A FANTASY BASED ON REALITY: CINDERELLA
“Cinderella” is a multimedia series flipping the preconceptions of Asian masculinity by portraying them as being seen and heard through the elements of love.
Whether that’s in the bedroom where they are typically desexualized or at work where it feels like they aren’t taking as seriously, this is a fantasy that highlights what it means to be an Asian male.
EXCERPT FROM ZINE
I guess I really didn’t notice how second-rate I felt until I dipped into the dating scene. Maybe it was just the small amount of deep hatred I had over how I saw myself. It wasn’t everything though.
I only hated how my voice wasn’t deep enough compared to other guys. Or that I was just naturally shorter. That I wasn’t born with the sporty trait and had to deal with being the artsy kid. I hated how I would check my nails if they were too long, making it seem like I was flexing a fresh pedi. I hated the way I stood with my left foot slightly angled outward, and voice inflections that made it seem like I was being sassy. I disliked how my eyes were more narrow compared to what’s considered to be attractive. I was angry at whoever was up there, fucking up my Punnett Square to make me look the way I was. I was frustrated at how hard it was to not let my emotions flow out. I didn’t feel normal compared to everyone else.
I wish I didn’t blame myself for how the world treated me. How every little slip would end up with others questioning who I was into and how I strayed into what’s apparently feminine. I wish those moments didn’t get to me in the early years. If I could keep my eyes open a little wider, lower my voice upon first meeting, and stopped bringing Bò lúc lắc to lunch, maybe I’d finally be seen. But here I am, screaming at the mirror and on the verge of punching a wall – the only time I feel like a man.
I’m kinda like Cinderella: neglected undeservedly and waiting for the moment that I’m lifted up and no longer feel invisible. If I could light the torch on what’s deemed Asian Masculinity, I would. But I’ll stay dreaming because in my head, I feel safe. At the end of the day, I’m my own motherfucker and that’s all I need to feel powerful.
I asked Calvin if he wanted to be a part of this little photo project since his relationship with my best friend, Yassmin, had the best parallels to Cinderella and Prince Charming (it’s also because most of my friend group is single and waiting for a boo). Both of them came with different types of baggage, but from my perspective, they’re at their most powerful when they lift each other up.
I scrapped my initial idea of showcasing how bad the standards of masculinity can tear a relationship apart. Yassmin was initially framed as Cinderella, someone who felt like a fairy tale that he was lucky enough to have. A lot of influences were drawn from Mac Miller and Ariana Grande’s relationship. But I felt that wasn’t enough so I decided to create this dream about our project’s Cinderella Man, Calvin, being loved. I wanted to show what could be real for everyone, and what already is. Their real-life relationship reflected that so it wasn’t too hard to make believe.