Feb. 20, 2021

The Multi-faceted, Guy Tang: Bling Empire Star, Activist, Hair Bestie, & Recording Artist

The Multi-faceted, Guy Tang: Bling Empire Star, Activist, Hair Bestie, & Recording Artist

Let's Talk About Racism


Guy Tang is a multi-hyphenate--a hair guru with millions of followers on YouTube and social media and a product line, musician, and reality star of Netflix's Bling Empire.  But, did you know he grew up in OK, and experienced racially-based trauma in high school?  He emphasizes the importance of kindness and standing up for equality, including in the Asian American and LGBTQ communities.  He shows his multi-dimensionality, encouraging others not to judge people based on a snapshot in time.   

Transcript

The Multi-faceted, Guy Tang: Bling Empire Star, Activist, Hair Bestie, & Recording Artist

SPEAKERS

Guy Tang (GT) & Stephanie Wong (SW) 

SW

0:05

Welcome to Season two of the Color of Success Podcast. I'm your host, Dr. Stephanie J. Wong. Guy Tang is a multi-hyphenate, a hair guru with millions of followers on YouTube and social media and a product line, musician and reality star of Netflix's Bling Empire. And he has so much more! We discuss racism and the trauma he experienced growing up in Oklahoma. He emphasizes the importance of kindness, standing up for equality, and Asian representation. He shows his multidimensionality encouraging others to not judge people based on a snapshot in time. Please welcome, Guy Tang.

GT

0:45

I think I'll start off by sharing with you my story growing up in Tulsa, Oklahoma, where I was born and raised in 1981. And as you know, during those times, there were no social media, we have no Instagram, Facebook, Myspace, Twitter, none of that stuff. So we have no way of connecting to anyone that looks like us. It's what we were fed on, you know, through MTV, or magazines, movies, the news, television, whatever the media fed to us, and time moves slower, back in the day. When the news comes out, the new stays for a longer period of time because it didn't move as quick without social media. And, you know, being raised in those times, I remember, I was the only Asian kid throughout elementary school, and middle school, I believe, maybe there's two others. But what's funny is I remember even though we see someone that looks like us, we were too scared to talk to each other. I was just trying to fit in. So it was almost awkward to talk to one another because we don't even know how to interact with each other. Because when there is no representation in the media, he though you can't identify yourself and then you realize how you know by looking in the mirror, you go like wait, I don't look like them. And then you know when you try to make friends you realize you're different. I just remember getting bullied a lot. I got I got called Chink, Gook, faggot. They did the eye thing where they slant their eyes up and down, and they stretch it out. And Ching Chong, Ching Chong, Ding Dong. And they go, Whoa, they make all these like, you know...

SW

2:25

Kung Fu sounds and

GT

2:26

Yeah, and it was so annoying. And you know, I love Bruce Lee. I love Jackie Chan, but I just remember, people would just be like, oh, Jackie Chan and me love you long time.

 

GT

2:36

They all these like, prostitution, you know, mockery from the Vietnam War with like, the movie full metal jacket, and then, and then you become embarrassed to be who you are, then they make fun of my parents. When my parents come pick me up from school and they have an accent, then all of a sudden, you feel like, Oh my god, am I embarrassed of myself? Because there's no representation and this is where we have no one to talk to. Because if I tried to tell my friends, what little friends I had, but the ones I had that were White, they would never understand. There would be like, "What are you talking about?" Cuz they never lived it. If you're talking about your trauma, for them, it's like, well, I've gone through that, too. That's not the same because it's so much more complex... because we have, you know, different cultures, different language. When we go home, it's a different life, we celebrate, you know, different holidays like New Year's, and we celebrate them differently. We speak different languages. And, you know, we take off our shoes when we go in the house. And we have different mannerisms and certain things. And it made it so difficult growing up. And what made it even worse was, I remember that I found some a small community in Oklahoma, that were Asian that I met these kids through my mom because my mom had a friend who was you know, the same age, and she had kids. And so I met her kids and they were Asian, they have other Asian friends with them...I thought, oh my God, they look like me. I want to be friends with them and they look so cool. I wanted to fit in right away because I go oh my God, I want to be Asian. I want to be proud. I want to be part of the Asian cool kids club, you know, and I remember I was 15 years old and my 16th birthday was about to come up. And I decide like you know, I'm going to have a birthday party and I'm going to buy all these people over to my house and I don't even know any single one of them. I just want to feel like I belong and it was so interesting that experience because I remembered they all call me "White-washed." They were all making fun of me. They all were like you're so "White-washed" and then I felt like I didn't belong...It was strange because they look like me, but...

