No Asians: Confronting Our Multiple Identities with Music Executive Jason Ve

Jennifer Brown | |

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Jason Ve, music and tech executive and Vice President at 88rising, the leading music company of the most influential Asian artists in the world, joins the program to discuss the intersectionality of being Asian and LGBTQ+. He expands upon an article he wrote in Men’s Health about how “No Asians” is a phrase still used in the LGBTQ+ community and how it goes mostly unchallenged.

To read Jason’s article in Men’s Health, visit: https://www.menshealth.com/trending-news/a36555932/jason-ve-confronting-no-asians/

In this episode you’ll discover:

  • Why Jason decided to write an op-ed piece for Men’s Health Magazine (3:30)
  • The model minority myth and the impact it has on the API community (10:00)
  • The problem of “ethnicity filters” on dating apps (13:00)
  • The feedback Jason has received from the gay API community (21:00)
  • Three steps to create a safe haven (27:00)
  • The importance of sharing our authentic voice (29:00)
  • The problem with the American perspective on beauty (32:00)
  • Why Jason feels optimistic about the emerging generation (34:00)
  • Why the aspects of our self that we hide are often our keys to success (40:00)

Listen in now, or read on for the transcript of our conversation:

JASON VE: It starts with awareness, action, and change, and they can all happen in an intersectional way. But it does start with, I think, this component of really being more aware of the issues, what marginalized communities are facing. It’s about allyship as well, so not just what the API community is facing but what our Black community is facing, our Brown community.

In this instance, I recognize that that awareness actually started with myself. The model minority myth, I should be silent because I should be grateful here. I shouldn’t really ruffle so many feathers. I actually had to change my own behavior and then also recognize, “Wait. Actually, those words, ‘No Asians,’ those words are not a preference. That’s racism.”

ANNOUNCER: Everyone has a diversity story, even those you don’t expect. Welcome to The Will to Change with Jennifer Brown. Get ready to hear from leading CEOs, best-selling, authors, and entrepreneurs as we uncover their true stories of diversity and inclusion. And now, here’s your host, Jennifer Brown.

Hello, and welcome back to The Will to Change. This episode features an interview between Jennifer and Jason Ve, a music and tech executive and vice president at 88rising where he leads business development and partnerships at the leading music company of the most influential Asian artists in the world. Jason was previously head of business development at Deezer, a global music streaming unicorn. He is on the advisory council of Asian Americans Advancing Justice, AAJC, a national nonprofit dedicating to advocacy for AAPIs. In 2019, he co-founded Out in Tech Miami, a city chapter of the largest national LGBTQ+ tech community. He also mentors the next generation of music startups as a Techstars Music mentor, and in this conversation, Jason expands upon an article that he wrote for a Men’s Health op-ed about the intersectionality of being Asian and LGBTQ+. And now, on to the conversation.

JENNIFER BROWN: Jason, welcome to The Will to Change.

JASON VE: Thank you, Jen, so happy to be here. Thanks for having me.

JENNIFER BROWN: I’m happy to, and you are a surprise, viral celebrity because of an article that you wrote in Men’s Health Magazine, and it caught my eye and my heart. And I know it did really catch people’s attention because it went viral and really, I thought, captured these tensions that we’re living with in this current moment. And the title of the piece is ‘No Asians’: Two Words I’ve Faced My Entire Life That I’m Finally Confronting Today.

So, I wanted to bring you on to tell us all the things about writing this piece that what it brought up for you, what your creative process was like. You go into your family history. You go into your professional journey, and I was struck by there was so much for so many of us to learn in this article that I wanted to give you the opportunity to take us through it and for me to kind of travel alongside you and maybe pick some things out that I think are really important for us to remember in this time of AAPI and Pride Month. So, we’re doing this recording in June. It is actually Juneteenth tomorrow.

JASON VE: Right.

JENNIFER BROWN: So, it is June 18th today as we’re recording this, but what a year it’s been of learning and challenges to take a hard look at intersectionality. And I thought your piece did a beautiful job. I guess, before we get into the content of it, tell us about what it was like to decide to do this because you’ve never written an op-ed before. Is that right?

