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: (00:00:00) We have a very special guest today her name is Minji Chang and she is an actor, a writer, a producer, and a podcast host. Minji do you want to introduce yourself and talk a little bit about yourself?
Minji: (00:00:20) Thank you! First of all, that’s the name of my podcast. Thank you for having me on the show and congratulations to you guys hosting a podcast space and creating more conversations. I’m all about that you mentioned I’m an actor-writer, producer, and also a fledgling entrepreneur adding that to my resume. That’s been fun but my name is Minji I’m from the Bay area originally born and raised.
Been in LA for six years now. I just celebrated my sixth anniversary and it’s been, I’m wow, it’s already been six years, but almost like only been six years a lot has happened.
I came down because I was the executive director of Collaboration, which is a nonprofit that is discovering connecting, and elevating Asian-American artists and I was part of that organization still am, cause I’m on the board of directors now, but have been part of that for 11 years. So, my world has been very much embedded in the arts, but also the nonprofit world slash Asian American community.
And increasingly in Hollywood So that’s kind of like the overarching thing of where I’m at now, but there’s, it’s been quite very to someone else. That’s like, not me. They’d be like, that’s so random, like different phases in my life. But to me, it all makes sense. Happy to share whatever I can.
Bryan: (00:01:46) We’re super excited to hear your story too because we can relate to you. We feel like our lives are random as well, for I started my career as a software engineer. And it became a real estate investor and became a real estate developer. Now, doing a community is now doing non-profit and I just want to hear about your upbringing too. What did your parents want you to do when you were growing up? And, you have a very successful career and I want to hear about the very beginning, what was your childhood like?
Maggie: (00:02:19) Where were you born? What were your parents like? Did you live in a very strict Asian household?
Minji: (00:02:27) I am writing about all this now, so it’s, I’m in the process of distilling and fictionalizing, certain parts but as I was born in Davis, which is technically not the Bay area, but it’s NorCal, my dad was graduating from UC Davis with an aeronautical engineer degree.
So, my parents are Korean immigrants. They came to the states in 1980 there’s a huge wave of immigrants that came over from Asia during that time, the late seventies, early eighties. And my dad spoke zero English, not zero. I mean, a lot of people create or spoke some English, but he kind of was starting at ground zero, went to community college in San Francisco, went to UC Davis, and I’m the second kid. So, my older brother was born in San Francisco. I was born right after my dad graduated. A young family very immigrant family. My parents, it’s just bizarre to realize my parents were in their twenties when they had the two of us and then my other, my little brother came when they are in their late thirties, another 10 years later, but just I’m in my thirties. So, it just baffles me how much they had done and what kind of life milestones do they have to breach by the time? In their mid to late twenties. Yeah, so then we came to the bay area to Daly city, San Francisco area.
My grandmother was based there and we’re a dry cleaner family. So, my grandma had owned multiple businesses. She’s the entrepreneur like I realized like, oh, I get it from her. I didn’t even realize that. But yeah, we’re in a lot of ways, kind of stereotypical Korean American family in terms of like church, for sure.
Heavily influenced our life. My mom was always just sending us to Korean school, wanting us to know the language, and know the culture, my mom’s really into history and documentaries and things. So she was it was spoken in the household. So, I spoke both English and Korean growing up. When I was a kid I griped about it, but I’m grateful, honestly.
I’m very grateful that I got it bilingual, even though I’m way more proficient in English than the Korean. Yeah, and yeah, as a kid, I was very creative. I liked school. So, my parents, in that way, never had an issue with me. They never had to harp on me about grades. I was I guess, like, I don’t even know what the term is, the psychological term, but like Pavlov’s theory, like you reward them and they’re yay
I liked getting good grades and that way my parents and I liked school, like, well, good to learn. It felt cool to like ACE the test. I don’t know. I personally really liked it and I had good friends. So, I was very social, but also shy and awkward and so yeah, it was a pretty normal childhood, I guess I had a great time.
Certain immigrant experiences having a very severe and tough father for sure. So, my dad did not have it easy growing up. He had divorced parents, which was very, very, very unheard of in Korean culture in the fifties. So, it was like an interesting household.
There are so many things I remember that are great, but there are harsh realities and like just my dad. He’s so different now, but when I was growing up like we had to watch ourselves a lot, his mood could be like hair-trigger and so I remember that my brother in a lot of ways had it rougher than me, but we’re all kind of like a little walking on eggshells because of that.
And it’s just a lot of those things influenced my sense of self. I had a happy childhood overall. I feel like I had a happy childhood that’s peppered with some rough moments, feeling othered, feeling different feelings. This one I’m dealing with as an adult, not feeling safe in certain ways, like having to always be careful, and realizing as an adult that’s traumatic for kids to like, not feel.
