To Fit In Or Stand Out

Posted by Solace In Hunger

"Don't think you're on the right road just because it’s a well-beaten path." - Unknown

I'm both saddened and amazed at the amount of racism that I still see around in this day.  News about Rima Fakih's win as the first Arab-American (in recent memory) to win the title of Miss USA brought about some of the worst comments I've read on various blogs about how PC the pageant has become and how her win was manifested by bedding of Hezbollah and liberal elite.  I really don't watch pageants and am unfamiliar with the judging criteria but the woman is gorgeous and I'd like to think that she won mainly because of that.  But to see such ass-backwards, close-minded opinions become strong enough to permeate wall up a public forum leaves me dumbfounded. This hits closer to home since it's a reflection of how much progress needs to be made for Asian-American performing artists to gain equal footing in an increasingly polarized nation.

People who have met me, especially in the last few months, may find me to be some sort of Asian-American closet activist from proudly wearing my Blacklava and RaceBending.com shirts, attending and participating in AA media events, to gaining significantly more AAs into my circles of friends.  All from a person who just as of late last year was only heard of embarking on fairly neutral interests and thoughts.  The only things that brought me close to my traditional Asian side were my broken Taiwanese and knowledge of great places to eat in Monterey Park and Rowland Heights.  To be honest, matters of race have never really stirred me up until I pressed upon acting as a profession recently.

Growing up entirely in the San Fernando Valley, a suburb north of Los Angeles, I was of a few (if not only) Asian faces in my elementary classes in the 80's.  However, those same classes had not only African-American or white kids but those that were Persian, Armenian and East Indian.  Each of these kids played with me no different than any other and I was fortunate not be conscious of any exclusion if there was any.  My circle of friends today are just as mixed of varying races.  I've dated more non-Asian women than Asian women and could never relate to common complaint listed by the majority of Asian men as being shunned by other races so often.  Of all this, I am very fortunate and I grew up with a blind eye to the heartbreak of prejudice.

My decision began to embark on acting came shortly high school when, figuring what to do with the rest of my life, I decided to take an acting class at a community college.  At the recommendation, of my (white) acting teachers I was suggested to begin auditioning for school and community plays.  Even then, my luck continued as I was cast with little regard to my race.  I've taken significant and sometimes lead roles in casts where I was the sole minority at times.  As I also have found this to be my calling at this time, I decided to push head first into making this a career.

It took many years to finally take my craft into professional territory, but doing so I finally have hit upon the lack of opportunities my predecessors had to face.  Most castings notices that I come across for male Asian actors are for small "throwaway" roles like bellboys, shopkeepers, computer scientists.  Fortunately, I have had better fare with the auditions my agent has been sending me out for which have been more for unspecified-ethnic roles but I can't help but wonder in the back of my mind whether or not producers can only be much more lenient with casting as these are smaller profile projects.  Friends comes back with stories about how they were asked to by casting directors to redo auditions with an "Asian" (read: FOB) accent even though a role was written with a neutrality.  Even my first credited project was as a "Triad-type martial artist" and I fully realize that I may already be setting myself up to be typecast as a martial arts hero/villain/henchman or stunts-only type.  Already all of this while I am just only beginning to break the surface!  Who knows how many more stories like this I will have to tell once I move further along.

My inspirations in acting can be attributed to the likes of Gary Oldman, Brian Cox, Kevin Spacey and Tim Roth.  I do have Asian favorites such as Tony Leung and Beat Takeshi, but notice how I had to turn to international cinema to find such heroes?  I have no true relation to those I see on film and on television except for the occasional spark of hope granted by Daniel Dae Kim, Justin Lin, Sung Kang, etc.  But I am left only to aspire in joining with my professional peers to being trailblazers in shaking up the media demographic. We have a collective dream that has yet to realized in history. This fact that no true Asian-American star exists adds even further pressure to be successful.

All of a sudden as an Asian-American, the goal of fame and success has become to be the only true way of receiving validation which as an artist is the very same thing that brings detriment. I don't want to do that. It is a goal based on luck with no promise of fulfillment. Many near and dear to me use celebrity as a motivator and I've watched them lose their souls while developing a poisonous narcissism. But every work I do, no matter how insignificant, now carries this pressure that it is not just for myself anymore but also for our struggling community. For it is the advancement of this very community that can only bring all of us future, richer opportunities in today's world.

Who knows where I will end up.  Like many before me, with me and perhaps even after me we have no choice but to keep fighting...

I hope that everyone is doing well out there...  =o)

Track of the Day:

Justice -  Waters of Nazareth (Original Mix)


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