The data shows AAPIs are underrepresented in our national cultural narrative. Of the 1,300 top-grossing films from 2007-2019 40% had no Asian American characters and 94% had no Pacific Islander characters. Asian American and Pacific Islander stories are American stories, and they deserve to be told and celebrated.
To close out Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) Heritage Month and welcome National Immigrant Heritage Month in June, The Asian American Foundation (TAAF) debuted its second annual AAPI Heritage Heroes special, highlighting seven incredible AAPIs who inspire through unwavering displays of resilience, creativity, courage, and heart. The second annual special’s goal is to combat stereotypes such as the perpetual foreigner or model minority myth by highlighting and celebrating authentic stories about incredible AAPI leaders and the AAPI directors and creatives who bring this work to life.
This year’s cohort of heroes include trailblazers in arts, education, fashion, food, public service, and sports. It’s available to stream on Hulu, and this year’s AAPI Heritage Heroes introduced a “Community Trailblazer” hero, a leader in the AAPI community who was nominated and selected by our audience.
By celebrating “AAPI Heritage Heroes,” TAAF demonstrates its commitment to narrative change because we believe in diversity in front of and behind the camera. When the storytellers reflect those in front of the camera we will see authentic depictions of AAPIs created by people who share those experiences.
Heritage Heroes is a creative, inspiring program that centers heroes from AAPI communities to share the stories of their work, their world, and their wish for the future for a better America.
In just its second year, TAAF’s signature narrative program continues to amplify creative voices behind the camera while claiming our stories on screen. This program is aligned with our five year narrative change impact goals to improve AAPI representation in mainstream media and journalism by combating harmful stereotypes and elevating authentic stories.
Once again, TAAF was honored to partner with AAPI-owned production company Enfranchisement Productions, and the branding house FutureFriends to create this year’s special.
When approaching this year’s strategy, the team wanted to highlight AAPI excellence across a spectrum of industries. By featuring leaders in elected offices, education, fashion, food, etc- it not only highlights a variety of professions that AAPIs can aspire to become every day but also combats persisting myths and harmful stereotypes.
We also wanted our followers to get involved as we identified this year’s cast so we introduced the opportunity to nominate a “Community Trailblazer.”
They had the chance to nominate AAPI leaders because of what their priorities are and what they care about. Votes flooded our Instagram and newsletter as individuals shared several names of leaders who inspire them.
Our inaugural “Community Trailblazer” is Tony DelaRosa, an award-winning, Filipino American Anti-Bias & Anti-Racist Educator, spoken word poet, and author of the forthcoming book: “Teaching the Invisible Race: Embodying a Pro-Asian American Lens in Schools.”
AAPI Heritage Heroes celebrates the AAPI community not only in front of the camera, but behind it. Seven AAPI directors and their mostly AAPI crews are each paired with an AAPI subject who resonates with their work and values. Each director had the creative freedom to bring their subject’s story to life and personally introduced each with a heartfelt message.
This year’s six films feature the below cast and directors:
Our directors are as diverse as the subjects we highlighted. For instance, Taiwanese American Georgia Fu, a scholarship recipient of The Sundance Institute | TAAF’s Fellowship and Scholarship program filmed the intimate conversation between fashion designers and activists Phillip Lim and Prabal Gurung. Native Hawaiian award winning filmmaker Alex Bocchieri spent time with AMAZN HQ’s Pranav Iyer and dove into his childhood and journey to create a space for AAPI athletes to inspire the next generation.
According to the 2023 STAATUS Index, over 60% of respondents believed that AANHPIs are somewhat or highly inaccurately portrayed in film/TV. Respondents recollect Asian American women being portrayed in stereotypical roles that sexualize them and Asian American men in roles pertaining to martial arts or medicine. But these stereotypes are inaccurate representations of who we are. The AAPI community has more than 50 different ethnic groups and we speak over 100 languages. Our lived experiences are complex and vast.
Through this year’s AAPI Heritage Heroes we showcase the incredible diversity and accomplishments of our cast across a variety of industries. We also worked with incredible talent behind the camera to hone their craft and create beautiful films featured on a national platform. From an Iraq War Veteran’s commitment to public service to a college graduate who started a first of its kind space for AAPI athletes after not seeing other athletes that looked like him on the field, the stories of this year’s heroes aren’t just Asian American and Pacific Islander stories. They are American stories.