Secure right. All the time which I think a lot of immigrant kids have felt a lot of kids in general, for sure. But yeah, and so school was definitely fun. I was never pressured really to go one specific route. I think because what I wanted in my ambitious nature and like wanting to be a doctor was something that pleased my parents.
They had an issue with that. Yeah, so, I don’t feel like I was pressured in one direction. But my mom was the one who introduced me to the theater. And like I started doing plays in church when I was like five years old and I had my first lead role by seven. So, like, I was like a little best being artsy-fartsy little kid, really into pop culture.
I was listening to Janet Jackson, Paula Abdul MC hammer, like really inappropriate. I wouldn’t put that in like a four-year-old’s, playlist, but I was listening to that from a young age, super into movies. Plays and musicals. So, I had a lot going on when I look back on it, it was like a very active child.
Bryan: (00:08:00) You have an amazing story it sounds like you’re, you are a super good kid, you’re the most ideal kid, you got really good grades.
Maggie: (00:08:16) Hopefully, you got the creative side from your mom. Definitely. But like when you were explaining about how your dad was like, he reminds me of my dad because when we were young, like when me and my sister when we’re young, he was super mean all the time.
He was angry all the time and I think it comes with the expectation oh, we immigrated here to give you guys the future. What we want for you guys, set you guys up for success. So, we have that expectation that you guys will do well, whatever it may be in school, get a job, get a job.
And as we grew older, he’s a lot more chill and relaxed, and I never see him get mad at me. I think it’s just when we’re growing up, they have this expectation, like, oh, I need our children to have this life because we’re giving them that better life by immigrating here, right.
Minji: (00:09:07) It’s a very, I mean, the more we all become adults and understand the gravity of what that entails and us growing up in a space that. To a degree, larger degree than our parents feels we do belong, that we can navigate comfortably and language in terms of social cues in terms receptivity by the general public.
I mean, personally, I mean, that’s me moving to Korea and even though I’m not Korean life, I’m Europe, like language doesn’t look really the majority of people there. That’s a big deal? We have more empathy for our parents, which is a thing of maturity. It’s a lot, a lot that they went through and a lot that they’re emotionally, mentally, and physically juggling on a very daily basis.
And then trying to raise humans to be decent people and not be a menace to society. That’s a lot to multiple humans too. There are three of us and all three of us were very interesting children to my parents.
Bryan: (00:10:12) It sounds like you had a pretty normal childhood. What was that transition when you had the verge, your path a little bit you mentioned that you told your parents that you want to be a doctor, to keep them happy? What’s the very moment when you’re hey, I don’t want to be a doctor, I want to pursue being an actress and all that creative side stuff. How did they take that?
Maggie: (00:10:33) I know you went to Berkeley and majored in public health, right? And you were working in jobs that were related to health and yeah, it would love to know that transition and what it was kind of knowing like okay I don’t want to focus on health anymore. I want to pursue acting.
Minji: (00:10:52) A hugely significant part of my narrative that takes place between 14 and 19 years old was a relationship that I was in certain ways was ideal as a child in terms of obedience ambition, proficiency, those things, I give that to myself.
It takes and this is where the reality is being a person, especially an impressionable insecure teenager comes into play in high school, I was passionate about medicine. I entered a bio-science program in ninth grade, which is a very big privilege for a high schooler to have to like explore a career when you’re 14 and so, to that, I credit my teachers and my school shouts out to Amador valley high. They created a space for younger kids to explore shadowing doctors and doing science projects, learning about things that you wouldn’t learn about till you’re probably in college or beyond.
And I was heavily into like a leader. I was a leadership geek and still am. So, that was all happening, but I was also dealing with a lot of personal struggles about who I was, definitely have been boy crazy, kind of like out of womb, and had already dealt with like dating guys since middle school, but I’ve met an older guy from church sort of layers and much older guy and entered a very bad relationship that lasted for five years.
So, it colored my entire adolescence. If you will, I’d say as pretty abusive and it was really interesting because the way I would liken is that I lived a double life on one side. I was class president and rover a 4.0 GPA. And, on the other side, I was lying and manipulating everybody and was under complete control of this very abusive person.
And to this day, it’s still, I mean, I, it feels like a different. Now, I still remember every detail and it was this former version of myself, but those did influence the way that my life turned out because I was listening to what he wanted. He had a lot of control over my life.
But ironically, just the way that life turned out. I still was able to maintain grades probably because he didn’t let me socialize, or cut me off from my friends. So, what I do, I studied a lot, and luckily for me, I studied well because I liked it. So luckily, I got into Berkeley, and that relationship continued into college.
There’s a lot of K drama but, it colored a lot of decisions that I made during very formative years, right and I just kind of had to learn how to navigate Tufts systems that go beyond like sexism or racism. It was just interpersonal my own demons, I guess.
