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Asian American Identity: I Used To Want My Last Name To Be Less Ethnic For My Career

By June 4, 2019 2 Comments

Photo of Rosie Chuong wearing RMS Beauty red lipstick in color 'Rebound'Up until a few years ago, I banked on the idea that changing my last name would give me more career opportunities assuming I’d take on a last name that was NOT Asian derived. I believed that reading what seemed like a very American name on my resume or email address would erase any preconceived notions of me and my Asian identity before I showed up to an interview. My first and middle name (yes, my first and middle name really is “Rosie Mary”) was already Americanized. A change to the last name would be the final step, I figured.

When I told a (non-Asian) friend this, she said she felt sorry that the world was set up in such a way where I felt like my own name was holding me back. It was then with her words that I realized what I was doing to myself. I was trying to dilute the Asian-ness about me because, exactly as my friend pointed out, I didn’t believe I’d get very far in life if this one crucial identifier stuck around me.

But my eyes have since been open because I realize now that it’s not me or my name that needs to change. It’s the unfair practice of assuming one automatically knows the performance and work ethics of another human being based on their ethnic name, that needs to change. Do you feel like your name alone has affected the opportunities you’ve come across in life?

SHOP THE STORY

Hair: DevaCurl Styling Cream + Ultra Defining Gel
Makeup: Laneige lip sleeping mask layered over RMS Beauty lipstick in ‘Rebound’ / Nudestix matte bronzer in ‘Sunkissed’ layered over Orce foundation in 040 (it’s one shade lighter than my normal skin tone)

Join the discussion 2 Comments

  • Vidya Betesh says:

    Hi Rosie! I have felt this way too. I am a recent immigrant to the US (2012). I am an Indian and I have an Indian First Name (Vidya) many Americans have a hard time pronouncing. My maiden name was even more difficult (Balakrishnan) my husband’s surname is decidedly ethnic too (Betesh). I used to want to be Vivianne Bates or Valerie Bowden but I felt like that would be a dilution of who I am and it would take away a part of me that I am proud of and shrink my self worth. I feel like it hasn’t been easy with Jobs, having a diffrent name and sometimes wonder if I’ve just been hired to check off a box in the diversity and inclusion category.

    • Rosie says:

      Wow Vidya your last line just hit my core. “Sometimes wonder if I’ve just been hired to check off a box in the diversity and inclusion category.” I wonder that all the time too. There’s opportunity that comes with that, but it always feels like “only one of us” gets to have that privilege while everybody else still suffers. I’m so glad we connected on this. I have more thoughts, it’s just sometimes hard to put into words. Thank you so much for sharing with me your experiences of immigrating to the US and what it’s been like. I’m sure you have so much more to share. <3

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