Being a lesbian in China was hard for Lexi Zhang. After she came out, Lexi’s family shamed her, and she fell into depression. Leaving behind a "toxic" environment, Lexi immigrated to Canada, where she began building a new life for herself, and literal homes for others–really tiny ones. Many Asians can relate to this: sacrificing the majority of your life trying to please your parents. After college, when Lexi realized she liked girls and came out to her family, she also learned that she would no longer be able to please them–because she was gay. Her long-term partner, Da Cheng, became a cornerstone in Lexi’s journey back to herself. They now live together in Calgary, where Lexi has joined a tiny home construction company. She is working towards becoming a Red Seal carpenter and has learned about her own strength through this journey. She also has learned that the LGBTQIA+ community is stronger when each member finds their individual power. And for ordinary girls like her, who may not have believed they can live out of the box that other people have placed them in, Lexi says you need to believe in yourself enough to try.
Fan Qinhui, records sounds of a quiet trail in Taiping Mountain, Taiwan to find warning signs of environmental change. Qinhui says listening can help you create a relationship with land--and listening in the quiet trail isn’t about hearing silence, it’s about hearing clearly. Taiwan’s dense population and narrow land doesn’t make it easy to hear nature without people, cars, or planes–so Qinhui records at 5 am before anyone arrives. She isn’t focused on the quietness of the quiet trail–she’s documenting sounds of a monsoon, forest birds chirping in the fog, and how sounds change in the four seasons. Though Qinhui didn’t study biology, she’s gradually created a unique sound map. She’s translated this sound map into a website where you can hear what species there are and see what they look like. She encourages everyone to take the 1km path quietly, and change our way of listening and reconnecting with the land.
Heesco, a Mongolian-Australian artist known for his murals, speaks on being born under communist Mongolia, and how he used graffiti to escape. Today, when Heesco paints with the next generation of Mongolian artists, he reminds them that dreams are greater than environment. When Mongolia’s economy collapsed overnight, Heesco’s mum moved to Poland, where he began drawing for his schoolmates to avoid being picked on for being a “foreigner”. From an early age, Heesco was drawn (no pun intended) to graffiti because it was a culture built by kids, and rooted in freedom of expression. He also loved that it cut out galleries, critics, and collectors from dictating what art is, or isn’t. Heesco shares that as a kid growing up in a rough area, he can empathize with how difficult it can be to keep dreams alive and not fall into depression. Today, he is an ambassador for ‘Lantuun Dohio’, a non-profit that crowdfunds to build services and libraries for children in Mongolia. He paints with Mongolian children, and has learned that creating on walls with them is healing and inspiring to them both.
In 1969, a bunch of Asian-Americans would get high, drink, and write til the wee hours of the morning. ‘Gidra’, the punchy and provocative voice that was formed, became the most influential periodical of its time. Ending when the Vietnam War did, Gidra was a unique lifeline in the 70’s because anybody could write about anything that they wanted, including the rise of anti-Asian sentiments. Randomly named after ‘Godzilla’ character, King Ghidorah, Gidra’s impact was so immense that it paved the way for many newspapers to follow naming themselves after monsters, and just as randomly. Today, a mother daughter duo have revived Gidra as a zine and community hub, where people can address their identities, feelings, and issues rising for Asian-Americans. But, as original members get older, Gidra needs contributions to keep the platform alive.
Leng the Barbarian is not a gangster, he’s a big brother in a family–one where male members endure 13 seconds of violence to belong, and female members (depending on if they’re “sweet” or “strong”) must dance or drink alcohol. This initiation, Leng explains, is a challenge meant to attract like-minded people: strong, determined, perseverant. This family has house rules, including not doing cocaine and amphetamines, or anything that can “ruin their lives”. They take care of one another like a family does, sharing everything from money and food to jobs and opportunities. In 2017, Leng founded The Barbarian, a group that was aimed to be independent, creative, and loud. As a child growing up in the slums, he had experienced watching fatal overdoses on his way to school, and grew up to become a thief buying drugs. Deeply inspired by Chicano gang culture and style, and listening to Mexican rappers like Lil Rob and Mr Yosie, Leng was drawn to how gentle the culture was from how they dance to iron their clothes. Chicano, a chosen identity for Mexicans who immigrated to Los Angeles, was once a term of derision and then adopted as an expression of defiance towards white assimilation. Not only did Leng integrate Chicano gang style into The Barbarian aesthetic, he built an imported clothing business focused on Chicano streetwear. He wants people to raise children with an open mind, and learn about Chicano culture by wearing it. Leng believes it’s their recognizable style that has made The Barbarians a target for police today.
