By Shannon Hui
Disclaimer: The experiences in this article are mine and mine only. There is no intention to leave out anyone out. Respectfully, I don’t speak on experiences I don’t fully comprehend because they’re not mine to talk about.
Not seeing people on television who looked like me made me want to change who I was and conform to what I saw. Growing up, Mulan was the only princess I could be on Halloween. It was so discouraging to know at such a young age that I would have to fit in a box because that’s all the space that was allowed for me.
Navigating life, as an Asian woman was hard- people saw my skin color as a label. I might as well have had my ”Asian” friend taped across my forehead as a name tag. And let’s not forget the usual backhanded compliment, “you’re so pretty “FOR AN ASIAN.” To clarify, it is not a compliment when you tell me I’m only pretty based off the eurocentric features that you think aren't typical of my race.
When I was walking to work the other day, this smirking construction worker called out to me saying, "Lucy Liu has nothing on you honey!” He waggled his eyebrows creepily as if he expected that line to work. He genuinely thought that was an actual compliment. Yikes.
When I took the time to understand why someone would even feel compelled to say something like that, I came to the conclusion that it was strictly ignorance. The only education he’s had on my culture has probably been through Kill Bill or Charlie’s Angels. After all, Crazy Rich Asians just came out in 2018. To put some perspective on it, it took 24 years of my life to see an all Asian cast! Despite his problematic statement, there's a bigger problem here and it's the lack of proper representation.
Hollywood is undoubtedly one of the best examples of where diversity is lacking. Women and minorities continue to be underrepresented in every way, shape, and form. Despite the fact that reports have repeatedly found that diverse casts register the highest global box office figures and viewer ratings, nothing of proportion is really being done to disrupt the industry enough to make the changes necessary to reflect America’s demographic. Audiences want to consume content that includes characters that look like them, live in experiences that resonate with their own, and who they can relate to.
Films like Marvel’s “Black Panther” are direct receipts that diversity sells and all this talk regarding underperformance in movies by and about people of color is very, very false. According to Forbes, the film estimated $235 million four-day haul ranks as the biggest February opening weekend ever, the biggest non-sequel debut ever and the top-grossing film by a black director. There is a huge discrepancy between the products of Hollywood’s industry leaders and the audience’s preference for diversity. Researchers note that decision makers often consider the success of these projects as anomalies. (shocker huh? *sarcastic voice)
Don’t fret. It’s not all bad. Reports show that we’ve made a decent amount of progress increasing minority leads on television shows up to 18.7% from a mere 5.1% in 2012. Additionally, producers of color also went up to 15.7% in comparison to the original 6.2%. And still, we need to do better.
We’re in 2019. It’s time we disrupt the industry served specifically for our consumption because we have the power to do so. Diversity and inclusion are not only important to expand our minds, but it is absolutely necessary to foster growth, understanding, and tolerance for other communities that differ from our own.
A great example of success through incorporating minorities are emerging beauty brands that are actively hearing the voices of their consumers and creating products directly catered to their wants and needs. Think of Glossier, who features women of all shapes and colors in their campaigns without making a big deal out of it. Inclusivity and authenticity is a big part of their brand identity and as an added bonus, it also sells remarkably well.
Remember the launch of Fenty Beauty? Rih made 40 foundation shades which created such a powerful and public expression of acceptance and joy. In the words of Ana Andjelic, “If products are tangible expressions of our socio-cultural currents, then beauty—more than any other industry—embodies a diverse, inclusive, nimble and empowered space.” Hollywood and brands alike should be looking towards successful campaigns like this as a performance benchmark when highlighting their own values.
Swimsuit line, Chromat’s campaign #chromatpoolrules definitely made a huge splash in the fashion industry. The concept was created to celebrate identity in whatever form one takes. The images revolved around an extensive list of pool rules that was completely against discrimination. The list read like this: intolerance not tolerated, food shaming not permitted, no age restrictions, scars, and stretchmarks welcome, all body hair appreciated, all abilities accepted, respect preferred pronouns, celebrate cellulite, unrestricted LGBTQ + pda, and body policing prohibited. Chromat’s casting skills come second to none when featuring the inclusiveness other huge brands promise but don’t deliver. This authentic representation of real life people is definitely a statement and one that deserves celebration at that.
In order to live in a world where empathy and understanding are at the forefront of people’s reactions, diversity and inclusiveness must be introduced. If we want to learn from each other and foster mutually beneficial relationships, we must have an understanding of one another and what defines us. Doing so will cultivate an environment where support and inclusivity through the relatability of the human experience will become the norm. Often times, we forget the power and voice minorities truly have. Our ability to make or break industries as a whole gives us the leverage we need to push for more representation in every aspect. Let’s continue to make strides in celebrating the superpower that diversity and inclusivity is. After all, it’s our world for the taking.