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Minji Chang is a Korean American actor, producer, podcast host, and entrepreneur. Her past work includes presiding as Kollaboration Global Executive Director, acting in award-winning short films & viral comedy sketches, & producing events for the Asian American community with grassroots organizations, major network studios & film festivals.
She is the host of First Of All podcast, a real & unfiltered conversation on career, family, relationships & pop culture. She continues to create content, share stories, empower the community, & champion diversity & inclusion everywhere she goes.
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Intro: [00:00:00] Hey guys! Welcome to the Asian Hustle Network podcast. My name is Bryan.
And my name is Maggie.
And 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] Hi everyone. This is the Asian Hustle Network podcast. My name is Maggie.
Bryan: [00:00:28] My name is Bryan.
Maggie: [00:00:29] And today we have a very special guest. Her name is Minji Chang, and she's 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: [00:00:43] Sure. 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, also a fledgling entrepreneur. Adding that to my resume. That's been really 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 six-year anniversary and, yeah, it's been, I'm like, wow, it's already been six years, but like almost like only been six years it's happened.
Yeah, I came down because I was the executive director of Kollaboration, 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 I've 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 definitely increasingly in Hollywood. So that's kind of like the overarching thing of where I'm at now, but there's, it's been quiet, very, to someone else that's like not me. They'd be like, that's so random, like a, of different phases in my life. But to me, it all makes sense. Happy to share whatever I can.
Bryan: [00:02:07] We're super excited to hear your story too because we can relate to you. We feel like our lives are absolutely random as well. You know, as from, for me personally, I started off my career as a software engineer and then became a real estate investor, real estate developer. Now I, when the community is now doing nonprofits.
Totally relate to you. And I just want to hear about your upbringing too. Like, what was that like? Like what did your parents want you to do in your growing up and you know, obviously, you have a very successful career and I want to hear about the very beginning, you know, what was your childhood like?
Maggie: [00:02:39] Yeah. And where were you born? You know, what were your parents like? Did you live in a very strict Asian household?
Minji: [00:02:46] Yeah. Okay. I am writing about all this now, so it's actually, I'm in the process of distilling and fictionalizing, certain parts for it. But I was actually born in Davis, which is technically not the Bay area, but it's NorCal. But my dad was actually graduating from UC Davis with an aeronautical engineer degree.
So, my parents are Korean immigrants. They came to the States in 1980. Now there's a huge wave of immigrants that came over from Asia during that time, the late seventies, early eighties. And, you know, my dad spoke zero English, not zero. I mean, a lot of people create a, spoke some English, but he kind of was like starting at ground zero, went to community college in San Francisco.
Once 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. So definitely 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, yeah.
My other, my little brother came when they were in the late thirties, another 10 years later, but just, you know, I'm in my thirties. So it just baffles me how much they had done. And what kind of life milestones they had are you breached by the time they're in their mid to late twenties? 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 dairy 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, know the culture, my mom's really into history and documentaries and things. So she was, you know, it was spoken in the household. So I spoke with English and Korean growing up, which when I was a kid I griped about, but I'm really grateful, honestly.
Like I'm very grateful that it grew up bilingual, even though I'm way more proficient at English than Korean. And yeah, as a kid, you know, I was very creative. I really liked school. So my parents never, in that way, they never had an issue with me. They never had to harp on me about grades. I was the, I guess, like, I don't even know what the term is, the psychological term, but like Pavlov's theory, like you give them the reward and they're like, yay. I really liked getting good grades. And that way my parents and I liked school, it felt 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 like, I was very social, social but also shy and awkward in certain ways. But, so yeah, it was a pretty normal childhood, I guess. I had a really great time. There are certain immigrant experiences like having a very severe and tough father.
For sure. [[inaudible] so my dad definitely 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. Definitely. Like there are so many things I remember that are great, but there are definitely really harsh realities and like just, you know, 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, you know, hair-trigger. Yeah. So I definitely 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, you know, a lot of those things influenced my sense of self, I definitely had like a happy childhood. Overall, I feel like I had a happy child. That's a word with some really rough moments, feeling othered, feeling different, feeling this one I'm dealing with as an adult and like not feeling safe in certain ways, like having to always like, be careful, and realizing as an adult that that's to be traumatic for kids to like, not feel secure 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 and my ambitious nature and like wanting to be a doctor was something that pleased my parents. They had no issue with that.
So I don't feel like I was really pressured in one direction. But my mom was actually the one who introduced me to theater. Yeah. And like I started doing plays in church when I was five years old and I had my first lead rule by seven. So like, I definitely was like a little thespian artsy, fartsy, little kid, really into pop culture.
