Rehana Paul Chloe Sun Francine Cayanan Marieska Luzada Meera Singh maddi chun / madeleine chan / krystle young / ashley kim / annie cyrus / kate anderson-song / erica chang / jean sumbilla / kaelyn maehara / shreya rajappa / rachel austin / tasia matthews / natalie obedos / katrina lee / eloise hwang / mia rios / rachel austin / erica chang / sarah yasukochi / charlotte drummond / audrey kim / thiên-thi nguyen / rehana paul / sabaitide / summer kim / katherine leung / yuning zhang
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conte f o le
04 interview with south asians 4 black
50 interview with jade ma by kate
08 shang-chi and why i am excited for
54 female gaze featuring mia rios, rachel
lives by maddi chun
the asian community by madeleine chan
10 unlock the ox by krystle young poems by ashley kim
11 “right through my fingers” by annie cyrus
13 interview with jo and marianne of the pho queue crew by kate anderson-song
22 uncomfortability by erica chang 24 playlist: spring day by bts but you have allergies by jean sumbilla
26 seaspiracy: why, as an asian ocean
activist, it’s so harmful by kaelyn maehara
29 mirror mirror by shreya rajappa 32 interview with emma galbraith by kate anderson-song
36 artwork by by rachel austin 38 this is how many times i cried
austin, erica chang, and sarah yasukochi
58 interview with yvonne chapman by charlotte drummond
62 poems by audrey kim 64 interview with 1niti majethia by kate anderson-song
70 cà phê 179 (i have never been to vietnam) by thiên-thi nguyen
72 interview with aybala turkarslan by kate anderson-song
75 playlist: flat white with oat milk by jean sumbilla
76 brown girl beauty review by rehana paul
77 gal wonder vs. galzilla: the mental
health journey of a sexual assault survivor
82 interview with angeline calleja by
reading michelle zauner’s crying in h mart: a book review by tasia matthews
40 interview with alanna li by kate
86 i don’t belong here by summer kim 88 “faces of central asia” by katherine
44 miss demure: hair care by natalie
90 the tough choices we make in the
46 on representation in the academy by katrina lee
49 “korean rose” by eloise hwang
face of calamity: chloé zhao’s tale of women by yuning zhang
92 interview with maddie wang by charlotte drummond
SOUTH ASIANS 4 BLACK LIVES
BY MADDI CHUN
Haleema Bharoocha (firstname.lastname@example.org) Haleema Bharoocha is a first-gen South Asian American who is still exploring what it means to be South Asian. Her roots trace to Gujrat, Surat, Chittagong, and Rangoon. She is committed to building a world free of gender-based violence and serves as the Senior Advocacy Manager at Alliance for Girls where she leads community-led policy advocacy. Haleema graduated from Seattle U with a BA in Sociology where she founded the Gender Justice Center. In her free time, she facilitates equity-focused workshops on topics including bystander intervention, Islamophobia, racial equity, and gender justice and has trained over 700 people. She is featured in Teen Vogue, Seattle Times, SF Chronicle, and LA Times. Maryam Ali (email@example.com) Maryam Ali is a first generation Chinese and Pakistani American who has been spending most of her life understanding her identity and what her culture and roots mean to her. She is an advocate for systemic change in healthcare and has committed her career to doing so as she pursues her medical degree. She graduated from University of California, San Diego with a Bachelors in Public Health and will be attending medical school at Florida International University this upcoming Fall 2020. During her undergraduate years, she conducted research projects on racial health disparities in hopes that through her career she will be able to tackle the multiple forms of oppressions that exist within healthcare. Sneha George (firstname.lastname@example.org) Sneha is a writer, speaker and educator working toward collective liberation. She is continuously learning what abolition and transformative justice means for the various communities she is a part of. She is active in the movement toward college/university campus abolition and also works with the organization CAT911. Sneha is a PhD candidate in Ethnic Studies at University of California, Riverside. Here she is a feminist-queer of color theorist. Her dissertation includes philosophies and theories on the implications abolition has for “the self”.
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Introduce South Asians 4 Black Lives and what your organization does. When did you all create this account and why? About us: Solidarity in Struggle: South Asians for Black Lives is a program of Malikah started by a collective of South Asian women in California. The program is aimed at calling in our South Asian community to dismantle anti-Blackness, build antiracist coalitions and to inspire folks to join the abolitionist movement. We are learning as a collective to do this through a transformative justice and healing approach. Moreover, we ground ourselves in a BIPOC feminist ethics. Our program is focused on education and awareness within the South Asian community through our social media, monthly newsletter, webinars, and in person cohort based program. We hope to charge folks in our community through our educational programming to join antiracist, abolitionist organizations and movements that are already doing, and have been doing the work we are inspired by. How have you seen the South Asian community impacted by your organiza-
tion’s efforts? What inspired it? What is it about? Maryam: The primary goal of our program is to serve as a bridge between the South Asian Community and the resources that exist to assist in educating and empowering folks to learn and operate in solidarity with the Black community and fight against White Supremacy. While doing so we have incorporated educational resources and broken down our own history and internalized anti Blackness through reflection on the organizing that the Black and South Asian communities have historically been a part of together. We’ve been privileged to be able to reach over 55k people on social media and provide a safe space for meaningful discussion with events such as South Asians and Internalized White Supremacy in the Workplace or Navigating anti Blackness in South Asian Relationships. At a smaller scale, we have been educating folks on how to talk to family and friends and even learning more as volunteers on how to have a greater impact. What does Black Lives Matter mean to you?
Haleema: Black Lives Matter is a simple statement that is asking us to center those most impacted by racism. While simple, the statement itself took years before it became a norm, and still is seen as controversial to many. Black Lives Matter is an urgent call to action asking us to center, uplift and prioritize the needs and sacred lives of Black people. Ultimately it is a fight for Black humanity. Sneha: Quite simply: Black people matter. Black Lives Matter is a movement and an imperative. We must realize that the heartbreaking simplicity of this phrase demonstrates that we, globally, have been deeply complicit in antiblackness and carcerality for far too long. The phrase for me then becomes a signal to unlearn and abolish carcerality and build communities centered around care and transformative justice. How do you all make efforts to be actively pro-Black and fight against white supremacy everyday? Any tips for when you are over fighting the bigotry? Maryam: Self education is a huge step in being actively pro Black. Through learning about how white supremacy exists and where it exists in the spaces we hold every day, we are able to begin implementing anti racist and pro Black practices in our daily lives. This requires us to take a look at our capacity and make sure that what we are doing is sustainable and consistent rather than just urgent and reactive. Anti Blackness and White supremacy rampant in every field and is demonstrated through the eurocentric structures which include our workplace and schools. Maryam: Patience is an important part of fighting bigotry as well as recognizing our
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own limits and mental health. Learning when a conversation is beneficial rather than just disrespectful or argumentative is a critical part in ensuring that we are only engaging in constructive conversations and that we are valuing our own wellbeing as well. Sneha: Being antiracist is a lifestyle and not a moment or an action. Being antiracist isn’t just about you as an individual, but it is about the collective and a collective liberation. In this way, we believe that our work is not just something you do here and there or when you have time, but it is a commitment to change your life and the way you build and sustain relationships. When antiracism is a lifestyle and a movement rather than a moment or a post, anticapitalism, abolition, fighting bigotry all becomes a part of every decision you make such as where you chose to spend energy, time and money. Colorism is an issue facing many ethnic groups, how is colorism affecting South Asians around the world? Sneha: Many younger South Asian people think that colorism is something that exists in our “homelands”, or something that exists with “older” generations, but do not question our own biases. We do not question the European beauty standards we uphold, and this is linked to colorism and extends beyond it. For example, do we ever stop to wonder why we think straight, “tamed” hair is prettier or more proper than curly, frizzy hair? Do we stop to wonder why we put makeup on that makes our noses look thinner and elongated? What about our biases against fat bodies? While colorism is an issue at large, the crux of it is that many of us, like most people around the world, favor European beauty and that must be un-
learned. Favoring and upholding European beauty standards is a form of anti blackness. South Asians are often hyper stereotyped in tv shows and movies, what are some changes you would like to see in representation of South Asians? Haleema: Representation that moves beyond the model minority myth or terrorist trope. Representation that is diverse, showcases South Asians in activism, racial justice and solidarity work. South Asian stories on dismantling racism, caste and anti Blackness. Stories about South Asian activist and progressives from our history. Asian and Black communities have a long history of tension, how do you think Asian and Asian American people can change their behavior to move from tension to solidarity with the Black community? Haleema: Asian Americans must move beyond some of the harmful paradigms of white supremacy that have created anti Black sentiment and tension. Such paradigms include the model minority myth, respectability politics, individualism, and reimagining safety. We can stand up against anti Asian violence without being anti Black and pro police. We can stand up for the Asian community without throwing the Black community under the bus or co-opting the movement for Black Lives. Furthermore, it is not okay that some Asians only speak up about racism when it directly impacts them. We must always speak up about injustice whether we are directly impacted or not. We build solidarity when we show up for each other, listen, and act with intention, not just in moments of crisis, but always.
Sneha: Long time abolitionist organizer and scholar Andrea Smith states, “We often assume that all of our communities will share similar strategies for liberation. In fact, however, our strategies often run into conflict..” She explains that the reason our strategies run into conflict is because we assume that we are only victims of white supremacy, and fail to realize that we are complicit in it as well. In terms of organizing for our rights, this means we can’t address the harm done to us in isolation, we must also reflect on how our liberation tactics can be complicit in that same structure that harms us. One way to do this is actively centering collective liberation, not an individual one, and realizing that the dismantling of anti blackness is our own fight. What are some of the most exciting projects you have done with South Asians 4 Black Lives? Do you have any in the works? Haleema: We are developing a racial justice institute for South Asians. It is a project we have been working on for over a year and will include a comprehensive curriculum for South Asians on dismantling anti Black racism. Once complete, we plan to train folks in using the curriculum so they can lead sessions in their community. Fun Question Time! Would you rather eat all your food cold or hot for the rest of your life? Haleema: hot Sneha: hot (this was tough though) Maryam: hot! (Can’t give up my hot cups of coffee) OM.
shang-chi and why i am excited for the asian community BY MADELEINE CHAN @madeleinelyc Madeleine Chan is a mixed Chinese-Canadian writer and recent university grad living in Vancouver, BC. They enjoy critiquing and commenting on the pitfalls and positives of the world through writing when they’re not painting, reading, or being allergic to and consuming donuts.
remember how excited my middle-aged, Chinese father was for an Asian character to be featured in a Star Wars movie. He had unequivocally been a fan of the franchise since the first film was released in 1977 but grew even more attached seeing Donnie Yen star as Chirrut Îmwe in 2016’s Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. In his elation, my father even bought my whole family Funko Pop figures of the character to celebrate. It was something new, something fascinating. When the Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings (2021) movie trailer released recently, I saw the same excitement on his face. The first Asian superhero to grace the Hollywood big screen as the titular character, accompanied by a full Asian cast and starring
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beloved Canadian actor Simu Liu? Ecstasy. But the sentiment was just an extension of the growing power that a lot of the Asian community has been feeling in recent years with entertainment media. It’s also why I can feel that ShangChi will be a large tipping point in the continuation of the excitement and empowerment of the Asian community—on and off-screen.
ki, was called out in 2017 for creating an Asian pseudonym and persona to write comics under—of which he casually apologized for and wished that everyone would just “forget” about. This, along with the overbearing number of white comic creators and the incredible struggle Asian ones face to break through, just shows why they kept him on. It’s a miracle that Shang-Chi has an Asian director and writer.
To preface, this movie won’t fix Marvel’s long history Doctor Strange (2016) had of racism, white-washing, and white actress Tilda Swinton lack of representation in their replace a Tibetan character to comics, company, and films by appeal to a Chinese audience, a long shot. Older comics are and because the all-white ripe with yellowface and ori- writers couldn’t think of a way entalism; and recent comics to write an Asian female witharen’t totally exempt from this out making her a Dragon Lady. either. The Netflix show Iron Fist was a one-dimensional, white savCurrent Editor-in-Chief of iour attempt to reconcile the Marvel Comics, C.B. Cebuls- character’s orientalist history
with our present. Not to mention the white-washing fiasco that is Scarlett Johanson, who is still playing Black Widow in Marvel movies.
media has the ability to affect reality and change lives. With Asian representation in western media in particular, factors like the model minority myth and tokenism can have an impact on how children see themselves and the opportunities that Asian people have in the entertainment industry.
Iron Man 3 (2013) had similar problems with The Mandarin, a Chinese villain, played by half-Indian actor Trevor Slattery, which was revealed to be masqueraded by a The wild box office and British actor. This was a weak community success, and subattempt at subverting Yellow sequent celebration by the Peril stereotypes. Shang-Chi’s Black community of Black revival of The Mandarin, hav- Panther (2018) serves as an ing him replace comically rac- example. Many hailed it as a ist Fu Manchu as Shang-Chi’s “revolutionary” and “groundfather, seems like a lukewarm breaking” part of Black culture. apology by Marvel for their Some even called its represenpast and current discretions. I tation and cultural importance really only credit this change the “Black Panther” effect. in heart to the growing calls Gone were the days of having for Marvel to feature more to choose which white superthan white men in their titu- hero Black children had to lar roles, and for the growing choose to dress up as for halsentiment in Hollywood to loween and to idolize. They consider diverse stories, not finally had a figure in the popfrom any goodwill of Marvel’s ular consciousness that looked own. Nevertheless, they lis- like them, that spoke to and for tened to the calls and appear them. to be making amends, but they shouldn’t entirely be forgiven. The platform and reach Marvel movies have in the All of this is to say that the global pop culture realm mean release of Shang-Chi won’t that Shang-Chi is going to have suddenly get rid of all Mar- the same effect for East Asian vel’s racist discretions, and people, particularly western that there won’t be any in audiences. It doesn’t even the future, but that it marks a matter if the movie has a bad change in Asian culture in the plot or character arcs, kids are West. Of course, one film can’t still going to want to dress up solve the centuries of Asian as him for Halloween and East oppression and distaste that Asian people are going to feel has found its way into society that they can stand up there and media, but it can be a cata- with the rest of the panthelyst. It’s been documented that on of heroes. It’s already had
enormous positive fervour on social media, a refreshing comic revival, and unmeasurable effect on the community it’s representing. I already see the myriad of Shang-Chi toys that my little cousin is going to play with and his lit-up eyes when he talks about the hero, his hero. I picture my father staring at the big screen with child-like wonder, wishing this movie came out when he was younger but grateful it’s out now. I imagine kids performing martial arts moves and saying “I’m Shang-Chi” when asked what they’re doing. I feel the large impact that this movie is going to have for a population so extensively neglected in not just Hollywood and pop culture realms, but the greater societal one as well and I’m ecstatic. And this is just one part of the extensive Asian community being empowered. Think about the doors this film will open for other characters of a multitude of other Asian communities to be portrayed on the big screen. Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings won’t solve everything, but it has the potential to bring more empowerment to the Asian community than any before it. I can’t wait until a feeling like my father’s sheer satisfaction with Rogue One isn’t something new, but something incredibly normal. om.
poetry roundup Each issue we feature pieces of prose and poetry from Asian women, nonbinary, and gender minority writers around the world. Here are this issue’s pieces!
Unlock the Ox We embark upon a new year with stoked fears and shed tears The deafening silence amidst all this violence Does anybody hear? Or care enough to share? When our pain is laid bare? You desire our spending power For our treasures, you’ll scour but when we ask for your support You hurl retorts or merely cower What else is in store? How long must we implore before you ignore old ways we were taught to adore that tore us apart even more & pit us against each other in war to settle some score? How much more can we take? How much blood must pour before this mistake and lore of modeling minorities vocalizes in the majority? What will you stand for? Know more No more Open the door Hear our roar -krystleyoung
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POEMS BY AUDREY KIM “Rain Child” The rain comes down and I overflow, fears and feelings dripping down my skin POEMS like blood flowing from a head wound. Cloud vapor condenses, precipitates, penetrates puddles like bullets as the thunder holds my grief at gunpoint.
BY ASHLEY KIM You are an off beat individual but I move with your motions like they’ve always been mine.
I pound the air and atmosphere. I pummel it, How I long to unmake you, to pull at your strings “Promised Land” I inhale mutilated oxygen, and exhale inverted flesh. and hold She wakes with nothing short of haste I hurt; No rule nor land too tall to breach I harm myself; them in Her life a song of conquering I stand willingly in the rain; A short-lived thing of catching flame I learn to become an umbrella. And though each day is nothing but my hands!
a fight to be a lonely light My mother thinks I enjoy the pressure You are a cryptic dream, and would fall apart like one: She wakes each day with far-off dreams as if standing at the cliff’s edge means I crave death. Lovely, fleeting, and then far away. and dares not let her eyes lose sight She doesn’t know I do it for survival. Mother, You are the green stretches of the Earth, in breaking myself, I have become unbreakable. the flower garlands of spring, the angel hair I long to braid; hum low on my neck, coy snakes of the Garden; By the time those rejections roll in like high tide I want to sink my teeth into your nature. I will have drowned many times already and will know how to swim. You are“Asymptote/Asystole” a caricature of reality, If I cry the prophetic devil on my shoulder I can’t seem to shrug off; and scream you always I am urge tired.me to break free of the circles I walk in. and feel worthless today, I string air from my lungs, grief will feel as familiar as a friend I love your outweeds of tune of a laugh dig for in trumpet a dying garden, when I fail to get into my dream school. and how your too bright eyes catch tear my fingernails on soil. fire; The smell smoke when youlife, speak I amofdrenched in cold Please don’t worry about me; poems sustained into your on cigarette makes shaking legs, my eyes water; I won’t develop immunity without catching a cold. makes fueled me go by absolutely a rustingferal. heart. So just — let me stand out here, in the rain. I lie in bitter warmth of night, I promise I won’t live here forever. And aschew if I could forgetof yarn, at threads your hazardous smile,on the wall. chase shadows climbing up one corner and Yes, I am tired. grasping at the edge of the other. Consider this a testament to how deeply I love you. Consider these roundabout metaphors the vessels of your praise.
