Internet star Ashly Perez discusses Asian representation in media

Internet star Ashly Perez discusses Asian representation in media
Ashly Perez, an Internet star, speaks about her experiences as an Asian woman working in the media. / Photo by Ashley Wong.

By Claire Wallace, staff writer

Buzzfeed writer and content creator Ashly Perez spoke about being an Asian woman working in media Friday at Northeastern’s Fenway Center.

Brought in by the Asian Student Union, or ASU, Perez discussed issues ranging from how to create content to how Asian women are shown in TV and movies to being a LGBTQA+ woman and activist.

Perez kicked off her keynote speech cracking jokes about being Asian-American. She made jabs about having Asian parents and always being asked if she was good at math.

“The first things people ask when they meet you are ‘Are you good at math?’ and ‘So…what instrument do you play?’”

She also showed a blurred photo of herself nude and continued to joke about how she is in some state of undress in every Buzzfeed video.

After the antics, Perez shared a little bit about her life with the audience. She said she is part Korean, Cuban and Filipino and talked about how, because she grew up in so many different groups, she never quite felt like she belonged in any of them.

“I never really felt like I had an in group,” Perez stated.

Perez never envisioned herself working in digital media, considering she majored  in international studies at Pepperdine University in Malibu, California. After an article she wrote for a blog went viral, she was contacted by Buzzfeed with a job offer.

While the event was comical and had a light tone throughout, that did not stop Perez from getting into issues of race and sexuality. She said she never was able to see strong female Asian role models in the media growing up.

“The first time I was ever able to see someone who was like me on TV was when Mindy Kaling started to gain popularity,” Perez said. “Before that, it was just Mulan and Lucy Liu. And neither of them were as awkward as I was,” she joked.

ASU members also played videos Perez created, painted an image of her work and showed the audience some of the issues Perez is passionate about. A number of students also sang and played their instruments.

Many audience members asked questions and shared personal stories that expressed their own struggles either with being Asian, LGBTQA+, or both. Amelia Oon, a fifth-year digital art and interactive media major, shares both of these identities and said Perez is a  powerful representation.

“I was really inspired by Unfortunatly Ashly because it’s probably one of the most relatable pieces of media I’ve seen in a really long time,” Oon said. “As someone who’s also bi and also Asian, I found it really relatable and really inspiring that she has such a big following and such a successful show, and so I was really excited to find out that she was coming here.”

Vivian Chang, ASU president and a fourth-year health sciences major, said the event took three months to plan.

“It took that long to get quotes and proposals,” Chang said. “We are excited because she [Perez] is a very diverse Asian-American. She is an amazing person who can shed a lot of light on questions.”

Perez advised audience members to take as many internships as possible and to take classes they were passionate about.

“Find what you love and you will find some way to make money doing it instead of only taking things that fit with your major,” she said. “College was my whole eye-opening into how big the world actually is. I like to be around college students because there is an optimism that exists and a naivety that will change the world. You have to be a little bit naive to think that you can change the world, but the only people that can change the world are the ones that believe they can.”

Perez is an inspiration to many, including Victoria Barranco, a fourth-year animation major.

“I feel really inspired to create after this,” she said. “To hear people in similar situations talk about representation in media is something that really hits home for me as a content creator.”

Leave a Reply