I was listening to Janet Jackson, Paula Abdul, MC hammer, like really inappropriate. Like I wouldn't put that in like four-year-olds, you know, playlist, but I was definitely listening to that from a really young age. Super into movies, super into plays and musicals. So I had a lot going on, like when I look back on it, I was like a very active child.
Bryan: [00:07:55] you have an amazing story, you know, it sounds like you are a super good kid. Like you're the most ideal kid, you know, got really good grades.
Minji: [00:08:06] We're going to high school, Bryan. Well, it's all a setup.
Maggie: [00:08:12] So you also, you got the creative side from your mom, definitely. But like when you were explaining about how your dad was like, he really reminds me of my own dad because when we were young, like when me and my sister when we were young, he was super mean all the time. Like he was angry all the time. And I think that comes with like the expectation, like, Oh, we immigrated here to give you guys like the future we want for you guys, you know, set you guys up for success. So we have that expectation that you guys will do well. You know, whatever it may be in school, like get a job.
And as we grew older, he's definitely a lot more chill and relax. And like, I never see him get mad anymore. I think that's just like when we're growing up. They have like these expectations, like, Oh, I need our children to have this life because we're giving them that better life by immigrating here.
Minji: [00:09:03] Absolutely. It's a very, yeah. I mean the more we all become adults and understand the gravity of what that entails and us growing up in a space that we, to a degree, larger degree than our parents feel like we do belong and that we can navigate comfortably and language in terms of social cues, in terms of receptivity by the general public.
I mean, personally, I cannot... I mean, it's not like me moving to Korea. And like, even though, not Korea, fine, Europe, like don't know the language, don't look like really the majority of people there. Right. That's a big deal, you know? 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, 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: [00:10:07] Yeah. I mean, it sounds like you had a pretty normal childhood. What was that transition like when you had the verge, your path a little bit, you know, you mentioned that you told your parents that you want to be a doctor, keep them happy was the very moment when you're like, Hey, I don't want to be a doctor.
I want to pursue being an actress and all that creative side stuff. Like how, how did they take that?
Maggie: [00:10:29] And 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. Would love to know like that transition and you know, what it was like kind of knowing like, okay, I don't want to focus on health anymore.
Like I want to pursue acting.
Bryan: [00:10:45] Yeah.
Minji: [00:10:48] Well, a huge, significant part of my narrative that takes place between 14 and 19 years old was a relationship that I was in. And I, you know, in certain ways was ideal as a child in terms of obedience, ambition, proficiency, you know, those things. I give that to myself.
But that was, it takes a, and this is where the reality is being a person, especially an impressionable insecure teenager comes into play. And in high school, I was really passionate about medicine. I actually 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 that, to that I credit my teachers and my school shout out to Amador Valley high. they really created a space for younger kids to explore shadowing doctors, doing science projects, like learning about things that you wouldn't learn about till you're probably in college or beyond. Right.
So that was that. And I was heavily into like a leader. I was a leadership geek. 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 the womb. And, had already dealt with like dating guys since middle school, but I 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 like it is that I lived a double life. On one side I was class president and over a 4.0 GPA. And, but on the other side, I was lying and manipulating everybody and under complete control of this very abusive person.
And to this day, it's still like, I mean, it feels like a different life. Now, but I still remember every detail and it was this former version of myself, but those actually really 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 turns out. You know, I still was able to maintain grades probably because he didn't let me socialize. 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, that relationship continued into college.
There's a lot, it's like, it's like Kdrama. But it definitely colored a lot of decisions that I made during very formative years. And, I just kind of had to learn how to navigate the Tufts systems that go beyond like sexism or racism. It was literally just interpersonal, like 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, like, I want to go to a school. Like we're getting very personal. I'm fine. Cause I talk about this on my podcast, so I just hope it's not too overwhelming for you guys.
Maggie: [00:13:59] No, this is fine. That's perfectly fine.
Minji: [00:14:01] 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 actually didn't know that Berkeley was a really good school. That's how oddly like sheltered I was like, I was consumed by this relationship. I only knew what was directly in front of me, which is to get an in 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 that Berkeley was compared to like Irvine.
Like 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 of a school. Everyone's congratulating me, literally just thinking about my boyfriend at the time. And so I didn't, I was like, Oh, thanks. I got into college.
Like, that's what I thought. But it wasn't like, Oh, you gone to a great school. It's like, Oh no, I got into a school. And he actually dumped me when I told him that I was like, I got into Berkeley. And he got angry. So this is like, this is the real-real on me. I felt guilty.
