26 4 / 2014

Part two of Asian American Disney: Princes
Donnie Chang, Rachelle Johnson, and Kim Navoa
11” x 17” Inkjet Prints

Check out what our princes had to say about growing up Asian American, representation, and masculinity:

“Being a man to me means stepping up into being a good older brother. I try to help my mom out as much as possible when my father isn’t home. I try to ease the stress of my parents. Being a man also means fulfilling my own dreams.”

“The aspects of Asian American males in media that I find most troubling are the high expectations and being good at certain things and upholding family honor. That model minority myth where you’re just that ideal citizen. At the same time, it’s really difficult having to live up to those expectations and setting that example for my siblings. It was difficult to balance everything with society and the heavy expectations that my family set for me. I had trouble doing the right thing as far as my family goes. If it wasn’t necessarily accepted by society, I prioritized more of what my family wanted me to be.”

“I recently watched a video about how the 3 worst words you could tell your son is to “be a man”. What it means to me and how I’ve seen it portrayed is being aggressive or being able to stop showing emotions - being able to get over it and do what you have to do. There’s an aggressive connotation behind it that I don’t agree with. It desensitizes the difference between genders. I identify more with being an adult or being mature and responsible. You need to be able to think for yourself and make the right decisions. Expressing positive traits without letting negative traits bog you down.”

“I feel that it’s problematic and troubling when every character is the same. I think of the character that Dr. Ken Jeong plays. He’s the exact same person in every movie or television show he’s in, but that’s really the intricacy of his acting ability and the kind of person he wants to portray, however mainstream media and a lot of Hollywood is unable to comprehend that and they take and reproduce his character into an Asian American stereotype so we see a lot of crazy, little, sexless Asian American males doing really crazy stuff as part of the “Hangover” scene, and I just simply disagree with that. “

“I am a gay Asian American male and I’m proud to be part of the LGBTQ community. But my biggest problem is that they always view gay Asian American males as “bottoms”, in other terms they define us as feminine and demure and receptive. It should be stopped because really does scare a lot of people away from being open about their sexuality because they’re going to encounter “you can’t be masculine because you’re Asian.””

Check out Part 1 of the series, Asian American Disney Princesses, here!


This project was funded by an Asian American Studies Expo Grant to support undergraduate research. It is part of the UIC AANAPISI Initiative supporting the recruitment, retention, and graduation of Asian American, Pacific Islander, and English language learner students at the University of Illinois at Chicago and is fully funded by the U.S. Department of Education¹s Asian American and Native American Pacific Islander-Serving Institutions Program.

09 2 / 2014

Chicago Ideas Week 2013

Hip Hop: Movement Behind the Music

31 8 / 2013

A couple of shots from my summer in Los Angeles! Hopefully my future home for at least a couple of years. :)

16 5 / 2013


Recently, the National Korean American Service and Education Consortium (NAKASEC) hosted a photo contest called “We Are America, America is Home” which is meant to put the spotlight on family in conversations regarding immigration reform. NAKASEC ended up with a beautiful album with both photos and stories about how essential family is in the immigrant community.

My submission is titled Disneyland, 1994 (click here to be sent to my photo and here to be redirected to the story). My story about family focuses primarily on some of the amazing women in my life who have helped raise me and shape me into who I am.

It would mean the world to me if you could click on the above link title, find my title and name in the scroll bar, and vote for me!

If you don’t want to vote for me, that’s okay too because there’s a bunch of other really inspiring entries to choose from instead.

Spread the link around and encourage people to not only vote, but to really read these incredible stories about family.

Voting ends May 20!

14 4 / 2013

Donnie (donniekompany): Before I start, I would like to say thank you to everyone who has liked and reblogged our photo project. All of the positive comments make us smile because it means that our message is getting out there. It is making people, you, think. I’m also jumping in my seat a bit because yamino and albinwonderland have shared our work on their pages too!

Now, amongst the many positive comments we have received, there have been a few negative comments as well. Kim did a great job addressing some of them in a separate post. I, however, am tired of reading the same criticisms over and over again. So I will address them here.

(I, Kim (knphoto/annakimskywalker), will also be adding my 2 cents to each criticism as well)

"Tinkerbell isn’t a princess":
Donnie: True, she isn’t. That doesn’t mean she doesn’t belong in the classic Disney character list. Tinkerbell played a crucial part in Peter Pan and deserves just as much credit as any other Disney princess.

"Children of color don’t have a hard time relating to White Disney princesses":
Donnie: I will have to disagree. Kim’s and my whole project revolves around how not only us, but other women of color grew up not being able to fully connect with the White princesses. This doesn’t lessen the hardships the princesses went through. We can still connect with them through those hardships and overcoming struggles, but it is the experience we are making a connection with; not their image. When I was little, I would pick Belle as my favorite Princess to imitate because she has long dark hair (this was before Mulan came about). I wouldn’t pick Cinderella because she had blonde hair, and I wouldn’t pick Snow White because she was extremely pale (even though she had dark hair too). When it came to Barbie dolls, I would always try to get the one with dark hair. Why did I have this deep need for dark hair? Because I HAD DARK HAIR. I wanted to look like them so I could be them. But there was always this disconnect because I wasn’t white. My skin wasn’t a peach color. My eyes didn’t have the double eyelid. So to say that children don’t have a hard time relating to White Disney Princesses invalidates all of my childhood struggles of trying to be a Disney Princess myself. I would appreciate it if you wouldn’t do that and accept our feelings.

