Sparks Magazine Issue No. 17 | University of Florida

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Fall 2019

Issue 17


The University of Florida presents Beyond the Stage

Hello, My Name is...

A deeper look at pageants and their intersection betweeen Filipino culture and feminism

An inside look on four Asian American girls and their birth names

Enemies Abroad, Discrimination at Home fall 2019| 1


UNIVERSITY OF CENTRAL FLORIDA EDITOR-IN-CHIEF Nica Ramirez MANAGING EDITOR Adrian Lee PROGRAMMING DIRECTOR Maria Gabriella Montoya PROMOTIONS DIRECTOR Catherine Le WRITERS Zohra Qazi, Julie Wan PHOTOGRAPHERS Isabella Billiones, Paola Chinchilla, Sterling LeeJones, Natalie Nguyenduc, Helen Lian DESIGNERS Ann Dang, Anusha Ketepalle, Alice Zhang PROMOTIONS STAFF Jared Diago, Jasmine Gabriel, Natasha Han

CONTENT PRINT WRITERS Eileen Calub, Vanessa Celino, Alexandra Giang, Michelle Lee, David Park, Zi Zheng PHOTOGRAPHERS Ella Choi, Kylee Gates, Jamie Lee, Lauren Witte DESIGNERS Stephanie Chang, Brianne De Los Santos, Christine Kim, Lucy Nguyen, Anusha Rao, Ashley Somchanhmavong, Rachalle Way, Caroline Werner


PUBLIC RELATIONS PROMOTIONS DIRECTOR Nabiha Azaz PROGRAMMING DIRECTOR Hiya Chowdury PR STAFF Xinni Chen, Ella Kulak, Ke Shang, Yuting Wang, Ying Ying Wen COVER PHOTO Hye-Jin Min, Laura San Juan DESIGN Ally Martinez, Esther Zhan Model: Maggie Dong

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letter from the editor Dear reader, My parents came to America in the 1990s with the hope of achieving a better future for themselves, their family and generations to come. To say I was blessed to step onto the stones laid by their hope and perseverance would be an incredible understatement. Although every individual’s experience is unique, the stories of a great number of Asian Americans bear the same foundation at their core. Whether fueled by career aspirations, the desire for greater freedoms or the attraction of the American dream, the generations before us dreamed big and worked hard toward a brighter tomorrow. Once seemingly fanciful, many of their dreams have become our reality. Their efforts have paved the way for greater representation in Hollywood, increased tolerance in the military and greater acceptance in our local communities. They have strengthened our voices and bolstered our ability to express our identities. Their efforts have, in fact, translated to the publication of the 17th issue of a magazine whose mission is to bring greater representation of the Asian American community.

to continue their legacy. But, from personal experience, I know that their remarkable accomplishments were not made alone. Without the support of such a talented and dedicated editorial board and staff, the publication of the 17th issue of Sparks Magazine could not have gone from dream to reality. But our fight does not stop here. Though leaps of progress have been made, we still have a long way to go – in both Sparks and society as a whole. It is imperative that we continue working to transcend the barriers restricting us. Let this issue be a reminder to dream big, and always keep your head in the clouds.

It is fitting, then, that I commend the efforts of every editor-in-chief of Sparks Magazine who came before me, from founding Editor-in-Chief Kevina Lee to the editors-in-chief whom I served under. It is an honor to have the opportunity


Joanna Zhuang Editor-in-Chief

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table of 4 | fall 2019


Missed Notifications


Enemies Abroad, Discrimination at Home


Lights, Camera, Action!


As (Not) Seen on TV: Asian Accents


Molding the Moon


Eastward on the Road to Health

by David Park

by Eileen Calub

by Zi Zheng

by Catherine Le

by Alexandra Giang

by Kaylyn Ling


Beyond the Stage


The Voice Behind


by Vanessa Celino

by Amy Nguyen

Hello, My Name is... by Michelle Lee


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No Fats, Fems or Asians


A Slanted Perspective


The Mindy Projects


Social Circles

by Zohra Qazi

by Emma Ross

by Zahra Saba

by Jamie Lee


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MISSED NOTIFICATIONS A round-up of Asian and Asian American news in 2019

3.31.19 HONG KONG PROTESTS BEGIN In February 2018, while vacationing in Taiwan, 20-year-old Poon Hiu-wing was murdered by her boyfriend Chan Tong-kai. Both were residents of Hong Kong. Despite his confession, Chan could not be charged because the courts of Hong Kong did not have jurisdiction over the crime, which was committed in Taiwan. As a result, the Hong Kong government proposed an extradition bill that would allow the transfer of criminal

suspects to any jurisdiction with which Hong Kong lacked a formal extradition treaty. These jurisdictions include Taiwan and China. Given China’s record of human rights violations, many Hong Kong civilians feared the bill would harm their judicial autonomy and allow the Chinese government to potentially target more than just criminals. In response, the Hong Kong protests began.

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Rallying his supporters at the Lincoln Memorial, entrepreneur Andrew Yang inspires more Asian Americans to be involved in politics and even run for

office. After announcing his presidential campaign on Nov. 6, 2017, Yang became the first Asian American candidate to run for president with the Democratic Party.

design/ Lucy Nguyen


illustration/ Brianne De Los Santos

This past spring, the LGBTQ+ community celebrated the legalization of same-sex marriage in Taiwan. The bill was approved on Feb. 21, 2019 by Taiwan’s cabinet and then sent to Legislative Yuan, the unicameral legislature in Taiwan, for the final pass, making Taiwan the first Asian nation to allow same-sex marriage. Many who identified as LGBTQ+ were able to come out of hiding and show pride. Over 500 same-sex couples were married on May 24, the first day the Taiwanese legislation allowed them to do so. By June 2019, more than 1,000 couples officially married.

by David Park


5.23.19 “ABOMINABLE” PREMIERES TRAILER Abominable,” the first co-production between DreamWorks and China’s Pearl Studio, is the first animated Asian-focused movie starring an Asian cast. However, the trailer drew criticism after it presented a South China Sea map that includes disputed sea territory. As a result, the film was banned in Vietnam, Malaysia and the Philippines.

7.15.19-Present MAUNA KEA’S THIRTY METER TELESCOPE After a decade of protests and debate, the 1.4 billion dollar Thirty Meter Telescope project resumed construction on Mauna Kea, a dormant volcano in Hawaii. The telescope’s site was first approved in April 2013 but was immediately met with criticism from environmentalists and Hawaii’s indigenous people. The land is part of an ancestral, cultural and spiritual area of the Kanaka Maoli, the aboriginal Polynesian people of the Hawaiian Islands. Their ancestry traces back to the original Polynesian settlers of Hawaii. Late October marked the 100th day since the protests began, but at this time, no final decision about the telescope has been made.

8.23.19-Present THE HONG KONG “CHAIN” Amidst months of protests, more than 200,000 people came together in Hong Kong, joining hands to create a human chain that was 50 kilometers long. These protesters were participating in “The Hong Kong Way” campaign, which aims to draw attention to Hong Kong’s five demands. The five demands include not characterizing the protesters as rioters, amnesty for arrested protesters, independent inquiry into alleged police brutality, implementation of complete universal suffrage and the withdrawal of the extradition bill. As of September, only the demand to withdraw the extradition bill has been met. As clashes and conflicts between protesters and the police force continue, protesters hope foreign pressures will help secure democracy in Hong Kong.


An arson attack occurred at Kyoto Animation studio in Kyoto, Japan, resulting in the death of 33 people and the injury of 36 others. The suspect, Shinji Aoba, claims

the studio plagiarized his novel and work. Denying claims of plagiarism, the company has publicly extended condolences to all victims.

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photography provided by/ Terry Shima

design / Esther Zhan

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by Eileen Calub

Enemies Abroad, Discrimination at Home


efore boarding a boat home to Hawaii, a young Daniel Inouye, wearing his uniform proudly adorned with captain’s bars and ribbons, walked into a barbershop in Oakland, California hoping to get a haircut.

“Are you a Jap?” the barber asked. “I’m an American,” Inouye replied. “Well, I’m asking you, are you a Jap?” the barber repeated. After Inouye explained that his parents were Japanese, the barber promptly said, “We don’t cut Jap hair.” Like former Hawaii senator Inouye, Asian Americans have faced discrimination during and after serving in the United States military. This history of inequality,

going back as far as the Civil War, is exemplified during World War II by the experiences of Japanese Americans.

people were relocated even though a majority of them were American citizens. Nevertheless, Japanese Americans dutifully served in the U.S. military while friends and family were interned, often dealing with discrimination in an unwelcoming American society.

