Beautifully Complex:
Representation in Asian America

 

Photo credit – Edvun Kun

 

For Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage Month, L’Oréal invited ADMERASIA for a discussion panel on beauty. There, our Vice President of Strategic Planning, Selina Guo, and Cultural Content Director, XiaoHwa Ng, presented the complexity of visual representation within the Asian American community. Here’s what they had to say:

 

When Simu Liu posted on Weibo, a popular Chinese social media site, about the groundbreaking film Shang-Chi and the Ten Rings, “This whole movie is about celebrating Chinese culture,” many Asian Americans agreed. However, Chinese netizens responded with backlash as they felt that this comment was unnecessary and alienating towards Chinese who were a majority in their own country. Despite sharing the same identity, the experiences of the majority and minority do not share the same narratives.

Simu Liu’s Weibo post promoting Shang-Chi “This whole movie is about celebrating Chinese culture.”

UNIQUELY ASIAN AMERICAN

This dichotomy between these two populations can be seen through how we define and practice cultural pride. In Asia, cultural pride is celebrated at times of economic, political, and social progress – something they can hold up as an achievement to the rest of the world. While in the U.S., cultural pride is maintained by traditions, preserving and sharing our languages, our food, and our stories.

Asian Americans are an incredibly diverse group, made up of many different ethnicities, narratives, and experiences. 51% of Asian American millennials are U.S. born, 17% are either biracial or multiracial, and 39% of newlywed Asian Americans marry someone outside their race.

Even within the same ethnicity and generation, you will still see nuances based on when you arrived in the U.S. or if you were born here. 1st Gen usually reflects the mindset of Asia, maintaining close ties with family, speaking English as a second language, and consuming the same media from abroad. Americans born in the U.S. usually default to English, are 2nd gen with immigrant parents, or 3rd or 4th gen with no close relatives abroad.

IDENTITY&CULTURAL HERITAGE

Digging deep into our roots and often holding on to traditions, especially moments of joy that may be shared with our loved ones, is what it means to be Asian American. But it’s not simply about keeping traditions stagnant. “Not vintage values, but vintage style.” Maintain your traditions while making them your own. Asian Americans are in constant metamorphosis, and they demand to be seen and heard.

UNDERREPRESENTATION&MISREPRESENTATION

Hollywood, where 35% of media representations of Asian Americans portray at least one stereotype, Asian Americans make up less than 6% of speaking roles and only 3.4% of films have an AAPI lead or co-lead. When it comes to Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders, the situation is considerably worse. 39% of the 1,300 popular Hollywood films had no AAPI characters at all but this number jumped to 94.2% when looking at Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander characters only.

 

And if you belong to a marginalized community, or find yourself a minority in your minority, the chances of seeing yourself only shrink further. Less than 1% of visuals depict transgender, non-binary or gender fluid Asian Americans. Less than 1% feature women with “larger” bodies. Less than 2% feature those with disabilities. 

Usually what we see is slim, light-skin, delicate bodies that are either exoticized as the cold Dragon Lady, the silent femme fatale, or the timid princess stereotypes. People don’t feel reflected in these images, especially Asians themselves.

BEAUTIFULLY COMPLEX

When it comes to luxury brands such as makeup and beauty industries, the dichotomy between Asian and Asian American beauty standards manifests differently. Asian Immigrants, especially from East Asian countries, prefer natural-looking makeup while American-born Asians prefer fuller makeup that enhances facial features e.g., more defined contour, eyebrows, eyeliners, etc.​

Beauty standards vary between different ethnicities and cultural backgrounds, with no unifying view on the ideal skin tone, facial feature, or perceptions of cosmetic surgery. ​While East Asians tend to criticize the existing Asian portrayals in media as being stereotypical, South Asians, Southeast Asians, and biracial Asians tend to be less critical on this subject. ​In their minds, underrepresentation is a bigger problem than misrepresentation.

So how should brands answer this call to show more diversity and authenticity when it comes to visual representation? What our research shows that in these shared definitions of beauty, people value the following: authenticity, confidence, and body diversity.

 

Thankfully, for brands, strides have already been made. LIVE TINTED is a makeup brand founded by Asian-Indian American Deepica Mutyala for “every shade in-between” and focuses on underrepresented people in beauty. There’s also NEIWAI​, an Asian lingerie & loungewear brand advocating for body positivity and the mental comfort of self-love and self-expression. Hennesy X.O created an original docu-series that tells the diverse experiences of Asian American luminaries, and how food and beverage are a medium for passing along cultural heritage with families.​

So what should we be doing to properly represent our community? Recognizing Asian Americans as a highly diverse group and reflecting it in Asian American portrayals in communications. Tell authentic, relatable, and inspiring Asian American stories.​ Respect and celebrate their diverse beauty perspectives.​ Very importantly, bring the awareness into action, even if just a small step forward.