JASON VE: That’s right. Jen, I think the events in Atlanta this year really shook me, and it made me realize that we got to a point where there was a mass murder of Asian Americans on … And everything that was happening last year kept escalating, but even for me, I did feel perhaps blindsided that it would actually get to that point. And I think for me, that week, I felt like there was a rock on top of my head because I think, also, I haven’t really spoken up around these issues historically. I also wasn’t kind of raised that way. It was a lot to process, and at the same time, I also felt that there were things that I grew up with or micro aggressions or aggressions that I faced, but I’ve actually never expressed it or told anyone, not even my life partner.

JENNIFER BROWN: Hmm.

JASON VE: So, I started to actually just opening up a Google doc and just started writing some of my emotions, and I think the first thing I actually wrote on the paper was, “No Asians.” And I think I’ve realized that those words were something that I had actually internalized just seeing that growing up in America and very prevalently in the gay dating apps and the impact that it had in just kind of chipping away my identity. And also, in some ways, I kind of met that, those lines, by silence for decades. And it just kind of bottled up, and I needed it to release, and that was kind of this start of a piece.

But I wrote it not necessarily to think about publishing it, and I can also talk about it actually went into the trash bin-

JENNIFER BROWN: Oh.

JASON VE: … at some point, but it was really my partner and mentors that said that speaking up could also allow others to relate and that was kind of this journey that I was on in that kind of release process.

JENNIFER BROWN: Wow. Oh, my goodness. So, it literally ended up … I mean, you just weren’t going to do anything with it? It was just going to be a journaling activity for you?

JASON VE: So, you know what? Yes. So, that, well, the I think the initial process was I just wanted a way to express all these different themes of: What does it mean to be a gay Asian American? And also, the complexity of that, too, with my parents immigrating from Asia to here and just feeling so thankful to be alive because there was that perilous journey where actually my grand aunt also tried to leave, and then their whole boat sank on their kind of their immigrant escape. So, I was brought up in this sense of just kind of being grateful, and complaining about certain things here and there may not be worth it. Some folks just don’t even have food on the table or a roof, so it was almost like prioritizing it. So, I think some of these themes, I kind of just shelved, but and I think by writing it out, it was almost therapeutic.

But the time where I threw it in the trash bin, actually, was after talking with some friends, folks felt like, “Maybe this could be a great outlet for an op-ed, and you should send it to the New York Times.” Again, I’ve never really published a personal op-ed like this, and especially the headline being ‘No Asians.’ I sent that in just to see what it would be like. They did reply, and it essentially was, “No.”

JENNIFER BROWN: Hmm.

JASON VE:  And I think, and I understand, too, certainly with the New York Times, it’s they probably don’t take a lot of submissions, but also, that was the first thing I’ve ever really submitted to any publication. And I guess given the title of my article, ‘No Asians’, and getting the, “No,” I was like, “You know what? I just can’t even deal with that.”

JENNIFER BROWN: Mm-hmm (affirmative). It’s just apt. Oh.

JASON VE: And I just literally threw it in the trash bin after that.

JENNIFER BROWN: No. And then, how did the Men’s Health enter the picture and say, “Yes”?

JASON VE: So, I actually had been sitting on this piece for two months. I think during the API Heritage Month, which is May, we’re about to go into June, and I think what’s funny enough, too, is that and, honest to God, in my whole life, I never even thought about API Heritage Month going into Pride Month and how those two months actually in some ways … I mean, of course, we should not just celebrate those from a monthly perspective. But there were just something interesting about highlighting those two, and I realized we were crossing over and could I just really not be more vocal about these two things that were colliding but no one was talking about it?

And specifically, I think even in my current work as a music exec at an Asian record label, we’re talking about a lot, of course, a lot of the stuff that’s happening in the API community and how we can help for the LGBTQ community. We’re talking just in general about what’s happening there but just given the violence in our community and also some of the prevalent racism that I faced, there just was no one really kind of talking about these two things. And what changed was just talking with more of my mentors and my life partner and them kind of just convincing me that my story is worth being shared.

