Aria Young was raised in Shanghai, China, growing up in a home with strong women and irresponsible men. When she was a toddler, her father used to tie her hands and feet together so she could grow up to become a "disciplined" and "obedient" girl. After he walked out of her life, Aria's mother raised her to become a strong + independent woman without needing to rely on men in her life.
With an upbringing like that, it was time for Aria to become a feminist.
After Aria was the first ever Chinese student to be named a Girl Up Teen Advisor, she realized that the Girl Up movement was everything she wanted to fight for. At Girl Up, Teen Advisors are leading their 'for girls, by girls" movement- carrying out advocacy goals, providing feedback on their strategy, and energizing others to take action for girls around the world. Aria's experience as a Teen Advisor has not only given her the most amazing support group, but also empowered her to lead, advocate, and most importantly, to be unapologetically herself.
However, Aria's activism didn't stop there. Her experience with Girl Up compelled her to co-found Asians Lead, a youth-led initiative that empowers young Asian and Pacific Islander Leaders to bring changes to the world.
They focus on shattering the myth of 'model minority' and bringing awareness to the long-neglected issues that the Asian American community faces.
They also encourage young Asian and Pacific Islanders to "Redefine, Inspire, Educate, and Create." They highlight the accomplishments of Asian and Pacific Islander students and mobilize more Asian and Pacific Islanders to be proud of their roots and take action against stereotypes and glass ceilings.
"[lack of] Asian Representation is a serious issue that is not talked about enough," says Aria.
Growing up with Eastern roots and Western values, Aria often found herself caught in between two cultures and struggled to find her own, unique identity. While youth activism has been gaining momentum in recent years, the Asian/Asian-American community still remains largely underrepresented.
Not only are Asian issues often neglected in the mainstream discussion, Asian Americans are even being labeled “the new white people” or “model minority.” Meanwhile, neo-colonialism is still so deep in culture that many people subconsciously emasculate Asian men and sexualize Asian women.
"For me personally, I aspire to be a theater actress and a journalist, but seeing people who look like me on TV and on stage has been so rare that it is hard for someone like me to even picture myself in arts and entertainment," said Aria, "and I want to change that for future generations through Asians Lead."
Aria's favorite part about the work with Asians Lead is meeting people who are as passionate about racial equality as she is. Aria is constantly impressed and inspired by her peers, and they make her feel like she is not in this fight alone.
"I am prouder now than ever of my culture and community," says Aria, "all because of Asians Lead."
Besides activism, Aria enjoys acting and filmmaking and is looking to become a creative force in those areas. She likes writing and journaling as ways to poke at her wounds and therapize herself at the same time. She is a huge Broadway fan whose most played song on Spotify last year was Alexander Hamilton. Other than show tunes, she listens to R&B, indie, and Jazz to soothe her soul. Poetry and philosophy also sustain her. Some of her favorite female poets are Wislawa Szymborska, Denice Frohman, and Oriah Mountain Dreamer- because their words give her so much power. She listens to ASMR every night and has been dreaming of becoming an ASMRtist for years.
And oh, she's also a Slytherin.
Are you interested in getting involved with Asians Lead? To get involved, simply follow and dm us at @asianslead or email them at firstname.lastname@example.org to be part of their team. They are also amplifying the voice of Asians/Asian-Americans during this difficult time as their community is under racist and xenophobic attacks. If you have stories about your COVID-19 experience, or simply want to show solidarity with the Asian/Asian-American community, contact them for a feature on their Instagram page @asianslead.
Do you know another individual or organization pursuing a passion like Aria? Nominate them here for a chance to be featured on our website and social media. #empowerGenZ