“I truly believe that everything that we do and everyone that we meet is put in our path for a purpose. There are no accidents; we're all teachers - if we're willing to pay attention to the lessons we learn, trust our positive instincts and not be afraid to take risks or wait for some miracle to come knocking at our door.” ~ Maria Gibbs

On Sunday, October 15th, I had the pleasure of meeting Raja, an international hip-hop and pop artist, when he interviewed for What’s Happening Now? New York Radio Show. During our brief conversation I immediately felt a sense of brotherhood, as his shared experiences appeared fairly similar to mine. From balancing the anticipated social and academic pressures of school with a learning disability; coping with the death of his number one fan—his dad; and feeling intimidated by the success stories of his siblings and stereotyped expectations seen in Indian culture, Raja has defied all odds against him and is well on his way to making a long-lasting lane for himself.

Originally gaining traction in the fashion world with international, mainstream and indie ad campaigns such as with Sony and Soho’s Alternative Apparel, Raja has made significant strides in the music industry with his singles, “Hangover” (2016) and “Sangria Sangria” (2017). Currently, he is preparing to release his EP titled, Rebirth, which will pay tribute to his father.

Raja, thank you for taking the time to give insight into your journey so far. You have a story to tell—one that demonstrates the possibilities of believing in yourself and following your gut, even if you feel no one is in your corner. Thank you for sharing, brother.

Check out Raja’s story below and be sure to stay caught up with all of his endeavors via Instagram @rajaforlifee.

FUN FACT

What are two fun facts people would be surprised to know about you?

I LOVE COTTON CANDY AND I LOVE THE MOVIES.

SCHOOL LIFE & COPING WITH A DISABILITY

At what age did you realize you had a learning disability?

I found out at the age of 10. Before my diagnosis, I felt like I had a weird disease that I would be made fun of for having—and that actually ended up being the case.

Tell us about what it was like mentally and emotionally for you going through the school system. What made you choose to “fight” your learning condition rather than let it overpower you?

School was very difficult because all the kids saw me as different. At that age, kids don’t want to be different but accepted and popular. I was always put into the smaller classes so not only did I feel different mentally and emotionally, but also physically since I was placed elsewhere compared to my schoolmates.

When I was officially diagnosed with my disability, my mentality and emotions got worse—I began to act out. I felt pressured and stressed and I experienced social anxiety. Despite that, I chose to overcome my situation because I didn’t want to go through life with every challenge knocking me down; I didn’t want to be unable to cope with difficult times and I knew that overcoming that phase in my life would not be my last struggling moment.

Did you experience bullying in school? If so, do you run into any of the bullies today? How do they behave towards you?

Yes, I was bullied a bit by schoolmates and my cousins and siblings, too.

Nowadays, when I run into some of these people in the neighborhood they treat me completely different. They try to talk nice or kiss my ass because of my accomplishments so far. I take notice and don’t pay them much mind because I know what it is. It’s unfortunate, but it happens.

How are you coping with your learning disabilities nowadays?

I read a lot and ask questions. Music also helps—making, writing and listening to music helps me cope with anxiety and stress.

GROWING UP AND THE JOURNEY TO SELF-ACCEPTANCE

You indicated that your accomplishments felt inadequate compared to that of your siblings. What was your relationship like with your siblings growing up?

It was good when we were younger. Always jokes, laughs and quality time spent at family events. But of course, there were moments when the jokes and laughs were targeted at me. They would make fun of me cause of the answers I would give or the jokes I would make. You know, they would say things like “Can you even spell?”—Just to tease and upset me.

What is your relationship with your siblings like now?

Our relationship is great. We all get along. They see that I did something different with my career and despite my learning disability, I pursued music to tell stories and do something that I feel I am meant to do. They don't make fun of me anymore either.

How does it feel knowing that your siblings are discussing you and your accomplishments with their peers//clients//patients?

I love it. They are spreading the word about my music and more importantly, who I am. Them bragging about me shows their support and I love it!

What does your mom think about your success? Do you receive gratification while attending family functions? Are you the center of attention?

My mother said she's never been more proud of me in my life. She’s proud that I’m committing to my dreams, not giving up and working hard. She sees the dedication.

Yes, I receive gratification when I attend family events—that wasn’t always the case but things are different now. I would say I am the center of attention and the talk of the party cause of my career and how its moving along so far.

RELATIONSHIP WITH DAD AND RAJA’S EP, “REBIRTH”

I’m sorry about the passing of your father. He sounded like a great man and I know he’s very proud of you. I noticed that you wear your father’s picture on a chain around your neck. Did he witness any of your success? Did he encourage you to pursue music?

Unfortunately, he was not present to see any of my success besides the modeling stuff I've done. He was not crazy about the music. He wanted me to be a doctor or businessman but I don’t think he was mad at the route I chose; just maybe, not as supportive.

When did you realize your passion for music? What propelled you in that direction?

I realized the passion for music at a young age of 12 but did not start making music until years after. My inner thoughts told me that I should not give up this shit; that I should jump in with two feet and make music. Make history, make a change and live my dream.

What can people expect next from Raja, the artist?

I just finished my first project and I got something big coming from it. I'm also working on my second project. You will be getting a lot of music from Raja this year into 2018. The grind doesn’t stop. I plan to go on tour while continuing to build my model and fashion career.

FIGHTING THE GOOD FIGHT!

What advice would you give to someone who may feel like they cannot accomplish their dreams? How can they shut out the negative, outside influences and go at their own pace?

Do not give up. Make sure you have a vision, commit and give it your all. Practice weekly and also know that patience is key. It’s important to follow your dreams cause if you don’t, then you’ll always be in the “coulda shoulda” boat—you should never feel like that. You need to not pay attention to the negativity. Only keep positive vibes and work hard.

With success come haters who will try to make your journey difficult. Take that negative energy and turn into positivity and work harder. Life isn’t a race so go at a pace you feel you’re getting everything done but also don’t wait on someone else to push your career. You must go hard for yourself to show everyone watching how bad you want it.

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(You're never alone. Sharing your story can be therapeutic; in addition, to being a source of motivation to someone else. You're. Never. Alone. If you're interested in being interviewed, please email melvin@melvinataylor.com. Anonymous submissions are welcome. Join the Resilient Warrior Community on Facebook)