This Boss: Feeling All The Feelings

Two days ago I found a terrible, pathetic piece of paper, so pathetic that I almost felt sorry for it. The paper was hidden in a bureau that I reserve for unnecessary trinkets that my nostalgia-craving self can’t bear to throw away, jammed between old books that I read over the summer. When I noticed it I saw, bold and clear, two words scrawled at the top of the scrap:

   PEOPLE I THINK ARE BOSS.

    Okay, now cue laughter, because when I read the title of the mysterious piece of paper I, too, chuckled—I don’t know what I was expecting. Some secret map, or code? Some really profound, meaningful adage that would inevitably change my life forever, passed down generation upon generation? 

    Nope!

    In a way, the paper became more sacred than all that: it was a list. A list of people who I admire, respect, derive inspiration from, and relate to: names that remind me to keep going when I really, truly can’t. This is what, to me, defines a boss, and the list was not at all confined to the ten I had fit on that piece of paper. When I found it, I could have easily named another dozen, and after writing those down, I could have quickly named more.

    In light of being a ~teenager~, I think it’s important to have lists like these: lists filled with role models to look to. And I know that finding a role model is an intrinsic task for everyone who knows (or does not know) the path they’re pointing towards, but having a handful of people to familiarize yourself with can be pretty rewarding. Growing up is muddling. The moments when you sense a severe lack of motivation can often coincide with distorted teenage hubris, and collectively, being a teenager can make us feel hopelessly separated from the people who say that they know more, or that they know you. People tell you not to reinvent the wheel, but you want to, simply because you don’t like the original design. These thoughts are what all of the best, most accomplished, most “sure” people encounter, and it’s so hard for me, as a normal teenager, to draw similarities between the women I look up to and myself. But in the end, our likeness is truly the reason why I respect—no, FREAK OUT over— these women: because they’re human. And seeing this obvious similarity, knowing that they’ve faced doubt and uncertainty and ambiguity about the future and the now, is what helps keep their words and overall goddess-like essences with us. 

    So we’re super excited to introduce THIS BOSS—a new column on Woken. We’ll be giving you spotlights on some of our favorite humans in the media, with entire articles celebrating/fangirling over them, their amazing work, and these bosses’ desires to make their surroundings equally as amazing.

    On that note, I’m super excited to announce Woken’s first official Boss Woman. She’s known for her roles in films such as Saving Face, White On Rice, The People I’ve Slept With, and Surrogate Valentine. She also samples food in Buzzfeed videos, and is the co-founder of Thick Dumpling Skin, an online community for Asian Americans to discuss unhealthy and healthy body ideals (we’ll be writing about this soon!). Her work not only shines a light on the Asian-American community, but also draws parallels between being Asian and setting off on the quest to find the perfect body. Here, we talk body image issues (may contain triggers), acting, and food, and we’re so thankful that she was able to talk to us. 

A: What kinds of experiences did you go through during your childhood/teenage years that came along with being a part of the Asian American community and having body image issues?

L: I was always a really skinny kid growing up, and being flat-chested during adolescence was something I was very self-conscious of.  I also felt ashamed of the Chinese foods we were eating at home - and a lot of my overeating came from trying to experience "American" food outside the home, while still pleasing my parents by finishing all my food at the breakfast/dinner table.

A: What are your thoughts on coping with eating disorders or feeling bad about food, and how do you think family life relates to how someone thinks about their body? 

L: It’s pretty common in Asian households not to discuss our feelings - in fact, there is a tendency to smother anything negative with food. Combining this with the usual greeting of, "You look like you've gained/lost weight" followed by "Have you eaten?" — it's all a messy breeding ground for mixed messages and body issues.

A: I personally know many Asian American people who are interested in drama and theatre, and a lot of them find that their race impedes them from being cast in roles, thus stumping their potential careers in the field. What are your personal experiences when it comes to working in the film industry as an Asian American, and what were some of the problems that you went through/dealt with?

L: I think that everyone has a different experience being in this industry. I've been doing this for over 30 years now, and it doesn't really matter what gender you are, what color your skin is - everyone's story will be different.  Mine has been different during various stages of my life - sometimes being Asian-American has helped me, other times it hasn't.  I really don't try to figure it out, analyze the industry, or make predictions anymore.  It's a waste of energy.

A: What is one example of a quote/adage that you often apply to your life, whether that be to promote your own self-improvement, remind yourself of positivity, keep yourself motivated, etc? 

L: It all comes to an end—the good, the bad—so feel all the feelings while they're happening. It's a part of life.

A: What advice can you give to the general population of teenagers who feel insecure because of their race, which may correlate to insecurities about their weight, or other aspects of their physical appearance?

L: One day, you truly won't care what others think.  Why not practice thinking that way now?

Lynn’s instagram: @mslynnchen

Lynn’s blog: The Actor's Diet