“Right Through My Fingers” by Annie Cyrus // IG: @ann.yelhsa Medium: Copper electroformed hands, thrifted picture frames, embroidery thread, prescription pills and gold paint
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Kate Anderson-Song is on the editorial team at Overachiever Magazine. She is a NYC-based writer, artist, and performer, with a background in Cinema Studies & Drama from New York University. You can find Kate on Instagram @k8andersonsong and @thek8pages where she posts her art, and you can find more of her work (and tons of other great stuff) here at Overachiever Magazine! Pho Queue Crew is a UK-based “Angry Asian Activist” hip hop crew “formed in response to the hate crimes against our ESEA [East and South East Asian] community since COVID-19.” The 4-piece group take influences from “hip hop, UK grime, punk, poetry, and traditional Asian classical” and describe their music as “the sound of a new generation of ESEA’s who refuse to abide by the ‘model minority’ myth.” Their single, “Enter the Dragon,” released in the wake of anti-Asian hate crimes rising in the last month, and more singles are upcoming. Overachiever was able to interview two of their members, Marianne and Jo! Marianne (M): My name’s Marianne. I play violin, bass guitar, and a little bit of keys, and I sing in Pho Queue Crew. I’m a huge music-head. I’ve liked music all my life and I’m lucky enough to earn money through music, and to get to keep on evolving and changing with it, doing loads of different things around it. Jo (J): Hi! So, my name is Jo Shim, but a lot of people here just call me Jojo or Jo. I’m the youngest member in the band and I play violin, guitar, viola, and piano - and I also do some singing as well, like Marianne. I enjoy doing a lot of art-y things and... that’s basically me! Kate (K): How did you meet and how did the Pho Queue Crew come to be? M: We kind of knew of each other through different musical circles, because both Jo and I, although we weren’t at the same music conservatories, knew each other through someone
doing a course - and through the classical musical world in general. And so, the other two members of PQC (Pho Queue Crew), Tom and Itch, are very rooted in like the rock/pop music world. We kind of all knew of each other loosely through music communities, and with what has been happening this year, the idea of making an Asian-centered band just kinda came forward. We were quite politically driven. and some friends of ours were like, “oh, you should talk to this person,” and thats how we ended up just sat in a room together thinking, “we should give this a try.” K: This all came to be in the pandemic, am I right? M: Yeah! It was literally in response to all the stuff that was going on physically. K: Did the pandemic affect how you were able to meet up or make music? M: We did a lot of to-and-fro with files, so parts of it were kind of done remotely. And then we were able to meet up socially distanced in the studio and actually bash out a load of work. Because it took a lot of effort for us to meet physically, there was no faffing really, no time left to waste! J: It is super fun though! M: Yeah, it is very high key, like a bit crazy, but also super, super fun!
K: Your single “Enter the Dragon”, was released at the end of February. Could you introduce the song and give us a sense of how it came to be? M: Because we all had different parts to play in it, I’m just gonna start from my perspective. For me, it’s a song to introduce us as a collective, or as a group with a message. It’s really to show people how proud we are of our heritage and show how many wonderful facets there are to our cultures by taking the stereotypes that people know from pop culture and films and things like that, and actually show people a little bit beyond that. Beyond the skin deep of what it is, but to what it really is like to know that eastern culture. To show how it’s so rich and wonderful, if you give it a chance. For us as people, and in relation to the pandemic as well, it was like, “if you feel like your being misaligned, if you feel like your not being included in society, if you’re all about love and all about openness, if you want the world to be a better place and you’re against fascism and this hatred, then we are here for you.” It’s an open letter to all those people, saying “come to us.” J: Quite a large part of it was also that music was a common conversational thing for us because we were all really deep in the whole music world. We all come from slightly different backgrounds, but are able to communicate through the music. I really like the fact that we’re not all the same and that we have someone who is not Asian in PQC as well. I feel like it’s a great way to have conversations about these things, because I feel like we don’t talk about it usually. It’s a good way to initiate a conversation about all of it between everyone. K: As artists of Asian descent, how has your cultural identity affected your creative upbringing/ your music/your career? M; This one is a really tricky question. Did you find this one hard, Jojo? J: Yeah, because there are so many facets to it. I grew up in the classical world and there are actually so many Asians in that world, for a variety of reasons. And I grew up here [England] and studied music here, and I
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think a lot of people wanted to know more about out side of things. They wanted to expand towards Eastern music because we study a lot of western music, so there is a lot of “mystery” behind all of this “Asian stuff.” So, I’ve had a lot of people being like, “wouldn’t that be such a fun project since we dont know about that!” So, I’ve done stuff like that before in music. But it’s really weird because I sometimes almost forget I’m Asian, because
I’m just s u r rounded by all of this Western music all of the time. It’s really strange. M: I found this question tricky because, for ages, the idea that being Asian could mean I was different from other people didn’t really come into my consciousness. But there was one point where a teacher made a comment, like, “Marianne’s mom is from Malaaayyysssiiiia.” And I was like, “why is she saying it weird?” and “is that a thing?”. In my head I was just like, “what?” I was a bit
confused by that, as I didn’t realize I was different at all until that point. In terms of the influence of that growing up, it’s difficult to say whether it actually played a part in it or not. My mom didn’t play me Asian music or fully immerse me in our cultures. But, if I think back on it, I think I’m more open to crossover music, or music that is more unusu-
cause of this. But I don’t know if that’s really a direct correlation because nothing that obvious has been, like, the turning point. K: Can you speak to the BESEA/ESEA experience in London? Are there Asian communities you’ve been able to connect to? J: I lived in K-Town in London for a bit. There’s obviously a massive Korean community there - and loads of restaurants and shops and all of that. And quite a lot of people form communities in churches as well, even if they’re not religious. Just for the community, to have people who understand them and their culture. I think people sometimes want a break from having to try to assimilate themselves in this new culture. They may want to just go somewhere where they know what’s happening. I’ve seen that happen quite a lot. I think that younger people, if they’re coming here for the first time from abroad, tend to try and find a community like that as well. M: It’s a way of making friends isn’t it? It’s like, “You like games? I like games!” but “You go to church? I go to church. Wanna hang out?”
al or eclectic. I’ve had lots of songwriters and people I work with say, “oh you have a really strange or varied style” or “everything that you create is a mixture of different things, full of variety.” So maybe having experienced cultures other than British growing up and having some family members here and some oversea, is the
I think my experience is a bit different because I was born here in England and I have family here, Asian family as well as British family. And moved to London to study (and this is now my 10th year living in London!). I think of myself as British (as well as being Asian). But I really take that on. Like I’m proud to be British. And I’ve not felt isolated or estranged from the culture and society I live in, so, hearing other peoples experiences, I actually feel really lucky to have had that experience. Since we’ve formed PQC, we have gotten in touch with a number of different Asian-centered groups. For Chinese Lunar New Year, I went onto this Zoom video call, just thinking,“let’s see what this is about.” And, basically there was a load of Malaysians there, like 5 of us, and we were so excited. I don’t often meet many outside of my family, so that was really nice. We ended up just chatting about all the things that I didn’t even realize bring me great joy and comfort - like
home and all the different kinds of celebrations we’d had in the past for the new year. And it was actually quite a surprise how warming it was, because I wouldn’t have usually gotten in touch with them or felt like i needed to reach out and have this kind of support group. K: I had a similar experience, but with growing up in the U.S and identifying as American. I didn’t have a ton of consciousness about my own Korean culture growing up. But as I’ve connected with friends who are Korean-American, I realize how much of that heritage has been present in my life. And how much of it brings me joy and comfort - especially all the food I grew up with! M: We were talking about this over the New Year’s Zoom chat - It’s funny how much of the conversation centers around good food! J: Yes! In Korea, they have a saying that means something like: “if you eat well, good luck will follow.” M: That’s a good way to live - like eat well and you’ll have good luck, or, at the very least, be fit and healthy! K: Where do you find inspiration and do you have any role models?
J: I get most inspiration from my friends and the people around me. I draw a lot of energy from communicating and interacting with them. I think my friends are probably my main role models as well, because growing up in my family, I’ve sort of learnt Korean etiquette. And I think I’ve learnt the most from living with my friends and being exposed to everything else that was out there. I went to boarding school, so I basically lived at school and with friends most of my life. And I think those living situations are where I learnt the most. M: As for finding inspiration when we’re creating music, mine definitely comes from the classical world. I’ll think very systematically about composing and I’m always trying to do too much in a microsensense by making a line too busy or pushing too much into a song (how relevant for Overachiever magazine!). But I’m always thinking about so much great classical music that is jam packed with changes and amazing complex harmonies and I know the possibilities, so I like to try to steal some elements of that. However, working more in songwriting and pop/rock bands and studying music in a different way, I do realize there are other ways to distill that and make something that isn’t quite so busy. And, actually, my role models have not really been in classical music. Except for Ruth Palmer, a really great violin teacher I had as an adult. Our violin lessons literally ended up being like life coaching sessions. By the end we wouldn’t even be playing the violin, we’d just talk. And she was like, “I don’t think you need violin lessons anymore. I think you need to just go out and do your thing.” She really pushed me to go and find my thing. That was a couple of years before this, but, PQC is basically a culmination of that. All my other musical role models and role models in life have been in the pop/rock world because they have all been happy-golucky but super driven as well. K: What does self care mean to you? How do you take care of yourself, especially through this time? J: I’m so basic. I was telling Marianne about this yesterday. My idea of a good time is sit-
ting in a bubble bath, drinking wine, listening to really trashy music and reading a book . K: That sounds like a fantastic evening! J: I love it. I light all the candles, the whole shebang. It’s not actually much, but it does make me feel better! M: I’m a little bit different. I’m more of a shower person. I don’t really like taking baths, because they make me feel like I’m wasting time (though it’s not a waste of time, of course). Again, I’m a bit of an overachiever, so I like to achieve things. I get satisfaction from completing tasks, so my relaxation is a bit task-oriented. For example, I like to garden and figure out how to make things grow. I love reading (a lot of nonfiction, but some fiction as well) and learning new things. I like watching movies. And now, because of lockdown, I’ve been enjoying spending time at home. I didn’t used to like that but actually I was lucky since the house we were in was actually really well set up to live and work in through this time. So I was like, “okay, I’ve been travelling around loads and now it’s time to chill.” Oh, and I started learning spanish guitar which was relaxing for me because it was new and I’d always wanted to do it. K: Since you both mentioned reading, any book recommendations? J: Yes! I love reading Murakami. I love all his books, I swear I have a collection. Him and Neil Gaiman are my two favorite favorite authors. Also, another book I’d recommend is “A Little Life” by Hanya Yanagihara.
M: I’m gonna check all those out! I have a bunch of book recommendations! There is this book by Kae Tempest called “On Connection.” It’s all about connecting with people and things through her art. My drummer from another band, Amy, knew Kae back when they were teenagers. And I ended up buying Amy “On Connection” for her birthday - it was a cool moment of connection, giving a book that is all about connection! Its a gorgeous book - a really easy read but quite philosophical and thought-provoking in a light way. A few years ago, I read this other book “Get Your Sh*t Together” by Sarah Knight (and her other books, “The Life Giving Magic of Not Giving a F*ck”). It’s really good and gave me a new outlook. It got me out of my head a little bit. It’s all the things your friends say to you that you don’t fully take in. But it’s really even-keel and super down to earth. She’s not telling you off, but giving more “come on, sort it out” advice. The other books I always recommend are by Austin Kleon: “Steal Like an Artist, “Show Your Work,” and his new one, “Keep Going.” He’s not a musician, but I think it’s helpful to any artist. It’s just a little handbook or support system on how to keep going with your cre
ative work. K: Now the rapid fire questions: Any special/secret skills (outside of creating music, which is obviously already a very special skill)? M: I can curl my tongue, and apparently not everyone can. What about you Jojo? What is your special skill? J: Hm, I don’t know. M: Jojo, I think yours is that you make everyone around you happy as soon as you speak to them. J: Aw thanks. Marianne. That is really sweet. But hm, where were we? Special or secret skills. None of my skills are very secret, I’m pretty open! K: I think that’s a skill in itself, to be open! J: I’ll take it! K: What music are you listening to right now? Any artists you want to shout out? M: I tend to listen to a lot of the same music over and over again, so I don’t go and find a lot of new music or new playlists. But one artist that I really love Dawn Golden, who is also part of a group called Houses. His song, “Fast Talk” was my most listened to in 2020. I like really chilled out electronic music. Also there is this artist that came up on my bandcamp or soundcloud email alerts: Greentea Peng. Peng is a Manchester (but now also adopted London) word meaning like “hot” or “fit” or “good” in general. And, actually, one time when PQC met up, we were trying to be really laid back on the beat and sing the track we were working on in this certain way, and I was able to say ‘kinda like this video I just watched and like referenced Greentea Peng’s song. It all came full circle. J: I listen to a lot of really chill stuff. I don’t really listen to very upbeat things. I also listen to a lot of Japanese music and Korean music. But less popular K-pop - apart from AKMU (I listen to them a lot and I’m not
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ashamed)! I also listen to a lot of Bruno Major (not to be confused with Bruno Mars). His latest album has this song, “To Let A Good Thing Die,” which is about appreciating things but letting them go when they go, which I like. I really like healing songs and really calm songs most of the time. K: Okay, the best question: Ultimate comfort food? M: The best question! It used to be Pot Noodle, but when I grew up and realized you can’t eat Pot Noodle forever and became vegan (and am basically like allergic to everything), I made my own version of basically pot of noodle. It’s like a sort of ramen. So basically anything with soup-y rice noodles, I’m just all over that. I also love Vietnamese food. I got to visit Vietnam and I was just eating everything! J: Wow Marianne, you are literally a girl after my own heart! My favorite dish ever is Korean Janchi guksu, it’s literally like rice noodles with soup! Ultimately, always noodles. Like proper ramen, I love ramen so much! M: I might even prefer pho over ramen because I like all the little things that go in it! K: Final rapid fire question: what has been the highlight of your day so far? J: Haha, I feel like that’s a trick question! K: If it’s not me, I’ll be sad (just kidding)! J: But honestly, it’s been really fun. And I haven’t really done anything else yet today. Just been hanging out with my cats here at home. So just cats and talking to people, that’s it. It’s the best! M: I sorted out some boxes in the kitchen, so that was quite satisfying! K: What are you both up to? What is in the future for you and PQC (as of now)? M: I play in a few other bands as well - you can look up Ode to Lucius. And my wedding band, The Moonrise Collective.
J: My projects are usually classical and more pop up, so we tend to do just a one-off concert or performance, but that’s been less during lockdown. M: We (PQC) also has a new song, “Burn Hollywood Down,” coming out soon in late April. J: And yesterday we recorded the acoustic version of the song [“Burn Hollywood Down”]. M: And before that, we have a bit of a surprise release that wasn’t originally in the schedule. You know when you come together to do something, and it doesn’t work at first, but then you change tact, and then suddenly you have the booster packs on and its like go go go? And it all just comes together in like 10 minutes? That’s how this happened. We also have our Demonstration of Unity on May 23rd as our next thing! In solidarity with our friends over in the States, to show support, and to be in the front of the conversation about anti-Asian racism in the UK, we have put together a demonstration in London’s Chinatown on may 23rd at 1pm. We’ve got speakers, like the UK’s first ESEA member of Parliament, Sarah Owen MP, Haneu Chan who is the Vice Chairman of the Chinese Community Centre, Amy Phung who is the co-founder of Besea.n, and actor, writer, and filmmaker, Daniel York Loh. We
have invited a ton of different people to be part of it, I think it’s going to be really great! J: And PQC will be performing! So a lot to look forward to! Pho Queue Crew’s surprise drop, “#StopAsianHate Freestyle” (a one-take freestyle track in support of the protests around the world for our ESEA community) was released on April 9th, and you can listen to it now. Their newest single, “Burn Hollywood Down” is dropping Friday, April 30, 2021. Jo Eun Shim was surrounded by music as soon as she was born. She started playing piano at age 4, however due to language barriers on her arrival from Korea to the UK when she was 6, she didn’t play again until she was 8. She has taken part in several outreach projects to introduce children and toddlers to music. When she’s not playing music, she does life drawing, digital art, and baking. Marianne Canning is a violinist, violist, bass guitarist, Spanish guitarist, and keyboardist, as well as a singer. She has played instruments since the age of 7, daughter to a Malaysian-Chinese mother and Scottish-English father. Outside of her musical career, her interests are shopping for vintage fashion, vegan cooking, gardening, reading and cuddling cats. OM.
uncomfortability Written by Erica Chang
I’m Chinese Hawaiian American. I was born in California, but grew up in a small rural town in eastern Washington that remains predominantly conservative and white. I knew I was different when I was outnumbered on the playground. There were far more of them with pale skin, blond hair, and blue eyes compared to my tan skin, dark hair, and smaller dark eyes. Yet, I could still keep up with them. I could run laps around the playground, be a champion at tetherball, and jump rope through the whole Cinderella chant “Cinderella dressed in yellow, went upstairs to kiss her fellow. Made a mistake and kissed a snake. How many doctors did it take? 1,2,3,4,5…” I remember feeling some kind of way in high school when we had to do a project where we had to make and bring food that represented our ethnicity. I stood alone with some sweet and sour meatballs and white rice while the other kids grouped together, laughing as they gobbled up their pasta and German sausag-
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es and French baguettes. It went on for about an hour until the bell rang.
darker than theirs. When I told them they were correct in their assumption, they would start speaking I studied English Litera- Mandarin “Ni hao”. “I don’t ture and Creative Writing speak Mandarin” I would as an undergrad while flip- respond “But, I understand ping burgers at a fast-food some Cantonese” conjoint and simultaneously vincingly. Not convincing working as a Residential enough when they realized Assistant at a Japanese I knew enough keywords, women’s university. I grew but not enough to hold my accustomed to taking on own in a five-minute conmultiple tasks, switching versation, often stopping. from one thing to anoth- Often apologizing that I er, trying to save a burger didn’t know. Apologizing from burning to a student that I couldn’t continue. who might have felt a bit “Ah, you’re American. Ok.” homesick. A year later, I moved back After undergrad, not to the States. I went to grad knowing anything about school in San Francisco Korean history, I moved with the intention to study to Seoul, South Korea to post colonial literature teach English at a private and quickly veered to foschool. I was able to travel cus on trauma, testimony, across the DMZ to North and memoir. I was hooked Korea and to neighboring on these topics after readcountries as well. This op- ing a book where the main portunity opened my eyes protagonist is struggling to to new experiences, new remember her experience cultures, and being around of moving to the States, people who looked like me, documenting her mothbut who were not always er’s thoughts, and piecing the same ethnicity as I together their memories. I was. Some Koreans would remember there was a lot assume that I was Chi- of discussion of prioritizing nese because my skin was experience and emotions,
a lot of mourning, and the attempt of trying to understand history. This fueled my thesis. My work addressed the questions: how can we discuss atrocities, its aftermath, and the mark it leaves on someone from multiple perspectives? Why are testimonies and memoirs crucial for our society? Currently, I work in higher education in a leadership role, supporting a team and coordinating a program. Over the last decade, I’ve had jobs where DEI work takes center stage. My sense of self is also entangled in yoga, an Asian practice which has been culturally appropriated by upper middle-class white women. Quite often, I am the only BIPOC person in the room, moving through sun salutations and quoting South Asian yoga teachers who have come before me, hoping that these words from a different culture resonate with the crowd that I am in. I say all of this to acknowledge how I benefit from white supremacy while simultaneously falling victim to it. I am aware of how I look and conscious of how I am perceived. I can navigate spaces where I might be viewed as “oth-
er”. I know that the model minority myth can give me an advantage, but also damage me if I don’t break from the stereotype quickly enough, Swiftly enough, so I don’t rifle the assumptions all at once. Quiet, but not complacent. Hardworking, but not math-driven. Internally analyzing if it’s a sincere compliment or a racial fetish. I know when and how to code- switch. I’m aware that at times, the impact can be more harmful than the initial intent. I know that White centering can prevent my voice from being heard, silencing my existence. I can keep trying to get my point across, but know that I might need more voices, more representation to help me or assistance from my white allies/accomplices. I know that diversity will get me in the room, but inclusion will not always get me to the table. I know, sometimes, white people need to hear what I’m saying from other white people.
the past? How can previous experiences teach you to unlearn and relearn new rhetoric so as not to offend or trigger or retrigger someone’s old pain that they might have covered for years? How do you access your community and can you broaden your network, and engage with people who are open to having these types of discussions? Can you be called in? Are you willing to? How can you or others be held accountable and accept this practice as a way of being better? As a way of seeing each other? Similar to yoga, how can you be comfortable with being uncomfortable? OM.
