as Anna May Wong
Anna May Wong is the first Chinese American movie star, she is also arguably THE first Asian-American star who was recognized internationally. She appeared in a lot of silent films, and just like the current misrepresentation in Hollywood, she too was denied an iconic Asian role by MGM studios and they instead cast a German actress. She took a bold step and disliked how she was cast in stereotypical roles and went to Europe to make movies. HOW awesome is that?? To be that bold in such an iconic era, and a restricting era for Hollywood actors. As a current acting student, I find her to be an extremely iconic and influential role model. If she could be that bold and true to finding roles that properly represent her, and go the extra mile to learn her heritage in the 1930s, I can do the same if not more as a student and future working actress.
as Natalie Tran
"Natalie Tran (communitychannel) is an inspiring Asian woman living in Australia, and she goes beyond the basic stereotypes of Asian people. Not only is she an Asian woman in media, Natalie goes above and beyond to inspire others to be their own authentic self. As an entertainer and an online producer on YouTube for 10 years, Natalie Tran creates videos which are a combination of personal monologues and sketches. Most of these videos are based on her own awkward nuances which are relatable to many viewers. Her videos highlights her amazing talents as a comedian and as a role model.
I admire the work she produces for her subscribers. Natalie remains true to her own unique personality and provides creative videos in her own time. Her channel has generated over 1.8 million subscribers and over 575 million views. She is a charming and quirky individual, and has even spoken about issues about Asians in media such as her “Asians in Media Talk” video at Brown University. Her contributions to the YouTube community inspires me to be my own person. She produces content that is truly her own work, and I appreciate how she sticks to her own opinion while coming off as harmless and non-offensive.
To me, being an Asian-American is difficult, amazing, and fulfilling. It encompasses those 3 aspects because it’s not always easy being an Asian-American at times, but it can be made into a fulfilling experience. Being an Asian-American is a vital characteristic of myself and I have come to truly appreciate and embrace this identity. Not only do I not meet the typical Asian stereotypes, I have the ability to design my unique identities and endlessly create myself. I never really fit in with many scenes or groups, but I realized that by embracing my identities I can be fulfilled.
as Debbie Wei
Debbie Wei was the principal of my middle school which was called FACTS (Folk Art Cultural Treasures Charter School). She was one of the founders of the school. This school is located near Philadelphia's Chinatown. If she and many others had not protested, there would have been a casino in place of our school. She definitely cares about giving education to all types of children, whether they are immigrants or not. This middle school is filled with special teachers who seriously cares about their students and ensuring that they are not only learning the typical subjects in school but learning to be open-minded and culturally aware. Not only did she co-found FACTS but she also founded AAU (Asian Americans United). I am not part of AAU but I have a lot of respect for those who are part of it because they really do get involved in the community. I wish I joined clubs throughout my middle school and high school because I think it would have helped me break out of my introverted personality as well as actually contributing to my own community. However, I know it is not too late and I want to start now. That is why I want to be part of this project, to do what I always wish to do and to be a role model to those around me. Going back to Debbie Wei, this is why I see her as a leader. She is someone who have contributed to the Asian community and she continues to do so today. She inspires me to be an activist for Asian Americans as well as all minorities.
as Jason Y. Lee
Jason Y. Lee is a founder of Jubilee Project. This individual stands out because of his commitment to an idea of inspiring change through short stories, with the ultimate goal of empowering and enabling others to do good. It is encouraging to hear about Asian-Americans who are actively pursuing the betterment of this world through the touching stories they create and the awareness they raise. I believe Jason is the epitome of this kind of genuine individual.
as Jenn Im
I first stumbled upon Clothesencounters YouTube videos in 2012 when an uprise of beauty gurus began to form. When I found out that Jenn Im was Korean-American, there was a sense of relativity and ease whenever I watched her videos. I felt connected to her. And as I continued to watch her videos more and more, learning more about who she is and how she portrays her style, I was hooked!
Her style is so incredibly unique and cool that I wanted to try it out myself! I bought my first pair of TUK Creepers and started a journey to find my own “style.” Here I am now, in 2017, wearing mostly black, white, and grey labeling myself as someone who has a monochromatic “look.” I didn’t know why having a unique style was important, or how much it truly meant to me until I saw how she expressed herself with her clothing pieces, creating her own trends and seeing her ooze passion with every bit of it. Jenn also expresses her love for music and reading books, and that always encouraged me! I had more of an urge to attend more concerts/festivals, and it truly is becoming my reality!
