Drag Queen Soju Brings Attention To Ignorance Towards Asians In America

Drag Queen Soju Brings Attention To Ignorance Towards Asians In America

Soju's efforts are particularly significant to Asians in the LGBT+ community, who are not widely represented in American media.

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A recent episode of "RuPaul's Drag Race," which is currently in its eleventh season, opened up a conversation about the treatment of Asian Americans in the drag community. During the episode's "reading" challenge, in which contestants jokingly exchange insults, Silky Nutmeg Ganache "read" Vietnamese-American contestant Plastique Tiara by repeatedly shouting what she claimed was the word "hurry" in Japanese. After asking what the word meant, Plastique responded, "I'm not Japanese!" as the other contestants laughed. Fans took to social media to express disappointment in the ignorance of Silky's joke, causing other "Drag Race" contestants to weigh in on the situation.

Soju, a Korean-American drag queen who also competed on season eleven, tweeted, "I'm Korean and plastique is Vietnamese" following the episode. She later added, "This isn't about dragging @GanacheSilky this is about educating. All of us can learn." Soju emphasized that she does not believe Silky is racist, but her read was still racially insensitive.

Soju stated in another series of tweets, "If my friends and sisters don't take my heritage and race seriously, then the problem is on me for letting these 'jokes' go on for too long... I've never had a problem for enjoying and celebrating Asian culture. But statements and jokes to degrade us is just not cool." In response to a reply on her tweet, she also added, "this is and always will be educating society about the reality of how Asians are not being taken seriously in America."

Fans praised Soju for bringing attention to and addressing the issue. Many Asian fans, in particular, were able to share their own experiences in their response to Soju. Jokes like the one made by Silky have always existed in the experience of Asian Americans. While the joke itself may not appear too harmful on the surface, it reflects the general perception of Asians in America. Asians are ignorantly treated as a monolith rather than as a diverse group with diverse backgrounds, and Asian culture is often presented as an amalgamation of cultures (mainly East Asian) as well.

Soju's efforts are particularly significant to Asians in the LGBT+ community, who are not widely represented in American media. Both her and Plastique Tiara's appearance on "RuPaul's Drag Race" have given positive representation to LGBT+ Asian-Americans, and it is especially encouraging to see her using her platform in the community to help educate others.

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The Risky 'Stranger Things' Casting Mistake That Needs Fixing

Not only am I disappointed by such a great show's dangerous decision, I'm upset by the fact that no one has corrected it.

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Like many, "Stranger Things" is one of my favorite shows. But after extensive research, I feel like it's my moral responsibility to refrain from watching the upcoming third season of a show that encourages fans to starve themselves.

This article uses potentially triggering language related to eating disorders.

Natalia Dyer is an actress best known for her role as Nancy Wheeler in Netflix's original show, "Stranger Things." Despite its enthralling plot, the first time I watched it, I found myself distracted by her unusually thin frame. While I know many naturally skinny women and actresses, I've never seen someone whose skeleton was so prominent.

Flickr- Natalia Dyer (left)

Anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa are two serious eating and emotional disorders characterized by loss of appetite, refusal to eat, excessive exercise, body dysmorphia, and (specific to bulimia) compulsive binge eating followed by purging.

While I didn't find any direct quotes from Natalia about suffering from an eating disorder, I did stumble upon pictures of her from the 2009 premiere of "Hannah Montana: The Movie" and was shocked at how drastically different she looks today.

Youtube- "Hannah Montana: The Movie" Premiere

In 2014, Natalia starred in "I believe in Unicorns," where promotional pictures also illustrate how much she's changed. For those who believe she's "naturally thin," these past films, as well as pictures from her childhood prove that she wasn't always this skinny.

Youtube- "I Believe in Unicorns" 2014

When I first researched Natalia, I found forums in which people who have battled with eating disorders discuss the physical signs of anorexia and bulimia that Natalia exhibits. The most obvious being her frame, visible bones underneath thin skin, sunken-in eyes, "hollow" face, as well as more subtle signs, like scabs on her knuckles (called Russell's sign), white or blue fingernails, and lines around the mouth that seem to age her face.

I am fortunate enough to have never suffered from an eating disorder, so I did a lot of research to keep from jumping to conclusions about Natalia's health. What I've found is that symptoms of eating disorders closely mimic those of gastrointestinal diseases, such as Celiac and Crohn's disease. In this sense, it's possible that those who criticize her for disordered eating are evaluating the body of someone with a dysfunctional digestive system (though the aforementioned physical signs pointed out by people who have had anorexia convince me that this likely isn't the case).

