Renee Airya and Akira Chan struggled to find relatable resources for new families, so they started creating their own
Story by Andy Vasoyan | Photos by Zsuzsi Steiner
Media producer, brain tumor survivor, visitor to Richard Branson’s private island: at 44 years old, Renee Airya is not your typical mom. The self-described healer and speaker was living an international bohemian lifestyle when she found out that she was pregnant — at the age of 43.
Airya had been working abroad for RARE media, the company she and husband Akira Chan started in 2014. The “conscious media company” has clients all over the world, which includes Deepak Chopra’s Chopra Center and the Mindvalley University in Estonia.
The couple decided to transition their lifestyle to one that would be more child-friendly, eventually settling in Playa Vista. They also worked to find more information on their impending parenthood, which was — surprisingly — a bit scarce.
“We would get on Google and ask question by question, and some of the information and answers we would get back we would connect with, but most of it, we just didn’t,” Airya says. “So that was around the time that we thought: We have a production company. We’re already in a community of such empowered people — experts, and authors. What can we do to bring this out to the world?”
The answer, at first, was a short video series called “The Power of Pregnancy,” about “empowerment principles while being pregnant.” That series then lead to the conception of “Little Humans,” a documentary project with expert interviews, footage of their son Osiris, and useful tips about the parenting experience of the kind that Airya had been looking for during her pregnancy.
“I was really surprised by the lack of empowering pregnancy information I could find,” Airya says. “Most of the conversations people were having with me were around … all the things I would have to buy. I felt the dialogue was very consumer-oriented, and I wanted more depth in the conversation.”
“Little Humans” adds depth through human experience: 14 experts and modern-day families tackle subjects ranging from parent-to-parent relationships such as co-parenting, external influences such as the use of cell phones and social media, and being emotionally intelligent.
“A lot if it is taking best wisdom and practices that we were seeing … and putting it together in an organized way,” Chan says. “The reason we’re doing this is not to tell people how to parent — no one wants to be told how to parent — but to provide inspiring stories and inspiring practices that may work for you, so you can figure out how you want to do it.”
The couple is planning on premiering their documentary in Playa Vista near the end of the year, but fitting all those weighty topics (others include education, growth and parental rituals) into one 40-minute documentary would be impossible. So, in true Playa Vista fashion, the “Little Humans” documentary will also be getting a sibling “Little Humans” app to accompany it.
“The unique differential with this parenting app is that we’ve divided transformational parenting into six different pillars that make it really easy for people to integrate these lessons into their lives,” Airya says.
“All of those [pillars] come together to form a really holistic look at modern parenting today, which is changing, like, every day, every week,” Chan adds. “There’s a lot of information out there, but just not a lot of human storytelling and direct guidance and learning that we can see or find easily from other parents.”
Finding storytellers was not hard for Airya and Chan. Two are neighbors; one who lives in their building, and another who lives two blocks away from their Runway apartment.
“My community are my friends, and they were a big inspiration for me to come,” Airya says. “We would love to premiere [the movie] here in Playa Vista. It would just be very meaningful for us, and I think, for the other families.”
While the local premiere of the movie is aiming at a release after filming wraps in September, the online additions will be offered separately via a partnership with Mindvalley University, followed by a release of the app. With both a global and local distribution, Airya and Chan are aiming for “Little Humans” to cast as wide and as helpful a net as possible.
“If we can really be a resource that can assist parents in feeling more empowered and more comfortable and safer in their parenthood,” Airya says, “they will be able to really be there for their children and provide an environment and a relationship that allows them to thrive.”
Visit LittleHumans.com for more information about Airya and Chan’s production company.