As we near the conclusion of AAPI Heritage Month let’s take a look at some of our sisters and brothers who also celebrate their AAPI background. Afro-Asian, or Blasian, as we like to call it, is the mixed ethnicities of African-American and Asian.
Looking at the celebs with AAPI heritage, there is so much bustling talent the Blasian community has to offer, just think of Jhene Aiko, Naomi Osaka, our very own Vice President Kamala Harris, and Chanel Iman.
Many celebrities and public figures celebrate their AAPI heritage, take a look at just a few of them who are inspiring others to be proud of who they are.
H.E.R is an African American and Filipino singer/songwriter based in Los Angeles. Most recently, H.E.R was nominated for eight awards at the 2022 Grammy’s, including Album Of The Year, Song Of The Year, Best R&B Performance, Best Traditional R&B Performance, Best R&B Song, Best R&B Album, Best Contemporary Christian Music Performance/Song and Best Song Written For Visual Media. She has been open about identifying with both ethnicities heavily and recalls growing up in a distinctly Filipino home.
You’d walk in and just know: shoes came off at the door, food was cooking on the stove and her grandparents, who lived with her at the time, were fixtures at the house. She continued,
“It’s a whole other thing,” she says, sitting on the end of a couch in Midtown Manhattan. “My dad would throw down with the soul food when we had our black side over. Black culture, to me, is so important and I identify with young black women. I represent young black women, and I’m proud of that.”
H.E.R, born Gabi Wilson, is 24 years old and steadily dominating new age RnB.
Jhene Aiko, born Jhene Efuru Chilombo, is truly a rarity with a uniquely diverse ethnic background. Being of Spanish, Dominican, Japanese, Native American, Black, and German heritage, she has spoken openly about joys and challenges trying to grow as an artist in an industry which strongly urged her to “pick a side”. In a 2019 interview with Revolt TV, she talked sbout the pressures to conform to those standards.
“When I started going on auditions, they would put me for roles [as] the Spanish girl, or the Japanese girl or the Black girl.”
She continued, “When I was 12 [or] 13, someone told my mom, ‘You should really play up one or the other. You should straighten her hair so she could look more Asian, or you should keep her hair natural and curly and put a little bronzer on her so she [will] look more Black.”
The soulful singer/songwriter has a beautiful Blasian daughter named Namiko, whom she shares with entertainer O’rion.
As the first Asian tennis player to be top ranked in women’s singles, and ranked No. 1 by the Women’s Tennis Association, Osaka, 24, is known for breaking barriers and celebrating her success as a young Japanese woman. Mixed with Haitian, Naomi is often faced with adversities concerning the public’s misidentification of her. She’s discussed these frustrations freely, stating,
“I’m just trying to put a platform out for all the Japanese people that look like me and live in Japan and when they go to a restaurant, they get handed an English menu, even though it’s just a little microaggression.”
In an interview with WSJ Magazine she also opened up about a time when she was younger and playing against a Japanese opponent:
“She was talking with another Japanese girl, and they didn’t know that I was listening [or that] I spoke Japanese. Her friend asked her who she was playing, so she said Osaka. And her friend says, ‘Oh, that Black girl. Is she supposed to be Japanese?’ And then the girl that I was playing was like, ‘I don’t think so.’ I remember that specifically because, yeah, I sometimes feel like a lot of people think that way about me.”
Naomi has also been vocal about how these perceptions and heckling by fans have affected her mental health. Naomi Osaka is, indeed, an inspiration to young girls of mixed heritage facing adversities while chasing their dreams.
Our very own Vice President, Kamala Harris, is of Jamaican and Indian descent.
USA Today previously highlighted her heritage in an article titled The many identities of Vice President-elect Kamala Harris amount to this:
A proud American states that she also identifies as Black American, Jamaican American, Caribbean American, Asian American and Indian American, and of Asian descent, Indian origin, mixed Indian and Jamaican heritage and Tamil and Hindu roots.
While speaking with The Washington Post on how her multiracial background affected her campaign efforts, Harris remarked;
“…when I first ran for office that was one of the things that I struggled with, which is that you are forced through that process to define yourself in a way that you fit neatly into the compartment that other people have created. My point was: I am who I am. I’m good with it. You might need to figure it out, but I’m fine with it.”
The California-bred model and Claws actress was born to a Vietnamese mother and Jamaican father. Strongly identifying as Black and Vietnamese, Tran, 34, shared the joy of becoming a Black actor in a 2015 interview with Jet.
“I’m all for diversity and anything multicultural. I’m half Black and half Vietnamese and grew up very diverse. I had an Asian godmother and Korean best friends, so being a Black actor and being involved in the industry is amazing.
I would love to be able to contribute to the community of African American actors. We need more of them out there, just period. People look at me and ask, ‘What are you?’ and I tell them Black and Vietnamese, and they think that’s really cool. I love and am happy that I’m able to bridge these two cultures.”
Michael Yo is an American comedian with Black and Korean heritage. Yo grew up in the south and recalled being a Blasian kid in Texas in an interview with HalfKorean.
“I was pretty much the only mixed kid in school. In Houston, I went to a predominantly white school and if you were Black, you were Black, and if you were Asian, you were Asian. There [were] no mixed kids. It was different times back then, especially in that area. I got called all kinds of racist names. When kids don’t know what you are, they can be very mean. They were trying to be mean, but they didn’t know how it affected me. I was very insecure growing up being both.”
He continued, “When I hung out with Asian kids, the Black kids would get mad. When I grew up, I guess I connected most with the Black and white kids because I played sports, and I wasn’t a great student. We had one [Asian kid] on our basketball team, then a couple of Black kids, and then mostly white kids. I didn’t really connect with my Asian side until I started doing stand-up.”
His wife, Claire Elise Schreiner is an American beauty queen, and the couple share two adorable kids, Oliver and Elise Yo.
Kimora Lee Simmons
Kimora Lee Simmons is the OG definition of girl boss! Model, Fashionista, Businesswoman, and mother of 5, Simmons has been getting to the bag for decades. Mixed with Black, Korean, and Japanese ethnicities, Simmons has always felt like an outsider. According to Working Mother, she shared:
“I was a loner growing up. I was a mixed-race girl with a Korean Japanese mother and an African American father, and none of the other kids at my school were like me. I was nearly 6 feet tall by the time I was 11 years old. And I was an only child being raised by a single mother.”
She then revealed, “They called me ‘chinky giraffe.’ I cried all the time. But my mother wanted me to turn my tears into something else, something positive.” So her mother signed her up for modeling, where Karl Lagerfeld eventually dubbed her “the face of the 21st century.”
Kimora Lee was married to African American music executive, Russell Simmons, from 1998-2009. The Simmons share two daughters, Ming Lee and Aoki Lee Simmons. Both girls have grown to follow in their mother’s footsteps as fierce Blasian models.
Oh, look! Another model! Chanel Iman Robinson is of Korean and Black heritage. Born to a Blasian mother in Atlanta, Georgia, Chanel identifies strongly with being Black as well as celebrating her Korean heritage. In a 2009 interview with Teen Vogue, Iman revealed that her mother has a special affinity for her Korean Vogue cover.
“This one is really important to my mom,” she explained, “My mother was born in Korea, but they didn’t accept her back then because she was mid with Black. She was put up for adoption when she was a baby. Now, her daughter is on the cover of Korean Vogue!”
Chanel’s father, Tic Price, is an American college basketball coach in the Southeast. Best known for her work as a Victoria’s Secret model, Chanel was stepping on necks throughout the entirety of the early 2000s and she’s proud mommy of two beautiful girls.