SW

Stephanie Wong

4:55

They weren't accepting...

GT

4:57

Yeah, yeah, because I was "White-washed," or whatever. They were making fun of me because the way I act was very different. Like all the Asian guys at that time were more like thuggish in a way, you know, talking about. "Yeah,Yo, Yo...What's up? I tried to act like them to fit in, but I realized, I can't be fake. I can only be myself. So when I act like myself, they start calling me faggot. They start making fun of me. They start saying, "Man, you're gay." You know, they start saying all those things, and at the time, I didn't know my sexuality. I didn't know; I was 15. I didn't know if I was gay or straight or Asian American. I'm just trying to figure myself out.

GT

5:39

At that time, I was dating a girl. She's Caucasian, she's White, and it was a very strange relationship. You know, you're young, you're trying to figure things out. It wasn't really like a true girlfriend-boyfriend. You're just like, 15-year-old, you know, I'm talking about you're young. So anyway, I remember she called my house. And then one of the Asian girls at my party pick[ed] up the phone. And for some reason, the girl I was dating the White girl, she started making racist comments towards the Asian girl... kept on saying, "Ching Chong, Ching Chong," and "We love you long time... go back to your country." And all these racist comments towards the Asian girl at my house, and then the Asian girl got mad. The Asian girls start saying, "Get your White a*s over here, and I'll kick you’re a*s." Like she was like going hard. Like she starts saying that to that girl. So, it also confused us. Oh my God, that's my girlfriend, and I didn't take it seriously at the time. So, I don't know what was going on. It turned into a race war, and I remember clearly, there was probably like, 30 Asian kids at my house. And I know none of them. You know?

SW

6:51

And then this Asian girl is threatening to kick your girlfriend's a*s.

SW

6:56

Yes, because she was calling her "Ching Chong," and racist comments, which was weird because she was dating me, and I'm Asian. So why would she make those comments? I don't know. I was confused. I remember that day. Her cousin was you know, the White girlfriend. Her cousin was very racist. He hates people of color. He came over to my house. He was looking for me and he wanted to fight me. I remember he brought like baseball bats, weapons over to try to like, beat me up, but he didn't realize this house was filled with 30 Asian people. And he couldn't tell us apart. He didn't know who was me.

SW

7:32

Oh, God.

GT

Guy Tang

7:33

I know.

SW

Stephanie Wong

7:34

Which is kind of interesting, right? It’s like a double-edged sword there.

GT

7:37

Yeah, it's like a stereotype that is racist. I don't know. He couldn't find me because I was standing right in front of me, but he could find me. He's like, you know, he's looking for me. Anyway, the threat kept on going all night because they were afraid to do anything. But then five hours later, I believe is about 10:15pm, he came over with a gun this time. And I don't know where he got the gun, but we are Oklahoma so a lot people go hunting. You know, deers and wildlife out there. So, they have guns. So, he brought gun over, and I remember he was threatening to shoot us. And it was very scary. It was right in my front yard.

