Asian Pacific American Heritage Month is celebrated all month long in May in honor of generations of Asian and Pacific Islanders across America who have enriched history with their incredible achievements in the United States.
According to the Federal Asian Pacific American Council, this year’s theme which celebrates “Advancing Leadership Through Collaboration,” highlights the efforts of AAPI community members in the federal and DC governments. Last year, Florence Pan became the first Asian American woman to serve as a federal district court judge in Washington, D.C. under the Biden Administration. Democrats also confirmed U.S. District Judge Lucy Haeran Koh to serve as a U.S. circuit judge for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. Koh become the first Korean American woman and only the third woman of Asian American descent appointed to a federal appellate court.
Cynthia Choi, the co-founder of Stop AAPI Hate told NPR that she hopes Americans will use the month to help destigmatize some of the harmful tropes surrounding the Asian community that was exacerbated by the pandemic and angry Trump supporters in 2020. The community was rocked by a devastating number of hate crimes as a result.
“Our history is also filled with incredible stories of resilience, of persistence, of determination, to fight for our basic rights,” said Choi. “This is a celebration of our history, of our culture … and all the different ways in which our community has really demonstrated that we’re not only here to stay, we are a part of this fabric — a part of this country.”
The AAPI community has made a wealth of astonishing contributions across art, music, and film too, and we know a ton who deserve their flowers during this special month. Here are a few AAPI celebs who are exhibiting excellence and leadership in their respective fields.
The “Icy Chain” hitmaker is of Half Filipina and Chinese descent on her mother’s side while her father is African American.
Saweetie has been dominating the music world over the last two years. In 2019, the California native dropped her second EP Icy, which garnered success due to her hit smash “My Type.”
The star’s forthcoming album Pretty Bitch Music is slated to drop sometime in 2022 and fans have already gotten a taste of the project with singles like “Tap In” and “Best Friend” featuring Doja Cat.
During an interview with Essence in March 2021, Saweetie told the outlet that she created a non-profit organization with her grandmother called the Ice Baby Foundation, where she planned to help AAPI community members impacted by hate crimes.
2. Jhené AikoSource:PETA
Jhené Aiko’s mother is of Dominican and Japanese descent while her father is of Native American, African American, and German-Jewish descent. The star’s music is just as rich and diverse as her heritage. With hits like “The Worst” and “Triggered,” Aiko has become an unstoppable force in the music industry.
Now she’s using her enormous platform to bring awareness to wellness and mental health causes.
Earlier this month, the City of Los Angeles named Aiko the official ambassador of “Mental Health Is Health Month” which will now be celebrated every May.
Aiko gushed about the opportunity as she accepted the huge honor at city hall, opening up about her own personal mental health journey.
“When I started to write and do music, it was my personal therapy to help me get through things,” she said, according to Complex. “I didn’t know about therapy, I didn’t know a lot about mental illness or depression or anxiety. And I just found that turning my pain and suffering into some form of art, transforming it into art, really helped me get through it.”
3. KelisSource:Kelis x Sample the World
4. Kimora Lee SimmonsSource:Getty
Kimora Lee Simmons brought innovation and style to the fashion world as the CEO of Baby Phat in 2010, and the company is still going strong under her lead. The bustling business mogul’s mother is half Korean-Japanese and her father is African-American.
Cassie’s mother is of African-American, Mexican, and West Indian descent while her father is Filipino.
Her music career soared when record producer Ryan Leslie discovered her in 2004. She later signed to NextSelection Lifestyle group where she released her hit song “Me & U.”
6. Tyson BeckfordSource:Getty
Tyson Beckford rose to fame in the 90s as a model for high fashion brands like Ralph Lauren. He was also the host of both seasons of the Bravo program Make Me a Supermodel. The half Chinese and Jamaican stud appeared in a few movies too like 2001’s ‘Zoolander’ and 2005’s ‘Into The Blue.’
Now, at 51, the smoldering model has ventured off to pursue more of his passions. In 2020, Beckford launched his new cologne line Orion Skye.
She’s won a Soul Train Award and two Grammys for her infectious R&B hits at just 24-years-old. H.E.R, whose real name is Gabriella Sarmiento Wilson, has become a true artist of our time and her lyrics often speak to the social and political issues going on in the world today.
In January 2021, H.E.R.’s single “Fight for You” appeared on the soundtrack for Judas and the Black Messiah which called out for social justice as police brutality and hate crimes soared across America.
“The verses, just talking about the struggle and talking about that pain and what it means to be fighting for someone or something,” the half Filipina and half Black singer told the LA Times during an interview.
“I know there’s a lot of people in my life that give me support and give me purpose. And I know there’s certain things I do, I do for them, whether it’s my mom or somebody else that I love.”
8. Karrueche TranSource:Brandon Hicks
Karrueche has done it all! From acting in TV shows like Claws and BET’s Games People Play to posing for high fashion ads, all thanks to landing a big-time modeling contract with the prestigious Wilhelmina modeling agency.
Last year, Karrueche made history after she become the first AAPI woman to win a Daytime Emmy for her role as Vivian Johnson-Garrett on POPSTAR! TV’s The Bay. The Los Angeles native took home the award for outstanding performance by a lead actress in a daytime fiction program.
The 33-year-old celeb is of Vietnamese and Jamaican heritage.
9. Naomi OsakaSource:Getty
The four-time Grand Slam champion showed the world in 2021 that it’s okay to put your mental health first after she dropped out of the French Open to take care of herself. Osaka has spoken openly about her challenges with depression and anxiety.
While she might be gaining more attention for her fearlessness and leadership, the 24-year-old Haitian and Japanese beauty told PEOPLE during a recent interview that she was “glad it gave others the opportunity to also speak up even if that wasn’t my intention or what I expected. It started a conversation that I think we all needed to start having.”
10. Naomi CampbellSource:Getty
Naomi Campbell began her modeling career at the age of 15 and established herself amongst the most recognizable and in-demand models of the past four decades even now at 51-years-old, she’s still serving looks down the runway.
Campbell is of Afro-Jamaican descent, as well as of Chinese-Jamaican ancestry.