By this point, if you’ve actually been reading my longer blog entries, you’re probably sick of my Asian-American-related posts.
Well, tough titties, deal with it.
Jk, jk, jk, I am too. But just one more thing.
This is Adweek, an advertising industry trade magazine. Even though I work as a copywriter at an ad agency, I rarely read it because it’s a painful reminder of the latest TV commercials and viral stunts becoming a part of pop culture and winning awards while I’m sitting at my desk, working on another round of revisions to an email that will end up unopened in your spam folder. But once in a while, there will be a cool story or interview that I will read. Anthony Bourdain will warrant such a read.
It was a good article, though I say this because I am Korean and I am biased towards the kind words Bourdain said about Koreans and Korean food.
In the same issue, there’s an article called Meet the 30 Most Influential People in Food. I’m no foodie, but I gave it a quick scroll, because I was hoping to see certain people on the list. And sure enough, I saw this:
I was specifically looking for David and Roy. I wanted to make sure they were on the list and got the recognition they deserve.
I sent the two articles to my mom, sister, and cousin so they could also feel some Korean pride for Koreans working hard to break into the mainstream, getting recognized for their work, and most importantly, not watering themselves down (maintaining their authenticity) to be accepted by the mainstream (aka white tastemakers, who love authenticity when it comes to exploring things that aren’t white).
All this had me thinking back to almost 10 years ago, when this khaki-colored piece of shit with soft-serve ice cream consistency came out:
A MySpace attention whore with no talent gets her own reality dating show. She also by default becomes the most visible Asian-American in the country.
Normally, I would have been excited to see another Asian face on TV. But I couldn’t find any reasons to be.
A couple things came to mind:
How come there weren’t any Asian contestants on the show? Actually, I knew why—she’s an Uncle Tom.
And it was then I remember thinking I would never see people who looked like me—Asian dudes—on TV.
By this point, mainstream America had accepted Asian women, but not men. I just couldn’t see it happening either. There was no light at the end of the tunnel.
I remember thinking our time would not come—we would be skipped. Up until that time, the only Asians picked by the mainstream American entertainment industry to represent us were Asian women I couldn’t relate to, like when Hollywood tried to make Lucy Liu a thing. Tila Tequila was the final nail in the coffin for me. I was just waiting for white dudes and Asian females to populate the country with enough offspring until the powers that be decided half-Asians were going to be the next big thing. Yes, I actually thought it would be decided that half-Asians would be enough to represent all Asians in pop culture and would skip over full Asians. And it would only be then I would see men of Asian descent regularly on TV and in movies. Actually, I don’t know, maybe it could still swing that way in the future, but if it hasn’t happened by now (there are enough of them out there), I think we’re in the clear.
Anyway, I’m happy I was wrong in all my beliefs.
You see guys like David and Roy speaking their minds, pissing critics off, and not giving a shit if they are offended. When David and Roy first started in the culinary business, their peers refused to work with them, thinking they weren’t good enough. Now, everyone is on their dicks.
David and Roy are amazing chefs who deserve the recognition they get for their cooking (I’ve been fortunate enough to eat at their restaurants, and they’re both great). For the first time, I’m seeing guys who look like me on TV. Roy’s been on TV a bunch of times (including Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown, which won an Emmy in its first season for the Koreatown episode), representing with knowledge and realness as the product of his unique circumstances, not from a desire to fit in and be liked. David isn’t on TV as much, but I’m willing to bet on several immediate family members’ lives that he’s been offered a lot of high-profile TV gigs, but turned them down.
So I’ve seen the day. We still have a long way to go, but we’re on our way. In a larger sense, it’s taught me that just because you think something to be true, it doesn’t mean that it is. Your beliefs are not real life.
Vladimir Lenin once said, “A lie told often enough becomes the truth.” My beliefs were shaped by something I was seeing on TV over and over again, and I believed in what I was seeing so intensely as the truth that I couldn’t see how the trajectory of what I was seeing could change.
I was wrong 10 years ago, and I’m glad I was wrong. I learned that I don’t have to be right all the time. And what if I turned out to be right in my youthful and judgmental and pessimistic assumptions? Life would be horrible. I’d be more frustrated and irritated than ever.
You never know what might happen and how it could happen. Even if you’re sure of something going one way, it could go in a different direction. You never know. Who knew the world of cooking would be the way in for us?
Ten years ago, I didn’t know David and Roy existed, doing things to ultimately prove me wrong. They were just being themselves, growing their skills by working their asses off, doing what they wanted to do, even though back then they had no one kissing their asses like they do now.
And Tila Tequila just turned out to be a flash in the pan. I guess that’s what happens when you have no discernible talent, unless you marry Kanye West. She even hit the lowest of lowpoints—making a porno and trying to pass it of as a “leaked sex tape” (side note: don’t bother looking it up, it sucks). Although, she is still trying desperately to stay relevant:
And if you were offended by me calling her an Uncle Tom earlier, check out her Twitter cover photo.
I take all of this as a lesson and inspiration now. Maybe in another 10 years, I’ll be proving people wrong. Where you pleasantly surprise negative and nihilistic people, making them reflect on their lives and their beliefs, inspiring them to change things for the better by showing them the way things can be.