Sometimes I find myself wanting to read a book she read and trying to cultivate a lifestyle that would somewhat parallel hers. I didn’t realize how much she had inspired me until I took a step back and thought about the person I was before I started engulfing myself into her YouTube videos and comparing that person to who I am now. She inspires me to be proud of my ethnicity: Korean-American, the Korean culture, having individuality, and most importantly falling in love with the little things in life like a new song, an interesting motif in a book, a thrifted t-shirt that fits perfectly, and the list goes on.
Now she has become so successful, having her own jewelry line, collaborating with SmashBox, Colour Pop, attending many music festivals, travelling the world for events related to her content, which never ceases to amaze me. Most importantly, I love how genuine, transparent, and authentic she is in all of her videos and vlogs. She always wears clothing articles that I want to try to “pull off” but beyond that I want to be able to ooze the confidence and individuality that she expresses so eloquently.
(Lee Yur), Chinese-American
as Ip Man
Ever since I've heard about him, Ip Man has been one of the most iconic Asian-American leader I've looked up to. Ip Man is an amazing martial artist, particularly in the field of Wing Chun. However, he never condoned violence. Fighting for him and his students was the last option. Though he was the best, he was humble and never felt he needed to prove himself to others. His fighting had more meaning than just to see who was tougher or had a better skill set. Ip Man literally fought for his country. When the Chinese were at war, he was challenged by a general who mastered Kung Fu. At first, he didn't want to fight, there was no purpose to it. The general gave him a purpose. One of Ip Man's friends, another master or martial arts, had been killed through the general's assistant. Ip Man had enough and agreed to fight the general. When the general had lost, Ip Man had been shot by the same assistant who killed his friend. This made the Chinese fight back, for Ip Man. Being a Chinese American, these ideals that Ip Man followed everyday seemed uncanny. Though I cannot be like him, he has inspired me to not fight my ethnicity or be ashamed of it, rather embrace and fight for it.
as Auli'i Cravalho
You can never be too young to inspire another individual. Auli'i Cravalho is the sixteen-year-old voice actress behind Disney's recent heroine, Moana. Auli'i’s passion, talent, and humility is incredibly inspiring, especially for someone so young.
Growing up, I despised my culture and I avoided the opportunities to learn more about it. I covered every flaw of my ethnicity, and refused to celebrate my Korean heritage. I remember repeatedly telling my mom that I am American and not Korean. But Auli’i shares her story with grace and maturity. Her genuine devotion to the strength of community at such a young age is heartening. Auli’i recently represented Disney at the Asian Pacific Islander American Scholarship Fund (APIASF) Benefit event to help recognize and highlight the many achievements of Asian American and Pacific Islander students. Auli’i Cravalho has a contagious smile that inspires me to be passionate about life and encourages me to honor my culture—I am Michelle Hyewon Kim, Korean-American graphic designer from Torrance, California, and I am proud of who I am and where I come from.
as Nina Davuluri
Nina Davuluri is an Indian-American spokesperson for civil rights and humanitarian causes. She was the first woman of Indian descent to win the title of Miss America in 2014. I chose to talk about Nina because as an Indian because I've heard, too many times, that my race is not beautiful.
Since I was little, I've constantly heard that to be beautiful you have to be white, you have to be of European decent, and you have to have luscious blonde hair. I had never seen an Indian woman described as beautiful so growing up, I wanted to be like the other white students. Seeing Nina win Miss America brought me such pride and joy to see someone from my country win something that focused a lot on beauty. Indians hold the stereotype that we study to become doctors and engineers or end up in the tech support call center. But Nina broke all of those stereotypes, showing us that we don't have to have a one-track mind or think we can't do anything other than study. Of course it's important to study hard and absorb new information but as a graphic design major, I have learned that i don't have to be a doctor when I grow up. I don't have to do anything that doesn't make me happy just because society thinks I belong in a certain occupation. I am proud of everyone who makes it through medical school and have so much respect for scientists and engineers but understanding that I have more options in life than what I've been told by society is such a relief.
Nina Davuluri proved to the world that Asian-Americans are just as beautiful as any other American. After winning her title, she received a lot of racist backlash and many xenophobic comments. She was attacked for being a terrorist and was even called a Muslim and an Arab by people on social media. Just because her skin is darker than the "typical" Miss America winner, she was called names that had nothing to do with her ethnicity; which is not only disrespectful towards Nina, but is also disrespectful towards Muslim and Arab-Americans. This didn't tear her down though; she built her platform around celebrating diversity and spoke about gender and race equality throughout the United States and India. She is an inspiration to me because she proved to Asian-American women that we have a voice and we are as beautiful as we choose to see ourselves. Nobody can tell us what we are worth just because we look a little different. Nina Davuluri showed us that there is no one true definition of beauty; everyone is beautiful in their own way, inside and out!