Eva Chen, Instagram’s director of fashion associations, hosted a conversation about growing anti-Asian racism on Tuesday with civil rights activist and Rise founder Amanda Nguyen, Allure editor-in-chief Michelle Lee, and “Birds of Prey “. director Cathy Yan.
The four leaders discussed reports of increased discrimination and violence against members of the Asian-American Pacific Islander community in the final year of the pandemic, which increased significantly in recent weeks and reignited national coverage of hate incidents. Each woman also shared the anti-Asian bias they have experienced in their own industries, and how they are using this moment to draw attention to long-standing anti-Asian racism.
Nguyen has worked in the civil rights space for the better part of a decade and helped draft the first Bill of Rights for Survivors of Sexual Assault. Still, she says she’s often the only Asian-American person in the room where political decisions are made, or in the halls of Congress, “even in spaces that say it’s really about diversity,” Nguyen said. “Sometimes our very existence appears to be a threat. It certainly has been during the pandemic in this community, but it has been that way since before the pandemic.”
In February, Nguyen posted a video on Instagram that went viral, asking national media outlets to better cover the rise in racism and violence against Asians in the United States.
Yan talked about how it wasn’t until he garnered critical acclaim for directing the DC blockbuster “Birds of Prey” that a distributor would “take a chance” and release his first feature film, “Dead Pigs,” a black comedy set in China. . In the film industry, he said he felt the pressure to create projects that appeal to white audiences, and that Asian and Asian-American stories are often subject to the “perpetual foreigner” stereotype. Things are looking up, he added, noting the backlash that Golden Globes organizers faced when they limited the US film “Minari” to the category of best foreign language film this year.
The speech that followed is an encouraging sign that the public is acknowledging stories of immigrants and underrepresented communities that are part of the American experience, Yan said: “Your otherness is what will continue to drive the progress of what it means to be an American in this country.”
Lee added that telling diverse stories, including the experience of being Asian in America, is key to combating stereotypes and incidents of racism directed at Asians.
“In the beauty industry, and publishing in general, our responsibility and opportunity is to tell those nuanced stories,” Lee said. “The Asian character exists on a wide spectrum, but many times people see us through a narrow lens, and that is really dangerous.”
As editor-in-chief of Allure, Lee sees an opportunity to tell those nuanced stories and change what people find beautiful. At one point, Lee reviewed Allure’s previous catalog and found that, in the 28 years and 320 issues prior to her tenure, there were only two Asian women on the magazine cover. Since becoming editor-in-chief in 2015, Lee has hired an all-Asian team for a monolid makeup session, featured three Asian models in a 2018 hair edit, and over the years featured eight Asian faces on the cover.
Lee added that Asian representation in the media and in leadership is growing, but “it is still not enough” and stressed that any progress “does not happen accidentally.” Instead, he asked people who have decision-making power within their organizations to prioritize inclusion and opportunities for members of marginalized communities.
For her part, Chen is known for her rapid rise in the beauty and fashion space: At age 33, she became one of the youngest female editors to run an American national magazine when she became editor-in-chief of Conde Nast’s Lucky magazine in 2013. But he noticed that his willingness to speak took time.
“Confidence came pretty late for me. I didn’t feel confident having my own firm opinion until I was 30,” said Chen, now 41. He added that his 6-year-old daughter Ren had already learned in school what a protest is. “I feel like young people find their voices earlier these days, and they are empowered to have their opinions. It took me a long time.”
Nguyen, who has been active in empowering younger Americans to speak out on civil rights issues important to them, offered advice to younger generations of activists: “If there are structures that have systematically blocked the Asian American community from the Pacific Islands, we will turn to other platforms such as social media to democratize our voices, “he said. “We have options now. No one is invisible when we demand to be seen.”
The Instagram Live Rooms discussion raised more than $ 2,700 for Asian Americans Advancing Justice and highlighted the ongoing work of groups like Apex for Youth, Innocence Project, Rise, Gold House, and Act to Change.
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