Thank You

A month ago, I wrote a post on why I had stopped writing, not entirely sure if I would ever get back completely in the groove again. Immediately, you guys flooded me with positivity and emails.

Thank you.

Recently, I have been writing again, and every week I’m greeted with more and more of your voices in my inbox. And trust me, that makes my day — to know that what I’ve penned has had an impact on you, even if it’s as simple as the fact that I’ve made you hungry with all the talk of food. For others, the impact has been much more profound and my mind is blown when you tell me your stories.

This Monday, I went out to dinner with a gal who had found me via one of my more personal posts. We had an amazing conversation about love and life, being in our early 20s, and the liberation that comes with being single and young and curious.

The real life connections I’ve made by pressing “Publish” has been invaluable.

And the comments. Some of you guys have been following my career since I started writing in college and I’m so grateful for it. You see, you’ve made an impact in my life too. Hearing your feedback is what propels me to get up, open a blank window, and start typing from the heart.

I’ve recently started a new chapter in my life and in the beginning it was a reality that was tough to stomach. Change is scary. But waking up to these little tidbits of positivity and emails from you all has really made my days.

Social media, the Internet, media, and all that jazz gets a bad rap in this day and age. But as impersonal as it all can be, the reality is that behind each screen is a real life person with feelings, thoughts, ambitions, and emotions.

And it’s lovely to be able to connect through this medium. So for the people who have pressed that “Like” button, typed “HI CLARISSA!”, left a comment… and especially those who have ended up as dear friends from all of this — thank you.

You’ve all made a profound, deep, and lasting impact in my life.

Favorite Sri Lankan Restaurants in Los Angeles

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Originally posted on my KCET column, Have You Eaten?

Sri Lankan food is extremely similar to South Indian food. This makes sense. Sri Lanka is an island off of the coast of India and Indian traders have settling down in Sri Lanka for 2,500 plus years. The main difference in the food: Sri Lankan dishes do not use any dairy products. Coconut is used liberally instead.

The island also uses a greater proportion of spices in their food and the consistency of the curry is not as thick or oily as their Indian counterparts. Arab, Malaysian, Portuguese, Dutch, and British influences can also be detected in the cuisine due to a history of trading and colonization.

Sri Lankan restaurants are hard to come by in Los Angeles. There are only a handful of these eateries at a time and most of them are located in the Valley. And, a fair warning, like South Indian fare, the food is extremely spicy.

Here are four:

Apey Kade
Apey Kade is a family operation. It’s located in a small strip mall in Tarzana. Walk in and chances are, you’ll see some of the family’s children hanging out behind the counter. The regulars are friends and the owners are perfectly friendly. They’re known for a killer buffet special; it’s $10 a person. If you’re ordering a la carte, do give the deviled chicken a try. The poultry is infused with curry leaves, lime juice and a liberal splash of fresh and dried chilies. 19662 Ventura Blvd, Tarzana, CA 91356.

The Curry Leaf
Curry Leaf is an airy diner right in Reseda touting Sri Lankan and Indian specials. The food is served buffet-style and if you make it for lunch, it’s $8.99 per person. They serve great hoppers – a crepe-like dish fashioned with a fermented batter of coconut milk, rice flour, and palm wine. It’s great with an egg inside and The Curry Leaf has entire evenings dedicated to this classic dish. 17734 Sherman Way, Reseda, CA 91335.

Café Lanka
Tucked in the hills of La Crescenta, Café Lanka is manned by husband-and-wife team Subodha Dharmathma and Mahesh Berera. Their avocado juice is a crowd favorite. No powders are added; they use only fresh avocados. If you’re a first-timer, the shrimp biryani bowl or mutton curry is a good way to start. Spice levels can be adjusted to taste. For dessert, try their Sri Lankan flan, called wattalappan, made with coconut milk, jaggery (a type of sugar), and eggs. 3436A Foothill Blvd., La Crescenta, California.

Baja Subs Market & Deli
Baja Subs Market & Deli is many things. First and foremost, they’re a market and a deli. They also sell Mexican food and double as a Sri Lankan eatery on weekends only. Any of their devilled dishes are great but the Sri Lanka biryani is their star dish. Cool fact: Biryani was brought over to Sri Lanka by South Indians in the 1900s. The main difference? The Sri Lankan version sometimes serves it with string hoppers, which are thin steamed rice noodles. 8801 Reseda Blvd, Northridge, CA 91324.

