Your Armenian Friends Are Going Through It—5 Influencers Explain Why

It hurts to write this. As I sit in my living room in Los Angeles, home to the biggest population of Armenians outside of Armenia, 120,000 indigenous Armenians are being displaced from the place they’ve called home for centuries. Artsakh, otherwise known as the region of Nagorno-Karabakh, just experienced one of the biggest losses over the last 40 days against Azerbaijan and Turkey. A peace deal was signed, and unexpectedly, a majority of the region that belonged to Armenia has now been given away. 

The pain among the Armenian community is palpable. As our hearts collectively break, I turn to my peers in the fashion and beauty industry, who I’ve been inspired by over the course of the last two months, to give me strength. As many of you may be aware or not, Armenians have been making a splash in the world of beauty and fashion, and many have gone on to start their own companies. covered this story on its network. I’m also working with an Armenian jewelry brand, Kirk Kara. The proceeds will be going to Armenia Fund, valid through November 30. 

And finally, I’m planning another IG Live fundraiser with Armenian Wounded Heroes, which is a nonprofit organization that funds the rehabilitation of wounded soldiers. 

I love how you have been involved with multiple brands and organizations to join forces and raise money for Armenia Fund. Can you tell us a little bit about what you’ve been working on?

I never hesitate to get involved in helping Armenia, even though it can be frustrating being so far away. Watching my homeland deal with economic collapse and COVID-19, I knew I had to do more during this pandemic. Armenia has survived a genocide and is currently dealing with Artsakh, a region of ethnic-majority Armenians, potentially being stripped of its sovereignty. With this cataclysmic collection of events happening right now in Armenia, it is so important to get the word out to mainstream news sources. Most people are not familiar with what is going on, as the conflicts and history of Armenia and its people are vast and complicated. So when my dear friend Olivia Jamgotchian reached out and asked if I would become a founding board member and advisor for Armenia Support Fund, I, of course, did not hesitate to get involved. ASF was founded on the premise of helping Armenians stimulate the Armenian economy with grants to bolster small businesses in Armenia. We believe in encouraging businesses to make enterprising long-term decisions—empowering them to succeed through promoting sustainable business models and infrastructure. So far, we have awarded 45 grants to small businesses, but the work is not done. We continue to raise funds to make more relief available for many business owners in Armenia. 

ASF’s latest endeavor, Shop Shouga, is a virtual bazaar that mirrors the open-air markets of Armenia to support local designers and producers. The goal is to help Armenians sell their wares and for Armenians and non-Armenians alike to experience Armenia from the comfort of their own homes. This will be under the umbrella of ASF. Each time a purchase is made, a contribution will go to the small businesses in need of capital to expand their opportunities.

Another project, a collaboration between myself and Omnes All (sold on ShopStyleguise), was designed to blend fashion and giving back because, What is the point of creation without finding a way to pass along some of that good fortune? A bracelet, with the colors of the Armenian flag, tells the story of my past, present, and future. Armenia is intricately a part of me, and what a perfect way to show that with a delicate bracelet holding the hues of all that is Armenia. Also on Styleguise was the Honey collection, a collection of a mask, scrunchie, and scarf, all in a beautiful, rich gold, made from 100% deadstock fabric. The Armenia Fund received 50% of the proceeds for humanitarian efforts in Armenia. 

Another passion of mine is Armenian coffee. It’s one of the things I tout as best from where I’m from, so the collab with Henry’s Coffee, creating the ASF blend, was a match made in heaven. Coffee is the ultimate equalizer, and it brings people together, no matter where they hail from. All countries have their own special blend. This blend was especially for this collaboration, and 100% of the proceeds went to ASF. We also created a Homeland Tote, a bag designed to carry a little piece of Armenia with you, wherever you may end up. The bag’s proceeds were divided among ASF (40%) and Armenia Fund (60%) and Kooyrigs (60%) and ASF (40%) on our second round, all assisting Armenians in creating a better Armenia for future generations. With all these collaborations combined, we have raised close to 80k for Armenia!