Terry Shima, a 96 -year-old World War II veteran born and raised in Hawaii, recounted the incident at the barber shop. Shima served with Inouye in the 4 42nd Regimental Combat Team, a “My colleagues encountered humiliating segregated Japanese American unit, and experiences of racism,” Shima said. vividly remembers the racism he and “Soldiers reported going to restaurants, his colleagues faced as they served our resplendent in uniforms with rows and country. rows of ribbons and badges displayed on their uniforms, and not being served.” In December 1941, Shima was one of 5,000 Nisei, second-generation Japanese Americans, drafted into the U.S. Army. After the bombing of Pearl Harbor, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066. This order required Americans of Japanese descent to be held at internment camps, creating a “stigma of disloyalty,” as phrased by Shima. Approximately 117,000

Japanese Americans were frequently called “Japs” as an ethnic slur. According to Shima, when the 442nd Regimental Combat Team trained at Camp Shelby in Mississippi, local youths would holler “Japs” at the Nisei soldiers. Overseas, fellow American soldiers would also use the slur.

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“Nisei were derisively called ‘Japs’ by racial prejudice, wartime hysteria and a Caucasian G.I.s in the Pacific War,” Shima failure of political leadership.” said. “This happened during the early phase of our arrival. Towards the end of the war, After his service in the Army, Shima worked soldiers were aware of our war record and in the U.S. Foreign Service for 30 years. we were treated with respect. Because of the way Nisei helped win battles and save American lives, the same G.I.s were the “I am proud to be an American and to have Japanese Americans’ strongest supporters served my career in the U.S. diplomatic service,” Shima said. to fight racism on the home front.” After the conclusion of World War II in 1945, the fight wasn’t over for Japanese Americans. According to the Japanese American Veterans Association, “14,000 Nisei served in the combat zones in Europe and the Pacific, and another 17,000 Nisei soldiers, men and women, served stateside to prove their loyalty.” Recognition by President Harry Truman helped confirm Nisei loyalty to the American public and facilitate social acceptance, Shima said. In 1946, President Truman positively reviewed the Nisei 442nd Regimental Combat Team. “You fought the enemy abroad and prejudice at home and you won,” Truman stated at the White House Ellipse, addressing the returning Japanese American soldiers.

When asked how he overcame adversity in the face of racism, Shima replied, “Time, education, capitalizing on opportunities. Just plain hard work.” In 2013, Shima received the 2012 Presidential Citizens Medal, the secondhighest civilian award in the nation. In recent years, Asian American veterans have received recognition for their military service, including Filipino and Chinese American World War II veterans. These veterans paved the way for future generations of Asian Americans in the military. Concordiajo Duplechin is a 31-year-old Filipina American veteran, now residing in Ocala, Florida. She served stateside during the Iraq War. Unlike Shima, Duplechin’s struggles were not connected to her Asian background.

Shima credited Truman for major government reforms that provided support for veterans and allowed minorities to “I didn’t feel I was discriminated against for my race, but I did have difficulty in regards compete for any job or rank. to my gender,” Duplechin said. “Nisei World War II veterans were able to go to college on the G.I. Bill,” Shima said. Utilizing new opportunities to further their education, Japanese American veterans rebuilt their lives in a thriving postwar society and raised their children to build upon the legacy of previous generations. “The children won elected positions at the local, state and national levels,” Shima said. “They were selected for promotions to general and admiral ranks, cabinet secretaries. Their story is the story of the greatness of America.”

Duplechin stated that her direct supervisor “did not feel that females belonged in the military.” After speaking with an outranking officer, Duplechin was able to move forward with proceedings that removed her direct supervisor from his position. Clearly, although incredible progress has been made, there is still more to be done in order to cement all forms of equality in the United States and further right the wrongs of the past.

“You don’t see a lot of Asian Americans serving in the military, so when there are, it’s very heartwarming for me,” Duplechin More than 4 0 years af ter the last said. “I feel that it is very important for internment camp was closed, the Civil everybody to realize it doesn’t matter what Liberties Act of 1988 granted reparations race we are — we’re still part of the human to Japanese Americans interned by race, we’re still Americans at the end of the the government during World War II. day. Take pride in being American, honor President Ronald Reagan also issued a the flag and protect our freedoms.” formal apology for the incarceration. The act admitted that the actions of the U.S. government were “motivated largely by Asian American veterans have left a legacy of resilience in the face of discrimination,

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serving even when their countrymen have made them feel unwelcome. Stories like Shima’s and Duplechin’s inform today’s youth of the struggles Asian American soldiers have endured to ensure modernday freedoms. It further sets forth a goal for us to rightfully honor and recognize their sacrifices, achievements and contributions to pave the way for a more equal society in our diverse nation.

I feel that it is very important for everybody to realize it doesn’t matter what race we are — we’re still part of the human race, we’re still Americans at the end of the day. — Concordiajo Duplechin

Lights, Camera, Action! Putting the Spotlight on Asian and Asian American Cinema

“Mulan” (2020)

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design/ Ashley Somchanhmavong

Directed by Nahnatchka Khan, “Always Be My Maybe” presents itself as a cheesy romance with light-hearted comedy. Protagonists Marcus Kim, played by Randall Park, and Sasha Tran, played by Ali Wong, grow up as childhood friends in San Francisco, California. When Marcus’s mother is unexpectedly killed in a car accident, the protagonists each grieve in their own way, and the tragedy ultimately drives them apart. Fast forward 15 years, and Sasha has become a well-known chef and is now engaged. Meanwhile, Marcus still resides in San Francisco as the lead of an unsuccessful band. Due to the opening of her new restaurant, Sasha returns to her hometown and reconnects with Marcus. The film also features an appearance by Keanu Reeves, but we’ll let the reader figure out where he fits in to bring additional fun and drama to the already clever rom-com.

photography/ Ella Choi

“Always Be My Maybe” (2019)

The film will tell the famous tale of Hua Mulan and her recruitment into the Chinese military to fight against the Huns. Mulan disguises herself as a man to fight in place of her ill father and for her country. Mulan is agile compared to the men of the time, and with her spirit and wit, she rises as a prominent figure in the army and in history.

by Zi Zheng

Most of us are already familiar with the story of Mulan, thanks to the 1998 animated Disney film. But next spring, the story will return with a fresh new look. Disney is releasing a live-action “Mulan.” The film will be directed by Niki Caro, known for her work with the critically acclaimed film “Whale Rider.” Although a live-action version of “Mulan” was supposed to go into production in 2010, the film never took off. In 2017, however, a new cast came together with international Asian film stars like Liu Yifei, Donnie Yen and Jet Li and began a new shooting of “Mulan.”

Y E S T E R DAY “Yesterday” (2019)

“Secret Obsession” (2019)

“Yesterday” is a romantic comedy directed by Danny Boyle. The movie is based on a story by Jack Barth and Richard Curtis. The story revolves around struggling musician Jack Malik, played by Himesh Patel. After a mysterious accident, Jack finds himself in a world where he is the only person who remembers the Beatles and their music. When Jack realizes that no one is familiar with the world-renowned band, he begins performing their music, claiming their songs as his own to gain worldwide recognition. Eventually, guilt and unease catch up to Jack, forcing him to choose between fame and his conscience.

Directed by Peter Sullivan, the Netflix film is a psychological thriller. Brenda Song, perhaps best known as London Tipton in “The Suite Life of Zack and C o d y,” p l a y s J e n n i fe r W i l l i a m s , a woman who lost her memory after being hit by a car. She wakes up in the hospital. Soon, a man rushes into the hospital room with photographs o f t h e i r p rev i o u s l i fe , i n t ro d u c i n g himself as her husband, Russell Williams. Played by Mike Vogel, Russell is thankful she is alive and e a g e r to b r i n g h e r h o m e . B u t t h e story has just begun. Detective Page, played by Dennis Haysber t, begins pur s ui ng J e nnife r ’s assailant and coincidently discovers the dark truth behind Jennifer’s husband.

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“The Farewell” (2019) Partly inspired by the experiences of director Lulu Wang, “The Farewell” is a moving story about family. Billi, a Chinese American woman played by Nora Lum (better known as Awkwafina), resides in New York with her parents Haiyan and Jian, played by Tzi Ma and Diana Lin respectively. When Billi’s grandmother Nai Nai is diagnosed with terminal lung cancer and has only a few months to live, Billi’s family decides to keep Nai Nai in the dark. In an effort to preserve Nai Nai’s happiness, the family stages a wedding to gather everyone in one place for the last time. The film explores and celebrates the bonds of family, while simultaneously diving into the cultural differences between Eastern and Western culture.

