We had the good fortune of connecting with Lexie Chu and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Lexie, what matters most to you?
Call me a romantic, but I wholeheartedly think that friendship makes the world go around! Maybe I’ve been watching too much Sailor Moon, but much of my happiness I owe to my friends! I don’t think I would have made it through the pandemic (or – to be more dramatic – life) without them.
I’m thankful for the people around me who push me in the best way possible and provide a welcome distraction from my endless to-do list. But more importantly, my friends have been instrumental in providing a safe space to exist when the world says I can’t.
With the ongoing (and worsening) worldwide anti-Asian hate, it’s more important than ever to create, foster, and protect physical and mental spaces that allow you to bring your full self to the table. That spirit is what became Asians in Animation!
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
Asians in Animation ultimately began as a response to the Atlanta anti-Asian massacre in 2021. Between myself, Brandon Bui, Joshua Kwan, and Olivia Stark, the first thing we did was pull an all-nighter to create Combating Anti-Asian Violence: An Essential Resource Guide (https://bestofkorea.com/combating-anti-asian-violence-an-essential-resource-guide/) on how to support the Asian community for the Asian community and for allies, which was then published on Best of Korea and distributed by Women in Animation. We got it out to the major animation studios, their employees, their resource groups, and our fellow advocacy groups, which drew a lot of support and people seeking care, comfort, and space. We had two realisations: one – that there was something special happening; and two – who is going to look out for the Asian community but the Asian community?
In the wake of worldwide anti-Asian violence, we needed community. We committed ourselves to Asians in Animation’s mission: create space and support the global Asian animation community throughout their entire careers by having a place where we can proudly and safely be ourselves – together. Our team of four friends began fostering a streamlined communication channel between Asian animation communities all over the globe. Thus, AIA – also fondly known as AnimAsians – was born.
As of May 2022, we have more than 3,000 incredible members across 43 countries. Despite having many incredible Asian leaders in animation pave the way for us to be in this industry, a dedicated community for Asians in animation had not existed before us. Our four-person founding team is constantly in awe of how quickly our original group chat grew from four people to a few thousand! We are so lucky to have so many nice people in our community. We really owe it to our members, our leadership team, and our newfound friends for creating such a kind space, as many are very dedicated to doing their part to look out for one another, whether it’s by providing advice, support, or creating new programs and opportunities for our members to thrive professionally. To be extremely cheesy, it’s truly a group effort!
While we focus a lot on taking care of our community, one of our core pillars is Celebr-Asian of our stories and who we are. In addition to advocating for accessible education, our efforts also span ultra-specific community care, professional development, authenticity on screen, and uplifting each other and voices of all Asian backgrounds and locations. In addition, we are proud to be an expansive resource for studios to create more inclusive content – especially Asian content – through talent sourcing and preparation, focus groups, and employee support resources. By creating more specific tools to bolster Asian talent across the pipeline and at all levels, we aim to give our community the space and practice to advocate for themselves so they know how to learn, grow, and go in order to be at the table, stay at the table, and pull up a chair for others at the table to tell our stories authentically – and then tell more of them!
In recent years, we have seen a great increase in East Asian animated stories. It’s been nice to see a fraction of Asian representation on the animated screen, but we need more than what’s been on screen, especially at Western studios that claim to tell culturally-authentic stories. When was the last time you saw an authentically-told animated South Asian, Southwest Asian, or Southeast Asian story in the mainstream Western media space? Alternatively, how many Asian-made projects and what kinds of Asian voices have you seen elevated to the global stage? What’s missing?
We are lucky to have had many industry trailblazers pave the way for our community to be seen on screen, but our work is far from done. In Hollywood, we want to see entertainment changemakers create space for the immense diversity of the Asian continent. Not only do we want to see this representation on screen, but we need the representation behind the scenes to effectively see an authentic shift in focus to the rest of the incredible communities in Asia.
We hope the strength of our community serves as inspiration for more of our community to tell their stories and we hope that everyone – not just changemakers – understands the value and necessity of doing their part to develop and retain diverse talent and making entertainment a safe space for all identities for years to come.
