Sen’s (9) letter to Malala read on Apple TV+ show “Dear…”


Ava Lipsky and Aryan Palla

Anya Sen (9) shares her love for Malala Yousfzai in the second season of the show “Dear…,” which premiers today. The show’s first season is already available on Apple TV+. 

Each episode of “Dear…” is centered around one famous or influential person along with people they’ve inspired, who write letters about how the subject of the episode impacted their lives. The influential figure then reads and reacts to each letter. Different scenes on the show bring parts of the letters to life. For example, Anya’s letter discussed her experience with activism in elementary school, so part of the show was filmed at a school in Los Angeles. 

Anya wrote her letter to Yousfzai, whose activism in girls education inspired Anya’s own work. Anya has advocated for girls’ education since she was seven years old, she said. “In my letter I talked about various initiatives I’ve taken inspired by Malala and her bravery, including organizing bake sales/lemonade stands, holding a charity chess tournament series, organizing a bookmark making contest, holding an assembly at my elementary school to spread awareness, and creating a fundraising page to raise money.” Sen is a big fan of Malala so appearing on the same show as her was exciting, she said.

Sen became involved with the show after a casting agent reached out to her activism account, @anya_activism, on Instagram. “I post material relating to current events about women’s rights across the world, media relating to feminism, interviews of people, ways people can help the cause of girls’ education, and more,” Sen said. She created the account in December of 2020 to post videos she created working with the Malala Fund and since then has interviewed 

“In terms of other activists, in the past I’ve interviewed Vivian Graubard, an activist for womens’ rights and human trafficking,” Anya said. Graubard has worked in the White House, was a founding member of the United States Digital Service, and served as a senior advisor and chief of staff to the United States Chief Technology Officer. Through the Malala Fund, Anya interviewed two education champion activists from India, Yuman Hussain and Aheli Chowdhury, on the impact of COVID-19 on girls’ education. Anya regularly contributes to Malala Fund’s worldwide digital newsletter publication, Assembly, she said.

After talking to the casting agent and beginning to work with the show, Sen collaborated with the production team to work out logistics, she said. “Someone helped me edit the letter that was to be read on the show and someone else helped set up flight and hotel details so we could travel to LA for the taping.”

Sen flew out to LA to film in April of 2021. She spent two days filming on a set which was a recreation of her room and school to mimic settings she talked about in her letter. “The experience as a whole was really exciting,” she said. “It was really cool to see so many people on set with cameras and a director.” One exciting experience was having the person who created Beyonce’s wigs straighten her hair before filming, she said.

Between filming, Sen attended a studio school and had lunch with her father and her sister, Ayesha Sen (11). A law in California says that Anya must attend studio school for a few hours each day of the taping, she said. A teacher monitored Anya while she worked and asked for her school curriculum since she was missing days of school, Anya explained. Anya said that she attended studio school by herself on the first day of filming, but more kids who appeared as extras on the show were there the second day. Ayesha Sen was casted as herself in a couple of scenes, like running lemonade stands together. Ayesha and Anya both appear in the show’s trailer. “Ayesha and I were lucky enough to be on the show and also receive a stipend which we donated back to girls’ education,” Sen said. “I’ve never really envisioned myself on a TV show before, but when the opportunity came up, I was really excited and knew I wanted to partake in it.”