This May, we at CLEVER are celebrating Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) Heritage Month this year by honoring and amplifying AAPI creators in the influencer marketing space. Four CLEVER creators have partnered with us to publish our first-ever AAPI Heritage Month blog series. These posts are intended to provide insight into how the influencer industry can support AAPI creators beyond just this month.
This week we're so excited to feature Samantha Shank of the blog, Learn in Color!
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My story starts somewhere in Hunan, China - I was found at a bus stop and was adopted by an American couple when I was 6 months old. I grew up in a small Indiana town where less than 1% of the population was Asian. It wasn't uncommon for me and my two sisters, also adopted, to be one of only a handful of Asians in the whole building. For the most part, it didn't bother us and I didn't think much about it.
Still, the sheer chance of my circumstances inspired me to make the most of life. As a quirky 14-year-old, I decided to start a blog about my interests: history, new cultures, and places, and the world around me. The blog took off and I created a full-time income for myself by the time I turned 17. My blog, Learn in Color (LIC), has grown into a database of resources for helping kids learn more about the world around them, because diverse children's literature may be the only exposure to other cultures that some kids experience. Diversity isn't just about different skin colors either - it's recognizing minorities within minorities. It's acknowledging the difference between Asian cultures - China, Japan, Korea, Thailand, India and more. They all have unique traditions, cultures, and languages that are worth learning about and celebrating. I believe understanding other people's joys, struggles, and cultures is the key to empathy.
While LIC has always helped kids learn and build empathy, I personally realized the importance of diversity and representation in branding and marketing in my teen years. Beauty was one of the first connections I made with Asian culture. When I was about 15 years old, I began wearing make-up. My Asian eyelids don't have the typical creases that everyone around me seemed to have. I was lost every time a tutorial told me to put a certain color in my crease and mastering the perfect eyeliner was tough, since I’d open my eyes and my eyeliner would disappear. I stumbled across Jenn Chae's monolid makeup tutorials and was ecstatic to find a beauty blogger that helped me feel confident and beautiful. Her partnerships with certain brands made me a lifelong fan. She was a breath of fresh air and relief - especially since a Google search of "monolid makeup brushes" can turn up weird results like this. *eye roll*
Around the same time, I found that shopping for appropriate clothing proved to be another challenge for my under-100 pound petite frame and size 5/5.5 feet. I began following Jean Wang from Extra Petite - an Asian fashion blogger who has partnered with several major fashion brand’s petite clothing lines. Jean has taught me almost everything I know about petite fashion.
Makeup and clothes might pale compared to larger, more important topics, but these small, day-to-day struggles magnify how important representation in marketing is, especially since I had no one in person to help me out. It can be isolating when the popular, trendy items don’t work for you. Whether it's Black hair care, mascara for redheads, or eyelash curlers for Asian eyes, representation allows brands to reach untapped communities eager for products that work for them. Finding helpful influencers who understand your unique problems is one of the most gratifying feelings.
With the rise of hate crimes against Asian-Americans, our voices are more important than ever. Asians are often left out and overlooked in conversations about race. This AAPI month, spend some time learning about Asian history, culture, and the impact of Asian-American experiences. Recognize other people’s experiences, even if you haven’t personally seen or witnessed what they have. Support Asian-American authors and artists and creators and entrepreneurs (there aren’t as many accepted in mainstream culture as there should be!). As for me, this month and beyond, I’ll be advocating for my favorite children’s books featuring Asian characters and sharing some of my favorite history-making Asians.