I’m curious about how we can look at these hate crimes and acts of violence as a learning experience. How can we dismantle systemic racism without restructuring those systems that allow it to perpetuate? I urge you to: think about how you use language and how you have done so in
playlist: spring day by bts but you have allergies BY JEAN SUMBILLA Jean is the Design Editor for Overachiever Magazine. She loves being apart of a community empowering Asian women. Aside from her work for the magazine, you can find her studying, being a coffee/boba enthusiast, listening to music, or a combination of all three.
ew issue, new playlist. Here are some songs to help you get into that springtime mood with a potential reminder of your springtime allergies courtesy of BTS. This playlist was made with the intention of emulating that springtime vibe, where you’re blasting “Spring Day” by BTS wherever you may be. Now, you may be one to just “Spring Day” on its own for X amount of hours (to each their own), but here are some songs alongside to help give off a soft, calming vibe. In other words, I hope this playlist gives off a “close your eyes my dear everything will be alright as you’re sitting on a hill reading a book against a tree” type of vibe. To bring in the calmness of things, I started off with UMI’s “Introspection Reimagined”, a live interpretation of “Introspection” with a more orchestral band feel to
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it. The playlist progresses from releasing your main character vibes, with Olivia Rodrigo’s “deja vu” to cruising down the city you live in with “Henny in the Hamptons” by Bren Joy. Of course, “Spring Day” by BTS is added to this playlist and ends off with Sam Rui’s “crew” giving off a moment of solitude in the air.
Scan for the Spotify playlist!
1. Introspection Reimagined - UMI 2. 111 - thuy 3. Good Days - SZA 4. deja vu - Olivia Rodrigo 5. Floating - Ashley Chiang, Lake Chon 6. Someone New - Ok2222, NVTHVN, Ivoris 7. Tweety - Raveena 8. KUDOS - Ka-Li 9. camellia - slchld 10. Blossom - Porter Robinson 11. North Face - ODIE 12. Henny in the Hamptons - Bren Joy 13. The Sun ft. Bryson Tiller and Raphael Saadiq - KYLE 14. Spring Day - BTS 15. Crew - Same Rui
@KAELYNMAEHARA Kaelyn Maehara is a California-born filmmaker and photographer, who is currently working in natural history television in Bristol, United Kingdom. She is most passionate about our oceans and telling the untold stories of the creatures and people directly connected to the sea. She believes in the power of visual media to change hearts and minds around environmental and social issues and is an advocate for increasing diversity in the wildlife filmmaking space. You’ll most likely find Kaelyn diving, climbing, surfing or drinking matcha tea in her garden. I love the oceans. I’ve built my entire life around ocean advocacy and working to protect marine life. I’ve even spent time crewing for Sea Shepherd campaigns in Antarctica and Mexico fighting against illegal fishing and have worked on nature documentaries to show the oceans’ wonders to the world. I also don’t eat meat or fish, and I do not encourage many people to do so. So when Seaspiracy came out on Netflix, I was excited to see a film aimed at tackling the oceans problems, one that included hard-hitting facts about overfishing and reached a wide audience with its strong environmental messaging. I was excited to watch it, but as I watched, I found myself more upset than anything else. I was appalled at the ignorance, the racist portrayal (and complete absence) of communities of color, the white savior narrative, and
the oversimplification of an immense and complex issue that just hands the burden onto consumers. First of all, I’d like to say that I support the message that privileged people from rich nations who get their food at grocery stores should think twice about buying seafood because, indeed, industrial fishing is linked to a whole host of environmental and social issues. However, while this message applies to some, it does not equally apply to everyone worldwide. It is not so simple. The solutions to fixing our seas are more complicated and nuanced. We must consider the economic, environmental, and social factors, which mean giving up fish is not a viable solution for everyone. We must remember, not all people have the same exploitative relationship with the oceans. Millions of small-scale indigenous fish-
ers are an integral part of their ecosystems. They have been natural custodians for the oceans for millennia, and they too are struggling under the weight of industrial fishing. We cannot make blanket statements that all people must stop eating fish without understanding the reality of that statement and the vulnerable communities it affects the most. For a wealthy and privileged audience, the films’ message resonates, but how that point is made could not have been more harmful. The film centers itself around a very limited middle-class western perspective, which is something we see in conservation time and time again. Frankly, I am tired of listening to mostly white middle-class people touting solutions to save the oceans that do not include or consider colonial/imperialist history, geopolitical, or cultural context and portray people of
color according to stereotypes and without allowing them a voice. There were very few non-white people in this film. Of the few groups that were, they were portrayed as the evil ocean plunderers or the helpless victims- neither were given any control over their own stories and the rest of the non-western world seemed not to exist at all. This blatant use of racism and erasure in service of a white-centered narrative and the use of stereotypes and othering to “make a point” is something we can no longer tolerate. As an Asian woman, I found the portrayal of Asians in this film as a homogenous group of ocean villains deeply upsetting and downright irresponsible at a time when anti-Asian hate is skyrocketing worldwide, and we know that negative Asian stereotypes are what’s behind these attacks. This narrative not only does great harm to our communities, but cumulative insensitive rhetoric emboldens people to attack us in the streets in the name of the environment. I have personally been a victim of this. I was berated by someone who hated Japanese whalers and looked at me and saw the enemy. Never mind, I have nothing to do with whaling, or that I was part of an anti-whaling campaign to Antarctica to save whales from slaughter- none of that mattered. This individual felt it was okay to say horribly racist things to me because they did not see me as an ocean activist or even as a human being— instead, all they saw was an evil Asian stereotype who should be blamed for killing the oceans. This film, seen by millions, will further strengthen those dangerous stereotypes and will leave an entire community vulnerable and left without a voice at the worst time possible. Demonizing Asians is not the only way to tell this story. Factually, Norway kills more whales than any other country in the world, more than Japan and Iceland combined. But the Norwegian whaler stereotype (or lack thereof) just doesn’t evoke that same visceral and emotional response (alarm bells ringing) filmmakers need to sell a story. Ergo, the role of the villain is placed on the “foreign-looking” Japanese. If you watch the film, you’ll notice that the loud-
est voices, the ones given the most time to speak, are mostly white males. Most obvious is the main character. The very lens the audience sees this issue through is through the perspective of a white male and the consequential blind spots that result are just too big to ignore. Diversity in the interviewees is shockingly low and leads people to believe that ocean conservation is limited to a particular type of person when in fact there are many people of color and women who care about these issues and fight for them every day. Yet except for her deepness, Dr. Sylvia Earle, women and minorities were vastly underrepresented. This tired practice excludes and ignores the perspectives of the majority of other people that are intrinsically linked to the ocean; the millions of fish workers, ocean conservationists, and integral marine communities all around the globe. This kind of conservation is an extension of white saviorism. People from wealthy countries who consume and pollute at much higher rates than others go to other parts of the world to tell local people how to care for their resources as if they know best. Often there are historical, geopolitical, and cultural contexts surrounding those issues as well as intersectional ones that go ignored. Then conservation practices that are used in the west are wrongly pushed all over the world as solutions to problems everywhere. As a global community, we are all connected to the world’s oceans, and we cannot afford to look at massive issues like saving the oceans through a single lens. We need to listen to all voices, we need a diverse set of perspectives, and we need to work collaboratively to find real, lasting solutions that work for everyone. Effective ocean solutions demand equity and novel understandings of each region. There is no silver bullet or one size fits all. It will take all of us, not just the privileged few, to turn the tide. This brings me to my last point, the oversimplification of a massive problem this film employs is not only wrong but is also ineffective. The filmmakers had an opportunity to empower people to help create lasting change by affecting ocean policy, but they squandered it and left it up to the consumer. It is great that if you have a dollar to
vote with, then vote with it and change what you buy. But not everyone has that power. Saving the oceans is going to take a lot more than just tweaking your spending. Individuals are powerful, but only when we come together collectively and take a stand to pressure governments to enact laws and create major shifts of our collective mindset that ensures lasting change. Yet once again, here is a film that is turning a huge intersectional global environmental issue into one that can be solved by the green spending habits of middle-class people. What this film fails to understand is that we are more than just consumers and our true power lies not in our wallets but in solidarity with one another and the planet we share. Ultimately, we need a change in mindset and attitude that goes beyond our role in the market but pushes us towards becoming stewards of the ocean. I believe that saving our oceans is imperative, and I’ve dedicated my life to this cause. But I do not believe we get there with single-perspective stories like these. Seaspiracy may do some good in the form of getting privileged people to stop eating fish, but at what cost? At the cost of stereotyping, vilifying, and ignoring communities of color? At the cost of en-
trenching beliefs that our greatest power comes only from our spending habits and that privileged white people are here to save us all? Can we not find a better way to get this message across? I believe we can. I believe that when we invite everyone to the table, we will be able to come up with solutions that do more than just scare people into changing how they spend, but we can help create a shift in our attitudes about how we all relate to our blue planet. In this way, we move away from just opting in or out of a capitalist framework to move towards true conservancy and ecological harmony. Everyone has a part to play in that future for our oceans, Asians included. OM.
MIRROR MIRROR BY SHREYA RAJAPPA @SHREYARAJAPPA A high school student living in sunny California, Shreya Rajappa enjoys writing creative non-fiction and impassioned Op-Ed articles. She credits her intersectional identity as a bisexual, feminist young woman with Indian and Sri Lankan parents for her desire to become involved in journalism to represent others who share aspects of her identity and to bring awareness to social issues involving marginalized communities. In her free time, she watches movies, takes pictures, tie-dyes clothes, and plays basketball.
Nine Years Ago Eyes squinted, knees bent on the soft, thick, white duvet below me, I peer into the clear mirror at the reflection of my eyes. From this angle, in this lighting, due to a combination of delusion, wanton hope, and deep desire, my eyes look green. My eyes are not green. They are so brown that they’re black. Black as the sea at mid-
night. Black as obsidian rock, forged from volcanic magma underground and smooth as glass. Black as the heart of the cruelest villain. Black as my fringed hair, lobbed off at the shoulders and swishing against my neck. Nevertheless, right now, they look green and I’m happy, happy because my eyes are pretty now, soft, colored, filled with light that normally gets sucked in and extinguished by my dark abysses. Finally, my eyes are a color in the rainbow, bright and clear—something that’s celebrated in the South Asian community. India is infatuated with light, colored eyes—a token of beauty according to their society, as rare as those may be. My eyes sting. I haven’t blinked
since I noticed the false greenness of my eyes, a discovery of fiction. They begin to water. I’m forced to squeeze my eyes shut, letting them recover from the strain my excitement burdened them with. I quickly reopen my eyes, praying that the hint of green is still there, but as the stinging subsides so does the green coloring. Even though I squint my eyes again, wildly searching my reflection for it, I’m back to reality, my eyes back to their deep, darkerthan-mud, boring brownness. The corners of my mouth tug my face into a frown, the top lip brown and the bottom a soft pink, an idiosyncrasy around Canadian white people with two pink lips each. Seven Years Ago Pencil grazing the stark white paper, a dark grey mark is left behind in its wake. In the middle of the outline of a face
I am drawing is a “button nose,” which is small, round, and perky with an indent where the fleshy part of the nose bends away from the bone and points towards the cloud-littered sky. Perfect, pretty, and flattering on the girl’s face, the nose I drew and am now staring at makes me feel contempt for my own; mine is too long, too straight, too big, too Indian, pointing down at a 180-degree angle. My bushy, also-too-Indian eyebrows furrow as my stare morphs into a glare. I don’t care that my nose contains history, matching a long line of Indian and Sri Lankan ancestors. I want to trade with the girl in my drawing. I want to reach down through the flat paper, my hand submerged in a sea of white and buoy-like grey pencil marks, grab onto her nose, and wrench it from the picture to replace my own. Instead, I push the fleshy end of my nose up, up, up with my index finger until it’s pressed against my nose’s bridge. I hold it there, unwavering in my resolve to bend the end of my nose until it’s perky and cute and just like the noses of the white girls at school. I hold it there, my nose looking like a pig’s snout, the nostrils stretched vertically. I hold it there for God knows how long. Five Years Ago Hair dripping, mirror fogged from the scalding shower, I palm my cheeks, rubbing a pink, sticky, gel-like substance into my deep brown skin. After squirting another dollop of the skin bleaching product onto my fingertips’ soft pads, I slather it onto my forehead covered in dark polka-dots that I despise and massage it into the sides of my nose and my chin. My fingers tap at my phone’s screen, setting a timer for 15 minutes, 5 minutes over the recommended time period stated on the bottle to give the product ample time to work its magic. If I’m going to play Ariel in my school’s rendition of The Little Mermaid, if I want to be pretty, if I want to finally be free of my parents’ and relatives’ advice on how to lighten my tanned skin, then I need to use “Fair and Lovely” to be “fair and lovely,”
to get as close to white as possible. No risk could outweigh the reward. The not-so-secret family recipes that every South Asian family knows by heart for skin-brightening (a.k.a. skin-whitening) papaya facials weren’t up to par so I couldn’t resist plucking a bottle of “Fair and Lovely” from the top shelf of the local Indian supermarket. Beep, beep, beep. The timer goes off, the shrill sound bouncing off the smooth, glossy, white walls. Hand hovering over the silver faucet handle, I hesitate. The sensation of cool water running over my face as I scrub out the bleach moves farther away from my imagination and reality as I move that hand to set a timer for another five minutes instead. I press start. Last Summer Sweat pours over my brows and drenches my cotton t-shirt. A stabbing pain shoots from my ribs, my lungs sending out a plea to my brain. My brain’s on: Do Not Disturb; it’s not taking any calls today. Pumping my arms faster, synching their movement with that of my bouncing knees, I sprint in place on the stiff carpet of my bedroom floor, eyes fixed on the computer screen in front of me where the introduction and theme song for “Parks and Rec” plays. As the theme song finishes its final upbeat notes, I stop. Panting hard, eyes blurring, I collapse into the bed in front of me covered in crumpled sheets. As the episode continues and Leslie Knope, the series’ perpetually-positive parks director, begins her staple antics, I roll the waistband of my pajama pants down. I pinch the belly that was exposed by that action to pinpoint how much pliable fat is still there and then smoothing it down, flattening it with the press of my palm. Pinch. Press. Pinch. Press. As my focus remains on my stomach rather than on the show, the words of Indian aunties praising my mother for losing weight, the desire to feel skinny and thus desirable, and my
mother warning me of the consequences that will come later in life (weight gain) if I eat a second slice of cake or another bag of skittles run through my mind on repeat. My fingers brush the bumpy braille above my bony hip; four years ago, these stretch marks began appearing on my skin, suddenly, like a magic act, to my relatives’ chagrin. They’ve been spreading, multiplying in number every year since. 20 minutes remain before the next episode starts and I’ll have to drag myself out of bed to run in place until the theme song concludes. It will be my 3rd time doing that in the past hour, my 6th time doing that all day. And yet, it still won’t satisfy my toxic coach of a brain, forcing me to do 20 jumping jacks, a two-minute plank, and 25 crunches after I eat one measly slice of pizza at dinner and a kiwi for dessert, a kiwi instead of the calorie-loaded ice cream in our freezer.
of the sun’s rays, like a magnet for Vitamin D, and pouring warmth into my body; my dark spots are a sign that I’m beating my demons as they are the healing remnants of ruptures left behind by anxious, bitten, bitter fingernails; my eyes are color-changing chameleons and a mixture of all of the colors of the rainbow in one pot, portals into outer space, beams of tree-bark, dark-chocolate brown, and orbs of cinnamon honey depending on the time of day; my mismatched lips enclose a wide, fullface, teeth-bared smile that looks giddy with an internal golden hour; my nose is a gift from my father and every South Asian before me, and it would be rude of me to be unappreciative of a gift, especially when it gives my face character and elegance; and my belly holds my organs tenderly in its protective embrace. There are two reasons why I love my body now:
One, it’s not only my body because I share it with the other millions of beautiful South Asian women of the past, present, and future and thus, it deserves for me to look at it with unbiased lenses rather than with harsh, nitpicking eyes.
