Nestled in a strip mall in Woodbridge, New Jersey, is Nazranaa – the go-to store for South Asian wedding wear. Behind the counter stands Shia Gupta, the owner and designer of the shop, and the face of the popular YouTube series Nazranaa Diaries. Mimicking the style of Say Yes to the Dress, complete with clunky catchphrase “Are you ready to be a Nazranaa Bride?”, Nazranaa Diaries dramatizes the moment a bride comes to her wedding gown.
The family disagreements are played to camera, the couples retell their love stories in a flat-eyed stupor, and the gowns are…something. The show, which appears on the South Asian TV Network Aapka Colors, has a devoted following on YouTube where fans sound off in the comments regularly. Kajal Editor Nadya Agrawal and Sari Genius Sarika Persaud sat down to talk about this addicting show.
Nadya: So we can start by talking about what the appeal of this show is.
Sarika: Okay so I was talking to my therapist about this show a few months ago LOL. Don’t ask me why, I have no idea. But basically she was like, “Why do you consider this show to be a knock-off or devalued as compared to Say Yes To The Dress?” I had somehow described it as that, and was embarrassed telling her about it. I really didn’t have a reason to be embarrassed, I think it’s just because I saw it as South Asian and thus inferior. It’s not any more trash than any show on TLC or Bravo, but I see those shows as more legit because they’re made by white people. I just wanna address my own internalized racism.
Nadya: Wow ok let’s start heavy.
Sarika: ~SCORPIO VIBES~
Sarika: I’m actually not into weddings or the institution of marriage, but I LOOOOOOVE making fun of people with bad taste.
Nadya: Ok idk if I buy it though. Like I think this show is a little bit of a cringe watch like all Facebook native content. It’s not on Facebook but still.
Sarika: Ya I get what you mean.
Nadya: The production quality is fine but the acting feels like acting. The conflicts are small, the concerns are shallow, they all talk in the same stilted way. I personally love how all these young couples feel basically emptied out of all joy.
Sarika: That’s true, like actually, culturally, I feel like if typical South Asian couples or families are going out to buy a bridal outfit, there’s generally the one family member who has the most power and everyone stays quiet and defers to them. Being this open and dramatic about conflicts is not something I recognize? Then again the Punjabi aunty fighting with her son’s fiancée passive-aggressively in the first episode felt REAL.
Nadya: Lol yes that one felt real because you know aunty doesn’t have time to pretend to be upset when she’s already losing her son to this chammak challo. There’s always someone in the comments too talking about how old fashioned all the outfits are. But then people literally travel to go to this store!
Sarika: Yo Nazranaa gets DRAGGED in the comments.
Nadya: I guess it’s like Kleinfield and Pnina Tornei.
Sarika: They have a specific demographic they serve. People with “no budget.”
Nadya: But if I had no budget would I go to New Jersey? No budget like lots of money or no money?
Sarika: I can speak for Indo-Caribbean people and say that they love glamor, but going to India is not really accessible for most of them. They generally don’t know SA languages, so they gotta stick to what’s stateside. However, I cannot speak for people who have access to the motherland but choose $2400 for something…worth like…a fraction of that price. No budget like they will spend unlimited money.
Nadya: I get accessibility. But there are tons of stores in Edison.
Sarika: I’ve been to Edison for shopping and Nazranaa is TRULY the “blingiest.” And I think they have the best IG presence to be honest.
Nadya: Right! You had a wedding! Presumably you’ve been “wedding shopping.” What do you think about when you’re wedding shopping? What are you looking for?
Sarika: Didn’t go for my wedding, I knew I wouldn’t like anything there LOL. But went shopping w a friend who loves SHINY. Honestly I was in one of those fb desi bride groups and hated it. I hate to say ~I’m not like other girls~ but I wasn’t into wedding planning and am not into the institution of marriage — me and my partner don’t even use terms like husband and wife.
