Episode 146

Darice Chang ·  Building Authentic Asian Representation as Taiwan’s Drag King

“Because I identify as non-binary and I'm queer and there just had never been a radio show in Taiwan centered on that. I was really lucky that our radio manager helped to push that through and I was able to do the show and have that representation.”

Darice is a Taiwanese-American writer, artist, model, and activist from Minnesota. They believe in a compassionate and equitable society for all regardless of gender expression, race, ethnicity, ability, or socio-economic status. 

They hosted the first English language LGBTQA+ radio show in Taiwan, “Queerious”, hosted on iCRT FM.100 from 2020-2021. They performed Drag under the moniker Dan Dan Demolition and were featured in the Netflix docuseries “Midnight Asia”. They are passionate about authentic Asian and Asian American representation in media and entertainment.

They also volunteer as social media director, international events ambassador, and English language liaison for Women’s March Taiwan.

They have previously aided in coordination and promotion for various causes including animal rights, women’s rights, human rights, and Taiwan’s representation in the international space.


Social media handles:


Facebook: @DanDanDarice

Instagram: @Darice_DanDan

Twitter: @Darice_DanDan

LinkedIn: @daricedchang

Website: about.me/darice.chang

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Podcast Transcript

Darice Chang

Intro: (00:00:00) Hey guys, welcome to Asian Hustle Network Podcast, my name is Bryan and my name is Maggie. We interview Asian entrepreneurs around the world to amplify their voices and empower Asians to pursue their dreams and goals. We believe that each person has a message and a unique story from their entrepreneurial journey that they can share with all of us.

Maggie: (00:00:23) Today, we have a very special guest, Darice Chang a Taiwanese American writer, artist model, and activist. They believe in a compassionate and equitable society for all, regardless of gender expression, race, ethnicity, ability, or social economics.

They hosted the first English language, LGBTQ plus radio show in Taiwan, hosted on ICRT FM 120 2021 performed drive under the moniker agenda and demolition, and was featured in the. The series midnight Asia is passionate about authentic Asian and Asian-American representation in media and entertainment.

She’s also volunteered as a social media director, international EMS, ambassador, and English language in the eyes-on for women’s March Taiwan, previously aided in coordination and promotions for various causes, including animal rights, women’s rights, human rights, and Taiwan international space. So Reese local.

Darice: (00:01:32) Hi, thank you so much for having me super excited to be here.

Maggie: (00:01:36) We’re really excited to have you as well. So let’s get right into it. I love to learn about your upbringing. Where’d you grow up and what was it like?

Darice: (00:01:44) I was actually born and raised in Minnesota. I was born in St. Paul, and then we moved out to Rochester, which is where the Mayo clinic is. They do really well like cancer research and so we were in Rochester until I was eight. Then we moved back up to the twin cities and I grew up in a suburb called Savage, Minnesota, and ended up going to the University of Minnesota in the twin cities.

Maggie: (00:02:07) What was it like growing up in Minnesota and all these different areas? I’m sure. I mean, I had a lot of people in AHN who are from the Minnesota area and it must’ve been an experience for them, to be worried about their identity and getting to know more about their roots heritage. So I’d love to learn, what was your experience like growing up there?

Darice: (00:02:33) I was super lucky and have very traditional mothers. So my first language was actually Chinese because they asked around and everyone’s like, it’s okay your kids are going to pick up English. You don’t have to teach them. So my mom was like, okay, so we’re going to do some Chinese first and so I only spoke Chinese until I went to preschool and I remember going to preschool and being like, why does no one understand me?

But by the time I was in Kindergarten like I had learned English, so it was fine, but I could speak and read and write Chinese before I could do English. That was just something that really stuck with me. And then growing up bilingual, as you would go to Chinese school and stuff, but obviously, you use English all the time.

So that became my better language and we also did a lot of just like traditional, like Chinese, how many stuff growing up, like. Traditional dance. I was not gifted as a dancer growing up. So I did instruments, obviously piano, everyone does piano or violin and I also did Munson, which is the long string instrument.

I was in a traditional music Chinese ensemble and I also played tongued a Tongji which is a bamboo flute. Yeah, I was actually mostly on and not as much on boots and I also did drums and eventually learned Tycho and did traditional Chinese painting. That was another thing that I said, we had a really strong connection with like the Chinese Taiwanese community where we were growing up.

