My lovely friends agreed to take part in answering a variety of questions based on ethnicity, identity amongst other areas. It was, like the two previous articles / blogs published also from the magazine. The only difference here is that my opinions are absent from the content, which, for me was very interesting to see if their experiences and opinions were similar to each other and if so, in what way.
Q1. Do you think of yourself as being from an ethnic group?
Jaspreet Mann: I definitely do see myself as being from an ethic group and I have come to define myself as British Asian. That took me a while to settle on. But for me that means I am from two worlds. Ethically I belong to my Asian side. And that’s that.
Ennes Kay - I think of my dual nationalities/cultures first rather than my colour/ ethnicity. However I absolutely do consider myself an ‘ethnic’ person by way of being black.
Han Yan Yuen - Asian.
Q2. What does Black Asian Minority & Ethnic (BAME) mean to you?
JM - It means being part of a group of minority groups.
EK - It’s not a term I have ever used to describe myself personally or used to describe a group of people, I tend to use ‘people of colour’. I consider these two terms to be the same thing though, BAME just seems very formal / political rather than personal.
HY - It’s not a very familiar word to me, but in general means a visual minority group of the UK
Q3. Growing up, was there anyone in the media you identified with as a role model? And how did they inspire you?
JM - This is a question that I’ve thought about for a long time and I think the answer to that is that there was no one. When we were younger we used to watch a lot of Bollywood so the women who I grew up watching were probably the closest I had in terms of having a role model. But Bollywood was (and still is at times) so far removed from reality, as is all cinema that all I had to connect to were characters rather than real life role models. In the British media there was no one who looked like me. I think Konnie Haq was the first person to come along who perhaps looked like me and my sisters I was in my teens by then. However, I remember being really surprised that an Asian woman was on TV.
EK - Mostly political leaders - Nelson Mandela, Steve Biko, Walter Sisulu, Malcolm X, Angela Davis, etc. I grew up in a community where the coolest thing was to be politically and racially aware. Any other people in the media who inspired me (performers, etc) also tended to be black - Whitney Houston, Bobby Brown, Will Smith. They inspired not only with their talent but with the fact that their achievements contradicted racial prejudice/ the limitations black people should or do have imposed on them.
HY - Not really, may be some characters from Miyazaki movies. They inspire me to be adventurous and to be not afraid.
Q4. What would you change, if anything, about the media and their representation of people of colour?
JM - I’d like it if the media weren’t so terrified about alienating mainstream viewers by putting ethnic minority women on TV. I think ethnic men get way more exposure on TV but this simply isn’t happening for ethnic women because those in charge of casting feel that audiences won’t connect with them. I don’t think this is true and we need to cast more ethnic minority women in roles that are more diverse. Recently, when planning my wedding I was surprised and a bit shocked at the lack of representation within the Asian wedding scene. A popular Asian wedding magazine used many Asian female models but a lot of the models also used were white. At times I wasn’t sure how this sat with me. Finally an industry that was aimed at me but didn’t use women who looked like me. I thought that actually perhaps this was a way to bring in all different groups of women to make the Asian wedding industry mainstream and to not sideline itself. However, then I thought if this is true, why are there no black women in these Asian wedding magazines?
EK - It is not enough to create roles for people of colour, there should be roles where the colour of the person is of no consequence. Even the role of a ‘black professional’ will usually be steeped in unnecessary, condescending stereotypes/ ‘familiar’ black stories.
HY - Too few Asians in lead roles. East Asian women either play prostitutes, school girls or other kinds of sex objects, while East Asian men play Chinese restaurant waiters or gangsters.
Q5. There are trends moving towards showing more fairer representations of people in the media world and specifically the fashion world such as, age, size and ethnicity. Have you noticed this and what positive impact could this have on people from a BAME background?
JM - I can see a slow and gradual change moving in the right direction. For younger girls, they now see BAME women in the media more like Joan smalls and Neelam Gill. I do think there is still a huge lack of Asian women in the media. I struggled to think of another Asian woman other than Neelam Gill in the media right now, which says a lot. More of a change towards representing BAME women in the media would help young girls to accept who they are earlier on in their childhood. I struggled with feeling relevant or ‘cool’ as stereotypically Asians weren’t in the media! This can in some part explain why the media are so reluctant to represent the Asian community, outside of the stereotypes. But there would be less young girls who would look at themselves in the mirror and think they look ‘wrong’.
EK - There is a shift towards ‘inclusion’ at the moment but ‘inclusion’ is also a trend and has come around many, many times before so while it is encouraging it is by no means a revolution or a mainstay, necessarily. I think it is still important for people of all ethnicities to ensure that they continue to support and uplift each other within their communities and create their own media spaces and products so that they are not reliant on mainstream Western media to make room for them.
HY - Yes I have noticed it, it’s positive for minorities for sure, though I think there is still not enough representation of people of different age and size. I think this trend is also very much pushed forward by social media especially feminist activists. It has very much been a bottom-up process, and we have to keep demanding change to happen in this direction otherwise the established fashion industry is too set in its ways to change itself.