And this one person that I was allowing to dictate so much of my life how to negotiate with that and how to convince that person I want to go to a school. We’re getting very purchasable. I’m fine. Cause I talk about this on my podcast, so I just hope it’s not too overwhelming for you guys.
For example, he didn’t want me to go to Berkeley. I was in, I was barely sleeping. I was going through lots of different crises throughout high school and somehow, I managed to go to get into a really good school. And the weird thing is I didn’t know that Berkeley was a really good school.
That’s how oddly like sheltered I was, I was consumed by this relationship. I only knew what was directly in front of me, which is to get an AP bio and just do well on this test. And that’s all I could see in front of me. I didn’t research colleges. I didn’t know how good Berkeley was compared to Irvine.
I didn’t, I didn’t know any of these things. I just applied and by the grace of God, I got into Berkeley. Still didn’t know that it was accurate for a school everyone’s congratulating me. I’m just thinking about my boyfriend at the time. So, I didn’t, I was oh, thanks. I got into college.
That’s what I thought, but it wasn’t oh, you gone to a great school. It’s like, oh no, I got into a school and he dumped me when I told him that I was I got into Berkeley and he got angry at me. So, this is like, this is the real on me. I felt guilty.
He came to me and told me that I’m selfish and that he was paranoid that I’m going to be around a bunch of like smart guys, literally that was it and so I almost didn’t go to Berkeley. He wanted me to go to community college. So, I’m writing about guys. Don’t worry. You’ll get all the T, but I stood my ground also because my parents would have had, can I swear?
Minji: (00:16:05) They’ve lost their shit. If I said I’m not going to UC Berkeley. I gathered that much over time they were proud. So, I was oh, this is a big deal and I wanted to make them happy. So, I went, and then that’s how I got into Berkeley. That’s like the true story is
I didn’t know that it was a really good school. I chose Berkeley because it was close because I lived in the Bay area and because I wanted to date this crazy person. So that’s how I ended up at that school for real destiny is real guys.
Maggie: (00:16:41) That’s a crazy story and it’s so accurate where, when you say that you don’t know anything that’s outside of what you just see, it’s kind of tunnel vision, right? There’s no possible way for you to know what’s on the outside. If all you’re focused on is our relationship or that person or your studies and I think that it was really brave of you to just go outside of your comfort zone and be what, maybe I’ll take this chance?
That relationship might have been a blessing in disguise because it freed you from those struggles and I think it naturally trended towards that direction where you went to Berkeley because if it happened any other way, maybe you would have gotten to community college or if you guys stayed together, you, you guys would’ve gotten through, you would have been going to community college.
Minji: (00:17:36) I appreciate that and I think. It ended up being a big fight, multiple fights, and we stayed together. So, I got and I negotiated that can in the thing I’m writing, but I negotiated it by agreeing to live in the all-girls dorm. So this is how my college life was shaped literally my schedule, all of it. So, we ended up staying together, but there were certain fights that I went to bat for myself, and going to Berkeley was one of them. So, I’m really glad that I did that and I appreciate that and these moments. And again, it’s just a test to kind of life in general that we can to our benefit, not to assume that everybody knows what we know. I think sometimes when people are in high school, everyone talks about this is kind of a sign of, in my opinion, a little bit of an immature mindset is that we talk about things as if everybody else knows what we’re talking about.
I think that’s very risky because a lot of people have no idea what you’re talking about. How do you know that everyone’s researching colleges and majors and has the money to even do that the way that you do? I think that’s a conversation in Asian America that I think needs to be checked is that there are a lot of assumptions that there’s money, time, privilege, and just resources that everybody has the same path.
What if you can’t go to college? What if that’s not even an option for an Asian American, young person, there is a lot that can’t afford to, or that just need to go to work, to help their families, or have different immigration status or whatever. There are so many experiences and that’s what I’m recognizing about my own story that there are a lot of assumptions people made about me and that I made about others just to be on my path and that’s like me at 18, 19 years old. This is why I credit you guys for expanding, like sharing these conversations. Because I think the more that we share, what happened is that happens. The more we can have kind of more grounded understanding of how life is versus like what we’re.
Maggie: (00:19:38) It’s very, very easy to assume.
Maggie: (00:19:57) Things happen for a reason. I always feel that way. Everything happens for a reason. And I think that your experiences give you the opportunity to make opportunities for yourself and honestly, really, this is exactly what, when you were in high school and when you were in college, I’m sure you were still acting right.
And I think you mentioned that, or I was reading your bio and your bio mentioned that you were training at UC Berkeley for acting classes and so can you talk a little bit about that experience and what those training what that experience was like while you were training and then how you were naturally kind of shifted towards getting into collaboration and getting to know them.