GT

Guy Tang

7:38

One of the Asian guys at my party grabbed the closest weapon he could get which was a sword, which is another stereotype...but that's a whole ‘nother story. Because you know how we decorate swords on the fireplace on the mantel, you know? He just grabbed it, and then went out there and start swinging the sword. Now, this sword was not even sharp. It was for decoration. But he swung the sword at the White dude, and cut his shoulder in his arm, in his face. And you know, the first five or eight seconds, you're like oh, it's not sharp. We're gonna be fine. You know, it's just like a paper cut. No big deal. Within eight seconds, it starts spraying. It's squirting blood everywhere. It was like something out of a movie, Mortal Kombat or Kill Bill or something. It was like, I've never seen anything like it. His arms literally almost fell off. And blood was all over... the puddles all over my front yard. And one of the Asian guys was standing close to the attack. He got his wrist cut open. And I didn't know it was as bad as it you know, was he ran into the house and there's blood all along the walls because his hand was bloody. Blood was dripping all along the carpet into the kitchen.

GT

Guy Tang

9:34

The White guy, he held on to his arm jumped on the back of the pickup truck. And he kept on screaming you know the, F*cking Chink, f*cking Gook, mother...you know, he was just cussing and screaming and I heard a gunfire because when his arms got cut, the gun went up into the air and it fired but it didn't hit anybody. Thank God, but he was there to kill. I remember calling 911. I remember all the girls at our party was crying. I was on the floor on the phone. It seemed like an eternity before the ambulance came to get him. I thought he was gonna die because he lost so much blood. There was a puddle of blood and in my house.. in the front yard. It was like a crime scene...

GT

10:23

I remember having to go to the police station. The interview was like, I don't know, like maybe three or four times asking the same questions to make sure we're not lying. So, they record us. And I remember when they got printed out in the newspaper, they villainized us... they villainize the Asian people. They said, Oh, these Vietnamese people with Samurai swords...They changed the narrative. Even though when I was at the police station, I told my story about them coming over to my house, trying to kill me with a gun with racist language. It was self-defense when one of our Asian friends grabbed the sword. It was self-defense because he had the gun, but we supposed to do, but no one took us seriously. No one took the Asian community seriously. We turned into like a villain and a mockery. They were calling us Samurais and Samurai swords and ninjas, and it just became a whole thing. And because it's considered a smaller town compared to like LA or whatever, news spread like wildfire all over the town. And I didn't know what to do. I couldn't even go back to school because the thing is the White dude, I don't know his name, but he survived... He didn't die. He got his arms reattach. He lost a lot of nerves. He can't move his fingers... His arm was saved and his face ha[d] stitches and our Asian friend, he'd lost his nerves to his three fingers. He can only move these two. And I remember everyone pointing fingers at me because well, "You're the one with that White girl. You're the White-washed guy. You're the one that hang out with White people." And that's what they kept saying to me and I go, oh my god, I have no place. I became outcasted from the Asian community because I was "White-washed," and I didn't fit in with the white people because I'm too Asian, or they call us "Oriental" back then.

SW

Stephanie Wong

12:34

I call it the "O-bomb." I had to educate some of my colleagues about it, and it's such a derogatory term. But obviously, there were a lot more derogatory terms thrown at you.

GT

12:47

It's objectifying, and people don't understand why it's offensive, but because people objectify, like, Asian women so much through the history with the prostitution and all those things that people have to do to survive during the war times-- that carries on and it becomes offensive. Because you're objectifying people. You're making them like they're objects for you, like an ornament or something, and that's not okay.

SW

13:13

Like the exoticism piece. Were your parents home when this happened?

