Talking to: One Word At A Time

As I listen back over our interview, I can’t help but giggle a bit at Khudija and I.

I met Deej by chance in January at Unity Days. I think we were in line for Bob’s autograph and I noticed that she was holding this big bag (accompanied by another amazing human I got to meet—Yvonne) and we struck up a conversation. Honestly, she was wearing her blue hat but that wasn’t the first thing I noticed about her. She and Yvonne were, by far, the only people I felt comfortable approaching—which is saying a lot because I spent Unity Days 2017 on my lonesome and had a panic attack ten minutes before my photo op with Bob and Lindsey at the end of the day. 2017 was my first time at a con and I had no idea what I was doing, and a part of my fear 2018 would be the same. Fortunately it wasn’t, and that credit goes to Deej and Yvonne.

Meeting them truly made my time there memorable, and most of all I made friends for life.

Now, all these months later we’re planning on attending Con-Geda. Look, this project is something that had me entirely floored, and the impact that Khudija has made on the fandom and the actors is amazing to me.

So I decided, why not have everyone get to know this amazing person?

In honor of Con-Geda, here’s a little ‘get to know her’ interview with the brains behind the amazing initiative One Word at a Time!

 

 


 

Introduce yourself a little bit.

My name is Khudija, or Deej, as a lot of people know me as. I was born and raised in Canada. Actually I was born in Newfoundland, I just don’t have the accent to show for it. I moved around a lot. I lived in Toronto for a bit, I lived in Halifax, Nova Scotia, and eventually I am back in Ontario now. I studied Sociology and Anthropology in University and minored in religion because I have a huge fascination with religion. I just love learning about different cultures and people’s different values and beliefs and things. After that I took a break and I ran a café (because I’m a tea-aholic and I love tea) so I managed that for a little bit—

Wait; stop! You ran a café as in did you own it or what?

I didn’t own it; my aunt owned it and I was basically running it for her.

So it was like a family business that you were a part of?

She’s a doctor… so she bought it as an investment. And I was taking a year off anyways, so she was like “why don’t you just come and help me with my café?” and I was like “sure”. So that’s basically how it happened. So she wasn’t really running anything internally—her sister was her partner and then they had one more business partner. I was sort of there every day helping out with um… You know I would prepare the food and drinks and everything like that. It was just to help her out for that year.

So basically, side question, are you going to make me a lot of tea?

Hells yeah! You got it! Any kinda tea you want. We did the whole pink tea, special coffee. And we had like gourmet sandwiches and wraps as well.

Let’s just have like a tea table at your vendor station.

[**ya’ll I wish I could transcribe the noise to made here, but alas I cannot. It was something akin to an excited, high-pitched gasp, so I think we should make this happen!**] Oh my gosh… That’s like my heaven. Like my family, right, went back to Pakistan, the only thing they remember about me is how much I love tea. That’s it.

Like since you were younger?

Yeah! Ever since I was young. My grandmother actually—she passed away now—she got me hooked on tea, because when my parents went for Hajj** for the first time, I was staying with her, my aunt, and uncle (the aunt that I ran the café with) and my cousins and I would drink tea with her. So when my parents came back I was totally addicted to tea.

Family members getting people addicted to tea. This is what happens.

Right?! It’s kind of fitting my first product—the first things I made were mugs too! It all works out!

It just fits into who you are!

Exactly!

So, like, getting into that—the fact that you’re talking about how you started making mugs, why did you start ‘Positivity One Word at A Time’? That is a mouthful by the way!

Yeah, right? Well, honestly, it’s mostly just called ‘One Word At A Time’ but because that URL seems to be taken everywhere, I just threw in positivity in the beginning. It is called ‘One Word at A Time’. But, yes, I apologize for the tremendous amount of syllables in that title. But anyways, yes, back to your question.

