Akemi Look - Interview Transcript

Emi Lea Kamemoto: [00:00:00] You’re Listening to strong Asian lead a podcast, exploring the Asian-American landscape in Hollywood. I’m your cohost Emi Lea Kamemoto.

Masami Moriya: I’m the other co-host David Moriya. And today we’re talking with Akemi look, she’s an actress. A writer and she’s so much more than anybody’s who ever we’re going to understand. we want to learn more about her today.

We’re so excited to have her.

Akemi Look: Thank you so much for having me.Kimmy, we’re going to be talking about your the path that you’ve taken to get where you are today. One of the first questions that we love asking all of our guests is you identify.

, I identify as an Asian American woman, I identify as part of the LGBTQ community. As a queer Asian woman. I also identify as a survivor of sexual assaultand as a survivor in general. and yeah, that’s Japanese, I’m half Japanese, half Chinese. So I also identify with both of those communities.

and I identify as an actor, a [00:01:00] writer and a storyteller.

I’m just curious what generations of Chinese and Japanese are you?

Emi Lea Kamemoto: Yeah. So on my father’s side, which is the Chinese side, I third generation. And on my mother’s side, I am fourth generation or USA.

Masami Moriya: Y’all insane. I think we discussed earlier too. your family was in the concentration camps during world war two, right?

Emi Lea Kamemoto: Yes, my, my grandparents were at Tuli

Masami Moriya: No.and that was we’re really going to get into it, a lot of the beginning of with my inter generational trauma and my identity as a Japanese Americanjust to dive right in. I remember being 10 years old and at that time, up in a suburb of Michigan, white We were one of the only Asian families I, by that age had already been bullied for being Asian was already hyper-aware of how [00:02:00] I looked that I looked different that I presented myself differently than other children and was made fun of for it.

Emi Lea Kamemoto: I went to the Olympic games as a spectator in 1996. And. Some tickets popped up on the internet for rhythmic gymnastics, which is a sport that I had never heard of. And we decided to go and watch it. I, as a 10 year old was so enthralled with the beauty of the sport, the athleticism, the grace it was just one of the most incredible things that I had ever seen.

And ended up going back. Home to Michigan and begging my mom to put me in rhythmic gymnastics. And when I started competing, I realized that I wanted to prove to the world that an Asian person that looked like me could represent the [00:03:00] United States of America at the highest level in the Olympic games.

And that became. My soul dream as a child was to represent the United States of America as an Asian person in the Olympic games in rhythmic gymnastics. So I trained my butt off. I won junior Olympics when I was 13. I went on to make the us national team. Junior national team. And then the the world championship team I ended up retiring right before the 2004 Olympics, but that’s a whole other story about gymnastics and abuse and all of the stuff that I went through with that I’m sure everyone has a lot of people have heard about the Larry Nassar story, which I am a survivor of him.

But that whole swath of my childhood, I had sacrificed because deep within me as a child, I just so badly wanted to be accepted [00:04:00] as American. And that’s something that my grandparents also went through in terms of them being told that they weren’t American enough being told that theywe have the perpetual foreigner myth in America and that sort of intergenerational trauma and shame.

Emi Lea Kamemoto: I love my Japanese American identity. Definitely it got passed down to my mom. It got passed down to me and it, for me, it manifested in this childhood dream of wanting to represent the United States at the Olympic games. And, I want to S I want, as far as I could, and I represented the U S and international competitions all over the world.

and that kind of helped me. Come to terms with that identity, but it wasn’t until later that I put two and two together that, Oh my gosh, this is my grandparents, intergenerational trauma that set this off for me, that I was like, I have to be, I’m not that somehow I’m not American enough.

Akemi Look: So I have to [00:05:00] prove to the world that I am, that I have to prove to America that I am that has been an ongoing theme, I think. And in a lot of Japanese American families with, especially with intergenerational trauma and the concentration camp.

Wow. Thank you so much for diving right in. That’s exactly like. It means a lot to us that you’ve gone through your journey be able to share that in that part, making that personal choice and going through the healing that gets you into a place where you can share only your experiences in the lives that you’ve lived, but the intergenerational trauma that’s been passed out is really what we want to also share with our listeners and to see the different looks.

an Asian-American identity go further than just what you present at or what your last name is. And already you show us how much you are a storyteller by how you wove in these pieces. But I’m so curious it’s come to your healing journey, when it’s come to processing so much [00:06:00] of what has come through for you.

What were some of the creative outlets that you were able to do that in? Because I can see you as creativity already through the way you shared with us, but what were those outlets for you you’ve been processing all of this?

First it was writing and then it was movement. It was dancing. So after I retired from gymnastics, I I just always had a love for performing. I always had a love and a desire for self-expression and I ended up training in ballet and modern dance. And I became a dancer after I was a gymnast moved to New York city to pursue dance.

Got a scholarship to Alvin Ailey, which is the first black, modern dance company in America. It’s an incredibly prestigious, modern dance company. AndI was training there for a while. I thought that was going to be my career and. I had always harbored a desire to be an actor.

when I [00:07:00] say that to my parents, and this is a very common story amongst. Many Asian-American actors. When I told my parents that my mom, it was like, look around, do you see anyone on television that looks like you? And it’s, it just was not possible back then, we had Lucy Lou, but that’s about it.

