Words and art by Nash Holcomb
Mixed Asian Media: JoySauce is proud to present something very special—a partnership with the ultra talented team over at Mixed Asian Media. In JoySauce’s mission to cover stories from the Asian American and Pacific Islander diaspora, we’ve always considered it incredibly important to include mixed AA+PI perspectives. Since their team already has that piece on lock, we’re delighted they were willing to join forces to help us share even more fresh, funny, interesting, irreverent stories each week. Take it away, MAM!
The purpose of this art series was to highlight how mixed Asian individuals have had a tangible impact on the world, for better or for worse—be it in culture, politics, arts or sciences. The idea was to make something both aesthetically pleasing (the art), but also educate the viewers, to show them that we mixed Asians are, and have always been, making a difference in the world. All the information is from my own amateur research, and I hope I’m clear when I add my own analysis and commentary on each person. Thank you and enjoy!
To kick off this series we have one of the most iconic and impactful mixed Asians in pop culture, Bruce Lee! Firstly, yes, he’s mixed Asian which many don’t know, born in San Francisco in 1940. He’s a descendent of Sir Robert Hotung, famous Eurasian Hong Kong business tycoon. I think Lee’s impact on the world and how people view Asian men in general cannot be understated. In my view, his legacy is a double-edged sword, not to speak on the man himself, but the cultural shift his popularity left in Western society. Asian men now had an icon to idolize, but the stereotype of all Asians being masters of martial arts intensified dramatically. I could go on and on about his life and legacy, but in the end, he undeniably changed the world.
Charles J. Pedersen
Charles J. Pedersen, the pioneering and Nobel Prize-winning organic chemist. If you know what a crown ether is (I did not and still can’t tell you after reading the Wikipedia article), then you should thank this man. Born in Busan, Korea, in 1904 to a Norwegian father and Japanese mother, he grew up largely in Japan before going to university in the United States, where he would study chemical engineering. His groundbreaking research in chemistry would earn him a Nobel Prize, one of the few to win it in any sciences category without a PhD. Now most of you probably haven’t heard of him, but that’s in part a big reason why I wanted to make this series of artwork to show how mixed Asians have shaped or impacted the world in ways many of you may not realize.
Nancy Kwan, a Hong Kong Eurasian born in 1939. She was one of the first prominent Eurasians to act and star in Hollywood and other studios around the world, along with Yul Brynner. She starred in over 50 films in her lifetime, with the earlier ones at a time where it was more common to cast white actors to play Asian and Eurasian roles. Kwan was able to play both Asian and Eurasian characters as well as others throughout her career, probably due to not looking fully one way or the other.
Much like Bruce Lee’s legacy, that intensified the stereotypes of all Asians knowing martial arts, Kwan’s rise to fame and the roles she was cast intensified the perceptions of Asian women being hypersexual, becoming a cultural and sex icon in her own right in the early 1960s. In hindsight we can more clearly examine the good, bad and ugly of the types representation and lasting impacts they had, such as Kwan’s most famous film, Flower Drum Song in 1961 (first of only a few major Hollywood films with an all Asian cast), but undeniably, Nancy Kwan certainly helped shape the world.
María Guadalupe Araujo Yong, or better known as Ana Gabriel, is a mixed Chinese/Mexican singer, songwriter—who over her long career has released dozens of studio, compilation and live albums, many of them achieving platinum status and winning lots and lots of awards. She is one of the most iconic singers for many traditional Mexican songs, but also excelled with more contemporary genres of music in Mexico. With her decades long career, and her music reaching wide across the entire Spanish speaking world beyond Mexico, Ana Gabriel may be arguably the most well known and influential mixed Asian musical star—though we’ll cover some more in the future that may take that particular prize.
José Rizal. A Filipino Mestizo (Tisoy) of mixed Tagalog, Chinese, Japanese and Spanish heritages. He is regarded today as one of the greatest national heroes of the Philippines. He was truly an amazing man, speaker of many languages, poet, essayist, novelist, playwright, ophthalmologist, sketcher, painter, sculptor, martial artist, pistol and fencing duelist etc. etc. etc. WHEW. And I didn’t even list it all!
But what’s most impactful from Rizal is how his many writings on the then colonial status the Philippines were credited in part for inspiring the Philippine Revolution, as well as it’s justification and support in the eyes of people around the world. His execution by the Spanish military for allegedly playing a part in inciting the revolt would only further fuel the Filipino struggle for independence. After the United States shortly thereafter conquered the Philippines, Rizal’s legacy continued to alter U.S. government policy on treating their new colonial citizens more fairly, and he would also later inspire other independence movements in Indonesia against the Netherlands, decades after his untimely death.
Few other mixed Asians had such a large geopolitical impact on the world as Rizal, except for...well, this next man.