I think, like other women who were getting married, I had a fantasy that I was trying to fulfill. I think that’s usually why the bridal outfit is so important — the outfit helps you settle into the fantasy you’ve chosen for yourself for that day or what the union means to you!! For some women that is SPARKLE SHINE LOOK AT ME. Not a bad thing and I’m not hating. Get your attention girl!!!!!
Mine was from old photographs of my mom at her wedding, brides from where our ancestors are from in Bengal and UP with the red silk saris. I wanted to live my fantasy of being someone who does not belong to this century. I went to a handloom sari store in Delhi and got a red Benarasi sari with antique gold embroidery in the Balucheri style of weaving, which is Bengali. It’s a light and soft silk and cost me $200!!! So yeah I feel I’m not a representative sample.
Nadya: That sounds gorgeous. I hear you about the wish fulfillment.
Sarika: Yeah and even when I watch Nazranaa Diaries I’m like, even if I hated the outfit she ended up with, I’m like, good 4 u sweety u fulfilled your dream 🥺💕
Nadya: Yeah I love when they share the wedding photos at the end. I’ve become really cynical about weddings, et al. I love and hate the pageantry of it. This show kinda does that work for me. Gives me a drama with costume changes and family strife. But also they way the host Shia tries to hold back her eye rolls. Love that.
Sarika: YES hahaha I respect her patience so much.
Nadya: She tries to stand up for herself too which so interesting to watch. I wonder what it’s like to film multiple takes.
Sarika: I have the most compassion and love for Shia. Our Gucci Belt wearing RANI.
Nadya: Patient queen. Emotive icon.
Sarika: The show does confirm my cynicism for sure. But some people respond differently, they watch all of these people acting like marriage/wedding is a culminating point of their identity and they feel they must act that way too. I like when she explains why she shows them an outfit, because they can be sooo mean to her. Like WHY WOULD U SHOW ME MICROVELVET HOW DARE U.
Nadya: She’s literally like “you told me you wanted pink. So it’s pink. Are you saying you don’t want pink? Oh not this pink?” I admire that in her. I would also throw a tantrum.
Sarika: “I want to be a traditional bride.”
“Ok *shows them red outfit*”
“I feel this isn’t contemporary enough, like I don’t wanna be too traditional and red isn’t my color.”
Nadya: Yeah somehow we’re all still wearing microvelvet. That came out when I was like 14 and never went away!!
Sarika: Like actually I think heavy rhinestones and net has not been trendy in SA fashion for quite some years. But it’s still being sold AND people are still buying it in NYC/NJ.
Nadya: Right!! Ugh put it out of its misery!
Sarika: I think there are people who still feel like, the more you shine, the more you stand out, but also the more wealthy you are? So it’s less about current fashion per se and more about making a wealth statement.
Nadya: Yeah it’s a very class/region/community specific thing. What do you think about when they bring the grooms in to pick sherwanis?
Sarika: THEY ALWAYS HAVE THE WORST TASTE LOOOL. That guy who wanted the salmon vomit colored sherwani where he paid hundreds extra for a Ganesha embroidered custom on the back. I could NOT.
Nadya: It’s always like “I want it to be asymmetrical, black, gold, with shiny buttons and epaulets or something.” It’s very much a match made in heaven – the customers and this store.
I’m trying to think why I tune in every two weeks when it goes up on YouTube. It’s charming in the same exact way Say Yes to the Dress is.
Sarika: omg you watch FAITHFULLY.
Nadya: Yeah, dude. It’s very produced and has the same formulaic storylines. For everything I say I still watch it happily. I’m just really surprised this show didn’t exist a long time ago. Like “South Asian Say Yes” is an easy pitch!
Sarika: Right!! I mean, SA people LOVE weddings, right? And judging people LOL.
Nadya: That’s true.
Sarika: I watch because I love seeing the people fake fight and then reassuring myself that all of my relationships are more harmonious than what I’m watching.