Youtube- Natalia Dyer 2017

While there's little factual information about if Natalia has an eating disorder, there is much speculation that she does, both from those who have overcome such disorders, and those still struggling.

During my search for information, I found several "pro-ana" websites—a contraction of "pro-anorexia," used to admire eating disorders in a positive light—idolizing Natalia's weight loss and expressing jealousy of her outrageously thin frame. In one particular forum, people describe her in "Hannah Montana: The Movie" as "on her way to chunky town," and "mad chunky" in "I Believe in Unicorns." Even going a step further by stating that Natalia's "Stranger Things" co-star Shannon Purser "needs to take pointers from [Natalia]."

Flickr- Shannon Purser

Finding this forum made my blood boil. Not because of the responsibilities of its participants (that's an article for another day), but because of the irresponsibility the casting director—Carmen Cuba—and creators of "Stranger Things" have exhibited in casting a potentially anorexic actress, and Netflix's lack of opposition to this choice.

As a rule of corporate management, businesses have what's called "corporate social responsibility" (CSR) which is defined as "the idea that businesses should balance profit-making activities with activities that benefit society. It involves developing businesses with a positive relationship to the society in which they operate."

From my point of view, Cuba's casting choice for the character Nancy violated the sense of CSR that such a popular show should have, given that she's provided fans who struggle with body dysmorphia a potentially dangerous source of "thinspiration."

Youtube- Natalia Dyer at ages 17 (left) and 20 (right)

There are many different solutions to this problem, but without knowing Natalia's exact situation, it could be thoughtless and damaging to bombard her with messages about gaining weight, meaning the issue of casting an actress who inadvertently (I cannot stress the word "inadvertently" enough) inspires young fans to starve themselves lies solely in the hands of the show's creators.

There are still many facets of this issue I have yet to discuss, but until then, if you believe that you, a friend, or a relative have an eating disorder, contact an eating disorder hotline now.

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Dear Beautiful Black Girl, Never Forget Your Worth

An ode to all the beautiful black girls.

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We live in a society where societal standards greatly define the way we view ourselves. Although in 2019 these standards are not clear cut, some things are not easy to change. Not to play the race card, but this is true for women of color, especially black girls.

As much as I'd like to address this to all women, I want to hit on something that I'm more familiar with: being a black girl. Black females have a whole package to deal with when it comes to beauty standards. The past suppression and oppression our ancestors went through years ago can still be felt in our views of beauty. It is rare to see young black girls be taught that their afros and nappy hair are beautiful. Instead, we are put under flat irons and dangerous chemicals that change our hair texture as soon as our hair becomes too "complicated" to deal with. The girls with darker skin are not praised, but rather lowered in comparison to their peers with fairer skin. A lot of the conditioning happens at a young age — at the age of 8, already you can feel like you're in the wrong skin.

As we grow up, there are more expectations that come here and there, a lot of very stereotypical and diminishing. "You're a black girl, you should know how to dance," "black girls don't have flat butts," "black girls know how to cook," "you must have an attitude since you're black" — I'm sure you get the idea. Let me say this: "black girls," as they all like to say, are not manufactured with presets. Stop looking for the same things in all of us. Black girls come in all sizes, shapes, colors, and talents. I understand that a lot of these come from cultural backgrounds, but you cannot bash a black girl because she does not fit the "ideal" description.

And there is more.

The guys that say, "I don't do black girls, they too ratchet/they got an attitude" — excuse me? Have you been with/spoken to all the black girls on this planet? Is this a category that you throw all ill-mouthed girls? Why such prejudice, especially coming from black men? Or they will chant that they interact with girls that are light-skinned, that is their conditioned self-speaking. The fact that these men have dark-skinned sisters and mothers and yet don't want to associate with girls that look the same confuses me. And who even asked you? There are 100 other ethnicities and races in the world, and we are the one you decide to spit on? Did we do something to you?

Black girls already have society looking at them sideways. First, for being a woman, and second, for being black, and black males add to this by rejecting and disrespecting us.

But we still we rise above it all.

Black girls of our generation are starting to realize the power that we hold, especially as we work hand in hand. Women like Oprah Winfrey, Lupita Nyong'o, Chinua Achebe, Michelle Obama — the list is too long — are changing the narrative of the "black girl" the world knows. The angry black woman has been replaced with the beautiful, educated, and successful melanin-filled woman.

Girls, embrace your hair, body, and skin tone, and don't let boys or society dictate what is acceptable or beautiful. The black girl magic is real, and it's coming at them strong.

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