Our team has been lucky enough to see the positive effects of fostering a safe space. In AIA’s writing, acting, and storyboarding communities, we’ve noticed that when people feel safe, they start asking for more challenges. By providing a space to fail, learn, and understand that we’re all on our own journeys, we’ve seen a huge growth in confidence and self-empowerment in our communities at all skill levels. The key to our community boils down to accepting others as human beings and understanding the inherent responsibility to look out for one another. And that’s where our team at AIA jumps in – we want to be able to help everyone get to the next level, no matter what stage they’re at.
However, with caring for such a large group of people, one size never fits all. This is so important! We’re constantly learning, adapting, and incorporating feedback alongside our members every step of the way so we have a place where all identities can proudly exist. The culture of any community depends on who’s in it, so I encourage everyone to make space to pass the mic – and if you are in need of support, speak up. Always! One of the biggest things I’ve learned while working in animation is that in order to receive the support you need, you need to say something – otherwise, everyone will assume you are fine. Especially in recent years and at studios that really foster their inclusion efforts, there are a lot of ears out there who want to help you and your career, but you are key in providing part of the solution. At the end, who thrives behind the scenes will dictate the future of which parts of our community are allowed to show up on the screen. No matter your level, your role, and how big or small the challenge, it’s up to you to take part in the change you want to see in the industry, whether it’s on-screen representation or your own behind-the-scenes longevity.
Right now, we’re working on some of our dream educational partnerships with studios that created our childhoods. We have to pinch ourselves and can’t wait to share more soon about more storytelling and creative resources, specific training for all disciplines, building a stronger community to studio pipeline, research initiatives, programs to keep uplifting storytellers of underrepresented Asian communities in and outside of the studio system, distribution assistance, equipment grants, submission grants, scholarships, and more global inclusion conversations to support more stories outside of the USA. However, if anyone has suggestions, our inbox is always open!
It’s such an honour to support and champion the Asian animation community. The AIA community’s endless energy and passion for our craft energises us to keep doing our best – not just for our community, but to build a more positive future for those who watch what we make. We hope that Asians in Animation serves as an open door for more conversations, collaborations, and, ultimately, celebr-Asian.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
Get your creativity flowing and visit some of the many museums around LA! Our top pick is the Academy Museum’s Miyazaki exhibit. We are shattered that it’s closing June 22, so to make up for it, head to Little Tokyo or Ktown for food! Dan Sung Sa in Koreatown is our new fave place to have late-night meetings (followed by light, crispy taiyaki + milky soft serve at Somi Somi), but a personal Little Tokyo favourite is Marugame Monzo – a store selling fresh, handmade, traditional udon. (Not to be confused with Marugame Udon!) Or even better – go support a small, family-owned Asian business!
If you happen to be in LA during October, save the date for animation industry staples – Lightbox Expo and Animation is Film Festival! Go to Animation is Film for their incredible animated film premieres that you won’t find anywhere else (get your tickets on the website in advance!) and head to Lightbox to stay connected with the industry and meet studios, other professionals, and pick up some art for your workspace! We’ll even have an Asians in Animation meet-up – better known as a MEET AND EAT! (Get it?)
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
Today, it’s all about animation organisations! I would not be in this industry without Women in Animation (WIA), Children’s Media Association, and Rise Up Animation.
In addition to the organisations above, I’d love to give a big shoutout to all the other advocacy orgs in the animation space. Asians in Animation owes much of its early success to the kindness of our predecessors – especially CAPE, LatinX in Animation, and BRIC Foundation – who go out of their way to look out for us and invite us to the party. We also greatly admire the work of Black N Animated, Diverse Toons, Black Women Animate, Asian Queens in Animation, Exceptional Minds, LA SKINS FEST, Signing Animation, and The Animation Guild (go TAG POCC!). We are honoured to serve the animation community alongside them.
Last but not least, Asians in Animation would not be where it is today if not for our community. We owe a huge thank you to all of the Asian animation giants, leaders, execs, artists, and trailblazers. It is these rockstars who continue to break down doors ensuring our voices are heard for years to come. Thank you to our industry advisors who have supported us for this entire journey. They made space for AIA at the table.
In addition, we couldn’t have done it without the countless volunteers, industry friends, and members worldwide for making this space better than we could have ever imagined. We owe our growth to you! Asian or ally, if you’re reading this, we are so happy and grateful you’re here!
Sending my actual photos to Mike!