Darice: (00:04:41) Yeah, but then it’s like, it’s interesting beause you grew up in the Midwest which is very white and so like you just, every time you go to school,  you’re different, but then you come back home and you’re still like immersed in the culture and I feel like that was something really special about just like the way that I grew up.

Maggie: (00:04:58) I think that’s very much needed while staying in touch with your Asian roots and learning more about your Asian identity. So I love that you had that experience. I know you have just like a wealth of experience and knowledge in many different industries.  So what was that transition like and then realizing that you want to dive more into being a producer and a writer, a publisher, a journalist? 

Darice: (00:06:26) So basically I’ve always been avid in very interdisciplinary, I read so much growing up. My mom really instilled in us the importance of education and like during summer breaks, instead of taking us like this new role or whatever, she was this is a library.

So I’ve always been a huge, just like a consumer of information and I think that’s really what led to the journalism also being in time on and being multilingual. So I actually got my start as an interpreter for like an international press conference. When I first came back this time I met different journalists and was interpreting for a political candidate at the time.

I would see what they wrote and I would be like, hmm, I, you probably do this too. And so then I started pitching and then I started writing and that’s how I got into journalism. another thing I wanted to bring up is that I read. This article called why you should have at least two careers by Kabir Seagal was published in the Harvard business review very early on, like when I was in college, I think, and it had an enormous impact on me and my professional life because I feel like a lot of times we feel like we have to be siloed into like one career track.

But reading that article, I was like, wait, you can also, you can be creative. You can have your professional life and you can also do many things at the same time, which I was always into because. I don’t know, I guess in school, like, you know, you learn like eight different subjects at the same time.

And usually, people are just like good at a couple of them, but I was one of those kids that were like good at like all of them and I loved all of them. So I was like, I’m never going to be able to choose, like, I never want to like give up one just so I can have the other. And I said, think that. Carries over into my professional life.

Maggie: (00:08:10) It was very weird to have like all of the substances. You normally just like a few, but that is absolute. I think, especially in the Asian culture, our families, always tell us just try to do this one profession. You know, don’t really dabble into different things and that normally just sees professionals that were digital parents.

When we tell ourselves to become a doctor or a lawyer or an engineer, or a pharmacist. I don’t think they realize a lot of guys don’t realize like immigrant mentality too, that we are starting to realize that maybe these subjects and these industries only give us a lot of passion right. Or fulfillment, and we’re trying to branch out and other things, other things that really give us that sense of enjoyment. 

What brought you back to Taiwan was you’re located in Taiwan right now, right now. You were initially in Minnesota and I think you were in LA for a little bit, or we’re popping back to Taiwan. What made you really make that big decision to go back?

Darice: (00:09:34)I think for me, it was, I had done a gap year here after college. So, and obviously, we would come back like for the holidays and stuff as a child. So I was familiar with the environment. Like I kind of knew how things work and then when I graduated, I was like, I don’t know like if I want to do a master’s, that was also during the economic downturn in the US. So the job market was not great. I initially actually wanted to go to Japan because I majored in Japanese.

That was one of my majors but that was the same year as the Tohoku earthquake. So we decided it was not a good idea to do that and since I had family here, I was like, okay, we’ll just go to Taiwan for a year, you know, experience for a while, and then come back to the. And then like find a real job and whatever.

So that’s what I did and I came out here and I started, I tried teaching English cause that’s what everyone does. I was not great at it. It turns out I had the language skills to do translation, which I had much more enthusiasm for. So I ended up doing translation and eventually got into interpretation, which is when you’re speaking and interpreting.

It turns out I can also do simultaneous interpretations and that’s like conference interpretation where you talk at the same time as somebody else, except in a different language. So, yeah, that’s what I was doing while I was here and I loved it and it was super fun and I just love Taipei.

And then after a year, I was like, okay, I’m going to go back to the US. So we went back and then had an opportunity in Los Angeles, which was a real estate job. So I moved out there and was working for a family friend for a while. I was a real estate assistant and it wasn’t really for me. So I ended up looking for other jobs.

I got hired as an assistant for a logistics company. Also, it was not for me. And then I got headhunted actually into a Japanese home. And it’s really interesting because actually Japanese companies, oh, use an agency whenever they hire. So, and they’ll scrub like, cause I put, I knew Japanese on indeed.

