Mirror Mirror in the City, Who is Better, Fair, and Pretty?

by Marisha

For most of my life, I was used to being the only Asian girl in my group of friends. Growing up in a mid-size town in southern California, my friends were an eclectic group composed of people of different races, but I usually didn’t have other Asian friends to relate to. In high school there weren’t many Asian girls, and in elementary, even fewer.

Breakdown by race in Oklahoma

When I went to school in Oklahoma, I remember feeling like a “lone ranger.” I didn’t see too many Asians while I lived in Norman. Perhaps surprisingly, this never has made me feel weird or alone. I was happy and content. And my friends never seemed to see me as anything “different.”

There is a stereotype that the culture in some Asian countries leads to a desire to be as “American” as possible. The evidence given for this is found in general appearance, fashion, the media, and technology. I have been guilty of this desire myself. Of course, it has come naturally to me because I am American. But in the midst of my Americanness, I have always felt special that I am the “token Asian.”

Since moving to LA, I have noticed that there seems to be a stigma about being “Asian” here. I cannot argue that it doesn’t exist because in the entertainment and performing businesses, we do seem to get the short end of the stick. Because of the stereotypes and limited opportunities for casting, the negative side of competition seems to pop up between Asian girls. This is not always true—bless my newfound Asian female friends for their support. However, it happens too often.

It took me some time to realize this. After I first moved here, I went out to a club one night with some friends. My good friend suddenly nudged me. “Look! That girl keeps staring at you.” My reflex was to look right at the girl referred to. She glared at me, then purposely looked me over good and rolled her eyes. This wasn’t the last time that has happened. When I try to talk to or compliment another Asian girl when I’m out, she will generally walk away.

In the Waiting Room

Worse yet, it also happens at auditions. Sometimes there aren’t any other Asian girls at a particular audition. But when there are a couple of other Asians, too often I receive evil looks and judgmental energy. I don’t understand this. We should be uniting and accepting of each other. Nothing makes me sadder than when other Asian girls in LA stare me down, size me up, and look for any reason to believe that they are “more American” than me. Or just better than me.

Is it because we all believe that the opportunities are slim here? Or maybe it is insecurity within us? It baffles me. My experiences with other Asian performers and non-performers who I have gotten to know have always been comforting and rewarding. I love connecting with Asian girls with no competition, no concern about stigma.  Since moving to LA, I had the good fortune to be in a production of The Joy Luck Club with a mostly Asian cast.  It was such a rewarding theatre experience.

I find myself asking the question: “why are we more judgmental to people who are the closest to what we are ourselves?” I wish we could support each other instead of trying to be the only one of our kind. Although I love being the “token Asian,” I will always be proud of my race and other girls like me trying to pursue the same dream.

I realize some people might view this as “girls being girls.” People of all races and personalities experience the negative side of competition. Am I overly sensitive to this? Paranoid maybe? Is it because I never experienced this type of competitive behavior when I was the “token Asian”? Or is it just reality?

Comments

  1. Nina Schidlovsky says:

    Great piece! I think all those girls roll their eyes at you because they’re jealous what they see in you they don’t see in themselves. 😀

    • Marisha Castle says:

      Awe thanks Nina! That was so nice! Maybe jealousy, but how ridiculous right?? I’m sure we share a lot of similar stories when it comes to this stuff 🙂 x

  2. Faye Finewiner says:

    OMG! I’m an asian actress too and felt the exact same way when I was in LA auditions too. I’ve since moved to two other states and the auditioning and landing acting jobs has gone much better. But I totally experienced the same things you did from elementary school where I was from in the 80’s, being the “token asian”. I think the gals in LA are jealous if there’s another asian female they don’t know in their presence trying to go after the same thing because they’re probably the “token asian” from whereever they come from in LA and aren’t used to sharing, especially if it’s obvious that you are the better suited for that audition. We should talk girly, message me back!

    • Hey girl! sorry for the late response! I am so glad someone else has experienced the same thing! i totally understand the “token asian” thing. Are you on Facebook? I would love to touch base and connect with you more!!!!! let me know 🙂 x take care. Thanks for the post, it really made me feel more understood!

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