GT

13:18

No, they left, they trust[ed] me with the house, and I ha[d] to call them, and they were coming from Oklahoma City. So, it took them like 45 minutes to get to us. And you know, you said the word exoticism. And what's really interesting about the word exotic, is exotic is like a flower in the desert, it's rare. That means there's not much of you. And I realized the word exotic is actually very offensive because it means you're not represented. It means because they don't see you in television and movies, you become like this one thing in the middle of nowhere, meaning you don't belong. And that's why when you exotify someone, you're telling them they don't belong, that they're not represented, and outcasted. And that's what people don't understand. No exotic, it's a compliment. It means you're tropical. No, that's not what it means. When you really think about it, Asians are not exotic. There's more Asians in the world. We're more populated. There's less blue-eyed people and natural blonde hair-people in the world. So technically, they're more exotic than we are globally. But we're made to feel exotic because Hollywood has never embraced us/represented us in the proper way, even through Bruce Lee times. And people think that Oh, he's successful, but he had to fight his way to success because they rejected him because they don't like his Asian features in the States. And I can relate to all that...

GT

14:40

... and I just remember I wanted to get out of Oklahoma, but I just [didn't] know how. I was still struggling with my sexual identity. I remember I had another girlfriend who was Asian at the time. She helped me become proud to be Asian. The first one was Korean. She, you know, I remember, you know, I was eating kimchi. I remember sitting on the floor eating, the traditional way. trying to please her parents, trying to speak Korean so her family can like me. All those things, it made me embrace who I am. And I learned about K-pop back in the 90s, before it became big now. And I turned to K-pop to identify with someone that looks like me because I've always wanted to be a singer or an actor, but I never felt like that was even possible. Because what's the point? Because you don't see Asians on television. So how is that possible? So all your hopes and dreams are pretty much like, unrealistic. So, why even bother? Right? Like, you're supposed to just do what every Asian is supposed to do. You know, that's what you felt like. It's your, you know, destiny or whatever. Like, you're just brought here to do stereotypical things because that's all you can do. There's no hopes, there's no dreams.

GT

Guy Tang

16:03

Soon after, I met another girl. She's Hmong, and there's not that many Hmong people. And I remember, honestly, I mean, I wish I could tell her this now, but I treated her so horribly. And the reason why was because I hated myself. I hated myself at that time. I didn't know myself, and I took it out on her. It was so hard to be Asian and that's why I could always tell when people are hurting. When people are treating people bad,they are hurting inside because hurt people hurt people.

SW

Stephanie Wong

16:36

They're projecting.

GT

Guy Tang

16:37

They're projecting. I can speak of it because I've been there. I was there through my 20's and my teens. I treated her so bad, but she loved me so much. And I didn't know my sexual identity during that time. So I took her for this long, wild ride. I was engaged to her. We're supposed to get married. We're supposed to you know, she wants to have kids, but I just couldn't. I didn't know myself. So, I took so much of my anger/frustration out on her and I feel horrible for it. And you know, when you listen to my song, I wrote a song called Quit on Us on my album, More to Me, that was my apology to her, you know, because I said, I'm sorry that I quit on us. I'm sorry, I broke your heart. I actually wrote that song for her. So when I made the music video, people were so confused. Why was I with a girl? No, I'm writing a song about my past because music helps me heal more than ever right now as a songwriter. And I get to fulfill that dream as a singer that I never saw growing up as an Asian American. And even though we have K-pop now, Kpop isn't Asian American, right? So for me, I want to fulfill my own dreams, my own destiny. If record labels and the world won't give us that chance, with social media now... We can create it just like with YouTube. We can create whatever we want, we have our own platform, and whether I reach a large audience or not, I know, I'm touching hearts out there that I wish I would have had when I was, you know, at that age

SW

Stephanie Wong

18:09

Absolutely. And, you know, I see a lot of parallel processes. You know, it's hard to turn off the psychologist in me but there's a lot of parallel processes with what's going on now. I don't want to stray too far away from your story will kind of loop back but how, how much violence is being directed towards us. It's not just like Ching Chong and stuff like that, although that's really hurtful. Now, it's like, I'll give you Corona...Asians will give you Coronavirus if they like cough or something or the recent attacks in the Bay Area against elderly Asian folks. How do we come together as a community from your experience? How can we cope with this individually and on a community level?