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Mooncakes, or yuèbing, are traditional small circular or square Chinese pastry-cakes. Usually mooncakes are associated with the Mid-Autumn Festival, which takes place on the 15th day of the eighth month in the lunar calendar. Numerous stories and folktales surround the origin and history of mooncakes. According to Ling Yu, a Chinese home cook and blogger, mooncakes were first associated with the Mid-Autumn Festival in ancient China.

Another tale tells of the pastry’s importance in China’s revolutionary history. Chinese rebels used mooncakes to communicate during the Yuan Dynasty, a time when China was under Mongol rule, said Bernice Chan in

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Beyond their rich and long history, mooncakes are known for their impossibly delicious taste. They are typically golden brown in color and stamped with an intricate design. The filling of the cake can vary greatly. The customary filling is a sweet paste, with ingredients like lotus seed, sweet bean or jujuba (date). However, they can also have a five-nut filling or even a whole salted-duck yolk in the center of the filling. With the popularity of the sweet filling, not all consumers of the mooncake are always prepared for variations. “I remembered this one time, my mom gave me a mooncake, and I expected it to be one of the sweet-tasting ones with egg yolk that I usually eat,” said Thomas Yu, a 19-year-old mathematics sophomore at the University of Florida. “I forgot what flavor it was, but the cake was not sweet. Instead, it was rather salty. So much so that I refused to take another bite of it.”

design/ Caroline Werner

“The mooncake can be traced back to the Song Dynasty, where they were originally made to worship the moon god,” Yu said. “People give them to family and friends as gifts. It symbolizes family reunion.”

an NPR podcast episode titled “The Revolutionary History of Mooncakes.” Hiding secret messages in the mooncakes helped the Chinese successfully defeat the Mongols and regain control of the country.

photography provided by/ Ngan Kim Vu

magine slicing a golden pastry in half. Its cross section resembles a full moon, with an egg yolk suspended in sweet filling. Soon, it will be sliced further, sometimes into four, eight or even more pieces to share. The thick crust and dense filling allow the slices to hold their shape. It is often considered best when served with a strong tea.

by Alexandra Giang



An inside look at the role mooncakes play in Asian culture

“I made the mooncake several times before I got it right,” she said. “The first time I made mooncakes, it was terrible. The video tutorials were all in Chinese, and my measurements for the dough were off.” While the experience did not ruin mooncakes for Yu, he now always checks the flavor before taking a bite. Yu is just one of the countless consumers of mooncakes. Although mooncakes originated in China, the Chinese aren’t the only ones who love mooncakes. Ngan Kim “Kavi” Vu, a 28-yearold Vietnamese American videographer for Sweet Hut Bakery & Café, recalls that her Catholic church used to have huge celebrations of festivals and contests where you could win mooncakes. In Vietnamese, mooncakes are known as or “Banh Trung Thu.” “The first time I won a mooncake, I remember dressing up one year in a traditional Vietnamese costume and winning third place,” Vu said. “It felt great to bring it home because I felt like I earned it with hard work.”

The Mooncake Master gave her a few tips, including keeping the mooncake dough as fresh as possible and refrigerating it to make it easier to form in the mooncake mold. However, she warns against leaving the dough in the refrigerator for too long, emphasizing that leaving it overnight would force the baker to start over. After about three or four tries, Vu finally learned the process and was able to present her beautifully made mooncakes to her friends and family just in time for the celebrations. For many, the greatest significance of mooncakes lies in their role as a symbol of celebrations that bring together relatives, co-workers and friends. “The round yolk in the mooncake is like a full moon,” said Minmin Jin, a realtor in Gainesville. “A crescent moon would only be part of the family. A full moon is for bringing the whole family together.” The Mid-Autumn Festival is one celebration during which mooncakes are eaten, but they are popular during other special occasions, as well. The Lunar New Year is another example. Whenever it comes time to bring family together, the mooncake proves to be the perfect dessert.

Due to the intricate designs on the pastry’s surface, Vu thought mooncakes would be extremely difficult to recreate at home. Thankfully, it is not as difficult as it seems. In fact, Vu discovered a three-dimensional mold that anyone could purchase online. Vu learned more trade-secrets when she went behindthe-scenes with Sweet Hut Bakery & Café’s chef, Ka Jun Tay, also known as the “Mooncake Master.” For Vu, each piece of newfound knowledge came with a surprise. “I expected the Mooncake Master to be an 80-year-old Chinese man, but he’s actually a 26-year-old,” Vu said. “He has been making mooncakes in a specialty shop ever since he was 18. Rather than age, it was his experience that had gained him the title of ‘Mooncake Master.’” Many of the mooncake fillings could be purchased in Asian grocery stores in the form of a canned paste, Vu said. The duck yolks could be found prepared in the frozen aisle.

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Eastward on the Road to Health


Integrating health practices of the East and West

In the past, Eastern medicine practices were passed down within families or by word-of-mouth. As the world globalized, cultural overlaps in health care increased. “I know physicians who trained in both [Eastern and Western medicine], including some of the students that I’ve had in the medical school,” said Dr. Laura Guyer, a health disparities and health education professor at the University of Florida. “Today, [complementary and integrative medicine] are receiving attention because they’re valid, and they’re important.” Integrative medicine is an area of study in health that employs Western and nonWestern treatments. Integrative medicine addresses several components of wellbeing such as lifestyle, environment and spirituality, with an emphasis on personalized attention. Treatments such as music therapy and meditation are used by integrative programs.



According to Duke Integrative Medicine, complementary medicine is an approach to health that uses non-Western practices as add-ons to Western methods. Alternative medicine completely replaces Western medicine with non-Western practices. After working in public health, health education and the medical humanities, Guyer has learned the importance of diversity in the study of medicine.

Yu Yee Oil

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“We work with people and live in a society that is changing and becoming even more diverse,” she said. “There’s not a one-sizefits-all health care.”

Although Guyer does not practice Eastern medicine, she respects its importance as an approach to health that fits into nonWestern belief systems. Shivani Doshi, a UF behavioral and cognitive neuroscience junior and member of the American Medical Student Association, supports integrative medicine. “Integrative medicine is really cool because it looks at the body more holistically,” Doshi said. “I believe that the disconnect between [traditional and modern] beliefs is fixed by integrative medicine because it looks at the body, mind and soul.” For Doshi, integrative medicine has personal relevance. Some members of her family have had a complicated relationship with Western medicine because of their Eastern traditions. Doshi’s grandmother, who was educated in nutrition, was diagnosed with kidney failure and turned down a dialysis treatment in favor of integrative medicine because she felt dialysis did not fully address her needs. Her grandmother believed she was misunderstood by her physician. Family was the starting point for Doshi’s experience with alternative medicine. Now in college, Doshi still appreciates and practices Eastern and integrative medical techniques. Every morning before school, Doshi practices Pranayama yoga. Yoga has roots in Indian tradition and is a popular integrative medicine technique. Doshi describes Pranayama as a “subset of yoga that focuses on controlled breathing.”

illustration + design/ Brianne De Los Santos

Eastern medicine is commonly associated with traditional Chinese and Ayurvedic (Indian) health practices. Westerners may be familiar with cupping and coining, acupuncture and Reiki healing. These techniques represent just some of many health-related activities originating from the East.


by Kaylyn Ling


n the age of essential oils and sunrise yoga, non-standard medical practices have demonstrated immense growing power. Eastern medicine, which includes all health-related products and practices from Asian countries, has been kept alive in Asian American households and influenced other cultures’ approaches to medicine as well.

Eastern remedies. “It’s important to do your research before you do anything,” Doshi said. “Integrative medicine should be a class at UF because we are creating the next generation of healthcare professionals, and we must adapt.”


Tiger Balm

Dikshitha Shankar, a 20-year-old UF health education major and current president of the Health Educated Asian Leaders organization, also has experience with both Eastern and Western medicine practices. She is most familiar with South Asian home remedies. Drinking turmeric powder with milk, Shankar said, treats sore throats. The National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health reports turmeric, a yellow-orange cooking spice, may also reduce heart attacks, skin irritation and osteoarthritis pain. Shankar says that students and professionals alike should be open-minded to non-Western health care. “I think I would encourage students to look into Eastern medicine,” she said. “Be knowledgeable about it. There’s no harm in learning about something new.”