Akemi Look: That’s all that I had. yeah, in terms of self-expression I had, I always knew that I was going to be an artist. I always knew that I was going to to pursue something in the performing arts. And it just so happened that while I was in dance school on this huge scholarship at Alvin Ailey.

I blew my ankle out. And while I was still on crutches, I took my first acting class cause I couldn’t dance. And I was like, I have to do I have to do something if I’m not going to be dancing, let me explore this other medium. And that’s when I took my first acting class. And it totally ripped open this world of language and poetry and plays and storytelling.

And for the first [00:08:00] time I felt like I had been given words to express everything that I was feeling, whereas with dance, I tell people I was silent for 20 years of my life, because with gymnastics and dance, you don’t speak. If you speakyou’re told to shut up and just shut up and no chit chat, no talking.

So I had already had this built in mechanism for silencing myself and and acting allowed me to break out of that and find my voice for the first time as. as an artist, as an Asian American artist, as an Asian American actor and creative, and that totally started to transform who I was as a person and finding my voice has been.

Probably the longest journey. I just, I remember going into these classes and being so terrified of speaking because I S I just wasn’t used to it. I [00:09:00] literally had to go on a journey to find my voice.

Masami Moriya: Having you here and being able to share this story with everybody.

Emi Lea Kamemoto: I think it’s really important, but I also really just want it just thank you. and you having in creating these spaces and these platforms for

Masami Moriya: Hmm.

Emi Lea Kamemoto: like me to come on and , exercise my voice, to use my voice, to tell my story. I. I have not been able to tell my story and have I have not had the platform to tell my story. so , kudos to you and Emmy for creating these platforms in these spaces for people like me to come up here and share my experience with everyone, because I have not had that opportunity before.

Masami Moriya: There’s a lot of resilience in what your is already had. Like wave told us here, there’s, you’ve gone through so many different career paths and not been able to do one thing or having to change it over again. I think a lot of people feel that and they want to do that, but it’s, sometimes it’s a struggle to get themselves back up or to change a career, or to think that they can [00:10:00] do something else.

but you just join us right now. You just keep going, you move somewhere else. You find another outlet, you find the thing and it develops and develops as it goes. And you don’t let somebody else, or even yourself getting the way of doing something. uh,

Emi Lea Kamemoto: curious about that. Has there been something that has been a North star for you or words that you’ve told yourself in those moments of transition, in the harder moments that kept you going.

Yeah. that’s a good question. I.

I have I have definitely hit rock bottom many times. And I think because of that, because I know what it looks like and what it feels like. I can put my feet down and say, Oh yeah, this is what the lowest of low for my life feels like it starts to. It starts to get less scary. and goes back to just the re the, that word resilience of, I’ve come back from this [00:11:00] before I’ve come back from things far worse than this before.

And I having hope and having a good support system is important too. but. Having that belief in oneself that I do have something to say, I do have a gift to give I am on this earth for a reason is really what helps me keep going and not give up because, I have many days where I’m like have existential crises of am I here?

why am I doing this? if I’m Sad miserable, it’s not always like that, it’s the hope and the greater cause of why, what is the bigger picture? What is the greater cause of why I am doing this? to find something bigger than me, that’s more important than me.

Emi Lea Kamemoto: That’s more more important too. Bettering the world and humanity, I think, is [00:12:00] something that I keep going back to and that, I am just a blip on this radar or a blip on earth now. What am I going to, what am I going to do with this one life that I have? Andhow can I help humanity move forward in a positive direction?

So that’s what I keep going back to.

Masami Moriya: have you found that North star for yourself? what is, do you have a goal that you’re trying to work towards?

one of, one of the biggest things that have, that has emerged for me thematically has been issues, American visibility, Asian-American storytelling, Asian-American history. Breaking the bamboo ceiling uplifting our community more equity in our own community. the Asian American community we have the the biggest discrepancy of wealth in our own community.

Emi Lea Kamemoto: And things like that really. Really tell me that there is a [00:13:00] lot of work to be done. but in terms of North star yeah, I would say my Asian-American identity has been the North star for me and really focusing on these Asian American issues.

06_SAL POD AKEMI LOOK_recording-1_2021-02-04–t10-22-32pm–emi-lea-kamemoto: That’s beautiful. I’ve thinking about the idea that sometimes the things that we struggle through the most are that we grow with the most, the things that. come back as a reoccurring things. Theme are the. The themes that are supposed to be our purpose in life are supposed to be what drives and motivates us.

And I didn’t think that when we would get on to our podcast today that we’d be getting these life lessons and that I would be literally trying to contain the smile in my cheeks, because like I’m so inspired by vision, optimism, and what as your greater purpose with your art, with your performance.

And curious. Have there been characters that you’ve either written or that you’ve been as an actor that have allowed you to [00:14:00] feel fully in your power to date?

