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Subtle Asian Talks (A Written Interview with Kilo, Cece, and Nelle)

Updated: Aug 25, 2021

Only Being You is fortunate to have been able to collaborate with Subtle Asian Talks on a written interview. Read the entire interview to learn more about Subtle Asian Talks, its mission, and some perspectives from Kilo, Cece, and Nelle that are invaluable especially in the status quo!

Suraj Kulkarni: Hello! So excited to have you with us! Can you briefly describe Subtle Asian Talks?

Kilo/Cece/Nelle: We are three Asian American women (Kilo, Cece, and Nelle) navigating our 20s in chaotic times! We spill tea about everything from current events, pop culture, post-college life, dating, and more.

Suraj Kulkarni: What is the mission of Subtle Asian Talks and why was the podcast created? Are there any personal stories that motivated you to create the podcast?

Kilo: Hmm. Good question. I think the initial mission of Subtle Asian Talks was a way to connect during the beginning of the pandemic. When it hit the United States, we still wanted to stay connected over the course of our senior year. I also had personal reasons that were more logistical such as getting more comfortable talking on the fly and editing audio. I think the mission evolved into something greater where it’s not only just us three talking, but learning from each other, and airing our perspectives on the internet.

Cece: During quarantine many people were trying new hobbies and starting projects, Subtle Asian Talks ended up being that for us. Like Kilo said, our senior year of college was interrupted by the pandemic and this was our way to stay in touch, but the pod evolved into a deeper purpose where we realized we could use this space to talk about important issues and challenge the stereotypes around Asian American women.

Nelle: Adding on, we wanted to share our experiences as post-grads and Asian Americans since we felt like people could relate to us. Subtle Asian Talks went from a joke and an idea to becoming an actual thing after we were on zoom and updating each other on life. I think for me, I was motivated by the interconnection aspect since I wanted to keep updated with Kilo and Cece. I also enjoyed the creative aspect of creating the cover art and branding since it was a good change from my day to day routine. Subtle Asian Talks has definitely evolved into something else, which is great!

Suraj Kulkarni: Wow, that's amazing. I really like your point about how the podcast has evolved and I totally understand the impact that COVID-19 has had on senior year. Especially today, which is still predominantly virtual in all honesty, I think what you created is just so incredible. How long did the process of creating Subtle Asian Talks take? Was it days, weeks, months, or more?

Kilo/Cece/Nelle: Initially it took us a good month to set out our first episode. We started from scratch with branding, logistics, platform, topics, etc. It was a lot of prep work. Now, we do 2 conference calls, 1st to get situated with the topic and the 2nd to actually record. Afterwards, it’ll take about a week or so for someone to edit it.

Suraj Kulkarni: That certainly does sound like a lot of work, but it kinda makes sense. What is your favorite aspect of Subtle Asian Talks? Can you describe it and tell us why it is your favorite?

Kilo: I think my favorite moment of Subtle Asian Talks would probably be our 1st conference call and not going to lie, I feel like there is some good content in there haha. It feels like an after-hours uncut episode if we were ever to release them. They sometimes can be nonsensical in the funniest ways since we usually are sleep deprived. We catch up, make each other laugh, and generally have a good time.

Nelle: I agree with Kilo. The unfiltered conversations we have are pretty comical since it is just us spewing random things for a good hour. I wish we could release that audio, but it will be a 4 hour audio of incoherent thoughts.

Cece: On a personal level, I think Subtle Asian Talks became a way for me to learn more about as well as learn from my co hosts. Although we were good friends to begin with, the format of the podcast allowed us to dive deep into topics that may have not come up in our usual conversation. From the silly takes to thoughtful commentary, I’ve really appreciated the opportunity to connect with my friends in a different way!

Suraj Kulkarni: Yeah! I totally get that! Honestly I can kinda relate especially with Only Being You; I was friends with a lot of my core-committee members and extended team members, but I really think that having thoughtful discussions about so many pressing issues has really helped us become much better friends!

Suraj Kulkarni: Especially in the status quo, it’s so important to create a space that allows Asian Americans to have a voice to share their stories and foster allyship. What has been your favorite moment so far in coordinating Subtle Asian Talks? Were there any specific discussions on topics that you felt were quite controversial or needed more awareness? What were those discussions like?