Same body, new body image. I’ve wasted too many years of my young life striving to reach unattainable eurocentric beauty standards that South Asian society puts on a pedestal. While I’d let smoke plumes rise off my naturally wavy hair as I straightened it, I’d bend my straight nose upwards with my finger. I would obsess over the shade of my skin and try, and fail, to bleach my black hair to a brownish rust color with lemon juice in the sun. I’d eat beetroot with the hopes that it would permanently stain my brown upper lip with color and perform even more actions to suppress my external, visible-to-the-world connections to my South Asian heritage. However, now I know that being South Asian is something to be proud of, a reason to hold my head up high so everyone can see the beautiful features it afforded me. Here’s a redefinition of myself by no one’s standards, but my own: my skin, the color of mulch, connects me to the earth, the giver of life, and to the hearth, a symbol of red hot warmth with mellow orange accents; my hair, embodying the spontaneity I want in my life, never curls the same way twice in addition to attracting all
Two, this is the only body I have and the only one I’ll ever have. It’s done a darn good job of keeping me walking, dancing, playing, living, and doing everything else I love to do. A life spent hating my body because of social constructs like the “ideal body type,” which can’t seem to make up their mind, is a life I don’t want to live. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and when I look in the mirror, I see beauty, but I also see more than just external, physical beauty. When I look in the mirror, I see a person who has the bravery to keep moving forward every day, the bravery to be unapologetically herself, the bravery to dare to love herself for what’s inside as well as on the outside of her body. I see confidence, pride, and appreciation. I see a caring friend, a determined dreamer, a sunbeam who tries to warm everyone in her path. I like what I see. OM.
erview t in
BY KATE ANDERSON-SONG
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Emma Galbraith is an actress, musician, writer, and climate justice organizer. She stars in the upcoming film Inbetween Girl. Instagram: @em.magining Twitter: @em_magining Website: www.emma-galbraith.com Introduce yourself! Hi! My name’s Emma Galbraith. I’m an actress from Austin, TX, currently based in the northeast. I’m also a musician and writer. You are starring in the upcoming indie feature film, “Inbetween Girl,” which was the SXSW ‘21 Visions Audience Award Winner at its premiere. What is this film about? Inbetween Girl is about the growing pains of being a teenager, being a young girl, being Asian-American, and on top of all of that, trying to understand what it means to love others and love yourself. My character Angie holds all of those identities, and she starts a secret affair with the hottest guy at school, Liam, who also has a girlfriend that he won’t break up with. At the same time, her parents have just gotten divorced, and her dad’s new girlfriend has a daughter who seems like the perfect Chinese child -- everything Angie isn’t. Just when she thinks her life can’t get more complicated, she starts getting to know the girl dating Liam. Drama (and some hilarity) ensues. You play the main character, Angie, in “Inbetween Girl”, who is set off “on a journey of sexual awakenings, racial insecurities, and artistic expression” after a series of events. How did you relate to your character (and how did you differ)? I was extremely lucky to be able to help create a lot of Angie’s character. The script and story at the time when I was cast was in a lot of ways very different from the story of the finished film. The director-writer, Mei Makino, and I had a lot of conversations about who
Angie was — particularly about her mixed race. Angie is Chinese-American because I’m Chinese-American. The city that her father is from, Fuzhou, is my mother’s hometown. So quite a lot of her racial identity is directly taken from my own experiences. I also really strongly relate to how difficult it is to navigate first-time relationships, particularly as a teenager who is also coming into their own self. People who are assigned female at birth and people of color are often socialized at the earliest of ages to put other people’s needs above their own. Then when starting a relationship with someone else for the first time, there’s this baked-in understanding that to love someone and to be committed to someone is to avoid examining what one wants from the relationship, and thus to not advocate for one’s own needs. It takes experience and good influences to unlearn that idea that being a good partner means sacrificing your own happiness. Angie has to learn that through experience, but I hope that other young people who see this movie come away with it knowing how important their own happiness is. I’d say one of my big differences from Angie is that I’m (hopefully) a little friendlier than she is at the start of the movie, haha. One of her journeys is learning to see other people — especially other women — as full humans and not just what she imagines them to be. She learns that the women in her life, from her mother, to Sheryl, to her friend Rebecca, are full people in their own right with hopes and dreams and complicated lives like her, and I think as a result she learns to give more love to others, especially women, and to not judge them too harshly off the bat. I think that’s an incredibly important thing for young people
to learn early, because societal standards and preconceptions pit complete strangers against each other all the time. This was your first feature film, though you’ve had experience in theatre and short films/web content - how was the experience of shooting “Inbetween Girl”? How did it compare or differ to other experiences? Inbetween Girl was and is a dream come true. I can’t gush enough about the production team, the crew, the cast, and the community. I’d fill three hundred pages. We were working with a very low budget, and we had to shoot 92 pages in 15 days. That meant that from start to finish we were making the most out of basically every second we had; Mei and Ivy Chiu, Inbetween Girl’s DP, are geniuses and worked tirelessly to make the filming schedule fit. I’d also never experienced such a lovely, friendly community on an acting project. People held space on set for each other’s needs and emotions, which meant that even with the fast pace of filming, we could slow down to give each scene the emotional energy that it needed, and off camera we could take time to connect with each other and celebrate this art we were creating together. I believe that’s really a crucial part of how we could tell such a gentle story -- because we practiced being gentle with each other as we told it. What inspires you? Do you have any role models? To me, storytelling is a type of magic. It can heal people, build communities, prepare folks for life experiences, help catalyze change, and so much more. I’m inspired by stories that make those kinds of impacts. I’m also very
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“I hope that other young people who see this movie come away with it knowing how important their own happiness is.” inspired by music — I listen to Janelle Monáe and Regina Spektor somewhat religiously, and I’m also a big musical theatre nerd. I love Eva Noblezada. Ming-Na Wen and Lea Salonga are also two of my role models from way back (can you tell Mulan is one of my favorite films?). I also do a lot of political organizing, particularly in climate justice, and pretty much everyone I know in that field is a role model to me. Is there anything you wish you knew when you were beginning to pursue performing? Is there any piece of advice you’d want to share with other aspiring young Asian performers just starting out? The biggest thing I’ve learned and relearned again is to trust my gut. Trust what feels good, and detach from what doesn’t. In addition: get involved with what you can, whether that’s auditioning locally, exploring your school’s theatre and film programs, and/ or making your own content. Get to know yourself — what kind of art do you like to create and surround yourself with? What kind of people? Value your worth and stick up for yourself when you need to. Learn as much as you can about the things that you love, and that includes yourself.
This time of COVID-19 and the rise of anti-Asian hate has been difficult for the whole Overachiever community. How have you been coping with this time and taking care of yourself? How has your past year been affected? I’ve been fortunate enough to be able to lay low during the pandemic. I decided to not go to college for the year and to focus on learning more about myself, my interests, and also devoting more time to climate justice organizing. I’ve been taking care of myself by staying off of the news, honestly. After the Atlanta shootings every fiber of my body said “okay, we’re going to stay all the way offline for the next twenty-four hours”, and that did wonders for my mental health. Going on walks, drinking lots and lots of water, and surrounding myself with people I love and things I love like great art and homemade food all help. But fighting the good fight, with work like mutual aid and community organizing, is what gives me the most hope for the future. This reality that we live in is not the one that should exist. For me, organizing for a better reality does the most for my mental health. Here are some rapid-fire questions: Your go-to coffee shop order?
Hot chocolate with cinnamon and a bagel with lox. What item(s) can you not leave your house without? A scrunchie. Any good films/TV shows you’re watching right now? I just watched I Care A Lot. Rosamund Pike is one of my heroes. WandaVision is also great and Elizabeth Olsen and Kathryn Hahn are amazing. Same goes for The Queen’s Gambit and Anya Taylor-Joy.
Ultimate comfort food? Chicken udon noodle
What has been the highlight of your day today? I made beignets for the first time this afternoon and they were divine. What is upcoming for you and your work? I’m seeking representation currently and hoping to work on more amazing projects in the future! And, if you’re interested in seeing Inbetween Girl, it’s playing at CAAMFest - individual tickets for the film are $10 and $50 to get access to all of CAAMFest online.
(L to R) “American Raku: Comfort Tower I detail (2021), American Raku: Comfort Tower I (2021), American Raku: Pressure to Not-Wabi-Sabi (2019), American Raku: Row VI detail (2021), American Raku: Row VI (2021), Leftover Guardian (2020), Promotional Image for Authentication A: Reforming Cats (2020), Promotional Image for Authentication B: Cat Reforming Plates (2020)” by Rachel Austin // IG: @r.l.austin.makes // rachelaustinmakes.com (L to R) Medium: slipcast American Raku ware, slipcast porcelain with imitation gold leaf (1 and 2), slipcast American Raku ware, imitation Kintsugi; slipcast American Raku ware (4 and 5); slipcast porcelain, found blue-and-white ware; Video Performance 4:15, slipcast porcelain, blue-and-white plastic sheeting, white cotton gloves, cowgirl boots; Video Performance 7:57, found blue-and-white ware, bronze casting, blue-and-white plastic sheeting, white cotton gloves, cowgirl boots
this is how many times I cried reading michelle zauner’s crying in h mart: a book review BY TASIA MATTHEWS @kanitahlah Tasia currently works in international security and peacebuilding, with a focus on Middle East, North Africa region. She plans to return to school for a Master's in global security and governance. She likes reading, playing tennis, and generally being outside.
Back in 2018, while doing something but not something important enough for me to remember, I found myself reading a free article on The New York Times. This article, a <5 minute read that left me a blubbery mess by its end, was the prequel to Zauner’s 2021 memoir of the same name, Crying in H Mart. Considering how much I could relate to the NYT piece – I’m sure I’m not alone in admitting that I am deathly afraid of losing my mom, my best friend and also the physical embodiment of my connection to Thai culture – as soon as I discovered that Zauner was expanding her piece into a whole book, I hopped onto Penguin Ran-
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dom House to place my preorder. Boy, how I have never made a more validating purchase.
timely death after a long and embittered battle with cancer. Peppered throughout the pages, detailed descriptions of her family’s collective love affair with food, which serve to help us comprehend the extent of food’s power in bringing people together in times of both great happiness and grief.
The day I received the book, I read it in one sitting, in the same chair for hours and only getting up to grab more tissues when my shirt was no longer a usable substitute. “Something that was always in Zauner’s writing flows easi- the hands of other people to be ly, indicative of her lifelong given and never my own to take, career as a musician. Despite to decide which side I was on, taking liberal jumps back and whom I was allowed to align with. forth in her history, the read- I could never be of both worlds, er stays enraptured enough only half in and half out, waiting to never become lost, and the to be ejected at will by someone jumping helps to prepare us with greater claim than me.” as we, together with her past self, approach the known inOne white parent, one evitable – her mother’s un- Asian. A dissonant experience
that Zauner, who is half white and half Korean, describes with care and attentiveness: being othered by those whose culture, language, and food you share; being not quite the same; being the only half Asian, half white kid in your school; being Asian but also not Asian enough; being too much of one thing sometimes and too much of neither at all other times. All this paired with the dissonance from trying to relate to your own parents, a concept that Zauner explores equally at length for both her mother and father: her overwhelming desire to be a good daughter, at the risk of sacrificing her own desires and energy; how external criticism and validation was only impactful if it came from her mom, whose opinion she idolized above all others; her acknowledgement that her mother was truly the only connection tying herself to her dad and that without her, their relationship was ready and able to falter. “My mother had struggled to understand me just as I struggled to understand her. Thrown as we were on opposite sides of a fault line – generational, cultural, linguistic – we wandered lost without a reference point, each of us unintelligible to each other’s expectations, until these past few years when we had just begun to unlock the mystery, carve the psychic space to accommodate
each other, appreciate the differences between us, linger in our refracted commonalities. Then, what would have been the most fruitful years of understanding were violently cut short, and I was left alone to decipher the secrets of inheritance without its key.” Ultimately, I am left with a profound feeling of gratitude towards Zauner, who traversed a journey – the loss of her mother, a loss made even more cruel by the onset of an inexcusably tragic disease – then so eloquently articulated the nuanced fear and grief that mixed-race people possess, so that when the inevitable loss happens to us too, we can at least be comforted in knowing we are not alone. Zauner succeeded also in encouraging her readers, mixed-race or not, to explore, amend, and deepen our relationships with our own parents, for that inevitable may show up more quickly than expected.
6, 8, 10, 10, 11, 18, 33, 37, 42, 48, 69, 86, 91, 94, 117, 124, 127, 129, 136, 141, 143, 144, 146, 152, 154-157, 159, 160, 166, 186, 200, 223, 224, 226, 232, 239 Please, keep the tissues in reach. om.
Out of the 239-page book, a total of 38 pages (approximately 16 percent) made me cry. To be fair, I was essentially crying continuously throughout the entirety of the book, but some sentences were a little more effective than others at bringing fresh tears to my eyes. These pages are listed below so that perhaps you may be a little more prepared.
Written by Kate Anderson-Song 40 | overachiever magazine
Alanna Li is a youth educational equity activist and grassroots organizer from Maryland. She is the co-founder of Lifting Lives, a nonprofit that mitigates the impact of educational inequality, and has worked on political campaigns such as the Ossoff for Senate Campaign in Georgia. Social profiles: Instagram: @islahnna / @liftinglivesnonprofit LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/alanna-li/ Website: https://www.liftinglivesnonprofit.org/
Introduce yourself! Hi, 你好! My name’s Alanna and I’m a Chinese-American youth educational equity activist and grassroots organizer based in Maryland. What is Lifting Lives? Lifting Lives is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit that mobilizes a nation-wide chapter network to benefit communities impacted by educational inequality through fundraising, supply drives, extracurricular enrichment, and advocacy.
hierarchies. These past four years, I’ve watched in fury and horror as the Department of Education undermined protections for LGBTQ+ students and disrespected survivors of sexual assault. Public education, the alleged great equalizer, falls far short of its lofty ambitions. My educational advocacy developed from my exploration of federal, state, and local inequity through filmmaking, where I interviewed members of Congress, state legislators, local council members, teachers, and researchers. Last year, I founded Lifting Lives as an initiative to host school supply and personal protective equipment drives to help the underserved communities hit hardest by the pandemic. As I expanded this initiative across a dozen states, I realized the importance of leveraging the power of youth to realize a just world.
Opportunity in any socio-political realm is rarely easy to come by; it is a result of courage, tenacity, and hard work.
How and why did you begin Lifting Lives? As a first-generation immigrant who has both attended and volunteered at a Title I school, I have experienced firsthand the injustices students all across the country face on a daily basis. As a student, I experienced the indefensible link between wealth and education funding, witnessed the discriminatory impact of law enforcement in schools, and observed a system that reinforced oppressive social
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Outside of Lifting Lives, you also participate in things like Model UN, a philosophy & ethics club, a field intern-
ship for a senate campaign, and more - where did these interests begin and how do they connect? My commitment to realizing a just and equitable world governs my actions. Many of my pursuits outside of Lifting Lives correlate to fostering conversations on social disparities and grassroots organizing. As a member of the Ossoff for Senate team that flipped Georgia, I was proud to dedicate my time to assuaging Americans’ fears about this new era of political chaos and upheaval. True social change is derived from nonprofit advocacy and voter mobilization working in tandem. Who do you admire or look up to as a role-model? I look up to all the women of color who paved the way for modern activism. Some women that come to mind are Grace Lee Boggs, who pioneered the Asian American Movement of the 20th century; Ella Baker, who mobilized nonviolent civil rights activists; Shirley Chisholm, who shattered barriers as the first black woman elected to the United States Congress; Charlotte Hawkins Brown, who founded a school that educated thousands of Black youths; and Patsy Takemoto Mink, the first woman of color elected to Congress. What advice would you give to someone who wants to be more active in advocacy, activism, or politics? Opportunity in any socio-political realm is rarely easy to come by; it is a result of courage, tenacity, and hard work. One of my favorite Chinese idioms that captures this concept is 铁杵磨针 (tiě chǔ mó zhēn) which represents a legend about an old woman
grinding an iron pestle into a dainty embroidery needle. Here are some rapid-fire questions: Your go-to coffee shop order? Black coffee. Favorite color? Forest green. Any good films/tv shows you’re watching right now? I love political/legal dramas like Scandal, How To Get Away With Murder, and Designated Survivor. Ultimate comfort food? Pad thai. What has been the highlight of your day today? I woke up early for a cup of coffee and a morning run! What is next for you and for Lifting Lives? I plan on expanding Lifting Lives to every state in America, amplifying educational equity fundraising and mobilizing initiatives, and bettering myself as an activist.
e r : u h air c m e d s a ATALIE OBEDOS N s Y re B i m e, she warns us to not let the s Demur gl s i M asy by the end of the ossiness f e r g ue’s s i s r i s a i day. ool at h his you for th In t ,
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on representation in the academy BY KATRINA LEE @__WRITTEN.K ON IG When Katrina is not arguing with her brother about women’s rights or trying to fit writing courses into her English degree, she’s thinking up short story ideas in her mush of a brain. On regular Friday nights, she can be found raving about the Before trilogy and books that are purple inside and out.
he 93rd Academy Awards made history. Fantastic news of the wonderful Youn Yuh-jung winning Best Supporting Actress, however, is juxtaposed by the recognition of a disheartening 63-year-wait for another Asian actress to be honored at the massive event. The first had been Japanese-American singer Miyoshi Umeki for her performance in 1958’s Sayonara. Recent Asian films that garner prestige have been ensemble films, like the championing Bong Joon Ho’s Parasite, which, with its groundbreaking media and critics’ attention, still saw its actors and actresses sidelined. In the social thriller’s footsteps, Minari by Lee Issac Chung is also nominated for best picture at the 2021’s Awards. It is no secret The Academy has suffered backlash and public skepticism due to its snubs — nominations and
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wins that frustrate, and fail to represent diversity in cinema despite public support. Yet, the Oscars are still one of the major parameters of cinema’s quality. It also entails a certain boost to an actor’s career advances to win one of those golden trophies. As such, the lack of recognition endowed to Asian actresses — regardless of nationality — congeals into a jarringly concerning pattern. The focus here is on performers being recognized for their exemplary work in acting, which connotes the Academy, the general public and the film critics’ acquiescent acceptance of Asian faces into their cultural-visual vernacular. Asian actresses, if lauded for their work, would break free from the stereotypical minority representation on the big screen— that has gradually consolidated into the status quo — as well as the homogeneity of the film industry. This rosy outlook
might be a distant reality, given the long-standing climate to exclude Asian actresses from nominations, let alone winning at the Oscars. The scarcity of both Asian female performers taking up leading roles, and given recognition confirms the deep-rooted problems in the film and cultural industries. The reasons for this disheartening reality are manifold. The first is that female leading roles in prestigious scripts are written to be in the majority, white. Most stories entering the public consciousness are still centered around white people, despite steadily improving landscape and proportion; indeed, the recent years the Academy has spotlighted black people’s narratives, which are important steps in the film industry toward racial awareness and representation. But what about Asian-produced and
acted films? That inadequacy brings us to the next reason, which is the bypassing of Asian actors and actresses even as the film itself, the screenplay, the director and other categories are nominated. This can be attributed to the fact that on screen, the audience see the performers as Asian faces, redolent with oriental culture and heritage, despite at times, those characters are of Western descent or second-generation migrants in Western societies. To reconcile the appearance with their contribution to the stellar work of the film, proves still a challenge for most audience members and academy critics alike.
straight to other stories that are albeit talking about equally important things as traditional Chinese familial values, death, and human connectedness. The same goes for Crazy Rich Asians, which received no Academy Award attention, despite being the highest grossing romantic comedy in the last decade and crowd’s
yet, once again, bypassing its female lead. Even classics like Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon racked up almost all other nominations save for acting. It does not help that the film industry has a bad track record in whitewashing, where Asian characters are played by white actors. Notable examples are Emma Stone in Aloha, Scarlett Johansson in Ghost in the Shell, and Tilda Swinton in Doctor Strange. Granted, these films are not “Oscars’ material,” as such, but they indeed hint at a deep-rooted viewer psychology, denoting that movie-goers are more at ease to see ethnicity and identity reflective of their own on screen, for increased relatability, resonance and cathartic responses. As such, representations are one major avenue to assimilate minorities into the mainstream cultural conversation, and to achieve cultural and social awareness. As much as it is important to see stories about black people, latino, aboriginals, indigenous people and other marginalized and disenfranchised communities,
“It is important for Asian, especially young girls and women, to see someone that resembles themselves shine in a story that is wholly dedicated to them, to highlight their specific set of challenges navigating this world, and to celebrate their history and togetherness.”