Emi Lea Kamemoto: Yeah, I was, so I did a short film called by the director. Darren will Casa. And it was the first time that I worked with an Asian American, a Japanese American director, specifically his film was about intergenerational trauma and the Japanese American concentration camps and how that gets passed down and how that manifests in later generations.

And the character that I played was. Very close to my own life. She was an Olympic runner and she has a career ending injury and she wants to represent the United States. And she has a lot of shame when it comes to her Japanese American identity. Andit’s this beautiful, surreal film about excavating that.

And killing those demons off and examining them and going face to face with those inner demons that say, you’re not enough. You’re [00:15:00] not good enough. You’ll never be enough. or you’re not American enough. that film, when I did that film, it was so cathartic for me to do, because it was the first time that I was able to really address those issues within myself and let go of those demons and face those demons.

literally in the moment on screen To release myself from them. So that was an incredibly cathartic experience for me. Okay.

06_SAL POD AKEMI LOOK_recording-1_2021-02-04–t10-22-32pm–emi-lea-kamemoto: wow. Shout out to Darren too, he’s a friend of ours. And I remember seeing that film and now everything’s coming back full circle because when I saw you, I was like, you look way too familiar to me. it, the, what you’re mentioning about literally facing the demons is that there are just scenes in that that are frightening, that I felt like I was going to have a heart attack because jumpy, but it.

right. I hadn’t even thought about that. Internal struggle for myself. Cause when I’d seen [00:16:00] it, I wasn’t a healing and growing person. but just in your explanation of it, it brought even more light the growth, the struggle and the healing that comes in literally facing something that maybe you don’t want to face.

wow. That’s beautiful.

Masami Moriya: . I’d like to expand on that question a little more you worked with Darren MECASA as one of your first Asian American and Japanese American directors.

What was that feeling like to be in a space that was led by Asian Americans in in the director’s position?

Emi Lea Kamemoto: my gosh. It was, I felt so seen and so held and so recognized so safe. It was this, it was an incredibly special experience and Darren is such an incredible person, such a beautiful soul that I felt safe with him to go to these really dark places. And that just to not also have to explain Asian identity to him, I didn’t have to [00:17:00] we had this sort of short hand and he’s a big brother to me now. So just feel so grateful that we are starting to have these Asian American storytellers their stories, entering these spaces, filmswith Asian-American protagonists examining issues that we have our community, culture and really unpacking that in an artistic way.

And I think it’s we just, we need more of that. We just need a lot more of that.

Masami Moriya: I just want I think we need, I agree. We need more of that. And I just, I haven’t totally felt that feeling yet. Like I just we need to start having more cause you go on a set and sometimes you have to explain to you want to push back on something because they’re not understanding a part of the identity and then sometimes did the director.

You can’t really push back and it makes living onset a little harder if they’re just unaccepting of a pushback or a correction. And that’s just fun. That’s about ego or whatever it is. So I [00:18:00] want to expand on that a little more about the industry itself. where do you see the industry as it is knowing that like how many Asian directors have you worked with or other agent at creators and actors like that space, have you had a lot of experiences.

Emi Lea Kamemoto: I have built my career thus far on working with Asian American directors. I actively sought out American directors and auditioned for their films, their short films, even if I knew that it wasn’t. Going to further my career. It was still an, a. A way to build community a way to tell these stories a way to these directors who are looking for Asian American actors who were trying to tell our stories.

So I made it a point when I was first starting out that I wanted to tell Asian American stories. Also on the other side, these were the only people who were hiring me, these would be the people. Yeah. These would be the people who would want to [00:19:00] hire an Asian-American actress.

in that symbiosis, I think a lot of collaboration and beginnings of the industry start, start to happen. So I set out to do that in very intentionally. I’ve had the honor of working with numerous Asian American directors since then Quintin Lee Emily ting. and there are so many more, most of my dream directors and filmmakers are Asian American because I know that these are the people who are going to tell our stories.

Yeah, I definitely seek it out and I definitely want to work with Asian American directors.

06_SAL POD AKEMI LOOK_recording-1_2021-02-04–t10-22-32pm–emi-lea-kamemoto: that is so empowering. Just. I haven’t heard many people go forward with the intention that this is the path I’m going to take. These are the voices I want to represent with and design my career around. And for anybody that’s listening everybody that’s listening. To hear that I can be, has done that successfully and has done that intentionally is beautiful.

It’s [00:20:00] empowering. It’s a, another way to look at designing your experience in and in entertainment. And I feel that is something that people need to hear. People don’t need to understand that. You can do that because you’ve had extremely successful career looking at your IMD IMDV too.

just only the healing that comes within being these characters and the growth personal personally, but, to transition also into writing on top of all of this for you, what drove you to start writing characters that you want other people to perform perhaps.

