I’ll say that for the majority of life I’ve been very fortunate to such a fantastic family and friends. However, whenever people first meet me… a lot of times I get, “Oh, wow you’re short (yeah, I’m a 4’9″ 20 year old… get over it)!” Being an Asian American student, I’ve also gotten “Man, you must be REALLY smart!” Although I appreciate the assumption, it’s a misconstrued view of Asian Americans. Not everyone of us is born a genius, and certainly not everyone is a “retarted F.O.B (Fresh Off the Board”) foreigner that only does nails or owns Chinese restaurants.” Yes, I’ve gotten these generalizations ladies and gentlemen… One of my classmates in high school even said to me one time, “Hey, Steph… I got a job at your dad’s restaurant.” Then followed that with a “You’ll never make it to GMA.”
I could sit here and name all the crap that I’ve dealt with (including a Professor in a college setting letting a racial slur slip off his tongue), but here’s why I’m writing…
In the recent days, I’ve discovered someone who’s made me proud to be Asian. Ever since Harry Shum Jr. (hence the title) started on GLEE, I’ve noticed that he’s flat out talented. Don’t believe me? YouTube his name and watch one of the videos of him dancing. There’s a reason why he’s danced on Oprah, So You Think You Can Dance, and even on the big screen in Step Up 2 and Step Up 3. So, If I’ve seen him earlier, why talk about him now? Let me tell you why…
After showing my mom a video of a comic poking fun at Vietnamese (which I am), she’s made a valid argument that people should not poke fun, because they have no idea what it’s like to come into a foreign country, learn a new language, and actually live a happy and healthy life. Which, I completely agree. You can laugh about something you’ve personally dealt with, but when you’re painting a picture of something you’re not familiar with all you get is a really bad piece of art.
Harry’s dealt with this firsthand. He was originally born in Costa Rica. Español fue su prima idioma (Spanish was his first language), followed by Chinese and English. Now, anyone that’s business savvy knows that being multi-lingual advances a person in a major way. What’s even more impressive beyond the culture aspect is how far he’s come.
From just dancing in school, to actually launching a national career, his stage just keeps getting bigger and bigger to match his ever-growing talent. Even before the GLEE fame, he did a lot of work for the Apple iPod commercials. He’s even danced for Beyonce, Mariah Carey, and Jennifer Lopez. Now, with millions tuning in each week for GLEE, they can see this amazing young man showcase his flair and dance expertise that only he can. Last night’s episode, “The Substitute” even featured a major dancing sequence for Shum. He and Matt Morrsion’s version of “Make ‘Em Laugh” gave the song the right amount of comedic precision, energy, and certainly talent it needed.
Every person who’s tried their hand at the Arts knows how hard it is to succeed in this realm (I’ve spoke to people going from audition to audition living off Sandwiches). I may be an aspiring producer, but I do understand how hard it is to really showcase what you’re about when thousands are fighting for exactly the same thing.
The thing that most impresses me about Shum is that he gets a chance to break the stereotype, and do it in a justly way. For once in a highly popular piece of Americana culture, the American Asian doesn’t have an accent, he’s not getting teased or asked for the answers to last night’s math homework. There is a happy medium, and I’m happy to say that for once, we can show that amongst the millions of us Asian striving for a platform to display our passion, Harry Shum Jr. dances with a panache that makes us Asians very proud.
Even though I’m just an OU college student, I someday hope to inspire people like myself to say no matter your ethnicity, your gender, your– whatever… that you have a chance to pursue whatever you want. That’s exactly how I define the American dream. It’s not about the fancy things in life… A poor man suffers… A rich man suffers comfortably. We all have our daily struggles, but if you do what you love those struggles become less apparent.
Harry if read this, thank you. Not many people of your caliber take the time out to interact with their fans, and I truly appreciate the fact that you said something to me. You have no idea what that means.
Remember, “He who is contented is rich. ” — Lao Tzu