When I first met Emily through studying abroad at NYU Shanghai in the fall of 2014, I admired her independence and willingness to explore the world on her own terms, rather than following the crowd. During her time there, she explored places such as Hainan and Hong Kong during the Umbrella Movement.
Emily and I have continued to be good friends through mutual interests, including food, and through other mutual acquaintances. However, ever since she moved back to Los Angeles after graduation, keeping in touch has been more difficult.
Even though we have been friends for 3 years, I’ve learned some more about her through this conversation that I didn’t know before, from little things, like coffee and tea preferences, to broader topics, such as how her brief unemployment changed her views on success.
Favorite Coffee or Tea: Iced black milk tea. The only coffee I like is the caramel macchiato from Starbucks or La Colombe’s Draft Latte.
Geisha Green Milk Tea from Kape Republik Photo Source: Emily Liu
What is a perfect day to you?
Honestly, I just like to sit back and chill. I wouldn’t mind just going into a little cafe with a cute ambiance, delicious milk tea, with my laptop, reading the news, watching Fresh off the Boat or another show, or listening to music. I actually have this weird habit where I like to pace when I listen to music—my former roommate in Shanghai thought I was stressed when she first saw me doing it, so I had to tell that I was just listening to music! I’ve had this habit since I was young.
Tell me an interesting story.
Last Friday was Good Friday, and before I went to work, I had a dentist appointment to check if I had a jaw issue. Everything was normal, and then I went to the bakery. I then got a text from my supervisor because our client was letting people off at noon for Good Friday. It was a small act, but I had not felt that happy or lighthearted in a while. The overwhelming happiness I felt over such a simple gesture made that day memorable. It’s little moments like these that people often overlook and take for granted when they reflect on “happiness.”
Can you tell me about a transformative experience in your life?
The first thing that came to mind was finding out that my brother was gay. The neighborhood that I grew up in was predominantly Asian and Christian, and it happened around my junior/senior year of high school, when people were discussing whether gay marriage should be legal or not. I was always fine with legalization of gay marriage, but I had only felt it in a very broad sense—nobody in my family had been queer, so it didn’t matter to me whether it passed or not. After finding out, it felt strange to me that I had a queer brother, and having to accept him for who he was was a life-changing experience because it made me re-evaluate how open-minded I was.
Can you tell me more about Dragonfruit Media and why you decided to create it?
Dragonfruit Media is a video channel dedicated to the Asian-American experience. We’re currently focusing on food because it’s not a controversial topic—everyone loves food—so it is currently our niche. The more honorable reason for starting Dragonfruit is because I want to see more Asian and Asian American voices represented in mainstream media. I can do this by creating content about Asian Americans, their culture, and Asian American food. The second reason was more practical, and it was to put some more experience on my resume in managing production and video creation.
What are some other things that you are working on right now (aside from Dragonfruit)?
What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?
It was from my best friend when I was unemployed: “Shit happens but it doesn’t define who you are or what you can do. It defines the way our society is and how we are judged.” I had a lot of ups-and-downs when I was unemployed and her words helped me through that. They made me realize how much of a people pleaser I am. I feel like I’m always doing things or creating stuff not for myself, but to please others. It also made me view the world differently—I’m doing all these things because society expects me to do this. Who is society to judge me and who I am because I don’t act a certain way?
What is your definition of success?
For me, success is being happy. Feeling and being comfortable would be good enough for success. A part of me is always going to want to strive for that glamorous title, achievement, or recognition, but in the long term, I want to be content and live a casual life where I make videos for fun, eat with friends, and travel.
Who is someone who inspires you and why?
My current role model is Constance Wu. She as a celebrity could have easily been twisted into caricature of a Chinese immigrant because she plays the mom in Fresh Off the Boat—her accent, a stereotypical Asian mother role—but she’s taken advantage of her position as a breakout celebrity to speak out about race and to speak out against Casey Affleck’s Oscar nomination because of his sexual harassment allegations. It was taboo to speak out against an acclaimed celebrity like him, but she’s not afraid to stand her ground and speak up. She’s using her newfound celebrity status to do good.
What are the three biggest things that you want to accomplish in life?
- Make a good, impactful, viral video that people will resonate with.
- Try to see as much of the world as I can.
- Own my own company. For example, one of my goals for Dragonfruit would be to keep it going.
How do you want to be remembered?
I want to be remembered as the cool badass chick who is also likable, but obviously not everyone is going to like me. Not everyone likes someone who doesn’t follow others. I want to be someone who took risks and didn’t do things just because someone else told her to.