Minji: (00:20:43) For sure so the reason why I even brought up the whole teenage saga was, that it dictated a lot of these outcomes that on the outside might seem very innocuous okay. She chose to go to UC Berkeley. It could be many other people who just fill out applications and choose a school for me, it was colored in a very different light.
And when I got to Berkeley in the middle of it, my sophomore year is when I ended that relationship, or I escaped it to be honest that’s how I look at it. I escaped a very bad situation by the grace of God and my family and my friends. I somehow got out of it. And that was an awakening for me as a person, as a young woman, as a future professional I genuinely felt like I got a second chance at life it got that bad. Cause I was in a very dark place. I was ready to give up, to be honest, I was, it’s such a terrible place to feel like you have no hope either the situation you’re in is bad or the other situation, even if you get out is bad.
But once I was able to get over that very significant obstacle that moment, I felt oh, my God. It’s really exciting and scary to feel like I can choose whatever I want to do. And when you relinquish control to somebody for so long, it matters a lot when you get that control back. So, that’s when a lot of things shifted.
I switched out of bio because I started taking social sciences resonated with psychology with sociology understanding why people work the way that we do is eternally fascinated me. It still does and that’s why I chose public health and I felt like that was a really good fit for me because it was understanding people on a population level versus like when you’re doing MD, you’re like needing one patient at a time, right.
You’re serving one person and I was like, no, I want to know why millions of people are depressed. I want to know why teenage pregnancy rates are so significant here. I want to know why abuse happens here. I want to know why these people are addicted to this over here. I wanted to know these things and understand them.
So, when I did that, I was already starting to shift in who I was my career aspirations switching from wanting to do med school solely and then wanting to do public policy. So that’s when I was shifting in that but once I got out of that relationship, that’s when I asked,
But I had exited this hiatus of creativity because, from 13 to 19, I didn’t act, I didn’t do anything the best,
Maggie: (00:23:24) That was the timeline of your relationship?
Minji: (00:23:26) Pretty much and it’s just like, I don’t know, eighth grade, everything gets awkward. I became very kind of in that way, my artistic side became very I herniated that away and I cared more about again, boys and clothes and blah, blah, blah.
But I went to study abroad in Paris and then I rediscovered and then I was it felt home and it felt free and I was oh my God, I completely had forgotten this. It was getting back on a really fun bike again. So, that’s when I came back to Berkeley, I stayed as a super senior.
That’s where I learned also that you can leave school and come back. I didn’t know these things and I took up theater again, so I did maybe two or three semesters. So, it wasn’t my major or anything, but I enjoyed the theater classes and the plays and stuff that I got to see at UC Berkeley.
And I got to do train in theater in Paris, which is how many people can say that. That was cool and that was planting the seed. So, to answer your first question, how did choose or how did I make that change? It was very, very gradual. There was no one moment where I’m throwing this all away and I’m going to switch.
They’re like nuggets of ideas. You’re oh, this is fun but like no back to public health, back to public health.
Bryan: (00:24:53) Your story is very inspirational and I think about it and sometimes I compare it to my life too. It’s ironic because I was the worst student possible growing up but when I got to high school, I did better and I got, I didn’t get any four up until I got to college.
Minji: (00:25:14) That’s where I tanked in college.
Bryan: (00:25:19) But go back to your point where you felt lost. I never think being lost is a bad thing. I think being lost at an early age is a blessing. When you find what you’re truly passionate about. I have a couple of stories too, on my side, as I too was supposed to go to Berkeley.
But my senior year, similar to you because of the relationship yeah, we broke up and, it affected me mentally. So, I did so bad. In my senior year, I got kicked out of Berkeley and I had to attend community college since the school was a huge part of my identity, my parents pretty much just own me.
Now I dude what the hell what’s going on with you that was probably the darkest time of my life, but it was during that time that gave me the seeds to plant like an Asian Hustle Network. That I want to do more in my life. I didn’t want school to define who I was. It was during that time that I met people in my community college classes that are successful entrepreneurs right now and I realized that just because you went to a great school or whatnot, you don’t let the school dictate your reputation of who you are as a person.
In that, in those dark moments, you define yourself and I think that people who go through those dark moments become the most successful. That’s why we’re talking to you right now and I think that everything happens for a reason and I commend you for that because it’s a dark, scary time.
Everything, how you feel about yourself and going through not just that part of your identity and trying to fix it and forming new groups of friends is extremely hard. Having your parents’ approval is breathing down your neck. My dad was extremely disappointed in me and he wanted me similar to you.
He wanted me to become a doctor right at this time he didn’t know what computer science was. This is I’m also in my thirties. So, this is before computer science became popular, he was you’re majoring in computers? What the hell is that? He was just only for the second time.
