Photographer Yu Tsai on supporting Asian American creatives: ’Why aren’t there more?’

Photographer Yu Tsai on supporting Asian American creatives: ’Why aren’t there more?’

5/13/2021 2:16:00 AM

Photographer Yu Tsai on supporting Asian American creatives: ’Why aren’t there more?’

The celebrity fashion photographer is working to uplift young Asian creatives and amplify the voices of Asian Americans.

, TODAY is sharing the community’s history, pain, joy and what’s next for the AAPI movement. We will be publishing personal essays, stories, videos and specials throughout the entire month of May.Yu Tsai has been championing diversity since the early days of his career as a celebrity fashion photographer.

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The Taiwan-born photographer and creative director, who immigrated to the U.S. when he was 12, has shot countlessHollywood figuresover the years, from Jamie Lee Curtis and Jennifer Aniston to Bruce Willis and Richard Gere. His muses also include Chrissy Teigen, Kate Upton and Ashley Graham, stars he refers to as his"wonder women." For over 15 years, he has championed women in his work but when he was first starting out, he wondered if he could even showcase diversity when it wasn’t even an industry norm.

After all, Tsai wasn't a photographer from the get-go. He's tried out many different careers and has been a wildlife biologist, creative director, photographer, TV personality and is now a host for a food documentary series and podcast. Because he had these doubts and felt the industry was a monolith, it took years for Tsai to see himself not just as a photographer, but as an Asian one, who could flex his creativity however he wanted. He credits journalist Lisa Ling for giving him the strength to lean into his identity as a gay, Asian man and achieve international success.

Yu Tsai built a career photographing celebrities but has also been a wildlife biologist, creative director and TV personality. He now also hosts a podcast and YouTube show and founded a vegan hot sauce company.Frederick M. Brown / Getty ImagesIn a chat with Ling on his

“Let’s Talk with Yu Tsai”podcast last year, Tsai realized the power he had as an image-maker in a fashion photography world dominated by the same few faces and styles. The conversation inspired him to use his platform to feature more Asian Americans in front of the lens and as guests on his podcast.

"I talked toMargaret Cho, I talked to Michelle Kwan, people who have really paved the road for the Asian community," he told TODAY."Because of those people, I started doing the work. I started understanding how and why I need to let people know that I am a gay photographer, that I do champion for my community, and ask myself how do I bring my Asian friends into the conversations? If it’s through fashion and makeup, so be it!"


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I’m Asian. My parents are white. How do I process anti-Asian violence?After a year of rampant racism and violence against Asian Americans, some Asian adoptees in white families are left wondering how they fit into the conversation. Wow......keep it up NBC Amazing that is so anti-adoption.... ....probably the same way they processed watching the news as blacks got and are getting killed by nothing cause it’s not them.