Emi Lea Kamemoto: Yeah. I know like I said with our stories, no one is going to tell our stories better than us and something that I was realizing was that. I even didn’t see myself reflected in a lot of these roles that were becoming available to Asian American actors. and I knew I was like, no, one’s going to hand me my dream role.[00:21:00]

No, one’s going to write the perfect script for just me. So I am going to have to go the ISA Ray Donald Glover McKayla Coel. Phoebe Waller-Bridge bridges route of writing my own stories and telling my own stories. So that was on the one hand. The other hand was like, I have also never seen an Asian American coming of age story that reflected my experience as a queer Asian person.

and I wanted to write that. So that’s what I’m developing right now is that I really. I really want to make this feature about this queer, a queer coming of age, love storyand cast a young Asian American actress and it to play a version of myself. but yeah, I think that was the biggest driving force for me was that no, one’s going to tell our stories.

Emi Lea Kamemoto: We have to tell our own stories.

Masami Moriya: Okay. And where did you pick up the writing skills. So you went to class for acting, but it’s something writing something you’ve always been doing. [00:22:00] It’s something you picked up learned from podcasts. Where did you, where is this part of the creativity? Because that’s just another layer of how awesome you are, what you’ve been doing.

And then I read this year. It’s really good. there’s things, that’s just another layer. So I’d love to learn more about that.

Emi Lea Kamemoto: Yeah. I took my first screen writing class in college and was writing this script about a girl who finds out that her family was killed by the Akubra and that she has deep ties with the Yakuza. and so that was my first foray was this elective class in college for screen writing.

That was the first time I really dabbled with it. about three years ago, I, four years ago, I was referred to this this incredible writing program run by this guy named Jeff

Masami Moriya: Yeah,

Emi Lea Kamemoto: It’s called writer’s bootcamp. And it’s eight weeks where you just knock out your first draft. He gives you tools, exercises.

And then after you do the writer’s bootcamp, you have the option of going into[00:23:00] a sort of a two year pro membership program. And that’s what I’m currently in right now is the writer’s bootcamp pro membership. And we meet every two weeks. We workshop each other’s work. share our exercises and he has an incredible.

an incredible. for writers for screenwriters. AndI definitely recommend this program to anyone who is interested in writing. Cause I think that he is really great and have a lot of alumni who have gone on to do many successful things. But for me, that’s really a place where I found a home to hone my craft and to really work on the craft of writing.

Emi Lea Kamemoto: Writer’s bootcamp.

Masami Moriya: What was his name again?

Emi Lea Kamemoto: Jeff Gordon.

06_SAL POD AKEMI LOOK_recording-1_2021-02-04–t10-22-32pm–emi-lea-kamemoto: Jeff Gordon. We’ll put it in the show notes. yeah, that’s incredible. And it sounds A theme that I see and the stories that you’ve shared with us already. again, calling out to everybody that’s listening, there’s an art to even telling your [00:24:00] own story on a podcast or being able to narrate it like this. So yeah, here I am. Like maybe I’m getting a little bit too inception in my mind, but I see you working your craft here with us right now, because I’m almost forgetting where I am.

but there’s a zoning theme of like perseverance. Of at the work, writing, keep drafting, to your, to like twice a month schedule of meeting with somebody and getting notes like that. Re if meeting with somebody to show work, isn’t something that keeps you accountable. I’m not really sure what else can.

with that perseverance, something that David mentioned about the industry and. We all know the accessibility for Asian Americans in the industry is tough. There’s a personal factor that we fight. maybe not fight fighting. That’s not the word that I want to use, but the personal factors that we experienced at home, maybe not necessarily having the same go for it.

06_SAL POD AKEMI LOOK_recording-1_2021-02-04–t10-22-32pm–emi-lea-kamemoto: Be an actress. Be, the writer. no worries. We’ve got your safety net here. We don’t necessarily all have that within the [00:25:00] Asian Asian American diaspora here. So when we look at this industry and the Asian and Asian-Americans that have made it through and where we’re going to go from now, I’m curious as to what as changing landscape or what you’ve witnessed in your career as an Asian-American in entertainment as having contributed to our success within Hollywood.

Emi Lea Kamemoto: Yeah. When I first started, there was not this strong community that we have now in Hollywood. it definitely felt like I was trying to forge a path on my own until I started to meet other people and we started to link up and we started to say, Hey let’s share our experiences.

Let’s build community. And, even my parents up until even last year, my dad was like, when are you going to get a real job? and so it has been a constant struggle. It has been a consistent struggle with my parents, for them to understand and accept my path. I, and that’s for them, it’s out of love.

It’s out of fear. It’s [00:26:00] out of Them wanting, not wanting me to suffer or struggle too much in this industry, but a big part of what I found in what’s now happening in Hollywood is chosen family and chosen community and really. Building community within Hollywood has been huge. I have seen in the last decade, friends of mine established very successful acting careers and it is such a joy to watch because I always wanted to be part of that wave that sort of kick the door open and helped really.

Create opportunities for other Asian American creatives in this space. So it’s definitely It’s definitely expanded also with YouTube. we have a lot of incredible YouTube stars just with the internet, Asian-Americans are starting to find their voice and find community.

So [00:27:00] see this as a broader movement, even outside of Hollywood that’s happening, but we are starting to build community and ways that we have never been able to build community before because of the internet.

