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LIFESTYLE 3 weeks ago

On Growing Up Asian American

May is officially Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage month so what better time than now to talk about the Asian American traditions the Chen household has been honoring and keeping alive!

I feel extremely fortunate to have been raised by such open parents. My parents were not super strict with me or my sister Jane. Growing up, we were never forced to follow a certain career path or trajectory. Umma and Appa Lim really believed that the world was our oyster and there was nothing to confine us.

Now that I have my own family of four, Allen and I have been talking about what Taiwanese, Korean and American traditions we want to pass down to Chloe and Collette now and for generations to come.

Certain things we honor and celebrate are the 100th Day Celebrations aka Baek-il. (Check out Chloe’s here and Colette’s here!) The 100th day celebration is a significant milestone in Korean culture as it was common for babies to not make it that long due to poor living conditions. It also marks a celebration for the parents as the first 100 days are generally the most difficult (and this rings very true).

Another tradition we want to uphold in the family is being able to be multilingual. At home, we practice speaking English, Korean and Mandarin. Chloe is pretty much fluent in English, Korean, Mandarin, and starting to speak Spanish which is more languages than Allen and I both speak! We both wanted to make sure that she felt open and worldly and was not tied to one culture more than the other. We love that she’s aware that she comes from many different ethnicities and to be open to those don’t look or sound like her. We can’t wait for Colette to follow suit once she starts talking.

above photos via Umma Lim 

Another big thing that holds so much tradition and culture in our hearts is… food! It’s important for our family to be open to food culture and to not be afraid to try new things. Growing up, I was always aware of “stinky foods” from my peers and remember feeling a little embarrassed by it and I don’t think that’s okay.

For birthdays, we always make sure to have Miyeok Gook (미역국) – a traditional Korean seaweed soup that is rich in minerals and potassium which symbolizes another year of health and prosperity.

Cultural songs are also traditions we plan on keeping and passing down. Chloe’s Grandpa Yeye (who’s Chinese) always picks Chloe up from school and they sing traditional Mandarin songs on their way back home or on their way to get ice cream. Allen and I find this so special and endearing as it holds on to so much meaning for both Yeye and Chloe. For Yeye, he gets to sing a song that he grew up with that means so much to him and his family and gets to pass that on to his granddaughter Chloe. For Chloe, she loves singing along with Yeye and they form this special bond together through these singalongs.

above photos via Yeye‘s instagram 

So, in honor of this very special month, I wanted to highlight a few Asian American Bosses that are blazing their own paths!

  • Chloe Kim – I’ve talked about her so much and love her relationship with her and her Dad! She became the youngest woman to win an Olympic snowboarding medal when she won gold at 17 years old.
  • Nora Lum aka Awkwafina– Aside from the obvious fact that she’s one of the funniest people ever, I loved her character in Crazy Rich Asians and that she’s making her mark as a top Asian American Actress! Back in the day, we didn’t have that many Asian American Actresses to look up to so I’m glad to see that shift is changing (slowly, but surely).
  • Sandra Oh – A great actress nonetheless but she was also the first Asian American woman to host the Golden Globe Awards! No easy feat!
  • Jen Rubio – co-founder of Away – revolutionized the way we travel
  • Dr. Leanna Wen – the New President of Planned Parenthood and the first physician in nearly 50 years to lead the organization. She is an immigrant, a practicing ER doctor, a public health leader and an advocate for reproductive health and rights.
  • Raissa Gerona and Michael Mente of Revolve  Together they disrupted the way consumers shop and changed the influencer game to build a fashion company valued over 1 billion dollars.
  • Jon M. Chu  Asian American filmmaker who directed Crazy Rich Asians – a huge moment for the community as it grossed over $238 million worldwide, making it the highest-grossing romantic comedy in the decade. We have rarely ever seen a full Asian American cast in the west.
  • Carol Lim and Humberto Leon – Founders of Opening Ceremony – one of the best places to shop!

Heres to everyone (including Asian Americans) thriving in the media and within their communities! Are there any Asian American role models you look up to and any other Asian American traditions you continue to practice that have deep-rooted meaning for you? Let me know in the comments below!

P.S  ICYMI –  Beauty and Fashion Editor Sara Tan of Bustle wrote this story on me last year about growing up in California and Korea and how that helped me embrace my Korean and American roots and I asked the team what topic they thought would resonate the most with our readers this year for Asian American Heritage Month!

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