Ryan Alexander Holmes

Ryan Alexander Holmes Asks ‘How Much More of ‘Me’ Can I Be?’

The Blasian actor and content creator on embracing both of his cultures

Ryan Alexander Holmes

Courtesy of Ryan Alexander Holmes

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!

It’s an honor (and feels like home) to interview Ryan Alexander Holmes, a Blasian actor, content creator, influencer and activist. He’s the perfect person to interview in honor of Black History Month and Lunar New Year. This interview is also very personal to me because I, myself, am also Blasian, and I can relate to many things that he said. Although I’m older than him, I look up to him, and I feel represented in the entertainment industry. You can follow Ryan on TikTok and Instagram @Ryanalexh.

This interview has been edited for clarity and length.

You’re a successful Chinese and Black content creator, influencer, actor, and activist. What’s your perspective of the entertainment industry, and what are some challenges that multiracial actors like you have to overcome?

When I first came into this industry, I was very naïve. I thought it would be easy, but now I’ve realized this is the hardest profession in the universe. Before, I felt like I needed to do what casting directors and the Hollywood industry wanted me to be. I honestly didn’t realize I was doing that until I started creating my own content. My content is about identity and family. I started really leaning into who I was, my own personal identity, and how I feel about myself. I started focusing on what I care about, what I love, and what I want to share with the world. So now I see the industry in a different way.

It still is very hard, but I’m creating my own path for myself, and I’m doing it in a way that’s never been done before. I’m not saying that in an egotistical way. What I’m saying is, if you embrace who you are and you do it the way that you would do, it’s the most unique thing that you could possibly do. People will value your novelty and uniqueness. The world is my oyster, and I feel like I have an internal locus of control now, as opposed to an external locus of control where you are trying to please people around you. The doubling down is, how much more of “me” can I be?

You have more than 105K followers on TikTok and more than 65K followers on Instagram. What is your favorite TikTok video that you have created so far?

The video “Blasian Family Matters.” That’s honestly my favorite video. It’s not my most popular video, but it’s so personal to me and I love it so much! It’s unity not only among Asians, but also Black people that are also Blasians.

On another note, which of your TikTok videos have made the most impact in building cultural understanding between the Asian and Black communities?

I honestly think the video that had the most impact is just me having dim sum with my entire family. It’s a super diverse scene, and the 1970s song “Caravan of Love” is playing in the background. My family is like the United Nations. We have people of all cultures in my family: white people, Black people, Chinese people, and Japanese people. The concept of “showing without telling” is something that I’m embracing much more. I don’t need to tell you anything. Look at this! Look at how happy we are eating dim sum together. It doesn’t matter what race you are. You can enjoy your culture with whoever you want and embrace them and love them.

When you start explaining and showing these things, you’re also trying to reverse certain people’s gaps in education. I have compassion for those people because I’ve realized the education system is skewed. In our school systems, history is taught in a way that doesn’t show the whole picture. In many situations, it’s not really those people’s fault that they don’t know our true history. They don’t see us the way that we see ourselves because they weren’t taught to see us that way. Trying to convince them to think the way that I think is really what I’m trying to do. What is palatable is showing multiple races of multiple people eating dim sum together and having a great grand old time.

Why is it important for you to emphasize that you are “100% Chinese and 100% African American” to your followers?

I don’t ever want to feel like I don’t fully belong to one of my cultures because I absolutely have the right to belong to both cultures fully. I still have people tell me, “You’re not Black, and you’re not Chinese. You are mixed.” My rebuttal is, “What am I mixed with?” I’m mixed with African American, so I’m Black! I’m mixed with Chinese, so I’m Chinese! Once again, this is my internal locus of control. I fully belong to both of my cultures, no matter what people are saying. Other people’s opinions about my identity are irrelevant. I don’t need to prove to anybody who I am. That 100 percent is also me telling myself, “You do not need to prove what you are to anybody.” I’m embracing both cultures because I am raised in both cultures fully, and I love both cultures fully. I’m showing the world that, not to prove it, but because that’s who I am.

In a recent interview on the podcast “Militantly Mixed,” you said, “It’s not that I don’t look Asian, it’s that you've never seen an Asian like me before.” Can you unpack that sentence for me, and how often do you get “confused stares” from strangers?

I thought about it one day, and I realized this is actually common sense. If you’re Asian, which I am, then I look Asian, period! The fact that I don’t look like an Asian to you or to an outside observer is sort of irrelevant. It’s not my fault that there’s not a lot of diversity or representation in terms of Asians that are mixed. If there was more diversity, then people would look at me and think that I’m Asian. If I ever become a very known face, then people would look at other mixed Asians and think, he does look Black and Asian, because that’s how Ryan Alexander Holmes looks. That’s how representation works.

