We had the good fortune of connecting with Leona Hariharan and we’ve shared our conversation below.

Hi Leona, have there been any changes in how you think about work-life balance?
I think that balance is evershifting. I believe that women can have it all, but maybe not all at once. My priorities shift on a weekly basis to ensure that my career and my personal life are both getting the time and care that they deserve. Growing up in San Diego, I always considered art to be a hobby and science to be my main focus, but that has shifted to the point where I am now pursuing a career at the intersection of the two. With that, my hobby has now become an integral part of my work life and my personal life has shifted towards relationship building, and general wellbeing practices.

Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
Growing up, I was a competitive dancer, which was definitely my entry way into performance. I loved dance but I didn’t find the professional track to be sustainable to my needs or wants at the time. I shifted into theatre because of my love of performance and the academic/scholarly aspects of the field. In high school, I was the resident stage manager for our theatre program, which really helped me grow as a technician. In college, I’ve been lucky to have so many opportunities to grow my scholarly interest in the arts and find more of a balance between theory and practice. My sophomore year of college, I co-founded the Lilac Collective, a performance collective dedicated to centering diverse artists and forms of performance, with my good friend Grace Asaro. This collective was founded during the pandemic, which was most certainly challenging but it was an exciting way to reconnect when it felt like the art world was breaking in half.

Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
My favorite spot is definitely Balboa Park. I spent two summer working at the Fleet Science Center and I always loved walking around the park after. I definitely recommend checking out the Timken, a free art museum in the park with some incredible pieces. There’s also great scenery and greenery that is perfect for a relaxing walk with a friend or loved one.

The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
Mentorship is definitely a big part of why I am where I am. I credit the Council for Youth Empowerment (CYE) pageant program for helping me cultivate confidence and really take the time to figure out how to use my interests to make more of a long term difference. In high school, I remember talking to Billie Sangster, the founder of the organization about how I was interested in finding ways to support disabled communities in San Diego, and she inspired me to get in contact with people in the area and find ways to center their needs in this process. A couple months down the line, I partnered with a family at my school and our Friendship club to set up the Flower Power Walk for Rett Syndrome. This was an incredible event and I remember a handful of my pageant sisters showing up to support. This walk and the people I talked to at this event very much drove my interest in and decision to study Neuroscience in college. Now, I am currently working with the DaPpers program in Rhode Island, which supports dance programming for people with Parkinson’s and caregivers. I’m so lucky to have gained a strong foundation in community organizing through my high school experiences that allows me to be involved in programs like this today.

Instagram: @leona.hari

Image Credits
Morgan Holstine

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