 

Selina Guo
Vice President of Strategic Planner&
ADMERASIA
selinag@admerasia.com
XiaoHwa Ng
Director of Cultural Content&
ADMERASIA
xiaohwan@admerasia.com
Racism Is Contagious by ADMERASIA – a platform that provides consolidated, impactful tools to combat the spread of hate crimes against the Asian American community. Visit https://racismiscontagious.com/ to learn more. ADMERASIA’s winning spot, INVISIBLE, shows why it is time to tell better stories about Asian Americans. Take the pledge. Visit https://threeinfive.com/ to know more.

ADMERASIA & Getty Images & Asian American Visual Storytelling

 

This Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage Month, we are proud to announce that ADMERASIA has collaborated with Getty Images, a preeminent global visual content creator and marketplace, to release image galleries and guidelines aimed to educate and empower brands on their journeys to genuinely visualize the Asian American community.  

Why Addressing Misrepresentation and Underrepresentation Matters  

Asian Americans are the fastest-growing demographic in the U.S., with 22 million people crafting the story of America. Yet, this population continues to be underrepresented and misrepresented in visual media. Many ethnicities inside the Asian American demographic find themselves underrepresented. For instance, though the Filipinx population comprises 19% of Asian Americans, it is only represented in 2% of most popular visuals featuring Asian people. Visuals in media and advertising campaigns often reflect stereotypes and reinforce the “model-minority” myth.  

 

Less than 2% of Asian Americans are seen doing outdoor activities. Instead they are seen usually studying, which perpetuates the model minority myth.

 

The Cost of These Disparities and Discrepancies is High.  

Trust and loyalty in these markets have remained elusive. According to a Morning Consult survey, “Roughly 3 in 5 (62%) Asian Americans said they ‘rarely’ or ‘never’ see people who look like they do in advertising materials.” That perspective is higher than Hispanic Americans (41%) and Black Americans (32%). 

The ongoing crisis of hate crimes and violent attacks targeting Asian Americans, fueled by anti-Asian sentiment, has added urgency to addressing this issue. Stop AAPI Hate, an organization that tracks hate incidents targeting Asian American Pacific Islander populations since the beginning of the pandemic, has recorded an upward trend in incident reports, with 4,632 in 2020 and 6,273 in 2021. 

 

Only 4% of visuals show Asian Americans doing creative hobbies.

 

ADMERASIA Steps Forward. 

ADMERASIA recognizes that much of this anti-Asian sentiment is embedded in the media and advertising industry’s portrayal of Asian Americans. As two entities that strive to create lasting connections between brands and consumers, this collaboration with Getty Images works to inspire brands, agencies, and creatives to make inclusive visual choices by fueling selection of imagery which is all at once powerful, reflective, and authentic in its depictions of the entire Asian American spectrum—a demographic segment comprised of 20+ ethnicities, each with their own nuanced experiences, perspectives, behaviors, and aspirations. 

“Brands and agencies often lack guidance and education on visuals that are genuine to the communities they are aiming to portray, which negatively impacts the way in which Asian Americans are represented. Oftentimes, they do not know where to begin or what tools are available to them. We joined this collaboration to fill this void. These guidelines are a starting point for discussion, to educate and explore respectful and authentic storytelling that speaks to the truth of Asian America. ADMERASIA has decades of experience working to build these connections and further these relationships because it comes from our own deep-rooted identity.” — XiaoHwa Sydney Ng, Cultural Content Director 

 

Less than 11% visual spotlight Asian Americans seniors.

 

The Collaboration is Live!  

Getty Images has curated four image galleries and downloadable visual guidelines. 

The visual guidelines created in this collaboration will include current data reflecting the Asian American visual landscape, its juxtaposition against the reality of who Asian Americans are, and recommendations on how to build better visual inclusivity. 

Pioneering the Future by Capturing the Past 

This is just the first step in our relationship with Getty Images. Our future goal is to inspire Asian American photographers and capture Asian America through their lens. Imagine — our history recorded in real-time. 

For more information, please visit https://custom.gettyimages.com/asianamericans/p/1 or contact Selina Guo, Vice President of Strategy, ADMERASIA. 