And I think that that was a little bit of motivation, but I would say what I also was battling was this model minority myth, I think, that you hear a lot about, but it really is true. I have internalized it, and in some ways, what that myth is is that like I have achieved success in some ways in my career. In the past, I worked at Google, and I got to this place of working at this record label, which I’m really … I have a lot of pride in my work.

I went to a good school. My family is doing fine, so I have it good enough, I guess. So, why do I need to call out my LGBTQ+ community? So, I would reread the article again, and be like, “Do I really want to do that right now?” And then, also, I talk about some of the divisions within APIs because my ethnicity is Chinese. However, my parents were born in Vietnam, and they faced some racism in Vietnam although they’re Chinese. Kind of, also, like there’s some maybe intersectionality of what we see today of folks maybe seeing people from Asia like, “Hey. You’re here in America. You’re taking our jobs away.” So, my parents actually kind of had that experience, and those are two themes that I did kind of write about. But I also was a little bit worried that maybe am I creating division during this time?

But what kind of moved the edge was I’m part of this API Employee Resource Group that has folks from all different companies, Google, Anheuser-Busch, Hearst, and it was Frances Lee at Hearst. She’s the Asian ERG lead. I just sent her my article just to see what she thought, and she shared it with the Hearst teams. And she told me that like, “Men’s Health wants to speak to you immediately,” and I took that call. And Jordyn, who’s the deputy editor there, said she really loved my story and wanted to publish it, and I think that was kind of validating in some ways to just hear that it was worth being shared because I  think hearing that was important.

JENNIFER BROWN: Yeah, yeah. Oh, you call it in your piece, “Double marginalization,” that occurs in both communities, and you just mentioned a moment ago, “Calling out our LGBTQ community,” when we’re in that community and holding that community accountable for what happens.

Back to the dating apps, can you describe the environment there, and, I guess, the lack of accountability until recently any, but even so probably continuing and sort of, I guess, what’s normalized within the LGBTQ community? Because it’s something I talk about a lot that just because you’re in a marginalized community does not mean that we aren’t plagued by so many isms, and it is especially, I think, painfully obvious in that world. But I thought it was interesting what you write about, “Ethnicity filters,” for example. So, can you explain a little bit about how those apps work and those filters and what may be a little history on it and then is what’s changing? I hope. I mean, I hope that they’re taking a harder look at this to be a part of the solution versus exacerbating something that’s dividing us.

JASON VE: Yeah. I think it’s so interesting because the online community is one of the first communities, I think, for trying to find others that relate to you, and I feel that maybe even today, it’s even more so. Because there’s, I think with the proliferation of digital, but certainly growing up closeted in New York, it first started in the websites.

JENNIFER BROWN: Right.

JASON VE: And they’re like gay.com, and there’s a bunch of these other websites where you can chat with other gay men. And in that timeframe where I was a teenager, in the public profiles, you already see folks that would write, “No Asians, no femmes, no fats,” and just kind of make it very clear that if you’re in any of these categories … Also, sometimes, you’ll see, “No Blacks.”

JENNIFER BROWN: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

JASON VE: If you’re in these categories, then don’t even waste your bandwidth clicking on my profile or sending me a message because I’m not going to respond.

JENNIFER BROWN: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

JASON VE: And I think what’s interesting is when I saw that, I didn’t even think it was weird.

JENNIFER BROWN: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

JASON VE: I just saw that and thought, “Well, it’s not one person doing this by the way.” So, probably over my lifetime, probably thousands of times, so when you see things thousands of times, you think, “That’s probably normal,” and no one’s really complaining about it. And also, I first saw this as a teenager, so I’m just kind of accepting what is the norm.

JENNIFER BROWN: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

JASON VE: So, to me, that wasn’t racism at that time. I just processed it at as, “Well, Asians are a minority in the U.S. My parents had a very difficult journey here, and I should just feel fortunate that I live in a home because not a lot of people have that.”

