To All the Movies I’ve Loved before: The Importance of Representation in Hollywood

The other day, a new friend of mine told me that I had beautiful eyes.  It was only when she said this to me, that I realized in my eighteen years of existence on this planet, no one had ever complimented me on my eyes before.  To me, that is not the saddest part of my epiphany; the saddest part is that I was almost rendered speechless. My whole life, I have been taught to believe that to be beautiful, eyes must be large, round, and blue/green—or at least one of the preceding traits.  I had come to understand that my narrow deep-set ebony eyes were just never going to be seen as beautiful, and that that was just the way it was, something I could not change. It was hard for me to believe that someone of a different racial background than myself looked at my eyes and even thought twice of them.  Never before had I seen how deeply intertwined societal ideals of beauty were—and still are—in my thoughts. We all like to believe that our conceptions of beauty are fully our own, and to some extent they are unique to us as individuals, but no one is immune to society’s influence. Society is built on the premise that we as a community are capable of more than the sum of each person’s abilities.  Every society needs leaders to function, and who as well as what those leaders are matters.

Growing up, I rarely saw people that looked like me in the media.  In the shows and movies that I watched as a child, the Asian female characters were always either the friend, the tutor, or the quiet awkward one.  Because I never saw people like me as the protagonist, I felt like I was not worthy of the spotlight—that all I would ever be was a chapter in someone else’s book.   I became someone who avoided being the center of attention at all costs. I think actress and activist Yara Shahidi said it best: “Good, bad, or indifferent, TV helps to define our collective reality.  And if a child grows up never seeing themselves represented as successful or as the hero, then they are the anomaly if they succeed and the expectation if they fail.” The reason that fiction is so compelling, is that people see themselves in the characters—they start to feel like they really know them, which leads them to become invested in the storyline.  When people of color do not see people that look like them playing vital characters, we start to believe that our stories have less merit, and ultimately, that we matter less. I grew up believing that I could never be the boss. How many East Asian fortune 500 CEOs are there? Zero. I am expected to be demure and obedient; people look at me and assume that I lack leadership skills.  When strangers see the way that I look like as I walk down the street, they think that they know me.  I realize now that it is entirely possible for me to achieve my goals, I am just going to have to work twice as hard as if I were a white male, and that is just the way it is right now.  I think that the most important thing is for POC, for girls, for LGBTQ+ people, for people with disabilities, for everyone that has it tough, to believe in themselves and their capabilities.

Seeing Lana Condor star in To All the Boys I’ve loved Before, as well as Constance Wu in Crazy Rich Asians overwhelmed me with joy in a way that is difficult to put into words.  To see Asian women not only as the lead, but playing characters that were relatable, likeable, and desirable had me in tears.  I had already fallen in love with Jenny Han’s novel years ago, so seeing it adapted to a film was incredible to witness. I love the way Constance Wu defines diversity: “[Diversity] doesn't mean we want the white people to write Asian stories.  What I want is to foster the Asian-American writers and directors and producers and actors...foster their stories to come into the spotlight a little bit." The prevalence of white actors portraying ethnic characters is not only upsetting, but deeply offensive.  We must fight to put an end to the Hollywood whitewashing that makes minorities feel like we are not even enough to play roles that were specifically written for people who look like us. The fact that in 2013, 93% of film executives were white is simply not okay.  We do not only need to see diversity on the screen, but in the scripts, behind the camera, and on the crew. Minorities should get to tell their own stories both fully and authentically.

In an interview, Lana Condor said that when she decided that the next step she wanted to take in her acting career was to star in a Romantic Comedy, her thought process was, “I kind of wrote it off a little, because I just don’t really know any rom-coms that want Asian Americans to star in it.  And literally a week after, I got the audition for To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before. I was like “What?” The lead is written as an Asian-American girl.  That blew my mind because I’m telling you, I never see that.  It was such an empowering moment for me. The opportunities are out there.  I am hoping this film inspires Asian American girls that they can star in their own rom-com.”  I teared up watching this interview because I felt it on an emotional level. I had come to the conclusion that I would never see Asian American girls as pretty, charming characters.  My mother pointed out that in the movie, Lana’s character, Lara Jean Covey, is seen as beautiful for who she is, not for looking like, or trying to be like a white person. Lara Jean is captivating because the viewer gets to see various aspects of her personhood as her character overcomes self-doubt and obstacles throughout the bildungsroman.  By seeing her as the goofy Korean yogurt drinking girl, the thoughtful yet playful sister, and the list making, back pocket loving intellectual, we fall in love with her right alongside Peter Kavinsky. Watching a fellow Korean-American woman like Han succeed prominently and exceptionally in the arts made me feel like I can be anything.

With movies like Crazy Rich Asians and To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before reaching mainstream popularity, the shift in general perception of Asian Americans and Asia is palpable.  People are beginning to understand that Asians can be more than smart. Being the “model minority” is often viewed as a positive conception, but it is more complicated than that.  When you are Asian American, people look at you to sort out the money when the check comes, and they are unsurprised when you think calculus is fun. They are confused when you do not wear shoes in your house, or when you have reusable chopsticks and special bowls just for soy sauce.  When I was younger I was self conscious about being Asian. I remember feeling anxious when my friends were staying for dinner, and self conscious to take my Asian food out during lunchtime. Now I think it is super rad that I am Korean: it is a special part of me that I will always treasure.  I am in Bali right now, and the friends that I am with are quite surprised when people ask me “where I am really from” or tell me that “I look like China.” I do not even think twice about these kinds of remarks: they are quotidian and commonplace. My friends are shocked when I tell them that strangers say things like this to me all the time, and that I have learned to just ignore it.  I have a basic understanding that no matter what, people are going to make assumptions about me based upon the way I look, and that is not something that is going to change anytime soon. I hope that I am able to show people that Asian Americans are people with just as much depth and richness of character as everyone else. We are having a moment in the media right now, and I am all about it.

