Saturday, March 18, 2023

Tahira Allen: Portrait of a Storyteller | NASA's Digital Lead for Planetary Science

Tahira Allen: Portrait of a Storyteller | NASA's Digital Lead for Planetary Science

“Even if the people around you don’t look like you, that doesn’t mean you don’t have a place at the table.”

Tahira Allen is a lot of things—Turkish, African American, millennial, young, professional—but shy is not one of them. As one of the Social Media Specialists for the agency, Allen uses her identity as a way to relate with the audiences she communicates with.

“My identity, being as mixed as it is, allows me to be especially open-minded and inclusive of niche communities and cultures,” says Allen. “Space is an international arena, and the science and technological feats and discoveries are not shut off to the U.S. — they are global.”

As a communicator and storyteller for the agency, Allen’s job is to bring space to the public in an approachable way. One of Allen’s main goals is to show our audiences that the people behind NASA are just that—“just everyday people who laugh and enjoy the same things they do!”

Allen’s favorite part about being the voice of NASA is being at the center of ground-breaking discoveries: “I get to take these amazing topics, merge them with everyday conversations and make them relatable.”

Everyday, Allen is inspired by the increasing amount of diversity she sees in the workforce—but she encourages young women of different heritages to “take that moonshot” and put themselves out there.  

And although Allen thrives in digital mediums, she also urges her audiences to reach out to unfamiliar faces, forge personal bonds and embrace human stories.

“Really, at the end of the day all of my identities—be it Turkish, African American, only child, Southern female millennial—have taught me the value of family, human inclusivity and being a strong, independent woman.”

“Starting to host live broadcasts [brought up] so many emotions: terrified, excited, proud.

And people have told me, ‘Oh my goodness, I feel like I would freeze up when the camera’s on,’ but that was the most natural position for me because I felt, just a little bit, like I was back on stage, cheerleading. You’re standing on the stage, the lights are off, you're in your head. And then the lights turn on, the music drops, and you’re on a world stage in front of thousands of people doing an incredibly difficult three-minute routine and who knows, you might even be injured right now, but you don't have an option. When those lights and that music comes on, it's almost like something bigger than yourself takes over and you just have to go.

And that is the exact same feeling when they're counting you down for a live broadcast: “3, 2, 1. Hello, welcome to NASA. My name is Tahira Allen!” Before something like that happens, I am terrified. I am sitting here thinking, what is about to come out of my mouth? But just like with cheer, whatever you do, you keep moving. I don't know what's going to come out my mouth. But I need to keep talking and just embrace fear. Embrace being uncomfortable.

…You cannot grow without approaching the fear, embracing the fear, and then pushing past it."

Image Description: Science Mission Directorate Digital Lead Tahira Allen poses for a portrait Wednesday, Feb. 8, 2023, at the Mary W. Jackson NASA Headquarters building in Washington. 

Story Credit: Tahira Allen/Thalia Patrinos
Image Credit: NASA/Keegan Barber
Release Date: February 8, 2023

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