Unexpected? Impressive? Exceeded expectations? Were these the words that came to mind when you learned that the most recent adaptation from Kevin Kwan's bestseller, Crazy Rich Asians topped the box offices in North America this past weekend? Was it "impressive" because it took 25 years since The Joy Luck Club for Hollywood to feature an almost Asian cast? Was it "unexpected" and "exceeded expectations" being a romantic comedy that has already been struggling as a genre on the big screen to its big action movies and dramas counterparts - not to also mention that this film has industry changing implications for Asian representation in Hollywood and arts for that matter. That's HUGE and ''IT'S ABOUT TIME'' - a line that was used by Awkwafina who played the hilarious Peik Lin - and I couldn't agree more. I'm no movie critique but I did really enjoy this movie not because my Asian blood and culture was boiling with pride (well just a wee bit!) but because of the cultural relevance that I connected with immediately. Let me explain.
I am a CBC ie. Canadian Born Chinese. I am a banana ie. I am "yellow" - I look Chinese but my ideologies, my views, beliefs and opinions are "westernized" because I was born and raised in Edmonton. My parents especially my mom, made sure that my sisters and I learned and appreciated our culture and our families' histories. The Chinese culture is deeply rooted in tradition passed down for generations. Preserving respect for the tradition and family, unrelenting hard work, and putting the family first are what contributes to a lot of the success that we see in Asia. We have a saying called, "saving face" which is a core social value in Asian cultures which basically means to avoid humiliation and to retain respect, reputation and dignity for oneself. Parents are 100% invested in shaping their children's lives because they "know" the path that will create long lasting stability. As such, you may have heard of the "crazy" expectations that are imposed on Chinese kids, familiar expectations of being nothing less than a doctor, lawyer, accountant etc etc but never anything to do with the arts. Keeping the family's face often means making huge personal sacrifices on passion and dreams for the family's collective good.
All that I just discussed were on-point in the film during the passive aggressive exchanges between Michelle Yeoh's (Chinese-Malaysian pride!!) and Constance Wu's characters in the film, Eleanor Sung-Yung and Rachel Chu respectively. I 100% knew the cultural struggle that Rachel Chu was going through. My family is traditional but are actually quite open-minded. But this does not mean though that to this day my parents still make comments to remind us how things used to be in their days, how they never dared to challenge their parents' wishes and how "spoiled" we are. All parents want the best for their children and now that my sisters and I are essentially in our own professions and self-sufficient, my parents' worries should be gone and that was when I decided to chase the impossible in the Asian culture - my passion, my dreams, my music and myself. I would love to take this opportunity to gush over one of my best friends, bravest and most inspirational human being I will every meet because she is breaking cultural barriers and making a huge mark on so many people's lives with her love for life, words, language and love itself!
Meet Jasmine Mah - yes please get to know this name because she is onto something BIG! She is one of my best friends, pharmacy classmate, former pharmacist colleague and literally one of my biggest inspiration. Jasmine, like me is a CBC and was raised with the same Asian expectations that I was. But Jasmine always had this spark inside that made her not afraid to chase after her dream and because of that drive, Jasmine traveled the world, married her Italian Prince, moved to Italy, and is Italy Magazine's Best New Blog winner in 2016 AND Italy Magazine's Best Living in Italy Blog in 2017. I know the list of accomplishments and the many lives that she has and will touch will never stop growing. Jasmine was expected to become a doctor - imagine what kind of reprimands she had to go through. But nevertheless, Jasmine wears her pride of being Canadian and Chinese and in her own words this means "[she] loves dim sum as much as poutine". We were so excited about the movie "Crazy Rich Asians" because it challenges the "normal" and in my eyes, that is Jasmine. She challenges. She makes you question, why not? She inspires (she will always inspire me!). She rises. We are two Asian females who have "gone rogue" (not really) from the norms of the Asian traditions and are challenging even our own respective family's views. Jasmine and I have been talking about doing some sort of collaboration ever since we graduated X number of years (it's not really that long ago but I'm not going to reveal that number) and we finally were able to work with an amazingly talented local photographer, Tyler McIntyre Photography who I have been dying to work with for months.
I think that I can safely say for both Jasmine and I, that it is so great that a movie like "Crazy Rich Asians" have gotten so much success because it is the turning point for Asian representation in the arts, but more importantly, appreciation for Asian represenation. We hope to inspire other individuals of Asian decent, notably for me females, to chase after your dreams and passions. It will be scary (I know trust me!), it will be uncomfortable, it will be hard, it will mean tears and anger, it will mean working three times as hard, it will be frustrating and you will want to quit but it is worth it! I am proud to be a Chinese-Canadian. It is who I am and I hold a lot of the cultural traditions to heart. But I knew that if I didn't give myself the fair trying chance at music, that it will be my biggest regret. I don't only love music, but furthermore I know that it is my destined platform and avenue to touch and help more people. I know that in my current line of work as a pharmacist I've helped and have a positive affect on my patients but I am seeking to do much more through my music and words.
"[Not so] Crazy and [not so] rich Asians" - I entitled it as such because Jasmine and I are not THAT crazy (you may get a completely different answer from our families though) and we are not THAT crazy rich. We work hard to get to where we are today and I couldn't be more prouder and excited to see what is in store for Jasmine! We both went through a lot of hurdles and still going through them. My family is just starting to come around - I think and I hope to also inspire my own parents one day and make them proud.
Jasmine also shared a blog 2 weeks earlier about her take on the cultural significance that the movie had on her - please give her a follow (@questadolcevita) and if you dig the awesome photographs and wonder who is behind the camera lens, please hit up Tyler (@tylermcintyrephotography). I should also mention, Tyler made us look THIS GOOD when in reality it was a tornado and hurricane on the day of the shoot - he's that talented!
So who is ready to challenge and appreciate?