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Meet Arsi Nami

Today we’d like to introduce you to Persian-Swedish Arsi Nami, an award winning Actor, Singer, Songwriter and Music Therapist for special needs kids and individuals with disabilities

He was born in Shiraz, Iran, raised in Sweden and living in Los Angeles. It was not an easy road to get where he is today. Here is his story:

Arsi, let’s start with your story. We’d love to hear how you got started and how the journey has been so far:

Journey of a 4-year-old refugee:

When I was four-years-old, the lives of my two brothers and I depended on the protection and care of our mother, the Iran-Iraq war. As warplanes flew over our home in Shiraz, we would hide in the basement as my mother sang songs to soothe us. She would tell us everything will be all right and that it’s only fireworks. She eventually applied for asylum, and we all immigrated to Sweden.

My mother is my number one motivation in life, and what she has been through inspires me every day. I try to also think of her wise words, “The sun may set, but it will rise again the next day.”

– Sweden – a new world:  Eventually, my family decided to apply for asylum and Sweden accepted their request. We immigrated to a country with a totally different culture and language. Even the people looked different. Adapting to the new culture was difficult for us, especially for my mother mom. In Iran, she was a teacher and had a lot of friends. Unfortunately, she had to leave her friends and other family members behind. However, she believed that her sons were her biggest treasure.

-Music and Basketball: In Sweden, during middle school, I found two best friends who still inspire me Music and Basketball. I loved the game so much and played every single day.  As a basketball player, I accomplished receiving 2 Most Valuable Player Awards as the best player in South of Sweden during the 1995/1996 and 1996/1997 season and 1 Most Valuable Player Award as the best player of Southern Sweden during the Swedish Championship Basketball Competition in 1997/1998 season.

My second best friend was: music. I listened to my brother play the piano at home, and learned to play it by ear. Just like basketball, music had become my refuge. It was something I could relate to. My self-confidence grew when I started to learn to dance like Michael Jackson, as well as started to rap by studying Will Smith’s music and lyrics. I was called little Michael Jackson and Persian Will Smith and was always asked to perform at parties and events in small cities in Sweden.

-The TV breakthrough: As I got into high school, one of my teachers gave me a guitar and suggested me to learn to play. I learned to play three songs: Enrique Iglesias song ‘Hero,’ ‘Again’ by Lenny Kravitz, and ‘Nothing Else Matters’ by Metallica.”

When I was 17 years old, I performed those songs at the high school’s end-of-the-semester concert. My friends were surprised by the quality of my performance and encouraged me to participate in a talent show known as Aiming at the Stars, the Swedish version of American Idol. Out of 4,000 people, I was one of 45 to compete, and won the 2nd place award.

-Journey to Los Angeles: After graduating from a music college in Sweden, I still believed I had something missing in my life. I had lost my self-identity. I was longing for diversity, both in people but also through the entertainment field. In 2006, I moved to the U.S as I got accepted into the music program at Santa Monica College. I had now found friends from all over the world and was learning so many cultures through music classes. My friends and their cultural background inspired me and drove me to achieve goals. I felt like home.

-Music Therapy: Before transferring to a college, a family member of mine was in a car accident, and was diagnosed with a spinal cord tumor. The surgery took away sensation in some parts of the body. In the same hospital, treatments included music therapy. I found this method fascinating and decided to apply for admission to a music therapy program. I graduated from California State University, Northridge in 2014 and started to work as a music therapist for individuals with disabilities and special needs kids.

Through the communication of the music, working in clinics and hospitals made me realize what life is actually about, to help others unconditionally and I loved it.

Car accident – Anxiety depression Disorder and the Light in the Darkness: During my music therapy work, I experienced a major shift and darkness. As I was helping to unload an individual with disability in a wheel chair, I injured my head, which resulted in damaging my neck, disc and nerves. As a result of the disability caused by the injury, I was diagnosed with anxiety and depression disorder. I was now attending all kind of therapy sessions to help heal myself and decrease all the pain.  One day, coming out of a psychotherapy session, on Wilshire in Los Angeles, I saw the SAG-AFTRA (Screen Actors Guild) building. I had no clue what the symbol of a individual standing and holding their arm towards the sky symbolized, but I got really inspired everyday seeing it as I went to see my psychologist office couple blocks away.