Like I was just looking for jobs and so they’ll scrub the resumes on there and look for people who speak Japanese to work at Japanese companies. So this head hunter found me and then they do the pre-interviews and are like, what are you looking for? Where do you want, blah, blah, blah and so she got me like three different interviews and then two of them liked me and I just chose one of them.

That’s how I ended up working in the food and beverage distribution, I guess we’re technically an import-export company, and my division focused on non-food. So my specialty was actually in like handmade Japanese knives and like all of the accouterments that you need that are not food that you would use in like a restaurant.

So that was super cool while I was out in LA. Yeah. So you get to meet like all these different shots. All the top restaurants, basically.

Maggie: (00:12:24) Wow. That’s what I mean, going back and forth from the seats to Taiwan, how was that like for you? Because for me personally, my parents are from Hong Kong and so sometimes I go back to Hong Kong, but for a lot of, let’s say American-born Asians, right?

Tend to have this feeling where like, we feel American enough while we’re in there because we’re always going to be seeing that seeing as, like an outsider, we’re always going to look the way that we do. And a lot of the times, you know, we’ve seen a lot of that happen in the last couple of years in the US where Asians are going through.

When I go back to Asia, I also feel about the place. You can tell that I’m not actually from there, then I can just automatically see that like, just by the way I dress or the way I, I see they can automatically tell. So what was that experience for you? Like who would just go back and forth and would that have any effect on, you know, just finding your Asian identity? When we were going back and forth from the states to Taiwan?

Darice: (00:13:29) I feel like, cause I’ve always had a very solid Asian identity.  I know like in the states, like you don’t see Asian representation in mainstream media as much when we were growing up, but like we have Hong Kong film and like we have like Taiwan used to be huge and like dramas and stuff.

I always looked at that for my Asian identity and then I think of growing up in the Midwest. Do have a very strong sense of being American, just cause it’s like the Heartland. So that’s something that you can never take away from me. Like that’s just where I grew up in. That’s how I grew up. So I guess I never really had any sort of like identity crisis that way, but you do get looked at differently.

Like I remember my first boyfriend, this is so funny. So my family on my grandmother’s side is actually from Sichuan and the first time that we went out on a date with his mom, I was meeting his parents. He’s like, do you want to go to a session, one restaurant? I was like, what’s a session one.

And then it turns out, it’s like, that’s how they pronounce this one in American. That was like, oh my gosh, like I never realized that, like, this is. That you view my culture through, just because I was so in it all the time. I think moving out to Los Angeles, which has a much larger Asian population was also really interesting because that brought me closer to my Asian American identity.

Whereas before it was sort of like Asian and American and then LA is sort of where it came together because there’s so much of that going on. I was very lucky to be actually at a Japanese company because a lot of them are like Nisei or like calmer, many generations removed and you get to see how. The Asian-American identity has progressed and LA being such a locus of culture for that was really interesting. So I really appreciated that time there and connecting with the people there.

Maggie: (00:15:22) I think LA and SF are very diverse in San Francisco and so Bryan is from Los Angeles and I’m from San Francisco. So the area that I grew up in San Francisco, I would say 90% Asian and then Bryan is the same way. Where he grew up and it’s called 626 and we always talk about how the areas where we grew up. It was hard for us to picture ourselves as a minority unless we went out of California because we were just stuck in our bubble all the time like in statistics and everything was just available to us.

If you were an immigrant and there were just so many Asian restaurants, some, resources for Asian immigrants, he really didn’t know anywhere in the same way as I was seeing in San Francisco. When I traveled outside of health and medicine, I really found out that, oh, I am a minority. Like, there’s not a lot of Asian outs here. So just interesting perspectives, different locations like that.

So tell me about the radio show period. How long have you been doing various and what are the specific topics that you talk about? Show. What is the message that you are?

Darice: (00:17:11) I think for me, well, the show is it was actually a music show. So most of the time we’re playing music and so my focus was obviously on LGBTQ plus and ally music. So most of the songs we were playing or like acts and a lot of the classic gay artists, I guess like Britney Spears. I mean, she’s not gay, but she’s an icon and like Madonna and stuff like that.

And it was mostly about just like representing because I identify as non-binary and I’m queer and they just had never been a radio show in Taiwan best centered on that. I was really lucky that our radio manager helped to push that through and I was able to do the show and have that representation for a little bit.

