Tanya Selvaratnam is a writer, an actor, an activist, and an Emmy-nominated and Webby-winning producer with more than twenty years of experience working in the areas of arts and social justice. She is also an experienced fundraiser, organizer, connector, and public relations strategist. To see a list of some of the public figures, organizations, and companies with whom Tanya has collaborated, please visit this link.
For more than a decade, she has been a producer with both Aubin Pictures (founded by Catherine Gund) and Di San Luca Films (founded by Chiara Clemente). For nine years, she was the Communications and Special Projects Officer for the Rubell Family Collection/ Contemporary Arts Foundation, based in Miami, FL. In addition, Selvaratnam is the Co-Founder of Humanity for Progress, a social media campaign launched in July 2016 that has videos and memes viewed more than 50 million times.
During the 2016 election cycle, she founded and managed Filmmakers for Hillary, a collective of more than 100 artists around the country that generated shareable content to get out the vote. Currently, Selvaratnam is one of the core organizers for a new initiative called The Federation: a coalition of individuals and organizations to stand up for freedom of expression, keep cultural borders open, and use the arts as a catalyst for critical thinking and empathy. Selvaratnam’s co-organizers are the artist Laurie Anderson, the producer Laura Michalchyshyn, and the multimedia journalist Farai Chideya.
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 about the human toll of the L.A. riots, 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. In addition, she was an organizer and researcher for the World Health Organization’s Kobe Conference on Women and Tobacco in 1999.
Born in Sri Lanka and raised in Long Beach, CA, Selvaratnam is based in New York City and Portland, Oregon. She has been a fellow at Yaddo and Blue Mountain Center. She is the author of THE BIG LIE: Motherhood, Feminism, and the Reality of the Biological Clock; and her writing has appeared in Vogue, CNN News, Bust, Huffington Post, The Stranger, PAPER, Pop and Politics, the Toronto Review, Art Basel Magazine, xoJane, and Women’s eNews. In her various roles, she has been quoted in publications including The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, The New Yorker, Slate, Artforum, Cosmo, Redbook, Metro, Village Voice, PAPER, The Globe and Mail (Canada), and New York. She has been a featured guest on CNN, MSNBC, Al Jazeera, NPR, Sirius XM, Modern Hero TV, and CBS Radio News.
Selvaratnam has participated in panels and conferences around the world, from Kobe, Japan to Abu Dhabi to Hanover, Germany to Los Angeles, California. She has spoken on a variety of subjects, including public health policies regarding women, humanitarian relief work, and the future of theater. She has also conducted workshops on art and activism with students of all ages, from elementary school through graduate school. In May 2017, she received a Woman of Resilience Award from The Memo, a vocational boot-camp for young women of color.
As a producer, Selvaratnam has worked on films, live events, and exhibitions. She has produced projects by Gabri Christa, Chiara Clemente, Lisa Cortes, Laura Dawn, Liz Garbus, Catherine Gund, Le Tigre and Laura Parnes, Mickalene Thomas, Carrie Mae Weems, and Jed Weintrob, among others; and her films have played on HBO, IFC, PBS, Starz, and the Sundance Channel. Selvaratnam has produced campaigns and events for the ACLU, Center for Health and Gender Equity, EMILY’s List, Gays Against Guns, Guggenheim Museum, MoveOn, Ms. Foundation for Women, PS122, Rubell Family Collection, Women’s March on Washington, World Health Organization, and Yaddo.
As a performer, Selvaratnam has toured around the world with companies including The Wooster Group and The Builders Association; and been a guest actor at New Dramatists, Lincoln Center Directors Lab, Voice & Vision Theater, and the Institute on Arts and Civic Dialogue. She has played on stages at prestigious venues around the world, such as New York’s Brooklyn Academy of Music and Lincoln Center, London’s Barbican Theatre, and Singapore’s Victoria Theatre. In April 2015, she received a MAP Artist Award supported by the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation and the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.
She has served on the boards of the Third Wave Fund, Boom Arts, The Wooster Group, and Groundswell Community Mural Project; and been an advisor to The DO School, a Germany-based and internationally focused creative educational organization that offers learning experiences to generate global impact.
She received her graduate and undergraduate degrees in Chinese language and legal history from Harvard University. Her Masters thesis on women’s organizations in post-Tiananmen China was published in the Journal of Law and Politics.
Photo by Amber Mahoney, Dress by Mara Hoffmann