Tanya Selvaratnam

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Award-Winning Producer, Artist, and Activist

    Inspiring Women
    Social Justice
    Women's Empowerment
    Storytelling

    Biography

    Tanya Selvaratnam is a writer and an Emmy-nominated and multiple Webby-winning producer with more than twenty-five years of experience in the areas of arts and social justice. She is the Senior Advisor, Gender Justice Narratives, for the Pop Culture Collaborative, and the author of numerous essays and two books: Assume Nothing: A Story of Intimate Violence (Harper) and THE BIG LIE (Prometheus). A powerfully engaging orator, Selvaratnam has been invited to speak at numerous conferences worldwide, including at various United Nations and World Health Organization events and the Aspen Ideas Festival, New York Film Festival, Brooklyn Book Festival, and Skoll World Forum. Drawing on her experience in the arts and a passion for infusing joy into activism, Selvaratnam frequently comments on the rights and safety of women and children and the interplay of art and democracy. She has also conducted workshops with students of all ages, from elementary school through graduate school.

    Her latest book, Assume Nothing, accounts for how she fell into - and escaped - an abusive relationship with a former attorney general of New York State. Finding strength in the global outcry that emerged through the #MeToo movement, Selvaratnam initially shared her story in The New Yorker as part of an investigation by Jane Mayer and Ronan Farrow. Library Journal reviewed the book as “a searing, yet sensitive account of vulnerability and redemption that will find a wide audience.” Kirkus Reviews called Assume Nothing “a courageous and compelling example of an author writing her ‘way out of the darkness.’” The New York Times praised the book’s “crisp, unadorned prose,” and further said, “In methodically describing how a successful artist and activist can fall into a dark relationship with a controlling man, she is performing a rare and valuable service.” Her first book, The Big Lie, examines how a whole set of cultural norms have influenced the way modern women think about family planning, the emotional and financial cost of reproductive medicine, and the complicated mess of shame and guilt around infertility.

    Selvaratnam's career in the arts and social justice began with her work assisting Anna Deavere Smith on the development of "Twilight: Los Angeles, 1992," and with her position as a youth organizer on the steering committee of the NGO Forum/Fourth World Conference on Women in China in 1995. She then was the Special Projects Coordinator at the Ms. Foundation for Women until 1998. In addition, she was an organizer and researcher for the World Health Organization's Kobe Conference on Women and Tobacco in 1999.

    Selvaratnam's producing range includes films, branded content, live events, large-scale convenings, and exhibitions. Her films have played on HBO, IFC, PBS, Showtime, Starz, Refinery29, Vice, and the Sundance Channel; and have premiered at Sundance, Berlin, Tribeca, and SXSW. Recently, she produced for the Vision & Justice Project; Glamour Women of the Year; The Meteor; Joy To The Polls; Invisible Hand; The Shed multi-arts center; and Planned Parenthood. Since 2007, she has been a producer with Aubin Pictures, founded by Catherine Gund; Aubin's latest film is AGGIE about collector and philanthropist Agnes Gund, who created the Art for Justice Fund to fight mass incarceration.

    Along with artist Laurie Anderson and producer Laura Michalchyshyn, she is a co-founder of The Federation: a coalition of artists, organizations, and allies committed to keeping cultural borders open and showing how art unites us. She has also been an advisor and producer of For Freedoms, which catalyzes public discourse and civic engagement through the arts.

    She has been a featured guest on major national and international media outlets, including CNN, MSNBC, Good Morning America, The Tamron Hall Show, Fox News, Good Day New York, NewsNation, Al Jazeera, NPR, WNYC, KCRW, and CBS Radio News. You can find her work featured in the most prominent publications in the business, including the New York TimesVogueGlamourCosmo, CNN, NBC News, and McSweeney's. Additionally, the Journal of Law and Politics published Selvaratnam's Master's thesis on women's organizations in post-Tiananmen China.

    Selvaratnam has served as a board member of the Third Wave Fund, For Freedoms, Boom Arts, The Wooster Group, Groundswell Community Mural Project, and Let It Ripple. She is also an advisor to The DO School, a Germany-based and internationally-focused organization that trains and empowers entrepreneurs to solve the biggest challenges of our time.

    Born in Sri Lanka and raised in Long Beach, CA, Selvaratnam splits her time in New York City and Portland. She received her graduate and undergraduate degrees in Chinese language and legal history from Harvard University.  

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