Masami Moriya: I completely agree. I think not only the visibility that we’re able to put ourselves on the screen and then see ourselves there and democratize the visual landscape of what we’re consuming. but then we’re also seeing Oh, like we’re out there. Thanks. I think I grew up in the suburbs. It was very white community suburbs and not having a visual representation of other Asians around you.

Don’t see it. You don’t know that. Other people are out there, you just don’t. And so having the platforms that we have now it just makes it so much more like there is a community that you could reach out that some people are doing things and that’s extremely important because then what that whole representation movement means is like being able to see yourself.

Being able to do that because somebody else did and that’s what really matters. And so even if it’s just doing it for [00:28:00] the first time and it’s not, you’re, you’re worried that it might be not perfect. It’s more important that it’s out there, you keep moving forward and that other people see it.

Not only is that evitable see you doing more, but you’re continuing your path. In growing that future in that community, you start to build because then other people will see you like your work. Then they start to come with you and you can start to reach out to them and say, Hey, let’s go build something more.

Let’s build our crew, build our community. Oh, you’re in the same area. Let’s do something together. And you start to have that. ability and with things like clubhouse, like we met on clubhouse I don’t know if we would have w how long would have had been until we met each other without clubhouse.

You don’t know

when

we’re meeting.

06_SAL POD AKEMI LOOK_recording-1_2021-02-04–t10-22-32pm–emi-lea-kamemoto: long considering the

pandemic.

Masami Moriya: Oh my God. Yeah.

exactly. So it could be a long time, right? So we have the internet to really think for this community start to build. And as we’ve seen, as you seen, like last night and these other larger Asian-American rooms were having these huge discussion of what it means to be Asian-American and talking about the [00:29:00] anti-blackness in our community and having these discussions, which we otherwise, probably wouldn’t have had.

It’d be so hard to get people into a whole room that’s, but in general, like into a whole town hall, no one wants to go to that. Like it just, it you’re already that traumatic thing and then have to take the time out of your day to go do something. it’s. There’s a barrier, but this internet has really broken it all down so that we can come together, learn from each other, ask questions and learn about ourselves and learn about others.

Cause it’s really important. Not that we want our own community, our own personal identities, but the identities of others and how they experience life and how they experience different. just different ways of living and how. We can’t just monolith ourselves into thinking that this is how we all are and it’s not true.

So it’s always an opportunity to keep talking with people.

06_SAL POD AKEMI LOOK_recording-1_2021-02-04–t10-22-32pm–emi-lea-kamemoto: When Kenny and I had started talking before our recording. You had mentioned the ability to meet a lot of people and hear people’s different stories. And I am starting to see [00:30:00] that after I stepped out of college, after I stepped out of the Asian American student organizing space, really stopped D have a diversity of stories. a diversity of lived experiences cause maybe conversations with just evolve, revolve around work and not revolve around identity. And it has been such a gift to hear more stories again, through things like clubhouse to be reminded, of the Renaissance of like Asian entertainment on YouTube and how that led to me for the first time feeling seen in.

like kina Grannis has performances on YouTube. I was like, what singer, half Japanese. need to learn how to play guitar now, things like that. what it inspires me is that we’re things like the internet to build community with that are just, that are outside of our own identity groups.

And I look back to. David, what [00:31:00] you had mentioned about us being a monolith? I think I personally started to fall under that myth again surrounding myself be well finding myself surrounded by a dominant culture. And it’s really not until we challenge that monolith mentality that we really start to accept and respect the differences between our cultures and identities get really curious about them that we, as a.

As an Asian-American and as an Asian community, we’ll get someplace. find that a lot of people will say, Oh, Asians can never work together. they’re so diverse. They’re so different. They’re like, why would they want to work together? And. I can understand that argument, but I think the reason why I am invested in learning about the Asian community is because there is so much diversity.

It is so beautiful. Everybody is bringing to the table, different tools, mindsets, which means that our ability to create a solution is going to be so much more powerful than a group that thinks all the [00:32:00] same, whether that’s an industry or beyond that.

Akemi Look: Oh, I love that so much. I, that, yeah. yes. To all of that. Absolutely. if you really think about it, we have, because of our, just to reiterate what you said because of our diversity of experiences within the Asian-American community, the creative solutions that we can come up withjust in terms of our diversity of thought it’s incredible.

And I don’t think that I don’t think that it’s something to take for granted at all. So thank you for saying that.

06_SAL POD AKEMI LOOK_recording-1_2021-02-04–t10-22-32pm–emi-lea-kamemoto: God, thank you for this conversation inspired and helped me remind myself of what that looks like. I’m somebody who gets a lot of mental images. So yes, the mental images of us, each bringing a different tool is one person has chopsticks. Another person has an advocate other people have all of their skills and talents that we’re bringing to the table.

And those are just, stereotypes of who we are. But. coolest thing is that we’re leaning in our stories that we’re seeing presented on screen. These days, they’ll be a very [00:33:00] nuanced representation of that Asian family member like David. And I keep talking about how going to have a scene of Asian-Americans and you’re just going to see a pile of shoes by the door, it’s a Filipino or a Pacific Islander family.