JENNIFER BROWN: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

JASON VE: “And I could have a meal. I have two of my loving parents, and we’re not indigenous to America. So, some folks are just not going to be interested in our race that’s newer to America, and, Jason, that is normal.” And I literally thought that for over a decade.

JENNIFER BROWN: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

JASON VE: And I think, “Could there be moments, I think, of changing that?” I think maybe looking back I wish there were, but unfortunately, when we got into the world of iPhones and Androids, we doubled down on that. So, with Grindr, when it first just launched, and, of course … So, Grindr is one of the top gay men dating apps, and it became very popular. It has a lot of users. When I went into that app, you see more just like, “No Asians,” without messaging anyone. In the profiles, you could just see that, and then it’s just a clue that don’t bother.

JENNIFER BROWN: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

JASON VE: And then, I would say in my 20s, because as if it’s not enough, maybe like when I’m online, right? I’m Asian, and I could also list myself that way. I might have my photo. Someone could also just see my profile, right? Even though, let’s say, they’re not into Asians, and they may write, “No Asians.” They may see my profile taking up space, so Grindr and the other apps decided to launch their ethnicity filter in my 20s. So, that way, that person that’s writing, “No Asians,” or whatnot, even if you’re not writing it, you can just filter out my ethnicity so you won’t even see me, so I won’t have to take up space.

JENNIFER BROWN: Oh. That’s heavy.

JASON VE: Yeah. So, that is a life of the gay dating apps, and in the last year, after the BLM movement, there was a lot of clamor for Grindr and Scruff, some of these dating apps, to, and in the LGBTQ community, to remove it. And Grindr and Scruff did, and I think that is perhaps one step in the right direction. I mean, we definitely should not even have had that and just thinking about those words are just incredulous, right? An ethnicity filter. But I think it’s just kind of taking us back to like the point where before they launched that feature, which I think is just not enough, but I do feel like these apps thinks, “Well, we’ve addressed it, and we’re good.”

And you’ll see, I think, when Grindr posted during all the violence of APIs in the U.S., they posted #StopAsianHate. I couldn’t help but look at the comments on Twitter, and that both Asians and non-Asians alike were very angry, saying that, “Even though you’ve removed the filter,” like, “I get these messages of people saying racist things, and you’re not really you’re not removing these racist users, even though you’re saying you’re doing that.” So, people were calling them out for being performative. They’re not, I think, doing enough to really listen to the community, or could they create features to actually really figure out how to block racist users or block the messages?

And one, I think, interesting thing that I’ve learned, so to be fair, I actually didn’t do a comprehensive study of like downloading all the different LGBT dating apps because there are many, but because Grindr is one of the leaders and they removed the ethnicity filter, I assumes that it was probably removed by many. But I learned through a couple folks that reached out to me that there are actually still a bunch of apps that still have it, and particularly in the Bear community like GROWLr.

JENNIFER BROWN: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

JASON VE: So, clearly, there’s still a lot more work to be done.

JENNIFER BROWN: Yep. And I mean, we could go down a rabbit hole, speaking of the Bear community. I’m sorry to say that, but for our listeners, just look up the Bear community if you want to and educate yourself about the different sub communities because that’s a whole other podcast, Jason, but-

JASON VE: That’s right.

JENNIFER BROWN: Interesting. So, yes, the performative sort of convenient, like the fashionable support, the signals of support publicly, and then, meanwhile, the harm that’s going on in the platform is not a new dichotomy which we’re noticing and a lot of different companies taking advantage of the dollars, right? And the PR, but not … But doing the exact opposite when no one’s looking. And that accountability really needs to be there.

JASON VE: Right.

JENNIFER BROWN: Yeah. So, oh, that is just so hard to imagine what that all was like to take in. What kind of response did you get? You probably just were flooded with messages, but I wondered if you could share the responses or maybe pick one that really made you feel that you … it was worth it to write this down, to get it out there, and because I’m sure it felt really vulnerable, like clicking Send and then putting it out there, and-

JASON VE: Yes.