One day I walked by the SAG-AFTRA building and saw a posting for free acting workshops and felt I had nothing too lose. I was already going through so many therapy sessions such as aqua therapy, physical therapy, chiropractor, to help decrease my pain in my neck, improve my numbness in my left arm, fingers and to overcome depression. I decided to make acting my therapy and I fell in love with it. The moment I walked in into the acting session, I knew it was my therapy and used it as a distraction for my pain and depression. It worked and started attending auditions for fun, and the next thing I knew, I was acting as the lead actor lead in award winning films and commercials for Samsung, Guitar Center, HP, NBA, Disney to name a few.

Jury Prize win at Cannes Film Festival Entr’2 Marches for disability awareness: One of the first roles I auditioned for was the role of Giovanni, a visually impaired man, in a short film called “Love is Blind.” I had worked with visually impaired clients since I was 17 in Sweden and then as a Music Therapist at clinics and hospitals in L.A. The role felt close to me because I was going through my injury. Out of 250 submissions, I was given the role. I was also approved by the production to compose the official film soundtrack and create the official film poster.

Birthday gift: On May 21st, 2017 (the day of my birthday) Love is Blind won the Jury Prize at Cannes International Film Festival Entr’2 Marches. A festival with the topic of disability. All of the hardship and darkness I went through now made sense. Because of my accident, I no longer felt a guilty to give back to the disability community after no longer helping them through music therapy. Winning a jury prize in Cannes, answered all the questions and left my heart at peace.

Judge in Cannes: This year in May 2018, I was also selected as a judge at Cannes Film Festival International Entr’2 Marches, watching and help nominating films in the topic of disability. It was wonderful to watch these films that were all a big win for the disability community because of their wonderful ability to share awareness around the world through the medium of film.

Arsi Nami’s notable projects:
Arsi Nami’s dance songs “Never Be Lonely and She Wants To Fly” a collaboration with his talented friend Levi Whalen, have been featured on Fox TV shows “Bones and Goodwin Games. He has also been doing lead roles in commercials for Prada, Kia, Google, Facebook, Ford, BMW to name a few.

Philanthropy work: Arsi Nami also played the lead role as the father in Children’s Hospital Los Angeles “Healthcare in The Clouds”, a production by Society of Camera Operators and Imaginaut Entertainment, which has raised over $8 million for children’s vision health. It was premiered at the 2018 SOC Awards, with invited guests such as academy award winning actress: Meryl Streep. Link to story:

Arsi Nami also starred in the award-winning short film, “Camelia” as the manic depressed painter Vincent, which takes place in the Victorian era. Camelia won the 2017 European Cinematography Awards for Best Film.

Arsi Nami’s final notes:
My life could’ve easily have ended during the Iran-Iraq war when I was 4 years old, but thanks to the love and strength of my mother, I am where I am today. My life could again be in danger during my anxiety depression disorder, but thanks to the love and light I found within myself and through acting, I overcame the challenge. I hope this story can inspire others who are in the darkness. Because during the darkest hours, a light called love will blossom within us. As darkness re-appears, the light will overcome it, because the light has gained the knowledge that it shines brighter during the darkest hours. – Arsi Nami

Contact Info:

Image Credit:
Charles Ge, George Deloache, Laursen photo, Bob Delgadillo

Getting in touch: VoyageLA is built on recommendations from the community; it’s how we uncover hidden gems, so if you know someone who deserves recognition please let us know here.

1 Comment

  1. Clara

    September 17, 2018 at 06:47

    Such a wonderful and inspiring story! He should write a book or be on Ted Talks! <3

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