And there’s just a bunch of slippers outside the door, like those little things. For any of us that are Asian or Asian-American, we’re like, Oh, okay. I get what sort of family this is right now. immediately without explaining anything. And of course the. The dominant culture.

We’ll need a little bit more explanation to truly get there. But if we keep producing that content, they’ll pick it up just like anybody who’s ever watched anime over and over again, or K dramas over and over again, you get the cultural nuances without anybody explaining anything. I’m excited to see that as part of the future.

as all of this content keeps getting created and keeps getting supported.

Emi Lea Kamemoto: Yeah, absolutely.

what we like to do here is also find solution-based Problem solving. So we want to find other solutions. What is something that you’d like to see changed in [00:34:00] the industry? And you have a solution for it, like a proposed solution.

Emi Lea Kamemoto: As we are building Asian-American. Community and coalition, we are starting to see leaders emerge in a big way who are interested in community building and who are also interested in coalition building with other minority groups, which I think is crucial. and one thing that I would love to see specifically in Hollywood is m more of our stars and influencers speaking out about issues pertaining to the Asian American community. and I you know I, get that it can be tough when you have a platformI get that. when you have a career. would love to see it less controversial or scary for Asian American stars to speak out on Asian American issues because they have such an influence in the culture [00:35:00] because they have such a platform.

how do we create a safe space for them to say, I’m doing this for the community, is important to me. And at the end of the day, maybe it’s not important to them. And I think that we also need to maybe question that and I don’t know, ignore that, but that was a big thing for me at the beginning of the pandemic, when the Asian hate crimes.

Emi Lea Kamemoto: Started spiking. I was looking around at lot of people in very privileged, influential positions not standing up for their own community not standing up for the people who literally put them in that position. and for me, that was absolutely infuriating and I felt I felt extreme sadness and frustration with that.

But I also have empathy for them that, they’ve built these careers and it’s, maybe they don’t want to tarnish their branding or whatever, but I would love for, them to be able to feel safe, to speak out and to create an environment where it’s not [00:36:00] controversial for them to speak out.

Yeah, I think that’s, that would be my solution is to also look to these leaders who are emerging, who are speaking out and look to that and put social capital in them. give them more influence, given them more of a platform, uplift their voices, amplified those voices. instead, so that’s what I am.

Emi Lea Kamemoto: I’m seeing emerge in the Asian-American community. Just. recently and that’s definitely giving me hope is that, Oh, okay. Maybe I’m looking in the wrong place. maybe the people that I want to be speaking out, aren’t speaking out well that’s what happened. but there are people who are speaking out and let’s amplify those voices.

so yeah.

06_SAL POD AKEMI LOOK_recording-1_2021-02-04–t10-22-32pm–emi-lea-kamemoto: That’s an incredible strategy.

Masami Moriya: Why do you think that these influencers and actors in powerdon’t speak out.

I think because they are afraid of. I think they’re afraid. I really do. I think there’s a [00:37:00] fear of, no. If I speak out, people will think that I’m negative or victimizing myself or my community. And may it could be something as shallow is, Oh, it’s going to tarnish my brand or, but the feeling that they are above at all, it just rubbed me.

Emi Lea Kamemoto: So the wrong way. And And I think that’s definitely something that needs to be addressed. yeah. Does that make sense? but I think there is a, yeah, I think there is a, there a genuine fear there. And and I wished that it, that th that it wasn’t, I wish that it wasn’t, and I wish that, that we could foster an environment where they did feel safe.

Masami Moriya: I think there’s other actors and other examples who are not Asian, who are able to speak out against things and have the communities back communities backing on it, or not either not have their community backing on it. when you have people who would just say stupid stuff and do stupid things, but people will still like them.

I won’t say any actors names, they are they do. Contest and they win those. I’m like, why, w why do you get [00:38:00] when you get to do that? Or why don’t you get to do this stupid, make this mistake, and then everybody still goes, watches your movies. I don’t understand.

06_SAL POD AKEMI LOOK_recording-1_2021-02-04–t10-22-32pm–emi-lea-kamemoto: that’s an interesting juxtaposition of privilege and authenticity, which is interesting today because we see social culture, rewarding authenticity, no matter how, terrible. You may be, if you’re being authentically, going to get a following. which perpetuates, I think what you’re talking about, David, and then one of the, one of the reasons why I think there is so much fear that you highlighted at Kenny is One of the reasons that fear exists in speaking out is because folks aren’t unaware of what social capital they have backing them, because they’re unsure that if they speak out, maybe that deal gets cut and their stream of income gets lost and they don’t have generational wealth or a safety net behind them.

so this is where privilege plays into fear of being the only. Asian in the room, the only Asian [00:39:00] talking about this, your solution being that we can uplift these individuals, we can show them how much support they have. We can connect them with other like-minded loud, high following individuals and say, all right, you to create a campaign together, we’ll support you.