I’ve been a part of, sort of the fandom world, for… oh my gosh… I would say over a decade. And I always find in every fandom there’s unfortunately a lot of negativity. We’ve all seen it; anyone else who likes to get really invested in fandoms have seen it and I just found, especially a couple years ago, I found that it was getting super, super intense especially in the 100 fandom. I tried to do things, what I can, to sort of reach out; whether it’s defending somebody, or a decision made, or, you know, speaking up for something, or going into detail that we should be respectful—this and that. But I just find that there is always going to be negativity out there so sometimes having those conversations, for me, it wasn’t enough.

It was particularly bad for one actor in the fandom, and, I mean—for anyone else who watches the 100, it was Bob Morley. And Bellamy is my favorite character, so there was that immediate bias. But there were some derogatory comments that I felt I could somewhat relate to being a minority, and I won’t go into super detail about what they were, but anybody who is familiar with the fandom will know what I’m talking about. And that for me, really… I guess it affected me because I’ve dealt with struggles in society as a visible minority and a person of color, and I just find that a lot of things are unacceptable, but that resonated with me the most because that was something I could relate to, to a certain degree obviously.

I knew I was meeting Bob in Germany at Comic Con in the summer, and it was going to be the first time I was meeting him, so I wanted to do something to sort of promote positivity. I had a bit of a following on Tumblr so I used that as my social platform to reach out, and I started this idea project of positivity for Bob Morley—I didn’t actually imagine I would be doing a lot more of those, but that was sort of the tag line for it. I piloted the idea of making a fan book for him and I was really touched by the response. A lot of people said “Oh this is great, I would love to participate, etc etc.” So I said “Okay, let’s come together and do something positive for him.”

Honestly it was a really great success. There were a lot of components—we had playlists, we had 100 reasons why we love Bob, people submitted letters, pictures, fan art, and I compiled it all into a scrapbook. The idea of it was that it would become a safe space for him so if the intensity of the online world was too much he could just step away and go to a place where he knew that fans appreciated him and he could go through things that could help him through it. Because, I mean, who doesn’t like to hear nice things about themselves? It lifts us up when we hear someone compliment us or say even the smallest thing. So that was my whole, sort of, idea behind it.

The image I made for it was actually… it’s basically a very… uh, what’s the word? Very… Amateur version of what I make now. But it was the same idea of where I took a profile of Bellamy—in character Bob—and I filled it with quotes from him. And that sort of became the mascot of this whole project. So I put it in the book and I also mailed out postcards of it to anybody who wanted it and I wrote on the back ‘Project Positivity for Bob Morley’ and the year.

[We got interrupted here big time]

Bottom line, I gave him the book, it was a really great experience. This is kind of where my whole look of the blue hat comes into play because I had reached out to people and said that if anybody was going to the con, I can give you my WhatsApp, or if anybody wants con updates, I can send them to you because of people who had sent submissions and I had a few people in my WhatsApp group, and anyone who was looking for me, I described myself as “look for the girl in the blue hat” because that was the only way I knew how to describe myself cause I had my blue hat on.

The fan book went really well, I think he liked it a lot. I saw him reading it through various times, so you know it felt good cause you know it felt good ‘Okay I did something for somebody and I hope it helps”.

That sort of started a little bit of a trend. I did another positivity project for Arryn because she was also getting a lot of negative comments thrown her way, and I actually met her for the first time in Germany as well, she was at that con. So it started into this ongoing process… I do a lot of writing—it’s sort of my passion on the side. I write a lot on Tumblr and things like that, and I would always use that as my platform for reaching out to people—cause I find it’s very active on there. I guess I just realized that there’s different kinds of people out there and I could be one of two people: I could be one of the people who just sits quietly and doesn’t really do anything to counter the negativity, or I can take a stand and do something to really help promote positivity in fandoms.

