5 Radical Asian American Women
As a follow up to our most recent blog post about Asian American women who changed history, we wanted to throw some modern day icons into the mix. These trailblazers serve as living proof that Asian American women are just as badass as anyone else and that we're changing history as we know it. It’s time we re-write those textbooks anyway.
Nadya Okamoto is the founder and executive director of PERIOD, a nonprofit organization aimed at distributing menstrual resources to those in need and fighting against menstrual stigma and inequality. At age 16, Nadya co-founded PERIOD as a result of her own family’s experience with housing instability. PERIOD is now the largest youth-powered women’s health organization with over 700 campus chapters across the world. Now at age 22, she’s currently a student at Harvard, and was included in this year’s class of Forbes 30 under 30 for Law & Policy. It doesn’t stop there! This badass also serves as the Chief Brand Officer for Gen Z-run and Gen Z-focused marketing agency JUV Consulting. I have a feeling we won’t stop hearing about Nadya for a long time.
Also known as Cristina Yang and Eve Polastri, Sandra Oh is an ICON. I mean, just look at her latest photoshoot with Elle Canada. Iconic. Sandra always knew she wanted to be an actress, so much so that she turned down a university scholarship to attend a theatre school against her parents’ approval. But the hard work paid off because in 2019, Sandra made history not once but THREE times at the Golden Globe Awards. She became the first person of Asian descent to host the Golden Globes, the first Asian woman to win multiple Golden Globes and most importantly, the first Asian woman to win best actress in a TV drama in nearly 40 years for her role in Killing Eve. Side note: season 3 is out right now! GO!
Padma Lakshmi is a multifaceted powerhouse. Not only is she a food expert and cookbook author, host of Top Chef (one of the best shows ever!), model and actress, but she is also ambassador for the American Civil Liberties Union and a Goodwill Ambassador for the United Nations Development Programme. Padma focuses her efforts on women’s reproductive health and immigration rights through the ACLU. Through her position with the UN, she travels the world finding ways to disrupt ingrained systems of inequality and discrimination in communities, particularly amongst minorities, women and the impoverished. Most recently, Padma partnered with Stacy’s Pita Chips to launch the Rise Project, a program that provides funding, mentorship and resources to empower female-founded, food-centric businesses.
If you don’t recognize the name Jia Tolentino, you’ve probably read her work before without even realizing it. Jia is a Filipino-American author and staff writer for The New Yorker. Previously, she was deputy editor of feminist website Jezebel and contributing editor to The Hairpin. Her writing spans a wide variety of topics from athleisure to the #MeToo movement to vaping, and has been featured in the likes of The New York Times, Pitchfork and more. Some have even gone so far as to call her the voice of the millennial generation. In 2017, Forbes included her in their 30 under 30 for Media. She published her first book “Trick Mirror: Reflections on Self-Delusion,” a collection of personal essays, in 2019 and it quickly landed on The New York Times bestseller list. More importantly, it made it to Barack Obama’s list of his favorite books of 2019, as well as my own list. If you haven’t read Trick Mirror, you need to grab a copy ASAP.
Awkwafina (Nora Lum)
Awkwafina initially rose to fame after her song My Vag made the rounds on Youtube in 2012. We love a good internet sensation! She started rapping at age 13, and released a few albums and singles before dipping her toes in the realm of TV and film. Her breakout roles in Neighbor 2 and Crazy Rich Asians propelled her into the limelight, and earlier this year, she became the first person of Asian descent to win a Golden Globe Award for a lead actress in a film category for her role in The Farewell. Speaking of Barack Obama, The Farewell made it onto his list of favorite movies of 2019 as well. What can I say? The man’s got good taste.