We work with people and live in a society that is changing and becoming even more diverse. There’s not a one-size-fits-all health care — Laura Guyer Guyer, Doshi and Shankar were all in agreement when it came to one thing: No matter what approach to health care you take, be informed. Shankar recommends everyone look up scholarly articles to inform themselves. She also said she would enjoy seeing organizations or multicultural groups develop events to showcase unique, accessible healthcare practices like

Eastern medicinal products are slowly becoming a household staple in medicine cabinets around the U.S. For many Eastern medicine users, Tiger Balm is synonymous with a cure-all. Tiger Balm is an over-the-counter salve used to treat headaches, sprains and other pains. It comes in a jar small enough to fit in your pocket. Its spicy, soothing smell comes from its mix of organic ingredients, which include eucalyptus and camphor, according to Verywell Health. According to the product’s website, Tiger Balm was created by Chinese imperial herbalist Aw Chu Kin in the 1870s. The balm, one of the most popular medicinal products to come out of the East, continues to be sold today by the Haw Par Corporation. Wood Lock oil and Yu Yee oil are other popular traditional Chinese medicine products. Wood Lock oil is a honey-colored medicated oil used for pain relief, massage therapy and nausea. America’s FDAregulated version consists of wintergreen oil, menthol and camphor. Its iconic glass bottle packaging earned the product the nickname “Chinese whiskey.”

Ashwagandha is a shrub that has been concentrated into dietary supplements in order to treat anxiety disorders, tumor growth and more.

CONTROVERSY Medicine is a field full of misconceptions and rumors, and Eastern practices are no exception. Compared to Western medicine, Eastern medicine lacks the support of rigid scientific data. Many products are backed only by personal testimony. According to Guyer, the lack of empirical evidence does not mean non-Western medicine is less effective or valuable. She believes a person’s wellness depends on self-perception that cannot be quantified. If alternative medicine practices meet one’s personal needs and they believe it works for them, then it can be a valid medical practice. Currently, the FDA advises caution against many unregulated Eastern medicine products. Relying on medical advice from the internet, the FDA claims, can be dangerous. Even with all of the controversy surrounding Eastern medicine, there is still a future for traditional Eastern medicine in modern health care, especially for patients searching for holistic remedies. A balance between both Eastern and Western approaches will continue to find its footing as health care evolves to meet all the nuances of human wellness.

Yu Yee oil is a similar product. Composed of menthol, paraffin and other organic ingredients, Yu Yee oil is commonly used for baby care. Namman Muay Boxing Liniment is another well-known Eastern medicine product originating from boxing circles in Thailand. Athletes and massage therapists continue to use the liniment to rejuvenate tired muscles. A number of herbal products have been produced from Ayurvedic traditions.





Wood Lock Oil

Derivatives of Ashwagandha, for example, are a popular herbal medicine product commonly used in Ayurvedic treatments.

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beyond the stage B

eauty pageants have a rich culture in the Philippines. Dubbed the “pageant capital” of the world, the Philippines is home to a countless number of pageants and international pageant winners.

Natashya Gutierrez, a journalist for the Philippine news network Rappler, traces the Filipino devotion to beauty pageants back to the legacy of Spanish colonialism in an article titled “The Philippines’ Beauty Pageant Obsession: Who Benefits?” Filipino fixation with beauty pageants continued to grow with the country’s first major win in 1969, when Gloria Diaz won Miss Universe. Since then, pageants have become a great source of pride in the

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Even in the Philippines, pageants have their controversies. For one, it is rare for a full Filipino to make it far in pageants in the Philippines. Pageant frontrunners are typically tall, skinny and lighter-skinned. They also often have mixed ethnic and national heritages. In the past, winners have had American, European or Australian ancestry. For example, the two most recent Miss Universe winners representing the Philippines, Pia Wurtzbach and Catriona Gray, are half German and half Australian, respectively. Silvia Celeste Cortesi, crowned Miss Philippines Earth 2018, faced heavy criticism for not being “Filipino enough.” Cortesi is half Italian, born and raised in Italy, and does not speak Tagalog or any other tongue native to the Philippines. The lack of significance placed on cultural heritage coupled with the immense focus placed upon physical appearance in Filipino pageants makes critics question how authentic Filipino representation is in these pageants. Pageants: Are they good or bad? Now a second-year student at UF, Kristina Biglete never imagined she would don a pageant crown. Growing up, when her friends and family would encourage her to participate in pageants, she would always shy away from the idea

Although Biglete was peer pressured into her first pageant, she chose to participate in her second one, the Miss Fil-Am pageant, because of its partnership with Gawad Kalinga, a Phillippine movement that aims to end poverty by 2024. Biglete’s experience with Miss Fil-Am was a rewarding one. At the pageant, she shared the stage with the women who won before her. They were the same women who competed in the pageants Biglete watched while growing up. They inspired her. Biglete’s Miss Fil-Am crowning moment means the world to her because she has seen what previous winners were able to do with their title. Although the Fil-Am pageant was still a competition, Biglete befriended other contestants and found the experience empowering, as much of it revolved around showcasing the talents of others. But as pure as Biglete’s narrative was, controversy still surrounds pageants. While the contests do certainly open up opportunities, they often only do so for the few who meet current beauty standards or other exclusive criteria. When competing in Fiesta mo sa, UF senior Angelique Howard remembers overhearing rude comments about

design/ Rachalle Way

Pageants, especially international ones, garner significant amounts of attention from the Filipino community. When women representing the Philippines win these pageants, the country — composed of countless islands and home to various languages and cultures — is united under a strong sense of national pride.

Today, many feminists oppose beauty pageants, claiming that they have no place in the 21st century because they objectify women and promote harmful and unrealistic beauty standards.

because she didn’t think that they were for her.

photography/ Kylee Gates

Pageants are valued so highly in Filipino culture that they are held in every local city, for different kinds of people and for various occasions. Every Barrio Fiesta, in which Phillipine neighborhoods celebrate their patron saints, has one of these competitions. Young girls are often encouraged to participate by parents and older relatives.


by Vanessa Celino

A deeper look at pageants and their intersection of Filipino culture and feminism

herself and other contestants. When Howard started pageants, she worked tirelessly to be the “right” size, but people would still say she could stand to lose a couple more pounds. “I would not be allowed to have more than a tablespoon of oil a day, and I couldn’t have more than a certain amount of fat,” said Howard. “It was very unhealthy, and I was definitely starving myself for the sake of this pageant. Yet, people would still say things like, ‘She has a bulge.’” Pageants garner a lot of publicity. As a result, many Filipino parents, especially in the Philippines, encourage their kids to participate in pageants as a way of gaining exposure. When a contestant participates in Fiesta mo sa, she represents her city. However, this representation would not always translate. Often, when Howard wore her sash, people would mistake her for Miss Jacksonville, not realizing that the sash was for Fiesta mo sa. When Howard had her sash on, people would act differently around her — they would wish her luck in representing their city, and many of them would ask for photos. For Howard, it felt weird to be put on a pedestal, and would even make her uncomfortable at times.

differently. She used her sash as a way to talk to people and make new connections. When people would ask what her sash was for or what she was representing, Kristina would use it as an opportunity to talk with people and tell them more about herself.

“[Fiesta mo sa] was one of the hardest things I’ve done in my life, but at the end, it made me learn a lot,” Howard said. “I learned a lot about myself and about confidence because I wasn’t as confident then as I am now.”

Pageants: Not all bad, and getting better

Additionally, pageant culture is also improving. In 2018, the Miss Universe pageant had both a selection committee and a panel of judges made up completely of women. Many people have also begun to simply call these contests “pageants,” as opposed to “beauty pageants,” in an attempt to remove the focus on physical beauty.

Faith Maniti, a second year student at UF, was one of the directors for the Mx. AASU 2019 pageant at the university. She chose to be a director because she believes pageants give people the opportunity to make their voices and platforms known, and she wanted to help others be able to do so. Maniti’s mother pushed her to do pageants because she never wanted Maniti to be shy in front of a crowd. Now, Faith proudly claims public speaking to be one of her fortes. All three women — Biglete, Howard and Maniti — are grateful for their pageant experiences and look back on their contests fondly. They claim that they were able to grow and get to know themselves better. Pageants allowed them to develop self-confidence and a better appreciation of their cultural heritage.

Vanity may have been the root of the objectification associated with beauty pageants, but as pageants continue to evolve, contestants are focusing more on celebrating their stories, rather than how they look in a swimsuit or cocktail dress.

But Kristina viewed this phenomenon differently. She used her sash as a

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The Voice Behind Her name is Chanel Miller and she gives strength to me and everyone else who reads her story.