I’m not delusional. I understand that, to most people, I do look Puerto Rican, Dominican, or Brazilian. Side note, when a Spanish speaker comes up to me and starts speaking Spanish, thinking I’m part of them, I feel at home here! I really need to learn Spanish or Portuguese and just move! But going back to the question, it’s not about me, it’s about representation. If Blasians are getting equal representation, then more people will recognize that we look Asian and Black.

Ryan Alexander Holmes says if you’re Asian, then you look Asian, period.

Courtesy of Ryan Alexander Holmes

You often feature your parents on social media. What is the biggest lesson you have learned from your parents about interracial marriage and cross-cultural communication?

I learned from my parents to be able to stand on your own for what’s right. I look up to my parents more than anybody in the universe. They decided what they wanted, even though the world was telling them, “Don’t do that!” My parents thought other people’s opinions were irrelevant. They thought, “I love this person, so I’m just going to do it. If you don’t want to come on this ride with us, it doesn’t matter.” They had me and my brothers, and they thought these kids represent the amalgamation of both of our cultures together, and we can’t abandon these kids. I was very lucky that both sides of the family came together and helped raise me, so that I can fully experience both sides of my family. I think a lot of the quotes and a lot of the way that I think and carry myself, come from the way my parents carry themselves and how they raised me.

Ryan Alexander Holmes and his parents.

Courtesy of Ryan Alexander Holmes

What advice do you have for young multiracial people who would like to pursue a career in acting or content creation?

This industry is one of the hardest professions in the entire world, so you really have to want to do it. It could happen overnight, but don’t bank on it. Or it could happen in 10 or 20 years.

You also have to find the community that you want to be a part of and understand who you are. Don’t try to prove things to other people, but really understand who you are and who you want to be. I didn’t start truly enjoying this industry until I found my people within the industry. I had to understand who I am and become who I am now, which is a person who embraces themselves fully and completely and has that awareness to constantly go in that direction. When you do that, and you’re loud and proud about it, the community just forms itself. People see that and they’ll vibe with that. You meet with people that are similar to you and you think, “We’re on a similar journey, let’s get together and make art and content. Let’s get lunch and talk about life.” Finding your community fuels your artistry, and it doesn’t feel like it’s work because you are being yourself. I appreciate this the most.

For mixed people specifically, you have to create your own lane in the industry. I do fall into the “ethnically ambiguous” or “open race” category. For casting directors, they aren’t looking for me when they’re looking for a Black or Chinese actor. I could play a Chinese man because I am Chinese and I speak the language and know the culture. But casting directors would think it’s ridiculous to cast me. However, don’t let them tell you who you are. Mixed people can have a strong inclination to decide to not embrace themselves and embrace only one of their cultures that they are most likely to be casted as. Don’t do that! Embrace who you are, make your own art, write your own projects, and create your own content. Once I didn’t think there’s a possibility to create my own TV show or be a character that speaks Chinese. These things are starting to materialize because artists like me are putting themselves out there and telling people we do exist. There’s a lot of Blasians now, and there’s so much diversity in Blasians too.

Lastly, can you share any encouraging words to fellow Blasians out there, who may be struggling with their identity and aren’t sure what their place is in society?

When you think you’re struggling with your identity, please consider this question: is it your struggle, or is it other people struggling to understand you? I have come to realize that my struggle is not about my identity. If other people are struggling to understand you, then that struggle is not yours! If I really love myself and understand myself, then it’s an exploration of constant joy. You may think the struggle is trying to prove that you exist to these people who are denying your identity or denying that you exist, or that you matter, or that you belong. No, that’s not your struggle. So my advice is, question if you’re really struggling with your identity, or if you’re allowing other people’s opinions to make you think that you have to struggle. Once you realize the struggle is not yours, it’s nothing but joy!

Published on February 8, 2023

Words by Naturally MonaLisa

Naturally MonaLisa wears many hats and has many passions. She is an ATD master trainer and a SHRM-CP certified HR professional. She has a small YouTube channel where she shares her personal experience with eczema and asthma, and she promotes nontoxic and vegan products that are safe for everyone to use. She also volunteers at the advocacy group BLM Cantonese, where she translates BLM-related terms from English to Cantonese to help Cantonese speakers have difficult yet important conversations about Black Lives Matter with their family and friends. You can follow her YouTube channel, Naturally MonaLisa and follow her on Instagram @NaturallyMonaLisa.