Kilo: I think my favorite moment would be learning from my co-hosts and hearing their thoughts on various topics. This platform helped us dive into topics we normally would not have discussed in college. It felt controversial discussing race topics when it should not have been. We definitely needed to bring awareness to the subject but also I realized how much I needed to bring awareness to myself as well. Those discussions were definitely hard, especially the Black Lives Matter episode. I couldn’t really wrap my head around how intricate Black Lives Matter movement runs. We wanted to bring light to it, but not take up the space that others should have. Recording that episode was a moment of realization of how much I need to educate myself and not be a bystander.

Cece: I completely agree that it is crucial to foster allyship and add to the voices of Asian Americans who aim to bring awareness to current social issues. We’ve had a few great discussions that allowed us to challenge our views and think more critically. For me an episode that helped shine light on an important subject was our interview with Jessica Chao of LingoHealth about health disparities in immigrant populations. It was a valuable conversation that highlighted the language barriers, cultural differences, and social stigmas that contribute to negative health outcomes in this community. For us it was also a pretty personal topic as first-generation Asian Americans who had to experience these challenges in our families, but I think that added vulnerability helped add to this conversation.

Nelle: For me, I enjoy the topics that we discuss since it gets me to think and evaluate my values and perspectives. I like having open discussions with Kilo and Cece to hear their perspective and comparing them with mine. Like Kilo mentioned, since we touch on a wide spectrum of topics that can get controversial, we try our best to do justice to all the topics we discuss. When it came to topics like the Black Lives Matter movement and anti-asian violence, it was hard to put my thoughts into words since I only had surface level conversations in the past about these topics; however, it challenged me to educate myself and understand the history related to these events.

Suraj Kulkarni: I was looking through the official Subtle Asian Talks instagram account and I really like how you continuously shed light on important AAPI public figures, spread awareness about pressing issues, and also expressed continued support for BLM. What does spreading awareness mean to you, and why do you think it is important especially today?

Cece: I think spreading awareness, while important, is the starting point when it comes to advocacy. To me it means highlighting the issues that are affecting marginalized communities to encourage our audience to educate themselves further and cultivate true allyship. I think the ultimate goal of using our voice for these issues is not only to share a post or link, but to also get our listeners to think about how they can integrate the messages we promote into their interpersonal relationships, workplaces, local communities, etc.

Kilo: It also means trying to at least peel back a layer of ignorance to our audience on these issues. It doesn’t necessarily have to be ignorance either, it could be something like never having thought of the subject before and bringing its importance to your attention. It is important especially today because all of our news is on social media, fake or real. We need to bring real opinions and raw discussions to the light as authenticity has value when spreading awareness. Nothing is worse than being “fake woke”.

Nelle: There’s also importance in having challenging conversations that gets people thinking outside of their perspective. Having a discussion allows people to hear different perspectives and broaden their knowledge on things they might be aware of. This is important to not only educate others, but also ourselves. With such a diverse population, everyone has different ideals and perspectives that are not always alike so being able to listen and discuss these differences helps stimulate growth not only individually, but also collectively in society.

Suraj Kulkarni: Being an Asian American, I have noticed that there generally has always been a lack of allyship between the Asian American community and the Black community. Do you know why this might be the case? Are there specific conversations you have had in your podcast about this issue as well as possible solutions?

Cece: I think the lack of visible allyship between the Asian American community and Black community is a multifaceted issue that is difficult to address in a short answer, but I think at its core is rooted in white supremacy. Hostility between different communities of color creates a division that benefits a white supremacist society. Understanding the history of anti-Blackness and anti-Asian sentiment is the first step in realizing that although the ways in which each group experiences oppression is very different, our struggles are a result of a society that sees us as less than compared to whiteness. We’ve touched on this in our podcast a few times and I think our part as Asian Americans is to start by combatting the anti-Blackness that is ingrained in many of our communities, recognizing the ways in which the model minority myth has been used to pit us against other POC, and emphasizing that there is power in solidarity.

Nelle: Though I am still educating myself, I think that it has to do with the systemic racism that is embedded in the history of the country. History has pitted these communities against each other and created this divide in order to maintain the racial hierarchies that this system is built on. In our BLM and Stop AAPI Hate episode, I believe that we did brush briefly on this topic and shared our experiences as Asian-Americans; however, we do have a lot of resources on our Instagram on how to be an ally and provide support on these topics.