It is vital for young people to see not only people like themselves, but a diverse group of compelling, multifaceted, and realistic characters on their screens.  Our differences and our abilities to learn from each other are what make our relationships meaningful. I believe that to accept and to love each other for who we truly are is what is fundamentally unique to the human experience.  As Indian philosopher and writer Jiddu Krishnamurti said, “to understand is to transform what is.” We should see minorities fulfilling a wide variety of roles, so that everyone can understand that the minority experience is not monolithic, and so that minorities can believe there is no one person that they are fated to become.  

Falling for Fashion!

My Top 10 Trends for Fall 2018

1. Oversized Outerwear

  • This is probably my favorite trend

  • You can never go wrong with a big puffy jacket. Plus, it will keep you warm

2. Perennials

  • I'm not a huge flower print gal, but if it's your thing, rock a bold print this fall!

flower print.jpg


3. '80s Redux

  • Hit the runway with black leather and bold shoulders

  • This screams powerful woman!



4. 2018 or 3060?

  • The future is now.

  • Rock those iridescent holograms, shiny silver jackets, and transparent plastic ponchos.



5. Faux Pas or Faux Fur?

  • Fur is always in for fall and winter, so have a little fun with it

  • Go for faux fur, because we don't like to kill animals!

  • The teddy bear goat is still in, so work it!

    • it's also the most comfortable thing I've ever owned

    • If you can't afford the classic I.AM.GIA piece, I have a great dupe from shein

  • Vintaged inspired furs are in for this year.

faux fur.jpg


6. Power Red

  • Nothing says powerful woman like an all red outfit, a routfit.

all red


7. Gliteratti Boots

  • This one is definitely not for everyone, but if you're all about the glitz and glam, this is the trend for you.

glitter boots.jpg


8. Western Front

  • More than the basic fall flannel, throw on some steel-toed boots and a leather vest this harvest season.

  • '70s Plaid

    • Ditch the '90s grunge and throw on some stylish vintage plaid trousers.



9. Leisure Suits

  • This is another one of my favorites.

  • No one rocks a good tracksuit like my girl Yara Shahidi.

  • Comfy and stylish, a tracksuit looks great on anyone.

  • Can be worn with your favorite sneaks or stilettos like the queen herself, Rihanna.



10. Blazers and Broad Shoulders

  • Raid your grandpas closet, or hit the thrift store, because shoulder pads are back.




Hey Macklemore, Can we go thrift shopping??

a comprehensive guide to all things thrift shopping

If you've never been thrifting before, it can be a bit indimidating.  I've compiled a basic list of my top ten tips for finding the best stuff.

  1. Be prepared
    • You need to set aside the whole day, because even if you are only planning on hitting one thrift store, you might be there for a while.  

    • One of the most important parts of thrifting is your mental state. It's essential to fill up your mental tank before you fill up your gas tank.  Get a good night's sleep; thrifting will definitely take a lot out of you, both physically and mentally, so you need to be ready.  Your incredible finds will be worth it I promise.  On the contrary, be prepared to come home empty handed.

    • Wear something that you can easily throw stuff on top of, like a tank top or t shirt, and shorts or a skirt.  A flowy skirt is good because you can try on pants without having to go to the fitting room.  If you're not in the mood for wearing a skirt, I would go for a comfy pair of flowy shorts or running shorts.\

  2. Bring a friend, or not!

    • Personally, I prefer to thrift on my own.

      • This way, I can take as much time as I want, and I can buy what I really love.

    • However, if you are nervous to go alone, bring a good friend, or your mom!

      • If you're bringing a friend, definitely bring someone who either has a very different style from you, or is a very different size from you.  Every item you find is going to be one of a kind, so to avoid a dramatic movie scene where you both grab that beautiful '80s Chanel bag at the same time, follow this rule.

  3. Go in with an open mind
    • Some people think it's good to go in with a list of what you want, so you don't get overwhelmed.  However, I think it's best to go in with a clear head, because you never know what you're going to find.  

    • Be ready to look at every section.  The men's section is a major key.  Also the little boys section.  I honestly never find anything in the women's section.  

  4. Look for quality over quanity
    • The thrift store is the perfect place to find the intersection between a quality piece and a good deal.

  5. Check for stains!  Super super important.  

    • If theres a stain, decide if it will come out easily, and how much you care about the item

  6. Think about how you're going to wear the piece
    • Imagine where you are going to wear the piece, and how you will style it with the pieces you already own.

  7. Be ready to sew and DIY
    • If you love the fabric and you have a sewing machine, go for it!

    • Think about non-traditional ways in which you could wear the piece.  That men's button-up could be a dress, or that shirt could be a tie-front crop top.

    • Don't be afraid of sewing!  You can easily make a jean skirt out of those men's vintage Levi's!

  8. Don't impulse buy!
    • don't buy random things just because they're cheap, or they caught your eye on the rack.

  9. Be Patient.

    • Patience is a virtue.  Don't get upset if you don't find a steal right away.  You gotta dig through the dirt to find the gold!

  10. Have fun with it!!!!!

    • The most important thing is to enjoy yourself.  Buy something you normally wouldn't wear, but has the style you are going for.