Asian Women Paving the Way in the Media

This Women’s History Month, let’s talk about women who have inspired us to be who we really are. For me, when I was younger it was so rare to see someone who looked like me in the shows and movies I was watching. When all you see on TV is gorgeous, young, white women, it starts to impact your own internal image of beauty. While we’ve come a long way from the early-to mid-2000s, there’s still a lot of work to be done. We can, however, appreciate our growth and the change that’s happened in recent years, so here’s a list of young Asian women who are paving the way for more representation in the media. 

 

1. Naomi Scott

While you probably know her as Jasmine from Aladdin (2019), you may also remember that Naomi Scott played Mo in the Disney Channel classic Lemonade Mouth (2011), or maybe even her role as Elena Houghlin in Charlie’s Angels (2019). As a half-Indian actress in a Disney movie, she was one of the first characters in the media that really stuck out to me with her role in Lemonade Mouth. She represented that not all women in media have to be white, and broke a bunch of racial stereotypes while doing so. 

 

2. Lana Condor

The specific comfort of the romantic comedy To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before series is a special kind, one that’s only rivaled by a warm blanket in the winter. At its core, it’s nothing super special or extravagant, but it exudes contentment. Lana Condor’s role as Lara Jean is a breath of fresh air in a world full of white female leads in the romance genre. There isn’t much pressure for the character to be anything other than who she is: a young Asian American woman. And the movies follow through with this, without any hyperfixation or sexualization of her race as you might see in a lot of other media. It’s just a realistic portrayal of being an Asian American high school student. 

 

3. Maitreyi Ramakrishnan

While she may be young, her comedy drama series Never Have I Ever (produced by Mindy Kaling) has put her right into the spotlight. This is another case where the character is simply trying to be who she really is, which both includes her life and Indian culture and as a high school student. Maitreyi, as an Indian-Canadian actress, displays the possibility of success as a young woman of color, something that wasn’t seen very often even just a few years ago. Having a character on TV to relate to is so much more important than the media makes it out to be, and she is another person making that possible. 

 

4. Hayley Kiyoko 

If you think back to Lemonade Mouth just one more time, you’ll remember how Hayley Kiyoko played Stella, the inspiring high schooler who didn’t care for the rules to regulate how she showcased her personality. Now, Hayley Kiyoko embodies the same ideals, presenting herself as she is without any regrets. Her debut album, Expectations, displays a diverse collection of songs. One would be her single Feelings, all about celebrating romantic feelings and emotions instead of repressing them. She’s been nominated for and has won several awards, including the 2018 Billboard Women in Music Rising Star and the 2020 Spotify Most Added to LGBTQ+ Playlists. She inspires so many people as an openly LGBTQ+ Asian artist, and will undoubtedly continue to do so.

 

5. Rina Sawayama 

Looking for something new to listen to? Direct yourself toward Rina Sawayama’s debut album, Sawayama, for the variety of bops you’re looking for. Her music is unique, high energy, and really catchy. With enthralling singles like XS and LUCID, it’s no wonder the British Music Awards changed the rules to allow her to be nominated as a finalist for the Rising Star Award this year, even though she isn’t technically a British citizen. With this, she has made a direct change in the industry as a Japanese immigrant, which would have been unimaginable not too long ago. She’s sure to be an international hit sensation very soon. 

 

6. Rupi Kaur

Moving away from music and into the realm of books and poetry, there’s a high possibility you’ve heard of Rupi Kaur. She’s internationally known for her books of poetry, starting with milk and honey and leading up to her most recent release of home body. Her decision to self-publish her first book and promote her poetry on social media platforms shot her straight to international stardom, creating an entirely new kind of twenty-first century poetry. Indian culture and her ancestry play a large part in her writing, and she personally has said she wants to inspire young girls who have the same dreams as she did. 

 

So, while we may still have a ton of work to do in terms of Asian representation in the media, let’s take some time to celebrate the ever-talented women who have given us something to look forward to.

So, while we may still have a ton of work to do in terms of Asian representation in the media, let’s take some time to celebrate the ever-talented women who have given us something to look forward to.