Ever since the ’90s, the month of May has been designated as Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month in the United States. It’s been used to celebrate the extraordinary contributions Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders have made to the country—the same country that has a long history of hostile treatment toward these communities. Now, it’s more important than ever to acknowledge and appreciate these diverse, vast cultures and how much they impact the American landscape. To do that, Cosmopolitan asked Asian and Pacific Islander creators, visionaries, founders, and stars how they’re celebrating AAPI Heritage Month in 2021. According to them, there will be lots of shared delicious food, late nights singing karaoke, and so much time with loved ones. Here’s what they had to say.
ALEXA LOO, actor
“Celebrating AAPI Month means connecting with my fellow AAPI friends and family and offering them support after such an extremely difficult year. I think it’s important to discuss the challenges that we have faced as well as take the time to celebrate our accomplishments. Together, we can plan ways to get involved, speak out, and advocate for positive change in the coming year.”
KARRUECHE TRAN, actor and model
“I’m supporting the community through donations and purchases as well as watching films from AAPI producers/directors. I even created a fun playlist full of AAPI artists. I’ve been educating myself on current events happening as well as utilizing my platform to spread awareness and uplift the AAPI community.”
JESSE LEIGH, actor
“I have been learning more about my Chinese heritage from my grandmother. I learned our family is from the Guangdong province (formerly known as Canton) and therefore I will be eating even more Chinese food than usual as I’m on the search for the best Cantonese cuisine in L.A.”
RAVEENA AURORA, musical artist
“I’m celebrating AAPI month by listening to a lot of the Sikh shabads (spiritual music) that I grew up around in our temples. I love going on hikes and listening to that music in nature—it makes me feel so connected and light every time I practice that for myself.”
WALLICE, musical artist
“I took a year of Japanese language in college and I grew up with my father speaking Japanese at home, but I would always respond in English so I never considered myself fluent. But this month, I started studying again and learning more kanji. I always have felt a connection with my Japanese heritage and I think that becoming fluent will deepen that and I hope to continue studying and be 100 percent fluent someday soon!”
REI AMI, alt-pop recording artist
“I’m learning how to cook all my favorite Korean comfort foods. I’ve been calling my mom often to ask for her recipes and I’ve never felt more connected to my Korean heritage.”
CHRISELLE LIM, content creator and cofounder of Bumo Brain and Bumo Work
“I am celebrating and highlighting other AAPI creators and businesses on my platform and celebrating their stories. Also, personally, I’m taking the time to teach my daughters about their heritage. We’ll do something fun every week where they can experience something from their own culture, whether it be food, movies, shopping!”
SHERRY COLA, actor and comedian
“I keep it simple and true to the roots. I call my dear mother, aka the most badass immigrant queen, every single day to reflect and manifest. I support small Asian restaurants because food is way more delicious when you know it was made from scratch by a family that defied all odds. And of course, I use the hell out of my voice to uplift and amplify as a reminder to the world that our AAPI stories deserve to be told!”
NADYA OKAMOTO, author, organizer, and entrepreneur
“It’s really heartbreaking to realize how little AAPI sociology and history are taught through our education growing up in the U.S.—why was it that I learned about Lewis and Clark every year but never had an in-depth unit about Japanese internment or learned about the problematic dynamic of the model minority myth? Why didn’t I learn about the murder of Vincent Chin or the activism of badass AAPI women like Yuri Kochiyama and Grace Lee Boggs until I was in college and finally had the space and catalyzing experiences to push me to do that research on my own?
“These historical leaders and moments should be part of the history we are taught in school here—AAPI are not invisible. We are here and we have always been here. And our history cannot and should not be erased or ignored. So this month, I am taking more time to educate myself about the history of Asian America and challenge even my own beliefs about my race, which I grew up feeling ashamed of given how teased I was about being Asian, especially because of my eye shape. Education. Learning. Unlearning. Action. That’s how I’m celebrating this month, and I fully intend to continue this work beyond May.”
SARAH LEE and CHRISTINE CHANG, cofounders and co-CEOs of Glow Recipe
“Glow Recipe has a lot of exciting activations this month, from events to charity partnerships and more, to uplift the voices of the AAPI community and invite our community to join in however they can. We’ve donated to Act to Change, an incredible organization dedicated to ending bullying among Asian American and Pacific Islander youth, and are honored to be a sponsor for its third annual Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) Day Against Bullying + Hate virtual event on May 18.
“As an extension of our partnership with Act to Change, we’re organizing a virtual event, AAPI Beauty & Fashion Fest on May 23. It’ll be a day of conversation and celebration of AAPI cultures, including panels and master classes with AAPI leaders in the beauty and fashion space.
“We’ve also launched a limited-edition T-shirt with Asian American Girl Club with a ‘finger heart’ design, which is a gesture used to communicate love and positivity in Korea. All proceeds will go to Act to Change.
“We are fortunate to have a platform from which we can raise awareness of these important issues while sharing the core values upon which we built our company. We’re further highlighting our brand’s heritage and some favorite Korean rituals on the Glow Recipe IG Live throughout the month.”
KUHOO VERMA, actor
“I am celebrating by surrounding myself with my AAPI friends. By talking about our namesakes, their biracialism, and the complexities of benefiting from different levels of colorism.”
Photo credits: Alexa Loo by Brendan Meadows; Olivia Liang by Shane McCauley; Sohla El-Waylly by Jingyu Lin; Joy Osmanski by Sarah Ford; Karan Brar by Luke Fontana; Laufey by Blythe Thomas; Karrueche Tran by Brandon Hicks; Cas Jerome by Anthony Quisay; Alexandra Cuerdo by Angelica Jardiel; Geeta Malik by Qumaru Nisa; Alyse Whitney by Dave Austria; Jennifer Woodward by Chris Singer; David Yi by Chad Chisholm; Jesse Leigh by Kelly Balch; Audrey Nuna by Khufu; Bella Poarch by Tati Bruening; Aadila Dosani by Ashley Ross; Mxmtoon, aka Maia, by Blythe Thomas; Kevin Woo by Riley Tollett; Jennifer Cheon Garcia-Warn by Jeffrey Fountain; Queenie Mae by Tyrell Hampton; Darren Barnet by Kay Kasem; Princess Mae by Maria Pena; Charlotte Nicdao by Bayden Hine; Wallice by Jerry Maestas; Reyn Doi by Amelia Joyce Tubb; Richa Moorjani by Jesse Volk; Sophia Ali by Bianca Poletti; Obsidienne Obsurd by Trick Horan; Rei Ami by Elinor Kry; Spill Tab by Jade Sandler; Victor Li by Zach Hilty; Laya DeLeon Hayes by Francis Hills; Leyna Bloom by Johnathan Reis; Tiana Le by Molly Pan; Priyanka by The Ugly One; Chriselle Lim by Karla Ticas; Tiffany Moon by Shelbie Monkers; Wang Newton and Coco Ono by Coffee Kang Photo; Karen Chee by Lloyd Bishop; Half Waif by Lissyelle; Ella Jay Basco by Leslie Alejandro; Ramona Young by Sergio Garcia; Jelani Aryeh by Daniel Lang; Tim Nguyen by Cody Ethier; Nadya Okamoto by Sophia Wilson; Kuhoo Verma by Francis Hills.