Stargazer: Shabnam Mogharabi

On a set in California, Shabnam talks about the day’s filming with the cast and crew.

From her youth, Shabnam Mogharabi longed to change the world by telling stories. Today, her work sparks curiosity, creativity, and spirituality in millions of people. She’s CEO/Executive Producer at SoulPancake, a media company encouraging people to “talk about stuff that matters.” It asks questions like, “What did you do to be awesome today?” Shabnam says, “SoulPancake has taught me to be more joyful . . . there’s so much beauty and amazingness in the world  . . .” Since 2009, she’s helped to coordinate fun, inspiring content like the “Kid President” videos, which attracted President Obama.  

Shabnam studied journalism at Northwestern University in Illinois, U.S. She discovered her power for change by writing award-winning stories about high rates of drowning among minority kids. Her stories inspired a New York Times article, a movie, and a Red Cross swimming program.

Shabnam lives in California and loves dancing, camping, and sailing.


Q: What’s your favorite childhood memory?

I’ve got five younger [siblings and cousins] . . . I was oftentimes left in charge . . . My favorite childhood memories are of that—hanging out with [them] during the summer, trying to come up with games and plays and making up stories and playing hide and seek, and just the six of us all being together . . .


Shabnam, age 9, loved being with her sisters.


Q: What was one of the most challenging experiences for you when you were a kid, and how did you handle it?

In elementary school, I got called so many things because my name was hard to say . . . It almost immediately made me feel like I was an outsider . . . I learned to kind of tease kids back and just roll with it, almost.


Q: You said you were nerdy as a kid. What advice do you have for kids who feel that way? 

I think nerdiness [has] actually become cool . . . Being nerdy means that you’re a little bit different, and it makes you a little bit special. And being smart is okay. And being creative is okay. And being artistic is okay . . . It means that [you’ve] got something that other kids don't.


Q: Do you have any suggestions for how siblings can resolve their conflicts? 

Growing up, you know, we definitely had our share of sibling rivalry . . . Your siblings are your first best friends . . . What we've had to learn as we got older is that we’re on the same team . . . You have to form a friendship with your sibling . . . to find the things that are worth loving.


Q: What is SoulPancake, and how did it begin? 

SoulPancake is a company that makes stuff . . . that matters . . . There are all these things that we think about but don't necessarily talk about, like, Why am I here? What’s my purpose? What do I hope happens after I die? What is love? . . . Rainn Wilson, who is the actor from The Office . . . started this company to get people talking and having meaningful conversations. So we started with a website, and then . . . a book  . . . About three years ago, we . . . [started making] videos for the web and for television  . . .


Q: What’s your advice for kids who are interested in a career in journalism or writing? 

Actually try it out and see if you love doing it . . . Watch newscasts and read newspapers and look at magazines and, you know, read every article in Brilliant Star, because that’s how you're going to learn to be a better journalist.


Q: How did your family encourage you in your studies and in your career? 

I was really . . . really lucky because my parents [said] . . . find what you love . . . because at the end of the day, it’s more important to be happy than to get a big paycheck or have some prestigious       title . . . That was the best advice they gave me.


Shabnam (third from left) celebrates with her parents, Fardad and Victoria, and her sisters (from left) Shawya, Nahel, and Neilou.

Q: How does the Bahá’í Faith influence your work? 

SoulPancake was . . . based on a Bahá’í principle . . . the independent investigation of the truth . . . Rainn wanted to make a place where it was safe for people to ask questions, and it wasn’t about the right answer or the wrong answer . . . And whatever path that leads you on is awesome, because . . . any path towards meaningful spirituality in any way is an important one.


Q: Tell us about “Kid President.”

A little kid in Tennessee and his brother-in-law . . . made [a video in front of a cardboard Oval Office], and the whole message . . . was, if it doesn’t make the world more awesome, don’t do it . . . [We] loved [his] energy . . . So they came on board as a SoulPancake partner . . . We are very close to turning it into an actual kids’ TV show . . . One of his videos, the pep talk, went viral, and it got millions of views . . . We got an e-mail . . . saying . . . President Obama wants to collaborate with “Kid President”. . . We were just blown away that that actually happened.


Q: If you had one wish for Brilliant Star readers, what would it be? 

My wish would be for every . . . kid to learn that you are your own best friend . . . You have to learn to do the things that make you happy and that fulfill your heart, and it doesn’t matter what other people think about . . . the things that you find joyful and inspiring . . . It’s really important to have that . . . self-worth and to see that . . . you are the person that’s going to take care of yourself.


For a printable version, download a PDF of this interview. 


Portrait photo by Bayan Joonam, on set by Ladybird Pictures

Discover341 Creative Writing22 Stargazers52 Careers140