The Academy has missed too many opportunities to honor Asian actresses for them to be regarded as “color-blind” judges. For instance, the critically acclaimed The Farewell had received robust Oscar buzz when the nominations rolled around in 2020, yet, the picture, its filmmakers and performers bypass the Academy’s eyes, which flew
favorite (let alone starring the exquisite Michelle Yeoh and Constance Wu with their respective stellar work in supporting and leading roles). The list goes on: Memoirs of A Geisha that received nominations and award for Production and Costume Design,
it is important for Asian, especially young girls and women, to see someone that resembles themselves shine in a story that is wholly dedicated to them, to highlight their specific set of challenges navigating this world, and to celebrate their history and togetherness. As identity is socially constructed with relations of how we interact with others, engendering a refracted template off of which we perceive and represent ourselves, mass culture upholds an indispensable role to build that foundation for young Asian audience members. To see an Asian woman’s success sets an example for aspiring artists to create their own place in a world dominated by men. All this does not mean to ignore the imploding impacts of Asian actress-led hits, as well with these films’ divergent genres, like Netflix’s teen romantic comedy To All The Boys Series, and Always Be My Maybe; family drama The Farewell, and still, more needs to be done. There seems to be hope on the horizon. The new Marvel Cinematic Universe installment Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, promises an Asian-led spectacle, and we witness the blockbuster giant’s another attempt to reassure that there is the chance of seeing Asian female leading roles in the superhero genre
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with Ms. Marvel, featuring a Pakistani teenage girl gaining superpowers. Sure, MCU movies do not appear on the Oscars’ nomination list frequently — except for the trailblazing Black Panther — but these massive productions will surely steer the eyeball, and most importantly, the conversation towards Asian actresses’ performances in a leading role. Avoiding the trap of overcompensating and simply recognizing Asian actresses for the sake of it, the Academy needs to give credit when credit’s due, instead of playing as the sympathetic character that pushes for diversity and representations because “it would be the appropriate thing to do” under the current climate. An Oscar nomination or an actual trophy signifies an implied acceptance of Asian actress as “one of their own”. However, Asian women in films have been subjected to subservient characters lacking autonomy, reinforcing the conceptualization of Asian women being submissive housewives or undignified and thankless servants. More to that, Asian women on screen have been exoticized or sexualized as objects of desire designed to serve the male gaze, or as the backdrop and contributor to the bigger male-oriented story. We cannot neglect that this pigeon holing has its counterpart in
assigning Asian men to either wimpy, short, squinty-eyed comedians, or martial artists. The fight, indeed, has to be fought on both fronts. But a fight like this is never won, but continues through generations and generations of filmmakers, artists, performers, critics and audience members. OM.
“Korean Rose” by Eloise Hwang // IG: @elohwangart & TikTok: @elohwangg Medium: gouache on cold pressed watercolor paper
Jade Jade Ma Ma BY KATE ANDERSON-SONG
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Jade Ma is an English actress based in Vancouver. She was born in Hong Kong to a British father and Chinese mother. She made her professional TV acting debut in the 2018 Christmas comedy film Surviving Christmas with the Relatives as Soon while also rehearsing for the UK/International Tour of Miss Saigon. In 2019, she was cast in the upcoming film Black Widow. She also stars as Sky Tyler in the Netflix series Zero Chill. Social profiles: Instagram: @jade.y.ma Tiktok: @jade.y.ma Twitter: @Jade_Y_Ma Introduce yourself! Hi! I’m Jade Ma. I’m an English actress currently based in Vancouver. You are in Netflix’s newest teen show, centered around ice skating, “Zero Chill,” which just premiered! Who do you play in “Zero Chill” and how was the experience of making the show? I play Sky Tyler, a figure skater who is a kindred spirit to Kayla and has a very sweet puppy-love style blossoming relationship with Mac. She’s quirky, a little sassy, very strong-willed and cares deeply about those around her. I had such a great time making the show. The cast had 9 weeks of training leading up to filming, so we had time to really bond - we definitely formed some lasting friendships! The cast and crew were a stellar group of humans, everyone made our time in Sheffield the most fun. What was your experience ice-skating before this? How was the experience of skating for “Zero Chill”? I started figure skating at 3 years old and absolutely fell in love with it. I skated competitively for the first part of my childhood. I was training hard almost every day, but by 11 or 12 years old I realised that I was losing my love for the sport. I made the decision to quit and move on to other things.
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Having the opportunity to revisit skating for Zero Chill was really exciting for me. There was always a part of me that missed the ice, a small voice in the back of my head asking “what if you’d continued?” It was a big part of my childhood and I’ve always had a special place in my heart for it, so having the chance to combine my loves of skating and acting was truly special. You are also appearing in the upcoming MCU movie, “Black Widow.” I know much of this is still under wraps, but how was your experience working in the Marvel universe? It was a surreal experience. The people that we had the chance to work with were incredible and I’m so grateful to have been a part of something so major. I’m excited for the world to see it! What inspires you? Do you have any role models? My dad passed away as I was heading into my final year at drama school. Since then, with everything I do I just hope he’d be proud of me. Is there anything you wish you knew when you were beginning to pursue performing? Is there any piece of advice you’d want to share with other aspiring young Asian performers just starting out?
There is space for you in the industry. I was always worried that I’d be forever stuck in stereotypical roles as an Asian woman either the submissive, docile, domestic type, or the emotionless warrior. But seeing the recent changes in the industry has certainly inspired hope. It’s an absolute joy to see Asians represented more on screen, not just as two dimensional tropes, but as wholly realised, multidimensional characters. This time of COVID-19 and the rise of anti-Asian hate has been difficult for the whole Overachiever community. How have you been coping with this time? Activism and speaking up are such important things. So much of the racism towards Asians goes unnoticed - whether it be from lack of media coverage or just the “keep your head down” attitude - so seeing the recent increase in attention towards it has been validating. That being said, seeing the media coverage can be incredibly overwhelming: it’s hard not to see yourself or a family member when you see the videos of violence. It’s essential that you protect your mental health amidst all of this. When things get too much, there is nothing wrong with allowing yourself to take a step back and give yourself a break from it.
From Starbucks, an iced chai latte with oat milk, 2 pumps of vanilla syrup & sweet cream cold foam. Otherwise, an oat milk latte. What item(s) can you not leave your house without? SPF! Any good films/TV shows you’re watching right now? Currently rewatching Kakeguri - I’m slowly introducing my partner to the joys of anime.
“It’s an absolute joy to see Asians represented more on screen, not just as two dimensional tropes, but as wholly realised, multidimensional characters.”
Ultimate comfort food? Ramen What has been the highlight of your day today? Spending time with my partner and puppy! OM.
Here are some rapid-fire questions: Your go-to coffee shop order?
Each issue we feature some of our readers to highlight the diversity and stories of Asian women, non-binary individuals, and other gender minorities around the world. Here are this issue’s Overachievers!
Mia Rios Mia Rios is a Filipina-American from San Jose, CA. She is the founder of the Triple A Movement, a community organization created to raise awareness and representation of the Asian/ Asian-American population during the COVID-19 pandemic. She currently attends the University of San Francisco, as a second-year Psychology Major and double minor in Music and Child & Youth Studies. In her free time, she enjoys singing and playing the ukulele and the piano, as well as being with her family and friends. Through empowerment and motivation, Mia hopes that others become as impacted as her to take action on AAPI racism and other social issues, especially across the Bay Area. IG: @mia.g.rios / @triple.a.movement
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Rachel Austin is a visual artist born and based in Baltimore, Maryland. She received her B.F.A. in Ceramics from the Maryland Institute College of Art in the Spring of 2020. Rachel’s upbringing with her Filipina mother and her White American father has brought her visual investigations to ask the United States of America what “Asian-ness” looks like in the hyperreality it has created of Asian America. She initiates questions with ceramic objects that embody culturally specific and contradictory histories around the myth of the Asian monolith. In replicating, rearranging, resurfacing, deconstructing, destructing, and reconstructing these icons to show them in different perspectives she scrapes against flattened conceptualizations of Asian American stories. Website: rachelaustinmakes.com Instagram: @r.l.austin.makes
Erica Chang (she/her) is a Chinese Hawaiian American. She has traveled to several countries in Asia and has spent time studying trauma, memoirs and testimonies and often ponders how we can honor those who have come before us and the legacy they have enriched us with. Currently, she can be found in beautiful Tacoma, WA, working in higher education and teaching vinyasa yoga classes in her community. With yoga, she has found a melding of the best things in her life-laughter, sweat, community, and strength. These roles fill her cup, as do the mountains and ocean that surround her.
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Sarah Yasukochi @sarahyasukochi is the CEO of @ HouseCollectivesd, a premier Digital Marketing Agency that helps multi-seven figure conscious brands in the sustainable living space attract high-quality, high-converting leads and create meaningful customer connections. Sarah also owns @blazeandwander, an award winning, lifestyle and e-commerce business that partners with makers and artisans around the world to outfit tiny trailblazers and little wanderers. Sarah attributes much of her success to Marketing, Mindfulness and Magic. As a multi-passionate Entrepreneur, she is also an artist and aspiring author currently documenting - through poetry and prose - her path as an American-born Filipina and journey to Ancestral Re-membering. She lives in Luiseno territory (Oceanside, California.)
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Yvonne Chapman is an enigmatic talent that draws audiences in with her self-possessed confidence and charm. Despite having a successful career in finance, she decided to follow her passion for the arts and leave Calgary, Canada, where she was born and raised, to pursue a career in acting. Not only did the industry welcome her with open arms, as she quickly began booking coveted roles, but she found herself achieving beautiful things in writing, producing, and directing as well. This April, Yvonne will recur as the cunning assassin Zhilan on CW’s anticipated new series Kung Fu which premiered April 7. She will also recur on Global TV’s Family Law. Previously audiences have seen Yvonne in CW’s The 100, ABC’s The Crossing, and most recently, she had a series regular role in CBC’s Street Legal, a reboot of the hit television series from the 80s. Social profiles: Instagram: @ypchapman Twitter: @yvonne__chapman
On Monday evening, April 12, I logged onto Zoom to meet with Yvonne Chapman, who was on the other side of the continent in Vancouver, British Columbia, where it was still early afternoon. Chapman is a Chinese-Canadian actress who is currently starring as Zhilan in one of the CW’s new shows, Kung Fu. The series premiered on Wednesday, April 7, and is one of the many projects that Chapman has been a part of. Chapman was born and raised in Calgary, Alberta, but moved to Vancouver to pursue acting over six years ago. She went to the University of Calgary and majored in finance, settling into a corporate job. When she took a course in acting after she graduated as a stress reliever for her job, it rekindled her love for it, but for years, she never thought it was a possibility. “I always thought actors had to be super extroverted and confident, and I was never like that as a kid,” Chapman says. “But I loved stories, and I would play-act in my bedroom as a child by myself...But because I was very shy, I always thought being an actor wasn’t a possibility...It took me years to get the courage to pursue it.” After moving out to Vancouver, Chapman
took on a variety of projects from short films to TV movies to smaller roles in big shows like The 100 and Street Legal. Going from set to set, Chapman has grown to love the atmosphere, and while she still considers herself to be more introverted, she feels comfortable in front of a camera. “It’s hard to explain...but all of a sudden, the camera rolls, and I’m just in that moment,” Chapman explains. “It’s as if the veneer of the characters I get to play provide a protective shield of sorts. I aim to be just the character in that moment, and then everything else kind of fades...now, it’s more exciting than it is nerve-wracking. And I love being on set. I get to meet wonderful, creative people, and each experience is new.” Looking back on how she was before she decided to go into acting as her career, she sees how much it has changed for the better by helping her blossom past her shyness. “I don’t plan to, but let’s say if there was a scenario where I went back to my job in corporate finance, I think I’d be better at it because acting really engages you to be comfortable with who you are,” Chapman says. “You get to know a lot about yourself because to do good work as an actor, in my
opinion, requires vulnerability and honesty. It’s taught me a different level of communication and engagement with people, which is something I think can be valuable to anyone in any industry. So, in retrospect, when I worked in corporate finance, I definitely could have used more of that. And it would have helped my career and also would have benefited those around me.” As for how she approached her newest experience of playing her character Zhilan on Kung Fu, she—like many would be—enjoyed playing the villain for a change. “She is alluring, she’s dangerous,” Chapman says. “She has an incredibly interesting complexity to her because of her backstory... which, to me, gave her so much more color than just being a bad guy...I really see her as a hero of her own story...She thinks she’s doing everything for a greater purpose, and I really buy into that.” As an actress, Chapman and her characters end up contributing to Asian representation in Western media, and she touches on the importance of normalizing fleshed-out Asian characters on screen, specifically hoping for Asian characters in film and television to be seen as relatable to all audiences. “A lot of people [should] be able to see and recognize themselves [in these characters], even if they’re not Asian,” Chapman emphasizes. “No one should be made to feel like they don’t belong, as if they are other or foreign. We celebrate our differences and culture but also highlight how we can relate to each other. There are so many universal truths about family, love, and relationships in this show that no matter your background, you will connect with...It’s important that we start to bridge gaps of misunder-
standing [through representation].” “[But specifically with Asian women], the first stereotype I think of is being meek and quiet,” Chapman continues. “Stereotypes like that have put us in a diminishing position and are associated with weakness. I refuse to buy into that and believe that someone who has those qualities isn’t also powerful and strong...We need to fight against stereotypes that denigrate and reduce us into certain categories of what Asian women are.” Chapman has done so much already in her career, and she is definitely up for the possibility of doing more writing and directing the future—which she has done already through a few short films. And while acting is her main focus, there’s no telling what else her future holds. “You may never feel fully ready,” Chapman says, specifically on what advice she would give young Asian girls who want to pursue a career in film and television. “You may have a lot of doubts and fears in your mind, but if this is something that you can’t stop thinking about, that you love - I encourage you to at least try, in any capacity. For me, it started with that acting class and grew from there. And just know that it’s never too late to start and put in the work to accomplish what you want.” You can find Yvonne Chapman on Instagram (@ypchapman) and Twitter (@ yvonne__chapman) and in her new show Kung Fu on the CW Wednesdays at 8 PM EST. OM.
POEMS BY AUDREY KIM “Rain Child” The rain comes down and I overflow, fears and feelings dripping down my skin like blood flowing from a head wound. Cloud vapor condenses, precipitates, penetrates puddles like bullets as the thunder holds my grief at gunpoint.
“Metaphor” You are an off beat individual but I move with your motions like they’ve always been mine.
I pound the air and atmosphere. I pummel it, I inhale mutilated oxygen, and exhale inverted flesh. I hurt; I harm myself; I stand willingly in the rain; I learn to become an umbrella.
How I long to unmake you, to pull at your strings
My mother thinks I enjoy the pressure as if standing at the cliff’s edge means I crave death. She doesn’t know I do it for survival. Mother, in breaking myself, I have become unbreakable.
You are a cryptic dream, and would fall apart like one: Lovely, fleeting, and then far away. You are the green stretches of the Earth, the flower garlands of spring, the angel hair I long to braid; hum low on my neck, coy snakes of the Garden; I want to sink my teeth into your nature.
By the time those rejections roll in like high tide I will have drowned many times already and will know how to swim. If I cry and scream and feel worthless today, grief will feel as familiar as a friend when I fail to get into my dream school. Please don’t worry about me; I won’t develop immunity without catching a cold. So just — let me stand out here, in the rain. I promise I won’t live here forever.
them in my hands!
You are a caricature of reality, the prophetic devil on my shoulder I can’t seem to shrug off; you always urge me to break free of the circles I walk in. I love your out of tune trumpet of a laugh and how your too bright eyes catch fire; The smell of smoke when you speak poems into your cigarette makes my eyes water; makes me go absolutely feral. And as if I could forget your hazardous smile, climbing up one corner and grasping at the edge of the other. Consider this a testament to how deeply I love you. Consider these roundabout metaphors the vessels of your praise.
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“Ellipsis” Twisted beginning... knot of feelings... in my stomach... bullet proof vest. My fragile entrails... flinch at your fingers... stun gun paralysis submission obedience love. You’re tying them... into ribbons... my liver, my arteries... calling it pretty... calling it a blood oath... face pale. But I feel the light. I am a bird with you. I am Icarus with you. We are sun bound, sun seeking; Hot oil seeps from your palm. Will you... light me... on fire. The running never stops... and the surprises keep coming, some good, some bad, some in between. But as we laid there on the cement, staring at the sky and pretending to float, I realized... that I could never... live without you. And I still — Each passing day is marked with the quiet scar of absence. The scars on my body barely bother me. It’s that feeling of being left behind that stings like a shot. I never wanted it to end, not even in death. A forever open ended, a forever possibility, an eternal red string that doesn’t mean soulmates, but survival. We were dancing at the edge of a cliff and I didn’t mind if death, or anyone, was watching, waiting, for the fall. It’s true, I held my breath around you, but I hope you’re waiting at the end, so I can lose it again, and again... and again... and again.