VIDEO: How To Make Chinese Eggplant


This is by far my best video yet. Took me two and a half days, but so worth it!

The recipe below was written by my buddy Dan who is my guest in the video. Clearly, the writing style is not mine.

Ingredients:

3 eggplants; sliced vertically
4 cloves garlic; diced
1-inch nub of ginger; diced
1 stalk of scallion; diced

2 tbsp cornstarch
1/8 cup sweet soy sauce
1 cup water
2 teaspoons Hondashi
2 teaspoon sugar

Preparations:

Eggplants
Put the eggplants in a bowl and salt generously. Use your hand (or anything really) and toss the eggplants around so the salt distributes evenly and leave it there for 30 minutes to an hour. The salt is going to draw some of the eggplant juices out so your dish won’t end up tasting bitter. After the time is up, rinse the salt off the eggplants and pat it dry with a paper towel. Don’t be afraid to use a bit of force to squeeze some more of the juices out. Toss the prepared eggplants with cornstarch so each of the pieces has a light coat. Then just pop it in your mouth place on the side.

Sauce
For the sauce so the dish doesn’t taste like bland nothing, grab a small bowl and just mix the ingredients in the sauce section together and put on the side.

Thy Holy Trinity of Chinese Food (Ginger, Scallion, Garlic)
We said diced, but how finely chopped you want the holy trinity is up to personal preference. We’re lazy so we just coarsely chopped it but if you want more of a kick of a specific flavor in your dish, just chop it finer so it has more surface area to release its flavors. Just keep in mind that the finer you chop it, the faster it’ll cook.

Procedure:

Set the heat to medium and just eyeball some amount of cooking oil onto the pan. We’d suggest a tablespoon or two, then just throw the garlic and ginger onto the pan. The idea is that you want to lightly fry the garlic so it has a nice crunch in the finished dish, be careful in adding too much oil though since the eggplant is going to soak all of it up the moment it touches the pan.

For the sake of not having super soggy scallions, toss the scallions in about a minute in. Save a handful of he uncooked scallions for garnish at the end.

Is the garlic starting to look kind of golden brown? Sweet, toss the eggplants in. Mix the trinity with the eggplants thoroughly. Separate any eggplant pieces you see stuck together.

Depending on your pan, toss enough sauce in so it covers the bottom half of the eggplants. Mix it around a bit and cover the pan with a lid and let it sit for three to five minutes. The cornstarch should be doing its work and thickening the sauce and reducing the sauce through the reduction will intensify our dish’s flavor. Basically, if you uncover the lid and see black gunk coating the eggplant, that’s a good thing.

Woot, now you’re done, put it on a plate or over some rice and throw the scallions you saved on top for the finishing touch.

Why I Hate Clubbing

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I’m at the age where my Facebook feed is filled with photos like the one above. The Vegas glam shot. Tight dresses, lots of make-up, and a killer set of heels. The weekend getaway, where you all pool in for a fancy suite, and everyone knows a bouncer on a texting basis.

Ugh. Never again.

When I turned 21, I dragged my boyfriend of that time to Vegas. We booked a hotel, I did vodka shots for the first time in my life and chased it with Oreos. (I thought I was so clever. I’ve hated Oreos ever since.) The excitement was palpable. I had planned the whole trip so I could finally go clubbing. Halfway through the night, we realized my boyfriend had forgotten his ID and my 21st birthday turned sour from there.

I really wanted to go clubbing.

Months later, I eventually got my wish and my 21st year was spent doing things normal 21 year olds do.

First, some context: I was a prude throughout my adolescence. I was affiliated was a cultish organization that demonized all and any vices. Holding hands with a guy was considered bad. In freshman year, I would refuse to go to any social events because I was afraid of being punished. As a sophomore in high school, I backed out of going to homecoming with my best guy friend because I was convinced my first dance had to be with my future husband. My conservative past is a story for another time but at 21, I had already broken away from that mentality.

Naturally, I was thrilled to do what I thought “normal” people did: I went clubbing, I got drunk. While that was the extent of it, this was a big deal for me.