Minji: (00:27:27) I mean, if you said that to someone now in college to go are you crazy? That’s the future.
Bryan: (00:27:33) Maybe it was like, oh, let’s tell like my friends. I think I mentioned, see us before it got popular. All these kids are smart now, but I mean, I can relate to you. It’s the dark times that define us and for whoever’s listening right now, like, you may feel like you’re in a dark situation but if you continue to breathe, if you continue to live on, you’re gonna find your sources of motivation that come from the most random places, so don’t give up, life is still so long when you’re young, you look at life as oh my God, what his life would be after 29. Well, that’s going to end at 29. I’m gonna have kids
Minji: (00:28:12) That’s more dope. You guys. I love my thirties, I can’t even put it into words, right Bryan, it’s great.
Bryan: (00:28:19) In your teenage years, all thirties, having kids, grandkids, you’re fully established a hell of boring, but you realize that life is so long and start sprinting so much when you’re young.
Take it, take it at your own pace, I think when you’re young, you often compare, you said before you live in a tunnel or you only see one thing and unfortunately that ton of me, anything, you compare yourself to other people and compare yourself to this and that. And you lose what makes you special.
You lose yourself where you lose all that stuff and some people let it get buried all their life unfortunately whereas some people decided to rise and we’re hoping that the Asian community rises after they listened to your story. It’s very inspirational that you can, to divert from a bad situation, turning something good in your building, constantly building on top of that and we want definitely segment ourselves to try to listen to some of the stuff that you were able to achieve after this relationship when things are turning up, they’re hitting momentum on the board directors of collaboration right now and we want to hear all that of what’s next.
Minji: (00:29:27) I really, I appreciate that. And to be honest, I feel a certain level of not imposter syndrome, but it feels a lot. I’m honored, but I’m also oh my gosh. If this is setting a certain precedent or if I’m being looked at as a role model, yeah. That is, it’s a big thing. So, I don’t take that lightly and I will also say there’s, there’s so much that I feel very lucky in terms of there was darkness, but to count the blessings in the darkness, my big brother.
We’ve been there for each other, but we didn’t grow up super close as kids, but as adults, he saved my life, my brother, my big brother, my parents, even, it’s just very ironic because when you look back in hindsight, we can kind of connect the dots when it’s all said and done, right? I can kind of pinpoint the toxic parts of Korean culture, the toxic parts of being super religious the certain parts of growing up in Silicon Valley, where there was a lot of. In a very specific way, subtle racial tensions or competition, or like a specific culture that was breathing there.
So many things and pinpoint well this fault and this fault and I don’t look at things as I believe everything happens for a reason but again, when you’re in the moment, you don’t have that perspective. This is all stuff we can say because we’re in our thirties and we can see how those things happen.
And the irony is that like the things that were the problem, in my opinion, the problem was also the solution. My family, yeah you could say we had all this dysfunction and that’s how things got so messed up and why as a teenager, I went on his wayward path and got in so much trouble and such a bad situation, but they’re also the reason why I’m here today right? So, everything can be everything it’s not this binary thing of this is bad and this is good. It’s really kind of up to us like how we want to shape that narrative and what we want to do with these dark moments to then rise above it, right. I don’t blame my family personally for me at this point.
For many years, I don’t blame my family for what happened. It happened things bad things happen even under their watch. Honestly, that’s tough for me to say out loud in a public space, but I’ve talked to my parents about this and I don’t know that many Asian families that sit and talk about bad things that happen.
Most Asian families that I know sweep it under the rug and never speak about things. So, the fact that I can talk to my family about some really bad, bad stuff that happened. Even though that’s taken years, to me, I celebrate that and I’m like, we are not that version of that family anymore. We’ve grown because of it.
And that’s because all of us went through the discomfort of learning from it, talking with each other, and doing our best to heal, which to me is astounding for like a career and family. Talk about their dirty laundry with each other. It’s not perfect by any means at all, still dealing with it now, but we may progress.
And so. It’s to speak on that. I agree with you, a lot of our defining moments can be made in really dark times. And also, not only dark times. I think also the good parts of me, like the fact that I was creative and that I liked school and I liked learning. That’s also a huge part of me and that is also defined me. So, I also think that because mental health is so fragile sometimes, it’s tough to completely encapsulate. It’s important to also recognize that it’s good not to overly romanticize darkness partly because is darkness in it.
I don’t ever want to encourage a young person, who goes through hardship? Cause that narrative is too much, they’re going to kind of seek it out too. Maybe they’re like, oh, I need to go through bad stuff so I can be a better person but if you find yourself there, it’s going to be okay it can feel you’re hanging on for life.