Miller, addressed by her pseudonym, was referred to as the “unconscious, intoxicated woman.” At the time, she chose to exclude her identity from this narrative. In contrast, her rapist’s credentials accompanied every mention of his name. Euphemism surrounding the case painted him as a flawed student and Miller as the black smudge that ended his prospective career. The rapist’s father defended his son in a court statement, alleging that he was “paying a high price for 20 minutes of action.” Aaron Perksy, the judge who oversaw the case, agreed that a full sentence of six years “would have a severe impact on him.” Turner was sentenced to six months in jail and released after three for good behavior; diminishing the severity of the crime did little to reassure Miller and other survivors seeking justice. As Miller reclaimed her voice four years following the incident, her cultural background was revealed. The pent-up frustration I harbored when I first read about her sexual assault never subsided and turned into shock when she revealed her identity. She was Asian American. The shock I experienced made me reexamine my personal biases. Why did the mention of her

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Chinese heritage astound me? The nuances of race intertwining with sexual assault proved difficult to dissect. In these instances, intersectionality concerning the Me Too movement should be addressed. Tarana Burke, the founder of the movement, reassured that Me Too did not pertain solely to “famous white cisgendered women.” I had never before considered the face behind Emily Doe. There was little room for attributing anything to the pseudonym except “rape victim.” I felt a sense of solidarity as the media circulated her picture. I saw myself in her brown eyes, in her Asian background and in her powerful words. Her unwavering stance and defiance against a biased legal system was awe-inspiring. Miller’s words worked as a catalyst to redefine the identity bestowed upon her. She was more than a black smudge on someone’s painting. She was an artist, an author, more than a victim. Her memoir’s soft but resilient narration showed me how loud her voice resonated in the surrounding tumult.

I saw myself in her brown eyes, in her Asian background, and in her powerful words. Sexual assault in Asian and American cultures alike is often a taboo topic. It is one that is haphazardly swept under the rug, forgotten and unacknowledged. This was evident in the way Asian survivors dealt with their experiences. Asian women were

design + illustration/ Dencie Devora & Tulsi Patel


was 16 when I read about Emily Doe’s case. I was 19 when I read about Chanel Miller’s. Miller, the victim of the People v. Turner case, recently released her memoir, “Know My Name.” It follows her experiences preceding her sexual assault and her battle with trauma after. When news about the case broke in 2015, news articles plastered her assailant Brock Turner’s face on every platform. Accompanying his face was “the Stanford swimmer.”

by Amy Nguyen

Source: YouTube, “I Am With You - Chanel Miller”

found to be the least likely to report sexual assault, according to a telephone survey conducted amongst 8,000 men and 8,000 women. This study was conducted by the Center for Policy Research, with cosponsors of the National Institute of Justice and the Centers for Disease Control. Nondisclosure of sexual assault by Asian Americans stemmed from fear of ostracization from family and friends. This was based on a qualitative study by Kelly H. Hoo at the University of Washington. Hoo cited “negative consequences on relationships with parents” and “post-rape concerns” as the largest hindrances to Asian victims speaking out. It’s important to reassure victims about their concerns and help them heal their wounds.

SOURCE: YouTube, “I Am With You - Chanel Miller”

The study focused on instances of sexual assault that were alcohol associated, tying back to Miller’s case. After Turner was arrested for the rape, millions took to the internet to shame the victim behind Emily Doe. Miller discussed the disparaging comments she received over the years in an interview with Bill Whitaker on “60 Minutes.” She credited these online comments for the progression of her shame. “Rape is not a punishment for being drunk,” Miller countered. Though she admitted a hangover was well deserved after heavy drinking, she reiterated that no one deserved to be violated.

Nobody wants to be defined by the worst thing that’s happened to them. ­— Chanel Miller As victims like Miller stand their ground in the face of injustice, the fight for sexual assault survivors prevails. If and when future victims are brave enough to bare their stories, it’s imperative that their voices are validated. The voices and identities of victims of color in particular must be recognized. There’s nothing more disheartening than to be silenced in the face of one’s perpetrator. Miller’s words carried an unprecedented weight for the future. Buzzfeed published her 12-page victim impact statement which subsequently went viral. An influx of support from people, including other survivors allowed Miller to “feel the shame dissolve.” The support she received was indicative of the power behind her voice. As she stripped her identity of Emily Doe, Miller showed the world how she was capable of being more than an “unconscious, intoxicated woman.” Her name is Chanel Miller and she gives strength to me and everyone else who reads her story.


No one gets to define you, you do. — Chanel Miller

fall 2019| 23

Hello, My Name is... An inside look on four Asian American girls and their birth names This comparison makes them more “foreign.” The decision to use one culture’s name over the other is a deeply personal one as each person relies on their own unique perspectives to come to their decision.

Yewon Lee, a UF health science sophomore, identifies as Korean American. She came to the U.S. in 2009 and received her U.S. citizenship during her senior year of high school. Like Patel, Lee originally hoped a more American name would make her life easier.

What makes a name “American”? Diana Boxer, a linguistics professor at the University of Florida, explains that an American name is one that sounds familiar to Americans. For example, the names Sarah and John both sound familiar, and they are two very common names in the U.S. Then what makes a name “Asian”? Boxer says that an Asian name is one that sounds foreign to Americans, making it “cognitively difficult to process and, perhaps, remember.” For example, the names Amisha and Yewon are less common in the U.S. and, therefore, less familiar to Americans, especially in comparison to names like Sarah or John.

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I’m proud to have a cultural name because it makes me feel closer to home and my ethnicity. — Amisha Patel Izin Ton, who is also a sophomore studying health science at UF, has a more complicated cultural background but still shares the same sentiment as Patel and Lee: her Asian name holds a deeply personal value. Although her parents are Chinese Vietnamese, she identifies as Chinese American. She says that she loves her Chinese name because it was given to her by both of her parents, and it serves as a way to “stay rooted” to her culture. On the other hand, Asian Americans given both an Asian name and an American name at birth tend to give out their American name most of the time. According to Boxer, one reason for this is that an American name is simply more practical. Because Asian Americans live in the U.S. and are surrounded by other Americans, using their American name is often more natural and a way to assimilate into the culture. Even Lee, who only has an Asian name, confessed that she didn’t always like her name because it prevented her from assimilating into American culture.

design/Anusha Rao

“I thought having an American name would help me fit in better,” Lee said, “but now I don’t think I need to have

Both Patel and Lee are Asian Americans who were given an Asian birth name only. They share the same mindset, in which they wished they had an American name at some point in their lives, but gradually grew into their Asian name as they got older. And now, they take an even stronger pride in their Asian name.

photography/ Lauren Witte

“When I was younger, I didn’t like having an Asian name, and I wished to have an American name to fit in more,” Amisha Patel, an Indian American political science sophomore at UF said. “I love having an Asian name now, and I’m proud to have a cultural name because it makes me feel closer to home and my ethnicity.”

an American name just because I’m in America. It’s a name that my parents gave me, and I want to keep it as it is.”

by Michelle Lee


misha. Yewon. Izin. Mercy. What do these four names have in common? It’s hard to figure it out just by looking directly at them, but they are the first names of four different Asian American girls. It may not seem like it, but it’s true. Not all Asian Americans go by an American name, and not all of them go by an Asian name.

Ton also brought up the issue of pronunciation. “There has never been a person who has said my name right the first time we met or when they saw it on paper or social media,” Ton said. “It usually takes a couple of times for someone to remember how to pronounce my name.” Another significant reason for using an American name is potential workplace bias toward white-sounding names. Job applicants with Asian names seem to have a harder time receiving offers than applicants with American names. In other words, employers tend to favor applicants with American names when it comes to looking for new employees. This bias has also leaked into the college admissions process.

While having an Asian name is a great way to represent Asian culture, it can work to someone’s disadvantage in the American workplace. Yewon Lee recounted seeing people “give up making people pronounce their names and go by white-sounding names.”

There has never been a person who has said my name right the first time we met... — Izin Ton Unfortunately, Lee isn’t the only one who has noticed this. “A lot of my family members have actually talked to me about this and explicitly said that they gave their children whitesounding names to try and prevent this from happening,” Ton said. Despite Asian Americans’ efforts to conceal their Asian name, Boxer says that surnames give away racial identities because we automatically correlate them to a certain ethnic group. This is especially harmful if that ethnic group is a minority.

“Asian applicants often changed foreignsounding names to something American- “If you have a first name that you’ve sounding,” journalist Dina Gerdeman wrote Americanized and not your last name, that in an article for Harvard Business School. can still indicate that there will be some “One Asian applicant said she put her ‘very bias,” Boxer said.


“I have the feeling that it would end up confusing people, and some people already have a hard time recognizing my English name, often confusing it with Mary or Marcy when they hear it,” Tsay said.

Chinese-sounding’ name on her resume in her freshman year but only got noticed after subbing in her American nickname later.”



Mercy Tsay, a Taiwanese American freshman studying telecommunication and specializing in digital film and TV production at UF, prefers to go by her American name. She attributes this to the difficulty Americans have pronouncing her Asian name.

