Why Asian-Americans should be creators, writers, and artists

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For my sketch notes this week, I knew I had to turn to Anna Akana and sure enough a quick search turned up a speech she made when she received the 2016 ISA Impact Award for APA Heritage Month. Her speech regarding Asians in entertainment highlighted the reason why media representation mattered so much. 

She, along with many other Asian children, thought of choosing the practical path in life--the realistic one until her sister committed suicide when Anna was just 17 years old. She didn't laugh for two whole years until one night, she was watching a stand up comedian by the name of Margaret Cho. Anna thought to herself, maybe I could do this too.

This eventually led her to performing stand-up comedy, taking acting classes, writing, editing, directing, producing short films, web series, weekly content on YouTube, building a following, hosting a podcast, running a clothing line, and auditioning. 

Just one face on the TV screen was more than enough to change the entire course of her life. She went from a potential veterinarian or military officer to a content producer, writer, and comedian. Her pieces are thoughtful, funny, heart-wrenching, and inspiring.

I felt tears prickling at my eye when Anna, who had previously been told by the producers that she had landed the lead role with a major studio, found out her role had been given a white women and she suddenly found herself playing the role of the best friend. How could I not shake when she asked her manager, so desperately, "is it because I'm Asian?" and to which her manager replied quietly, "I think so. Nothing else has changed in the last few days"

The biggest takeaway from this speech was the argument she made at the very end. If the Asian community wants to be included, we cannot just demand it. We need carve out our space with our own stories. We need to encourage our peers to be creators, writers and artists and not just doctors, lawyers, and engineers. We all need to be someone's Margaret Cho and we all need to be someone's Iron Man.

Representation matters.

Irene TiComment