When Sarnia’s Shreya Patel heard she’d been nominated for the Forbes 30 under 30 list she assumed it was a hoax.
But after re-reading the email that came during an Uber ride, she realized she really was heading off to Berlin, Germany to join other nominees at a pitch-and-networking session this week.
“I don’t know what to expect. I’m quite excited,” said Patel, who works in Toronto’s film and TV scene.
“I don’t even know how this happened. I’m just so grateful for it.”
Six hundred trailblazers in 20 industries from the U.S. and Canada are named to the Forbes 30 Under 30 list every year.
Patel said her nod came in education for her advocacy and storytelling.
The Northern Collegiate grad’s work includes three years of mental health advocacy on Bell’s Let’s Talk campaign, and a documentary she made, Girl Up, that examines Toronto’s human trafficking scene.
The film that began as a 26-minute short in university is now 50 minutes, and has been screened in Toronto and Sarnia, she said.
Girl Up – a play on the phrase ‘man Up’ – tells the story of a woman deceived by her boyfriend into becoming a prostitute, and her struggle to recover.
It caught the eye of producers and was screened at the Civic Action Summit this year, organized by the Toronto International Film Festival.
“I am very grateful,” said the former Miss Teen Sarnia.
“Honestly, when I made (Girl Up) I never knew it would reach this far.”
Patel said working on the traumatic material left her drained emotionally, and she turned to light-hearted comedic writing and performing.
But human trafficking stories continued to come to light, and she’s now developing a TV show pilot based on the experience of victims she met while making the documentary.
“This happens everywhere, in front of you, and you won’t even realize it. Hopefully with this pilot… people will be able to see how the actual manipulation takes place,” she said.
“With every work that I do, I hope it impacts people.”
From the age of 16, Patel has been active in the non-profit Make A Wish Foundation, first in Ontario and then in India, where she spent several years working as a model.