Nadya: Weddings are very much an institution for us. Not just a social one but an extremely economic and historical one.
Nadya: I really love when they get the bridesmaid dresses. And some snarky fast-talking city girl swans in and is like I HATE SARIS AND PINK. And then ends up in a pink sari. Or like a half sari that’s reddish.
Sarika: HAHAHA GOT EM
Nadya: You know we’ve talked before about sari feelings. This show goes into them sometimes.I don’t know if you saw the recent episode with the bridesmaid who sort of refused to wear a sari because it made her feel uncomfortable and immobile.
Sarika: Yeah, I mean most people look great in saris because they can be adjusted for any body type. But people see them as so uncomfortable because they don’t realize that the one way your mom taught you to wear it isn’t the only way.
I didn’t see that one but it came up in another episode. Classical dancers literally dance in saris, so it’s totally possible to have mobility and comfort!! But people tend to wear in a way that reinforces specific cultural standards of how women need to sit, stand, look (in terms of modesty), etc.
Nadya: I think it’s wrapped up in what we consider feminine. Like there’s a fear of being considered too feminine. And being a bridesmaid you feel yourself always as a juxtaposition to the bride. It’s like you need to stand out but you can’t.
Sarika: Ooooo! That too!
Nadya: So being forced into that sort of inferior, feminine position is uncomfortable because we’re taught to oppose gratuitous femininity. Maybe I’m projecting lmao.
Sarika: That’s DEEP. Yes, sometimes it’s framed like, you need to prove your subservience to be a good bridesmaid/friend. I don’t like that.
Nadya: For ~some~ it’s how much shit can you eat without completely losing respect for yourself.
Sarika: YES! And also it becomes a competition between bridesmaids, like how much can you subvert your own desires to prove I’M THE BETTER FRIEND. Yo I didn’t like the whole bridesmaid thing and I still don’t get the point. Like why can’t you just ask your friends to help with stuff without giving them a title as bridesmaid?
Nadya: Mm it does open up a pandora’s box of weird icky drama possibilities. As always it’s hard to manage egos. Speaking of, what do you think about the family dynamics we see in the show.
Sarika: It’s so hard to tell what is dramatized. But I think it’s true that people DO bring their sister or cousin with whom they have open issues/competitiveness just because like, the family or culture says you have to bring them.
Like personally I would not bring a hating ass mother in law with me to shop ANYWHERE. But I think in certain families it’s like, expected, right? Like these people need to choose your outfit — it’s a symbol for them choosing the terms upon which you enter the family
Nadya: I wonder because it’s one thing to bring them shopping and another to bring them on TV to pick out a dress with you. So these people must have already bought their dresses before taping right? Because unlike say yes to the dress they NEVER leave without an outfit.
Sarika: Yeah do the producers say “bring your messiest friends”? HAHAHA.
Nadya: I bet they do an interview first too like what family drama can we feign for 10 minutes?
Sarika: Definitely. There’s never a friend or sister who isn’t hating or jealous, so I wonder if it’s totally fake or if like…people really bring haters out with them?? Basically I’m so confused at the choice of who some people choose to accompany them.
Nadya: Mmm yes it’s played up. That’s what makes it fun too though. If it was real I’d be like THIS IS TRIGGERING.
Sarika: I’d CRY. Like please don’t disagree with me EVER about my look while my midriff is exposed 🙁
Nadya: Right. In sum – I love you Nazranaa Diaries. Please consider pitching to TLC / TBS whatever airs Say Yes. Idk why they haven’t done an ethnic spin off of Say Yes to the Dress.
Sarika: YES I want it SO BAD and I hope it’s coming. The ~ethnic~ episodes of David Tutera used to be what I lived for.
Nadya: This has been super fun, dude. Thanks for making the time.
Sarika: Thanks for including me 🥺🌷🌷🌷. I think about this show a lot LOOOL.