Maggie: (00:33:11) I feel like someone’s darkness, whether or not they consider it to be dark. It might not be considered darkness for someone else, right. I think everyone has their perception of what their darkness is. If it is dark then yes, you can consider its darkness and take that opportunity and make it better.
It depends on your perception of your point about being in a family. I think it relates to all, a lot of Asian households, a lot of us don’t talk to our parents about some of that dark stuff. It’s really hard for parents to open up about that stuff.
And if you were to you to talk to your family or whether your family talked to you first, whatever it may be, I think that requires a lot of courage and, yeah, that’s amazing.
Minji: (00:34:11) It’s been a bumpy road and it’s taught me more than anything to be compassionate to my parents, to be honest.
I have to meet them where they are like, they’re human. They don’t have the tools to talk about feelings or they haven’t, they certainly did not get that from their parents. So, to a larger get my maturity and my brother, again, I’m lucky to have my brothers, but because we talk, but it’s like showing grace to the fact that like they don’t know how to talk about mental health they don’t know. They like this is nonsense to them.
Bryan: (00:34:45) Yeah, it is, and then mental health too. You’re like, especially our parents’ generation. It’s, bro we came from war to come, care for patients. You hear talk to me about mental health.
Minji: (00:34:55) They were talking about survival, right and so it’s, and it’s just, and it’s okay for us to care about that. We have the luxury to do that and I think it’s if we embrace that, then that’s fine because then we’re like collectively rising, right but if you walk into this conversation kind of like entitled you should know this and you should care about it. You try to make a little living again, in a country you don’t know the language, you don’t know the culture.
Bryan: (00:35:21) Hat’s off to them, man. I wouldn’t be able to do that.
Minji: (00:35:26) I mean, these are our stories, so it just is what it is, and then to go into the kind of what collaboration was after college. Transition and does it how old I am, but I found YouTube during college. That’s when it came into existence and that’s how I discovered collab because suddenly people were sharing videos online. I was like, what the heck is this.
But it became really popular. I feel like after college, but yeah but that’s how I discovered Asian American creative scene. It planted seeds over the years and then like, I’d always dabbled in this idea of like, oh, that’d be cool. Do movies, like just work in films as an actor, as a director, like I just want to work in Hollywood.
And then so yeah, I, I worked in public health for three and a half, almost four years after college, and during that time is when I started volunteering for collaborative. Yeah, so everything kind of overlapped with each other. I just started doing stuff on the side hustle of like, this is something I’m passionate about and I’ll do this as an extracurricular if you will.
And that’s how things started to continue to shift. So, it’s collaboration. It’s I started the San Francisco chapter with friends and then a couple of years into that, I started taking acting classes because I’d been around all these amazing artists that I watched on YouTube. David Choy and Meg Clara, like, yeah. I just met all these people and I was like, they’re doing it, What If I did it?
Bryan: (00:37:13) I’m curious too, what was that transition like from your full-time job to like peel me entrepreneurially how’d you break it out to your parents and you bring up a really good point too cause a lot of people in the Asian Hustle Network like, hey, I want to do this and that, but it doesn’t exactly have to be like to culture the kind of thing where you quit your job and you figure it off. It can be a gradual process, for you you’re planting the seeds. You’re ready. Like you, you had a job to progress into this career that. How did your parents take that? How did you take that? What’s the transition like?
Minji: (00:37:48) To clarify, I wasn’t much of a goal setter, so this is where I feel like this is why I changed in my thirties at that age when I was like going through all these changes, I was more of like a dreamer and dreaming is great.
I’m not at all, not condoning but dreams without a deadline or a timeline or measurable KPIs. They’re just, they’re just ideas. So, at the time, I wasn’t setting myself any deadline. I wasn’t giving any sort of structure to the things I wanted to do. I just had ideas of what I wanted to do.
So, it ended up working out. Thank God. But at the same time, I could have planned a little more so I worked in public health. I worked in violence prevention, so I worked in domestic violence prevention. It was very much part of my soul because of what I went through as a teenager and then I worked in tech for a couple of years. I wanted to make more money. I wanted to explore corporate life.
I wanted to live in San Francisco proper, so I bounced and I worked at Macy’s dot com, which was one of the best experiences of my life and it was a test of my will because of PK, the founder of collaboration. When I asked him at 20 years old, I was like, PK. I want to be an actor.
Is when I was like shooting my shot and I was like, hey, you’re the one that’s telling everyone, go be an artist, like pursue your dream. I want to be an actor and he’s don’t do it. So, he wasn’t don’t do it, he’s don’t do it yet. Cause I was still in college at that time and he’s like, you need to graduate from Berkeley.
He’s, do not drop out of Berkeley and after you get a job and after you’re comfortable and after you have stability if you’re willing to give that up to get a rejection and unstable pay and like a different hustle life, right? The framed it maybe you want it.
