University of Southern California &
(Thao-Uyen Mai), Vietnamese-American, usc
as Nguyễn Ngọc Như Quỳnh, "Mother Mushroom"
As Vietnamese-American girl, I’ve always struggled to find role models that look like me. Can you think of any prominent Vietnamese women (who are not Youtubers) that you can name?
In this spirit, I love that this project highlights diverse leaders in diverse fields. I specifically wanted to recognize a Southeast Asian leader in a field other than entertainment.
I chose to recreate this picture of Nguyễn Ngọc Như Quỳnh, a Vietnamese blogger. She goes by the name, 'Mẹ Nấm, or Mother Mushroom. She has blogged about social issues and human rights violations in Vietnam. Quỳnh first began blogging when she visited a hospital in Vietnam. She saw queues of people waiting in the hot sun, begging and being ignored because they didn’t have enough money to bribe officials. In 2016, she was arrested for conducting propaganda against the Vietnamese government. Her contributions to human rights have been innumerable, and she has been recognized by the United States government and the UN.
(정유진), Korean-American, usc
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.
(Hoàng Thảo Ly), Vietnamese-American, Usc
as Ming-Na Wen
Ming-Na Wen is a famous Chinese-American actress, most well-known for her portrayal of Fa Mulan, from the classic Disney film. She is also currently in the ABC TV action show, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. In both Mulan and Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., Wen portrays strong female characters, which I find inspiring. Her characters, Mulan and Melinda May, are independent and have the ability to fend for themselves. In a world where we are constantly bombarded with media that largely lacks Asian-American representation, finding a strong Asian-American lead character is encouraging to me and other Asian-American women in the community.
Being an Asian-American is unique, because it is a relatively new identity - whatever we do now will set a precedent for future generations of Asian-Americans. If we advocate for awareness in media now, we can create a more inclusive and diverse community.
as Anna Akana
In June 2014, Anna Akana uploaded the highly popular video "How to put on your face “Anna Akana" to her YouTube channel. I, on the other hand, was lounging around the house in a limbo state of constant worry about the future. I had just graduated from high school and was about to step into "the rest of my life" as a university student. This video came at the perfect time. It simply just made me feel better and gave me confidence in myself and my future. I immediately binge-watched all of Akana's videos and became a devoted subscriber ever since.
Akana defies stereotypes of Asian-American women simply by being who she is: a mixed race APA, independent, female filmmaker. She's unafraid to tackle big social, cultural, political, and ethical issues with comedy, making her content exceptionally clever and woke. The real emotions, experiences, and struggles she shares in her content empower her viewers to be kind (to others and themselves) and authentic. She inspires me to work hard, be ambitious, and never compromise who I am, and continues to do so with every
(Lusihui Pan), chinese-American, Chapman
as Sessue Hayakawa
I found out about Sessue Hayakawa only very recently when I was trying to learn more about API representation in the media. For a long time I have been frustrated at mainstream media's portrayals of Asian people of all genders as frail, nerdy, exotic, submissive, quiet, etc. Asian men are seen as less masculine and I believe that toxic hyper-masculinity in certain all-Asian-male spaces (Asian fraternities have some of the most severe or fatal hazing incidents) are a result of Asian men overcompensating for the narrative that media falsely tells about them. To learn about Sessue, who was a sex symbol before the changed narrative and perception of Asian men (due to white men's fear that Asian men would steal their white women) was very interesting. To learn about Sessue's own disappointment and advocacy against the types of racist and exotified roles he received is important in connection to what we fight against in the media today.
Sessue Hayakawa was an actor in the silent era who experience popularity and fame as big as Charlie Chaplin in his prime time in the 1910s and 1920s. He was often casted as a leading character, the exotic, dangerous and forbidden lover, who was left by the white woman for a proper white man. He is now forgotten, but I think continue to highlight his acting career and also his advocacy for better media representation is important because we are still fighting that fight almost 100 years later.
I was interested in this topic because I have strong interests in working in the TV industry and am passionate about media literacy and representation.