People had actually be encouraging me for a while—sell your work, sell your graphics, cause I had been making gifts for people and actors here and there. I guess it wasn’t until December—I had been through a little bit of a rough patch and with the support of family and friends that got me through it. And it was a month-long span and that sort of just pushed me and said, you know what? I do want to do something for people so that they don’t feel that low level that I only know a taste of because people have so many struggles out there.

So I started this whole project, initiative, what have you, to keep that constant wave of positivity going in fandoms and showing that when we come together good things can happen—it’s not all bad. That was sort of my starting point for it and it’s been a really great experience.

It’s just grown from there.

Yeah! I never imagined this kind of response from anybody. Honestly, I thought “Okay, let me throw open an Etsy shop, maybe I’ll get a couple of sales, let’s see how it goes.” And I still remember within my first week and a half I had nine sales. And I was floored by this, like, “Oh my goodness, people are buying the stuff, they like the message, and that’s really cool.” And then Unity Days turned into this amazing opportunity, and I had given mugs to each of the actors and what came after that incredible; I could not have imagined that it would have that kind of response from people.

That’s my very long ramble for my inspiration behind this!

My intention was to come up with other questions based off of your answers, but you literally just answered everything. So, you know…

Making your job hard.

No! It’s making it easy! Thank you! So, what’s your favorite color currently?

Blue and black, I have to say, which kind of sounds like a bruise!

Yeah, I was gonna say! You like bruises? What it happening!

Throw in some purple and you’ve got a perfect bruise. No, I don’t know, I just really like these colors. All shades of blue I really, really like. And I know some people say that black is not a color but, you know what? I still like it.

You know what? They don’t know anything… Are you a dog or cat person?

So I’m one of those people who is like “Both! Both!” but my cat is kinda giving me a look, so I feel like I should say I’m a cat person, but I do love both.

My cat was giving me a look! Before it kills me in my sleep, let’s just say cat!

I must say, we all know that pets rule us, we don’t rule them. They own us, we don’t own pets.

What’s your opinion on shipping wars and how do you think we can stop them?

Oh shipping wars… That is a huge source of toxicity in pretty much all fandoms. That tends to be the…

I feel like it’s the prime reason for all the anger and resentment that grows within.

It is. It absolutely is. It’s what instigates all this negativity. And, I still to this day, I don’t understand why. Because for me, everyone is entitled to have their own preferences, to have their own likes. As long as we respect other people’s. We don’t have to agree with them, we don’t have to ship it. But you know what? Respect it. Because people are allowed to like what they like.

We should always be mindful that behind those characters there are real people. This is fiction—we have to separate fiction from reality, so we have to recognize. And everyone knows in the 100 fandom the biggest ship war is Bellarke and Clexa—it’s one of those ship wars that’s taken over.

I think what we really have to do is respect the actors, respect the writers, the crew, the audience, the fans—respect everybody. Because we can learn a lot from other people’s preferences and sort of mindsets if we just take the time to have those conversations.

It’s so sad to see the way those conversations out there happen. Like I said, I use Tumblr a lot and I’ve sometimes had to take a huge step back because this is, you know… We all have this one thing in common, which is this amazing show, so why can’t we unite under that rather than fragment because of it? These shipping wars are really, really sad to see. Just let people love who they want and that’s it.

Just be respectful and respect actors’ real personal lives as well.

I feel one of the biggest things we need to understand and focus our energy on is not the ships in the story or even necessarily the characters—I mean, this is my opinion, but I feel like it’s very hard to stick the characters when sometimes the characterization is so inconsistent through the writing—but I feel like we need to focus a lot more on the actors. They put so much into these characters. And they put so much time and effort and heart and sweat into this show. And even if, at the end of the day, we don’t like the show anymore (side note: I don’t), but I’m still here because of the actors. Because I know how much they love the show, how much they love those characters. I know a lot of them probably get angry about storylines as well, which is understandable because you can’t have everything in there with like twenty-two episode season, or thirteen episode seasons—whatever, I don’t know how many episodes this season is. But I think it ranges between thirteen and twenty-two episodes, right?