Kim: This is an incredibly broad statement to make. If you’re White and have no problem connecting to princesses of color/a person of color and have no problem connecting to the White princesses, that’s great, but also keep in mind that your experiences don’t speak for everyone. Donnie and I are coming from a very personal place in this photoshoot, a place I know many fellow PoC come from as well. Do you have any idea what it means to a young Asian/Asian American girl to see Mulan be presented in the Disney princess lineup? What it means to go so long with little/no representation of your race and only living with the scraps of problematic, racist depictions? Because it’s a feeling only those of us who don’t have people who look like us splattered everywhere will ever know. This colorblind mentality is incredibly problematic and erases individual experiences/identities/histories, and non-PoC really have no place telling us how we should feel. Asking questions is one thing, claiming PoC don’t have problems relating to White characters is something totally different.

Also, don’t think I didn’t see some of you use “colored princesses”. if we’ve been consistently using “princesses of color”, it’s your best bet to use that same term as well.

"Having a character that is completely different from the origin they are supposed to be wouldn’t be accurate."
Donnie: And having Hollywood white-wash a whole cast that was supposed to be Asian wouldn’t be accurate either *cough* Dragonball *cough* 21 *cough* Akira *cough* Dead or Alive *cough* 
Just saying.

Kim: Donnie was spot on with the White washing of PoC casts. Where’s the controversy over that? Where’s the same criticism 21 should get for White washing REAL PEOPLE that the James Bond franchise got for wanting Idris Elba to be the next James Bond, a FICTIONAL character? 
Also, something important to consider is why mostly European fairytales/stories are the ones being chosen. There’s countless tales from every culture, and yet only European ones are being chosen. Why is that? Why is the idea that it’s a European setting used to justify the lack of PoC characters, as if we don’t exist at all?
And if we’re talking about accuracy here, let’s also talk about a woman turning into a dragon. or talking bears, fish, and crabs. or turning a grown woman into a frog and then turning her back into a human. LET’S TALK ABOUT ALL THESE THINGS.

"Rather than changing white princesses to Asian, should we not try to draw more focus to princesses of colour instead?"
Donnie: Like how Pocahontas’s portrayal was historically inaccurate? How Tiana was a frog and GREEN for a majority of the movie? How Jasmine’s skin color was considerably paler than Jafar’s or Aladdin’s? If you want to focus on Princesses of color, we can. We can focus on how Disney fucked over every princess of color they’ve ever had. Which is 4.

Kim: And why is it that even PoC cultures are being represented, the absolute bare minimum of research is done and we wind up with horrendous, inaccurate portrayals? Let’s talk about that too.

"White Princesses aren’t bad role models just because they’re White":

Both of us: We never said that White princesses are bad role models solely because they are White. We never said White princesses are bad role models, period. This entire project shows how much we like the princesses, so we don’t know where this argument came from at all.

12 4 / 2013

to those who wish there were more dark skinned princesses included:

thank you to those of you who have brought this up!

i think i can speak for both myself and my partner when i say that we agree with you. we tried our best to have a variety of Asian American women because we didn’t want to limit our models to one specific type because it wouldn’t be an accurate representation of the Asian American population. unfortunately, 3 of our models (who would have been Ariel, Rapunzel, & Merida) had to pull out of the shoot due to scheduling conflicts on the 2 days we could shoot, and 2 of those models are dark skinned Asian American women. i’m happy with how this shoot came out but i do agree that there should have been more dark skinned princesses as well. just having one definitely is NOT enough, and this is something we’ll fix for future shoots. or we could even keep adding on to this one!

what about Kida from Atlantis? why isn’t she included in the description? 

you’re right and that was a massive slip up on our part. i’ve never seen Atlantis (though i’ve heard it’s wonderful and yes, underrated) but i did know if Kida so there’s really no excuse for not including her in the caption. i’m going to add her now! thanks for pointing this out as well.

why Tinkerbell is in the Cinderella photo:

our Tinkerbell model wanted to troll the whole photoshoot so we just added her in there for fun :)


thank you all for the love this shoot has gotten, it means a lot to me & Donnie! we welcome all feedback, whether they are compliments or constructive criticism :)

10 4 / 2013

by Kim (annakimskywalker) & Donnie (donniekompany)
11x17 inkjet prints

Most of us grew up watching Disney classics featuring the beautiful Disney princesses we all know and love. Disney was and continues to be a staple in the lives of many children. However, despite how much we admired these princesses, it was difficult relating to them because they didn’t physically represent us. Take a look at any Disney princess product and you will see the preference towards the White princesses, white washing of princesses of color (skin color, facial features, etc), and the shoving of these princesses to the side.

In the 76 years since Snow White was released, there have been 12 (soon to be 13) Disney princesses, only 5 of whom are women of color (Jasmine in 1992, Pocahontas in 1995, Mulan in 1998, Kida in 2001, and Tiana in 2009). It took 55 years to portray a woman of color as a princess, and these portrayals also came with problematic and inaccurate representations of their respective cultures & histories (not to mention Tiana was a frog more than half of the movie).

How are young APIA children supposed to believe in “happy endings” when we don’t see them happening to people who look like us?

All of the above was the inspiration behind this photoshoot. We believe physically showing some of our favorite princesses as Asian American women will allow us to build more of a connection with the princesses who weren’t women of color, but who still possess qualities we admire and/or see in ourselves.

**These are just 5 of the 15 we recently showed at our university’s Asian American Studies Expo.

Andrea as Sleeping Beauty
Henna as Belle
Cat as Cinderella
Young as Snow White
Jenny as Tinkerbell

Photography/lighting: Kim
Hair/makeup/wardrobe: Donnie
Editing: Kim & Rachelle

08 12 / 2011

09 9 / 2011

06 9 / 2011