Mulan is someone who is extremely different from the society that people view her in. There’s a fine line drawn between the expectations of a woman and a man in the movie, and she actually crosses that line. She wants to pursue something else that her society views as immoral or bad, but she doesn’t let that hinder her perseverance. For me too, in the Tibetan society, there aren’t many girls who works to become financial service leaders, and I want to be the one that breaks that idea and pursues that degree.
People have called me Mulan before, and I’ve never viewed that as a weakness because she’s someone who’s really strong and she did what she wanted to do.
as Bart Kwan
Bart Kwan started off with his friend Joe on YouTube. They were guys who wanted be themselves and post original content online. Bart later revealed that he was joining the marines whilst putting in school work and YouTube work. His channel, Just Kidding Films, gained some success and he expanded it into Just Kidding Films, Just Kidding News, Just Kidding Party, Just Kidding Games, and eventually his own gym too. Being an Asian-American in media with his story really caught people’s attention, and it also inspired me. His perseverance and passion spoke to me because I’m also one to have a lot on my plate. Being involved in 3 clubs right now, 6 classes, an internship, and dance, is a lot but I try to make it work. Bart reminds me of the people in my life who had passion and perseverance. My dad, who was an immigrant in Chinatown, worked as a taxi driver, a chef, a delivery boy, a construction worker, then went into engineering without even his parents' knowledge. So whenever I’m stressed out and doubt myself, these are the people I think of.
I remember when I first came to Baruch. During the first two weeks of school, I was a freshman and literally did not know anybody. I was given a flyer to this event called Kollaboration. Basically it’s an event where they bring in Asian-Americans. One of the main performers was Awkwafina; she was the star of the flyer. I didn’t know who the hell she was and didn’t really look into it or anything, but when she came on stage, all of a sudden she started singing this song called ‘Queef.’ It was just funny and surprising to see this girl rapping about the G train and all these problems in New York City. I thought to myself ‘Holy shit, she’s super confident. She’s just singing whatever the hell she wants, not giving a fuck about what people think about her.’
I looked at myself and had an introspective moment. I was this shy Asian girl; I fit into this stereotype of a quiet girl in class. At that point, I looked up to Awkwafina and I thought, “I want to be like her. I want to not give a damn about what people think. I also do not want to fit into this mold of what people expect girls to be like.” So ever since, I’ve admired her and her confidence. Even her ratchetness is pretty awesome because she pulls it off so effortlessly.
as Wang Leehom
As an Asian-American, I didn’t have any Asian-American role model that I could look up until Wang Leehom came to the scene. He was this young man from upstate New York, studied music, then went over to Taiwan to launch his music career. The way he infused Western music with traditional Chinese music, it just struck me at that time because I didn’t know you could actually do something like that.
What I got out of his influence is that you don’t have to focus on one specific area to succeed. If you put your mind into different areas, then you can flourish. You can be a good singer and be a good programmer. I guess I’m exploring multiple aspects in my life too, like I’m going to school, I’m studying, focusing on finding a job. As a side hobby, I play music, jam with my friends, sing, record and post videos on Facebook and Youtube. I’m having fun while doing everything I can. It’s about exploring a side that you’ve never seen before. And he was this person who gave me hope and it was reassuring to believe that Asian Americans can make it out there, that they could make it to the top.
as Sundar Pichai
He grew up poor, but he still said to himself. “I can do something with my life and get my parents out of poverty.” And that’s exactly what he did. He won a competition where he made the software to play chess on the computer. That’s really what got him to Stanford, and since then he’s only been going higher and higher.