Thirteen and sixteen usually, yeah.

Thirteen and sixteen? Okay. CW shows have a very wide range so I wasn’t really sure. But is only so much you can have in an hour slot, which means you can’t have enough information in there to really be descriptive enough? I don’t know where I’m going with this anymore actually.

No I totally know what you mean. And I think the bottom line, what it comes down to is that we have to ask ourselves: Why are we watching this show? Of course, there are going to be disagreements of characters; there are going to be disagreements of things that were said, of actions that were done, of so many things, but for me, I find that that’s part of the enjoyment. And this show is all about… there’s no good guys and no bad guys—everyone has these shades of gray within them and you can see so many different perspectives. But I find that when you get so fixed on what you want to see and you’re not getting that, then you have to asked yourself: why are you watching the show? Are you watching so you see what you want to see, or are you watching it so that you can see the story being told before you? I think that people sometimes watch it for the wrong reasons and if we just keep picking it apart and ripping it and saying I don’t like, I don’t like this—and this is about any show—I don’t like how this person did this, then you know what? Maybe it’s not the show for you. Because if we’re just going to watch something and be negative about it all the time, then it’s not worth it cause it’s not healthy for us to be so angry when we’re watching something, and it’s not healthy for the environment that you put yourself in.

I just think that this show, like you said, has an amazing cast, it has an amazing story, and I think we should recognize that we get so worked up because they’ve created these shows and characters that we’re so passionate about. And at the end of the day that’s something you know—the writers, the producers, the actors—that’s something they’ve done. So I think bashing, or being negative towards them goes against… It’s kinda like a full circle where it’s like… we get so into the story line and forget that there wouldn’t be any of this if it weren’t for them. People need to recognize “Okay you care so much because they created this show that pulls you in, that drew you in to make you care to this extent.”

It goes back to what we learned from our parents when we were kids—if you have nothing good to say, don’t say anything at all. Just take a step back and be happy! Don’t watch something if it—you know, it’s not even just this show, it’s any show or anything! Don’t put yourself in situations where you know you’re going to get upset. It’s not healthy for you.

I agree with that, so much! Again it’s going back to what you said—it’s about enjoyment, you wanna enjoy the show. And when people are literally being like “Hey what you ship isn’t right because our ship is the one that’s gonna end up together” it’s like, “Okay, but like this is how I’m going to enjoy the show. You enjoy it your own way”.

Exactly! Absolutely! Everybody watches it for a different reason. Everybody has a different sense of representation in the show. Everyone has that one character, one story, or you know, that one actor—whatever the reason is, there’s something that pulls you into the show. It’s sad, it really makes me sad to see all this negativity surrounding it when we’re still watching it. It’s a vicious cycle when people are so negative and they keep watching it, it just gets more and more intense.

My advice is that, if you don’t agree with something, maybe pause and just ask yourself: “Is this something I want to keep doing? Is this something I want to pursue?” Because this show is amazing, and I think we should work on celebrating it and not just find everything wrong with it just because it’s not our story. If we want to see something we want to happen, read a fanfic or write it yourself! This is a story that’s being told by other people, not us—and I think that’s the charm of it and the enjoyment of it.

This show is so near and dear to so many people, and I understand things happen that we don’t agree with. But I just find that we should unite under it and not just be salty about things all the time, or take it out on the actors, or the people who create the show. That’s not going to solve anything—that’s just gonna perpetuate this air of toxicity.

And the fact that the actors know how strong it is out there. I’ve had really interesting conversations with them—the actors—about the negativity in the fandom. And it’s sad that every single actor is kind of like “Oh, yeah, you know there is” and that says something that they see it there all the time.

We should be showing more appreciation for it and the hard work that they do, rather than say things that might belittle it, or discourage all that effort into doing what they do. Same with the crew.

