“When it comes to visualizing the potential of creating a positive impact, my childhood has played a large role. I have gone through my life with so much gratitude for the opportunities that came with being granted asylum to the United States, and as a result, so much of my life's work has been in service of helping others that didn’t have the same opportunities.” - Mandana Dayani
Having worked in a range of industries as varied as fashion, business, entertainment, and law, entrepreneur and activist Mandana Dayani, is as profoundly intelligent as she is reflective. Mandana is the Creator and Co-founder of I am a voter., a nonpartisan organisation creating a cultural shift around voting and civic engagement. She was most recently the president of Archewell, and prior to that was an attorney, talent agent, Vice President of Rachel Zoe Inc., and Chief Brand Officer of EBTH. She has become a powerful voice for change and couples the discipline of getting things done with bigger picture vision to give voice and opportunity to the vulnerable while creating a better world for her children.
Physically, where are you right now? Are you at home, on holiday, in the office or elsewhere?
Right now, I am in my office with a cup of my favorite Persian tea.
You are an incredibly successful woman across a broad range of industries. What is the motivating force that has driven you to such great heights and is it constant or ever changing?
Wow, thank you, that means the world to me coming from you. I love your work!
Since childhood, I have always had a deep curiosity and a desire to give back. While my career has taken many strong pivots, all of them have reflected what I was most interested in and passionate about at those times in my life. I have always been able to leverage everything I have learned at my next venture—law, talent management, brand building, fundraising, business development and growth, leadership, and get-shit-done-ness. I have found that all of these skills translate no matter what you do.
I am still driven by that same curiosity and desire to give back. And as a mother of two little girls, I am constantly thinking about the world I am leaving behind for them. Today, my daughters have fewer rights to their bodies than I did when I was their age. They are traumatized every year by active shooter drills that do not work because their elected officials will not protect them against the toxic gun lobby. There’s a lot of work to do!
While law and political activism might seem worlds apart from fashion, entertainment and branding, each provides opportunity for innovation - to challenge the status quo, inspire new ideas and change the way we engage. The diversity of your professional work, in all its forms, expresses something of a luminary mind that can easily visualise the potential to have a positive impact through change. Is this something you are passionate about?
In all of the different careers I have had, I joined the industries as an outsider. This gave me an unbiased view and oftentimes – a fresh take on the things that were working and those that weren't. Changing systems is totally possible, and I think it has helped that I am equal parts creative/big idea thinker and highly detail-oriented and execution-focused.
When it comes to visualizing the potential of creating a positive impact, my childhood has played a large role. I have gone through my life with so much gratitude for the opportunities that came with being granted asylum to the United States, and as a result, so much of my life's work has been in service of helping others that didn’t have the same opportunities.
The Rachel Donath Wave Chair picture in Mandana's home.
What have been some personal milestones that you have achieved outside the expectation or perceived expectation of others?
I started I am a voter. with 25 of the smartest and most talented women I have ever known. Since then, we have become family and supported each other through every professional and personal milestone, and I am so profoundly grateful for it every day.
I truly believe that once you embrace your voice and vulnerability and find the people who will lift and support you, anything is possible!
What have been some of your most profound personal challenges and have they ever informed the direction of your career or interrupted it?
I spent much of my childhood focused on assimilating and living up to the American dream. Upon reflection, I think I always thought about what the "right" thing to do was in every situation… what society, my peers, potential employers, college or law school admissions would deem "impressive" and doing whatever it took to appear that way. I definitely wish I had learned sooner to be wholly myself and more vulnerable.
Lesser known about you is that you are a collector of art and antiques. What has been your favourite acquisition and why?
I don’t think I can ever narrow it down to my favorite acquisition!! That’s like picking a favorite child. But, the most meaningful items to me tend to be those I use at the table when I am gathering with my friends and family. I have a beautiful ancient Persian ceramic pot that my grandmother Touri gave me; it is absolutely stunning.
What are your personal or creative rituals, if any?
The most important ritual to me is gathering. I spend every Friday night with my extended family and friends celebrating Shabbat. This tradition and many others that my grandmother instilled in us are centered around keeping us together as often as possible. And truly, no matter what else is happening, sitting around a table with loved ones and great food is my happiest place.
What piece of wisdom currently resonates with you and how does it inform your approach to life right now?
A year ago, my brilliant friend Elise Loehnen suggested I read Martha Beck's The Way of Integrity– and it profoundly impacted me. For as long as I can remember, I sacrificed what I needed or wanted to be perfect, please others, or have the most impressive resume. But I found I am most fulfilled and happy when my decisions and actions are most aligned with my integrity and core values - regardless of how they appear externally.
The Rachel Donath Arte Mirror picture in Mandana's bathroom.