Chriselle Lim and Tina Leung on the OG Influencer Community and the Elusive “Asian Dinner”
As many Asian Americans have said, growing up, it was rare to see our community portrayed in mainstream media. A self-proclaimed fashion girl, I rarely saw myself represented on screen, in magazines, or even on my Tumblr feeds. When you don’t often see faces like yours, you find yourself leaning into subcultures and searching for niche communities you can relate to. For me, that was the Asian blogger community of the late 2000s. I scrolled through endless pages of Song of Style, Aimee Song’s blog-turned-clothing-brand; I saw photos of Bryan Yambao, better known as Bryanboy, sitting front row at Fashion Week, typing away on his laptop; and I watched Chriselle Lim share styling tips and tricks on beauty guru Michelle Phan’s growing YouTube channel.
This early generation of Asian influencers – then called bloggers – didn’t see themselves represented in the major fashion spaces, so they established their own lane online. While there weren’t many of them, they made a splash in the industry, infiltrating high fashion, democratizing much of fashion media, and laying the foundation that influencers now stand on today. In doing so, they created space for themselves and the Asian community within the complex, privileged world of fashion.
Since then, the role of influencers has vastly evolved, and new waves of Asian creators have become recognizable, reliable fixtures in the fashion industry. Despite their growing presence in both the fashion-verse and Hollywood, Asians continue to face endless microaggressions, often being lumped together as a group or confused for one another. As journalist and influencer Susie Lau so eloquently wrote in a recent Instagram post that ignited necessary conversation, “The ‘bamboo ceiling’ in fashion can be tricky to detect. And hard to articulate. We have both visibility and invisibility.”
Through all of these challenges, what remains the same is the sense of community among Asian fashion influencers, which has only grown stronger over the years. In fact, there’s now an annual “Asian dinner” every Paris Fashion Week that brings together Asians in fashion from all over the world.
To watch these figures who I looked up to growing up develop a tight-knit circle of their own is deeply significant – it brings me both joy and inspiration.
In honor of our APIA Heritage Month package centered on friendship, I spoke with OG bloggers Lim and Tina Leung about their firsthand experiences with this community, as well as the challenges they face, progress they’ve seen since the Stop Asian Hate movement, and, of course, the elusive “Asian dinner” in Paris. While both women have become mainstays in the fashion industry and Asian American community alike, they’ve utilized their own talents and backgrounds to make them the iconic, distinctive influencers they are today.