by We Are Sikhs — June 19, 2019
My upbringing as a Punjabi Sikh woman has been very visible in all the work that I do. Sikhi is to be a student and to always keep learning and that plays its role in everything that I do. Whether that be me trying to teach someone how to put an outfit together, teaching a unit on a theorem or life lessons such as bullying, it all has the backbone of education. - Sandy Gill
Gurwin: Sandy, you are a fashion designer, stylist, author, teacher, and educator and so many more things so how would you describe yourself?
Sandy: In two words I would describe myself as a teacher or chameleon. Teaching really encompasses everything that I do whether its on social media or in the classroom. Teaching is my one and real title. The other title is chameleon because all of the different things that I do and how they all require adapting and learning.
Gurwin: You're most infamous for fashion. How did you decide you wanted to pursue it?
Sandy: Growing up fashion was always something that intrigued me and I always saw it around me. As a child, I would always watch my dad pick a different tie to match his suit and he was always so passionate about it. My sisters were also a huge influence because watching these fashionable people and artistic minds inspired me. Later it eventually manifested itself to me after I graduated from teachers college. I would go to school to teach and everyone around me including my friends were all so artistic. I decided to also try and dabble into art and showcase my outfits online. My friends actually motivated me to share this online and it started from there. I come from a family of four daughters so shopping sprees were not always a privilege but I got a lot of hand me downs. I learned to use minimal accessories and always using my sisters clothing as well to push my creativity and turning that to make the most out of it. This made me express myself more as well because I had to be so creative.
Gurwin: When you were younger did you ever compare your outfits to other girls because you were working with such little materials?
Sandy: To be honest, it was never like that for me. It was more about me expressing my emotions through my clothing because I never did that by expressing to my friends or family. If I was having a ‘blah’ day then I would rock a sweatshirt and jeans. If I was having a really good day and feeling myself then I would try something new with my hair or take it up a little bit. If I knew my sisters would be out of town a certain day then that was a game changer. I would go into their closets and take their clothes, play around with outfits and that week I would feel the greatest. It was never because I wanted to be like the other girls but because it was my pure form of expression.
I have a scarring story that changed my view of fashion from when I was very young. My family and I were going to a reception and I remember my father was always very meticulous in picking his outfits. He spent so long getting dressed and matching his outfit and was so happy to go to this reception because he felt good about himself. Later, I overheard my family talking about how the other men at the party were making jokes about his outfit. This really affected me as well because I saw how happy it made my dad to get dressed and express himself in that way. It was a happy place for him and hearing someone make fun of him is something that I always think of. I love getting dressed for events and it makes me happy so that story allows me to reflect on why I do it.
Gurwin: Could you tell us how you got into using social media to become an influencer and how you did it?
Sandy: When I first started using Instagram it was very different than it is now and my account was on the private setting. One of my friends, Humble, told me that I needed to take my account off of the private setting and stop being this private Instagrammer. He recommended that I put my pictures public so that everyone could view them. Before this, I had not thought of this idea or even an option. When I finally did take it off private it was a very freeing moment for myself and I couldn't believe how many people liked it. I never knew why I was holding myself back so much but after this, I started to be much more consistent with my pictures and appreciate all the support that I received. Bringing new and fresh ideas that inspire and motivate others is my goal. Being open to collaboration is huge, such as my work with Lily did help a lot. Consistency, collaboration, being fearless, and putting it out there is key.
What I want to share with all my followers is to be fearless and to share these moments with others. The ultimate goal for everyone is to live without fear and to get to know ourselves to our raw cores. To be able to share that with everyone and our loved ones is a special thing.
Gurwin: If someone were in their 20’s and wanted to get involved in fashion, what would be your advice to them?
Sandy: The first that I would give would be to incorporate something every single day that is feeding your hunger for fashion. This can be posting a picture of your outfit every single day or going to the mall for inspiration. When you expose yourself every single day to art you allow yourself to grow more. Don't be afraid to share it with the world and reach out to others to collaborate and share those ideas.
Gurwin: How did you get involved in education and what motivated this?
Sandy: I went to University for my bachelors in political science and thought that I wanted to be a politician. I had this entire plan and then my first year I realized that even though it was my passion I would not be able to make the difference that I wanted to through politics. My sister and her husband are both teachers so I saw that they enjoyed their daily lives. They had these interesting stories and I also love kids so much that I truly could spend my entire day with them. If I could spend only one hour with adults and the rest with kids then that would be my ideal day structure. I later did my teaching certificate, got my masters in education and got a job right after. I love it every single day and it is the most fulfilling career for me. By being surrounded by children all day I am able to stay creative and they always keep me stimulated, down to earth, and allow me to get the most out of teaching. I never had a real plan for it but I figured it out on the way. For all the young people reading this, it is perfectly okay not to have a real plan and it’s okay to improvise along the way.
Gurwin: Could you share a little bit about the book you wrote and what motivated you to write this book?
Sandy: I wrote this book during my masters and it was a project about the access to literacy around the world. I decided to write a children's book for this project to promote literacy around the world. After 4 years, I decided to share it as a book. Each illustration is a child reading the same book and every time I read this to kids they pick up the same lessons from it. Reading is the one language that we all share no matter where you are in the world and this lets us all connect to one another. Reading all around the world is the book's title, it is available on Amazon and all proceeds go to a non-profit organization.
Gurwin: What is your advice to those reading this that want to go into education?
Sandy: My first advice is to make sure that you want to be around children all day and want to do it for the pure experience for the children. Make sure you're okay being flexible and patient to work around different types of children and able to switch things up on a daily basis.
Gurwin: How have your values of Sikhi influenced your career choices?
Sandy: My upbringing as a Punjabi Sikh woman has been very visible in all the work that I do. Sikhi is to be a student and to always keep learning and that plays its role in everything that I do. Whether that be me trying to teach someone how to put an outfit together, teaching a unit on a theorem or life lessons such as bullying, it all has the backbone of education. Seva has been a huge influence as well because to give back to our community is everything. What I am doing online is a form of hopefully giving back to someone.
Gurwin: What is your ultimate goal?
Sandy: My goal is to be an example of a Punjabi Sikh woman who did not compromise her morals but also that I did everything that I wanted to do. I want to empower women regardless of their background to do anything and everything that they want.
Gurwin: If you could pick anything in the world to be then what would you be?
Sandy: I would definitely want to work in music in some sort of capacity as a stylist. This is something that I see for myself but I do know this will change. I always see myself as an educator regardless of if it's in fashion, working on a project, or with kids. For my peace of mind, I could never see myself quitting my teaching job. I will always need it in my life in some sort of capacity.
Gurwin: Funny or Die is the largest digital comedy company in the world that was started by Will Ferrell. What motivated you to be in the funny or die video?
Sandy: The idea of bringing Sikhs to the mainstream was definitely something that I wanted to be a part of. We can see this movement of Sikhs going mainstream growing bigger but I wanted to involve myself in a good cause such as this one as well. I want to share our beautiful religion and showcase it on this national platform. Educating people on our universal values is amazing and allows others to resonate on this as well.