That’s how I frame it. Not what I thought you were going to say to me, man. I thought you were going to give me all your connections and tell me where to go and who to talk to them.
Minji: (00:40:01) Yeah, but and it’s honestly though, it’s like, you need to hear no’s though. Honestly, I value, I value people who have given me, like give it to me straight.
Maggie: (00:40:11) Exactly yeah, I like his advice. Cause it’s, I feel like he’s probably had a lot of youngsters come up to him and say like, I want to be this, I want to be an actor but then they quit after getting few rejections, he wanted to make sure you have thick skin.
And I think going through all these rejections, I would love to know what your mindset was and how you were able to kind of overcome those what were you feeling, I’m sure you’ve had reductions here and there and like, I mean, we’ve all had rejections, right? And so, what was your mindset at that time?
Minji: (00:40:49)I think acting taught me that honestly, to expect rejection to say like the reality of this industry in this specific vocation is that if you are succeeding 10% of the time, you’re doing well. Your rate of success is very low, but that means that you got to be trying over and over and over again, the expectation is you’re not going to seek to succeed very often, but that means that you’ve got to try a gazillion times because if you want to succeed a bunch of times, that means you got to try times 10, right? So, I’m eternally grateful. I just did an Instagram live last week with PK to promote our empowered conference because he, I became his successor after volunteering for collaboration, San Francisco, he stepped down as executive director. I got tapped on the shoulder to take his job, to be paid, to run collaborations.
The whole shebang and I turned that down for a year, because I was just like, y’all are crazy. I can’t do that. I thought it was just bigger than me than life and that’s so that year was at PK was one of the people that believed in me. He gave me good advice. He was looking out for me for real and I think his advice changed my life a hundred percent.
And his belief in me changed my life because he didn’t like to shove anything down my throat in either situation. He just more liked, he gave his opinion and with as much sincerity and care and let me take with it what I would, and I had to figure it out for myself, right? There’s only so much advice. You can give someone because they’re on their path.
You just give them as which as much as you can. That’s what he gave me and so that year where I was mulling it over. I had started acting class in during that year and I liked it. I got beginner’s luck. The first audition I did was for Intel, it was a commercial. I booked it playing a Chinese American, by the way.
And I was they’re going to know this is a lie, but the set was run by like a white cast and I was like, I don’t think they care, but like they just need an Asian. It sounds ironic, but like, in my mind, there are enough, there are enough seeds, and enough things that I was doing to kind of feed this idea.
Like, oh, maybe I can do it. So, you never know what the one thing is. There’s just gotten, you got to build evidence. I booked a job. I’m taking classes, I’m doing this seriously. I’m investing in it. I’m spending money on casting websites. I’m doing my headshots. It’s like one thing at a time builds confidence
And then you also got a plan and that’s where my friends did come into play and like having a financial cushion, having some semblance of like, what am I diving into? Because then you can make a sound decision and that you can defend and that you can back. Right. Cause if you’re making a brash decision, I mean, you could, life is full of that.
You got to take risks, but you also pay for the consequences. If you just dive into a tank full of sharks and you’re like covered in blood, you know what I mean? Don’t do that.
Bryan: (00:43:58) Think big it’s super important to just start small too because I think a lot of people tend to think of their goals and they want to see big results happen overnight, as you got older, that’s typically not the case, I think great things take time, and people have to move at their own pace too, you can’t be oh my God, my friend’s doing this and that, or she’s a full-blown actress or a full-blown entrepreneur. I can be that way too. Everyone, you may not see it, but there’s, there’s more to this person’s story than what they show you, could be their parents’ connections, their hard work, their late hours.
Minji: (00:44:42) For sure what I’ve noticed in the artist’s world. This was I was so lucky. I think being part of the collaboration as like a producer, as like putting on these showcases and just being around artists in general, I was getting educated on how to be an entrepreneur, how to be my brand or whatever, and how to run collab because I was in the community.
I was in this, right. There’s a difference. There are mad, talented people out there. There’s no shortage of people with raw talent, but if you want to be talented and successful, that’s a whole other situation. That means that you take yourself seriously, that you discipline yourself. You do the work; you have a good attitude.
You are professional. I could like to list this out. I thought about writing it out somewhere so that in my opinion, is what sponging for the last 11 years watching other people succeed and fail because some people rode the YouTube wave. Some people did it like I’m way.
On successful journeys with pitfalls and peaks, you got to be determined. You have to have confidence in yourself, but like that confidence comes at a price. You have to work on that. There are so many facets to it. There’s no formula, but there are traits that seem to be pretty consistent across successful people.
And even that word is very subjective. How do you define success? Some people, I feel like that’s where we’re at in 2020, especially right now, right. We’re reevaluating. What makes our time and effort worthwhile? Is it money? Is it attention? Is it working for like a big ass brand and ending up in Forbes?
