10 AAPI People on How They’ve Become More Active in Their Community

While the past several years have been particularly challenging for the Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) community, what with the surge of anti-Asian racism amid the coronavirus pandemic. While the media attention to the violence has faded with time, news of attacks on AAPI elderly continue to occur, causing people to change their habits, adapt to new risks, and look to the future.

For many, it’s encouraged them to take part in their local communities, social groups, and even their own families to make voices heard. And despite the disheartening continuation of these occurrences, others are facing the future with optimism — since few things have brought the sprawling, beautifully diverse AAPI community together quite like this.

It’s a poignant topic that hits home for many, which is why we’ve asked influential people in the beauty industry and beyond to share how they’re feeling and what they’re looking forward to, in hopes that it can inspire all of us to do the same in the face of hate.

Deborah Yeh, Global Chief Purpose Officer at Sephora

“​​The biggest gift for me over the last year has been to connect to a broader Asian American Pacific Islander community. In the past, if you were to ask about my ethnic and racial identity, I would have told you that I am Chinese American.  Even more specifically, I would have said I am a second generation Chinese American.  But over the last year, I find myself in this larger category of “AAPI”—both by force and by choice.

Here’s the negative: As Asian-Americans, we’re sometimes thrown together into a broad class of people who are “not from here.”  But there is also a beautiful positive: As Asian Americans, we have rich traditions, unbelievable stories of immigration and overcoming, and our community has so much strength to offer each other in these times. I choose to live in the positive.

My hope for the Asian American community is that we can demonstrate all the great things that emerge when you create a broad and powerful multi-cultural alliance.  We can cherish our specific backgrounds while also appreciating the diversity within others.  We can achieve our individual and family dreams while also being strong in solidarity with each other.”

Kathleen Hou, Elle Beauty Director

“These past few years have been some of the most heartbreaking, trying and difficult of my life. It doesn’t come naturally to me to share. But it has only been through sharing — in therapy, being vulnerable in writing and on social media, and participating in wider scale, often difficult discussions about race,  that I was able to find some way to move through the year.

My hope is that we continue to talk, to push for progress, come together as a community, and hold generosity, grace and kindness for each other. And to make sure that all the AAPI stories get told!”

Yin Chang and Moonlynn Tsai, Heart of Dinner founders

“The direct targeting of AAPI hate we’d been experiencing on a personal level — and seeing the targeting of the most vulnerable in our community — catalyzed us to reimagine a world we wanted to live in by urgently and organically bridging cultural divides and mobilizing a community that welcomes individuals of all backgrounds to work together with the utmost respect for one another towards one goal: Show up with Heart of Dinner care packages, which include the basic necessities that provide support for the physical, emotional, mental well-being of our most vulnerable.

It is our hope that each individual realizes the impact they have in making contributions that build over time towards the betterment of all our communities.”

Faith Xue, Bustle Digital Group Executive Beauty Director

“I grew up in a predominantly white suburb of Seattle. I never saw Asian representation in the magazines I devoured, in the TV shows I watched, or in the books I hid under the covers to finish late at night. This meant that while I wasn’t ashamed to be Chinese-American, I also wasn’t necessarily proud. 

Subconsciously, I was living under the belief that life would be easier if I made myself more palatable to my white peers, not drawing attention to my background or having to explain the parts of me that made me different. When the pandemic happened and hate crimes started happening to elders and other members of the Asian community, my emotions went from shocked to horrified to deeply sad to enraged. I felt like I had been living with a blindfold over my eyes — that acting white-adjacent would protect me from being seen as the Other — and that blindfold was ripped off.

The positive aspect of this was that I suddenly felt myself filled with a burning pride — perhaps fueled by anger at first, yes, but pride nonetheless — for my heritage. I felt like I wanted to shout my identity from the rooftops, to connect with others in the AAPI community who were hurting and angry. I wrote a piece for Byrdie, the site I oversaw [at the time], about the complicated feelings I felt about being Asian American, and was shocked at the number of messages I received from people who said related to my story — that it was the first time they read something that made them feel seen.

It was so clear to me at that moment that not enough of our stories are told. There’s been so much progress in media that’s been heartening to see, but we still have so much more work to do. It saddens me that it took such horrifying acts to happen for us to get to this point, but I use that pain to fuel my fervor for my community — brilliant, inspiring, loud, defiant, resilient as it is — even more.”

Jenny Jin, Purewow Beauty Director

“In light of all that has happened over the past couple of years, I often think about something my dad says, which is: When you have a reason to celebrate, you better celebrate. Don’t delay joy.

So, in face of the very real fear and sadness I often feel over the harassment and hatred many of us have experienced and continue to experience, I process those things in whatever ways I need to—therapy, writing, talking it out with friends—and I double down on celebrating the small joys in my days. Lately, that looks like dancing along to K-pop songs the way I used to when I was a kid. (Ridiculously effective.) 