When my boyfriend and I broke up, I took it up another notch. Once I got so drunk in a club, I ended up in the hospital. I also have a very distinctive and embarrassing memory of me in San Francisco with my best friends, standing on a platform in a dive club and screaming “I LOVE YOU S.F. AHHH!!”

Fast forward to now: Don’t ask me to go clubbing with you.

The only time I ever have a positive experience is when I’m with certain best girl friends. These are the girls who I know are there to a) spend time with me and b) dance with me. And even if the hottest man walked right on over, they wouldn’t give him the time of day. These girls will literally push men away from them. But they’re hard to find. I only have two of them in my life.

It’s so fucking pointless. Clubbing is a mating game at its most primal level. Man and woman find each other, grind, make out, touch, get bored, repeat with another person. And at the end of the night, it’s 3 a.m., someone’s feet is bleeding, another girl is so drunk her poor date is carrying her over his shoulder, and everyone is hungry for Denny’s.

You’re on a dance floor with hundreds of people, clad in the most uncomfortable shoes anyone can find (“At least they’re cute!” you think, but who ACTUALLY looks at your shoes?!), bobbing up and down hoping someone hot will sashay their way over. You’re with your girlfriends and everyone looks like they’re having a good time together. But the moment a guy swoops in, your friends are missing in action.

And then. The men.

The assholes who think it’s okay to grab your ass or your boobs. The guys who initiate a dance just by getting straight to it.

(To those few men who have respectfully asked me to dance in a club — THANK YOU.)

Then sometimes you find someone you can actually have a decent half-assed (shouting) conversation with. And they think that gives them the liberty to plant their mouth on your face.

I get it. This is the culture of these places. And I get some people enjoy this lifestyle. That’s fine.

But it’s not for me. A couple years ago I did the whole Vegas-trip-with-all-the-girls-and-one-or-two-guys thing. The girls and I got glammed up and we were pumped for a night out in town. The getting-ready portion is always the best part. There’s this anticipation. This hope that something epic will happen. That maybe, just maybe, you’ll meet someone cool.

We get to the club. Wait in line. Get a drink. Hit the dance floor.

30 minutes later, I’m in a restaurant with a girlfriend chowing down on a gourmet burger. And THAT’S the highlight of my evening. An hour later I’m in bed, completely alone in a Vegas suite while the girls are out and it’s fantastic.

The next day we’re at a day club, I’m dressed in a bikini, the sight of alcohol repels me, and all I want is that fucking burger again.

That’s when I knew.

Don’t get me wrong. I love a good party. I’ve been taking up salsa dance classes and go dancing at salsa clubs on a weekly basis. I love the social part of actual dancing. You know, the type of dancing where you’re using your brain and it requires steps and some sort of basic technique. Men will hold out their hand and ask you to dance. You dance with them for the entirety of the song, and when that final beat hits, you say your thank yous and part ways.

I also adore country dancing clubs. I can’t line dance for pennies but I love country music and I have a great time watching people execute two-steps and the electric slide (<-- that's the only one I know!). Because of the way the dance culture is set-up, dancing and having a good time with the group is the focus.

Not hooking up.

For me, a party is about, first and foremost, bonding with my close acquaintances and second, actually meeting people and developing authentic connections.

But when that connection is reduced to SEX, BOOBS, DRUNKEN MAKE-OUT SESSIONS...I'm really just another piece of ass.

And I hate that.

That’s not a party. That’s social laziness.

Best Thai Restaurants In Los Angeles

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The City of Angels has the largest Thai population outside of Thailand, so it’s no surprise that Thai food is in abundance around town. If you just want to wander, you should explore Thai Town, a six-block area centered along Hollywood Boulevard between Normandie and Western Avenue, where many of the city’s best Thai restaurants are located. From boat noodle specialists to spicy Southern Thai fare and fusion Thai food, there’s something for everyone. Read on for 10 of the best Thai restaurants in Los Angeles.

1. SIAM SUNSET
A bit difficult to spot, Siam Sunset is attached to an America’s Best Value Inn. Don’t let the unconventional location deter you though, there’s a slew of Northeastern specialties on the menu, including the standout papaya salad and glass noodle salad. The khao man gai, a mutation of Chinese Hainan chicken over rice, is fantastic as well. While most of the dishes are great, the real gems of Siam Sunset are housed in their breakfast section. Get the porridge and Chinese donuts, paired with hot coffee, and mixed with a couple drops of condensed milk. 5265 W Sunset Blvd Los Angeles, CA 90027.