GT

18:54

You know, when all this was happening, I can obviously relate to it because to me, the racism is there, it's nothing new, right? But because of the COVID situation, it has heightened it. It has actually brought the truth out of a lot of people. It's horrifying. It's disgusting. I was triggered I had to sit back and process my feelings because I was very triggered by it. I remember the trauma trying to get out of it and because Asian Americans/Asians in general were raised in a different culture where we are silenced...our voices are silenced. We don't get to speak up and when we try to speak up, they silence us. They gaslight our feelings because we're living in a world where it's one end of the spectrum to next and there's no in between, but they don't realize we have never had representation. We never had like a Beyonce ,or an Oprah, or a Mariah, or Ariana Grande, or a Britney Spears. We never have a pop star, a role model, or a Tom Cruise or Brad Pitt. Asian men never had that representation. And what happens is we start fighting each other. We start competing with one another. And that's why when you see a lot of Asians almost succeed, the other Asian[s] try to bring them down. And then they try to please the White person because they think that's the hierarchy. And what happens is everyone's reaching for the White, and then you start turning on each other. And the reason why I'm bringing this up is, as I was doing hair, I had a lot of Asian female clients, and when they tell me stories, a lot of times they hurt my feelings. They'll tell me, I will never date Asian guys, or they'll say they will never do an Asian, or they don't ever want to be seen with an Asian. They only like White guys. They want to have better looking babies and all these these type of comments they make. And it was funny because I saw a huge number of Asian women turning against Asian men. And then I remember, researching it and to see the dating sites, Asian men were the least desired. Like we were rejected, there's so many stereotypes that emasculate Asian men and Asian men start becoming angry at Asian women...our own race are hating each other because it's like betrayal. Nothing hurts more than being rejected from your own kind. And because I was rejected from the Asian community in Oklahoma, because they called me "White-washed" and then to be around so many of these Asian women who rejected me...and then in the gay world, I remember I was looking to love myself, right? So I was looking to find an Asian guy because I want someone I can identify with culturally and someone who can identify with me as a gay Asian male. So many of the gay, Asian men community didn't want to date Asian guys. They only want the White guy because they saw White guys as the "White Knight," the Savior, the the hero...

SW

22:03

Putting them on a pedestal...

GT

22:05

...because of the Tom Cruise's and the Brad Pitt's and, and all these heroes, the Disney character movies, the prince has always been White. The hero has always been White, all the superhero characters have always been White. And so what happens is, we are fighting each other and there's so many Asian people not speaking up about it. I see so many Asian people that I know, they dismiss it. They try to ignore it. They try to act like, "Well, I don't know what you're talking about. I've never experienced that." They don't realize that they have a lot of internalized racism. Yes, they don't realize and they're gaslighting themselves. Just because you haven't experienced something, doesn't mean it doesn't exist. For example, I don't have to be a woman to know what women go through. I can tell women aren't treated equally.

SW

22:58

It's is called empathy.

GT

22:59

It's called empathy. And that's why I always support women. All of my heroes have always been women, like I choose Katana and Sonia.

SW

23:08

Oh my goodness,! I loved them.

GT

23:12

In Mortal Combat. I choose Chun Li in Street Fighter. I choose Supergirl over Superman. I choose Batwoman over Batman. I choose Wonder Woman over Superman. I feel empowered by women. I've always supported women. I see the strength in women, and I don't have to be a woman to support women. But what's happening is some of these Asian people will gaslight themselves and our community by saying, well, "I am Asian and I've never seen anything like that." And I go Hmm, well, don't be ignorant, just because you haven't experienced it for yourself because you hung around with a lot of people who you think don't see your color...But don't be fooled because take a look at the media.

