By Julia Preszler, news staff
Events exploring Asian American LGBTQA+ identities, beauty standards and activism will take place through Saturday as part of Northeastern’s Asian American Center’s annual Heritage Week.
This year’s theme, “A New Gener(Asian),” was designed to facilitate conversation about issues that are becoming more mainstream and that previous generations didn’t have a chance to talk about, such as interracial dating, according to event organizers. Featured Asian American speakers include a beauty blogger, three poets and a representative from the GLBTQ Legal Advocates and Defenders.
“We’re not afraid to bring up topics that have not been discussed before,” said Anoushka Barpujari, the co-chair of the Heritage Week and a senior international affairs major.
Asian American Heritage Week is scheduled to wrap up with performances by three poets in Afterhours Friday night and a talk by Kelvin Yu from Netflix’s Master of None in the Fenway Center Saturday night.
Monday night’s event, “Being Me with Jujubee” featured the prominent character Jujubee, a Laotian drag queen from Boston who appeared on season two of RuPaul’s Drag Race, a reality competition television series on Logo TV. Jujubee is portrayed by Airline Inthyrath, a 32-year-old gay man, who played the character throughout the night’s events, acting and answering questions as her.
“Drag isn’t just dressing up as a girl,” Jujubee said. “It’s transforming into a character role you made up for yourself.”
Jujubee lip synced to two songs in the Curry Student Center Ballroom, including “I Wanna Dance With Somebody” by Whitney Houston. Afterward, during a Q&A period, Jujubee said she had experienced prejudice because of being a racial and gender minority.
“It’s almost a like a double-whammy where you have two minority identities working against you, in a way,” she said.
Jujubee spoke about tolerance and accepting people for who they are. She said she used her own experiences to help her understand and accept others.
“I, myself, am so different, but to me, I’m normal,” she said. “And to other people who are different, they are just normal to themselves.”
Kevin Choi, a freshman pharmacy major who attended the event, said he was a big fan of Jujubee and other drag queens, and that there is a lack of Asian American representation within the LGBTQA+ community.
“Just seeing this much representation makes me really happy because I feel like [drag] is becoming, not new, but more mainstream,” he said.
Barpujari, her co-chair, Emily Miller-McGlone, a third year computer science and communication studies double major, and Aaron Parayno, the assistant director of the Asian American Center, began to coordinate the Heritage Week last summer.
Past Heritage Weeks have focused on helping Asian American students feel comfortable pursuing nontraditional career paths rather than those stereotypically expected of them, such as those in medicine, Barpujari said. This year, during her first stint as one of the Heritage Week organizers, Barpujari said she wanted to focus on a wider range of issues that everybody could identify with.
“We wanted to have conversations about things that are not just relevant to the Asian American community, but people all over the world in general,” she said.
Photo courtesy Anoushka Barpujari