I feel like we live in this age—the digital age—where everything is done online. This world has become so small at this point that we can connect with people who live five thousand miles away from us with the click of a button, and it also makes it easier for people to hide behind their screen with anonymity, and just kind of attack other people. I think the idea of attacking a celebrity is kind of a fad currently that people see it as “Oh they’re a celebrity, they’re not going get hurt by this… They don’t feel things… They’re all faking it,” or something like that. They don’t understand that no, these are actual real people who will be hurt by your words and by your actions, no. It’s just something like: “Oh you play this character? I don’t like this character, therefore you are the character and I’m going to attack you as tough you are the character,” and it’s just… It’s not right. Those kids who just—and I’m using the word kids because I feel like a lot of these people who do the attacking are so juvenile they don’t deserve to be called adults, and they aren’t adults. The show is basically made for twelve year old kids and older.

That’s the beauty of the show, it reaches to such a huge, huge, huge demographic that you have people from all over the world, of all different ages, of all different backgrounds watching the show. And again, you can take those people’s mindsets and it can enrich your own just by learning about “Okay, I don’t ship something, but okay why do you ship it? What do you see in the relationship?” and asking in a very insightful way—not a way to judge them or belittle them, but to ask them genuinely because you know what? You might notice something about them that you didn’t see before. But it all goes down to keeping an open mind.

And I think you were talking about anonymity and stuff, and the problem is that social media—it can be a weapon or it can be a tool. And a lot of people, unfortunately—and I said this to Bob when I met him, and I said this to a couple of actors—that that anonymity gives them this boldness that they don’t otherwise have, because they feel they’re safe behind their screen and it creates this sense of detachment because they’re not directly dealing with somebody face-to-face. And because of that they feel like they’re emboldened, they can say what they want, like you said, they’re not going to be affected. But, what I think is really important—and again, this is something that I’ve said to a couple of the actors—is that, please don’t think that these people are the majority. It’s unfortunately the loud minority of people that just feel like it’s okay to attack people and be so negative and things like that. But it’s by no means the majority of the fandom. Which is why I feel like it’s so important—and this is like one of my taglines—that we drown out the negativity with the positivity.

Don’t keep trying to argue or perpetuate this constant disagreement and this toxicity. Do positive things to counter it. Honestly, I’ve met so many amazing fans—some of my best friends I’ve met through this fandom. And I’ve gone to cons with them, you know, I’ve visited them. And I’ve found that if we can all come together in a good way, we don’t have to listen to that negativity anymore. We can just start pushing it aside, hopefully. I mean that’s a dream. It’s pretty unrealistic, I know, but it’s a hope. The more we stay quiet and say “Hey, I’m not going to get involved in this or that,” I’m like, just throw out a compliment to somebody you know? Give somebody some inspirational line—something to just make them smile. It makes a huge difference.

Who is your character spirit animal from the show?

Oh my gosh! I don’t know if I have one, honestly. The characters that I love, I’m so not like any of them. I wish was, but I think that’s what sort of draws me more to them because I just find they’re so different from who I am as a person.

But I guess like… I’m trying to think. If I had to pick somebody… I don’t know. That’s such a hard question… Uh yeah, I have to get back to you on that one.

Spirit animal… Oh man.

Oh man, that would be great, right?

I would have to say like… I don’t know if I’m like this, but… Maybe Gina? And I say that only because I find… [Gina was real… God I love Gina] I think that what we saw of her was that she was you know, a good listener… Not that… I don’t know if I’m a good listener, but I do like to give people that opportunity to talk and encourage them that you know, if something’s bothering you, it’s really good to find an ally or build a support system around you. And, I don’t know I love to reach out to people and be like “Hey if you need somebody to talk to, or this or that, then you know where to find me and my ears are open—or my eyes are open if you’re typing.

I feel like that would make you Maya.