Every week we would just talk about like, Hey, what’s going on on the scene? What new music is there? Because it is like a music center show and mostly just like top hits. So yeah, basically just like having that space for people to see themselves being represented in, on like the airwaves and stuff.

Maggie: (00:18:21) That’s so important to have that representation and that’s very similar and exactly the same thing that we’re finding as well. It doesn’t have to be Asians, but it could be other groups, other minorities, other. You know that you’re trying to uplift and we amplify, and you’re really providing that platform or the LGBT here and see people who are a mess like that. 

Like, why hasn’t anyone else done this before, too? You mentioned that where this was the first radio show theater tourism in Taiwan and Asian Hustle Network was going through a very similar role as well, where there were a lot of Asian communities, but not a lot of things that were towards entrepreneurs and small businesses.

And that’s so important for us because we have to support each other and for our businesses, I’m seeing such a decline in Asian businesses. Why isn’t there anything like this out there, but I love that you were just pioneering that space for the LGBTQ plus community? So we wouldn’t have.

Darice: (00:19:40) Thank you and I really love the AHN community as well. I think I got into it right at the beginning of the pandemic. It was really uplifting to see so many people coming together to help each other out. Like when people were fundraising for PPE and things like that and it’s like a really, really good positive community. I’m so glad that you guys created this for us.

Darice: (00:21:54) It started with a drag salon and they’re like private, intimate gatherings of people who are interested in performing drag. So is Greg’s granddaddy, as we call them sky grim and they had been a drag king. On the scene for a while, they weren’t really performing, but they would show up at queer parties, dressed up with glitter and sparkles and makeup and everything, and just like drag changing. They wanted to foster a community of other people who were willing to perform and stuff because the drag queen community in Taiwan has been around for a while, maybe 20 years at this point, but there wasn’t really a drag king community or BA fab or assigned female effort community.

They held a drag salon at their house and people came over, I went over, and we all did makeup together. We took pictures and we like, we’re talking about what we want to do our drag personas because you can sort of think of like the like when you have a drag queen, they have like a persona. So everyone was coming up with like who do I want my drag persona? When I came up with guns on demolition because I really want to smash through what everyone thinks of when they think of, for example, a nonbinary person or different gender norms and things like that.

So that’s where the demolition part of it came from and then dun dun is actually my Chinese name. It’s my nickname in Chinese actually. Yeah, in Japanese. It’s also like a very dramatic sound effect. So if you read Mongo and you see, like, it means like a big, like a big presence, and that’s what I wanted to create for my dry persona.

So that’s how that came about and we got invited to different performances and we also hold our own performances. One of them had like a boat party and I performed that a fundraiser for like animal charity and yeah, that’s sort of how I got my start.

Maggie: (00:24:06) That’s amazing. It’s really interesting hearing about how you got started beause you definitely talked about that during the Netflix show.

Darice: (00:24:26) I think they’re just looking for interesting stories and so drag Kings are sort of, they’re not necessarily newer, but they’re getting more popular. So a buddy asked me if I wanted to be on the show and I was definitely, representation matters. So then we met with the producer and we had pre-interviews, there was me and also Yolanda, who is my drag guardian on the show and so they interviewed us about like our experiences.

After that they were we want you on the show and I was like cool and then COVID hit and everything I delayed. Luckily Taiwan’s that are a super good job, we never had a huge outbreak or anything and we were actually able to film after maybe like a half-year delay.

And they ended up working with a local producer beause at the time our borders are actually still closed, most close. They couldn’t fly in the original director and they worked with a local director to film the show.

Maggie: (00:25:26) How has your life changed? Has your life changed at all? 

Darice: (00:25:55) Really appreciated the fact that I’ve had this opportunity and the representation part of it actually has been a huge part because I’ve had messages from people all over the world who will message me on my Instagram and be like, oh my gosh, I saw you on for a minute on Netflix’s Night Asia and thank you so much for representing our community. People from like Brazil or Ireland or something like I’ve never been to before, and they’re just super happy to see someone who’s a fat and non-binary being represented on such a major streaming platform. I think Asians in the queer space as well like I’ve been added to a bunch of like drag Kings. Specifically for Asians and then just networking with different people who are in the space and interested in the same things and trying to push that representation forward.

Maggie: (00:26:45) I absolutely agree. Representation matters so much for us to have more of us represented on screen. That will be a domino effect for our future generations.