Things like that. That’s the visioning that David and I have had with what strong Asian lead can do as a community. But we’ve also seen that with hate is a virus no, we’re not going to sit back. That was a beautiful example of coalition, building collaboration amongst and Asians inside this country and outside of this country, which was incredible to see.

But

Masami Moriya: But it

06_SAL POD AKEMI LOOK_recording-1_2021-02-04–t10-22-32pm–emi-lea-kamemoto: inspired to we have built that power to combat that fear. And it does require people taking a risk, us stepping out for our values first necessarily that, could lose my brand or followers, et cetera, because of this.

Masami Moriya: Yeah. And I think there’s an issue within the community too. I don’t call it an issue. I think there’s a There is [00:40:00] a, it’s just a cultural issue. I think it is within the Asian American community for the Japanese, it’s the nail that sticks out gets hit first. And so the one, even for your own community, you might say, don’t do anything.

You’re being a troublemaker. And sometimes that backlash is against people. we get gasoline all the time. There’s a whole thing on clubhouse last night, people getting gasoline, like you don’t get to say anything because you guys are not people of color and you don’t. Having you have too much privilege.

that doesn’t mean anything you get, can’t get gap. Don’t do that. We get our experiences matter and are valid too. And When we want, we have people to speak up against these things. It’s you still have to stand your ground to even if the community doesn’t want, it’s what’s right. No, one’s right for yourself.

Masami Moriya: And it’s right. For other people, you’re to try to help other people, even if your community doesn’t really agree with it. And they might be an older generation who doesn’t get the Asian American experience, it’s a whole different experience. And they come from different countries. If you’re an immigrant of communist countries or different, just different.

Ways of living? the one thing I wanted to also bring up is Steven Yeun had an article come [00:41:00] out like today or yesterday. And one of the things that it really hit hard that I saw on Twitter a lot. And he says, should we ignore them? Because nobody else really cares about them.

. Sometimes I wonder if the Asian American experience is what it’s like when you’re thinking about everybody else, but nobody is thinking about you.

Emi Lea Kamemoto: Yeah, that quote definitely resonated with a lot of people.

Masami Moriya: He came at it with that. And I think that was like, Ooh. Yeah, that happens. And as much as that might get pushed back and you don’t get to say that thing, like same time, it’s true. Like a lot of us feel that way. And we don’t like to say that too, because we don’t want to be the ones complaining, but at the same time, it’s true.

And one thing that I see that this is what I see in the industry. That I’d like to see changed is his managers are Asian. I bet they backed him on that. And so there are Asian actors out there writers out there who say things against other communities, or just feeling about the Asian American experience.

But [00:42:00] aren’t Asian, American managers and agents who say, don’t do that. You might lose your career. You’re going to lose the white audience because you’re talking about Asian American issues. that’s a problem. I hear a lot of people who are her writers and yeah, but he doesn’t want me to write the stories.

I want And then why is he your manager? I’ve heard that I’m like, don’t. No, you want to right. They work for you. And so if they’re trying to silence you a little bit, because they’re not Asian, like that’s a problem. So you mean your manager, not Asian, and they’re gonna support you. Great. But if they’re going to silence you for things that, you need to speak out against that’s the thing I want to see changed.

Emi Lea Kamemoto: Yeah, absolutely. Yep. 1000%.

06_SAL POD AKEMI LOOK_recording-1_2021-02-04–t10-22-32pm–emi-lea-kamemoto: It goes to what you shared at the beginning. Occamy about how there

Masami Moriya: Yeah,

06_SAL POD AKEMI LOOK_recording-1_2021-02-04–t10-22-32pm–emi-lea-kamemoto: at every single level who can help make that decision, whether it’s the director who hired you, or even the show runners, et cetera, that bring in Asian American voices or Asian voices that vouching for that vouch for and uplift Asian-Americans who are entering into the industry.

they have [00:43:00] to exist within the industry to be able to pull folks up and working within the agency structure. I was able to see something profound. I feel like with any large structure and I worked in Capitol Hill prior to being in the entertainment industry, and I found a lot of similarities, but as soon as you step in as an intern, You essentially told to wipe clear of anything that is you have your identity.

And instead take on the cloak of the dominant culture within that space. Oftentimes a dominant culture here in America is white culture, and I thought I would see that erasure of identity throughout the different levels within the agency. And you, of course, that in especially young people who are still trying to figure out who they are as a human let alone their ethnic identity.

That’s just a whole nother level. You’re throwing at them. the people who are truly successful within the agency were the individuals who never once or maybe for God, and then reclaimed again, their identity who stuck out for stories. That was similar to the experiences that they [00:44:00] had growing up. And maybe sometimes they got known as the agent that was all for black stories are all for Asian stories, but they didn’t care.

They were like in itself is worth it to me. I’m here for that mission to be representing these stories so that other people, as you mentioned before, I’m kicking down the doors that other people can come up behind me. and it’s really inspiring to see just how many times you’ve done that in your own career.

