May is AAPI Heritage Month and there have been many accomplishments towards AAPI visibility in the media. We’re a long way from being perfect, but that doesn’t mean we can’t celebrate the milestones and the people behind progression.
- Anna May Wong (1905 – 1961)
You can’t talk about AAPI representation in the media without mentioning Anna May Wong. As a Chinese American actress, she fought against Asian stereotypes in Hollywood – although her roles are still criticized for following the Dragon-Lady trope. She acted in silent films, and when talkie films were developed, she learned how to speak in French and German. She holds the title as the first Asian American lead in a TV show, The Gallery of Madame Liu Tsong.
- George Takei (1937 – )
Takei is a Japanese American actor and activist that lived in the Japanese Internment camps during World War II. His experience inspired a musical called Allegience, which won a few awards in 2012. He is best known for his role as Hikaru Sulu in Star Trek and has since acted and voice acted in dozens of films and TV shows. Not only is he an advocate for Asian Americans, he also advocates for LGBTQ rights and politics.
- Ryan Higa (1990 – )
Higa is an Okinawan American YouTuber, comedian and actor. He was listed on Forbe’s 30 Under 30 entertainment list in 2017 and he is one of the first YouTubers that turned vlogging and content creation into a full-time career. Since he started his YouTube in 2006, he has gained millions of viewers on his 2 channels which equates to billions of views. He uses comedy to bring in Asian American elements, like making KPop parody songs. He also enlists his Asian American friends to act in his videos.
- Hasan Minhaj (1985 – )
Minhaj is a Muslin Indian American best known for his political comedy show Patriot Act with Hasan Minhaj on Netflix. His many accomplishments include speaking at the 2017 White House Correspondent’s Dinner and being listed as TIME’s 100 most influential people in the world in 2019. In his comedy and on social media, he openly discusses his Asian American culture and his struggles he experienced, and acts as a guiding voice for the younger generation.
- Crazy Rich Asians (2018)
This is not attributed to any one person, but is a milestone that needs to be appreciated. The 2018 novel-turned-Hollywood blockbuster made headlines for having an all Asian cast since the 1993 film The Joy Luck Club. The film was nominated for a Golden Globe in 2019. The characters don’t fall into the stereotypical Asian tropes, although some critics claim the film appeals to “white norms”. Fans can expect the sequel China Rich Girlfriend to hit the screens sometime in 2021.
- Bowen Yang (1990 -)
Yang is a Chinese American actor, comedian and podcaster. He started writing for SNL in 2018. In the following year, he became the show’s first Chinese American cast member, and the third openly gay cast member. Since the show started airing in 1975, 90% of the show’s cast have been white, 6.8% were black, 1.2% were Hispanic and 1.1% was listed as “other”. Yang’s presence on a major TV show is a refreshing and much-needed step in the right direction.
- Never Have I Ever (2020 -)
This show recently joined Netflix and has already received high praise from critics and viewers – people are already asking if there will be a second season. It tackles life as an Indian American and is co-created by Indian American actress Mindy Kaling.
The show tackles issues that are commonly stigmatized in Asian culture – sex, therapy and strong female characters.
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