 

Selina Guo
Director of Strategy&
ADMERASIA
selinag@admerasia.com
Racism Is Contagious by ADMERASIA – a platform that provides consolidated, impactful tools to combat the spread of hate crimes against the Asian American community. Visit https://racismiscontagious.com/ to learn more.
ADMERASIA’s winning spot, INVISIBLE, shows why it is time to tell better stories about Asian Americans. Take the pledge. Visit www.threeinfive.com to know more.

 

HOW TO: Create a Photoshoot

A successful photoshoot requires a lot of coordination, communication, and a clear vision with your team and subjects. Running your own photoshoot can be intimidating, even for an experienced photographer. While having some technical knowledge or experience in assisting photoshoots is always a plus, it’s never impossible, even for a novice, so long as you plan properly!

Our amazing Creative & Experiential Coordinator, Isabel Ng, shares her process as the lead photographer of our Women History Month campaign. Our photoshoot featured 10 models and took around three weeks to brainstorm, coordinate, shoot, and edit.

Step 1: Prep and Research

Before any actions are taken, it’s best to have a vision in mind.

Research
Talk to your client. Find out what the subject matter is and what kind of message they are aiming to portray through these images. What’s on the initial shot list? What are your must-haves vs nice-to-haves? You can always build on this once you get a better sense of the vision.

Things to ask: Budget? On-location or in-studio? What kind of environment will you be shooting in? What equipment is available, if not your own? Shot list?

Moodboards
Moodboards create visual references of poses and expressions for your models, narrow down props, locations, and set designs–building the aesthetic and tonal framework for you to share with your crew and subjects.

Step 2: Set Up

It’s time to start gathering your tools and set up your space! While we used very minimal props for this shoot, it is always good to have a set designer if you want to create an environment that compliments your vision.

Equipment
You don’t always need a fancy camera – you can shoot with anything, even your phone! While gear quality is important, lighting, composition, and subject theme are the core elements to focus on.

What we used:

  • • Canon DLSR EOS 7D
  • • Softbox Lighting
  • • LED portable light
  • • Black Backdrop w/ Backdrop Stand
  • • Adjustable Studio Lamp
  • • Bounce Card
  • • Table and Stool
  • • Extension cords
  • • Gaffer tape, clips, clamps (etc.)

Nice-to-haves:

  • • Makeup & Hair Stylist
  • • Costume/Fashion Stylist
  • • Set Designer/Prop Stylist
  • • Production Assistant
  • • Light meter
  • • Sandbags

Isabel’s Tip: It’s important to note you should try to select gear according to what you’re shooting and what your ideal look/aesthetic (ie. 35mm/50mm lenses are standard for portraits but you can also shoot with ultra-wide angles for big sweeping shots). You can go minimal or maximal, but either way, adding artistic flair and making do with what you have can be a really fun and fulfilling challenge.

Step 3: Lighting

Perhaps the most important step before shooting is lighting. Lighting can create the tone of your project and usually needs to be adjusted based on the set, pose, and angles. We used 2–3 sources of light and a bounce card (white paper/board). While all the final shots looked very similar and consistent, we needed to readjust the lighting’s contrast and placement for almost every shot.

  • • Softbox lighting is ideal for portraits. Have at least 2–3 for even lighting but you can get away with just one if you don’t mind a more dramatic look.
  • • Natural lighting is a great option, but since you’re chasing the light, it’s best to plan your schedule around the way a room is lit by the sun throughout the day. South-east facing windows will usually get the most direct daylight from sunrise to sunset.
  • • Try a diffuser in case your lighting is too harsh/strong.
  • • Use a bounce card or reflector to help bounce lighting into shadows to open them up.
  • • Sandbags or weights to keep light stands steady and avoid accidents.

Step 4: Camera Settings

You’re almost ready, everything is set, your lights are adjusted, but what about your camera? Setting up your camera depends on your set, lighting, and theme, and may change with each pose or model.

Photo Cred/ @legacy_creative_photograpjy

  • • Light Meter (for the shadows so you don’t end up with extremely dark areas, but balance is key so you don’t blow out your highlights either) depending on the lighting. To do this, you would go into your camera settings to set your shutter speed, aperture, and ISO.
    • • Try not to bump up the ISO too much if it’s not necessary. The higher the ISO, the noisier or “grainy” the image will be.
  • • Shooting in RAW will allow you more leeway when editing in post. Remember: Bigger file → more pixels → easier to fix while editing!

Isabel’s Tip: Low light settings can be restricting depending on your camera & lens specs. Despite how high you may bump your ISO or adjust your aperture, sometimes you’re still forced to set your shutter speed to be a lot slower than you’d like. Tripods are a good tool to keep your camera steady if your body isn’t.

