Meet the Asian girl group who debunk stereotypes with satire
“With all the anti-Asian racist things that have happened, we had tackled the problem before, but it just gives more meaning and more force to why we did this,” added Yau. “Our songs have always been about the trials we’ve been through, but right now our work gives us more power.”
Composed of members Yau (Quirky Rice), Inocencio (Baby Rice), Anna Suzuki (Edgy Rice) and Maya Deshmukh (Brown Rice), the four women represent different Asian American ethnicities: Chinese, Filipino-Singaporean, Japanese and Indian respectively. (Full disclosure: Deshmukh is a personal friend of mine.)
This difference in identity fuels much of their comedy and act, especially as they feel the Asian American experience is blurred by a lack of understanding around its diversity.
“We are all Asians from different countries or from different backgrounds; that in itself is a visual and something that we also call upon throughout the show on several occasions, ”said Inocencio. “Of course, neither of us wants to individually represent this whole culture because we shouldn’t, but just speaking out against it and showing that we’re different has been really helpful on our shows.”
The group, who was on NBC Asian America’s #RedefineAtoZ list in 2018, also adds that this moment connected all of their cultures more than ever and that it is something that keeps them working.
“The eight different Asian communities are finally coming together because it’s like an open secret that all of our sensibilities are very separate, very classist,” said Inocencio. “It’s all divided, but for the first time, we see everyone in our generation really supporting each other.
‘Oh that’s racist’
All four performers are actors with their own burgeoning careers. While they’ve racked up credits in everything from “Orange Is the New Black” to “New Amsterdam” to “Will & Grace”, it hasn’t been easy for them to get their breaks, big or small. Their real struggles with the entertainment industry and Hollywood are featured in their AzN Pop! shows where they can call the shots, unlike many other areas in which they occur.
“It’s not just diversity in the cast, it’s a lack of diversity on an entire scale,” Deshmukh said of the industry. “Policymakers, network executives and other heads of production companies are generally white. So I think the more diversity you get with the decision makers and the people behind the scenes, the more you can tackle some of these issues. “
“We’re getting more representation, but now we’re finding more issues, just because the keepers aren’t Asian, so they don’t know what to do,” Inocencio added, using the problematic casting choices of “Raya and the Last Dragon, “where the Southeast Asian players were noticeably absent, for example.” Ultimately, like what Maya said, it comes down to the fact that manufacturers are not diverse. “
Deshmukh recounted a behind-the-scenes experience with United Citizens Brigade, an improv and skit group where the group made their debut, when a school teacher saw the group preparing for one of their firsts. performance. When she learned that the band was called AzN Pop !, she asked if they would perform songs like the East Asian riff, a well-known musical phrase that has often been used in Western culture as an Asian stereotype. .
Deshmukh explained, “Immediately after I said that, (she) was like, ‘Oh my God. I am really sorry.’ As if she had heard herself say it and thought to herself: “Oh, that’s racist”. But these are the microaggressions that we want people to think of when they come to see our shows and hear the songs we perform.
Their original melodies go in just like “I’m a Fighter (Adam Levine’s song)” to a ballad inspired by Rachel Platten on the fight against stereotypes. “I wanted to write something funny but also inspirational and it ended up being a big hit at our shows,” Suzuki said. “White girls like Katy Perry always have these anthems, so we wanted one too.”
“Our parents are the ones who have come here to sacrifice a lot and so there will always be this internal guilt that we have and it’s so hard to let go.”
Where to take their “Rice Rap”, where each member spits rhymes on their respective cultures. “Don’t cast a shadow when the world is holla, they just want to taste my chicken Tikka Masala,” Deshmukh raps.
As funny as many think this content is, their jokes don’t always fall. Some of their immigrant parents really don’t understand why people laugh at them on stage, and the comment section on their Youtube videos can sometimes be full of vitriol.
“The comments were horrible on this video because satire and comedy in general will be received by so many different people in different ways,” said Inocencio. “I think as long as we all know what we’re trying to say, who uplifts Asian women and shuts down people who are close-minded, that’s our general MO, but we really can’t control how that still is.” received. . “
But what defines them the most is their identity as Asian Americans, especially as we move into a post-pandemic reality and as they prepare to return to the stage.
“The main thing is that we are Asian Americans and I feel like it’s such a group that people don’t always know,” Yau said. “For me growing up it’s always this guilt that we have that America is such a special place where you don’t have to work as hard or suffer less. Our parents are the ones who have come here to sacrifice yourself a lot and so there will always be that internal guilt that we have that is so hard to let go.
“Even now when people immigrate to America it’s always about keeping their heads down, not wanting to make a scene, they just want to survive. With our generation, we want to have a voice. It’s always a fight no matter what, we always try to please our parents or our family, but we want to be loud and without excuse.
But most of all, they just want to be funny.
“It’s hard to please everyone,” said Inocencio. “But I think the people who have seen our show and who know us feel that connection, and they see each other on stage, which is most important of all.”