SW

24:02

There are societal messages that we're not equal. And we have to fit into this specific stereotype, even if we are in the media, and that's why I think it's so important that you are talking about this today because people don't necessarily see that. I absolutely love and loved watching Bling Empire. Given though that narrative, that brief snapshot that people get of you and get of Asians, because, you know, obviously aside from Kevin... love, Kevin, but aside from Kevin, everyone's rich, and so I guess the in a way there is a sense of insulated community...and that these Asians are what we're aspiring to. So how do you look at that contrast from where you came from to now because you built an empire? People think that they know who you are, and that perhaps this is "other" Asian I totally agree...I've been in these Clubhouse groups where there's 3000 Asians in the room, but there's a lot of clashing in terms of what we should do with dealing with racism. Of course, there are the Asians that you grew up with in Oklahoma who are like, yeah, let's kick people's asses like eff this, you know, we're gonna stand up for ourselves in that way. And then others are like, oh, let's call the police, or let's not call the police. And so like you said, there's limited solidarity in what's going on right now. Even within our ethnic groups, we can't agree on how to move forward.

GT

Guy Tang

25:47

You know what's really interesting? I know you brought up Bling Empire. The one thing that I think is really cool about it is that it is representation, whether it's relational to a lot of people's experience or not...because I personally don't really relate to a lot [of them]... I don't relate to Jamie and I don't relate to a lot them because they're born into a trust fund. They always have the money there. I didn't have the toys I want[ed] when I was a kid. I couldn't afford to buy anything. I struggled. I was broke when I first moved to LA. I didn't have much money, and all the money I had was gone in an instant because I put it back into investing and building a busines. I struggled and that's the part that I wish they would have shown on the show. We filmed so many memories. I allow my vulnerability to show through on the show, but they never used any of it. And I don't know why. Maybe because my story was very race related, and very deep and intense. And I think, marketing-wise...I don't know, you know, I don't even know if I'm supposed to say all these things...But I think because...it has to be successful, the show has to do well, and it has to reach the masses. And if it turns people off by talking about a matter maybe that is too intense...What happens if the show fails? We all fail. They have to think about success for the Asian community and if the show does well, we can have more shows. We could have season two, season three, or we can have a spin off and talk about these type of topics. I do remember that I allowed them into my personal life, the crew, they film me hav[ing] so many breakdown moments, crying with my husband, talking about hiring Kevin, that's the face of my brand. I remember just so many emotional moments where I talked about having a gun held to my head. I talk about the racial attacks, and why my brand, Myidentity, my color line, my product line that I created, I wanted an all Asian face to my campaign that I was doing. Most people on my team at the time were mainly Caucasian/White. We had two Asian girls that worked at the office at the time. They totally underst[ood] what I was saying; The importance of the message and we filmed all that. I did a whole campaignwhere I wanted to talk about why I want an Asian face out there. When I really look at it now, I think it didn't make the final cut because it was too intense, too dark...and they want the light hearted commercial thing... I didn't know...Honestly when I saw that I felt really rejected...because I'm also gay. So I felt like well was it because I'm gay? Is it because I'm not commercial? Or is it because my hair's too long? I started questioning myself again, and it was very hurtful. I remember crying a lot after, but I had to be strong and happy for all of my castmates...because this is a big movement for Asian Americans. I was proud of Kevin. I was proud of everybody on the show...I had to put my feelings aside and go you know what? This is for a bigger cause. If this show does well, who knows where we go from there. And sure those scenes that me wasn't included, and I felt like oh my god, all people saw was that penis pump scene. So I look like a comedic joke like that gay friend that is there for laughs. I didn't want to express that too much because I didn't want to make it about me when everyone's happy.

