, that small feeling can lead to something greater later on. And that’s pretty amazing!”
Daniel will be joining the Create Space 'Who am I?' team for the month of September as our guest speaker. With places limited to fourteen participants on each monthly ‘virtual retreat’, it is a very intimate and confidential space. The programme offers the unique opportunity for participants to openly share and learn from each other’s' past experiences without judgement, building resilience together in the face of their collective adversity.
You can follow Daniel here: