I lead diversity initiatives at Pandora. Every day, I have the privilege to help a beloved company reflect the diversity of its listeners, artists, and local communities.
I'm a self-proclaimed diversity geek who spends 90% of her time thinking about how to use tech as a vehicle to drive equality. I'm a frequent contributor to topics related to diversity in tech and I've been featured at SXSW, on NPR, and in Al Jazeera.
Prior to Pandora, I worked at Facebook. I am also the cofounder and curator of Thick Dumpling Skin and the former publisher of Hyphen magazine.
THICK DUMPLING SKIN
Thick Dumpling Skin is a community forum dedicated to discussing body image issues and eating disorders in the Asian American community. In February 2011, after writing about my unhealthy quest for thinness in an issue of Hyphen, I cofounded the site with actress Lynn Chen. In April 2013, Lynn and I were profiled in Marie Claire magazine. That same year, we were also honored with About Face's Embody Award (Rashida Jones is the 2014 honoree).
From 2008 - 2011, I was the publisher of Hyphen magazine, an award-winning Asian American arts, culture, and politics print magazine + website. I joined the organization in 2007 and doubled the organization's annual budget through development and fundraising efforts that I implemented and supervised. During that same period, Hyphen also doubled its readership.
Prior to joining Pandora, I was an early employee of Facebook and worked on user operations, product operations, and diversity programs (all while running Hyphen). At Facebook, I launched & chaired the AAPIs @ Facebook employee resource group.
Lee is a dynamic speaker and facilitator on social media marketing. She
has a remarkable compassion for helping people in underserved
communities understand the power of new technologies... Lisa is a thought leader of her
generation." - Janice L., Development and Communications Director, Urban Solutions
"Thought Lisa from Pandora was the only panelist that really dug deep to push us on assumptions and the staid programs we've been doing in the past." - Anonymous
Partial list of where I've spoken:
SXSW Interactive '15
UNCF's Social Innovations Summit '14
Udemy's An evening of HR Innovation: How to Foster Workplace Diversity '14
Organization of Chinese Americans National Convention '13
I was 12 or 13 at the time. We were having some family friends over for dinner. As the first guests arrived, I ambled out of my room to say hello in the way that only pubescent girls can do. Awkwardly.
“Wow!” said Auntie X. She had an almost gleeful smile on her face. “Suwen looks so… solid!”
She looked me up and down. I looked away, managing a wry smile. My cheeks were burning like I was in the fiery pits of hell. Wait, I really was.
I looked down at my lardy thighs, the fat calves that filled out my jeans, ones that had been described as “bursting out of their seams.” I looked at the skinny upper arms of women 35 years older than me and wondered if I would ever achieve that same level of thinness.
I challenge you to find any female Asian of a BMI greater than 24 who has not had similar comments made about her. They come from “well meaning” relatives and family friends. They are perhaps accompanied by suggestions that the girl take up jogging or refrain from carbohydrates and all those “heavy” fried foods, usually as the girl is reaching with her chopsticks for that spring roll she has been eyeing for the last minute or so, wondering if one more is one too many. They are said in an unrestrained manner, sometimes just as a conversation piece. The “helpful” suggestions they propose are said with a tone of deep caring and sincerity but you cannot help but wonder if they are just glad their own child is not of the same girth as you.
The Asian culture is a complicated thing. We don’t stick chopsticks in rice. We fight to pay the bill at restaurants. We force our children to play sports in school as extracurricular activities then get mad when they want to pursue a career in professional basketball. We eat tiny dried fish and congealed pigs’ blood. Many Asian attitudes are known in Western culture as too extreme, especially regarding young people. Think Tiger Mum. The Asian woman who might as well have a Hitler ‘stache. She stands around all day, ordering her four year old to practice piano and complete tomorrow’s maths homework early. He’s destined for a career in accounting or engineering after all.
These extreme notions of the level of perfection Asian parents hold their children up to don’t just apply to academic achievements. They naturally extend to physical appearance as well. Asian parents see a fat child and associate them with laziness and general ambivalence to personal upkeep. Asian parents see a fat child and also see shame and embarrassment.
For female Asians, the standard is worse. Because Asian girls are meant to be skinny. They are meant to have small wrists and delicate ankles. They are meant to fit into size small or extra small. They are meant to be the slender foil to the robustly-shaped Chien Po of Disney’s Mulan. They are meant to nibble on grains of rice one by one with their chopsticks, expertly wielded by willowy fingers. They are certainly not meant to need a size medium or size large. Or sing out their love for beef, pork, chicken in the same way that Chien Po does.
To be fair, these stereotypes are based largely on facts. Female Asians are generally slim and small sized. Proclamations of meat-based love are far and few between. But I went through many of my teenage years as a bigger female Asian. With a BMI that fluctuated around 24-26 at various points in time, I was always vastly larger than my Asian friends and peers (boys usually included). I constantly wondered what I was doing wrong. Why was I incapable of living up to the skinny female Asian benchmark? Was it because I was lazy or because I loved food too much? I wondered if I looked like an ogre next to my Asian friends. I can still remember an Asian friend’s mum telling her daughter that I looked “enormous” after she saw me in the carpark after school.
10 years later and I sit at a BMI of 22. I feel healthy and happier about my weight and appearance. But on a recent trip to my parent’s home country of Malaysia, I was exposed to the same comments by my aunties. Almost in a tone of wonderment, they said, “She’s big sized!” Suddenly, I was 13 again and feeling like shit.
Weight and physical appearance is an issue in any culture but the willingness to comment is what sets Asian culture apart. It is this willingness to comment that makes the tight-knit closeness of Asian immigrant communities both a good and bad thing. There is support, togetherness and a sense of belonging but there is also judgment and ample amounts of it. Immigrant parents expect their children to live up to the same standards their parents put on them. But to their chagrin, many of us first generation Australians (or Americans or Canadians or Brits) are rejecting these old fashioned ideals. Our ideas of happiness are not the same as our parents. The brighter futures our parents planned for us are no longer in line with what we want. We want to travel and take gap years. We want happiness, not money.
That is not to say that the beliefs and attitudes our Asian immigrant parents brought with them are bad. They exist, for the most part, because our parents want the best for us. They exist because it was that kind of attitude that allowed them to migrate to whichever Western country they now live in.
It’s easier to be fat and Asian in a Western country than in an Asian country. Here, fat is more commonplace. It’s expected and accepted. Here, I can still be considered slim or average. In Asia, I’m big. Is the dynamic changing? Probably. As generations of Asian immigrants come to pass and the Asians back home get fatter (because everyone is getting fatter, supposedly) maybe we’ll reach a stalemate. Maybe Asian aunties will be less inclined to look their nieces up and down with a critical eye. Maybe they’ll hesitate before they ask if we’ve put on weight. Maybe. One day.
Into the Wild with Bear Scientist Wesley Larson (aka @grizkid)
To see more of Wesley’s work in the field, follow @grizkid on Instagram.
“My whole life, I’ve been interested in wildlife,” Wesley Larson (@grizkid) explains. “When I graduated college, I got sucked into the idea that I needed to make a lot of money. But I eventually decided to do what I was passionate about.” Wesley, a Montana native, left optometry school and seven years later, he’s a biology grad student working with black bears in Utah and studies polar bear in the Arctic. It’s hard work, often in eyeball-freezing -70 degree Fahrenheit (-57 Celsius) weather — seriously, his eyeball froze once — but for Wesley, it’s a dream come true. His goal is “to get as much information as possible” so that no human activity — from oil drilling to park picnicking — harms endangered animals. It also means he takes in amazing views, fosters orphaned raccoons and spends quality time with bear cubs.
I want to start a blog, managed by multiple other Asians, that shares and acts as a resource about Asian antiblackness, as well as calls out other Asians for their antiblackness.
an updated and active blog for Asians to combat our antiblackness is, I think, critically important in light of the ongoing BLM movement, recent rash of police shootings, and as we Asians figure out where we belong in the U.S. American/global racial landscape.
I’m aware that @stfuantiblackasians already exists, but it hasn’t been updated in a while (though I can’t be sure; I’m on mobile).
I’m also aware that for combatting Asian antiblackness to be effective and meaningful, this blog should also be modded by Black folks. but because of the recent traumatic violence that has torn through the Black community, I am not asking for help from Black folks at this time (unless, of course, any Black folks reading this are interested in helping out of their own volition).
So: if any Asians are interested in helping out, please reblog saying so, and/or shoot me an ask or chat!!
ps: this is OK for white people and non-Asian POC to reblog for the purpose of signal boosting
Join us this Thursday, July 14th from 2-3pm EST 11am-12pm PST on Twitter - we will explore the harmful concept of the “bikini body” and discuss body-positive events, resources, and other forms of inspiration. Use the hashtag #ProudChat to participate, and follow us @dumplingskin!
New Podcast: I Want to Be an Octopus and Have 8 Arms
“Why did you get emotional talking about running right now?” My counselor asked, followed by a long pause.
Nine months ago it began as an innocent diet. I wanted to be healthier, be more active, and have something to be proud of myself for. It was all harmless.
To reach my diet goals, I put myself on a strict regimen and it worked. I ran four days a week, filled the other three days with some exercise classes, and I ate clean, healthy, minimally processed foods. The more weight I lost, the prouder I was of myself, and the more addicted I became to my regimen. Even though I was restricting myself, it didn’t feel like it. It felt easy, normal, and I felt invincible.
But then came the quirks.
I had to run on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday. The runs had to last at least half an hour, non-stop, and on a consistent high speed. It had to be on certain treadmills because they lined up with the windows better. I had a certain playlist I listened to, and if any of those songs came on the radio, I had to change the channel because those were my running songs and listening to them when I’m not running would no longer make them effective motivators. I could only run in the mornings because I only ever ran in the mornings, and changing my schedule might make me too tired or too full to run. Running became stressful. The thought that I had to run the next day would pop up every so often in my day. There was a euphoria after each run, but there was also a dip as I realized that tomorrow I had to do it all over again.
Running became attached to my self-worth and to my identity. I posted on social media about running and the accompanied weight loss which contributed to the idea that fitness and my physique was now part of my identity. For a while, it was okay, but slowly I became more restrictive and food and exercise became more anxiety provoking.
At the height of my obsession, I would restrict myself calorically, and from any carbs - both of which my body desperately needed to fuel my exercise routine. At this point it wasn’t about being in a healthy mid-range BMI. I wanted to be at the lowest end possible of what was considered healthy, and if I dipped into the unhealthy zone I would probably have been okay with that too.
Eventually my body fought back. It started off with an occasional binge. We’ve all been there where we indulge a little too much - nothing to be concerned about I told myself. I remember specifically making myself a large healthy salad so that I would not want to eat the assortment of delicious dishes we had ordered for my mom’s birthday dinner. Except, I ended up eating my salad, the take-out meal, and then more cake than anyone at the celebration. And when everyone left, I took out the left-overs and demolished them.
There are many turning points in my battle with BED. By turning points, I don’t mean cures, but rather moments in which I came to a pivotal realization. When it came to running, it was a discussion about triggers with my counselor. I began noticing that Wednesday mornings and weekends in particular were a trigger for me, and I just couldn’t figure out why. I didn’t run on Wednesdays and the weekends, and I felt like they were my favorite days of the week because of that. For some reason, I also began to binge specifically on those days. I’d make myself breakfast on Wednesdays for example, and despite being full, I wouldn’t be satisfied. My counsellor made a comment that perhaps it is because I’m in this relaxed state that the associations with happiness and food are firing and being linked as a trigger. I began thinking, if I am especially happy on these days to a point where it is influencing my behavior, what is it about the other days that make me so unhappy?
After some reflection, I realized that my relationship with running was not healthy and that the thought of running was a trigger. At some points during my diet, I loved running. I loved the feeling, it cleared my mind and made me feel determined and focused. Somewhere along the way my relationship with running changed. I ran because it was my identity, because I needed to burn calories, and eventually because it was my punishment for binging. “Run for another week because you binged, and then after you can run less,” I told myself constantly. Except the binges didn’t stop, and so I did not have my permission to stop running.
Exercise should never take such a huge toll on you mentally. I’m sure given the choice, many of us would in fact prefer to stay in bed especially on cold mornings. But my relationship with running was so intense that it was impacting how I saw myself. It was an obsession that fueled my disorder.
I can’t say that stopping running fixed everything and cured my BED. What I can say is that it was a turning point in my self-awareness. I began to form an understanding of my emotions and what it is that my body is telling me. In a perfect ending, I would tell you that I still run sometimes but have a stress-free view on exercising, but that would be a lie. Truth is, I can’t run because I don’t believe that I can anymore. Individuals living with disordered eating often have all or nothing thinking. We think in terms of black and white. If we have a bite of cake we believe that we’ve blown it and spiral into a binge. Similarly, I am still of the mindset that I am either a runner or I’m not - I shouldn’t bother with the in-between. I’ve tried to schedule runs, but the thought of it triggers severe anxiety.
There is a quote I often see on social media “let go of things that no longer serve you.” Running used to be fun, made me feel powerful and strong. Unfortunately, the relationship changed as I became more restrictive and running eventually had the power over me. I try not to use the phrase “give up” because I’m not giving up. I am letting go of running so that I can work on myself. I am gaining self-awareness and self-love. I am recognizing that I was meant more than to be a slave to the treadmill. Someday, I hope to return to it stronger and healed so that it can be something that makes me happy.
If you’re Muslim, you may currently be fasting - Ramadan is a holy month where followers do not eat or drink from sunrise to sunset. We couldn’t help but think about how this affects people with an eating disorder history, or those currently suffering from one. We’d love to hear your stories.
Although it is Monday, I was really excited to go to work so I could tune into the latest episode of Thick Dumpling Skin! I’m the “Diana” who met Lisa at the National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum 20th Anniversary Gala a few weeks ago in Washington, DC. I also wrote the iTunes review y'all discussed!
(Sidenote: Lisa mentioned she had another podcast called “The Legacy Code.” I shared the SoundCloud link with the Diversity and Inclusion Slack channel and folks were pumped!) I love your Podcast and wish there were more episodes. Your podcast really hits home since you discuss the intersections of Asian American and feminism!
My coworker and I were talking about the various APA conferences we attended while in college one random afternoon. I told her about Thick Dumpling Skin and she mentioned that she had met Lynn at an event at Stanford Institute for Diversity in the Arts. I added that I met Lisa a few years ago at a conference called “Listen to the Silence” and at OCA’s National Convention in Washington, DC.
Anyways, after giggling about those coincidences, we were inspired to organize a mini “APAHM Film Fest” in our office. To celebrate, we ordered 200 dumplings and screened three films (“Pilgrimage,” “A Place in the Middle,” and “Cutie & The Boxer”) in our office theater. In a perfect world, we also wanted to screen “Parachute Girls” since it was also a Kickstarter project… but were in a scramble for time. (I’m looking forward to watching it if it comes to NYAFF!)
The APAHM event was great and I’m surprised we were able to convince co-workers to stick around the building on a Friday night. I’m glad we were able to do something in the office to start talking about APA identity. To think, this event all started from a conversation about Thick Dumpling Skin!
Anyways, thanks for the shout out in the podcast. I look forward to your next episode!
Thank you Sophia for your review! And thank you for listening.
Friends had been telling me for a long time that I needed to go, that it’ll change my life. So I finally did.
Have I known that I’ve been wearing the (extreme) wrong size since my teenage years? Yup. Was that confirmed by the very nice lady who helped me out without making me feel an ounce of shame about my own body? Yup. Am I happier now that I am actually wearing the right bras? Yup.
I’ve been standing taller, both physically and metaphorically, since that day.
The day after my fitting. I wrote this in my notebook:
“I realized that I’ve been avoiding a proper fitting because I’ve been scared of my own body.”
The sexualization and objectification of women’s bodies have made me weary. To be taken seriously by the world, I needed to separate my intellect from my body. Because the two can’t co-exist together, right?
So, I grew up walking slightly hunched over, attempting to minimize what is mine. I’m used to grabbing a size that’s always one size too big. And my default pose is one where I am crossing my arms.
I hide, because I am scared.
Women like myself have been raised to shun our own body, whether it’s out of protection by our own, or by those who only see what our body means for their pleasure.
Has my life changed yet? I desperately hope so. But I know well enough that a few new bras in the right size is not going to do it for me.
We also talk about ways to stay positive and be kind to ourselves. Send us your tips and tricks via an email or a voice memo - and please! Leave us a rating/review on iTunes. You can also share your story via writing, music, poetry, photography, art, or whatever you want.
I’ve been sitting on this email for some time now and finally getting a chance to finish it. First, I’m really enjoying the podcast. I appreciate how honest the both of you and your guests have been. It’s also AWESOME to have a podcast by and for Asian Americans. It’s so hard to find podcasts that I can relate to when it comes to overall health and wellness.
Anyhow, I’m writing because I’ve been feeling compelled to ever since listening to the podcast.
I generally consider myself a healthy person and most folks around me also would say the same. Although I’m not as fit and strong as I once was several years ago. I was probably my fittest between 2010 - 2014. Some people considered it fit and to some I was just too thin. Back then I had a lot more time to have a consistent yoga practice and do Crossfit regularly. I’ve gained a significant amount of weight since 2014 and although it was a gradual weight gain it was noticeable. Again, some people thought it was a healthy weight gain and others had not so nice things to say even if they subtly dropped comments. Some of the comments were from family and I’ve learned to not get too worked up with that but it’s still never fun to hear. There are definitely days where I am more comfortable with the weight gain than others. I do find myself feeling nervous about seeing people I haven’t seen for a long time since the weight gain would probably be most noticeable to them. Luckily most folks were never concerned with that but it’s a process I go through in my own head.
I’m currently 26 weeks pregnant now and boy is that another level of conversations and comments. Again, it’s wow you put on how much weight or you’re not putting on enough. I’m less concerned with the weight issue right given my priority is to have a healthy pregnancy. My biggest takeaway from this process so far is how will I be a body positive role model for my child regardless if the baby is a boy or a girl (we are waiting to find out). I want to set a good example for the kid as they grow into their own little person so that they feel confident and comfortable in handling these issues. Because the reality is that we can only control so much of the external environment and it’ll be up to us, my spouse and I, to support our child and model a positive relationship with their body.
Thanks again for creating a space for these conversations.
We want to hear from you! Send us an email, a voice memo and please leave us a rating/review on iTunes. You can also share your story via writing, music, poetry, photography, art, or whatever you want. Subscribe for more and follow us on Instagram/Twitter/Facebook.
Growing up with a sister a year apart had it’s ups and downs. We were always compared on every level. Mostly on academics and good-looks. I failed on the good-looks department. We had very different eating habits and metabolism (mine was completely damaged due to erratic cycles of deprivation and bingeing).
Growing up, I was always the chubby one hiding behind my books while my sister was the skinny fashionista with the camera. I accepted this. I decided brains were better than looks anyway. I continued to get chubbier and chubbier. I somehow felt in control because I “chose” to identify myself as the chubby one. But it still hurt and my parents continued to give me “constructive criticism” daily, in hopes that I would change. The pressure only lead me to eat more.
In a last stitch effort, my parents restricted the sweets that entered the home and would cut me off saying “that’s enough” in my attempts for second helpings.
For years I would hear comments both direct and indirect saying that I should “slow down,” “you got fat,” join a gym, stop eating sweets, PORTION CONTROL, etc. But somehow the comments that affected me the most would be the compliments given to my sister. Because let’s face it, when you’re slim EVERYTHING looks good on you. I would hate going dress shopping, bathing suit shopping or any form of shopping with her. Because my body would always be compared to hers. My shopping experience would always be compared to her. It would take one fitting room visit for her to score an adorable outfit. But it would take me several trips to the fitting room until I found something halfway decent that could cover my big arms, pudgy belly and muscular calves.
I’ve gone through phases of some severe dieting and excessive exercise regimes. They were of course very effective, but never long lasting. Twice I got down to the “ideal” weight and size. The funny thing is when I dropped the weight, everyone treated me differently. I heard more compliments and more people wanted to take selfies with me. It was almost reflex to scurry out of a photo when my cousins were doing their little photoshoots (lol).
It was a strange feeling. I was happy and satisfied with my appearance. But I knew there was absolutely no way it would be permanent. I didn’t like what I was doing to by body. It looked good, yes. But I knew I was harming myself on every level. My outside appearance didn’t match my inside. I didn’t love myself. They say discipline is good for the body and soul. But I felt like I was punishing my body. I was forcing a fat-kid into a skinny mold. These persistent thoughts were enough to make me feel like it wasn’t worth it. So, like every pro-yo-yo-dieter. I gained the weight back. I’d like to say I’m at a better place with my insecurities. But that would be false, I still compare myself to my former slim self and to others. My ears still perk up at very subtle hint to my need to be slimmer. Although I’m not 100% happy with my body (not sure if I ever will be) I am happy with the life I lead and how I live. My thoughts and efforts are not wasted with the number on the scale.
“The reason why Asian brands would want to use foreign models is that
there’s pressure to compete with foreign brands. They want to minimize
their visual gap and solidify their positioning,” says Taeil Park,
former Fashion Editor at GQ Korea. “It’s less about how
‘better-looking’ foreign models may be than Asian models. It’s more
about competing with these foreign brands, and wanting to be seen as the
same kind of quality brand.” Labels representative of this type are
Wooyoungmi, Juun.J, and O’2nd, who sell to Western doors like Barneys,
Bergdorf Goodman, and Saks Fifth Avenue. In such stores, they are
physically merchandized alongside DKNY, Maje, Opening Ceremony, Vivienne
Westwood, Lanvin, Calvin Klein, Ami Paris…And their models are? Mostly
We’re doing something a little different with this podcast episode - as part of ERC’s first ever Eating Recovery Day on May 3rd, we are answering this question: “If you could go back and talk to yourself at the beginning of your recovery journey, what would your wiser self say to your younger self?”
Find out how other bloggers are responding to this question this week on their sites:
Day 1, Monday, April 25th — Karla Mosley is a NEDA Ambassador who speaks out about her recovery from an eating disorder. She’s also an actress on the TV show The Bold and the Beautiful. Karla will be writing on the NEDA blog.
Day 2, Tuesday, April 26th — Brian Cuban is an authority on body dysmorphic disorder, male eating disorders, and addiction. He is the author of Shattered Image as well as the upcoming book The Addicted Lawyer. Check out Brian’s blog here.
Day 3, Wednesday, April 27th — Nikki DuBose is Volunteer Director of Project HEAL’s Southern California chapter. In her writing and speaking engagement, Nikki talks about her experience of overcoming trauma and an eating disorder. Her upcoming memoir is titled Washed Away: From Darkness to Light. Nikki will post a blog on Project Heal’s blog and her own site.
Day 4, Thursday, April 28th — Jenni Schaefer is our very own National Recovery Advocate at ERC’s Family Institute. She is also Chair of NEDA’s Ambassadors Council and has authored the books Life Without Ed, Almost Anorexic, and Goodbye Ed, Hello Me. Jenni Schaefer will post on her blog.
Day 5, Friday, April 29th — That’s us!
Day 6, Saturday, April 30th — Megan Bartlett speaks out about her recovery from binge eating disorder. Her book is Getting Out of B.E.D.: Overcoming Binge Eating Disorder One Day at a Time. Click here to check out Megan’s blog.
Day 7, Sunday, May 1st —Nancy is the mom of an eating disorder sufferer. Through her advocacy work, Nancy raises awareness of eating disorders and provides support to families, including through her blog, Let’s Get Well Together.
Day 8, Monday, May 2nd — We will be sharing a touching true story here on the Eating Recovery Center blog as a parent of a child who is recovering from an eating disorder shares her experiences, wisdom, gratitude and love.
We want to hear from you! Send us an email, a voice memo and please leave us a rating/review on iTunes. Subscribe for more and follow us on Instagram/Twitter/Facebook.
Coming from a Taiwanese father and Spanish mother has never been simple at all. Mixed languages, mixed families, and of course, mixed principles, cultures, and values. While one side says something, the other contradicts it. Respect to both sides was instilled in me since the moment I could utter a word, so of course it was difficult to know who exactly to listen to. In come my parents: my father was more easy going than my mother, though both had their moments like every parent, or person, does. Food was always either Chinese or Spanish, or sometimes both, and always one of the main dishes was rice, be it white or a combination of vegetables and rice. Whenever family, of either side, came over, it was always the same wording, just different language: My god you need to lose weight. I found it rather cynical that that’s one of the only common sayings my two sides of the family had. As a kid, I never gave much attention to what they said about me and my sister, because I was more worried about my scooter or watching the new episode of Cat Dog, but now that I’m older, I’m extremely conscious of my weight and anxious of how the world perceives me, especially since it’s not easy for many to digest my mixed ethnic background. I eat, but do I enjoy the food? Not as a person blessed enough to have a meal should, which adds to my anxiety.
