Like many Asians working in the Western media, journalist Samantha Lui is passionate about getting diverse stories into the mainstream consciousness – and her own story is one that many Asians who were born in the West can identify with.
“Other people would always ask if I’m Chinese, and where I was from, and I would always say I’m from Canada, but my parents were born in Hong Kong – so I did struggle with that.”
“I was one of three Chinese kids in my elementary school, so I often worried about the kind of lunches I brought to school. I didn’t want to speak too much Chinese to my parents around my classmates, because I didn’t want people to make fun of me and my language.”
“My parents tried to maintain that cultural aspect with me. They put me in Chinese school; we’d celebrate Chinese New Year and all the customs.”
“They pushed me to learn more about my culture, but they also made it my choice. I quit Chinese school in my childhood, and I regret it now because I can’t read Chinese.”
Growing up, Lui was always aware of the lack of Asian representation in the media.
“For me, as a teenager, I would see these movies and I would question why I’d never see anyone that remotely looked like me.”
“Then I’d watch Youtube and see Youtubers like Kevjumba, Nigahiga, Wongfu Productions… and I’d be like, ‘Hey, these people are Chinese, and they’re creating their own stories and content.’”
“And that was entertaining to me, because I finally saw people that looked like me and related to me in certain ways.”
The Canadian was encouraged to pursue journalism by a high school teacher, having always had a knack for writing, video editing and design.
Now, she’s a producer for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, and has written for NBC News, Vice, Refinery29, and the South China Morning Post.
And despite how far Asians in the west have come, Lui knows that there’s still quite a long way to go.
“Producers are trying to include more Chinese people and Asian people in general, but there’s still so much more that needs to be done.”
“When people say stuff like, ‘We can’t relate to Asian people’, that’s kind of offensive to me. It’s offensive when people say they can’t relate to people of colour, because as Chinese Canadians, we’ve been doing that our whole lives.”
“Issues affect tonnes of people. To see a show with just white characters is disheartening, because those issues can happen to anyone. So why can’t producers hire more diversely?”
She’s one of many who would like to see more Asian representation in the stories reflected in television and film.
"Producers need to open them up to more diversity, but film companies should also hire diversely in terms of producers, actors, and writers. Actors also have to defend themselves, and not take stereotypical or offensive roles. And producers should be looking at different writers because it offers a different perspective.”
But Lui certainly isn’t a commentator who would prefer to highlight all the issues surrounding diversity in the media, without doing anything to change it.
“Ideally, I’d like to continue reporting about Asian people – Asian Canadians, Asian Americans – who are trying to make their mark in their communities.”
And for Samantha Lui, she’s certainly making a mark in hers.