PAULA SITS DOWN
WITH NDY FOUNDER &
DIRECTOR RYAN LANJI
I sat down with founder Ryan Lanji ahead of NDY’s launch to chat more about what it means to him and his vision for the future.
It’s 3:30 pm and the grey sky-light has packed up and disappeared.
After what can only be considered an incredibly difficult and unexpected year, many of us are starting 2021 in search of ways to do things differently. As we survive a pandemic that shows no immediate signs of letting up, we’re having to adjust how we socialise, how we work and, crucially, how we take care of ourselves.
With that in mind, brand new queer wellness and fitness platform, NDY Global, couldn’t be coming at a better time. Offering a new way to nourish oneself during lockdown through sound baths, cardio classes, mediation sessions and more, NDY is responding to the urgent need for LGBTQIA+ focused classes during a fraught time.
Firstly, tell us about yourself and what kind of work you’ve been up to prior to NDY?
I’m a fashion, art and culture curator and for the last ten years, I've been curating fashion exhibitions in East London, which has slowly grown to champion East London designers and bespoke makers. My exhibitions have existed in guerrilla spaces right up to the V&A where I worked with 40 fashion houses, including Jean Paul Gaultier & Burberry to raise awareness for endangered animals.
It took me some time but I realised that a huge part of my identity is being South Asian and Bollywood and so that’s when I started my Bollywood hip-hop night called Hungama at a pub in East London. It was a subversion of sort of the white-centred queer experience so I was like, I'm gonna go play some Bollywood music with lots of the culture and creativity and just see what happens. It slowly created a very powerful space for queer South Asians and our creativity.
Last year, I also appeared on Netflix on the show ‘The Big Flower Fight’ which I went on to win with my teammate. It felt like I accomplished a great deal in being a queer South Asian man on TV, covered in tattoos, being a bit eccentric and hopefully demonstrating to people that it wasn’t unattainable.
I started thinking about how we can build space for queer people, especially as we’ve lost queer nightlife through covid and we’re struggling to figure out how we exist as a community. I kept asking myself, ‘how do we create a space during Covid and post-Covid that will allow us to exist in a healthier way and provide us with our own platform?’ That was the impetus for NDY.
Okay so that takes us very nicely into my next question: What exactly is NDY and how do you hope people will engage with what you’re building?
On the NDY site, there’s a lot of information and articles that are going to positively affect the reader’s brain and their outlook. We have a membership element and for three pounds a month, not only do our supporters help keep NDY going, but they also have access to all the classes and resources we’re putting out.
NDY is a space where I want LGBTQIA+ people to have the courage and the bravery to engage in different aspects of wellness and health and fitness.
For me especially, this way of thinking has been really healing. Through things like lifting weights, running and more, I’ve been able to refuel my ability to live, to see another day, to cry a bit less or perhaps a bit more, depending on whatever my body need
Lastly, what are your hopes for the future of NDY and particularly when the world opens up again?
My sense of community was built through Hungama and bringing together South Asian music and South Asian people and queerness, putting it into one room and watching it harmonise in a way I could’ve never imagined.
NDY has been a reaction to that, using its infrastructure to build a sense of community and fitness and wellness but what I'd like to do once we see Tier 5 move down is us being able to get into other spaces.
I would like to invite the East London Club nights and queer club nights specifically to host their nights in physical gym spaces for immersive club nights. I think it would be an excellent way of showing people that our club culture isn’t dead yet.