“I always knew I’d get a Ph.D.,” says Plymouth native Nidhi Ghildayal. “My parents are both academics and there was never any question that their children would get graduate degrees.” And that’s just what she did— Ghildayal earned a doctorate from the University of Minnesota School of Public Health last year.
What Ghildayal’s parents may not have anticipated is that she would also become a model, actress and writer. “I think at first they were a little confused, but they are very supportive,” says Ghildayal. Her parents' hopes for their other children came true as well—Ghildayal’s brother and sister both have graduate degrees. They also both make films. Her sister also holds a doctorate in public health. Her brother holds a master’s degree in computer engineering and works for Disney.
Ghildayal started her modeling career in print ads when she was 20. Then her agency began sending her on auditions for TV commercials. “At first, I just didn’t know what I was doing,” she says. “I didn’t know anything about acting.” But she was interested, so she took some classes at the Guthrie and at Bill Cooper’s Acting Studio. Soon she was booking TV commercials.
Ghildayal found that she really enjoyed acting, but even more, she liked being part of a creative atmosphere. “I fell in love with the creative community in the [Twin] Cities,” she says.
Getting cast on TV shows followed from there, which meant spending time in Los Angeles and other film hubs like Atlanta. Ghildayal has appeared on NCIS: New Orleans and Chicago Fire. This season she appears on Greenleaf, which is produced by Oprah Winfrey.
Ghildayal juggled her acting with working on her Ph.D. back in Plymouth. “It was stressful for me at first because there isn’t a lot of structure,” she says. “Then I realized that the work I was doing on my Ph.D. was creative, too. Any path you are on can be creative.”
She also found time to start a fashion, innovation and career-centric website called The Blue Bubba which recently topped 100,000 followers. The site is advertiser-supported and is a business, not a hobby. “I wanted to start a business, and I wanted it to be something that didn’t require a lot of capital outlay from me up front, [and] there are so many advertisers looking for the right environment,” says Ghildayal.
And Ghildayal writes poetry. You can follow her on Medium. There may be a book of her poetry coming out later this year.
Ghildayal encourages people to create opportunities for themselves. “There are so many platforms available to people now,” she says. “If you have an idea, you can get your project made and put it out there for people to see. There’s no excuse not to do it. You don’t have to ask anyone’s permission.”
Does Ghildayal ever envision all the different parts of her life coming together? She does.
“Eventually, I want to be the showrunner for a TV series about epidemiologists,” she says. “I hope to create, whether that’s knowledge in the public health sphere, or poetry or TV.”
We’ll just have to watch and wait and see what Ghildayal creates next.
Greenleaf season four airs on OWN and then will be available on Netflix. Ghildayal will appear in episodes 12 and 14.