News / Arts & Entertainment

YouTube Spawns Asian-American Celebrities

Elizabeth Lee
From movies and TV shows to songs on the radio, there have been fewer opportunities in traditional media for Asian-American entertainers. But the Internet, especially YouTube, has changed that.  Los Angeles has seen an explosion of Asian-American YouTube celebrities.

Clara Chung loves to create music. She does it in her home studio, surrounded by instruments, a microphone and a computer. She says she didn't think her music would turn into a career until it ended up on the Internet.

“The Internet was probably the foundation for everything in my career and still is," she said. "It provided a global audience.”

Using the stage name Clara C, the Korean-American indie pop artist hears from fans from around the world.

“With just a click of a button, Japan is watching, and Australia is watching, Europe is watching.  It was crazy to see France, Germany, Indonesia, Singapore, whatever, everywhere it is all because of YouTube,” she said.

Chung is a part of a large group of Asian-American musicians, actors and comedians who have exploded onto YouTube. Julie Zhan produced a documentary about them called Uploaded: The Asian American Movement.

“Other than maybe a few Asian-American leading actors and actresses in television, we really do not see that many Asian-Americans on screen except for a lot of stereotypes,” Zhan noted.

And that's what makes YouTube unique say Joe Jo and Bart Kwan, founders of JustKiddingFilms.  

“It is content created by us, so it is truthful content opposed to Hollywood content,” said Jo.

In their comedy clips online, Kwan and Jo try to show a diverse group of Asian-Americans, says Kwan. “Once the mass media and traditional media can see that there are just as many Asian thugs as there are Asian doctors or recently immigrated, just as there are fifth-generation Asians that will lead to fewer Asian stereotypes in traditional media," Kwan said.

Zhan says the entertainment capital of the world is also the hub for Asian-American YouTube artists. 

“The YouTube celebrities, the really successful content creators, are very much centered around Los Angeles,” she added.

That's why the Fung Brothers duo moved to Los Angeles.  After less than a year of creating comedy on YouTube fulltime, the Chinese-American team is attracting a large following. It ranges from Asian-American males in their 20s and 30s to high school girls.

“Prior to YouTube there was really no way to come in contact with the Asian-American demographic,“ he said.

Now, in addition to posting content, many Asian Americans are allowing ads to appear on their YouTube videos and are earning money from those ads.

They are generating sufficient income from that to become successful artists.

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