During my teens, where bullies and ignorance ran amok in school, I hated both sides of my ethnicity. I would wish my parents would’ve never met, which would then lead to my nonexistence, therefore I wouldn’t be dealing with what I did then. I would be compared to the other Asian girls at school for not being their size and skin tone, and the Hispanic kids would taunt me for my little eyes and strange last name. The teasing was endless, until I got to high school and found two amazing friends, that while they didn’t have mixed blood, they saw me as a human being and accepted me for who I was, which then made it easier to deal with the questions and leering. I’d talk to my parents about it,though they had enough on their plates as it was, but while one told me to ignore them, the other would say, “You come from two amazing backgrounds, hardworking families, and knowing four languages as you do, you have the upper hand and access to places that they may never have.” What did my knowledge of languages do to stop the body issues I was having? Nothing at all. Where did they find the correlation between the two is beyond me. I always wonder, besides me and my older sister, are there any mixed Asians that face the same problem, be it with weight, bullying, or family dynamics, or are we as strange as others make it seem?
Learning to Love Everything You Are with Body-Positivity Activist @mayaraefe
“#MyStory is a series that spotlights inspiring women in the Instagram community. Join the conversation by sharing your own story. To see more of Mayara’s photos, follow @mayaraefe on Instagram.
(This interview was conducted in Portuguese.)
“#MyStory is about loving yourself, your heritage and your body. It’s about survival and having the freedom to be who you are.” —Mayara Efe (@mayaraefe), a body-positivity activist and plus-sized model from São Paulo, Brazil.
“For years, I suffered from depression. As a black, curvy and gay woman, I didn’t fit into any of society’s boxes. I tried to fit in. I tried to lose weight, and every month I tried to straighten my hair. Then, when I still didn’t feel like my life had any great possibilities, I tried suicide. During my recovery from depression, I discovered feminism and realized that I could do anything, regardless of my skin color or weight. I started to post photos that my grandmother would take of me. People began sharing these images, saying I was photogenic and recommending me for modeling jobs. This is how I became a plus-sized model.
I don’t want other girls or women to have to go through the same thing I did in order to learn to love themselves. I learned the hard way that the only way to be happy is to hold your head up high and have the maximum amount of love and respect for yourself.”
Love this message by Mayara.
Podcast 6: I Didn't Know Not Wanting to Know Your Weight Was an Option
First of all, I would like to mention that I am so freaking happy there is a blog about this issue, so thank you so much.
I like fashion. I love fashion. My mom and I have very similar styles in fashion (sometimes) so I like talking about it with her, or talking about the different styles I like. It’s fun. I feel like we’re best of friends when we do that. However, 90% of the time, the conversation would steer to, “CC that’s cute but those only look good on skinny girls. When fat people wear them, it just looks wrong and not as pretty.“
This is basically what I’ve lived with my entire life and I’m 22 years old now. Every time I mention a food I like, she’ll say, “What DONT you like?” or “You like fattening foods” (referencing to the fact that she thinks I’m fat and therefore must like fattening foods). This has caused me to become incredibly cautious in what I say when I express my opinions around my family members: basically, I don’t say anything. Then they think I’m being distant or pessimistic or just being a bitch and giving an attitude because I don’t want to participate in the conversation and family activity. They don’t understand why I hate going shopping with them when I love shopping with my friends. I hate going shopping with them because they’ll start dressing up my sister and complimenting her on how everything looks good on her because she’s young and skinny, then they’ll look at me and go, “Why don’t you choose something?” or “CC it makes me angry that you’re just standing there feeling uncomfortable. That’s why you should lose weight so appa (dad) can buy clothing for you. There’s none in your size so I can’t buy you shit.“
My dad at one point even said to me, "CC, I don’t even take you to dinner invites from my friends because I’m ashamed to show you to my friends. It hurts me that they’ll comment about your weight.” The saddest part is that he said this to be sincere and nice, to encourage me to lose weight, when really all it did was make my depression worse. The most unfortunate thing with my family is that they all do this with good intentions and when those good intentions are stripped to show that they’re actually harmful and wrong, they get angry and upset because “Well you’re fat, so that’s why we say these mean things."