According to a 2018 poll from NBC News, 64 percent of Americans believe that racial discrimination still exists as a major problem in the U.S. Even if Asian Americans have a U.S. citizenship, they are not always immune to the judgements that pervade American society. “People of color shouldn’t have to change their ethnic names so they can get a job,” Patel said. “The company should put in effort to learn how to pronounce their names.” A name is a part of one’s identity. Therefore, changing one’s name can be seen as changing one’s original identity. According to Tsay, Asian Americans are not the only ones dealing with this issue, meaning that other minorities suffer from these “consequences” just because they have an ethnic name. A name is simply a way to identify oneself, but it can hold so much power in the lives of Asian Americans and other minority groups. Although it does not say everything about people’s personalities, it represents who they choose to be. Amisha, Yewon, Izin and Mercy each have their own reasons behind their name choice. But in the end, they are just four girls, each with their own unique name. Our UCF chapter also features a story in their issue on how Asian and American names affect the Asian American identity. Check out the article at:

fall 2019| 25

No Fats, Fems or Asians An exploration into the gay dating bias

by Zohra Qazi photography/ Isabella Billones

Carlos is a gay 23-year-old information technology major at the University of Central Florida. For him, like many other gay Asian men, dating comes with its own unique set of challenges. Dating in the LGBT community is already difficult, but as a gay Asian, with racism involved, it is even harder to find love.

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The statement “No Fats, Fems, or Asians” — and other discriminatory statements — is a common sight on dating apps like Grindr. It’s usually displayed on the profiles of white gay men, masking their thinly veiled racism as a “preference.” This “preference,” h o w e v e r, h a r m s LG B T A s i a n s b y feeding into the dehumanizing stereotype that Asian members of the LGBT community are submissive and passive. It reconstructs the Asian i d e n t i t y a s a “ typ e ,” a llo w in g th is “preference” to be interchangeable with one’s racial and ethnic identity. This racial “preference” can affect Asian individuals’ romantic and sexual value within LGBT communities. “It definitely has a big impact in terms of the kinds of people I end up

interacting with or want to interact with,” Carlos said. Kyle Wong, a gay 21-year-old UCF communications major, is no stranger to such statements or “preferences.” “People would just block me,” Wong said. “Obviously, it hurts to hear or see those things, but I just don’t let them bother me or get to me.” “It does make you feel excluded,” said Jeremy Capalad, “especially when the [LGBT] community talks about love and acceptance.” As a gay Asian, it’s common to feel this sort of exclusion when confronted with these negative, racist statements. Along with this exclusion, Capalad, a senior studying social sciences at

design/ Ann Dang


t’s a typical weeknight when Lou Carlos finds himself on dating apps like Bumble and Grindr. In his search for love and friendship, he ends up swiping through countless profiles and scrolling through endless photos. It’s a kaleidoscope of pictures, names and interests of possible matches. That is, until Carlos ends up face-to-face with a profile that declares “No Rice Queens,” “No Asians” and “No Fats, Fems, or Asians.”

UCF, finds himself feeling he has to distance himself from the people he interacts with. “You have to put up a guard, not fully involve yourself and take yourself seriously because you never know what people might think of you or how people will look at you,” Capalad said. U n f o r t u n a t e l y, t h e e f f e c t t h a t “p re fe re n c e s ” h ave m a ke s i t eve n harder for gay Asians, like Carlos, Wong and Capalad, to find “the one,” especially with the already limited size of their dating pool. “It’s kind of sad to say, but you have to prepare yourself for rejection,” Capalad said. T h i s r a c i s m t o w a r d A s i a n LG B T members can lead not only to discrimination, but also fetishization and objectification. According to Jennifer Sandoval, a professor and program coordinator for the Department of Communication at UCF, stereotypes can play a role for quite a few people when shaping their dating preferences. Generally, Asian women in media are hypersexualized, and Asian men are desexualized and are not the object of sexual or romantic desire. For Carlos, scrolling through profile after profile can be a hassle, but interacting with some of these profiles is a whole different issue. Many of his conversations somehow find their way to the subject of his race. “They start to bring up my race, saying things like, ‘You know I never hung out with an Asian guy before.’ So? Why are you bringing this up?” Carlos said. Even when the person Carlos interacts with shares several interests, statements like “I always thought Asians were cute” or “I never hung out with an Asian before” end up appearing i n t h e c o n ve r s a t i o n . Fo r h i m , i t ’s difficult to have a normal conversation with someone when they try to talk about your race.

“I’m proud of being Asian; I’m proud of being a Filipino American. But bringing up the fact that I am Asian out of nowhere is just annoying,” Carlos said. I n re s p o n s e to t h e r a c i s m a n d discrimination that is blatant within the LGBT community, there have been slow-moving efforts to combat the issue. In 2018, Grindr launched their Kindr campaign. The campaign works to diminish sexual racism — sexual “p re fe re n c e s ” to w a rd s a s p e c i f i c race — and transphobia in order to promote a diverse, inclusive and kinder environment for users on the dating app. As par t of the Kindr campaign, Grindr updated its community guidelines and now has stricter policies. The updated guidelines stress a zero-tolerance policy for discriminatory and abusive speech. This means that profiles that feature exclusionary statements such as “No Fats, Fems, or Asians” are removed. Along with the updates to the app itself, Grindr released a series of videos to raise awareness and talk about issues like fat and femme shaming, transphobia and sexual racism. Efforts are being made by a number of other dating apps as well. Apps like Chappy and Scruff have taken ac t i on ag ainst se xual rac ism and discrimination, updating their policies to reflect their values of inclusivity and user safety.

Don’t be afraid to bring it up and talk about it. Ignoring it or giving them the side-eye, you’re no better. You’re part of the problem. — Lou Carlo

this education, members of the community can understand, notice and critique actions and behaviors that are harmful towards racial minorities. As individuals, it is also our job to call people out on their racist comments and actions. “Don’t be afraid to bring it up and talk about it,” Carlos said. “Ignoring it or giving them the side-eye, you’re no better, you’re part of the problem. If you choose not to stop it, you’re part of the problem.” Despite these concerns, progress is being made. More and more dating apps are updating their platforms to raise awareness about the harms of discrimination. Members of the LGBT community, like Carlos, Capalad and Wong, are taking steps to bring attention to racial issues, moving the community towards the kindness and respect everyone deserves.

But, of course, it’s not only up to the dat i ng apps to m ake the c hang e . Sandoval mentioned that there needs to be more education and openness to discuss the topic of racial issues within the LGBT community. Through


fall 2019| 27

A ‘Slanted’ Perspective Understanding the drive to fight for free speech

by Emma Ross photography/ Ella Choi

That boy was Simon Tam, founder of The Slants, an all Asian American dance-rock band, and the winning party in Matal v. Tam, a First Amendment Supreme Court case that resulted in a provision of the Lanham

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Act being ruled unconstitutional. This provision prevented the registration of any trademarks that were seen as disparaging toward an individual or group. In this particular case, it had been used to prevent The Slants from registering a trademark for their name due to the racist connotation with the word “slants.” Tam’s band chose the name The Slants as a way to reclaim the term — to take the word back from those that used it in a derogatory manner. He was not the only one with that idea though. The Asian community had already been reclaiming the word “slants” on its own for decades, Tam said. He was honoring the work of the

activists that came before him. For example, Melissa Hung, the founding editor of Hyphen, an Asian American culture magazine, established the Slant Film Festival in 2001 to showcase the world of emerging Asian American artists. There are also the directors and production teams behind “The Slanted Screen,” Slant TV and Slant Magazine. Every racial slur against Asian Americans was already a registered trademark, according to Tam. But whenever Asian Americans would apply for these trademarks themselves, they were denied. “We were told that we were too Asian,

design/Christine Kim


boy sits on the couch. The movie playing on the TV is Quentin Tarantino’s “Kill Bill.” As the boy watches, a scene starts up. It’s the moment when O-Ren Ishii, leader of a Tokyo crime organization, enters a restaurant. She’s dressed in all white contrasting the black ensembles that her clan wears as they follow behind her. All of the actors are Asian or Asian American. It is the first time the boy has ever seen Asians portrayed as cool, sexy and confident.

whereas people who weren’t Asian were given the benefit of the doubt.” Tam said. “For me, it was about the principle of those kinds of things.” The law was removing the victims from the process, Tam said. “It allowed the government to be the arbiter of speech,” Tam said. “For me that is the ultimate problem.” If our desire is to reduce the use of hate speech or racial slurs in our culture, trademark registrations are not the way to do it, Tam said. The idea for The Slants blossomed from the extreme lack of Asian representation in mainstream entertainment. No movie Tam had watched ever displayed genuine representation with depth. There was even less representation in the music industry, the art he lived and breathed since he was a child. “There’s this Chinese proverb that the nail that sticks out gets hammered in,” Tam said. Tam was not raised in an environment where he was encouraged to speak out. He grew up with, what he called, “typical Asian parents” and was taught it was better to not cause trouble. He was told to accept things as they were.