We’re still kind of looking at that representation and we’re still seeing a lot of inequity in that space, let alone Asia’s, and also in a queer space, I’m still trying to build up that representation. So as just want to thank you for doing what you’re doing and creating that space for all of us and for the people that work here. What do you think has been the hardest thing for you?

Darice: (00:28:33) I think the thing that’s pushed me through is actually a research paper that shows that for people who succeed, the only thing they have in common is perseverance.

Like it doesn’t matter how smart you are. It doesn’t matter how much money you start out with. It doesn’t matter. The only thing that matters is that you don’t give up and that’s been the thing that’s pushing me forward because it’s like, as long as I don’t give up. You will succeed like according to science, that is the thing. That’s what’s kept me going and I think also like having a purpose too, right? Like with Netflix and performance and representation on this. I never really realized how much bravery it took to be able to just put yourself out there until you start doing it and I feel like if I have a bad characteristic, I should be exhibiting it and like doing my best.

To help the community or to like represent and just be me as much as possible. So every time I get scared or whatever, I start to doubt myself. Like that’s what I go back to and I guess, in like my regular freelancing life freelancing is very difficult. 

And so like, you have a community and you just like, you’re like, oh man, this client, they haven’t paid me in like two months. And the heat dragging or like, you know, this case is really difficult and whatever, like you, have a community that you go back to and that you can help support each other. And I think that’s really important. Yeah. So those are like the things that really get me through the super difficult time.

Maggie: (00:30:38) Absolutely community is so important and I think oftentimes we forget about what has really right and oftentimes that is to me beause I do see people would say I’m self-made, but that’s not realistic at all.

There were people, a community, your family, your friends, whoever they were there to support you. I think we have this pride where a lot of us want to boast about how I did everything on my own, but the reality is you most likely had someone there to help me get to that level.

And community is the one that pushes us forward and you are so well immersed in the community. The fact that you were talking a lot about community is so important because that’s what we’re all about and to see everyone just like support each other and amplify each other and uplift each other, that goes a long way.

Darice: (00:31:50)  I feel like a lot of the time we strive for perfection and so it can be difficult to reach out to others for help, but like all of us have our own struggles and there’s going to be someone out there who has been through what you’ve been through or has a resource that you could use right now. So really just like leaning to that because you have that written. So they told me super last minute, they were we want to do a scene with you and your friends, just like drinking at a bar. Do you have any friends that you can call over? And I was like, oh my God, crap. I was like, all my friends are hustlers, and like, all of them are, so I started texting like every single person. I know I’m like, hey, are you doing anything right now? We were filming for Netflix, I need you to come here and my friend Ivan, said I have time right now. I will show up and he showed up in like the best way beause like I’m super big on sustainability and like ethical fashion and everything. He shows up in this docket by a story where which is alike social entrepreneur program in Taiwan that empowers women who are homebound due to children with developmental disabilities. He’s so on point right now, I love you so much and he’s just like the best guy too. He’s super humble but he has a Ph.D. in physics and is like an artist and teaches at like one of the top universities in the country and shows up in the most. Extravagant ways. Yeah. Oh my gosh. Thank you. I have one friend and then like, we went to the bar and there were other people there I knew. So I was like, oh, good this worked out. Otherwise, I’m just like, ah, like you guys gotta give me like a month in advance, like two months in advance. If you want people to know.  

Maggie: (00:34:37) How do you normally manage your mental health? What is your day-to-day like?

Darice: (00:34:59) I meditate a lot and do daily meditation at 6 am every day and it’s just like a half-hour of like blessings and like positivity, which is really helpful.  I’ll do the same thing at 1:00 PM if I have time.

Maggie: (00:36:19) That is super impressive, a lot of people who we never find the time to do that, but to actually just like find a time and make time to meditate three times a day it’s extremely impressive.

Darice: (00:38:20) I think now there are a lot more resources in the Chinese language like I found some resources for like explaining bipolar or manic depression and things like that in like Chinese and they have like comics and things that like people are working on it, I find that it’s helpful.

Maggie: (00:41:01)  Awesome. I will be sure to add all that in the show notes. It was an amazing episode. It was awesome hearing about your story. I just want to thank you so much for being on our show.

Darice: (00:41:13) Thank you so much for having me. I really appreciate it to be sharing this with the world.