The pandemic brought forth many things, most of them tragic in nature. For some, there has been a silver lining so vibrant they have been able to self-reflect. I have been fortunate enough to have this time to reflect in a rather unique way.
The circumstances imposed by the pandemic have brought me back to a place lost in seemingly ancient playlists on my youtube account. Tucked away in the various thumbnails with portraits of a few artistic heroes, I was able to trace how I was able to take on a seemingly westernized media and see myself within it as a multi-ethnic kid in America. Clear as day I was able to reflect on how an actor changed my young mind’s perception of who belongs in the media.
One of the first memories of my engagement with media is one with me sitting beside my grandfather, an Armenian immigrant from Iran, and watching Not Without My Daughter. The film released in 1991 was something that was frequently played in the living room of my very multi-ethnic family home. For some, it evoked feelings of anger towards a country they were not even from, for some, it evoked a false sense of home, for some it served as fuel for an internal fire ignited by an identity crisis, and frankly, for my grandfather, it evoked feelings of joy because he liked watching movies starring Sally Field. For me as an American kid born in the late 90s, the film evoked feelings of curiosity as I wanted to see more representation of that aspect of my identity.
Not Without My Daughter is a film that is controversial in its depiction of Islam and Iran. Its release has had undeniable impacts on multiple generations of Iranians living in the United States, despite these realities when I was a kid it was deemed as representation nonetheless. I watched it because I felt like it was the only piece of Iran I could see in America’s media, and since there was no multi-ethnic representation I could relate with, it was as good as I believed I could get. It also didn’t hurt that Alfred Molina became my favorite Iranian actor whose films I followed and admired and still follow to this day.
As I got older I came to learn that my favorite actor Alfred Molina, while incredibly brilliant, was not in fact Iranian. Before I could be disappointed in this discovery I found out that the actor was even more like me, he came from a multicultural background, he was Spanish and Italian yet he grew up in the United Kingdom. My young mind, still new to navigating the internet, was blown. A recognized artist was like me, someone else had families from different countries and cultures but yet they were able to be famous in a world in which there seemed to be more representation of people who had a single and usually American identity. At that moment my mind shifted from being a consumer of arts and media to that of a creator and performer. If it had been done before, I could do it too.
With my new discovery in mind, I decided to pursue something I once believed to be a forbidden fruit for multi-ethnic people, the arts. I scoured the internet finding interviews, film scenes, and anything I could to add to a playlist titled “Inspire”. I would refer back to them as I worked on auditions for local theaters and later performing arts colleges and programs. Through one controversial film and multicultural actor, I had found my inspiration, the first silver lining I ever had the privilege to take advantage of.
Without the free time produced by the pandemic, I would not have had time to deeply reflect on my own experience with representation or the lack thereof, yet another silver lining. It seems that in the past few years I have hustled endlessly, trying to quickly and efficiently produce poems and plays for competitions and my now completed theater minor. This discovery led me to further understand that representation is beyond essential because of the impacts that it has. If it weren’t for Alfred Molina sharing with the public his own identity, who knows how I would have been able to find someone similar enough to myself. The pandemic had offered me a silver lining so bright I have been able to reflect on many aspects of my life, and for this, I am grateful as it has re-charged my own drive to maybe one say serve as the representation that another person may seek.
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.
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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.