JENNIFER BROWN: I’m not sure what you were worried about, and it’s funny to think back. Whenever we’re afraid to do something, it’s funny to think about, “What was I afraid of, and did that come to pass?” And then, “No, it didn’t come to pass, but this came to pass.” And because we just can’t ever predict these things, and sometimes, the thing we’re most afraid of has such a beautiful result. And I’m sure that that was true for you but tell me a little bit about that feeling of vulnerability then maybe some of your favorite feedback that you got.

JASON VE: I think I’ve also just found this interesting community across different levels. But just starting with the gay API community, I definitely see you, and I am so thankful of receiving the messages because I, being a more, I guess, historically quiet Asian myself, I never even … Maybe it sounds crazy, but I haven’t been able to even talk with another Asian about this until I released this article because in some ways, there actually was nothing to talk about. I thought it was normal.

JENNIFER BROWN: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

JASON VE: It just was internalized, but I just pulled up on my LinkedIn, and I’ll read one of the messages I got. “I know you do not know me, but I wanted to thank you for taking the time to write the article which recently came out in Men’s Health. You do not know how much this means to me, a gay Asian male, to see this story being told. It nearly brought me to tears. I hope it is okay that I reached out to you on this platform. I sincerely am grateful to you for being a voice to all gay Asian LGBTQ and for serving as a role model.”

JENNIFER BROWN: Hmm.

JASON VE: I never meant to be a role model, but I realized that this is just not a topic that is really discussed and other messages that I got from the community are, “This is something that I’ve seen for 18 years, and I’ve also normalized it. But your article gave me pause.”

What’s equally interesting is the response that I got from the straight community which was surprise and shock. Like, “What do you mean someone wrote, ‘No Asians’? Publicly?”

JENNIFER BROWN: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

JASON VE: Which I think and I don’t think this is as prevalent or seen in the straight community where you would write that. And it just made me think about like, “What a shame that this was happening, right? In already a marginalized community, and for us to also kind of express in this way.”

JENNIFER BROWN: We have a saying, “Hurt people hurt people,” and you say in your article, “While both communities have often been victims of oppression, our communities have also been the oppressors. Rather than extinguish the hateful behavior we’ve tried to escape, we’ve also redirected it to the people around us in our own communities.” Yeah.

JASON VE: Right.

JENNIFER BROWN: It’s so … It’s a mystery to ponder why we would be the victim of something and then victimize others in the same way. We can only understand that we’re just such flawed humans, but it’s heartbreaking when you look at it in such stark terms to be replicating the system that we all grew up in. It’s kind of the language we know, and I think it takes real attention to break that chain, to break the norms that we all grew up with, and to have the self-awareness to turn around and say, “We are not going to replicate that in our community. We are not.”

But imagine the sort of the ability to really look at yourself and say, “I’m not. I’m going to be the one that breaks the cycle, even though I was raised in this cycle and heard all these things. We’re going to decide as a community to be different.” And I would have hoped we would do a better job of this, but I think that the message is that we can’t let ourselves off the hook because if we are not careful, we do replicate and very unconsciously. And that’s what you’re describing, and ironically, in a community that has struggled so much with inclusion and should be championing it in all of its ways. But I find that intersectionality is not paid enough attention to in the LGBTQ+ community, and I’m hoping that’s changing over the last year.

I wondered, Jason, what gives you hope that there is more kind of self-awareness and that objective look at ourselves as communities of identity to say like, “How are we doing internally by each other?” Whether that’s sexism, racism, transphobia in our community, or whether in the Asian community, there’re so many different identities within that community, too. We are all … The work continues in the diversity within the diversity as I always think about it. And I know because I, as a cisgender white woman, I was in largely white male cisgender spaces for years and years and years in this community, and I was the always, at least to my eyes, the only woman in the room at many, many different mixers and events. And it was … And then, people would say, “Well, Jennifer, can you bring some more women?” Like, “It’s not our fault. It’s not our job,” you know?

JASON VE: Right.