Chinese-Australian sculptor NC Qin turns fragile glass into weapons and armour. Qin is petite, mighty, and determined. She believes weapons are elegant. Qinn’s art, which she describes as brute, is inspired by Chinese history, Greek mythology, and especially the bedtime stories her dad would share. She quickly became obsessed with kingdoms and heroes, but noticed that there’s always a flaw that causes the hero’s downfall. Qin began tying this into her practice as a sculptor by reflecting on her own flaw: pride. Though today Qin is known for sculpting glass, she first began sculpting with light in high school. She performs in 8200 kilos of glass and nothing else, even though it’s considered risqué to be nude in public. Rebellious and respectful, Qin explains working with a contradictory material like glass, both fragile and solid, can "reveal--and obscure" enough. She says the sensitivity and complexity of glass has taught her more about vulnerability, preciousness, and how to listen.
Satica Nhem is a singer/songwriter hailing from Long Beach, California. Growing up watching MTV, she didn’t see Asian-American artists that looked like her. Now she expresses herself through music while navigating and embracing her identity as a Cambodian-American. Satica was born to refugee parents who survived the Khmer Rouge and made a home in the US. She developed a love of music early in life, learning the guitar and writing poetry as an emotional outlet as a teen. She composed her first song at the age of 13. Her music reflects her life: her roots in the LBC and Cambodia, the strength and resiliency of her family, and overcoming traditional standards of beauty to embrace her own beauty.
“I wish they would portray me more as an artist,” says Nadi, a female tattooist and owner of Moon Blue Ink in Korea. Despite the negative stereotypes shown in Western media, Nadi is one of many young Koreans who have fully embraced tattoos, and is making them her own. From the first time she saw a tattoo by chance on the street, and saw how the drawing on the person’s body moved as they moved, she knew tattooing was her calling. But when she started, there were no apprenticeships or classes to take. She had to find tattoo artists and ask them to teach her. Her shop has now been open for 7 years, every day she explores her style while providing for her family. Now, she and her husband hope to expand Moon Blue to a location abroad. She hopes that it will help her son expand his horizons too.
When the government fails to protect, you turn to each other. This has always been the case, and in the 60s and 70s, the Asian civil rights movement was gaining momentum. Young Asian people were demanding equal rights, promoting anti-war and anti-imperialism during the Vietnam War, and building community with Black, Latinx, and Indigenous people of the United States. Since the Black civil rights campaigns that sparked the civil rights discourse, New Yorkers like Sunny Moy used his voice to fix issues in Chinatown. Sunny says that his era of civil rights protestors knew each other because there weren’t many Chinese Immigrants in Chinatown. When it comes to the difference between the 60s vs. now Sunny says, “We got more Asian kids who are highly educated, more than any other time in America. They should speak up more, and organize rallies.” Current day New York - Asians like Jack Lang and Oliver Pras are leading Stop Asian Hate rallies and redirecting politician’s attention to priorities Asian lives. Jack and Oliver felt that seeing Asian Hate crimes in their Chinatown - a safe haven for Asians- radicalized them. Young New Yorkers are banding once again to build a collective that won’t be overlooked by politicians that are supposed to be in their best interest.
Luciana Watanabe from Sao Paulo is a 16x Brazilian Sumô champion and a 2x world runner-up in the World Games. Luciana could be considered an unusual competitor, because in Japanese culture, women have long been banned from entering, or even touching, the wrestling ring. Luciana brings us into the world of Sumô in Brazil, which connects her as a mixed-raced Japanese-Brazilian to her Japanese roots. Sumô was introduced and practiced in Brazil when the first Japanese immigrants entered the country. Nowadays, 80% to 90% are Brazilians who practice Sumô at facilities like @Sumo_saopaulo . Luciana is challenging Sumô as one of Brazil’s first female rikishi. She will use Sumô to exchange cultures and teach Brazilians how to be warriors.
Huỳnh Thị Cẩm Tiên is the only African-Vietnamese to compete in a Miss Universe Vietnam Contest. During the competition, some praised her dark skin and mixed appearance, but viewers and judges also told her that she didn’t represent Vietnam because of her mixed-race identity. Despite the racist criticisms about how her skin color cannot represent Vietnam, she remained self confident during the competition and in doing so, found a way to bring Cameroonian culture and Vietnamese cultures together. When Tiên was younger, she would get tone-deaf comments from her friends about her curly hair and melanin skin. While Tiên experienced racism, her mother wanted Tiên to feel confident in her natural features by accepting herself. Her mother taught Tiên to stop seeking validation from others and to live a life that would build and prioritize her happiness. Tiên is currently a fashion designer making clothes so that people who wear her clothes can feel confident about who they are.