2. LUM KA NAAD
This is the perfect place to go for a crash course in regional Thai food. The husband and wife team are from Northern and Southern Thailand respectively, and they’ve married their favorite dishes from their hometowns into a comprehensive menu with more than 100 items. The restaurant name is appropriately named “Lum Ka Naad,” it’s an expression of deliciousness in Northern Thailand. Try the pork curry, seasoned with spices that are regularly sourced directly from Thailand. 8910 Reseda Blvd, Northridge, CA 91324.

3. JITLADA
Known for its extremely spicy food, Jitlada features a Southern Thai menu that is much-loved by foodies and journalists alike. In fact, food blogger Jo Stougaard of My Last Bite loved the restaurant so much, she ate her way through Jitlada’s entire 300-dish menu during a two-year journey that began in 2010. The khua kling phat tha lung, a Southern Thai curry dish with shredded beef and a heap of turmeric, is a must for fans of spicy food. The searing heat of this dish will test even the sturdiest of palates. 5233 W Sunset Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90027.

4. NIGHT + MARKET
Night + Market is hip and delicious, a worthwhile combination that has propelled Kris Yenbamroong’s restaurant to Thai food fame in Los Angeles and beyond. Yenbamroong’s flagship restaurant is located on Sunset Boulevard. A second location, Night + Market Song, recently opened in the heart of Silver Lake, adorned in shades of fuchsia and serving favorites from the original location. The catfish tamale, wrapped up in a banana leaf with chile and fragrant herbs, is highly recommended. 9041 Sunset Blvd, West Hollywood, CA 90069.

5. ISAAN STATION
Isaan, located in Northeastern Thailand, is home to nearly one third of the Thai population. Sticky rice and chili peppers are prominent features of the cuisine, and Isaan Station in Koreatown takes great care to reflect that in its menu. The sticky rice comes in an adorable woven bamboo basket, which is not only aesthetically awesome, but also keeps the rice warm. The papaya salad with pickled blue crab – called som dtum bhu mah – has a nice pop from the chilies, and is balanced out by the cool and crunchy papaya. 125 N Western Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90004.

6. LACHA SOMTUM
Lacha Somtum is another Thai Town sweetheart that pays homage to Isaan-style food. The menu has quite a repertoire of green papaya salads, but the real attraction here is the balut curry. It’s not for the squeamish – balut is an embryonic chicken. It’s usually eaten by itself, but Lacha Somtum has taken the liberty of sautéing it in a fragrant stir-fry of chilies and bell peppers, with wonderfully rich results. 5171 Hollywood Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90027.

7. SALADANG SONG
Saladang Song in Pasadena is a gorgeous place to dine. Hit it up in the early evening and ask for a seat outside, where candles are lit to help set the mood. Saladang Song is the sister restaurant to Saladang, located next door. (“Song” means number two in Thai.) Saladang Song has a more diverse menu than the original, with items that you might find on the streets in Thailand. Song is also a bit pricier. You can’t go wrong with any of the refreshingly spicy papaya salads. 383 S. Fair Oaks Ave., 91105-2524 Pasadena, CA.

8. SAPP COFFEE SHOP
Yes they serve coffee, but the real draw here is the noodles. Sapp Coffee Shop is a boat noodle specialist, a beef noodle soup that’s literally served off boats in Thailand. It’s a delicious combination of beef, tripe, offal, crispy pork rinds and thick rice noodles, fortified with an earthy blood broth. If you’re squeamish, opt for the jade noodles with BBQ pork, duck and crab meat instead. 5183 Hollywood Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90027.

9. RUEN PAIR
If you have a hankering for Thai food after midnight, Ruen Pair might be your best option. It’s open until 3 a.m. – perfect after a night out in town. The outstanding spicy catfish is deep-fried and served with a heaping portion of hot peppers and mint leaves. For an extra kick, thick curry paste is smeared all over the fish. If you’re looking for food to end the night, get the pad thai, it’s a solid rendition of the classic dish. Be sure to bring the leftovers home – pad thai is a perfect hangover remedy for the morning after. 5257 Hollywood Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90027.

