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Interview with Asia Jackson

Thumbnail credit: @aasian on Instagram

“I don’t expect you to memorize everything!” Asia reassured, as I nervously announced that the tape had begun rolling. 

Despite our being in the same time zone and being essentially an hour away from each other (perhaps an hour and forty-five minutes with Los Angeles traffic), it took a week’s worth of rescheduling, her dear manager going back and forth to attempt to arrange our impending e-meeting until finally, the day was set. 

My heart skipped the day of, as I’d heard amazing things about Asia from my friends and colleagues at Overachiever, but once she hopped on the Zoom call with a bright smile and a welcoming ‘how ARE you?!,’ my nerves calmed. 

Asia Jackson is a Black and Filipino American actress and filmmaker based in Los Angeles; however, being a military brat, she’s resided all over the world. While in college studying computer information systems based on her self-taught coding talent at the age of eleven, she took a film production class and realized she loved creating. 

“My classmate asked me to be the lead actress in his final project, and I was like, ‘Oh well I like being in front of the camera too, what a concept!’” She explained.

Asia decided to drop out of college because it wasn’t the place for her, and she then began acting. Her first booked gig was on Modern Family, which was her favorite show at the time. However, she pointed out that booking acting gigs can be inconsistent. 

She hadn’t gotten any gigs for a long period of time after Modern Family, so she finally said, “screw it, I’m going to create my own opportunities. That’s when I started doing YouTube.”

While Asia has already made impressive strides in Hollywood and the YouTube Community, one of her most impactful startups was the #MagandangMorenx Movement. 

“I started #MagandaangMorenx in October 2016, and October is Filipino American Heritage Month. I only had around 4,000 subscribers at the time… I was trying to brainstorm ways to celebrate the month because I felt it wasn’t as celebrated, especially within the Filipino American community. I wondered: ‘How can I get this community engaged in something?’” said Asia.

Throughout her brainstorming process, she kept thinking of the time she lived in the Philippines, and how she was made fun of for having darker skin. “I observed my friends and family also being bullied for their skin color,” she added. “No one was really talking about this. What if I just started this conversation?”

On the day the hashtag was introduced, Asia managed to get 30 people talking about colorism on Twitter. In May 2017, for Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, when the hashtag was reiterated online, there were around 15 to 20 thousand tweets. AJ+’s interview with Asia about the hashtag received 8 million views on Facebook in 24 hours, which helped the movement garner more attention. 

“I never thought that something I created on the internet would have that big of an impact. I was only speaking authentically about my own experiences. I wasn’t trying to make it go viral, it was just me trying to find a way to celebrate the month, and for some reason, it resonated with a lot of people, and now here we are,” said Asia. 

Since then, there has been more conversation online about colorism and the notion of decolonization. When visiting the Philippines for the first time in fifteen years in 2018, Asia found herself swamped with skin-whitening products. But when returning in December of the following year, she only saw one ad for a skin-whitening product in three weeks. 

Asia then spoke on the current status of the movement: “I do think things are changing, but I also think that we still have a lot of work to do. The younger generations are really coming together to have these difficult conversations because everyone’s realizing how outdated these standards are.”

Upon being asked about how her biracial identity influences her career as a public figure, Asia shared that her identity influences everything that she does, from the content she creates to the roles that she chooses to audition for.

“I like to post a lot of educational content on Instagram and Twitter. I like sharing things about Black and Filipino history—especially Filipino history because I feel like Filipino Americans are so disconnected from their history. Knowing your history is really, really important.”

Asia has landed auditions for characters who are mixed but were mixed with Black and white. “I’d still audition for them, but I knew that if I were to get the role, it just wouldn’t feel right. I’d want to have a conversation with the producers and ask if we could make one of the parents Asian,” she explained. “There aren’t a lot of Black Asians in Hollywood. There are some of us, but there are a lot more people who are mixed with Asian and white, or Black and white.” 

Given her position and her identity, she finds integral that she speaks up and uses her voice to inspire these types of changes. 

As a military brat, Asia found it especially difficult to grapple with her mixed identity, as she was forced to adapt to different types of environments. 

“When I was living in Great Falls, Montana, which was the whitest city that I’ve ever lived in—I was the only Black girl in my entire grade. I felt very ostracized because I wasn’t white. But then, when I moved to the Philippines, I was ostracized because I was Black. I didn’t feel like I was fully Filipino just because of the different ways I was treated. Then, when I moved to Houston, Texas, where my school was predominantly Black and Hispanic… people would tell me, ‘You’re not really Black. You’re mixed,’” shared Asia. 

Finally, upon her arrival in Long Beach, California, Asia felt that she was finally able to become more comfortable with her racial identity because of how diverse the city is. She was surrounded by so many other mixed kids who were comfortable in their racial identity, and it’s what encouraged her to be the same way. “It’s my favorite place I’ve ever lived, and I’ve lived in Toyko!” she giggled. 

It wasn’t until she reached the age of twenty when she fully doubled down on her identity. “I woke up one morning, and I just got tired of people trying to tell me who I was,” Asia recounted. “It’s really important as a mixed person, or as someone who has a marginalized identity, to own who you are. If you don’t own it, more room opens up for people to tell you who you are. So, figure out who you are and then own it.” 

Asia uploads a myriad of videos every Friday on YouTube, highlighting the science of skincare, practical fashion styling tips, leveling up your lifestyle, and her journey towards optimizing mental & physical health. You can also keep up with her on Instagram and Twitter

Overachiever Magazine was started by Rehana Paul in October of 2018 to give a platform to all Asian women, non-binary people, and other gender minorities.

Our name is poking fun at the stereotype that all Asians are overachievers, especially Asian women, non-binary people, and other gender minorities. It’s also in recognition of all of us who have had no choice but to be overachievers: managing societal expectations, family obligations, and educational opportunities, all while fighting the patriarchy.

We have grown since then, putting out bimonthly issues (we are contributor powered: apply to write for our next one!), and weekly reviews of culture, and news that is important to us.

You can find announcements, more news, and get to know our staff on social media: give us a follow, and learn how you can get involved today!

We do not claim to speak for all Asian women, non-binary people, and other gender minorities. We are just here to give them a place to speak for themselves.

We hope you’ll join us.

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