“Nail art is a form of self-expression, and it should be genderless” says Hayato Shiomi from Nail ZEROPLUS . The interior craftsman-turned-nail tech has a two-month waiting list, but he still wants more people of all genders to use nail art as a way to express who they are. Shiomi was extremely nervous about changing careers, about holding women' hands. His father was also worried about the career change, but not because he cared about the prestige of Shiomi’s job like some Asian parents. His dad was worried because the entrepreneurial life is hard. But instead of discouraging or manipulating Shiomi based on his fear, this Asian dad quietly prepared him by buying entrepreneurial books to help Shiomi start his own business. 15 years later, he’s not only surviving, he’s considered a veteran, having won many nail art awards, followers on social and clients who can’t get enough of his designs.
Many call him their grandpa! Harumichi Shibasaki is more than a regular painter. Through each brushstroke and youtube upload, he heals the hearts of his 1.4 million subscribers. These life lessons were hard-earned through his own life, when as a young painter he faced a serious creative rut and hard past after WWII, but he never gave up. Seeing each watercolor as a battle, he courageously picks up his paintbrush and cheers us on to tackle our own battles, and in the process gained millions of adoring fans who look up to him as a grandpa.
When the fifth pandemic hit Hong Kong this year, the city saw over 200 daily deaths, causing a coffin shortage. Enter Wilson Tong, CEO of LifeArt Asia, Hong Kong’s eco-friendly casket provider. Wilson and his team became one of the few casket manufacturers in Hong Kong that supported the city at a crucial time. This is how Wilson Tong helps families transition their loved ones from earth in the most eco-friendly way.
Shirong Wu believes that she was born at the right time to play Xiao in the play White Pearl. Before joining White Pearl, Shirong says “I went into the audition room and the whole team was white and there were all these confused Asian girls in the room. They wanted us to do a little Kung Fu sequence and I don’t know how to do Kung Fu.” After that experience, Shirong Wu would never say just ‘yes’ to anything and to reject rolls that typecast her. She believes that these stereotypical Asian characters written for her without her Asian heritage and culture in mind were tiring her and the audience. Wanting more representation in theater, she was able to find Anchuli Felicia King’s White Pearl. Anchuli Felicia King’s White Pearl is about six Asian women - all from different parts of Asia - are having the worst day at their office at a cosmetic company. The play observes why beauty companies continue to uphold white beauty standards, how colorism is deeply rooted in Asian beauty standards, and intercultural racism and prejudice within Asian cultures. Shirong felt that she came at the right time when everybody was hungry for better representation in their entertainment and to bring attention to problems within the Asian community.
How do you honor your heritage? Diego Risco Chang honors his Chinese ancestry by sharing his culture at the Chinese Charity Society in Peru. As a member, he continues to teach and practice at Peru’s first lion and dragon dance group to promote both cultures. He welcomes everybody to experience his traditional lions and dragon dance — a centuries old performance to attract good Omens and repel bad energy. Diego does not choose one or the other. He chose to live his truth by merging his Peruvian and his Chinese culture to create a new rich culture.
Marina Fujiwara (@mudazukuri) makes useless things. The plot twist? She’s a professional inventor. She doesn’t see this as a waste of time or money–on the contrary, she believes this is how you convert failure to success. . Her 無駄づくり, a practice in inventing useless products, juxtaposes a world that builds systems and things to be more efficient. “We focus too much on efficiency and functionality and by not observing the opposite we tend to overlook and leave ideas on the table,” says Marina.
10,905 reports of Asian hate incidents were reported from March 2020 to Dec 2021. That’s a 361% increase from the year before. And because of language barriers and unfamiliarity with complex legal systems, the actual number of attacks is likely far greater. STOPH8 is an SMS chatbot that tracks the reporting of hate incidents. Users can send and receive text messages via mobile devices by texting (786748) which spells STOPHATE to receive immediate assistance. Like a textable '911'. Using this process, reporting hate crimes will be as familiar and accessible as sending a text. The more we can capture the reports, the more we can seek justice for victims, and the more policy and resources can be distributed to the community that need it most. Text 786748 (STOPH8) to Report Asian Hate Crimes See www.reporthate.info for more info
According to the NYPD, 176 Asian hate crime incidents have been reported since 2020. As the Asian community in NYC cries out for solutions from their imminent community and protection from their elected officials, the NYPD Anti-Asian Hate Crime Task Force was formed to give Asian hate crimes special attention to a community. While this has great potential, the current Anti-Asian Hate Crime Task Force is run by volunteers. When the regular Hate Crime Task Force is a team of paid investigators, do you think NYPD is giving enough attention to this matter? Karen King, the co-Chair of the Pro Bono Committee for Asian American Bar Association says “There are many task forces around, NYPD as well as the hate crimes units in the prosecutor's offices and different politicians have their own task forces designed to address hate crimes. The biggest problems are the accessibility and the lack of transparency.”