Vladimir Ilyich Ulyanov or as you might know him, Vladimir Lenin. Firstly, yes, he is some kind of mixed-Asian, though we’re not entirely sure which specific ethnicity. From his father, Lenin is likely part Chumash or Kalmyk or some other Eurasian/Turkic/Altaic/Mongolic ethnicity. So it should go without saying that this man was one of the most influential and globally impactful men...perhaps ever.
I’m going to greatly simplify history but in summary his Bolshevik Revolution in 1917 would mark the final nail in the coffin for the Russian monarchy, nobility, aristocracy, much of the Orthodox clergy etc, forever transforming one of the world’s largest empires into the Soviet Union, a global superpower for most of the 20th century, completely changing geopolitics forever. In my own personal opinion, I would argue that though the Revolution(s) in Russia was primarily a class struggle first and foremost, that there was also, intersectionally, an element of a multi-ethnic/multi-racial struggle against the predominantly white Russian nobility, clergy, aristocracy etc. So much of the former Russian Empire was conquered Eurasian lands. But all the power structures of Russia were centered in its far west. I think it’s often overlooked how instrumental it was for all the non-white Russian ethnicities who were predominantly middle or working class to rise up against their colonial masters for the Revolution to succeed on the scale that it did.
Now being strictly apolitical, it’s undeniable that this man, no matter what your feelings are on him personally or his legacy or the Soviet Union or communism, etc., dramatically shaped the world. Every accomplishment, every disaster, both within, but also other powers influenced or inspired by or in direct opposition or competition to the Soviet Union—the space race, The Cold War, etc. I could go on forever about all this. Have I convinced you of the impactful-ness of this man!?
Ranomi Kromowidjojo, an Indo (term for a Dutch/Indonesian) of Dutch and Javanese-Surinamese heritage (the Indonesian, specifically Javanese diaspora who live in Suriname, South America). She’s a triple Olympic champion!
It’s hard to follow up someone like Lenin in terms of shaping the world, but Kromowidjojo all the same has an impressive resume. She’s an Olympic swimmer, winning gold medals and setting records across three Olympics, 2008, 2012 and 2016, and lots of other international competitions, and currently holds the World Record time in the 50m freestyle. I realize that outside the Dutch-speaking world, she’s relatively unknown, and though she may not have made sweeping cultural or political changes to the world at large, in the world of athletics, she’s someone everyone ought to be familiar with, and has done her part in shaping that world.
Eldrick Tont Woods or as you probably know him, Tiger Woods. Both of his parents are of mixed heritages, with Tiger being Black, white and possibly Indigenous or Chinese from his father’s side, and Thai, Chinese and Dutch from his mother’s side.
For the few of you who don’t know who he is, Tiger Woods is widely considered one of the greatest golfers of all time, with dozens of wins across the largest golf tournaments in the world. I don’t think it would be an exaggeration to say that he is one of the few recognizable professional golfers to the average non-golf enthused citizen—a household name essentially, perhaps either for his career as a golfer or the subject of personal life scandals that the media obsessed over circa 2009-10—though his mixed heritage may not be as well known. I would argue that Woods was the most well-known/recognizable mixed-Asian in the 2000s, though again not known for his mixed heritage. His impact on the world of professional golf as well as the celebrity treatment and scrutiny of professional athletes by the media cannot be understated.
Eddie and Alex Van Halen
Eddie (left) and Alex (right) Van Halen, we got a two-for today! I couldn’t in good conscious just do one or the other, had to do them both! Two of the greatest rockstars in music history!
Both born in Amsterdam, Netherlands to a Dutch father and an Indo mother (Dutch/Javanese mix). The co-founding members of the famous rock band Van Halen. Fun fact: though Alex is the drummer and Eddie was the lead guitarist of their band, Van Halen, Alex originally wanted to play guitar and Eddie with the drums but both ended up switching at a young age. If you’re not familiar with the world of rock an roll, then know that the band Van Halen (now almost 50 years old) is considered to be one of the greatest rock bands of all time. R.I.P. Eddie.
Leslie Charles Bowyer-Yin
Leslie Charles Bowyer-Yin, better known as Leslie Charteris was born in Singapore in 1907 to a Chinese father and English mother. Charteris was an extremely prolific writer most famous for his recurring character of Simon Templar, aka The Saint, a Robin Hood-like sleuth and vigilante character who has appeared in dozens of novels over the span of five decades as well as over a dozen films and TV shows during those decades portrayed by numerous actors including Roger Moore of James Bond fame.
During his years writing popular novels, he worked many odd jobs, toured with a British carnival, prospected for gold, mined tin, dove for pearls and invented a wordless picture-based sign language called Paleneo. Looking back at his life and career, it almost seems like he was competing for The Most Interesting Man in the World title.
Published on October 1, 2022
Words and art by Nash Holcomb
Nash Holcomb was born and raised in the San Francisco Bay Area to an Anglo-American father and a fifth-generation Chinese American mother. He graduated from San Francisco State University, majoring in cinema and minoring in animation, and currently resides in the Los Angeles area, making food for a living and artwork for fun, hoping to one day reverse that trend.