JENNIFER BROWN: Sort of looking to me, and, yes, I could have done that, but I’ll tell you that I was the only woman that wanted to be in that room. I’ll tell you that, and I kind of knew I was there for business. So, I was I was there with a purpose, but most women in the community have felt very marginalized, and that’s something I know well because I know how all of us feel.

JASON VE: Oh, totally.

JENNIFER BROWN: Anyway, so I can … I think you and I have maybe that in common across these differences that we carry, but that we have a common experience of exclusion within a community that has been a safe, is supposed to be, a safe haven for us.

JASON VE: Right. There’s three steps. It starts with awareness, action, and change, and they can all happen in an intersectional way. But it does start with, I think, this component of really being more aware of the issues, what marginalized communities are facing. It’s about allyship as well, so not just what the API community is facing but what our Black community is facing, our Brown community.

In this instance, I recognize that that awareness actually started with myself. The model minority myth, I should be silent because I should be grateful here. I shouldn’t really ruffle so many feathers. I actually had to change my own behavior and then also recognize, “Wait. Actually, those words, ‘No Asians,’ it’s not a preference. Those words are not a preference. That’s overt racism.”

And I think I was almost avoiding it because it’s just more convenient. If I actually recognized that 15 years ago, what would I do with it? I would just feel probably more ashamed of my ethnicity. I would … And there was just no platform to raise my voice.

But, looking back, I do wish that I could have spoken out earlier. I could have also spoken to all the messages that I got from both friends and non-friends. Could I have had a conversation earlier? I didn’t think. But all this is a learning process, and I think I was also really inspired by many people that have really spoken up in the last year, particularly in my API community that I think I would never have seen, even like from celebrities but even to just reading a lot of stories around what people were feeling in terms of racism.

And I think for me, this is just one story of a gay Chinese American, but I think I felt that putting myself out there, my hope is that others would feel some courage and, of course, if they want to. They may not want to speak out, and that’s completely fine. But if you do feel like you want to speak out, you should share your story, and I think it is part of building this community of others that may resonate with yours, whether they’re in that community or not.

And I think from then, building that community and awareness can also then lead to that action. What are the steps that we can take to change things? And this could mean amplifying API, LGBTQ organizations that are feeling marginalized or don’t have a lot of support.

JENNIFER BROWN: I love the example you give in this to show and write us into your scripts and songs, like weaving, holding institutions accountable and creatives accountable, right? For representing us, so maybe we can talk about that.

JASON VE: Yes, absolutely. I think for me, when I think about even my whole perspective of beauty and what’s acceptable in America, I also realize that part of it is a media industry, and especially taken on this lens for me being in music. Growing up, I would idolize Justin Timberlake, Britney Spears, Selena. Nothing against them, and I still love them to this day, but there just was no diversity. There was no Asian American that you would see on the screen.

Even recently, NBC did a stats of people in America, and I believe the stat was 42% of Americans cannot name an Asian American. That traces back to Hollywood and music that were not being diverse enough, and those things really do create this acceptance of self in a way. And I think even it took me a while to reflect on what I thought was beautiful in my own mind. Is my race beautiful? Although, you don’t see it at all in mainstream media. So, those are things that I had to really reflect on myself and then kind of breakthrough.

And I think today, even working at a record label that represents Asian musicians, it’s not easy getting them played on the radio or kind of getting them placements because we do live in a world, or at least in America, where sometimes, we see Asian Americans as perpetual foreigners, whether it’s through some of the rhetoric or just how we’re perceived in America. So, my ask would be to, I would say, whether if you are in the media, Hollywood, or music industry, to think about showing us and writing us into your scripts and songs so that we’re really part of the everyday fabric. We don’t have to be in that specific Kung Fu movie or tokenized into the nerdy Asian kid in school. Just a normal, everyday life which is reflective of the fabric of America, and that way we no longer have to live as perpetual foreigners.

JENNIFER BROWN: Yeah. That is a excellent advice, and I think a lot of that is changing. I wonder if you almost feel that in working with younger artists, which I would imagine you are, and you’re not that old yourself. But just to take a generational lens on all of this-

JASON VE: I’m old now.