Step 5: Shooting

With everything finally ready, it’s time for the shoot. Here, communication is key. Working with models who are used to being in front of the camera and knowing their angles is always ideal but not required (or always possible). Have a conversation with your subject, and try to get to know them as a person so they’re comfortable. Ask them to sit on a stool or box, lean against a table, or suggest putting their weight on one leg if they’re initially too stiff. Always compliment and crack jokes to loosen them up. Play music throughout the shoot. If they favor certain sides or angles, capture those but don’t be afraid to ask them to change their position and give direction. Make sure to keep track of time and take breaks when needed as photoshoots can be tiring!

Isabel’s Tip: Always have SD cards with plenty of storage. However, if you’re really running low on space, JPEGs will not hurt you for digital use (it will if you’re trying to print to billboard size though…).

Step 6: Editing

Perhaps the most time-consuming part of a photoshoot is editing. Pick out your favorite shots from the shoot beforehand and use your software of choice. For Isabel, she used Adobe Lightroom and Photoshop.

  • • Lightroom is best for basic and batch post-processing, including color, contrast, exposure, and cropping.
  • • Photoshop is best for detailed post-processing, including blemish removal, fine-tuned adjustments, and complex artistic edits.

Isabel’s Tip: I primarily will use Lightroom to pick my selects and color correct them in bulk. This is usually enough for event coverage and when I don’t need to make major modifications to an image. If I need more detailed retouching, especially for portraits and products. I’ll then export and upload them into Photoshop for fine-tuning or more artistic editing.

 

Conclusion

The International Center of Photography has amazing photography courses and workshops online or in-person in New York City. Isabel highly recommends visiting the museum and enrolling in their programs to learn more about the history, techniques, portfolio building, and conceptual thinking behind photography.

Anyone can learn photography basics and technical skills, but training your eye to create a strong and unique image is what really makes a photographer stand out. Get inspired with reputable photographers’ work, collaborate and learn with friends, and consume other art styles and cultures to broaden your mind with different ideas, concepts, and inspiration.

Check out Isabel Ng’s work here: http://www.isabelng.com/

Sasha Braverman
Social Media Coordinator&
ADMERASIA
sashab@admerasia.com
Racism Is Contagious by ADMERASIA – a platform that provides consolidated, impactful tools to combat the spread of hate crimes against the Asian American community. Visit https://racismiscontagious.com/ to learn more.
ADMERASIA’s winning spot, INVISIBLE, shows why it is time to tell better stories about Asian Americans. Take the pledge. Visit www.threeinfive.com to know more.

 

International Women’s Month:
The Women of ADMERASIA

At ADMERASIA, we describe ourselves as pioneers in our industry. We are an agency that takes pride in our roots while also embracing our out-of-the-box thinking. We’re also family — a tight unit that, even when under pressure, can tackle any issue head-on. It has been a difficult time for our community, especially for our Asian sisters. There’s been a state of fear and vulnerability below the surface of our daily lives. We deserve better. We wanted to show the world what Asian women are made of — resiliency, love, power, intelligence, and strength. This Women’s History Month, we are showcasing our remarkable women staff members and celebrating their identities, unapologetically unique and driven in their passions. Take a look:

 

 

Becky Orbe

Media Specialist

Optimistic&
Ambitious&
Storyteller.
“A Hamilton song goes, ‘I am the one thing in life I can control.’ I’ve come to learn about the beautiful meaning behind that, which is accepting that how people treat us or react to what we do to them is beyond our control, and that’s okay. But we do have a say on the words we tell people, we can control how we treat people, and that’s what we can focus on.”
 
Never seen without a smile, Becky is a reliable mood-lifter whenever she enters a room. Her unshakable positive outlook is infectious to everyone around her. Her unfaltering optimism is a source of pride for Becky, earned through constant discipline, patience, and faith. As a natural storyteller, Becky likes to make video montages and write poetry and songs in her spare time to let her creative juices flow.
 

Agnes Luo

Business Director

Sociable&
Tactful&
Spontaneous.
“Don’t sweat the small stuff and be spontaneous! I believe doing what’s right and fair goes a long way in how we treat others and how we want to be treated.”
 
Agnes’s confidence and formidable knowledge of advertising bring an invaluable insight to our team. Anything is possible for our Business Director! With Agnes’s analytical mind and genuine eagerness to problem-solve, she welcomes any challenge that comes her way.

 

 

Vivian Lau-Guerriero

Vice President & Production Director

Perseverance&
Patience&
Optimism.
“Be genuine in all you do and must laugh once a day.”
 