Maya you think? I don’t think I have her same… I guess Gina was pretty brave as well. Maybe I’m not like Gina or Maya; I don’t know if I have that same courage about me.

Maybe you’re a mix of both.

Yeah, take away the courage part.

Oh my God! You need to give yourself more credit.

I don’t know about that! Yeah, I don’t know. Man, I’d have to think who I’m like. Probably one of those minor characters. Maybe like Fox or something. I don’t know. Somebody who’s just in the background. I don’t know.

You’re Luna!

I’m Luna! [**she sounded so amused right here**] Oh man. I wish I was like that.

You’re Luna pre-her last episode.

Before her last episode before she went crazy? Let me get back to you on the spirit animal one. I’m going to think about it now. I’m going to think which spirit animal to be.

Okay, so, to be determined right now! Did you start watching the show right when it came out, or did yout get into it afterwards?

I didn’t! So funny story, my mother got me hooked on the show.

Really?!

Yeah! So she was watching it on Netflix and at the time the first two seasons had aired. And she said “Oh there’s this show that I think you’ll really, really like”, and she kept mentioning it.

Dude! This is what happened with me!

Are you serious?!

Yes!

Like that was my mom and we marathoned it and I got into is so fast. Binged both seasons, and it was only a few weeks left until the new, or maybe a couple months until the new season was going to start. So I was really lucky I got a little bit of a cliffhanger, I didn’t have so much to deal with. I personally find one of the biggest cliffhangers was between seasons one and two where we were like “What’s happening? Who is that?”

Fortunately I didn’t have to suffer through that. After the first two seasons aired, I watched it on Netflix.

Don’t you just love how Netflix has ruined everyone?

I know. And the best thing is that Canadian Netflix airs the new episode the day after it airs. So we’re really lucky in that regard.

You suck!

Yeah I know, right? So if it airs on a Thursday night, we have the episode by Friday morning, or sometime Friday. Because it doesn’t air in the States…

Are you kidding me?

No, it’s amazing. So I like always laugh at people who’re like “I’m waiting for this to go on Netflix” and I’m like yep, we have it on Netflix already!

Oh my God. I’m moving to Canada!

Yes, come to Canada.

Side note: everyone needs to move to Canada.

Yeah, exactly. We’ve got the good stuff here man!

Hey they film in our country! Might as well come!

I meant, if I wanted to, I could go find exactly where they’re filming.

Yeah. Well it’s funny, because at Unity Days, my friend and I were walking around and we noticed that just close to the hotel was the—I guess people have called them now the Clexa stairs—so, yeah, the stairs that were in the city of light and we were just kind of looking at them like “Ohhh this is a really cool moment! They filmed right here!”

They were right here!

And like it looks so much bigger on TV! It was a cool moment.

Is there any message you want to leave everyone with?

I guess like the two things I tend to say a lot, or always sign off with is: drown out negativity with positivity, and spread love not hate. And I think those two lines sum up what I’m trying to achieve with this shop—which is you know, about coming together. It’s not necessarily about the money—but about coming together under this shared passion for a show that we all love. And I think just promoting that feeling of unity is really, really important.

That’s one of the things I love about cons is that you meet really great people. My hope with this this whole idea of One Word At A Time is having an ongoing something that people can be like “Oh, you know, there’s a fandom thing here and we can donate to charity!” And there are other people out there who do great things in the fandom who I really, really admire. And I love to like get to know some of them as well because I think it shows that we’re just such a passionate fandom—whether you see that as a good thing or a bad thing—but let’s put that energy into being productive, and not counterproductive I guess is what I’m really trying to encourage people to do.

 


 

I apologize for all of our rambling, but honestly we were having fun. A part of me really wishes I could share the actual audio with you, but it’s literally an hour of us going off track a lot. With that said, there’s a really good chance the two of us are planning a fun little thing for before the con!

We can’t wait to see and meet you all there!

 

** Hajj is the muslim pilgrimage to Makkah.

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