SW

29:29

... I think this is the best forum to talk about it because like I said, when I approached you about this, it was about multi-dimensionality because you mentioned that word, and I was like, wow, that really sums it up. Of course, we don't want to be reductionist, but it really shows that there's so many layers to you, to people, and I was waiting for more...and hopefully, there is a season two, season three because these are very important topics to the Asian American/Asian experience. And the more we can talk about it, the more people can kind of see how hurtful it truly is. I mean, like I mentioned, I have two young daughters. We have conversations about politics, but I'm not going to shield them from the things that are going on, even though they have a different level of privilege than myself...My parents were working class. They're in still in the restaurant business, and in retail. So, I'm kind of the odd one in that sense. Even in psychology, my optometrist asked me several years ago, "Oh, you have a PhD in clinical psychology? What do you do with that?" [I was] like, "I do, okay for myself." But that whole idea that we can't be ourselves. The immigrant experience, too, is very different than a lot of people who were born into money. Before all the shootings and COVID, there were a lot of international students coming over here driving Porsches, and having all this money, and it's very different experience that they can coast through community college. They're coming here just to party and have a good time. So, what are some of the things that you wish were shown in terms of your personal life with your husband with the, like you said, the breakdowns? What messages?

GT

31:24

In my opinion, because of everything that we're going through right now, the climate...If they added those clips in, I felt like it would have kept it more grounded, it would have been more relational. Like, it's more relatable to me, but I also understand, the show is called Bling Empire and it has to bling. And...I'm not very bling-y. I'm not a show off. I came from nothing, and I've struggled...I built my own empire...I wasn't born into it. I built my own. And I wish that would have been shown, but hopefully, season two, if there is one, or when there is one... I felt like if I wasn't me, and I was somebody watching the show had I had seen those moments, I would have gone, "This show is it. The show would been like 100% for me," but I get what it's doing. I'm proud of it regardless...It is like crazy rich Asians, because that that movie was successful, it allowed us to have Bling, Empire. Bling Empire has to do well commercially for us to have a season two or have more shows like it that isn't just about being rich and stuff. So, I understand the movements. So, I'm proud to be part of it regardless. So, I'm not bitter. I'm not upset, but I was hurt at first because I've gone through so much in my lifetime. I've experienced so much in my lifetime. I've gone through the ups and downs. I've had, the success, if you will, of YouTube, and the Instagram and all those moments. I have my own product line. So, I can tell...authentic relationships, when people really care. And that's why for me, when you reached out to me [to] talk about mental health awareness, these things are so important to me...It's not only about hair. I feel like people only see me...

SW

34:21

It's not a party. Let me tell you that.

GT

34:24

I know I'll never understand, but I'm here to listen. I think that with people who aren't Asian who haven't suffered or gone through adversity, for me, it's like, let me educate you. I'm not saying you're un-educated, but let me share something with you that I want you to know about.

SW

34:44

...Let me let you in[to] my inner world.

GT

34:46

Right. Because if they really want to know your pain, and they really want to know why you do what you do, because every move I make is because of my past. I'll give you an example like this whole Fox-eye trend. I don't know if you're aware of it, but...

SW

35:01

No, can you describe it?

GT

35:03

It's so popular on TikTok right now with all the influencers. Basically, they pose like this [refer to YouTube video of interview: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TD9nog5F_4I&t=22s.

SW

35:09

I'll have to talk to my husband about that because he's the Tik Tok-er in the family.

GT

35:14

And they all do this. They all pose like this...have their eyes and they go like this, they'll do the reach over, they'll reach over this way, they'll do this. And I don't know why they do it. And the only reason why I'm doing it now because I'm trying to show you what they're doing...It's so offensive. And they don't realize that. It's one thing when you're doing a cat eyeliner makeup...

SW

35:35

...which I have now. And you know, I will say in my past, I've gotten crap for having a cat-eye when I was a trainee at my internship. "Why are you wearing makeup? You're...talking with clients," and I'm like, this is me. And I had a really hard time with my identity, because I was wearing I guess what you would call stereotypically more feminine clothing. And I was an Asian American woman...I've had this cat-eye for 20 years, that's been my thing, and I refuse to not go to work like that. I said, you know, how am I going to encourage my clients to be authentic when I'm not, and I'm coming to work, not being true to myself? But this whole Fox-eye, thing, that is ridiculous,

