INsite Magazine

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

SuChin Pak Vies for Diversity

Rushing in at 7:50pm, I half-feared there would be no seats left for MTV reporter SuChin Pak's speech at the University of Florida last night. Not the case. It also wasn't the case that the event actually started at 8pm, or that this would be the casual college soiree I envisioned. Usually one to to be over frilled-and-thrilled at events, this time my cotton floral dress, industrial raincoat and combat boots made me feel underdressed. The room was filled with perfectly shiny-haired girls and boys paying their respects to SuChin in suits, skirts, button-downs and power dresses. I slid inconspicuously toward the back row , attempting to blend into the group of jeans-and-tee clad freshman who clearly didn't get the business-attire memo either.

After about 30 minutes of people-watching, the projector flickered, and a video flashed. The video featured an array of young Asian Americans, presumably all of whom sat in the crowd (given all the cheering at each new face). Paired with ominous music and serious faces, each person delivered a quick one-liner about the struggles of being Asian American. I didn't realize this was such an issue. I thank myself for coming, and coming face-to-face with the issue that despite all our social equality advances, minority groups still face adversity, even on campus. Although SuChin Pak is from Korea, it hadn't dawned on me that this might be part of an Asian American awareness/celebration effort.

But alas, I find the event was held as part of the
Asian American Student Union's Kaleidoscope month—"K month" for short. I had seen signs for Kaleidoscope month all over campus, and was more than curious to find out what it was. (Sounded super fun and super illegal.) Turns out it's not a Sergeant Pepper-esque event and instead is a series of events held from October through November to celebrate and educate people about Asian culture, history and heritage. I am especially looking forward to the AASU pageant (Oct. 29) and the Asian food festival.

After getting a sense for why we were really gathered this evening, SuChin hit the podium. She was cute, easy and funny right off the bat. The crowd laughed at her approachable sense of humor and self-deprecating comments. She's definitely able to "get on your level," which is probably why she has been a TV reporter for more than 15 years.

Some facts about SuChin: 1) She planned to be a lawyer and went to Berkeley. 2) She's actually not good at math or science. 3) Her favorite celebrity to interview is Jay-Z (not JC Chasez from Nsync, as someone actually asked) 4) Her mom doesn't know who Oprah is. 5) Her first press conference was held at UF, and she still drinks out of her Gator mug every morning. (I think our Gator mania reputation precedes us, since she made it a point to cheer for the Gators on more than one occasion. I think we've scared the whole country into liking the Gators.)

The crowd connected with her as she told stories of her struggles with body image growing up (her eyes were smaller than all her friends'), and how she had to make her parents accept that she wouldn't follow the holy-trinity career path most Asian Americans' parents expect (doctor, miscellaneous business person, engineer—her words, not mine.)

The Q&A segment consisted of a variety of "AASU-is-so-thankful-to-have-yous" and "how-can-we-be-as-successful-as-yous." One girls even vied for her job, which SuChin politely declined to give up. She seemed like a wise guru, as she answered each questions thoroughly and eloquently. I wanted her to be my new role model, or maybe just my therapist.

After the last question she stepped of the stage, making no big show of her exit. After 30 seconds of sitting around, unanimously wondering if the event was over, we all clapped and quietly exited the ballroom. Some giggled over the evident awkwardness of the situation, others huddled the stage, trying be the one that makes an impression, but I'm sure we all left just a bit more in love with SuChin and desperate to get on MTV—she really does have the coolest job.

—Stephanie Granada

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