AAPI Representation: Changing the Public Narrative Through Authentic Storytelling

with Jeremy Tran of Gold House

Studies show that Asians and Pacific Islanders are often stereotyped in major films and underrepresented in the media.

Jeremy Tran, Co-founder and Executive Director of Gold House, joins host Tetiana Anderson to discuss the role of representation and authentic storytelling in transforming public perception.

Posted on:

May 01, 2023

Hosted by: Tetiana Anderson
Produced by: National Newsmakers Team

Anderson: In 2023, four Asian actors were nominated in the Academy Awards' top acting categories, the most in the Academy's history. Two of the four took home the Oscar, including Michelle Yeoh, the first woman of Asian descent to win in a lead acting category. A milestone for representation in the media. Hello, and welcome to "Comcast Newsmakers." I'm Tetiana Anderson. Films like "Everything Everywhere All at Once," build upon a trending theme among some Asian American and Pacific Islander media innovators, reclaiming control of their public narratives. Joining me to talk about this is Jeremy Tran, co-founder and executive director of Gold House. This changemaker organization promotes social economic equity to advance AAPI representation and success. Jeremy, thank you so much for being here.

Tran: Thank you for having me.

Anderson: So, I first want to ask about the name Gold House. It's so interesting. What does it signify?

Tran: All the credit goes to our co-founder and producer, Nina Yang Bongiovi. And you can think of the name as two parts -- gold and house. "House" signifies that we want to be welcoming and we want to make sure that all members of our community, regardless of your ethnicity or background, feel like they have a part of Gold House. "Gold," on the other hand, really is looking at and elevating our community. Gold has many different shades, whether it's light, dark, whether it's really, really bright or more subtle. And, again, it signifies welcoming all people from all backgrounds.

Anderson: You work with a lot of partner organizations. How difficult has it been to really educate them on the importance of AAPI representation in the media?

Tran: It's been a challenge for us really to convince our partners that diversity and inclusion is not a box to check, but at the end of the day, it's something that they should invest in because it affects their bottom line. Audiences want and desire to see stories like theirs. They want to support stories like theirs. So in order to really advance your company, to advance your bottom line, you have to invest back in our community.

Anderson: You have said, and I want to quote this to get it right, "Rather than wait for a seat at the table, we decided to build our own." Explain how Gold House is doing that and what exactly you are doing.

Tran: Yeah, we started out with great support from the community, but like you said, it took time to educate everyone else on why this is important. And we quickly realized that the best way to control our own narrative is to create our own tables. So in many ways, yes, we've started a slew of different programs to disrupt the industry from different facets. This includes things like Gold Open, which is really a grassroots movement to pack the theaters for films that we want to support, to signal to Hollywood that films that represent our stories can be successful, can be number one in the box office, to creating incubator programs in a variety of different creative and entrepreneurial spaces. We've worked with some of the leading partners there -- Spotify, Netflix, et cetera -- to invest money back into the community and give opportunities to next-gen creators, artists, musicians so that they can succeed in the industry, as well.

Anderson: You just mentioned "our" stories, and so I'm wondering about your story. What did -- What was the motivator for you to really build something like this and be an architect of something that can help a generation of people?

Tran: Yeah. I never thought I would be here, to be honest. I took a very traditional path growing up -- went to college, straight to law school, practiced as a lawyer for about seven years before I started Gold House with my best friend, Bing Chen. For me, entertainment representation was always a passion, a side hobby, but never something that was really a career, was never thought of as a career because you were always on this path to make sure that you took the safe route. You know, for a lot of us who have stories similar. Like, my parents, who came from Vietnam, they just wanted to make sure that I had food on the table and a roof over my head. When I was 18 years old, I had the privilege of being on a reality TV show. And for me, seeing for the first time my high school, my community on TV and sharing the stories from my parents and how they came from Vietnam and left after the war was so empowering to see and get all these messages from people saying, "Wow! Like, what you've done for a small reality TV show really inspired me to think outside of the box, to think that I could pursue anything here." So for me, it's always been a passion, and the timing just worked out well for us and why we're here today.

Anderson: And what you're doing with Gold House is what you've called a blueprint. So I'm wondering what other groups who want to advance, you know, equity, inclusion, financial empowerment can learn from what you are doing.

Tran: We like to think of our strategy as 360, holistic, I would say. Yes, one component of what we do is media representation, entertainment, representation, but equally important is making sure that you have the economic resources, the hard dollars invested into the community so that they can succeed. Without one or the other, you wouldn't have the foundation necessary to truly advance your community. So, for us, we've been working with a lot of other communities to ensure that what they've been doing thinks about their issues from all angles, right? And we've learned a lot from other communities, as well. When I mentioned Gold Open, we've learned that from other communities who also packed theaters to support their films and engineered, in many ways, success for their films and their stories. So it's an iterative process that we're so excited to continue.

Anderson: If people want to know more about your organization, what's the website? Where should they go?

Tran: GoldHouse.org. Or you can follow us on all of our socials, GoldHouseCo -- C-O.

Anderson: Jeremy Tran with Gold House, thank you so much for being here.

Tran: Thank you.

Anderson: And thanks to you, as well, for watching. As always, for more great conversations with leaders in your own community and across the nation, visit comcastnewsmakers.com. I'm Tetiana Anderson.

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