Vivian always remains clear-headed and unfazed by any challenge, unafraid to voice her thoughts wherever needed. Sharp, witty, and relentlessly hardworking, Vivian is the glue of our team. Vivian’s natural charisma and her drive to see things through makes her a force to be reckoned with. Despite her accomplishments and seasoned insights, Vivian remains grounded and always has our back.
 

XiaoHwa Ng

Cultural Content Director

Patient&
Passionate&
Nerdy.
“What would you say to your younger self?” “I’d say, ‘Listen, kid. This sh*t isn’t going to get easier. But you’re not going to look back and think it wasn’t worth it. What you’re going to regret is all the times you didn’t try. So, chin up and move forward!’”
 
A storyteller, XiaoHwa is dedicated to sharing others’ perspectives and ideas, as well as building and maintaining those connections. This makes her an irreplaceable member of our team. XiaoHwa’s talent for writing breathes life into any project she touches, as her kindness and genuine passion to share other’s stories always earns their trust.

 

 

Monica Wang

Senior Account Executive

“Always look at the bright side. Sounds cliché, but I benefited a lot from it. It helped me stay positive and grateful. A good mood makes doing and enjoying things easier.”
 
Monica is someone who can’t be categorized in a few words, striving to be free from labels, multifaceted, and open to every possibility. Monica’s honest and warm character makes her a delight to work with, as her natural ability to remain clearheaded and calm dispels any doubts in the room. Outside the office, Monica has been working on waking up at 7 AM to work out and trying out new dishes.
 

ZhiYuan “Yuan” Xie

Graphic Designer

Flexible&
Optimistic&
Courageous.
“When I work on my own projects, I like incorporating my cultural background in my designs because that reflects who I am, that’s part of my identity. As an Asian residing in a foreign country, I need to remember my roots.”
 
Yuan welcomes new perspectives and looks for the silver lining in every situation, always finding the courage to be herself. She’s built an impressive Hanfu collection and occasionally adorns them at cultural events, hoping to show the world the beauty of authentic traditional Chinese dress.

 

 

Rachel Cai

Junior Media Planner

Multidisciplinary&
Observer&
Detailed.
“From the perspective of semiotics, once the public is used to using a popular term, that word will lose its original meaning. Life and communication have a similar logic. If we measure our life by some standardized metric rather than perceive and think about our feelings carefully, we will also lose the ability to express our true selves. Therefore, I will pay attention to every detail in my life and work because it is these details that make up all our memories.”
 
Kind, mindful, and sharp, not a single detail goes unappreciated by Rachel with her thoughtful nature and penchant for words. Rachel believes that taking time to observe your environment brings a lot of reflection and clarity within yourself and others. Outside of work, Rachel writes novels and produces short movies by herself, which she then shares online with her followers.
 

Shao-Jo “Shao” Lin

Art Director

Fun&
Trustworthy&
Adventurous.
“I love my work — I’m proud of all the works that I’ve done. I’m passionate about designing because I think it’s a way to showcase and share the values that I have with the world.”
 
Finding excitement in every challenge, Shao comes paired with her keen eyes. Our Art Director does not shy away from making bold moves in her work. Her fun-loving and light-hearted nature makes her a joy to work with on any project. For Shao, only the sky is the limit.

 

 

Isabel Ng

Creative & Experiential Coordinator

Curious&
Empathetic&
Innovative.
“I’m passionate about connecting people and creating meaningful experiences. Whether that’s by telling compelling stories through my photography or the brand activations I work on, I try to keep these values at the forefront of everything I do and my interactions with others.”
 
Isabel’s dedication to authenticity and creative thinking is highlighted by the integrity and perspectives that shine through her work and character. She believes that intentionality and mindful representation can make a direct, positive impact both individually and collectively, which is why inclusivity cannot be performative. To see more work by our talented photographer behind this project, check out her portfolio at www.isabelng.com.
 

Sasha Braverman

Social Media Coordinator

Eccentric&
Outgoing&
Witty.
“As long as you make choices with yourself best in mind, everything you deserve will come. If you are open to it. Sometimes life can be that simple!”
 
Sasha’s drive for inclusivity within her community, as well as her affinity towards the creative field, is what helped bring this project together. Sasha also freelances as a designer and photographer, and is the co-founder of POP Komika. Check out her work at sashabraverman.com.

 

As we are reaching the end of Women’s History Month, we reflect on how much we value these amazing team members. We hope you appreciated learning about their passions, goals, and insights. Happy Women’s History Month from us at ADMERASIA!