JENNIFER BROWN: I know. We’re getting there.

JASON VE: Uh-huh (affirmative).

JENNIFER BROWN: But I wonder if you are sort of blown away with the change in terms of how younger Asian artists are expressing themselves and embracing their identity and even gaysians, as we say. I’ll say that word, but the gaysian artists that are coming, and are you just floored by the way they’re breaking through the model minority myth? Are you seeing … I mean, I’m amazed at just the openness and the embracing of all different identities that I see young and younger people commit to and kind of insist on. And I hope that doesn’t change because the journey is long and hard, and I hope it doesn’t quiet or get silenced.

But what we really need is we need actually in our, in the older generation, to actually take a page and learn from and be inspired by the way younger people in our communities are expressing themselves. So, I wonder if it’s been transformative for you to kind of be in the industry you are now fostering that next generation of artists and how it’s transformed you.

JASON VE: Absolutely. I do feel optimistic about the direction that we’re going in the sense that the younger generation, they’re used to being able to create that TikTok, or there’s a low barrier of entry to put your voice out there. And I think it is important to showcase your feelings and being seen and heard to the extent that you want to put yourself out there, and by doing so, you can actually create space for others to do the same.

What’s different about my generation growing up is that a lot of these things were closed off, meaning if you wanted to be seen and heard, it was controlled by Hollywood or the music industry, right? The sees that you’re buying is a representation, or like, “Am I seeing folks on the screen?” But now, anyone could just use the digital platforms, and you can pick up a lot of TikTok followers and showcase yourself. So, we’re seeing that kind of organic space blowing up, which I think could be an opportunity.

And also, I think it’s we’re seeing amazing talent like Joel Kim Booster or Bowen Yang, which are gay LGBTQ comedians, and even seeing them on TV or on podcasts has been very inspiring for me to see communities that I represent finally being seen and heard, which I think is not even the case really even 10 years ago. And I think continuing to push the envelope on that is super important, and I also hope for platforms and studios to continue to listen to these marginalized voices across the Black, Latinx, Asian community to really, truly showcase the diverse fabric of America and that these stories are important enough to be heard.

JENNIFER BROWN: Yeah. I couldn’t agree more. I mean companies … The choices that are made with creatives are really important, but the democratization that you’re talking about of media is so, so empowering and is fixing in a way fixing the problem. And we don’t have to wait for the problem to be fixed at the enterprise level because I can say, and I know you know this, Jason, we would be waiting a really long time for people to get the memo.

JASON VE: Right.

JENNIFER BROWN: And we’ve been trying for many years in our consulting work to say, “This matters and pay attention. And you want to be fresh and cutting edge, and you want to be ahead of the curve. And here are the voices you’re missing.” And you and I talked about it. It’s present in the organizational structure and the representation in organizations, right?

And you’ve done a tour of duty in the corporate world and probably witnessed a lot of whether it was performative allyship or oral or a lack of allyship at all, honestly, and now, that is changing. But I think it’s interesting that you have finally landed at an organization where you can really lead with your identity, and that must feel just so healing and like a full circle moment. And I wondered if we have listeners who are really struggling, and they’re sort of earlier in their years and wondering if that’s even possible. Do you have any advice for them?

JASON VE: It’s a great question, and I think I wish I even just enacted on it sooner. But I think what it relates around is really zoning in on what makes you different and leaning in more. For me, because of the impact of the, “No Asians,” and even for me not calling it out, by internalizing it, I realized that I was just trying to be like the majority, being like perhaps, for lack of better word, the white American. And that, what did that mean? That meant when I was on Wall Street in investment banking, I would take my BlackBerry and be with my managing directors, and they’re talking about the football scores from last night. I don’t know a thing about sports, but I’m looking it up so that I could contribute to the conversation and throw out the scores for X team only to realize I threw out the baseball team’s scores.