How has your platform helped you amplify Armenian’s voices?

For us, as children of the Armenian diaspora, we know the importance of “never forget.” We were raised on it and raised on the stories of the Armenian Genocide. We were told of our responsibility to make sure something like that never happens again. The responsibility is where my passion comes from and is why I try to use my platform to educate about the turmoil Armenia faces. My goal is to make Armenian culture accessible and to spotlight the struggles in the Armenian community and in Armenia itself. 

I am always so thrilled when someone reaches out saying that they learned about what’s happening in Armenia from me or if they tried Armenian coffee for the first time based on a recommendation I had made. I love to show the beautiful things that Armenia is while also showing the upheaval in the country. Because if people can resonate with a culture, they can care about the suffering of its people. Empathy comes after familiarity. How can you care about something you know nothing about? 

Right now, with everything going on in Armenia and in the world, I am simply calling for peace, for kindness, and for patience. For taking the time to understand where someone else is coming from. It’s hard sometimes to not get frustrated or angry watching Armenia in pain while I am so far away, but I try to use that emotion to help, as fuel for my fire. 

Only time will tell what will happen in Armenia. Things seem to change by the minute. But what I do know is that I will continue to speak for Armenia in any way that I can. Armenians cannot and will not be silenced. It’s against everything that we are as a people. We simply cannot forget. 

As a diasporan Black Armenian, can you please explain how you’ve been using your voice and your platform to bring awareness to both causes?

As a Black Armenian woman, I’ve always felt it was my duty to honor my ancestors and community through my voice and gifts. As an activist, I have participated in protests and “die-ins” for Black lives and marched for Artsakh and genocide recognition. I have also worked within the system through the use of constituent letters and advocating for local budget justice from L.A. City Council and the Board of Supervisors. Over the past six months, I have also used my social media platform to mobilize all of my communities in support of Armenians and Black lives in addition to other movements for the indigenous, incarcerated, and undocumented. As an artist, I choose to center marginalized narratives through my writing. This sparks empathy and leads to necessary unlearning and important conversations. My presence in theater and film as an actress in and of itself is radical because representation is critical.

Is there an outlet or activity you’ve been turning to this last year for self-care that you can share with the Who What Wear audience?

I’m not going to lie—I preach self-care and am pretty atrocious at taking my own advice. That being said, I have found comfort in unplugging for moments throughout the day and doing something mundane like rewatching the original Twilight Zone, listening to ASMR in a dark room, or sharing space with loved ones. I find that writing also helps me process and release trauma that can weigh on my spirit. As a theater arts educator, I also recognize the importance of breath and listening to your body. A nice deep breath may seem basic, but just that moment of pause can help sustain you until you are able to set aside ample time to care for your body. 

How are you supporting other Armenian women right now, and why do you think it’s critical to raise awareness about what’s happening in Artsakh?

In the past five weeks, we’ve learned the hard way that we only have each other to rely on. No other country has come to our aid, so it’s clear that the diaspora is solely responsible for the future and security of Artsakh and Armenia. For that reason alone, I’ve been focused on supporting specifically my Armenian peers in the beauty and lifestyle space, both publicly and behind closed doors. At this time, we all seem to have a renewed purpose moving forward, and this mutual support will continue. 

How has the Armenian beauty community been coming together in the last 40 days to help, and what fundraisers have you been involved in?

I’ll tell you one thing: When Armenian women organize, watch out! We naturally found that each of us has a different strength—some of us are stronger at raising money. Others of us, including myself, are combatting misinformation with accurate material that helps those who aren’t familiar with the situation understand what is happening. I’ve been able to offer support in live fundraisers led by my peers who are quite literally fundraising machines, totaling upward of $500,000. And we don’t stop here; there’s much to be done, having learned how greatly our unity is needed for our future as a people.

If you are in a position to help, please donate to Armenia Fund for long-term rebuilding projects in Armenia or to Looys for immediate relief for the displaced people of Artsakh.