10. DAISY MINT
Daisy Mint is an airy Pasadena lunch spot that serves up fusion Thai food. Everything is beautifully plated and the lunch specials are consistent. The Daisy Noodles, a customer favorite, is made with rice noodles flavored with a red curry, and topped with basil and crispy, fried shallots. Fresh bean sprouts are served on the side. The Daisy Ribs are also highly recommended – the ribs are coated with a nice sweet and sour sauce, and the meat is literally falling off the bone. Order anything on the menu that starts with “Daisy,” and you won’t be disappointed. 1218 E Colorado Blvd, Pasadena, CA 91106.

VIDEO: How To Make Three Cups Chicken (San Bei Ji)


This half of the year is all about challenging myself. And well, being in front of the camera for me is a challenge. San bei ji literally translates to three cups chicken. That’s equal parts soy sauce, sesame oil, and rice wine.

History lesson, according to TaiwanFoodCulture.net:

Another story connects Three Cups Chicken with Song-dynasty (960- 1279) patriot Wen Tianxiang, who was captured and imprisoned by Mongolian invaders in the area of today’s Beijing. During his imprisonment, the story goes, an old woman often brought him chicken simmered in water, oil and rice wine, which was given to him with the help of prison guards. After Wen died in prison, adamant in his refusal to submit to Mongolian rule, the prison guards annually cooked up the dish to commemorate his passing away in admiration for his integrity. For this reason, Three Cups Chicken is also known as Wen Tianxiang Chicken.

Another cool fact: This dish was traditionally served without the basil. Adding the basil in was an idea that was invented in America, then brought back to Taiwan.

Ingredients:

2 lb chicken (thigh preferred, but I used chicken breast)
2/3 cup soy sauce
2/3 cup rice wine
2/3 cup sesame oil
1/2-1 inch ginger, minced
4-5 cloves garlic, minced
Small knob of rock sugar (optional)
Handful of basil leaves 1 tbsp canola oil

Directions:
Heat canola oil in a wok over high heat. Add ginger, garlic and cook until very fragrant, about 1 minute.  Add chicken pieces and cook for two minutes. Add rice wine, soy sauce, and sesame oil and bring to a boil. Wait 2 minutes. Add rock sugar and stir to dissolve. Reduce heat to a simmer. Cover the wok until the chicken is cooked, about 15 minutes. Stir in basil and turn off the heat. with rice.

So I Went To BeautyCon Today…

I’m not into fashion; I don’t understand it. Beauty blogging sounds like an expensive habit. All the makeup I own fits in a small pencil pouch and in my day-to-day, I prefer jeans and a comfortable T-shirt. I do enjoy dolling up for a night out in town or the occasion date, but as a lifestyle? Ain’t nobody got time for that.

But when a girlfriend begged me to go BeautyCon with her, I obliged because, well, I was just so goddamn curious.

“Yeah I don’t mind waiting in this line. There are so many kids here and..”

My friend cuts me off.

“Oh my god!” She runs off after a girl in blue hair, asks her a question, fumbles with her phone, snaps a selfie with the stranger, and rushes back.

“Sorry,” she says, smiling ear-to-ear while checking the photo on her phone. “That was Jenn Im‘s best friend. Ugh the photo quality is horrible.”

Here I was, in the midst of hundreds of teenyboppers waiting in line so we could catch a glimpse of my friend’s favorite vloggers.

Everything was pink. The space smelled like cotton candy and unicorn piss. Every now and then, the regular buzz of the room would be interrupted by a chorus of screaming girls. You’d look over to the source of the noise, and of course, you’d see dozens of phones being held up and more girls running over, trying to get a snap of someone famous.

When I got home, I immediately googled all the beauty vloggers.

I didn’t get it. Honestly, I was a bit turned off by all the vanity and the sheer amounts of selfies on these people’s Instagrams.

And then, I watched their very first videos, trying to dissect how they gained such a large following.

I get it now.

It’s not about the content. There are hundreds of smoky eye tutorials online and millions of pieces on how to apply foundation properly. It’s the personalities of these folks. It’s the fact that they seem tangible and not caked on with corporate marketing schemes. It’s the fact that they very well could be our friend and that makes it all that much more appealing.