I transferred to Baruch last semester, and I really wasn't sure what to do, where to start, or what my plan for the future was. One of the most famous things that Sundar Pichai said was, “You should step out of your comfort zone, go where you feel insecure, it’s going to push you to do better.” That’s one of the things I stand by, that whatever I do, if you feel insecure it’s a good thing, and if you feel comfortable, you should probably try something new. I’ve implemented that within Student Life. I was never really into clubs, but I was now saying, “hey, let me give it a shot” and it ended up getting me into leadership roles. I also implement it into my academic life where I try new classes and develop new skills. That’s also something Sundar Pichai does. He’ll take up anything, he’ll learn a little bit of marketing, a little bit of science, and despite being an all engineering guy, he’ll learn about different segments of what’s around in the world.
as Mahfuzul Islam
Mahfuzul Islam, a Bangladeshi-American, is in his mid-20s right now. He attended Fordham University for undergrad, Harvard University for graduate, and is now a professor. Similarly to most immigrants, Bangladeshis immigrated to the states because they had a dream; a dream of giving their kids the golden ticket opportunity of education. He studied his passions in international relations, fulfilled his parents dreams and is now fulfilling his own dreams. He questioned his identity of whether he is Bangladeshi or American. However, he polished the idea of creating something beautiful with both.
Along with his cousin, he created a business called Jhal NYC. Mahfuzul and his cousin wanted to help the people who helped them. Therefore, they employed Bangladeshi women. Although the women don’t speak fluent English, their love for food speaks more passion. Mahfuzul is not only using this platform to showcase his love for food and culture, but also his respect for middle-age women. He is educated, went through all those struggles, and is now making a difference. A lot of people tend to interpret Bangladeshi food as Indian food, but we have our own ways, our own flavors and our own people. We have a lot of similarities but to me, he is very inspiring because of how he highlights our culture in his passion and dreams.
as Michi Weglyn
I actually found out about Michi Weglyn not too long ago. I saw a random article online titled, “Japanese American Activists You Never Heard About.” I was surprised because I considered myself a knowledgeable person and I had not heard about any of these women.
Michi Weglyn was one of the women mentioned in that list and her story really stuck with me. By learning about her, I found out that a large part of being an activist is having the courage to spend your time and resources supporting your fellow Americans, even if they are immigrants or of a minority background. You have to protect them from the systematic racism and bigotry.
This is why she inspires me. I want to be an ally, not just for Japanese-Americans, but for women, LGBTQ, black people, and other minorities.
as Nick Ut
I first heard of Nick Ut (Huỳnh Công Út) learning about the Vietnam War in high school, and I stumbled upon his story. He had an older brother named Huỳnh Thanh My, who was a photojournalist in the Associated Press at what was then called Saigon (now Ho Chi Minh City). In 1965, Huỳnh Thanh My was killed in action, two years later Nick decided to take photos at the age of 16. In 1972 Nick heard about military activity in an area 25 miles from Saigon, so he made his way over. There, he captured four falling Napalm bombs that missed their target and landed on a village. He witnessed badly burnt children, covered in Napalm, running towards him on a highway. He captured an image that would later be published on front pages worldwide, and impact the perception of the war forever. The picture, called The Terror of War, went on to win a Pulitzer Prize, and the girl in the picture, Kim Phuc, who Nick rushed to the hospital would go on to become the UNESCO Goodwill ambassador in 1994.
Nick was only 21 years old when he captured that photo. At 21, I was worrying about my microeconomics class. It really helps put things in perspective. He was only 21 and he witnessed the darkest, cruelest aspect of humanity. Nick would later immigrate to the U.S. and I think this is a great example of an immigrant who expresses one of the most American ideals— the freedom of the press. He is one of the most American people I know, and I hope his story would change people’s perspective on what it means to be Asian-American, an immigrant, and an American.
as Bart Kwan
He grew up in a single family household. As a teenager, he was a troublemaker and even joined gangs. At the age of 18, before he went to jail for committing a crime, he saw his mom crying. Being an Asian-American, we wind up carrying the weights of our parents’. We have to remember where our parents came from and how they strive to get to where they are just for the best of the family. At that moment, he broke down as he came into realization of his own actions. He decided to enter the military to instill discipline within him and to pursue his college degree at UCLA. Later on, he created a YouTube channel called Just Kidding Films and is the founder of a fitness facility called Barbell Brigade. Even though he has committed crimes, he never let his past get in his way of creating a brighter future for himself. He started fresh and got his life back together. He created a community for Asians to not only relate with one another but also to break Asian stereotypes of frail, feminized model minority citizens. He is everything I want to be and more. He has inspired me to start a little business of my own, to pursue my dreams and not something others expect me to do.