And I would then kind of go into other environments in my career and hide my identity so that I could be seen just like anyone else, and perhaps, I could get promoted because I’m not Asian, which tends to … When you look at corporate America, there’s not a lot of Asians in executive positions. I think today I realized that the power of unlocking happiness and also the power of unlocking my true potential is to gravitate towards all those things that make me so freaking weird, makes me look different. I look in the mirror, and I am Asian. I can’t change it but love it, and I realized that there actually are roles like that that allow me to lean in.

And today, working at a company that promotes Asian musicians gives me so much hope that I could take all the experience that I’ve had from music and entertainment and actually put it towards a mission that feels really aligned is amazing, but that mission could only be because of me being proud of being an gay Asian American and leaning with that so I could fuel that into my work.

So, my advice would be to lean into those areas that you may not be proud of or that you feel like you’ve been wanting to bury because I can bet you that there are other people that have some of those characteristics, and they’re also hiding under the bed. But they would draw so much inspiration if you lean into those to show a path for others, and that it’s okay. And that it should be celebrated.

JENNIFER BROWN: Mm-hmm (affirmative). Jason, that is perfect. You are shining a light writing this piece. I think shone the light, and you’ve probably touched so many people. And I hope that this is a groundswell for change in those apps like, “Get a clue.”

JASON VE: Yes.

JENNIFER BROWN: But it’s going to take a while, we know, but in the meantime, I’m so … I’m just thrilled that no matter when it happens in our lives when we’re finally just able to embrace, I think you said, “The whatever is weird,” or whatever it is about us that has been stigmatized and we have felt a degree of shame around or felt the need to cover or downplay, that is actually our sort of differentiator. It’s our uniqueness. It’s our beauty, truly, and so, I love the image of looking in the mirror and saying, “All of me is beautiful.” Like, “All of me makes me able to do what I do in a really unique way,” and look. The future will belong to us, those of us who can lead with that and who are boldly that.

And also, pull on all of who we are. We are more talented when we do that. We are more fully expressed when we can utilize every part of that, those identities, and so I think the direction all of this is going and my hope is in sort of humanity is that we’re moving to this place of valuing that all the pieces of ourselves.

JASON VE: Absolutely.

JENNIFER BROWN: So-

JASON VE: And also, find those spaces that value that because if they don’t, move on to something else because life is too short to fit yourself somewhere or in a place or a work environment that does not value your superpower.

JENNIFER BROWN: That’s right, and you just called it superpower. So, maybe we’ll call the episode that. Thanks for the title idea, and, Jason, thank you for joining me. And I’m going to … We’ll definitely-

JASON VE: Thank you, Jen.

JENNIFER BROWN: Yes. We’ll definitely include in the show notes, everybody, the Men’s Health piece. Please read it. Please share it.

Jason, I would ask you if you were sort of a media figure here, “Where could people get in touch with you and follow you?” But I know you are a not necessarily going for that. However, is there any place you would direct people who feel inspired to action by this episode, either relating to you or organizations you support, et cetera?

JASON VE: Absolutely. I would love for people to take a look at GAPIMNY, which is a amazing LGBTQ, API organization. AAJC that does a lot of work on behalf of Asian Americans, and you can find me on LinkedIn and Twitter.

JENNIFER BROWN: Yeah, yep. So, get to know Jason, and, Jason, I think you’re just at the beginning of being this public role model persona. And so, enjoy the ride because it’s … I know that it will probably fill you up and make you whole because that’s what happens when we tell our stories so powerfully and take that brave step is that we’re met with so much appreciation and gratitude that I think it continues to strengthen us. So, you’re probably on an exponential next phase of life. I’m sure you are, and I can’t wait to see what you create in the world and the other ways that you’ll be sharing your story. So, thank you for joining me on The Will to Change.

JASON VE: Thank you so much for having me, Jen.

JENNIFER BROWN: Hi. This is Jennifer. Did that we offer a full transcript of every podcast episode on my website over at jenniferbrownspeaks.com? You can also subscribe so that you get notified every time a new episode goes live. Head over there now to read my latest thoughts on diversity, inclusion, and the future of work and discover how we can all be champions of change by bringing our collective voices together and standing up for ourselves and each other.

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