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“Don’t Leave Her Out,” Meet Saleen Lee

As a Chinese-American teenage girl, Saleen Lee describes how being misrepresented and underrepresented in media is an isolating experience. When she walks down the street or watches TV and sees people in ads and popular televisions shows, she doesn’t see someone who looks like her. “I feel like I’m always left out. I am always looking for someone who looks like me in all the media I see. I’m always yearning for that person I can relate to.”

When Saleen was a kid, her mom watched Charlie’s Angels. Saleen felt like really empowered, seeing Lucy Lui, a powerful woman, fighting villains and defying stereotypes set for Asian American women. This positive role model made a huge impact on Saleen, who notes that Asian women are often left in the shadows.“People who look like me are often background characters, secondary characters, or have non-speaking roles. Asian women are portrayed as two dimensional characters that aren’t relatable or likable.” As a result of discouraging media representation, Saleen feels she is seen through this lens by the world.

“Media stereotypes tell me that I am supposed to be quiet and submissive. I am supposed to be a secondary character in someone else’s life. I am not supposed to have my own troubles or feelings. It puts me in a place where I feel like I am a background character in my own life. I feel invisible because I have no one to relate to. It makes me feel like because my story isn’t told, it isn’t valid.”

Saleen believes that the sharing of diverse stories is the vehicle to validate people’s unique and authentic experiences in the world. Far too often, the storytellers come from outside of the community they tell stories about. Saleen thinks instead, people need to listen. Let communities speak for themselves and represent themselves!

”The fact that there are so many stories throughout history that could involve people of color, that could involve people that look like me, but that aren’t being told is really disheartening.” Growing up at BAYCAT, Saleen says that she was exposed to the most amazing work she’s ever seen, produced by women and people of color. Yet in Hollywood, it’s still mostly movies made by white men.

“I know that women and people of color produce amazing work, but we aren’t given the resources to be filmmakers.” Saleen sees BAYCAT as the solution. At 12 years old Saleen was put in front of a camera and behind a camera for the first time. “BAYCAT really helped me discover my talent and passion for filmmaking. At my school, I don’t have this type of equipment or programs. When I went into BAYCAT it was like entering a whole new world. We worked with a camera on the very first day.” Saleen says that because of BAYCAT she’s gone from a shy student in the back of the class to a leader creating her own independent films.

Through a BAYCAT partnership, Saleen was hired by UCSF to make films for two annual Young Women’s Health Summit, where she was able to impact thousands of diverse young women by shedding light on critical issues like body image, rape culture, female empowerment and social media. You can watch one of her videos here. Saleen says, “The most important lesson is that whatever stories I create deserve to be told.”

Saleen’s message is loud and clear: Stop portraying people of color and women as background characters!

 

Sick of the Same Stories? Your New Storytellers Are Here.

Join us to support young women like Saleen, who refuse to be silent.

“Stop Dumbing Yourself Down,” Meet Angela King

16 year old Angela King can light up an entire room with just one of her signature smiles. She is a singer, songwriter, music producer, activist and a high school junior. A seasoned BAYCAT student, Angela is an indispensable role model to our younger students. Yet from an early age she struggled to find role models in the media. She was disappointed to find time and time again that people who looked like her were often represented as “loud and ignorant”.

“Media representation is not authentic, what you see in media does not parallel what you see in real life.” Angela talks about the internalized oppression she’s experienced as a result of how African American youth are portrayed in the media, “you start hearing things about yourself and you start believing it, and you think you’re supposed to act the way you’ve been told to act. You start to take into account how people view that image of you. Though Angela defies the negative stereotypes that she sees represented in the media, she says, It almost gets to me.”

As the only African American female in her entire AP Geography course, Angela admits that she used to feel that she had to fit herself into the stereotypes she saw on the media: “I wanted to hide my intellect. I wanted to hide my knowledge. I didn’t want to seem intelligent. In order to fit in with my community, I had to dumb myself down and that’s something I felt I had to do because that’s how I have been represented. What does that say about misrepresentation?” Angela says, “I ask myself why there isn’t more people like me represented to look educated? Smart?”

Before coming to BAYCAT, Angela had big dreams about one day being a superstar. Think: Beyonce. Unfortunately, she had no idea how to make that dream a reality. At 11 years old, she walked through BAYCAT’s doors, admittedly introverted and unable to look anyone in the eyes. Immediately she realized that BAYCAT was going to be really special. I knew this was a place where I’m comfortable being me”, she says.

Angela recalls her first solo song that she made at BAYCAT, about moving outside San Francisco and not having a space of her own to write music. Angela’s family, like so many others, had been displaced by skyrocketing housing costs, but she says, writing that song helped me get that stress off my mind”.

Though women and people of color are grossly underrepresented in creative media roles, the lack of diversity in media is something Angela knows we can change,I’m 100% sure that not just white men can make media. I make media, and I’m not a man or white.”

“BAYCAT is giving opportunities to people like me, to represent me, in the right way. BAYCAT has brought tons of joy and inspiration into my life. I used to see myself as somebody who wasn’t musically gifted enough. Even though I had big dreams, I lacked self confidence and now after seeing what I have already done at BAYCAT, it gives me a lot of pride.”

Remember Angela’s dream? That pop star dream? In just a few years it’s molded into something radically bigger, and much more authentic. Wise beyond her years, Angela explains, “It’s not about becoming the next Beyonce. It’s not about becoming Drake. It’s about becoming YOU. Honestly, be yourself. I’ve faced a lot of internalized oppression about myself, and I won’t be labeled as anybody else but me.”

Even after all she’s accomplished at just 16 years old, Angela reminds us, “you can’t put a due date on art.” What’s next for Angela? She wants to record more solo music that takes a stand against misrepresentation in the media. I hope more people get to see the wonder of BAYCAT. I hope people stop seeing people who look like me as people who don’t care about education.”

Sick of the same stories? Your new storytellers are here. Join us.

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