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Would I do BeautyCon again?

Probably not.

But I think from this whole experience, I’ve caught on to what makes self-made bloggers so appealing to the masses: being real with your audience.

And bam: there’s a good motivational lesson for me there. Oh, and I vow never to take a selfie again.

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Introducing Forage & Pasture

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Photo credit: Landry Major

A little project I’ve been working on…

I recently helped launch Forage & Pasture, an online magazine celebrating the growing sustainable food system in Southern California. Think features on farmers, growers, and artisans. The magazine was created in conjunction with my full-time job as Head of Marketing at Out of the Box Collective, a great farm-to-home grocery delivery service in Los Angeles.

The mission of the magazine: to highlight the emerging sustainable food system of Southern California, all while inspiring people to eat local and get back into the kitchen. There are plenty of publications in Los Angeles covering restaurant culture and chefs, but not enough are covering the people who grow and produce our food.

And thus, Forage & Pasture was created to fill that gap.

We’re writing stuff about the growing seed-to-loaf bread movement and why people should eat rabbit. We’ve recruited experts like Melissa Cortina, a seasoned butcher in Los Angeles. She has her own column on butchery, appropriately titled “The Butcher’s Table.”

Other relevant pieces include: Best Farm-To-Table Restaurants in Los Angeles & How A Local Rancher Is Dealing With The Drought. We also have sweet photo galleries on local farmers markets.

Would love it if you just checked us out. Or spread the love on social media, or, well, just “Liking” us on Facebook would suffice!

Our Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ForageandPasture
Twitter: https://twitter.com/foragepasture
Instagram: http://instagram.com/forageandpasture

Hire Me To Be America’s Next Darling

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To the Casting Directors, the Editors, Novelists, the Producers, the Aggregators, the Headline Writers:

Hire me to be America’s Next Darling. Put me on the next hit TV show, let me be the star of the next blockbuster movie. Let me be the heroine of your epic novel. Do a reality show on my life, but not in an ironic way. Leave out the part about how I’m Asian in America and all the gimmicky cultural stereotypes. We don’t need anymore of that. Let me be the next Bachelorette, put me on the cover on your magazines.

Don’t section me off on a YouTube beauty channel, an import magazine, or in a piece about how I’m defying cultural stereotypes. Don’t do a show about me being Asian with Asian friends with Asian food. Let me be the star in mainstream media, the new face of beauty and fame.

Don’t frame me as exotic or a minority. Don’t use me to fill up your diversity quota. Don’t use me as a sex symbol.

Let me be the star. The darling. America’s next sweetheart. The girl next door.

I assure you it won’t be easy. Which is why you haven’t done it yet, even though hundreds of me have walked through your casting doors, even though I’m your friend, even though there are millions of me walking around America. Even though I’m attractive enough, talented enough, tall enough, funny enough, fit enough, good enough.

It will be hard. Your gut will call you crazy and your colleagues will grimace. “She’s not what consumers want. The ratings will go down,” they’ll tell you. “Wouldn’t it be better to have a white, doe-eyed female as the lead?” you’ll think. She can even be mousy, average-looking, unassuming. Just let’s make her white. Because at the very least, she’s familiar to the American consciousness.

Hey.

Give me a chance.

I was raised in a world where I was told I wasn’t good enough. Where men like to start dates off with “Ni hao ma or konichiwa,” sometimes even both, depending on how ignorant they’re feeling that day. Where I am exoticized and the best shot I have in being famous is through a porno flick or in an import car magazine. I don’t get picked as a lead. I’m barely even considered. I don’t look like Dorothy from Wizard of Oz. And heavens, I’ll never get close to portraying Romeo’s Juliet.

You can change that.

I don’t want my children to grow up in a world where they are shown, visually, that they are not good enough. I don’t want them convinced that the pretty blond girl will always win out because she’s the heroine. I don’t want them to wish that they were half-Asian because hey, at least they’ll get more air time. I don’t want them to try to look more European through hair dye, through reconstructive surgery, because that’s the standard of an American beauty.

I’ve been through all of that already.

I have talent. I promise you. So open the gateways and let me star. Take a gamble on me. I won’t let you down.

Sincerely,
Asian-American Female