view with r e t n i
a j e M t h i t i i a N E ANDERSON-SO T A K NG BY
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Niti Majethia is an international award-winning writer, editor and spoken word activist. At 23, Majethia is a published author of two books (Eunoia & The Battle Cry: A Little Book Of Comfort And Strength) available on Amazon and Barnes & Noble. She is deeply dedicated to the craft of the written word and has also dabbled in journalism/magazine writing and editing, along with winning three international awards for her work from Kidspirit Online. Besides her experience working for publications such as The Austin Chronicle and Spark Magazine, Majethia has been invited to speak and share her work at various events around the world, such as the UNCSW Conference at the United Nations Headquarters in 2019, and at shows by RAW Artists Agency. Today, Niti’s words have been quoted on countless websites, blogs and other platforms. Niti’s journey is a result of her voracious passion and unapologetic hunger to create, tell meaningful stories, and use her voice responsibly and authentically. Niti’s latest book, ‘The Battle Cry’ is available here: https://www.amazon.com/Battle-Cry-Little-Comfort-Strength/dp/1543706754/ref=sr_1_1?dchild=1&keywords=Niti+Majethia&qid=1615527870&sr=8-1 Instagram: @nitimajethia_
Facebook: NitiMajethia Website: www.nitimajethia.org
Niti Majethia is a 23-year-old international award-winning writer, editor and spoken word activist. After growing up in Mumbai, India, she moved to America by herself to attend The University of Texas at Austin, graduating in 2020, with an upcoming job as the Global Marketing Communications Coordinator at a big company — starting soon. Niti’s written and published two books, ‘Eunoia’ and ‘The Battle Cry’, had her work published in numerous magazines and publications online and in print, and had her words used by countless platforms (such as her quote “Deep in your wounds are seeds, waiting to grow beautiful flowers.” — which went viral on the internet). Majethia’s accolades also include speaking at the United Nations Headquarters, winning numerous writing contests and performing at shows by RAW Artists Agency. Her ultimate goal is to keep pushing her limits, accomplish something new everyday and grow as a creative. In her own words, “At the end of the day, I hope to be able to
help people with my words in whatever way I can.” I was lucky to be able to (virtually) talk to Niti about her journey writing, the difficulties of 2020, and more! Kate: How do you begin the writing process? Does inspiration strike suddenly, or do you have a certain routine, or is it something else entirely? Niti: Truth be told, it’s been different for different phases of my life. Growing up, when I was in school, I’d write every single day, spend hours besides my school work just reading, writing, lost in my own world. That’s how I wrote my first book. But now — I’m writing a lot less frequently, however when I do write, my quality is better. I think it’s all the nostalgia and experiences I’ve had with college and growing up that are paying off. When I worked for a magazine and then interned for a newspaper, I had to write and produce something whenever I was asked and on whatever topic they wanted — I couldn’t really wait for inspiration to strike. But now I’m a little freer before my next job
starts and I only write when I’m extremely inspired. Especially with poetry, I think, you can’t force it — you can only write a poem that wants to be written and when it speaks through you. You can try to write whenever you set a routine, but you never know what direction the poem will take and how it will turn out. That’s the best part about poetry especially, the discovery and the way it flows and becomes what it’s meant to be. K: This past year (2020), you published The Battle Cry: A Little Book of Comfort and Strength. How did this come to be, especially in the midst of a pandemic? N: The Battle Cry is a collection of some of my best poetry from the last 2-3 years. I was waiting for the right time to put out another book, something that represents my work today, because I wrote Eunoia (my first book) when I was so young and I have grown so much since then. I thought amidst the pandemic, a book of comfort and strength would be ideal because everyone was struggling so much with their mental health and being in quarantine. I had a different goal with this book though: I wanted it to be super thin, small and light, easy to carry around. I didn’t want it to have too many pages — I wanted the book to say a lot/be powerful using fewer words. That was a way I challenged myself. And the end product, as you know it, came to be ‘The
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Battle Cry’. K: How have you all adapted to life during the Covid-19 pandemic? How has your life and art been affected? N: The pandemic has definitely affected my life immensely. I remember I was in my last year of college when everything began, and then all our classes shifted online. Because I lived on campus, they had to move me with all my stuff about 3 times..till I finally moved to the apartment I’m living in now. I have to move again in a couple days. It really uprooted me in some ways and I felt very alone and uncertain about the future. Also not being able to see my friends here or go back to India and see my family was hard. I live alone, so it can be pretty isolating. But I also feel like it really forced me to open my eyes and focus on what’s really important in life: the present moment. It was a reminder that no matter how accomplished you may be — if your health isn’t good, or you aren’t safe, or you don’t have people you love and care about..none of that matters. I do feel like my art’s been affected too, because it’s been such an unusual year and I haven’t met as many new people as I would usually. But rolling with the punches and getting through the pandemic comes with its own inspiration and lessons. And I also put together The Battle Cry amidst all this — so I can’t really complain. (smiles)
K: What would you say is your biggest accomplishment? Personally & workwise? N: Personally, I’m proud of the way I’ve grown as a person the past 4 years. Moving to a whole new country on your own is hard, but it isn’t just the ‘coming here’ part that’s hard. What’s harder is to stay here, for so many years, without rushing back home (for me, India) every time there’s a crisis. Staying here, building your own network, being able to find friends like family, forging those relationships and connections — that has been my biggest achievement personally. Today I don’t feel like an immigrant — I feel like I belong here, and I can’t take all credit for that because I’ve been lucky to have met such amazing people along the way. But looking back I’ve grown so much and learnt so much, and despite the mistakes I’ve made, I’m happy with the way I’ve evolved as a person and grateful for the life I have built. Work wise — one thing that really stands out to me was being invited to share my words at a conference held by the United Nations, and also being eligible and approved to go to the United Nations Headquarters and meet so many remarkable people that are quite literally changing the world and the landscape of society. It’s an experience I will always treasure. Also having RAW Artists Agency find me through my Instagram and then becoming
a performer for them. I’m also proud of the way The Battle Cry has turned out, it got reviewed by a two-time Pulitzer Prize nominee (that’s on the cover) and I’m proud of the response it got. When people can connect with my work and be moved by it in any way..that is when I feel a sense of achievement. The love I get from my readers feels surreal. It makes me want to keep working harder and give back even more. K: What does self-care mean to you? How do you take care of yourself?
“Take care of yourself and to treasure your mind and heart, so you are relaxed and recharged enough to look at your journey and draw from your life experiences. ”
N: Self-care means everything to me. I feel like I wouldn’t be able to create anything or write or even introspect deeply if I didn’t have that inner peace, voice and wisdom to draw from, and the only way to maintain that is to take care of yourself and to treasure your mind and heart, so you are relaxed and recharged enough to look at your journey and draw from your
life experiences. My Faith and spirituality guide my life immensely, and praying everyday when I wake up along with just finding gratitude within, amidst every little thing really helps me cope with life’s ups and downs. I’m a Hindu and a huge Lord Shiva devotee. Besides that, there’s musicians and artists I really love that inspire me a lot, and indulging in their work is another way I practice self-care. Some of my favorite musicians are Quinn XCII, ayokay, Chelsea Cutler and Jeremy Zucker. Quinn and Alex especially inspire
me so much. I also listen to bands like The 1975 a lot. I also love movies, tv shows and books, I love getting lost in the narrative of a cleverly woven story — it’s such an incredible escape. In America, spending time with my friends is another thing that’s very important to me because I feel like the friends I have bring out the best in me and are also people with whom I can be 100% myself. When I’m back home in India, I like to spend time with my family and the family friends I have there. Connecting and bonding with the people you love is always a good way to take care of yourself. My website nitimajethia.org has a self care page with various playlists for different moods! They aren’t created by me but it’s a resource I wanted to share. The moods are fun and include things like “Eating fruit in a small Italian seaside town” to “Late night drives in a 90’s movie”.
“Take life one day at a time. If you feel like you can’t get through the whole day, just try to get through the next hour. Focus on the present moment and what you can do right now that will help push you in the direction of your dreams.”
K: Thank you for such thoughtful answers (and I LOVE your playlists - they are so specific and fun)!
gling your ears, etc.)?
Here are some rapid-fire questions: Your go-to coffee shop order? N: A coffee frappuccino with sweet cream foam, almond milk and a caramel drizzle. K: Favorite food? N: Cake!!! My absolute favourite. If I could eat only one thing it would be cake. But I also love butter chicken and cheese naan, and chicken biryani. Pizza. Pancakes. Steamed chicken dumplings. As you can probably tell, I have a lot of favorite food. (Smiles) K: Any special or secret skills (i.e. wig-
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N: My friends say I have a really unique sense of humor — something I never really noticed in myself until I met them. But I guess it depends, because every person brings out a different version of you. I have a really sensitive nose and sense of smell — so I can’t eat anything smelly or super flavourful (like garlic or onions or seafood — but a little is fine.) Usually, I can smell even the most faint fragrance/odour. It’s kind of annoying. K: A tiny piece of advice that has stuck with you? N: This is going to sound cliché, but it’s probably cliché because it’s true: take life one day at a time. If you feel like you can’t get through the whole day, just try to get through the next hour. Focus on the present
moment and what you can do right now that will help push you in the direction of your dreams. Also always be kinder than necessary. You truly have no idea what someone else is going through, or what their life is like. If you have the opportunity to create an impact in someone’s life, let it be through your compassion. Be genuine, be happy for people, wish them well. This is something my parents have always taught me growing up and it’s stuck with me. It’s also helped me connect with people better and influenced the way I engage with others. We all have the power to make someone smile, so why not do it? K: What has been the highlight of your day today? N: I love this question especially because I’m coincidentally answering it on an important day. Today (March 11 2021) is Maha Shivratri, a special day in our calendar that celebrates Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati. I went to a Hindu temple for the first time in Austin, Texas where I live. My friend went with me and it was such a fulfilling experience. I’m someone that believes you don’t necessarily need to go to a temple to pray and be close to God, but today’s a special occasion so I really thought the effort was necessary. I cherished my experience — it was peaceful, wholesome and also reminded me of home. K: Anything else that’s important to you, that hasn’t been covered in the questions yet?
maker. Everything that I am, I owe to them. I’m very very close to them, and I’m also close to my grandparents. I only get to see them once or twice a year, because they live in India. But they’ve given me the world, and I really hope to make them proud. K: Niti, thank you again for sharing your work with us. My final question is: what is upcoming for you and your work/art? N: I honestly have so many dreams and ideas I want to breathe life into! I’m always up to try something new like songwriting, writing lyrics (something I did a lot when I was a kid, because I love music) to writing for film/television. I also want to continue to dabble in the magazine space. I’ve now secured a good job that requires me to help with marketing and communications, something I’m also very passionate about and have been trained for in college. I’d also love to continue performing spoken word whenever I can. I have a lot of things on my list but I try not to over-plan my career, because my journey so far has been so organic and I’ve always found a way to do the things that were meant for me. I’m trying to take my own advice and take it one day at a time, but also balance that with hustling very hard each day and putting myself out there as much as possible. What’s meant to be will be, all I can do now is keep my head down and keep working hard. At the end of the day, if I’m able to inspire even just one person with my words, I’ll consider my job well done.
N: My family is also incredibly important to me. I’m an only child, my father is a stock broker and my mom is an artist and home-
cà phê 179 (i have never been to vietnam) BY THIÊN-THI NGUYEN @SEXCTNT ON IG Thiên-Thi (she/he/they) is a graduating music and social sciences student at Vanier College in Tio’Tia:ke (Montréal), Canada. She has a glee for languages, flamenco, and Turkish funk and jazz-fusion. They enjoy spending their days curating playlists, biking with their sister, and writing as much as they can. ThiênThi plans on pursuing a Bachelor in film and sound, to settle in Lisbon, Portugal, and to hopefully combine their artistic passions and wanderlusts into narratives they are proud of.
have never been to Vietnam.
In the late summer of quarantine, when summer was understood as “fall” and heavy knitted turtlenecks and wool and cashmere coats replaced tees and flops, my father, my sister, and I treated ourselves to some cozy Tsukuyomi ramen in the heart of the mileend. “This is where Aman and Gino live!” I’d share in the car. “Oh! My friends and I go picnic-ing here all the time!” I’d suddenly exclaim, pointing to the residential park tucked in the nest between Parc Avenue and Mordecai-Richler Library. Memories of rich St-Viateur bagels fresh out the oven and photoshoots under the sun on Jeanne-Mance passed by as boutique lights reflected on the windows of Papa’s Honda Accord. When the masked employee sat us down along the exposed brick wall, my father spoke proudly: “Ông nôi’s
café had an overarching wall like this one, in Vietnam.” *** In the spring of quarantine, I brought up the dust-filled books and photo albums from our family basement. Printed films of my parents’ wedding and The History of Vietnam took over my bedside table. Thus began a well-awaited search for identity, history, any semblance of home that was not the refurbished house I spent my days in.
my father’s home I claimed as mine—more than the one I celebrated my 5th, 8th, and 20th birthday in—more than the one safely guarding me against the Men my grandmother so deeply feared for my young adult life.
“We I live in a mid-century-built two-storey home in the heart of Ville Saint-Laurent’s Jewish neighbourhood, which my mother has painted and repainted, renovated and sculpted to look like the glossed papers of IKEA and HGTV magazines. My *** bedroom wall shares one with my grandmother’s. My “179,” he said. “It was called peach-painted door opens to 179, our house number on the the extremity of the hallway, street.” a direct pathway to the bedroom my younger self sought The decadence of Takoyaki shelter in during the wakes octopus balls called on my sis- of childish night terrors—the ter’s appetite, while the story same my mother now safeof my grandfather’s local busi- ly shares with a Man whose ness answered my cravings complexion differs from mine. more. Here laid Cà Phê 179, When I step out the front
70 | overachiever magazine
door, bà ngoai watches my *** leavings-and-goings through the window. She instinctively Today, I am grateful for the and carefully studies the cam- roof atop my head, the chả era monitors when an arrival giò’s bà ngoại taught me how is signalled through the beep- to cook, and the Park dubbed ing of the home system and “Gold” I spend my evenings shakes the way she must have skating in. The streets I have when communists entered her mindlessly walked and ran home and claimed it as theirs. and biked through, the dried My mother has never been leaves my suede boots have back to Vietnam—neither has stepped on in the arrival of my grandmother. autumn, the well-familiar sax melodies of Montréal’s “We played all kinds of mu- beloved Jazz fest all taste like sic,” he continued, “mostly Tsukuyomi tofu ramen to my American because of the cộng lips, smell like the books of sản—but we also played Viêt Mordecai-Richler Library to music, which was forbidden.” the tip of my nose, and feel like Aman and Gino’s apartI questioned Papa whether ments to my being. And, yet— Cà Phê 179 still stood tall. still, though my father speaks of Cà Phê 179 as if a flashback “Chú Tuấn now lives there and my mother still dreams of with his family,” he simply re- damaged walls despite soundly sponded, “It became a home sleeping between remodelled when your cousins were born.” ones, my palette longs for authentic cà phê sữa da, my ears The thought of my uncle the sound of ABBA and tradiand his children—whom I’d tional cải lương music on tape, never met—the history that and my senses the language of laid between the walls that home. my grandpa had handbuilt for my recently deceased bà nôi. OM. The unspoken understanding between my father and meI that no past memory could be explained through dinner conversation. All of these lingered and diluted into the warmth of the chicken broth that swept the back of my throat like St-Viateur bagels and photoshoots on JeanneMance street.
view with r e t n i
u r T k arsl a l a b E ANDERSON-SO T A K NG BY
72 | overachiever magazine
Aybala Turkarslan is a high school junior from Seattle, Washington. She recently founded ith—an international online service connecting youth writers to publication and competition opportunities—after noticing the difficulty for youth writers in finding publishing opportunities in an applicable, affordable, and organized manner. As a young writer herself, Aybala enjoys poetry, fiction, and essay writing. Her work has been recognized by the Scholastic Art & Writing Awards, the Ringling College of Art & Design, and the INS Essay Contest Top 15 for her essay on neuromarketing in politics. Outside of writing she is passionate about social change and entrepreneurship, as well as sunshine and Turkish dramedies. Introduce yourself! Hi there! I’m Aybala Turkarslan, a high school junior and writer from Seattle. I recently founded publishYOUth, an online service connecting youth writers to competition and publication opportunities that you can find at publishYOUth.com! In my free time I love to write (crazy, right?), spend time with family and friends, and watch Turkish comedies (that somehow always end with a dramatic twist). What is publishYOUth and how did it begin? The idea behind publishYOUth began to arise when I entered into my first writing competition. This was the INS Essay Contest, and I heard about it from a teacher at my school. Researching different topics and borrowing books from my local library, I worked to draft my essay and submit it to the competition. I later learned that I had gotten into the contest’s Top 15, and I was so excited and grateful to have heard about this opportunity from my teacher. In the summer of 2020 I looked back on this experience, and I started to realize how difficult it was to find such opportunities. Many busy students have to search through countless lists of writing opportunities to try and find those that are for their age group, reliable, affordable, and not already expired—let alone actually interesting to them. Based on this desire to make writing opportunities more accessible and easily organized, I set out to create
publishYOUth with guidance from The Big Sisters Project, a wonderful entrepreneurship program for young women! Since my service’s launch in August we’ve added over 100 opportunities to the publishYOUth website and reached over 2,000 followers internationally on Instagram, and it’s been amazing to hear the stories of youth that have benefited from the platform! You’re a writer yourself, with your work recognized by the Scholastic Art & Writing Awards, the Ringling College of Art & Design, and more. What sort of things do you write? How did you get into writing? I vividly remember how I first got into writing. I had an amazing elementary school teacher called Professor Watermelon (I know, literally the best name ever) who hosted an after school creative writing club. I joined the club as a little first grader, and I remember that we would always start the meetings with hot chocolate and an exciting writing prompt. From that club I wrote stories about skating on rainbows and entering haunted houses, and at the end of the year our teacher held a contest where we won small prizes for our work. I’ve always been so grateful to have been introduced to creative writing in that way, and I feel as though I’ve always looked back at that experience to ground myself in my passion for the craft. As for my writing currently, I’d say that there’s a large variety to the things that I write about. I recently got into poetry, but I mainly tend to
write a lot of fiction (such as short stories and flash fiction) as well as critical or personal essays. One of my favorite pieces that got chosen by the Scholastic Art & Writing Awards was a critical essay exploring the impacts of Orientalism in film and literature on those from Asia, specifically the Middle East. Another essay that I wrote for the INS Essay Contest was centered around the use of neuromarketing in politics, and I feel really fortunate for the platform that writing presents in terms of spreading awareness for issues you care about and facilitating change. What inspires you? Do you have any role models? I think I’m inspired by a lot of the people before me who paved the way for greater representation and opportunity, whether that be politicians, women entrepreneurs, or my family. I would say that my specific role models would be my parents and grandparents for their determination and compassion, and of course my all-time favorite Zendaya Coleman.
from material entities such as school, work, or accomplishments. Though it isn’t always easy, I think it’s crucial to get to know who you are and what you like to do, as that’ll help with holding confidence in yourself that is not tied to external objects or validation. Self-care to me means prioritizing yourself and taking care of your physical, mental, and emotional health, and a large part of that is recognizing how you are more than worthy of such love and care. My biggest piece of advice would be to do what makes you happy, to always focus on the bigger picture of your life passions, and to surround yourself with people who help you do the same. Here are some rapid-fire questions: Your go-to coffee shop order? Hot chocolate and a vanilla scone! Favorite season? Summer!
What have you learned through creating publishYOUth? One of the biggest things I’ve learned is the importance of passion. Life can get extremely busy for a variety of different reasons, and I feel as though a lack of passion for something you’ve created would make continuing extremely hard. I feel very fortunate that I was able to start publishYOUth as someone who is a young writer myself, as even during difficult times I’ve still had that same passion for the service as when I first started it in August.
Any good films/TV shows you’re watching right now? Sen Çal Kapımı (You Knock on My Door) and Hunter x Hunter!
You’re currently a junior in high school in the U.S. (which is a notoriously stressful time) - How do you take care of yourself and deal with stress? What does self care mean to you? This is such a good question! I feel as though I could go on for so long about this, but I think my best tips would be to take time for yourself, recognize your self-worth, and always remember the importance of overall health. I personally take care of myself by talking with friends and family, watching new TV shows and YouTube videos, listening to music, and by dancing around my room. I’d also recommend journaling in regard to your worries or overall day, especially during stressful times.
What is upcoming for you and your work? New publication and competition opportunities are being added to publishYOUth, and we’re excited to hopefully host a contest of our own soon! I can’t say too much about it, but there’s hopefully going to be some great things coming this summer, so follow our social media to stay tuned! OM.