Kicked down a door, seen that somebody also opened a door for you that was already in that position as well. And we really believe in this top down bottom up approach at strongly Asian lead as well. That like the solution can’t be built, we’re all. Just in one level, like one story, one narrative w our diversity in itself is a tool that allows us to be in so many different places with so many different experiences that frankly fascinating and interesting.

the thing I never understood about the industry is try to shove everybody into one story when [00:45:00] literally

Emi Lea Kamemoto: It.

06_SAL POD AKEMI LOOK_recording-1_2021-02-04–t10-22-32pm–emi-lea-kamemoto: It.

The thing that you haven’t heard, that cells haven’t quite got that.

so we’re gonna, we’re gonna wrap it, start wrapping up here. And before we get to our rapid fire questions, is there anything else you’d like to add to the conversation? something you want people to know or hear or something you’d just like to express.

I think that we covered a lot I would just say that, these conversations are so important and we just keep having as a community, we have to use our voice. We have to speak up. We have to tell our stories. We have to literally, if it’s scary, ourselves out there and up, tell our stories period that I think is just the biggest the biggest.

Emi Lea Kamemoto: hump to get over as a community and culturally. So I encourage everyone to be that loud Asian person in the room.

Masami Moriya: Yes.

06_SAL POD AKEMI LOOK_recording-1_2021-02-04–t10-22-32pm–emi-lea-kamemoto: Thank you for sharing that charge. I love that.

Masami Moriya: What are you cooking right now? Right.[00:46:00] Last night I made salmon and I And grilled vegetables, I’m trying to eat healthier. yeah, a

Yeah.

Emi Lea Kamemoto: for skin for salmon. And it’s basically you scale it then you salt the skin and you let it rest face, face down on the paper towel. So the moisture can be absorbed out of the skin.

And then and then you sear it on very high heat. And that is how you get crispy skin on fish.

06_SAL POD AKEMI LOOK_recording-1_2021-02-04–t10-22-32pm–emi-lea-kamemoto: Oh, my God drop, my ex everywhere and wondering that’s.

Masami Moriya: I love cooking. Let’s put it on the podcast. I don’t really know what you’re cooking. If you knew how to cook something good. That’s what I want to learn. That’s a new technique. That’s fantastic.

Emi Lea Kamemoto: Welcome.

what are you watching these days?

of the pandemic, I’m definitely have gravitated towards more lighter fairs. I’ve been watching Schitt’s Creek. it’s just a, it’s just a feel good comedy. And even though there aren’t any Asians on it it’s still a sort of fish out of water story and I really enjoy it.

and our last one who or what do you want [00:47:00] uplift that audiences may not have heard of?

Emi Lea Kamemoto: , I definitely want to uplift Sam from hate as a virus and the entire hate is a virus team because this stuff went down in March, I was looking around and I was like, what are we going to do about this? And then he does a virus emerged as a as a leader and as. People who were speaking out against the anti-Asian hate crimes and harassment and the assaults that were happening to our community.

And thank God for them really stepping up and doing that work because we needed that. We really crucially needed that. And it’s leaders like Sam and hate is a virus that we need to put our attention and backing and amplification. Into and seek those people out. so I would, yeah, I would say Sam and hate is a virus and the hate is a

Masami Moriya: Yeah.

Emi Lea Kamemoto: team.

Masami Moriya: Yeah. And that’s Sam, when you know a H Y U N, he’s been such a, just someone. he’s bringing the community together in such a way [00:48:00] that I don’t know anybody else could really hold it down as much as he does. he works so hard. not only on us, we’ll talk Tuesdays on Tik TOK

he’s the. As chairman of the Asia Asian commission in Massachusetts. And he’s just now he just got back into grad school. so he is a force to be reckoned with. AndI look forward to whatever he does in the future and supporting him in what he does. I think it’s fantastic and they hate it.

Masami Moriya: The virus team is just killing it out there. They’re really pushing out the noise making things happen. And I think that’s a great uplift. So thank you.

06_SAL POD AKEMI LOOK_recording-1_2021-02-04–t10-22-32pm–emi-lea-kamemoto: Thank you

for Okay. we’ve been so grateful to hear more than we even thought we would about your journey. And we really appreciate the honesty and vulnerability that you invited to this space. I know that so many folks are going to see themselves every facet of the story that you’ve told.

Which is power, right? We often lean on the quote consciousnesses power by Yuri Kochiyama at strong Asian lead. Because time we learn [00:49:00] something new, every time we become aware or conscious of a different experience, we understand we have more power. so thank you so much for sharing what you have with us today.

06_SAL POD AKEMI LOOK_recording-1_2021-02-04–t10-22-32pm–emi-lea-kamemoto: And we cannot wait for everything that you’re working onto pop off all the stories that you’re writing be on the screen. And can’t wait to speak with you again and clubhouse in and other platforms as well,

Emi Lea Kamemoto: Thank you so much for having me thank you for creating this space and this platform for me to speak on because we really need it. And. You two are amazing. Thank you. Thank you for having me.

06_SAL POD AKEMI LOOK_recording-1_2021-02-04–t10-22-32pm–emi-lea-kamemoto: right back at ya.

Masami Moriya: All

Emi Lea Kamemoto: Thank

 

Masami Moriya: right.

 

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