There’s this Chinese proverb that the nail that sticks out gets hammered in. — Simon Tam He was taught that it was better to silently protest things that he disagreed with. “You don’t want to get into more trouble and create more trouble for yourself,” Tam said. But Tam was a punk rock lover, and he believed in rebelling against the system.

“To be clear, I wasn’t rebelling against my parents,” Tam said. He wasn’t the type to sneak out of the house to hang out with friends or do drugs. He was the kid that helped his parents with computers and went to church with them on the weekends. “I rebelled against systems, like things that I thought were unjust. That’s what I thought was worth speaking up against,” Tam said. “Witnessing unjust things occur is probably the most disturbing thing.” He would ask himself questions like, “What can I do to change that? What can I do to address these things that are evil and don’t belong in this world? How can I lessen the suffering of other people?” “I’m driven by this idea of compassion,” Tam said. “Activism is certainly a natural vehicle for that, and in a lot of ways, I think art and music are also right in line with that.” Tam engaged in forms of activism prior to the Matal v. Tam case, but he never considered himself to be an activist. To him, all the things he did were simple acts of compassion. The activist label came later as he found himself increasingly involved with the Asian American community.

or use hurtful language because the reality is that they will get away with it anyway,” Tam said. “A more just version of things is to think about who are the people with the least options or the least resources in our society. How can we empower them, so that they have more options? So they’re on a level playing field?” We don’t actually need the government to protect us against people who do hateful things, we need the government to actually have equality, Tam argued. Everyone having the same starting point is much closer to the idea of justice than simply trying to remove discomfort or trying to block other people. Tam says that people who only mute, block or unfriend people on social media do not actually change the hearts and minds of those who are being racist. “If we want to change the systems and the root causes of issues like racism, we actually have to engage with people,” Tam said. In order to overcome the prejudice people have and shift people’s thinking, we need an open dialogue, Tam said. Matal v. Tam was a great win for freedom of speech, but it represents only one of many of the necessary steps needed for a more equal and just society.

“Instead of just thinking, ‘Hey, here’s someone who’s hungry’ and giving them food, it was more like asking, ‘What causes hunger? What causes racism?’” Tam said. He wanted to get to the root of these issues and find solutions for the community. Even though Tam disagreed with the law that was preventing him from registering The Slants as a trademark, he doesn’t think of laws in black and white. He actually warns against doing so. “Rather than thinking if a law is good or bad, think about it in terms of justice. Justice is more than just punishing people who abuse our laws

fall 2019| 29

The Mindy Projects An analysis of the characters created by Mindy Kaling to challenge the stereotypes of South Asians in American television

Some writers in media and film are working to counteract these stereotypes through the creation of diverse and dynamic characters that reverse biases and portray South Asians as relatable people with universal struggles. Representation on screen acknowledges South Asians’ role in American society and history. Mindy Kaling, a multifaceted actress, producer,

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Kaling recently remade the 1994 British romantic comedy “Four Weddings and a Funeral,” in which she rewrote the main character to be a first-generation Pakistani Brit named Kashish “Kash” Patel. In the show, friends Fatima and Basheer “Bash” also provide a holistic representation of South Asians. The genius of Kaling’s characters is their ability to move beyond the stereotypical nerdy, reserved and socially awkward South Asians so often seen in Hollywood. Her characters actively make cultural references and take part in traditional celebrations, but also express occasionally feeling far from their cultural roots. In reality, while South Asian Americans share similar backgrounds, how and to what degree they choose to engage with their culture is a personal decision. To label people as “too Indian” or “too American” confines and simplifies rich histories and traditions into narrow ideas and dismisses the unique identities that arise from living between cultures. South Asian is a term used to collectively describe a large group

Kaling’s characters are not generalized intermediates striving to represent all of South Asia; instead, they each have different complex identities. They are a true reflection of the diversity within the South Asian diaspora. Kelly, Dr. Lahiri, Kash, Bash and Fatima each provide opportunities for the audience to bond over shared traditions and customs, but the audience is also able to look beyond any differences and appreciate them as individuals. Through her work, Kaling explains what it means to be South Asian by providing several characters with varying, but equally valid cultural experiences.

design/ Trianna Nguyen

As a result, South Asians may feel the burden to justify their blended cultural identity to themselves or others. Eventually, misrepresentations can lead to implicit bias and racist behavior toward South Asians. These behaviors can affect their professional and personal relationships.

Kaling’s first major role as a writer and actress was on “The Office,” in which she portrayed Kelly Kapoor, a bubbly, talkative and somewhat clueless customer sales representative. Kaling went on to create, produce and star in the show “The Mindy Project.” The show focuses on Dr. Mindy Lahiri, a vibrant and trendy OB-GYN living in New York City. Lahiri navigates her tumultuous dating life and growing career throughout the show’s successful sixseason run.

of people from India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Bhutan, Maldives and sometimes, Afghanistan. Attempts to cram such a large and diverse group of people into a single character leads to the creation of two-dimensional characters that rely on outdated tropes.

illustration/ Cynthia Lai

They are often portrayed as overly studious, socially inept or stingy with money, as well as focused to the point of neglecting personal relationships. South Asian characters are usually children of strict and insensitive parents, owners of convenience stores or pursuants of STEM careers. These caricatures propagate prejudice, defining South Asian culture as inferior, or even comical. They marginalize the growing group of South Asian Americans who look for representation on screen but find only stigmatizing depictions of their heritage. Prejudiced depictions facilitate the idea of an inherent conflict between South Asian culture and what it means to be American.

director and author, has been praised for creating central roles with nuanced characters that work to represent various aspects of the South Asian experience.

by Zahra Saba


outh Asians are often stereotyped in American media or cast as onedimensional side characters. Apu from “The Simpsons,” Raj from “The Big Bang Theory” and Baljeet from the cartoon “Phineas and Ferb” are examples of the clichéd misrepresentation of South Asian Americans.

Dr. Mindy Lahiri

“Kash” Khan may seem like a contradictory character, but his behavior reconciles the distinct cultural and religious forces that characterized his upbringing. On one hand, Kash grew up in a predominantly brown neighborhood, enjoys Pakistani food, speaks Urdu and prays at the mosque. On the other hand, he parties, clubs, drinks and dates outside his faith. Still, Kaling avoids the overdone plot line in which a young South Asian with an identity crisis leaves his culture to happily live in Western society. Through his struggles, Kash becomes closer to his family, rediscovers childhood friendships, spends

“The Mindy Project” was criticized for creating a character who looked Indian but internally was “too white.” Kaling attempts to address this issue in one episode, in which Dr. Lahiri dates an Indian guy and meets people who engage more with their Indian culture. Over the course of the episode, Lahiri realizes she has adopted a lot of white American culture. However, this does not mean she has given up her heritage. She decides to hold a mundan, or head shaving, for her son. This small act represents a much bigger shift in Dr. more time in community events and gains a greater appreciation for his background. Additionally, unlike most depictions of South Asian family dynamics, Kash’s father is his biggest support. He encourages Kash to pursue acting and supports his romantic relationships. Kash’s father breaks from the typical depiction of South Asian parents as strict and stifling. Kaling shows that South Asian parents, like all parents, have hopes and aspirations for their children and strive for their happiness. Kash ultimately reconciles both sides of himself, not in spite of, but with help from his dad and Pakistani friends.

Lahiri’s character. She decides that her Indian background is more important to her than she previously acknowledged. She wants her son, an Indian Italian American, to experience Indian culture as she has. Kaling demonstrates the cultural blending that results from being a firstgeneration American and does not feel the need to justify her character’s “Indianness.” Rather, she emphasizes Lahiri’s cultural experiences and preferences are particular to her.

Kashish Khan

Hollywood often only portrays characters who have resigned much of their culture and religion, assuming they must modernize the Pakistani or Muslim image to make it suitable for film or TV. Kash, like Lahiri, received criticism for being too westernized. While Kash may be similar to many South Asians, other South Asians feel more connected to their roots than Kash. “Less-westernized” characters have much less representation in Hollywood. Kaling attempts to increase the scope of representation through her inclusion of

two characters: “Bash” and Fatima. Bash, unlike Kash, is secure in his Pakistani background. His family, family friends and Pakistani community are integral in his life. Bash does not drink or date. While his choices differ from Kash, they remain good friends. Bash is a typical bestfriend character. He is amiable, funny and persistently tries to make his DJ career take off. Because of this, Bash appeals to the general audience, but he also provides another opportunity for South Asians to find a character relatable.