I don’t know. Maybe that’s your company. That’s not mine, but that’s cool if it’s yours, but it doesn’t have to be mine, right, so
Minji: (00:46:29) Everyone has their path and in this day and age, it’s very easy to just like, look online and see what other people are doing and like, oh, if he can make it on YouTube as I should probably do that too. It’s very easy to follow.
Bryan: (00:46:45) And don’t forget social media is a lie.
Maggie: (00:46:48) Think about what are you good at? What makes you unique? So that you can excel in your field because no one can do it the same way you can do it, right. Everyone has their flavor and their spice, and you just have to figure out what it is that you’re great at.
Bryan: (00:47:05) As they’re coming up to the top of the hour, we kind of just recap all the key points that we talked about so far, you have an amazing story so far and just to talk about some of the key points, some of my big takeaways from this is everyone moves with their darkness is not exactly a bad thing.
Find your path eventually. So, don’t worry that doesn’t ever feel like you’re alone there’s so much support around you that once you get your eyes out of the tunnel a little bit, you can kind of see the support system, like your brother or your parents, you kind of appreciate things a lot more.
And when one path goes for you, a new opportunity opens for you, yeah and another thing that you brought up too is to start small and think big, you had your eyes on becoming an actress and becoming more involved with collaboration and you made it happen some people give themselves a lot of excuses like, hey life is too hard right now. I have to, my job, I have my friends. I can’t do any of this, but you made time for it. You may turn into a passion now for a full-blown entrepreneur. How successful now, when we talk to our community, you’re well known. I was talking to my network. I’m like, who should I interview that strong female boss, Minji Chang. I’m like, okay. To her. So, I think given the hardships that everyone had, it’s truly inspirational for our community to listen to that too. I wouldn’t usually things like Asian life is sort of perfect. So you go to a great school, great job, but you show that you don’t have to take the conventional path to become successful.
Minji: (00:48:44) Absolutely and I also want to say thank you, thank you. Thank you. Thank you times a thousand. That’s sweet and kind and I also want to say if people are. If it does it, I’ve met people that they’re like, oh my life’s really boring and very vanilla, and again, that it feeds into kind of that comparison thing that you’re talking about too. If that’s the case, if you feel that, I don’t want to shame anybody for not having drama but there is a lot of life, the way that I would frame it is there’s so much life to be lived and so if there’s more that you want to do, like think about what you want to do not, and that’s a choice of like how you elect to spend your time and whether that’s like you get inspired because you watched a great movie or you listen to a great song that moved you to feel alive, like pay attention to those feelings, because that’ll kind of give you clues as to like ignites your fire.
There’s something that lights up every person, right? Just because you haven’t had a quote-unquote interesting life so far, whatever that even means. Yeah, you have right now and moving forward, to make it as interesting as you want right and that’s, I want to empower people to choose and to remember the agency of choice because that’s one thing in my young life that I gave up.
And that I don’t ever want to take for granted. I don’t think I take that for granted, but that comes with it, it comes with a lot too, because you’re taking responsibility for your liking. That’s a really tough thing and if you’re a hustler, you need to take responsibility for everything. If you’re going to sit there and cry and complain and say it’s everything’s fault, it’s Trump’s fault.
It’s like white America’s fault. Yeah, there are problems everywhere. Everybody can kind of list all the things that are up against their time, or I’m too young, or that person didn’t want to help me.
And he gave me a shot everybody can do that and fixate on those things or you can just take responsibility like, hey, this is my life. This thing didn’t work out fine. What can I learn from that? And what do I want to have to happen? And then be relentless about making that happen because attitude goes such a long way.
That’s a very key thing that I’ve seen across the, I feel very privileged to see people with very admirable attitudes. They’re not all the same personality, but they have an attitude of like, they’re not going to small things become the roadblock to why their opportunities stop. If they get into that shitty attitude, honestly, you start I’m just cursing, but like, you could be the thing that ends it cause no one who would you kind of would you be the person that people want to work with?
That’s a big question are you trustworthy? Are you decent to be around, hopefully, fun to be around like all these things? It’s a good thing to ask somebody who wants to do something different. You can’t just walk into a room, demanding everybody to give you everything you want and you got to see how it’s symbiotic and collaborative and that’s easier said than done, but that’s what I’ve part of the things that I’ve learned.
Maggie: (00:52:23) So, yeah, it’s amazing having you on the show. Thank you so much for sharing your story Minji.
Minji: (00:52:27) Thank you for having me and honestly, again, congratulations to you guys. I admire the Asian Hustle Network. It’s so inspiring for me to see all the things you’re sharing in that space. Appreciate you guys.