GT

36:30

Because it's triggering...because these motions with your hands, goes back to racism back in the Vietnam War times. We were villainized. They did these eye gestures to make us feel like we don't belong, like we are villains. And we're made out to be bad guys all the time, and to separate us and to divide us. And so when we try to tell them, no, that's offensive, there'll be like, 'It's just a Fox-eye trend. It's not that big of a deal.' But the gesture is offensive. So now, they're getting surgeries. They're doing this thing called threading, where they stick a needle in and pull the thread to make your eyes slant up. So now this becomes a whole conversation because Bella Hadid and the Kardashians or whoever, I don't know, they allegedly all did it.

SW

39:57

They're like microaggressions as well. There's overt racism, and then there's these slights that happen. And I think they're everywhere. It's not only in the media, but even on a day-to-day basis. We are typically supposed to be quiet. We're supposed to put our heads down and do our work. And you've been through so much trauma. How did you cope with that in your journey? Because as a therapist, it's like, that would give someone major PTSD to see that at 15/16 years old. And growing up in a very highly racist area, like I mentioned in San Francisco. Right now, it's really bad, but I was pretty insulated from racism until I became a young adult. So how did you cope with that over all these years, because it's still very raw?

SW

33:27

One way...

GT

32:09

...One way, just because they see me on YouTube talking about hair, which I love, because hair saved my life, but there's more to me. And that's why I named my [first] album, More to Me my...because I was like, No, I'm a person. I'm an activist. I represent for our community, our Asian people...It's very important as our community needs to speak up. We need to voice ourselves, and we don't have to be...screaming at people, but what we could do is educate them. I'll have like certain friends of mine that I work with, or co-workers, they might not understand...But I have to understand that they don't understand. How can you expect someone to understand your pain when they've never been through it? It's almost like if someone if someone's trying to tell me what it's like to give birth? I can't relate, but I can try my best to understand.

GT

Guy Tang

37:19

So, my thing is this is the reason why it's offensive is because we were told our eyes were ugly. And so, we were made because people say what Asian gets double eyelid surgery. The difference is, Asians were made to get that to feel like they were beautiful to fit in with society because of the media. Because of Western influence. Because of colonization. Because of racism, like all these things have made us felt like our eyes wasn't beautiful. Our Asian faces wasn't considered beautiful by Hollywood standards. So through that whole...I don't know how many decades, since the 60's or 70's, whoever came up with that surgery, we were made to be "less Asian," look "less Asian" with our features, like our lighter skin and less slanty eyes... to be less intimidating to the foreigners or the White people that come in....What happens is our story is completely different. It is more oppression and colonization that influenced that surgery. What happens is when non-Asian girls are getting surgery to do this. It's like Oh, so it's only beautiful when it's on you. But when it's naturally on an Asian person, we're not beautiful, and we have to get surgery to have double eyelids...So our beauty is not naturally beautiful on this unless it's seen on them. It also goes back to the lip injections, and I get it, full lips are beautiful. But the reason why so many people of color are offended by it is because they weren't made fun of in the 80's and 90's for having full lips naturally, not all of them, but a lot of them have naturally fuller lips. So what happens is like when it's seen on a non-person of color, getting their lips filled, all of a sudden, it's deemed as beautiful because it's on them.

SW

39:08

...Becomes a trend.

GT

39:09

It becomes a trend. And that's the sad part because something that we're naturally gifted with are seen as unattractive unless it's on someone who isn't a person of color. And that's where the problem comes in. And I think that a lot of people that aren't people of color, they don't realize that's their privilege, and they get offended by the word privilege because they think you're telling them they didn't live a hard life. We're not saying you didn't live a hard life. What we're saying is, you didn't go through these adversities. And you've always had representation. Like we're saying to them you're privileged because you've always had Justin Bieber, Britney Spears, Backstreet Boys, all your dreams are attainable if you work hard enough, whereas for us, those dreams are unattainable, right? Don't even try.