Filipino designer Wilson Limon at @ninofranco.ph is one of the country’s greatest slow fashion advocates. By working with the T’boli ethno-linguistic group, he’s trying to preserve Philippine craftsmanship as well as make clothing that can be worn on an everyday basis.. The result: a mix of intricate, traditional textiles as well as contemporary, everyday clothing. “Everything is handmade, not mass produced. So most of their pieces are actually hand embroidery and it takes T’boli artisans six weeks to make an item.” When @catriona_gray the 2018 Miss Universe from the Philippines, wore pieces from Niño Franco, it was a big moment of visibility for Wilson and the T’boli community. For the roughly 60,000 population who face losing their heritage, the collaboration helps preserve their traditional knowledge and livelihoods. “We don't want this to be hidden in the mountains. We want to expose their talents to the world.”
Adelina Pang is one of Singapore's top Feng Shui Masters. She is in high demand and her clients range from people with private jets to hotel brands to understand how good energy flows through the environment it occupies. Her practice is rooted in getting her clients to be part of the Feng Shui journey - to manifest the outcomes they want she wants to have her clients be intentional with their actions to see better results in their lifestyle. Adalina says, “destiny is within your own hands”. You create your own destiny.”
In the last 5 years, 814 people in Pakistan were electrocuted to death from bad electric wiring. In culturally conservative households, where male electricians can’t enter homes without a male present, an all-female electrician team has been a missing workforce. Bakhtawar is a Roshni Baji, a 100-women team that has served more than 140,000 homes. Roshani Baji Program has helped women in Pakistan join the workforce by providing training to become certified female electricians. ‘It gets difficult out in the fields, but this should not stop us. Ladies listen to us and support us. I am proud that I am spreading awareness in people’s lives.”
November 26th 2021: GuiYing Ma, was sweeping the side of her Jackson Heights apartment in Queens and she was suddenly struck by a man in her head repeatedly with a rock. Her husband Zhanxin Gao was visited by the NYPD and he was devastated to discover that his wife suffered severe damage to her head. Zhanxin was at work when heard that GuiYing’s condition unexpectedly turned for the worse. After fighting for several weeks in a coma, their 40 years of marriage was cut short. Zhanxin was left with grief. He is now taking his beloved GuiYing’s ashes back to Liaoning, China - he felt that staying in America was purposeless and he is prioritizing being around his supportive grandchildren. Data compiled by the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism states that anti-AAPI hate crime went up 339% nationally last year. Reports on race and gender based reporting have increased, but beyond the statistics we can't measure what Zhanxin is currently feeling. EST Media is asking our viewers to donate financially to his GoFundMe or their time by sharing this story. His page has surpassed his financial goals to cover for GuiYing’s funeral and for medical bills, but he is still accepting donations. You can find the link to the Gofundme here https://www.gofundme.com/f/help-an-asian-lady-assaulted-by-hate-crime-in-nyc
Quan Bui - Vietnam’s Pole Mermaid - is a world class professional pole dancer and instructor who’s made it his mission to promote body confidence and self love through sexy dancing. Quan’s classes demonstrate and teach other dancers to find their inner mermaid - to feel powerful on the pole.
Norah Yang is changing comedy by delivering her jokes in both Chinese and English. Well aware of the ordeals facing women, she uses comedy to push for gender equality - POV that is missing in a male-dominated profession. As more women take the stage, the landscape of China’s comedy scene is evolving, and Norah Yang is leading that change as the Punchline Queen. Well aware of the ordeals facing women, she uses comedy to push for gender equality. As more and more women take the stage, the landscape of China’s comedy scene is evolving, and Norah Yang is leading that change as the punchline queen.
Humaira Chuhan fell in love with somebody outside her Pakistani culture. But when she told her dad about her interracial relationship with a Black man, she faced a traumatic rejection and was almost disowned. She channelled her experience through art and shared it on the Blindian Project - an online community supporting Black and Brown people in interracial relationships. Soon, she got floods of DMs from people with similar stories, making her believe even more that love is love, no matter what!