Nancy is a media artist, music curator, community facilitator, filmmaker and creative entrepreneur. She currently lives in Vancouver, B.C.
Where were you born and where were you raised?
I was born in Taichung, Taiwan and immigrated to Canada when I was 2 years old with my family. I grew up in Richmond, a suburb in Vancouver where a lot of Chinese people settled. During my elementary school years, my parents made me move between Vancouver, Taichung and Shanghai every other year.
Growing up did you ever experience discrimination or did you feel like an outsider?
I knew about racism at a very young age because my parents had told me that people in Canada may treat me differently for not being white, hence why they gave me an English name instead of using my Chinese name when we settled in Canada. The first time I had realized that I was experiencing systemic racism was in elementary school. I had a Chinese-Canadian friend, who was born in Canada with parents from the UK and Hong Kong. She was in ESL classes with me. She didn't even speak another language other than English - her mom could barely speak Cantonese. I can somewhat understand why they put me in ESL because I was frequently living in Asia and moving back and forth, but could not understand why they put my friend in ESL. In grade 5, when a lot of immigrants from Romania and Bosnia were coming, we befriended a Romanian girl that barely spoke English, and they did not put her in ESL. I remember being confused about it because I was being taken out of regular English classes to attend ESL and I definitely was more fluent in English than she was as someone who’s been living in Canada since age two. I was taking ESL tests that was pretty demeaning as well. During the tests, I had to answer questions such as: “This is one foot, and these are two _____ ?” “Feet” - duh, or “Please place the pencil under the table and raise your right arm”. I’d roll my eyes and do it. It was then I realized that we were placed in ESL for being Chinese, or having a yellow face. It did not matter that my friend did not speak a second language, nor did it matter that I was much more fluent in English than my Romanian friend - we looked Asian and she was white, so we had to go to ESL during English classes while she stayed.
What gave you the most anxiety as a teenager?
Going to school gave me a lot of anxiety. I hated high school, the system and the institution. There was a fair share of racism from white kids, but I’d just tell them to fuck off. I felt like many of my teachers and school admins were racist or homophobic and that’s what bothered me the most. There was an “Asian gang problem” when I was in high school, and the school administration would make racist comments about Asian parents and their poor parenting which annoyed me because I know how hard it is for immigrant families especially if they can not all live in the same country. A lot of my friends had families where the mom would live in Canada, while the father lived in Asia sending money over, and the outcome of that was usually divorce because the father would meet someone else in Asia. As a teen, I found comfort spending time with Asian kids that also had similar family issues since my parents were also divorced. Often these are the teens that would be perceived as “Asian gangsters that lacked good parenting” by the school administration. Most of these kids are just struggling with their parents’ divorce and an overbearing single-mother but my high school’s perception of “rebellious” Asian kids gave me a lot of anxiety.
What did you parents think of you?
I was supposed to be the daughter that went to med school, and I didn’t. I was also the more academic daughter so my mom had high expectations. I went on a pre-med school route at UBC but I switched out of that program (thank god). My mom was extremely disappointed in me at first, but over the last few years she’s come around. It’s funny that she never really understood what I was doing, my creative ventures and community building, until local Chinese press started covering my projects, then all of a sudden I’m legit to her, even though I’ve been featured in more mainstream and well known English press outlets.
Do you love your job? If so why?
I love what I do. I’m a media artist, music curator, community facilitator, filmmaker and creative entrepreneur. I work for myself and I love the freedom and challenges it gives me. I love that I can make a difference through my work.
What is a piece of advice you would give to your teenage self?
Get therapy, drink less and exercise more.
Do you feel like you belong?
Now that I am able to build my own community of like-minded people who share a similar vision for the future, I feel like I belong.
Find Nancy on the internet at: @whichnancy