“ A near-future, post COVID - 19 dystopia , featuring consequences of error in human behavior, starring empowered Asian models –in face masks ”
Q. What made you feel the need to create #HATEISAVIRUS campaign?
All I could remember was fear, fear of the new future, fear of society, and ultimately, fear of the hatred that was happening. I sort of just meditated and prayed on it instead of being infuriated on Instagram live (nothing wrong with that) and I thought to myself, “what do I do best?”, and the rest is history. The need is to raise awareness, to use my voice and platform, and to create a safe “online gallery” for audiences to feel empowered through the vision.
Q. How were you able to turn such a negative topic into an empowering art form?
When I first picked up the camera at 14 (I’m turning 23 in a few weeks), I didn’t want to just create the generic pretty girl in a sundress strolling around the garden aesthetic, I wanted to create art that provoked. Highly inspired by the late Franca Sozzani’s fashion editorials by Steven Meisel for Italian Vogue (Franca actually discovered me via Instagram when I was 16), I knew I wanted to speak on this negative and controversial topic. The thing is, you have shadows when you’re standing in the light, so I just created the most apocalyptic, rebellious, and chaotic images to raise awareness. I wanted the photographs to feel like we are at the world’s end, not due to the pandemic, but due to hatred and selfishness caused by it, and I wanted this to be a wake-up call and an awareness piece. I wanted the images to feel like a riot, but one that started out of a fight for love and empowerment. I wanted to channel every single negativity to bring out the positivity. After all, when you multiply two negatives, it turns positive.
Q. What makes you feel so passionate about this subject?
The fact that a lot of people are not focusing on the bigger picture and end up blaming each other or are acting selfishly/recklessly. Look, even animals know how to travel in flocks, groups, or schools, they know that together, they are powerful and safe. Why can’t we just learn that from nature for once? We are, even though social distancing, supposed to come together in this pandemic in solidarity and unity, and instead of blaming this matter through hateful, xenophobic, and greedy matters, come together in unity. Hey, the virus doesn’t discriminate, why are we?
Q. What were the thoughts going through your head when you came up with the idea for the #hateisavirus campaign?
Funny story, I actually was on the toilet. I woke up one morning pre-quarantine (yes, I will definitely not plan a shoot during quarantine so thank god everything happened prior) and was checking social media. Hate crimes to Asian Americans fired by blame and prejudice alongside pictures of grocery stores running out of essentials as families are stocking up on toilet paper that could last them an eternity. I was just in great disbelief. We tend to blame and be selfish while on survival, and that is exactly where I thought the problem was headed towards. I didn’t want a shoot that screamed “F*CK CORONAVIRUS”, it was more “F*CK THIS ERROR IN HUMANITY”.
Q. What did you see when you were visualizing our future past COVID-19?
On my mood board were apocalyptic scenes from movies and fashion editorials. In my head, however, a very cinematic, mixed-lighting, cyberpunk-inspired near future apocalypse caused by the pandemic. However, highlighted by empowered Asian models. Yes, I did mention that COVID-19 is affecting everyone and we have to come in solidarity. However, I wanted the girls to be Asian because the Virus doesn’t have a face, therefore, yes, these empowered Asian warriors are not representing the virus, instead, they are triumphant above the pandemic.
The thing is, I wanted to NOT glamourize the apocalypse, yet symbolically orchestrate it to create awareness. One of the comments on my Instagram that blew my mind (and left me teary-eyed) was “love this shoot but hate that this has to be created”. Exactly. I want this to be an awareness, because, NO, these photographs won’t be fantastical when it comes to life.
Q. How do you plan on educating people around the world about this subject?
Please, let’s together flatten the curve by social distancing and quarantining. However, while we're at it. Let’s spread NOTHING but LOVE, COMPASSION, and KINDNESS this pandemic. The world does NOT need more HATE, BLAME, or XENOPHOBIA. Be mindful of others, let’s beat this together and survive together.
Q. Tell us about the movement you started worldwide.
All I did was a photoshoot haha. I actually contacted one of my collaborators, Michelle K Hanabusa (Founder of We Are Uprisers & Hate is a Virus) about the shoot that I had in mind. She started the campaign around the same time and I’m very lucky to be supported and featured by such a powerful movement.
Q. What do you have to say to Asian Americans that are being attacked and assaulted during these times?
I wish I can do the simple forgive & forget since we are trying to spread compassion here. However, it would have to be STAY STRONG, PROTECT YOURSELF, and STAY HEALTHY (physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually). I am saddened and hurting with you for all the hate crimes, but let’s remember to focus on the bigger picture. Let’s help educate the general public about what’s happening and what’s not the right thing to say (e.g. The Chinese Virus), share your stories (let’s put THEM in our shoes), and together, spread the message of kindness, compassion, and love. Let’s fight this fire with a tsunami of kindness.
Q. What is your goal with the #hateisavirus campaign?
When I started photography, I knew that when my time has come to leave this earth, I wanted to leave a mark or (even just by a little bit) change someone’s life. The same sentiment goes with this campaign. I want to change someone’s perspective, whether by empowering those in fear, providing a platform to those who don’t have any, diminishing prejudice in a person’s racist ways, educating those what terms they must eliminate, amplifying someone’s voice or stories, breaking boundaries that language may not be able to accomplish, encouraging unity, and last but not least, to serve as a catalyst of spreading love, kindness, and compassion in communities.
While HATE may be a VIRUS, LOVE is the CURE