Fatima and Kash meet through the local mosque and consider an arranged marriage. She is closer to her religion than Kash. When they spend time together, Fatima and Kash bring chaperones, keep physical contact to a minimum and start talking about marriage early on in their relationship. While Kash never does this with other women, he does not seem uncomfortable adhering to these standards with Fatima. Their interactions

demonstrate a cultural awareness and sensitivity that arises from growing up in a complex background. Many South Asian immigrants learn early on how to adjust their behavior to accommodate other boundaries and beliefs. In turn, Fatima is also very understanding of Kash. She believes in his acting abilities and never ridicules him for dating, partying or drinking.


Kash, Bash and Fatima each come from similar backgrounds but hold different principles. Regardless, they still respect each other. Kaling does not portray any one character as better adapted to British

society or too assimilated to British culture. By including supporting characters, Kaling portrays a gradient of cultural expression that draws attention to the diverse South Asian community.



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Social Circles Q&A with internet personality Emma Peng

Sparks Can you briefly introduce yourself? Where are you from and what made you choose UF? Emma Peng My name is Emma Peng. I studied marketing for my four years here at UF and I graduated this year in August. I am 22 and from Luoyang in Henan, China. I came to UF as an international student.

I don’t consider myself an influencer. I’m just a normal person who likes making videos. I do know a lot of people who bought products based on my recommendations or came to UF because they watched my University of Florida vlogs. There are a lot of students who use them as a reference. So, I do know that my videos have influenced people’s decisions. So, maybe that’s an influencer?

I In the beginning, I thought [social media] was a career because it was going really well. But right now, I would consider it a hobby because I’m international and having YouTube won’t guarantee me a visa, so I will have to find a permanent job — some type of job that will give me a visa to stay here. And then I will do YouTube on the side as a hobby.

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design/Stephanie Chang

Do you consider your social media work more of a hobby or a career?

photography provided by/ Emma Peng

Would you consider yourself an “influencer”?

interview/Jamie Lee

Emma Peng is a social media influencer focusing on lifestyle, food, beauty and fashion. Peng, who speaks fluent English and Chinese, has over 15,000 Instagram followers, 36,700 YouTube subscribers and 446,000 followers on Chinese blogging platform Sina Weibo. Peng began her social media journey during her senior year of high school. Currently, she is a recent University of Florida graduate living in the U.S.

Do you have other influencers that you look up to?

I watch a lot of western YouTubers. My favorite YouTuber is Jaclyn Hill (@jaclynhill). She’s in the beauty industry. And then Kathleen Lights (@ kathleenlights). They were one of the reasons that I came [to Florida]. I look up to them because I started my channel watching them, so I feel connected with them on a personal level. What I look up to is if the person is authentic, genuine and truthful to fans. Sometimes when you watch people’s videos, you can tell that they are being paid to say whatever. I like those influencers who share real experiences.

You post content both in Chinese and English. What is it like working in social media as a bilingual person? What are the challenges of addressing a multilingual audience?

There are so many challenges. It’s crazy. The challenges are mainly a group of people only want me to consistently post English videos without subtitles, so they can practice their English. Also, my American friends say to post more videos in English. YouTube is mainly English users. There are people who want me to post English, and there are people who want me to post in Chinese. Also, when I post in English, some people think that I don’t love my country because I’m not speaking Chinese. They attack me for making English videos, and they say, “You’re Chinese, why are you not speaking Chinese? Your audience is all Chinese, so why are you speaking English?”

What are the benefits of addressing a multilingual audience? I think it’s a unique niche in the industry because there are not many YouTubers making both kinds of videos. It is either a Chinese girl making only Chinese videos. It’s great content, but there’s not much English content. Or, it’s just like Jenn Im (@imjennim). She’s Asian but she only makes English videos. So, I feel like I have both and can get different audiences from different markets.

How do you balance social media and your other responsibilities? Before, when I was an undergrad, it was actually really easy to balance. I would work one or two days, less than 20 hours. I had a lot of time to edit, so it wasn’t too bad. The only hard time was when I would run out of ideas or just feel kind of down because I had been making videos for so long. Otherwise, it was pretty easy to keep up with making videos. Right now, I work in human resources almost full-time. The only time I have to make videos are at night, but the lighting is not good. Artificial lighting just does not look good. On the weekends, I spend time with my boyfriend and friends, so I don’t have time [to make videos].

Do you have personal experience with brand deals?

I have definitely gotten sponsored in the past couple years I have done YouTube. I watch a lot of YouTube videos, so I know a lot of brands that try to contact me. For example, Zaful, Shein, those are the very common types of companies that sponsor YouTubers. I have gotten a lot of offers from them but have taken only one Zaful and Shein. Their quality of clothing isn’t the best; it’s hit or miss. So, after one promotion video, they continued to reach out to me, but I just never responded. I know that I don’t want my followers to get a hit-or-miss item. I do background checks on the company. I look up their website, look at their Instagram, look at other people who have made videos with them, try out products first. Also, I accept sponsorships that are related to my channel.

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What is your opinion on the controversy surrounding “sell-out culture”? Is there potential harm in the over-commercialization of social media platforms? The mainstream beauty community uses way too many products. I stopped watching them because every other day, they pull out a new palette, and they all look the same. No one has money to buy all those. It’s just the beauty content. I feel like the beauty industry is too overwhelming. Every company is coming out with something every day, so it’s too hard to keep up. But looking at other types of YouTube videos like cooking stuff and house cleaning or lifestyle channels, I think they are doing just fine. They’re not pushing people to buy any products. Do you network with other social media influencers? Right now in Gainesville, not really because there’s not many. But in China, I do have a lot of influencer friends. I don’t think of them as my close friends. I learned my lesson the hard way. Different people have different intentions of why they want to be friends with you. They might just want to be your friend or seem like they’re close to you, so they can get the clout or so they can get subscribers from you. It sounds stupid, but it happens. People are like that. They’re not genuine; they don’t want to be friends with you because you are a nice person. They want to be friends with you because of the numbers you have. Also, when people are doing well in their career, they will forget about people who are not doing as well. So, I don’t have any close, real friends from my social media.

What’s your usual routine for creating a YouTube video?

If it’s a vlog type, and I’m just filming what I do, I pick up a camera and film whatever I think is interesting. There’s not much planning to do. Editing-wise, I have my own editing style, and it’s a combination of who I watch. People think other influencers copy certain influencers, but it’s so hard not to learn from someone. So, the other type of content will be the sitdown type, where you just talk to people, answer questions or talk about a topic. Those require you to plan, like write down exactly what you’re talking about, products you’re recommending, do research on the product and write it down. So that is the planning part.

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Then for the filming part, you just film and refer to the notes. And then I edit my videos usually on the same day or the next day. It usually takes about, if there’s no subtitles, three to four hours. If there’s subtitles, six hours. So around three to six hours. Then, after I edit them, I upload on my YouTube, put it on private, and then when on private, I make the thumbnail, title and comment in the description box.

Do you have any advice for young people interested in growing their social media presence? My advice is to review, think about and ask other people’s opinion before you post certain content. Don’t just post it because you don’t know what things might be offensive to someone. Let’s just use an easy example: Logan Paul (@loganpaul). He might think his videos are okay, but if he would let other people review them before he posts them, he would avoid a lot of problems. So I would say, whatever you post — whether video or Instagram — get it reviewed first by someone, get someone else’s opinion before you post it, so you don’t mess up. What has been your biggest challenge of working in social media? The least rewarding feeling would be when you’re working really hard, and you don’t see results. It is kind of sad for me to say that I care about numbers, but everyone cares about if they reached a goal. Sometimes, I really like a certain piece of content that I made, but I did not receive the views I wanted. I’ll look at my views and be like, “Oh, this one will definitely be a viral video,” but it’s not. You never know what exactly people are looking for. On the other hand, what has been the most rewarding part of working in social media? The most rewarding thing is the fact that I know that I created something from nothing. And just to see this thing grow. Even though now I’m kind of letting it die, not really doing anything about it, it is something that I built all on my own. I did have help, but everyone when they start has some sort of help, so I’m proud to see this thing grow. And also, it’s really rewarding when people come up to you and say, “Your videos help me a lot,” or I get a message saying, “Just continue being you, don’t worry about what other people say, I still support you.” When I get that kind of message, it’s really rewarding to see that my actions, that what you I’m, is influencing one or two or a lot of people. This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity

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ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS ASIAN AMERICAN STUDENT UNION at the University of Florida ASIAN PACIFIC ISLANDER AMERICAN AFFAIRS at the University of Florida University of Florida STUDENT GOVERNMENT fall 2019| 36

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