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May is Asian Pacific American Heritage Month, a time when we join together to pay tribute and celebrate the generations of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders who have enriched America’s history.
The month of May was chosen to commemorate the arrival of the first Japanese immigrants to the United States on May 7, 1843, and also to mark the anniversary of the completion of the transcontinental railroad on May 10, 1869. The majority of the workers who laid the tracks were Chinese immigrants.
However, despite these very visible and often vocalized contributions, it has been evident that Asians in Hollywood films, TV shows, the media and various other industries have been subjected to unfair stereotyping and under-representation. The erasure of Asian and Asian American communities not only perpetuates the idea that there is still a detachment between Asian and American culture, but it leaves people wanting to know if they, too, can ascend into the upper echelons of respective industries despite not visibly seeing themselves present.
The erasure of Asian Americans
Even when there isn’t erasure, much of the history of Asian Americans in cinema and media representation has often leaned on offensive and stereotypical caricatures. Not to mention, that representation has been few and far between — according to Time, a report showed that while Asian Americans made up 5.4 percent of the U.S. population, they represented just 1.4 percent of lead characters in studio films in 2014.
Today, stars like Constance Wu, Awkwafina, Mindy Kaling, Sandra Oh, Randall Park, Kal Penn and countless others are helping to redefine the Asian perspective and narrative in Hollywood — but what about lifestyle industries?
As fashion and beauty blogs — independent of the stamp of approval from large media companies — have skyrocketed to the mainstream, the conversation remains on where Asian American representation falls in the spectrum.
“I feel like there are many different Asian looks, and many looks are underrepresented,” makeup artist Ta Ming Chen said in 2019. “There needs to be more diversity so people can notice there are different kinds of Asian beauty, not just one kind … [More representation] can help people understand more about Asian cultures.”
Nikita Dragun is a transgender YouTuber who first got her start in 2014 by sharing makeup tips with her followers. In March 2019, Dragun launched her cosmetics line, Dragun Beauty, which not only sold out in 12 hours but is also one of the first makeup brands to be owned by a trans woman.
Nabela Noor is a first-generation Bangladeshi American creator, activist and entrepreneur. She uses her voice and platform to expand the conversation around the plus-sized community, Muslim community, South Asian community and for women of color around the world.
Patrick Starrr is an Orlando, Fla., native, a Filipino American and one of the most well-known beauty YouTubers and content creators in the game. According to PopSugar, Starrr is known as one of the first “men in makeup” on YouTube and has partnered with major brands such as MAC Cosmetics.
Aimee Song is an American fashion blogger and designer, known for her popular blog, Song of Style, and for her New York Times bestseller, “Capture Your Style.” She is frequently seen sitting front row at fashion shows as well as plastered on every street style “Best Dressed” list.
After sharing a video of her using red lipstick as an affordable concealer hack for dark skintones, Deepica Mutyala immediately hopped on everyone’s radar as a vocal spokesperson for inclusive beauty. The South Asian beauty entrepreneur is also the founder and CEO of Live Tinted, a multicultural community about beauty and culture.
Chriselle Lim is a Korean American fashion stylist, lifestyle influencer and beauty blogger, who is also the founder of The Chriselle Factor. Initially a wardrobe stylist, Lim began posting style tutorials on YouTube back in 2010, where her brand and following grew to the massive scale it is today.
Eva Chen is the director of fashion partnerships at Instagram, as well as the previous editor-in-chief of Lucky and the beauty and health director at Teen Vogue. Chen originally intended on becoming a doctor but soon learned that her passion was for journalism and fashion.
Susie Lau is not your typical digital fashion influencer. She uses her discerning eye and creative voice to write for some of the fashion world’s most prestigious publications like Vogue, Elle and the Guardian. The founder of the popular fashion blog Style Bubble, Lau spotlights emerging designers as well as shares personal styling tips.
Bretman Rock is a Filipino American social media personality, widely known for his glamorous makeup tutorials and humorous views on life. In 2017, Time magazine recognized him among its 30 Most Influential Teens.
If this story resonated with you, you might want to consider reading about why being Asian American has been a blessing amid rising anti-Asian discrimination.
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