Good ‘Karma:’ Rice alum turns reality TV star on Bravo’s ‘Family Karma’

When Shaan Patel returned to his native Miami after preparing for a career in architecture at Rice University, he didn’t expect he’d also add reality television to his resume — but that’s exactly what happened.

Shaan Patel. Photo credit: Tommy Garcia/Bravo.

Shaan Patel. Photo credit: Tommy Garcia/Bravo.

Patel, who graduated from Rice in 2014 and 2016 with bachelor’s degrees in art and architecture, respectively, is now a cast member on the Bravo reality show “Family Karma.” The show, which recently wrapped up its first season, focuses on a group of Indian families living and working in Miami and shares inside stories on their daily lives, relationships and traditions.

“We have our own kind of community here in Miami,” Patel said. “It’s very special, because it’s actually very small. There aren’t a lot of Indian families in Miami, so it’s very interesting.”

Bravo apparently agreed, because producers reached out to see if some of Miami’s Indian-American families would be interested in sharing their stories.

“My father came here in the 1970s and we’ve basically been here since then,” Patel said. “And he met a bunch of other families then and we kind of grew up with them. When Bravo interviewed us they loved it and wanted to tell our stories, so that’s kind of where the show came from.”

Patel, who works at a real estate design and development company he founded with his father, Dipak Patel, said he thinks Bravo was drawn to the authenticity of his community and the relationships in it.

“I think with reality shows, people are always looking for genuine stories, and they don’t want it to feel produced or fake,” he said. “And with this story, you know, there’s nothing more real than your relationship with your parents or the kids you grew up with. And there’s no way to fake that.

“It’s also our culture and our home, and we kind of let everybody into the way we grew up and how we grew up together,” he continued. “And I think that’s special as well.”

Shaan Patel grew up in a multigenerational family on a compound comprised of three separate homes. The reality show has brought them even closer, he said, because it’s allowed them to talk through shared experiences they otherwise might not have discussed.

Patel said he’s also happy to represent his heritage.

“Growing up, there weren’t any people of Indian descent on TV for us to watch,” he said. “I think this has been a huge moment for young people of color to see something like this on TV. We’re just very proud to be able to tell some of those diverse stories of Indian Americans. And we’re hoping there can be more.”

Although being filmed was a little nerve-wracking at first, Patel said he quickly grew used to it.

“You do it so much that it becomes secondhand,” he said of being on camera. “So it feels like you can really kind of be yourself and it’s just another aspect of your life.”

For more information on the show or to watch the first season, visit https://www.bravotv.com/family-karma.

About Amy McCaig

Amy is a senior media relations specialist in Rice University's Office of Public Affairs.