Jasmine Cheung

I have known Jasmine since we were in the second grade! I used to call her Jazzy Fresh and I found out just recently that she uses that nickname to this date (only when she can’t think of another username to use). We used to play basketball together and she used to be hesitant to admit her hobby to others. She says people acted surprised that she played basketball (and was good at it) because she was small, female and Asian. And when she played against males, “I would either make a guy feel less manly because I got past them or they would feel bad about getting past me because I’m a girl. It’s a lose-lose situation.”

“I would either make a guy feel less manly because I got past them or they would feel bad about getting past me because I’m a girl. It’s a lose-lose situation.”

Jasmine attended college to major in Business and minor in Spanish. She studied abroad in Spain and has maintained her love and admiration for the language and culture ever since. She continues to practice her Spanish through Conversation Exchange, a program that allows individuals to practice speaking secondary languages of their choosing in their respective areas. During these meet-up’s, Jasmine rotates through several tables lead by native speakers and she engages in designated topics such as music, food, etc. Outside of the meet-ups, Jasmine seizes opportunities to practice her Spanish, even with strangers. She first gauges if a person or group of people are comfortable speaking Spanish and then, she approaches them to explain her interest in the culture and desire to improve her speaking skills. Jasmine explains, “I don’t want to just assume that anybody who appears Hispanic can speak Spanish. I’m not just going to go up to them and say hola.”

For similar sentiment, she doesn’t appreciate it when people randomly say “ni-hao” to her. She points out that individuals who stand outside storefronts and distribute flyers often yell Chinese at her in effort to attract her attention. Jasmine says, “I think they think it’s a way to relate but it has the opposite effect. I am less likely to want to purchase something at that store if that’s the way they market to customers.” We agree that if someone was genuinely interested in practicing Chinese, it would be more appropriate to ask permission to practice instead of assuming any person who appears Chinese would be comfortable to speak. Specifically, Jasmine is not fluent in Mandarin Chinese and she is more familiar with the lesser known dialect, Cantonese.

Mandarin is the most commonly used Chinese dialect while Cantonese is primarily used by those who reside in areas such as Hong Kong or Canton. Some consider Cantonese somewhat of a dying language since more and more people are learning Mandarin, even in those areas known for using Cantonese. Jasmine admits, “I remember when I was younger, I wished I could speak Mandarin instead.” as she felt it would help her fit in. When she became older, she regarded Mandarin as useful for her career and widespread in business. However, Jasmine has grown to appreciate the language and she finds it especially exciting to meet others who can speak Cantonese as it has become a rarely spoken language.

“I actually think I had higher standards for myself than my parents did. I strived to get good grades not for them but for myself.”

“My parents weren’t I guess the typical Asian parents,” explains Jasmine. While many Asian parents stereotypically pressure their children to pursue careers in medicine or law, Jasmine’s parents encouraged her to pursue whatever she wanted and didn’t demand straight A’s. She clarifies, “I actually think I had higher standards for myself than my parents did. I strived to get good grades not for them but for myself.” Jasmine has gone on to pursue a career in fashion, an industry dominated by females but certainly not by Asians. She has been fortunate to utilize her university degree while fulfilling an interest that she had grown since she was a little girl. 

Jasmine is excited for movies like Crazy Rich Asians to release in August. She said, “I can’t even think of many examples of Asian females in Hollywood, except Brenda Song in Wendy Wu Homecoming Warrior which was a terrible movie.” We agree that when the Disney Channel original movie first released, we were both so excited to watch another rare feature of Asian actors. The movie actually exploits so many Asian stereotypes such as dragons, monks and martial arts. Some praised the film for being a coming of age story and illustrating balance and tolerance of heritage. Others criticized the movie as another example of mainstream media relying on old traditions and further perpetuating stereotypes. You can be the judge for yourself.

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