Kilo: Like what CeCe and Nelle mentioned, there are various symptoms that more or less boils down to how this country was built. It was built with white supremacy as the foundation and they began to stack the POC against each other to win a spot “at the top”. Since Asians are considered the “model minority” this implies that Asians are role models, and the standards of everyone else is subpar. This is such an ugly truth to face for many Asians and Asian Americans. Like the other two mentioned, we do have resources mentioned on our instagram and over some podcast episodes in passing as well.

Suraj Kulkarni: Oh my gosh yes, I completely agree with you. White supremacy and systemic racism are definitely big reasons for why there's such a lack of allyship between both communities and it's just heartbreaking. Like you said Kilo, the "model minority" myth just further perpetuates divides within so many minority groups today. I'll definitely check out the resources you have on instagram and your podcast episodes! I will share them with the rest of Only Being You as well.

Suraj Kulkarni: I, along with many other Only Being You members, am an incoming college freshman, and I know that your podcast does cover college life which is just so amazing. As an Asian American, I have somewhat found it hard to fit into many social groups in school, but now that I am going to college I’m hoping that it will be quite different for me. Do you have any tips?

Kilo: I think my personal biggest tip is something along the lines of “be yourself”. But less cheesy (hopefully). I think your thoughts and actions should be as genuine to yourself as possible. When I was in high school, I molded myself in such a way where I did not feel genuine to myself. I felt like I was living a double life at home and at school. When you’re at college, you get to have the opportunity to pursue the things you want to do! And the way you want to do it! Sure, you’ll make mistakes, but that’s all part of the process. So, I think what I’m trying to say is another cheesy college quote, “College is what you make of it”. And it really is. If you have felt like your high school self is authentic, then continue that. But if you feel the need for change, college is the perfect time to try that out.

Cece: College is really a great opportunity for self discovery and development. Highschool can be very insular so it can be difficult to find belonging, but at college there is pretty much a group for everyone! My advice might be generic, but it’s to be open to experiences you may not expect. As an introvert I found it challenging at times and had moments of feeling defeated when my expectations of being part of a social group didn’t pan out in the way I wanted it to. At the end of my college journey I can say I’ve found my people and made valuable friendships. I think it came from continuing to try new things and approaching college with the mindset that focusing on self growth will lead you to find the group that is right for you.

Nelle: While it’s important to be genuine, my tip would be to explore many different things that interest you. College is a time to have fun and discover yourself. There’s no “right” algorithm or checklist to follow so why not challenge yourself and have fun. Go in open-minded and see where life takes you!

Suraj Kulkarni: Ahhh these are such amazing tips omg I will definitely keep them in mind! Honestly I'm going to try to be as open as possible to as many people as I can so I can just make friends; especially as an introvert, I think these tips will be super useful. Honestly what I really like is that I don't think anyone will know me in college, so it's like going in with a clean slate and we're all the same which helps so much.

Suraj Kulkarni: What is your hope for Subtle Asian Talks in the future?

Kilo: Real-talk our hope is to gain a sponsor that we advocate for such as a menstrual product company! It’s been a goal of ours for so long. We want to be out here for women supporting women! But also my hope is that we have the time to reboot the podcast. We are sort of on a hiatus since we are starting our careers, we are on that grind to make sure we are getting all the necessary work experiences we need to make our next money move.

Cece: Along with what Kilo said, some of our goals are to grow our audience and collaborate more with other groups (like Only Being You!) that share similar missions to make connections with more up and coming WOC in media. Our lives have been a bit busy as young professionals but we want to continue to have those important conversations and hopefully engage more with our listeners!

Nelle: Hopefully we can continue our podcast after our hiatus. We have a lot of future ideas for Subtle Asian Talks so look forward to that and please continue to support us.

Suraj Kulkarni: I am definitely looking forward to it and all of us at Only Being You will continue to support you! Is there anything else you would like to mention that you weren’t able to earlier?

Kilo/Cece/Nelle: This is a bit of a self plug moment, but we’ll take the opportunity to let the readers know to follow us on @SubtleAsianTalks on Instagram and to give the podcast a listen on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, and more! We are also trying to start an advice segment for listeners to submit questions about pretty much anything so please check out our Linktree for the submission form for anyone interested! We appreciate the team at Only Being You for the opportunity and love how you’re giving a platform for minority voices!

Suraj Kulkarni: Thank you so much Kilo, Cece, and Nelle! This was just so fun. Don't forget to check out Subtle Asian Talks on Instagram and all of the streaming services they listed! We're just so grateful that you did this collab with us :)

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