Another important (but difficult) part of self-care is recognizing your worth and being able to separate that
Ultimate comfort food? Strawberry Pop-tarts! They’re too good. What has been the highlight of your day today? Talking with my extended family over the phone!
by Jean Sumbilla
For each issue, I will be curating a playlist based on a certain vibe or mood that pertains to how I feel the period of time has been so far. We’re changing things up a bit in this playlist with an overall easy-going cafe studying vibe and opening the selection of songs to all artists. I decided to start off with this theme as most of us are beginning exam season soon (or are already writing exams). From easy-going bops starting off with “What 2 Do” by DEAN, Crush and Jeff Bernat to hearing “dreamy night” by Us The Duo later in the playlist. Sidenote: you’re a true one if you know when the “owa owa!” part plays in “dreamy night”. To avoid dozing off while studying and to keep the energy going, I’ve added “girlfriend” by Alex Porat and “Ordinary” by UMI in the mix. As a final curveball, and from old TikTok theories, I’ve added “Coconut Mall” from “Mario Kart Wii”. Apparently, listening to “Coconut Mall” on a loop increased the productivity levels for some people. Anyways, here’s a prompt to emulate the overall vibe of the playlist. POV: After thanking the barista for making your flat white with oat milk, you get all set to study. Do you have a prime table next to an outlet? Check. Your checklist listing everything you need to work on? Check. Type A energy flowing in your veins? Check. Your earbuds? Nope. You take a deep sigh, questioning why you forgot them at home. All of a sudden, the barista changes the music. You pause to take a listen, find it fitting to study alongside, and begin to get into the grind of things. What 2 Do - DEAN, Crush, Jeff Bernat Casual - Johnny Stimson, Jeff Bernat, Jesse Barrera Je Ne Sais - Ezra Waters, Audrey Honey - Johnny Balik strangers - biosphere, CIKI, Chris Wright, love-sadKID girlfriend - Alex Porat lovememore. - dosii Crazy - Hope Tala Just The Two of Us - Kauai45, Sweet Cocoa dreamy night - Us The Duo she likes spring, I prefer winter - slchld Ordinary - UMI peaches - BABYBOYBLUE, Marylou Villegas Pearl - YURA July on Film - Zeauxi Coconut Mall (From “Mario Kart Wii”) - Arcade Player Thumbnail credits: www.ladygunn.com Spotify cover: www.pinterest.com
Scan here to listen!
brown girl beauty review BY REHANA PAUL This month, I had the opportunity to try out some of Brown Girl Beauty’s products - and I am never looking back. The founder, Aliza, was kind enough to send over a rose facial oil and their Rani lip gloss (rani means queen in Hindi, which, coincidentally, is what Aliza is), and I’ve incorporated them into my daily beauty routine - which, for me, means I keep them both on my desk and reapply them at least twice a day.
his month, I had the opportunity to try out some of Brown Girl Beauty’s products - and I am never looking back. The founder, Aliza, was kind enough to send over a rose facial oil and their Rani lip gloss (rani means queen in Hindi, which, coincidentally, is what Aliza is), and I’ve incorporated them into my daily beauty routine - which, for me, means I keep them both on my desk and reapply them at least twice a day. Since we’re staying masked up in public for the foreseeable future, the only ones who are going to appreciate this lip gloss are me, my dog, and the seventeen million (hey, it feels like that) people I see on zoom every day. As far as I’m concerned, it smells great, feels lightweight and moisturizing - so I don’t need to constantly reapply lip balm - and has incredible staying power. When I say I put my lip products through it, I mean it. I talk,
quite literally, all day (usually without pausing for breath), am constantly sipping espresso (so I can talk all day without pausing for breath), and this bad boy (bad girl? Good girl? Gender is a social construct) doesn’t go anywhere. Surprisingly, it also shows up on Zoom. If I’m going to go to the trouble of putting on makeup in the first place, it had better show up on that damn video conference! It adds a very subtle, peachy glow, just enough to make you feel like a baddie in your intro to business class. Best of all, it is the perfect nude - and every brown girl knows what I’m talking about here. South Asian skin generally has yellow-gold undertones, and most makeup made in the west is produced for whiter skin with pink undertones, which means that most nude shades completely wash me out. No matter how many sweaters I wear, I’m always
cold - and even in the middle of April, I still have my space heater going, which has kept my room at a steady eighty degrees (Fahrenheit, my non-American friends, Fahrenheit) for the past six months. I’m toasty, but my skin can get drier than the Sahara. Enter stage left: the rose facial oil. It’s not heavy like most oils, that just sit uncomfortably on your face making you look shiny and mildly distressed, but dissolves right into your face and gives you a nice protective barrier. In maybe four days, I saw the difference: my skin felt smoother and more supple, and literally looked softer. Supporting Asian-owned businesses has never been more important, and your skin will thank you for it, too. Check out https://shopbrowngirlbeauty.com/ for their full line of apparel, cosmetics, and more. om.
Gal Wonder vs. Galzilla: The Mental Health Journey of a Sexual Assault Survivor
BY SABAITIDE @SABAITIDE @PARTYINMYRICE Sabaitide is an emerging Asian American artist from Santa Barbara, CA. She is working on her portfolio, finding her voice, and she has a vegan food blog called @partyinmyrice. Follow her on Instagram for glimpses into her extraordinarily ordinary daily life. Disclaimer: I am about to give you a piece of my mind. This isn’t so much about sexual assault or being Asian, but if you are a survivor or battling mental health or need to make a breakthrough with your spirituality, maybe you can relate to my journey or just listen because this is a bit much. I can’t recall the exact details of my incident because I was unconscious when it happened. What really changed me was the aftermath of waking up with the feeling that someone invaded my room the night before. Someone violated my body—and what drives me crazy is that I don’t know who did it or who would believe me if I said anything about it. This wasn’t all in my head. Some things were missing from my room, so I think I was robbed. The sheets around me were wrinkled like someone else was in my bed. There was pain in between my legs. My belly was abnormally bloated. Then there was a trail of unknown liquid to the edge of my bed which confused me. Like there’s no way I sim-
ply wet the bed because that would be a puddle, not a trail, right? What did they put on me? What did they put in me? I don’t know, but place your hand on your lower belly and feel my pain. I was so scared. My heart sank when I called my mom and told her to pick me up because I had just been r—raped. I was too scared to change or shower. I just packed up my belongings and left by the end of the day. I never talk about this but that’s why I dropped out of college. Leading up to this, I was probably slipping into a low-key state of psychosis. Sure, I was on medication, drinking more, and riding on an alltime
high because my smoking addiction made me feel oddly more in touch with the universe, but what really confused me was not my substance abuse. It was the feeling of social disconnect with others that started to make me feel paranoid. Like what was everyone saying about me behind my back and why wasn’t anyone telling me? Was something going on? There were small things that made me skeptical. Like who stole my OBEY jacket because I definitely did not misplace that. Why did I feel like I was being watched or followed to
class? Was it really a coincidence that I ran into that person eyeing me on the route I usually took? Why were people talking about me but not talking to me? And who had sex in my bed when I was gone because there’s a used condom in my room and that’s not mine. It was small irritable stuff like this that made me wonder what was going on. So I got a little paranoid and became kind of schizophrenic. When I started hearing voices and feeling like I was being watched, the plot line inside my head became so absurd. Imagine feeling like your every move is being watched. You hear a voice in your head and you converse telepathically, but if anyone actually tried reading your mind then the joke is on them because it’s probably just Blink-182 lyrics. No, but really, the joke is on you because your life is being live-streamed and the person in the corner of the screen who is talking to you and making com-
ment a r y about your life is your ex-boyfriend. That was what the beginning of insanity felt like.
I had zero clue of what was actually happening because my radiohead was tuned into another station, but after that, I just had to leave and felt like no one even cared that I was gone. When I got home, I stayed in my parents’ room and quietly cried myself to sleep the first night. I got examined the following day, but I was still very confused and traumatized by what had happened to me. For a while, my stuff stayed in piles along the hallway, I slept in a small tent pitched in the living room, and I had terrible frights and night sweats for nearly two weeks. Then one night when I really could not sleep, I just watched Endless Summer at like four in the morning and could dream again. I was pretty emotionally dead for a while, but when I remembered that I had medication, I started taking ritalin with medicinal marijuana. The combination got me to bounce back enough to distract me from the trauma I still had to process. Then I started painting again and guzzling IPAs to help suppress my feelings, but then my mom confiscated my weed. That didn’t keep me from smoking, but when I needed to actually find something to smoke out of, I just picked up my teapot. I put a nug on the spout and lit it up. Pause and take a deep breath with me right now. The plot line inside my head came back stronger and more absurd than ever,
which was amusing, but probably inappropriate for the situation I was actually in. I got to be the city planner of my own world, it looked pretty epic, and I was going to go there soon. Eventually, the voice drove me out of the house on an unplanned misadventure and told me to kill myself, but I was unprepared for suicide on the spot. Like wait, what am I doing out here, and that got me held at a mental hospital for a week. The whole time I was dealing with this, I didn’t even understand what I was going through. I didn’t really think about mental health as something I struggled with or even thought of myself as a sexual assault survivor. I even forgot about my depression. I just kind of got through each day and let this hit me in waves. After I was released, my happy brain chemicals were at zero again and I just didn’t know what to do anymore.. Maybe I should go back to college. Ah, I forgot about that. Part 2 Can you imagine the painfully awkward moment I experienced when I was sitting in the middle of a school assembly and found words to scribe myself sexual assault vivor? There guest speak-
the deas a surwas a e r
who described what happens when the police respond to instances of sexual assault and how they examined victims, and I have been in that seat before. I tried to remain calm, but I was actually flipping out because we had an entire school week dedicated to the awareness of domestic and sexual abuse. That was also the semester I was slut-shamed by my teacher in a school assignment. I took an online gender studies class because that was the last GE I needed and that was the easiest class to fit into my schedule. There were mostly girls in this class, but for the randomly assigned group project I was placed in a group with all boys, which did not feel random. The assignment was to read a horrendous lime green book titled Slut! and my group had to read the chapter about a slut named Alyssa, which did not feel randomly assigned or teach me anything about gender studies. If anything, I realized that people must have spread rumors about me in school and that was the story that got told because I’ve haven’t said a word to anyone. I flipped out even harder with all of the subliminal messages at school that triggered my trauma and I brought up my concerns about this assignment because that was not a coincidence. The teacher dismissed my concerns until the next semester by sending me to
the principal’s office (in college!) and she didn’t even show up. What’s your concern? Sir, I believe that I was just slutshamed by my teacher and what I experienced was not actually randomly assigned, but intentional. Have you talked to a school therapist? Yes, during that awareness week, and both times the therapist couldn’t even handle me and I had to talk to an officer instead. Is there anything else we can do? Yes, that Slut! book my teacher assigned should not be taught in school and it teaches absolutely nothing about gender studies. Part 3 I started taking care of my mental health by working on my spiritual health, whatever that meant. By this time, I had sobered up but was still on some antidepressants and antipsychotics, but I didn’t want to be on meds forever so I opened my mind to holistic approaches to health and wellness. I started to meditate regularly before bed and before I started my day. Then I started learning more about Zen Buddhism and I changed my meditation technique to zazen. Zazen is a little more hard core than regular meditation. There’s no soothing background music or positive affirmations. In this technique, your sitting posture should be elevated on a cushion. Your hands should rest at your center with palms up and thumbs touching. Your back should be straight but comfortable. Then you should be
facing a wall even though your eyes are closed. Once you have your form, relax and breathe deep and even belly breaths. The objective in zazen is to not think. In zazen, we will discover that there is a lot on our minds. When a thought arises into your conscious awareness or you realize that your mind is drifting, just quiet your mind and return to the present moment. Practicing zazen made me confront some of the tougher parts of my mental health. There was also a huge mental health awareness in school, and here I was years later realizing I had already experienced most of the spectrum. Like I started on fluoxetine and ended up on lithium. It was difficult at times, but my mental state was more manageable when I focused on my breath. In zazen, everything that I had suppressed over the years crept back to my conscious awareness and I had to process it, and then let it go. Zazen and zen philosophy also made me seek to understand more about Buddhism. I grew up in a Buddhist household, and even though my grandma was a female monk, I had a language barrier
with my grandma and m y u n der-
should do some yoga again, but I hadn’t gone to an actual yoga class in years and felt socially anxious about going anywhere, especially class. Then one day, I just dropped by and didn’t realize it was a hot yoga, but I stuck with it for every breath and every move until the hour was done. At the end when we got to savasana pose, my heart was beating so fast and I was sweating all over. I closed my eyes and noticed the physiological effects of increased oxygen circulation happening in my body, which relaxed my state of consciousness. The objective in savasana is to be still, but the micro movements throughout my body reminded me that I was very much alive when I had been sitting still for so long. I talked to the lady at the front desk about working out a membership, and she connected me with the studio owner to become a karma yogi. All I had to do was clean the studio once a week to work for my membership, and it was done. I was a karma yogi for about a year until I was ready to begin teacher training. It felt pretty natural for me to blend yoga mechanics and zen philosophy together, and I was able to pick up a few yin and vinyasa
classes after I finished training. I liked planning my yoga classes with themes that transitioned well, but then my studio closed because of covid and I got too anxious again so I took a break. I also started dating someone my mom introduced me to. I really plained myself down and I wasn’t looking for anyone, but I gave him a chance because my mom wanted us to be together. It was nice to open up to someone and finally have some good conversations because I barely talked to anyone over the years, but one recurring argument that came up in our relationship was yoga vs. Christianity. I was a yogi and he was a Christian, and to him, Christians shouldn’t do yoga because yoga is a spiritual practice that derived from Hinduism. I have never heard that before, but I’ll respect your beliefs if you can also respect mine. This conversation kept coming up even after I took a break from yoga. There were other things we didn’t agree on and I couldn’t deal with the heartache of putting up with a partner who would always try to debate me on my views and beliefs, especially during a politically charged year like 2020. Eventually he broke up with me. That hurt, but if there’s one good thing I can take away from that relationship, it’s that he introduced me to Christ and made me aware of God’s love and presence. I didn’t meditate anymore and I started to sincerely pray for God to lead the way for me. I acknowledged that I needed God in my life and I changed for myself. I started with reading out of the Bible, watching videos online, searching for churches near me, and I really started praying to God to lead me to find a church because I was lost on the internet. It went from sermons, to dreams about Jesus, to prophetic conspiracies real fast. When I finally found my church, I knew that God was nudging me in the right direction to reach out already because if I stayed at home on the internet alone, I would have missed out on the opportunity to really grow in my faith if I wasn’t brave enough to join a church. It seemed like this happened so suddenly because I didn’t talk much about it, but I spent years meditating to be closer to peace with myself and I was praying to be at peace with God. I am the only
person in my family to convert and take the leap of faith, which was huge considering that my grandma was a monk. When I made the decision to get baptized, it was because I accepted Jesus as my Lord and Savior. You could meditate all you can to deal with your mental health, but you won’t reach enlightenment if you can’t even acknowledge God’s might. So I joined my church to guide me through that season of my life, and I’m thankful to my group for listening to me process my candid insanity. As I learned more about God, I also finally confronted my feelings and all this heartache I didn’t realize I held onto. We each had to share our stories, and I went last so that I could finally put all of this into words and let it go.
and spiritual health to reach the root cause of mental health symptoms. It takes time and it takes self-compassion. So before you call the hotline or even think about suicide, please go take a shower or a nap or eat or pray instead. I know bad days happen and I’ve been at that low point where I’ve said those five words (I feel like killing myself), but the moment will pass and tomorrow will come. There’s more to life and there’s more to death, and you will want to be at peace with God whenever that time comes. Just to be clear, I don’t expect everyone to meditate or explore religion on their own mental health journeys because I realize this is all pretty insane.
Part 4 If you are in a similar boat, I hope that you can also overcome the battle inside your head by hearing my story because I can see God working in my life now. I’m grateful to have learned more about myself by exploring the eastern and western sides of my mental health. My faith in God has guided me to where I am now and I’ve changed a lot over the years. Now I don’t smoke or drink anymore, I don’t rely on taking meds, I’m not manic depressed, and I am no longer a paranoid schizophrenic. I’ve got a better grip on how I cope with my mental health although it comes and goes. My mental health journey has made me explore odd states of my mind with a unique perspective.
I hope that I didn’t offend anyone’s beliefs as I shared my candid thoughts about insanity and changing my faith. I can truly thank God for inspiring me to paint in a better state of mind and for helping me collect the words to finally articulate my voice after years of silence. As I wrap up this thought, I’d like to emphasize that this is what I think at this moment. This is a lot to process and it could change. I am fairly self-conscious about sharing this and I still haven’t made up my mind on how I feel about Buddhism or yoga, but it’s on my heart because I acknowledge that my eastern side has helped me grow in my faith and understand myself as the woman God created me to be.
This is weird to put into words. Even though there’s more I could say, I don’t like talking about mental health because people usually bring awareness to it and then share the suicide hotline as a mental health resource. Or they’ll suggest talking to a therapist, which I’ve tried. I also don’t like talking about sexual assault, but there’s an awareness day for just about everything now on social media and those triggers bring back sad thoughts.
(What still annoys me about that gender studies class is that I didn’t learn anything from reading a book about slut shaming and now I’m here second guessing if it’s incorrect to use cis-pronouns because I don’t want to offend anyone for identifying as a woman, and not a slut.) OM.