And when there are bigger reasons to celebrate, like my mom’s birthday or my best friend’s wedding, I make time to celebrate them fully. In my work as a beauty editor, celebration looks like supporting AAPI brands and creatives in whatever ways I can, as often as I can. By highlighting their stories and celebrating their wins, I am reminded of our resilience as a community and I am filled with awe and pride at the impact AAPIs have made in this space. All of these celebrations replenish me and allow me to keep showing up instead of shrinking down. They help me to operate from a place of love and keep me from becoming hardened like those who attack us and our elders.

To my fellow Asians: I see and celebrate you. May we double down on our joy and celebrate each other’s wins. May we keep sharing our stories and speaking up in ways that feel good and true to us.”

Kristina Rodulfo, Beauty Expert

“I grew up in Queens, New York City, one of the most diverse neighborhoods in the world. As a first generation Filipino American with immigrant parents, I never grew up feeling ‘other’ because I was raised in a predominantly Asian neighborhood. I never encountered blatant racism.

It really wasn’t until I first entered the workforce and predominantly white media industry that I realized how most of the U.S. is very different from the way I grew up. That’s why it really hit me hard to witness the rise of racism, hate crimes, and xenophobia targeting the AAPI population. I now have done more self-education and understand that Anti-Asian racism has deep roots in this country (even as far back as the 1800s!) but in 2020-2022 in particular it felt like every week — day, even — there was a new report of a violent attack.

It can make you feel helpless. But, it can also inspire action. I’ve always been incredibly passionate about prioritizing Asian representation in all the work I do. Whether it’s working with Asian-owned brands as a beauty content creator, or writing an article on an Asian founder of a beauty brand, or seeking out Asian talent for photo shoots for a magazine, I’m a firm believer that more representation everywhere from the C-suites to the faces of beauty campaigns can be a powerful tool for combating hate and expanding opportunities for our community.

I think we are way more galvanized when it comes to activism. There are newer organizations and collectives like Asian American Girl Club, Goldhouse, and more really bringing the community together with events that uplift work of talented folks in the AAPI community and foster pride. I hope to continue seeing the AAPI community embracing activism and creating more original work that highlights the AAPI experience and, in turn, builds empathy in mainstream media — for example, memoirs like Crying in H Mart  by Michelle Zauner—a NYT bestseller! I hope we continue to see more books, movies, TV shows, and more centering our stories.”

Loreen Hwang, Lifestyle Influencer

“When we moved to the United States, I grew up in a community where I was the only Chinese American in my elementary school — and one out of three Asians.

Instead of feeling like an outcast, I taught my class about Chinese culture. I’d spend my summers in Taiwan and bring my entire class souvenirs and Chinese snacks. I’ve always been proud of my culture, which in turn has helped me use my voice in the AAPI community.

I always try to encourage my friends to speak up especially for those who can not. It’s important to keep people united instead of divided. In uncertain times where fear and hate lead so many, I choose to lead with love, to communicate and to educate. Celebrating the diversity in cultures and communities is powerful and helps empower others.”

Bing Chen, President & Co-founder of Gold House

“One of our greatest challenges is that we’re hyphens in action. We’re our pragmatic immigrant parents and our Creative Writing degrees. Our lifestyles are sometimes ‘more Asian’ and our hobbies are sometimes ‘more American.’ We defy establishments but know the pang of humility. We celebrate history-making achievements amidst record-high attacks. We build unicorn companies while our community experiences the widest income disparity of any. We’re outspoken for others but still wonder–under our breaths–if we’re heroing our villains. Sometimes, I hate it. I wish we could have an unequivocal success, devoid of caveats. I wish our happiness didn’t come with guilt, that our success didn’t require omission, and that our lives weren’t punchlines.

One of my mentors once said that ‘AAPI’ is not a noun but a verb. We’re too (documentedly) young, too diverse, and too rapidly-growing to have universal codification. It’s the fundamental hindrance to any form of absolution. But just because this in-between stops us from fully knowing who we are doesn’t mean we can’t decide who we want to be. The only way I know how is to just Do–together. That’s my hope: that we never stop pushing, together. As humans. As members of the AAPI community. As members of so many others. That we give each other the grace that we’re all learning–both in the AAPI community and out of it. That we’re comfortable with pissing the right people off–and losing them. And that we remember that surviving is, unto itself, its own success. Together.”

Deepica Mutyala, Founder of Live Tinted

“Despite all the hardships that the Asian American community has endured especially in the past couple of years, I have to say the best thing that has come out of it was seeing a bigger connection between all of the AAPI communities. It’s been nothing short of amazing to see us come together in this way to support each other. 

I hope that through our shared experiences as well as celebrating our differences as Asian Americans, we are able to continuously lift one another up and show the world what incredible things can be achieved when we’re all working towards a common goal: to make this world a more representative & inclusive space for ALL of us. Let’s be loud & proud of our identities because they are truly our superpowers. 

I hope we continue to stand united because we will always be stronger TOGETHER.”

Sorry, we couldn't find any posts. Please try a different search.