Even writing this down - it makes me want to cry right now, because for them its temporary. It’s just the present situation. For me, I remember that at night, in my sleep, when I wake up, when I go near a clothing store, when I pass a clothing store, when I see another girl in class on her laptop looking through a Forever21 website. It stays with me and they don’t realize how hurtful it is. But when I tell them that, the response is usually, "Well it’s not like what we said wasn’t the truth” or “You know we only say that because we’re worried about your health.” or “If you don’t want to hear that, then why don’t you just lose weight?”
When they say stuff like that, who am I to argue? Who am I to argue to a person who is saying these things for the benefit of my health?
What can i say to that? I say that it still hurts? Then they’ll say to just lose weight. So when I can’t control what I eat, I feel like the only person I can blame is myself for not having enough self control, although i know its more than that. I’m a nutrition science major. I know it’s more than that. I know the proper way to eat, the proper way to exercise. And yet, still, when it comes to myself, I’m at a complete loss. I can tell the truth to others to help them about their body issues and eating styles and yet when it comes to myself, i can’t convince myself the same.
Looking through my old pictures, I was always a chubby faced child with pudgy thighs and a soft belly. To my Chinese parents, I was an adorable baby and toddler with pinchable cheeks and a voracious appetite for their home-cooked meals. They grew up in China during a time of food scarcity and wanted nothing more than to make sure their daughter had enough to eat. My mother fed me hot dogs, french fries, and ice cream to my heart’s content because these were seen as luxuries that only the middle class could afford.
Then puberty hit during middle school, which is when they expected my baby fat to naturally melt off. Except it stayed and was joined by the development of larger hips and thighs. My parents, both naturally thin in their youth, started monitoring my food intake, even going as far as to move the meat dishes closer to my brother’s side at the dinner table, far enough that I had trouble reach it with my eager chopsticks. In high school, when having a car and driving to school became an option, my father offered to buy me a new car if I lost fifteen pounds. They kept driving home the message until I took it upon myself the summer before my freshman year of college to lose weight.
Over the course of 3.5 years, I lost 35 pounds, a considerable amount when you consider my five feet tall frame. Now I hover a little above 100 pounds, a healthy weight to be sure, but I’m forever stuck with an unhealthy mindset. I can’t enjoy food. I hate eating out because I have no idea what’s in the meal I just ordered. Since I’m still tracking every calorie I eat, I despise restaurants that don’t post calorie counts (even though they’re probably wildly inaccurate). When friends want to grab dinner and a drink, I do mental calculations to see if I can still fit in calories from lunch.
I don’t know if this is an eating disorder or just disordered eating, but I can’t say that I’m convinced I’m any healthier than I was when I was 35 pounds heavier. The tracking and pre-planning take up so much of my attention each day, and I’m afraid I’ll be thinking this way until the day I die. There’s no lesson or message to my story, but I do wonder if I’d be this way if my parents hadn’t pushed dieting so much.
I was wondering what you and the community thought about this article. It has been on my mind a lot recently as I see more Asian foods in popular press when I used to get teased for eating “weird Asian stuff.”
Eating disorders historically have been associated with heterosexual, white females, but recent studies are beginning to shed light on the prevalence of eating disorders in all demographics, hopefully helping to eradicate the stigma associated with its sufferers.
Thinking that mixed race people are more attractive?
<p><a class="tumblr_blog" href="http://yoisthisracist.com/post/136125084238/thinking-that-mixed-race-people-are-more">yoisthisracist</a>:</p>
<blockquote><p>Look, I get that your heart is pretty much in the right place, but how about we stop using race as any kind of signifier for attractiveness, it isn’t true, and it’s the basis for all kinds of racist bullshit.<br/></p></blockquote><p></p>
Lisa Lee is the director of diversity and inclusion at Pandora and is a self-proclaimed diversity geek who spends 90% of her time thinking about how to use tech as a vehicle to drive equality. Lisa is the founder and host of Legacy Code, a podcast about upgrading the tech industry by making it more diverse. She is also a frequent contributor to topics related to diversity in tech. Lisa has been featured at SXSW, presented at General Assembly, and interviewed on NPR.
Prior to Pandora, Lisa started her career in tech as one of the early employees at Facebook. During her seven years there, she led initiatives in user operations, product operations, and diversity. Passionate about uplifting the Asian American community, Lisa started the positive body image site ThickDumplingSkin.com and serve on the board of Asian Americans for Civil Rights and Equality and the National Asian Pacific American Women's Forum.