I don’t like being told that I have a chemical imbalance in my brain, but it happens. Medication and therapy can certainly help, but we also need to nourish our physical, emotional,
angeline calleja BY CHARLOTTE DRUMMOND
82 | overachiever magazine
Angeline Calleja is a mental health, education, women, and LGQTQIA+ empowerment and slow fashion advocate. Born and raised in Tanay, Rizal Philippines. Lived there until 2016 when she had an opportunity to move to Europe. She is currently residing in Rotterdam, Netherlands, a city she never even heard of before. But now, she’s beginning to call it her second home as she keeps on striving to open her own door of opportunities. After having the chance to learn European languages and as well as their culture, especially the Dutch language and culture—she recognized the significance of her native language and the 180+ more languages (not dialect) in her home country and that no language is superior to the other. Because of learning another language and living in another country, she began forgetting Tagalog words. She noticed that she was no longer reading a book from her own mother tongue or a story written by her compatriots. She also recognized the lack of representation of the Philippine literature in Europe. That led her to create Yugto — the first Philippine-focused independent bookstore in the EU. It is also a community hub that strives to reach fellow Filipinxs in the diaspora and the 1st/2nd/3rd generations Filipinxs who want to feel connected to their roots through reading and relearning their own culture, story and history one “aklat”* at a time. Her next plan for Yugto is to turn the Bookstore into a Community Library through Patreon. A library consists of all the classic Philippine literature but especially a library for women, lgbtqia+ and peasant writers from her home country. Raising awareness about the writers from Visayas and Mindanao, or authors from the Filipino diaspora circle, whose writings and stories have been long neglected. Yugto aims to illuminate the multitude of languages from her home one “salita’’** a day. To encourage all readers to support writers from Asia and from marginalized groups. It was Friday morning for me in Boston on April 9 when I sat down on Zoom with Angeline Calleja, who was all the way in Rotterdam, Netherlands, enjoying the late afternoon. Calleja, 28, is the founder of Yugto, an online bookstore and book club that exclusively sells and uplifts Philippine stories by Filipino authors—the first to do so in Europe. Calleja emigrated from the Philippines to the Netherlands five years ago when she was 23, and now she does any work she can to help her family back in the Philippines. All while she is trying to get adjusted to her new life in Europe, Calleja is trying to learn Dutch, the official language of the Netherlands. “Even though I had a university degree, it’s * “aklat” = book ** “salita” = word
still hard to find a job that is really connected to what I studied,” Calleja says. “So you could imagine how hard it is for a Filipino to get a chance here [on top of that].” In September 2020, while Calleja was spending a lot of time at home like everyone else due to the pandemic, she realized that she had been spending so much time working on her Dutch that she hadn’t been reading in her primary language Tagalog. She also realized how isolated she was from her culture since leaving her home country. “It felt like everything was not going well, and I [didn’t] know what to do with my life,” Calleja says. “and I don’t have a family here [in Rotterdam]. I only have my husband...I would like to hug my own...And there’s a lot of Filipinos here in the
like [24,000], and when I first came here, everything was new to me. I needed to learn everything from scratch. From how to ride a tram to learning the language and the culture. I was having a hard time to find connection with the existing Filipino community. [But through Yugto], there’s a deeper connection with books.” The word “yugto” means “phase, stage, chapter” in Tagalog, and Calleja emphasizes that Yugto is about embracing identity through reading and community, finding fellow Filipinos in Europe who have the same goals and interests— people who have become important parts in the chapters of her life. “I’ve even met second-generation, first-generation Filipinas who made me realize how privileged I am that I’m Tagalog, that I know how to speak the language fluently. All my life, it feels like we always need to be good in English, and if you’re good in English, you’re smart. But I did not realize that I am privileged being Filipino and knowing my own language until I met them.” Yugto currently has around 50 registered book club members, with volunteers helping Calleja organize meetings, pick discussion topics, and find experts knowledgeable in the subjects they cover. From stories on shamans or baybayin to feminism to LGBTQIA+ history, Yugto covers a wide variety of topics and connects Filipinos in a virtual space. Calleja has even recently started a program to help first and second-generation Filipinos learn Tagalog due to growing up away from their home country. And while the bookstore is currently online only, with a new website in the works,
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Calleja hopes to expand it to a physical store or a spot where anyone with Filipino background can visit to one day. “It’s not [just] a book club anymore,” Calleja says. “I forgot that I am capable of doing something...that I am educated...I made Yugto, and it showed that I am a woman whose ancestors are a warrior and a healer, and that I can be a leader and start something beautiful on my own. and that makes me happy. I feel empowered.” Calleja adds that she hopes to remind fellow Filipinos of how beautiful and exciting it is to be Filipino, and that it is our responsibility to educate ourselves about what really happened from the pre-colonial period to what’s going on in the country at this very moment. “People try to control [what you believe]...people will underestimate you. But I control what [my] core values are and what I believe in, and what being a Filipina means to me...Sometimes even though you’re from the same country, you don’t have the same beliefs. You don’t have the same definition. And that is also fine because you can teach each other and challenge each other to grow.” Through Yugto, Calleja has found the people who do share her values, and she truly cherishes the community she has made a space for. She changed the course of her life and started a new chapter that allows her to embrace the stories of her culture with others who appreciate them as much as she does. “You stick to your core values, to what you
“This is for all of us who are open to relearn, to heal and to love again the story written by our ‘kababayan.’” believe in, but please learn to listen too and be open to new things and possibilities. Then you attract people that you can grow with and that you can learn with. And lastly, never be afraid to reach out.” “When I first started Yugto last September 2020, it was only a bookclub for myself. To push myself to read again in Tagalog, to teach myself once more the tales I had ignored, about the stories I had denied, and about the history, I was forgetting... Yet I did not know I was also looking for a community, I did not know I was yearning for my individuality or to find a “creative revenge” from what I was experiencing living abroad or to find what I am here for.
I am very delighted and grateful. FINALLY I FOUND MY TRIBE, and to share this journey with them is my greatest achievement. This is for all of us who are open to relearn, to heal and to love again the story written by our ‘kababayan.’* This is for the next generation Filipinx who would love to get to know more about our own roots and history. And this is for the Filipinx diaspora (like me) who misses our ‘tahanan arawaraw.’”** You can find Yugto on Instagram (@yugtoeuropa). Their website is coming out later this year, so follow them for more updates! OM.
What I then knew was, I am longing for warm weather, for an endless chat with my friends and family in Tagalog and for a deep connection and conversations. 7 months passed by, this community not only led me to people with whom I can read a book or to people where I can relate an ‘accent’ with. But a samahan or community that challenges me as to why Yugto even exists and how I would like Yugto to become.
*kababayan = compatriot **tahanan = home, araw-araw= everyday
I Don’t Belong Here. BY SUMMER KIM @SUMMERKKIM
Summer earned a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science at Yale University, focusing on racial, spatial, and socio-economic inequality in the United States. Since graduating, she has worked in the non-profit space, and hopes to continue her career supporting anti-racist, progressive organizations. Summer loves all things music, and enjoys any opportunity to flex her creative muscles. My dad was right. I don’t belong here. I don’t want to. My parents were in the restaurant business for 20 years. They went to work 12 hours a day, serving sushi to customers who couldn’t pronounce their names, and came home with rough hands and cramped calves. Yet somehow, they mustered the energy every day to pass as much knowledge to me as they could, to expand the mind and satiate the curiosity of an imaginative five-yearold. My childhood memories consist of lying in my mom’s arms as she read me Korean folktales and in bed with my dad as he taught me multiplication with apples. They made sure that I understood my worth, intellect, beauty, and that I stepped into every room with the confidence of a mediocre white man. As I progressed through the US school system, my blissful reality became less and less so. Every Asian kid has a story about being bullied for our “stinky lunchboxes”
and “chinky eyes.” I was no exception. Being othered is heartbreaking for most and confusing for many. I could not reconcile what I learned in the classroom with what I experienced in the playground. If citizenship was my birthright, why was I being told to go back to where I came from? I was born in California. My dad tried to caution me many times. “Kyurie-ya, you must remember that, no matter how much it feels like it, you will never belong here.” These warnings were informed by a decade of racist encounters, and his experiences were further exacerbated by the inability to fully express his frustration or fight back in English. He spoke from his scarred heart, seeking to protect me from the pain he had endured from the moment he stepped foot in this country. I argued and cried, trying to convince my father that I do, in fact, belong here. US-born and US-raised, how much
more American could I get? At that time, I didn’t understand the crux of his message: you will never be acknowledged as an American because you will always be perceived as Asian. We talked at each other for many years to come. In college, I dyed my hair blonde and avoided the Asian American Cultural Center like my life depended on it. I purged my iPhone of K-pop and learned every word to Mr. Brightside. I donned flannels and envied my friends who were rich enough to buy Patagonia half-zips. I resented my Asian and Asian American peers who walked in groups, unbothered and chatting loudly, to the nearest boba place. I vowed never to be “that kind of Asian.” But no matter how hard I tried to fit in, I stood out like shrimp tails in a cereal box. I was the only person of Asian descent in my college a cappella, where I spent much of my time learning “classics” I had never heard before. The
only customer at the most popular sushi spot on campus who thought, “I’ve had better.” The only friend disappointed in dining hall food, not by under-seasoned chicken but by the raw cubed tofu in the salad bar; didn’t they know how delicious tofu could be when stewed with kimchi and spam? My assimilation only took me so far. At the end of the day, my hair took hours to bleach. I still spoke with my parents in Korean, to the fascination of my peers. My friends were shocked to learn that I had never heard of Mamma Mia. No matter where I turned, I faced small but painful reminders that I would never experience the acceptance and belonging of a white person. I pushed my discomfort and shame down deep, doing everything I could to distract myself from the bitter truth. I’ve learned a lot since then. The first time I heard the term “internalized racism” felt like an epiphany, a dissonant chord resolving. In my quest to fit in over the years, I unwittingly strove to increase my proximity to whiteness. Keyword: proximity. After years of actively unpacking and unlearning the lies I was told, and those that I told myself, I now wear my Korean identity on my sleeve. I champion BTS and K-dramas to anyone who will listen. I spend hours learning about my family’s history, Korean mythology, and popular Korean dishes I have yet to try. For so many years, I failed to consider that my sense of belonging could be rooted in my Korean American identity. I sought acceptance by contorting myself to meet white supremacist standards without stopping to interrogate what achieving acceptance would mean. I finally understand that belonging is, more than anything, a feeling. Whether or not I belong here was never about external perception, and always about whether I believed it myself. I finally chopped off the last of my blonde hair this month. It’s all grown out, black as can be, with a shimmer of brown in the light, just like my mom. This summer, my parents are moving back to South Korea for good, and I couldn’t be
happier. Their new home is in Yeongwol, close to both the mountains and the ocean, and they speak about their future garden with increasingly common moments of glee and hope. I’m leaving New Haven, where I’ve lived for the past seven years, to move in with my sister in NYC. The house I grew up in changed hands years ago, but my sense of home has only grown stronger. I’ve found belonging in connecting with the rich history and unique legacy our community has in this country, and comfort in watching my parents reconnect with theirs. OM.
“Faces of Central Asia” by Katherine Leung // leungart.com
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Artist’s Note: In the immigrant community, elders play a crucial role in helping the younger generation self-identify as they possess wisdom and genius gained from their life experiences in civil unrest, economic hardship, and destructive political turmoil. As a millennial, I turn to my grandparents for wisdom and advice. My grandfather is just a two hour drive away in Sacramento, a trip I’m always excited to make from the hustle of the Bay Area. My grandfather walked with his family from Shunde to Hong Kong and back during the Japanese occupation of World War II. He dropped out of school in second grade to begin working to support his family. He grew in ranks at the supermarket he worked as his English ability was recognized. He bounced around orphanages with his sister as his parents were no longer able to take care of him. He came to the US after his three children earned the chance to study in America. My sisters and I are his American dream realized. As an adult, my grandpa and I have taken trips together around the world. He’s supported my dream of becoming a teacher. Even as a five year experienced union public school teacher, my heart still soars highest when he tells others that I’m his favorite teacher. The recent attacks in Oakland and across the US aimed at Asian elders is no accident. Just as every attempt to stifle indigenous resistance in the US were attempts to squash the leadership and knowledge elders hold within them, these attacks target elders for the very same reason. While painted as helpless or meek, Asian elders are far from forgotten. They represent resilience and collective struggle. They constructed entire chinatowns, supermarkets, crafted entire industries. They represent the legacy of white supremacy and imperialist follies of the generations before. They brought their families here for a better life. Attacks aimed at elders are aimed to destruct the notion of Asian American determination. I’ve painted two elders that I met during my field work, youth and community organizing and education in the Republic of Tuva, an asian ethnic republic within Siberia in 2015. These elders are not just people who have impacted my life personally, but represent the kind of quiet strength I’ve seen in my grandpa.
the tough choices we make in the face of calamity: chloé zhao’s tale of women BY YUNING ZHANG @starryapple1 Yuning Zhang is a Chinese writer currently living on the land of the Kulin Nation (Melbourne). She grew up in mainland China, went to the University of Sydney, and received her PhD in media and communications from Monash University, Australia. She loves staying with family and hanging out with friends. And she always enjoys spending time on simple and beautiful things.
hen the time comes for you to choose divergent roads ahead, which one would you take? Many artists who have released their work since 2020 admitted that they had not expected the advent of a global pandemic when drafting the work. Coincidence aside, maybe the woeful time we are simultaneously living in embodies the exact weight to test out the quality of a piece of art: what is the answer artists give to the question raised ahead? And the women in Chloé Zhao’s Nomadland choose the difficult one.
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Fern, the protagonist of the she builds a home from withfilm, is a middle-aged woman in. who has lost nearly everything at the beginning of the story The director of Nomadland before becoming a nomad: a Chloé Zhao, or Zhao Ting ( stable job, a permanent house, 赵婷), is a Chinese filmmakthe company of friends, and er who resides in California. her husband. Her tragedy is Akin to millions of Chinese largely a result of the adver- youths born after the 1980s, sities in her life that she has Zhao left her home in Beino control over—the spread jing as a teenager and initially of the Global Financial Crisis, became an international stuthe demise of a corporate em- dent who pursued her study pire, and the fate of her loved overseas. Her journey spread ones. across the two sides of the Atlantic, from the UK to the US, At the starting point of her while her root was at least one imminent nomad journey, the Pacific away. Echoed the exonly thing belonging to Fern perience of many “outsiders,” is a shabby van in white. Yet, Zhao has a calm and observaas the story starts to unfold tional eye that could acutely slowly, her van turns out to be capture the essence of what it the place where, from scratch, means to be human: the invis-
ible connections that bind us together while surpassing the surface of manufactured labels of culture, language, race, even gender.
In the world neighboring the nomad land, Fern’s choice does not always appeal to many “winners,” including her sister—Dolly. Unlike Fern, Dolly has all the shelters she But Zhao always reserves needs—a house, a husband, her tender eyes for the women money, and connections. She of Nomadland. does not make the same “unrealistic” decisions as her sisThe sun rises and sets, all ter. But it is the absence of her under the infinite sky. In the sister by her side, that Dolly film, Fern’s road trip often confesses when the two were progresses as minor circu- “exchanging the heart,” makes lations via the choices she her feel there’s something premakes one after another: to cious missing in her life. “You compromise on a Christian’s are braver and more honest offering or to defend her pride than everybody else,” Dolly and integrity at the expense says to Fern, which propheof enduring the freeze solely sizes Fern would choose to throughout the grave night; live in a way separated from to accept other adult’s defini- her sister’s. tion of her as homeless or to explain to a young girl that a Although the depiction of house does not equal the true women in the film is centered meaning of a home; to settle around Fern, the encounters down for comfort and protec- she has had with other women tion of something appealing characters not only drop the yet distant or to turn down clues for the audience to figthe invitation as her husband ure out Fern’s decision-makstill lives in her mind albeit ing, but they also shed light he’s gone. on the authentic complexity of the relationship between Struggles after struggles, women. brief or long, Fern chooses all the latter that do not offer her As opposed to a more nuinstant material security for anced and sophisticated sistershe never gives in. But as she hood, the comradery between makes all the unflinching and Fern and other female nomads heartfelt decisions against the is more straightforward. The cruel reality covered with the generosity of these nomads piling snow, the beam of a yel- she meets sporadically on the low light warms up the inside road often accompanies and of her little van. sustains her.
Such as Linda, who chooses to live by opening her arms to share. Such as Swankie, who chooses to lend a hand while sacrificing her own needs because of her ailing body. Against the melancholic mood easily drifting across the screen, Fern and the nomads create a tale where women with little at hand are able to make their own decisions. Upon the veneer of lifelessness, their resilience and kindness emerge when the firm choices are made. In turn, they offer the world warmth and strength in the midst of poignancy. Towards the ending of the film, with the soothing melody of Ludovico Einaudi’s piano flowing in, a wise man is sharing his vulnerability to ensure Fern an eternity. And we will see them again. om.
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Maddie Wang, a senior at Stanford studying CS, cares about creating belonging in a lonely world. With no friends in middle school, she created Cheesium, a Minecraft Server Community, to make more. It eventually grew to house a hundred other kids every day with its custom game modes and perks and made $61,000 along the way. In college, after feeling invisible as one of the few “out” queer womxn on campus, she created QueerChart.com. Shortly after, 220 more queer Stanford students joined her community, visualizing connections across the queer community and forging new ones as well. Now, she’s working on SesameCall.com, which helps friends and communities co-work & chill together every single day, even in silence. Through QueerChart, Sesame, and other future endeavors, she hopes to create a world where everyone can belong. Social profiles: Instagram: @sesame_call Twitter: @sesame_call) On Friday evening, March 6, I created an account and downloaded the Chrome extension of Sesame (www.sesamecall. com), a video-chatting service that allows you to hang out with your friends virtually and casually for hours on end. I got to chat with the founder of Sesame, Maddie Wang, who was inspired to create the platform because she missed her friends from college after everyone got sent home to quarantine. Currently living in Houston, Texas, Wang, 22, is a queer Chinese American woman and a senior at Stanford University studying computer science. “I guess I’m someone who’s devoted much of my life to cultivating communities,” Wang says. When she was 12 years old, Wang started playing Minecraft, as many shy 2010s kids with overprotective parents did. Except for Wang, she created a server that ended up making over $60,000. “That’s been my cornerstone,” Wang adds. “Tech can create communities as it has for me.” Years later, Wang started an Amazon business, where she got up to $120,000, but she didn’t feel the same type of fulfillment. She went back to community and started QueerChart, a social network where LGBTQ+ and nonbinary students from Stanford can
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interact and find one another. All of this leads to the creation of Sesame, which weaves Wang’s core values of incorporating and maintaining community within technology—especially during a time when everyone’s physical sense of community was taken away at the start of the pandemic. “Sesame revolves around co-presence,” Wang says. “You [can] just be doing work while having friends in the background… [the team and I] wanted a really warm, friendly, intimate vibe.” Unlike any other video-chatting platform, Sesame lets you know if your friends are free to talk. While applications like Skype can tell others that you’re online, you may not necessarily be available to chat—plus Sesame has a lot more approachable feel. “When you open Sesame,’ you see a list of your friends, and the open-door symbol means, ‘Yo, I’m actually free,” Wang explains. “The closed-door symbol means, ‘Oh no, I’m busy—I’m in class right now!” You can also integrate Google Calendar into Sesame, so the platform automatically closes your door if you’re busy.
Regarding the culture of Sesame, it’s normal to be on calls for either hours on end or to call someone to ask a quick question. There’s a sense of spontaneity to the application that makes it shine. “That culture of spontaneity and co-studying, I can’t find anywhere else,” Wang says. Wang shared several instances where she met someone on-campus and became best friends with over Sesame, emphasizing that the intimacy of spending so much time with someone can be replicated online. Sesame seeds are symbols of good luck across many Asian cultures, and that imagery truly encapsulates what Sesame is all about. “Growing up, I had issues sharing [my true self]—being vulnerable and being intimate,” Wang adds. “I was really passionate about Minecraft, [but] I was really scared people [of what] real people would think…so, Sesame was inspired by my Asian upbringing and my love of looking for open communication.” When discussing what it’s like to start something from the ground up, Wang states that “It is really hard to go out alone…I guess other part-time folks, it is hard to get [the same resources] like at Facebook. It is hard to convince our friends to not choose 200K from Facebook and join us in our vision.” Wang goes on to talk about how Asian women are often stuck in this box of what their parents want them to do with their careers and how they’re not encouraged to take risks. “The biggest thing that’s holding us back is [the] lack of belief in oneself and not wanting to be the nail that sticks out… My parents told me to be a doctor…[and then] asked, ‘Why don’t you just go work
for Google after college, work there for 10 years, and then you can start your own thing, and you have enough experience’ […] It’s the financial stability versus dream thing…I’m lucky to be able to do [the dream path] because of my parents’ support of food and clothing, to be able to pursue something that I wanted to do for the longest time.” Wang’s advice for Asian girls who want to pursue their passions—their dreams over financial stability—is to not feel forced about loving something. “My parents told me what I liked—they told me I liked viola. They told me I like tennis. It took me a long time in college to figure out what I actually liked, which wasn’t viola—although tennis is really cool. Figuring out what you actually love in our passion makes you feel great excitement—like 10 out of 10 level. It’s what you would want to spend a lot of time doing.” “Ask yourself what problems boil your blood. What problems do you face, and what projects would you want to do to improve those problems? I find that is the most satisfying thing in life you can do [with your passions]— taking back whatever pain you felt.” You can download Sesame now at www.sesamecall.com as a Google Chrome Extension. You can also follow their Instagram and Twitter (both @sesame_call) for updates. OM.