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TBT: Paris by Night

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I’m not California Asian — I didn’t grow up with Asian restaurants and culture being the norm around town or having a lot of Asian friends. I’m Minnesota Asian, which meant going to schools that were predominantly white, and being told I wasn’t “Asian enough” by other Asians. I tried so hard to prove that I was “Asian enough,” and my only “proof” was a few DVDs of “Paris by Night,” a Vietnamese comedy talent show. 

 

“Paris by Night” originated in Paris, France and was intended for the large Vietnamese immigrant community there, but moved to Orange County, Calif. later on due to its high demand by Vietnamese-Americans. It’s an hour-long show filled with musical performances and comedy skits performed by famous Vietnamese stars, who I got to know through my parents’ excitement and laughter when they appeared on the screen. Though I never understood what was being said or sung, I always laughed at the right times thanks to my parents and sister. 

 

This annually recorded talent show was the only thing I thought I had as evidence to my culture. I wielded my parroted knowledge with pride in elementary school, not understanding what or who I was talking about, but only knowing that it won me some respect at my Vietnamese Sunday school. “Paris by Night” got me to the periphery of the community, never truly inside it. According to some, there were still some contingencies with my Asianness. “Paris by Night” wasn’t enough. 

 

I spent years racking my brain, trying to come up with other ways to get approval. It felt like I was being withheld acceptance into a community I should’ve had birth rights to. Eventually, I gave up and grew resentment towards my own culture. I found it very difficult to make Asian friends because I was afraid there was a glaring difference between me and them that screamed, “She’s not Asian enough! Stay away!” 

 

Coming into college, I set a goal for myself that I would work towards overcoming this mindset and learn to embrace my culture. I’ll be the first to admit it — I haven’t done anything to accomplish this goal, and I’m almost finishing up my second year. However, it’s never too late to start, right? 

 

For those of you who relate to my story, know that self-cultural acceptance isn’t a copy and paste situation. It looks and will be different for everyone, so that doesn’t give anyone the right to tell you you’re not “Asian enough” or whatever. I don’t know what exploring and accepting my Vietnamese and Asian-American cultures will be like, but I know it starts by going back to my roots. Who knows what that means? Maybe my “Paris by Night” knowledge will be helpful after all.