s

Justin Hoch, http://www.jhoch.com

Meet Jen Kwok. A slim, cute Asian American working in New York City as a musician, comedian, and writer all rolled into one. Wait, what? Yeah, she’s Asian American… But instead of the usual stereotypical job that Asian American’s have: nail manicurists, restaurant owners, cleaners, taxi drivers, etc, or being a housewife to another stereotyped Asian man with a small penis, this gal is actually trying to fight the stereotype. But wait, she hasn’t joined a human rights’ campaign? How can she possibly be an active advocate? Here’s the catch: comedy through music. Take a look:


Credits: Jen Kwok & her band.

Hollaaa!

Jen has received a lot of great feedback from her audiences– from inspiring some to become writers, to having Asian drag troupes perform “Date an Asian” onstage, to people covering some of her other songs, Jen has received positive response from excited audiences online and off– not only for her comedic performances but also for the messages that she conveys through her songs. She wants them to just have a good time with it and take it lightheartedly.

In getting to know her a bit, we see that we really get a better climpse at the pan-Asian-American landscape of immigration stories. Jen grew up in Palmdale, California, where she and her family were the only Asian Americans around. The only Asian Americans she ever knew were blood related until the beginning of high school. We see the states as a cultural melting pot, but when Jen was growing up, her teachers wouldn’t even believe that she ate jellyfish. Instead, they told her not to lie. Such a statement is met with either mild surprise or disgust, if not a mixture of both. Another instance of cultural misconception she encountered at a young age was when she was told she couldn’t marry celebrity Jonathan Taylor Thomas because she isn’t white. It was understood as a general assumption that races don’t mix except for polite conversation and in the necessary workforce. At home she’d semiotically translate jokes, and outside the home she’d translate her skin color.

She found that expressing herself through comedy as a language combined with song were two things that could hold people’s attention positively. She spins tunes out of her negative experiences and realities to empower the pan-Asian American voice and shed light on stereotypical injustices. Though she did pursue the job of an accountant after majoring in business, she quickly quit the job to pursue a career in comedy. Good thing she did, otherwise where would we get these great videos that make us laugh and a little more culturally aware? With her ukelele in one hand and microphone in the other, Kwok uses her humour to encourage other young Asian Americans, East and Middle Eastern, especially those interested in the arts–to constantly look within and have integrity with everything they do in life, honestly questioning everything. Then do what they feel is right. She encourages us all to do things for ourselves and not others’ expectations, even if it is incredibly difficult.

Stay tuned to see more of her! She’s coming up with a new music video in April featuring some of the performers in her “Date an Asian” video. And for more Jen Kwok while awaiting the release of her music videos (her youtube site), keep up with her blog! Jenkwok.wordpress.com.

By Ellice Park and Mon-Mon Wu

Advertisements