Sitara Hewitt is not only known as the star of CBC’s Little Mosque on the Prairie but also co-host of the Comedy Network’s pop-culture game show You Bet Your Ass. Sitara sat down with Masalamommas Magazine for an interview recently. She shared her advice and life experiences growing up as a woman of mixed heritage in small town Ontario and becoming a leading internationally acclaimed actress. We asked her how life has changed since she’s landed her most important role yet: motherhood.
I had always been in the performing arts as a dancer since childhood and a singer later in life. Acting seemed like a natural transition. A friend of mine tells me the exact moment occurred when we were hanging out in my Annex (Toronto) apartment in my early 20s and I said “I think I’m going to be an actress!”. I then began many years of failed auditions, acting classes, unpaid theatre and film and then commercials and hosting gigs. I enjoyed it all; it was all an incredible process of learning and challenging myself.
Was there any pressure from your academic parents to pursue academia as a career instead?
No, they were always very supportive of whatever I chose. Of course they went through periods of worry when I wasn’t working but I think it’s natural for parents to want their children to have a secure future. They are fans of Little Mosque and tune in (and tell all their friends) to watch anything I’m in.
Growing up in Elora, Ontario, Canada, did you ever experience racism as a child being half Welsh and half Pakistani?
There was often a feeling that we were different and there were moments where I felt isolated or singled out. I remember moving to Toronto and discovering Little India Bazaar and being delighted and feeling very at home. It reminded me of a little piece of the Pakistan I had visited all throughout my life.
You spent several of your early years going back and forth to northern Pakistan. How did that influence you as an adult?
It’s one of the most beautiful and untouched places on earth, there is no pollution, and very little modernization. The indigenous people are farmers and live in complete synchronicity with the earth, as they have for centuries, and it was a huge education on how humans throughout history lived off the land. I loved it! The communities are safe and peaceful and always welcomed us into their homes and lives, it’s an eye-opening example of how those with so little can be the most generous of all. It definitely is a reminder that the busy pace of modernization is not the only way to live, and not always the healthiest!
What made you decide to be a part of the cast for Little Mosque on the Prairie?
My agent sent me to the audition and I booked it. I was happy to be cast as a lead in a progressive, family oriented series.
How has Little Mosque on the Prairie changed your outlook on Muslims?
Though my family is Christian, many of my relatives and friends in Pakistan are Muslim so I’ve always been around and appreciated the culture – I’ve celebrated many an Eid! I did learn a great deal about what it’s like to be a young, modern Muslim woman living in Canada, and I have a lot of respect for them.
How are you and Rayyan similar?
Rayyan and I both have big hearts and put our families first. And that’s about it! Our lifestyles are very different, but we both make self betterment and a positive outlook our priorities.
How has life changed since you became a mother? How have you changed?
Being a mom gives me more delight and contentment than anything I have ever known. Any parent will tell you that the love they feel for their child has to be experienced to be explained. To cuddle my son and spend time with him are my favorite things to do. He is my number one priority now, and his happiness and well-being come first. I have also learned that a mother needs to take care of her own needs to be at her best for her family, so I put exercise, healthy eating and some ‘me time’ pretty high up on my list too.
How do you, as a child with mixed heritage, keep both cultures alive in your family?
We travel, talk about it all, tell stories of our childhoods, eat delicious curries and daal and decorate our home with influences from both cultures.
What advice can you give to new mothers out there trying to succeed in their own careers to find that balance?
In the early years go easy on yourself. When I was pregnant I thought “I’ll go back to shooting the show when he’s 3 months old, that’s lots of time!” – and I was exhausted. I soon realized that it takes a while to heal from birth and all the learning and sleepless nights wear you down pretty quickly. It will take a year or two for your hormones to level out, and for you to get used to the new pace, so don’t be hard on yourself if you don’t feel up to much other than caring for your little one. And don’t feel like you’re the only one! Being a new mom is magical and incredible and it’s also tough on you in a lot of ways. I found I had more time and could concentrate better on my career once he turned two. I still had to work a lot before that, but it often felt like a crazy roller-coaster. I think that’s kind of part of it.
How do you stay in shape post baby?
I stayed fit before and during my pregnancy with gentle exercise and nourishing foods, rather than junk food. Breastfeeding also helped me lose the baby fat. Now I get to the gym or go for a walk several days a week – it’s key to explain to hubby how important this is for yours and the family’s well-being, so he will watch baby for you!
What role did your mom play in shaping the kind of mother you are today?
She’s incredible. She was patient, relaxed and always made me feel loved. I learned that you can’t spoil a child with love, you just fortify them against whatever challenges they may have later. Life will be tough enough, make your home your child’s sanctuary.
What can we expect from Sitara Hewitt in the future?
I’m doing guest stars while developing a few shows and a lifestyle brand at the moment, right now it’s a lot on the back-end but I’ll update you once it comes out.
What do you hope for Rowan? What do you hope he knows about the kind of woman his mother is?
I hope he knows he is loved and valuable.
To learn more about Sitara’s time living in Pakistan in remote Himalayan villages, you can read her mother’s book, The Other Side of Silence: The Lives of Women in the Karakoram Mountains by Farida Azhar-Hewitt available at BarnesandNoble.com.
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