"A college student approached me after a conference and told me I was his hero.
Back in April, I had the pleasure of speaking at the University of Minnesota on a panel of new media experts for an Asian American Students Association conference. It was such an inspiring experience to see so many young people express their ever burning desire and passion for creating substantial change within media diversity and inclusion beyond the conversational level.
I’ll never forget this one kid came up to me afterwards asking for a picture. We chatted for a bit and he mentioned that it was really cool that we both happen to share very similar narratives: he’s also an aspiring filmmaker and he also grew up in a Vietnamese-American household.
As I was preparing to leave, the last words he left with were, “You’re my hero, man.”
I was stunned.
Here I was being a little stress ball spending the last year developing my documentary miniseries, “Life Stories”, for the internet masses, but mostly it was for me. Before I sold the series to NBC Asian America, I managed to produce about 15 episodes on my own on a zero budget. Traveling along the West Coast knocking on the doors of every notable and influential Asian American I could find via Google search. I would shoot the interviews, edit them, and post them on social media once a week all the while finishing up my bachelor’s degree, working a day job, and attending a film development internship.
I never meant for it to get as far as it did. It just came from an emotional place. A place where I was sick and tired of the way I was seeing my community represented in mainstream media. I already knew Asian America was awesome, but a good portion of the rest of the country hasn’t seen that part of us yet, so I took it upon myself to make it a personal mission to alter that perception.
As proud as I am of my personal accomplishments, I’ve never truly took the time to appreciate the impact it made for other people like me. I was so preoccupied with the rigor and the grind within the process of being the captain of this documentary series that I had totally forgotten that there’s real living and breathing people out there consuming my content. Most notably, young Asian Americans seeking voices and stories similar to theirs.
If you don’t come from an underrepresented community where your voice and your image is not often heard or seen outside of said community, then you have never felt the emotional power that comes with seeing someone that looks, talks, and acts like you in a film, on TV, on a record, etc. It's exhilarating. The kind of exhilaration that makes you want to climb on your roof and shout to the heavens.
I didn’t grow up with that, but it fills my heart with an immense joy to be able to provide that for other people especially up and coming filmmakers. We don’t realize it sometimes because we’re so caught up in our own personal lives and living in our tiny social bubbles, but we all have the power to influence. What we say, what we do can create or destroy. I choose to create and I choose to positively influence.
You never know who’s looking to you to represent them.
We're all somebody's hero.