Nonprofit organization Leading Asian Americans to Unite for Change (LAAUNCH) commissioned a survey to “assess public attitudes toward Asian Americans, the fastest-growing racial group in the U.S.”
A striking conclusion from the survey is that 42% of Americans were not able to name a famous Asian American. Polling almost 3,000 American adults across the country, this result proved to be similar even across racial groups (i.e. black, white and Latino Americans). After the popular answer of “don’t know”, other respondents named martial arts hall of famers. 11% named Jackie Chan, who actually reigns from Hong Kong, while 9% named Bruce Lee, who died over forty years.
In an interview with NBC Asian American, Norman Chen, co-founder, and chief executive of LAAUNCH, states that “This just shows that even when we’re in the news, people are not really soaking in the presence of Asian Americans in our country.”
Five months into 2021, Asians, specifically Asian Americans, have already been making big splashes in the public eye. Despite their fleeting image within some American’s memories, this does not make their accomplishments any less noteworthy.
Here a list of some Asian Americans who have had a good first half of 2021 so far (and who you should probably remember the next time you’re asked to name a famous Asian American).
Honestly, it is shocking that 42% of people in the U.S. did not think about their own current Vice President. Kamala Harris, has made history this year as being the first female, African and Asian American Vice President in U.S. history.
Steven Yeun is a South Korean-born American actor, most commonly known for his role as Glenn Rhee in the series The Walking Dead.
This year, Steven Yeun made history by being the first Asian American actor to be nominated in the Oscars for Best Actor, thanks to his performance as Jacob in Minari. Alongside Riz Ahmed (a British-Pakistani actor), it was the first time that two actors of Asian lineage were nominated for Best actor in the 93 years of the Academy Awards.
Continuing with Asian Americans making Oscar history, Filipino-American musician H.E.R. (Having Everything Revealed) was the second Filipino to ever win the Oscar for Best Original Song (after Robert Lopez’s wins in 2013 and 2017). Debuting in 2016, with her EP, H.E.R. Volume 1, the artist snagged the Academy Award and represented all Filipino-Americans thanks to her song Fight For You from the film Judas and the Black Messiah.
Raya and the Last Dragon
Okay this one may seem a bit off but hear me out. Raya and the Last Dragon was released last March 3, 2021 as the first ever Disney Southeast Asian Princess. The film was star studded with Asian celebrities who lent their voices to give life to these characters.
Starting with Raya herself, voiced by Kelly Marie Tran, a Vietnamese American actress. Tran may best be known for her role as Rose Tico in the subsequent Star Wars films The Last Jedi and The Rise of Skywalker.
Starring beside her in Raya and the Last Dragon is comedy queen Awkwafina, whose mother hails from South Korea and father is Chinese American. Awkwafina has made a name for herself as a comedian, internet personality, rapper, author, television host and both a comedic and dramatic actor through her performances in movies such as Crazy Rich Asians, Oceans 8 and in The Farewell.
Voicing Raya’s dad, Chief Benja, is South Korean-born American actor Daniel Dae Kim. Actor and producer Kim may best be known for his roles as Jin-Soo Kwon in Lost and Chin Ho Kelly in Hawaii Five-0. Sandra Oh, a Canadian American actress whose parents immigrated from South Korea, also lends her iconic voice to the film by voicing Virana. She is best known for her roles as Cristina Yang in Grey’s Anatomy, Vice Principal Gupta in The Princess Diaries and most recently as Eve Polastri in the hit series Killing Eve.
Mia P. Manansala
Filipino American author, Mia P. Manansala, makes her debut this year with her novel Arsenic and Adobo, the first installment of her upcoming culinary mystery series. Voted as one of BuzzFeed’s Highly Anticipated Mystery Novels of 2021, Arsenic and Adobo chronicles the story of Lila Macapagal who moves back to her hometown after a terrible breakup, join her as her post-breakup scenario turns from a plucky rom-com breakup montage to a story worthy of mystery writers Agatha Christie or Arthur Conan Doyle.
Now, hopefully the next time someone asks you to name an Asian American on the spot, it won’t be too difficult for you to find an answer.