At MTV’s culturally-defining prime, SuChin Pak was in the center of it all. As the first Asian correspondent, SuChin created tidal waves for generations of young women who looked up to her. She’s covered the MTV Movie Awards, the MTV Video Music Awards and as a correspondent for MTV Daily News, she’s interviewed everyone from Mary J. Blige to *NSYNC. And if you think the voice on MTV Cribs sounds familiar, that’s because she narrates it. Currently, she’s the on-air news correspondent for Daily Candy in New York.
After immigrating from South Korea, SuChin and her family moved to the San Francisco Bay Area. Throughout her career, SuChin has spoken at length about her experiences as an Asian-American woman in the spotlight. In SuChin’s documentary series, My Life (Translated), she talks about struggling to fit into the Western standard of beauty, and particularly her battle with non-creased eyelids. You may not hear about it often, but as the number one plastic surgery in all of Asia, it’s an issue that significantly affects the Asian community.
SuChin’s story is one of the many amazing stories highlighted on the new PBS/AOL digital series MAKERS. This digital series and soon-to-be PBS documentary features the stories of trailblazing women like Madeleine Albright, Carol Burnett, Faith Ringgold, Alice Walker, Misty Copeland and our very own Courtney Martin. Talking about the lack of role models for Asians on camera and fighting for the underdog, SuChin continues to create an alternative narrative to the American identity. In one clip she says, “If I can use the system to really help that guy that’s trying to break down the system? That’s when I’m like, nice, that’s a good day’s work.” How can you not love that?
And now, without further ado, the Feministing Five, with SuChin Pak.
What was it like being chosen to be a part of MAKERS?
Well to be honest, I’m always really pleasantly surprised when a big media company takes on a project with so much heart and integrity. I hope that doesn’t sound cynical! So, that was my first reaction. Being chosen to be a part of such a big endeavor like this…a sort of time capsule of inspiring stories from women of our time…Well, it’s a wonderful pat on the back to be recognized for putting your best foot forward in your work and life.
Why do you think an initiative like MAKERS is so important?
I’ve always said that it’s impossible for a young person to become something that they’ve never seen. If you don’t ever see what it is that you could do with your life…or at least get a glimpse of something that inspires you, how on earth are you supposed to take steps to become something that doesn’t exist in your reality? It’s important to tell success stories from all walks of life, from many points of view so that everyone can imagine something outside of their norm. MAKERS stretches your horizon a bit further, so you can see more of the big picture and that’s the kind of storytelling that we can never have enough of.
What advice do you have for other young girls struggling with self-acceptance?
I think struggling with self acceptance is a completely normal thing that every girl deals with…it doesn’t matter if your Korean or Guatemalan. I did a documentary called My Life (Translated) for MTV which told the stories of American teens in immigrant families dealing with universal issues…dating, body image, college and every culture has their own set of values that create a different standard of normal. For me, my standard of beauty was Cindy Crawford and I couldn’t be farther away from that, but does any girl feel like they can live up to a glossy image of supermodels? I was terribly self conscious about my body, the shape of my eyes, the straightness of my hair and it kept me from every trying out for the cheerleading squad or running for school President. I think when you’re young, living at home, going to school every day, being judged is a big part of the schedule…out in the real world, as your world begins to expand, you see that humor, intelligence, talent are often times more valuable than the way you look. So my advice would be to cultivate the 99% of you that has nothing to do with your looks. You ever been around someone really beautiful who had an awful personality? It doesn’t take long to figure out what’s important and what really counts.
What can we do to further ensure that Asian Americans and other underrepresented groups, continue to break through in the media?
So much of the world, because of technology, has opened up for minority groups. We have more of a voice than ever before and not only that, turns out America is not the center of the Universe. The world is shrinking and the voices are more diverse than ever before. However, look at mainstream TV or movies or magazines and you’d never know that this multicultural, multilingual world exists. I think the biggest obstacles we face continue to be in positions of power. Getting more producers, writers, executives from diverse experiences is the only way we’ll see that reflection on screens and print. I think, as consumers, we also have a degree of power and responsibility to reward companies that take these steps and not support those that continue to operate as is.
What recent news story made you want to scream?
I didn’t scream, but I cried when I first heard the Trayvon Martin story. How does anything good come from that? I hope we continue to demand justice, not only for his life, but social justice for everyone…that we don’t just move on to the next story, but use his life and his death to create more hope, more change, more opportunities to do better as a community.
You’re going to a desert island and get to take one food, one drink, and one feminist. What do you pick?
- Iced tea
- My ma!