The Spotlight Series: Leah Shin
Bathing Beauteas empowers high-impact women to be their best. Our products are inspired by stories of women in history. We can’t meet them over a cup of tea, so we met up with modern-day community leaders, entrepreneurs, and innovators whose lives are stories worth making history.
Impact: Asian American Media Company Founder
Cultural Identity: Korean-American
This is her story:
We got had the privilege to work alongside Leah in the Lavin Entrepreneurship program at the University of Washington as budding entrepreneurs. Outside of pursuing our passions for social entrepreneurship, we quickly formed a strong friendship over coffee meetings after running into each other at luncheon with New York-based CEO and Creative Director Nishika de Rosairo.
Leah is the co-creator of an expanding nationwide movement that allows Asian-Americans to have a platform to express themselves proudly and genuinely on who they are and what they strive to become. AAPI BeSpoken, according to Leah, is the next generation of Asian-American and Pacific Islanders (AAPIs) in our nation that can and will be spoken.
The movement comes with an interesting challenge for their participants: immediately name five influential Asian American figures under a minute. Much to her shock, Leah found that most were unable to complete the challenge - highlighting how little voice Asian Americans have in the media today. She found that some participants could not list more two or three while others were unable to recall important names even though they remember the faces.To Leah, this further cemented the need for more representation.
She then started a more elaborate challenge: BeSpoken in Hollywood. This intricate challenge is fun while also delivering a powerful message with beautiful and touching writing of students portrayed as their AAPI superstars who’ve influenced the television, film, and media industry. The results of the challenge are currently posted on Instagram and Facebook.
What inspired you to start this movement?
LS: After the 2016 elections, I felt that Asian-Americans have no voice in the media.
A few months afterwards, I noticed a friend of mine had started a group called UW Black Excellence for students in honor of Black History Month in February. This inspired me to do something similar for Asian History Month in May.
Originally, I wanted to create BeSpoken solely for Asian American students at the University of Washington, but I then realized that this project had potential to grow into something much bigger. I brought this idea to friends outside of the state. They immediately encouraged me to reach out to other colleges and universities outside my own.
How did you manage to expand the movement in other states?
LS: Literally, two people can start this movement. I created a template and plan and shared it with my connections in different colleges across the US who are interested in being part of the movement. There are two main roles in the project - the Organizer and the Photographer. The former would gather participants and ignite the movement while the latter would help with the visual half.
My co-creator John handled the photography when we first started BeSpoken.
What kind of things did you discover while expanding BeSpoken?
LS: The most empowering thing about this movement come from the inspiring stories students share. The point of BeSpoken is to highlight Asian Americans who don’t get a lot of representation. We also were even supported by influential figures such as Arden Cho and Justice Mary Yu who share our vision and drive for media representation.
On the flipside, I was shocked to find that a handful of students had turned down the offer to share their stories and do the challenge either because they don’t know any Asian role models or they simply don’t see themselves as leaders. This made me realize how much we lack representation and why it matters so much.
Thanks for sharing your incredible story with us! Do you have any advice to share with your readers?
LS: Follow what you want to do and do it. Don’t let anyone tell you you can’t do something because you’re Asian. Be confident in your vision and your goal. Find people to support you and encourage you. #StaySpoke