This past weekend, Padma Lakshmi shared a screenshot of an Instagram post made by The New Yorker, in which the magazine had confused her with actress Priyanka Chopra. The post, which has now been deleted, was an image of Lakshmi that was mistakenly tagged with Chopra's Instagram handle instead. Lakshmi took to social media to call out the magazine, stating, "I know to some we all look alike."
This incident is nothing new, especially to the Asian-American community. Asian Americans have had to deal with others being unable to tell them apart from other Asians or hearing people say outright that all Asians look the same. This issue, while often associated with East Asian Americans in particular, also extends to other Asian ethnicities, such as South Asians like Padma Lakshmi and Priyanka Chopra.
A number of similar instances have occurred recently: People Magazine misidentified multiple actors in a "Crazy Rich Asians" cast photo, The Hollywood Reporter mistakenly used a photo of Joel Kim Booster in a post about Bowen Yang, and CNET mistook Chris Pang for Simu Liu. In all of these instances, the people who were confused with each other were not that difficult to tell apart. It was just a matter of actually taking the time to look. While I shouldn't be surprised that this happened again, I never would have looked at that photo of Padma Lakshmi and thought that it was Priyanka Chopra, and I still find it hard to see how someone would mistake one for the other.
Repeatedly seeing this sort of misidentification in established media and news outlets is always particularly disappointing. It's offensive when individuals can't tell Asians apart, but it's even more hurtful when people who are required to research and fact-check their content still get it wrong time and time again. It's even worse when the people they're misidentifying are celebrities who are well-known and recognizable. This has never been a one-time mistake: there's a clear pattern of this sort of misidentification and confusion in the media, especially in the case of Asian celebrities.
It seems that media outlets such as The New Yorker have been faced with quite the challenge with the recent rise in Asian representation, although they really shouldn't be having as much trouble as they are. The bottom line is that these cases of misidentification are just lazy on the part of these media outlets. There is no reason for these instances to keep occurring at the rate that they have been, and it really isn't that hard to tell any of these people apart. When mistakes like this are made so consistently, it tells me that people still aren't willing to see anything other than race or a perceived image of race when looking at at an Asian face. These aren't just innocent mistakes anymore, they're a pattern of laziness and an inability to look at Asians, and people of color in general, as individuals rather than just a representation of their race.