Lizzie McGuire. That’s So Raven. Boy Meets World. Fresh Prince of Bel-Air.
Some of my favorite shows growing up were filled with a range of characters that looked different, but not quite like me. Some shows were packed with diversity, while others were missing the element of representation, but all seemed to forget the existence of South Asian (or Brown) Americans.
Where did I fit in? Where were the anecdotes that I could relate to, covering issues like Islamophobia, arranged marriages, culture shock and cultural appropriation? Where was my complexion on screen? When would I see a Brown person with a leading or supporting role who did not have to speak with a stereotypical accent to be the punchline?
I grew up craving to see someone, anyone, like me in the entertainment space.
I grew up craving to see someone, anyone, like me in the entertainment space. As I grew up, it became my dream to be a part of the change to make it happen. Without a doubt, we know the industry itself must be held accountable for not creating diverse roles.
We are here and ready to work. We are here and ready to bring our stories to light. This goes without question. But, are there enough of us to create the noise we need to provoke change in entertainment?
Are we being encouraged to pursue careers in entertainment or are we allowing ourselves to be persuaded to follow career paths that our parents find respectable?
“You can act on the side. You need to go to med school.”
“Singing is a fun hobby. You will make a great lawyer.”
“Comedy? Is that a joke? You promised you would be an engineer.”
These are just some of the many ways our dreams as creatives have been crushed or pushed to the side, when they should have been uplifted and supported.
Brown parents, don’t get me wrong.
I understand why you want your kids to pursue prestigious careers in reputable fields. You sacrificed a lot to come here for your kids to have a chance at greatness and to tap into their limitless potential. To doubt that would not only be unfair, but it would take away from the truth that is the immigrant experience. So much has been invested in the future of our families and it is important we remember that and honor that.
How Brown kids view themselves is deeply related to how they see themselves being portrayed...
The thing is ― how Brown kids view themselves is deeply related to how they see themselves being portrayed around them. To have powerful Brown voices and faces in entertainment is to create more confident and secure South-Asian American generations.
This is a prestigious task, one that comes with the ability to inspire millions of people to feel comfortable in their own skin and be their most authentic selves.
Not only will Brown entertainers inspire Brown kids and families, but will also shape how Brown people are portrayed in society.
We need our stories to be shared and we need our people to share it. You and I both know we are no different than our fellow American, and our stories being told can bring both our similarities and differences to light.
This is no small feat, and if your kid expresses a desire to partake in this change, you should consider supporting them in this journey rather than rejecting it.
I know what you may be thinking: Just because your kids want to succeed in entertainment doesn’t mean they will. But when you or your parents, or your parent’s parents immigrated to this country, there was no assurance that the road would be easy. There was no guarantee for success. But here you are.
And while the journey for your kid may be tough and come with rejection, that rejection will only make them better.
And while the journey for your kid may be tough and come with rejection, that rejection will only make them better. And if rejection is all they ever see, then they will still rise up from each failure stronger and wiser than before. But if they succeed, when they succeed, you will know that their lives will have been more fulfilled living out their dreams and that freedom to do just that will make your sacrifices worth it.
The issue was always a two-parter, but we only focused on part 1. Part 1: The lack of roles, opportunities and scripts for South Asian-Americans in entertainment. Now let’s focus on part 2: Encouraging more South Asian-Americans to pursue careers in this field and nurturing their dreams to be seen and heard.
We can make noise in the entertainment world and make them hear us. We just need more voices to shout louder.
If your kid wants to lend their voice and share their spark with the world, be sure not to dim it and help them light up the world instead.