Because he came to me and told me that I'm selfish and that, that he was basically 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 tea, but I showed up. I stood my ground. Also because my parents would have had, can I swear.
Bryan: [00:15:41] Sure.
Maggie: [00:15:41] Yeah.
Minji: [00:15:42] Lost their shit. If I said I'm not going to UC Berkeley. Yeah. I gathered that much over time. Like they were really proud, so I was like, 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 like, I didn't know that it was a really good school. I chose Berkeley because it was close. Cause I lived in the Bay area and because I wanted to date this crazy person. Yeah. That's how I ended up at that school for real. Destiny is real guys.
Maggie: [00:16:16] Yeah. That's a really crazy story.
And it's like it's so accurate when you say that you don't know anything that's like outside of what you just see, it's kinda like tunnel vision, right? There's no possible way for you to know what's on the outside if all you're focused on is like that relationship or that person or your studies, you know, and I think that it was really brave of you to just go outside of your comfort zone and be like, you know what, maybe I'll take this chance.
And I think. You know, that relationship might have been a blessing in disguise because it freed you from those struggles, you know? And I think it naturally trended towards that direction where you went to Berkeley because, you know, if it happened any other way, maybe you would've gotten to community college or like if you guys stayed together, you guys would've gotten through, you would have been going to community college.
Minji: [00:17:12] Yeah. And I appreciate that and I fought. It ended up being a big fight, multiple fights, and we stayed together. So I got my, 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 like, 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, definitely these moments again, it's just a test to kind of like life in general.
We can, we... it's 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.
And I think that's very risky because a lot of people have no idea what you're talking about. Right. How do you know that everyone's researching colleges and majors and has the money to even do that the way that you do? Right. I think that's actually a conversation in Asian Asian America that I think needs to be checked is that there's a lot of assumptions that there's money, time, privilege, and just resources that everybody has the same path.
Like, Oh, 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. Like there are so many experiences. And that's what I'm recognizing about my own story, that I there's a lot of assumptions people made about me and that I made about others.
Just be on my path. And that's like me at 18, 19 years old. Which is why I credit you guys for expanding, like sharing these conversations. Because I think the more that we share what really happened is that really happens. The more we can have kind of like. A more grounded understanding of how life really is versus like.
Maggie: [00:19:11] Yeah, it's very, very easy to assume.
Bryan: [00:19:14] It is. And honestly, I have never seen Maggie this far up before, in our previous episodes, she's like, Oh man, I need to like engaging conversation right here. I'm like, I'm just going to sit here and just be quiet.
Maggie: [00:19:26] It does truly feels like things happen for a reason. I always feel that way. Like everything happens for a reason. And I think that you know, your experiences give you the opportunity to make opportunities for yourself. And honestly, this is exactly what happened. And you know, like 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 as well for acting classes. And so can you talk a little bit about that experience and you know, what those trainings, what that experience was like while you were training and then how you were naturally, kind of shifted towards like getting into collaboration, and getting to know them.
Minji: [00:20:17] For sure. so the reason why I even brought up the whole teenage saga was, A, that it dictated a lot of these outcomes that on the outside might seem very innocuous, like, 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 a relationship or like I escaped it to be honest. Like that's how I look at it. I escaped a very bad situation by the grace of God and my family and my friends. Like I somehow got out of it. And that was like, 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. Like it got that bad. Cause I was in a very dark place. I was ready to give up, to be honest like I was, it's such a terrible place to feel like you have no hope. Like 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 like. 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 like a lot of things shifted.
I switched out of bio because I started taking social sciences and I really resonated with psychology, with sociology, with understanding why people work the way that we do that is eternally fascinated me. Still does. And that's why I chose public health. And I felt like that was a really 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. 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 really 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 actually. I sorry, there's an airplane.
But I had exited this hiatus of creativity because, from 13 to 19, I didn't act, I didn't do anything like Thespian.
Maggie: [00:22:47] That was that the timeline of your relationship?
Minji: [00:22:51] Pretty much. And it's just like, I don't know, eighth grade, everything gets awkward. Like I became very kind of like in that way, my artistic side became very, like, I permitted that away and I care more about like, again, boys and clothes and blah, blah, blah.
And, I went to study abroad in Paris, and then, I rediscovered theater. And then I was like, it felt like home and it felt free. And I was like, God, I completely had forgotten this. It was like 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. Like, 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 definitely enjoyed the theater classes and the plays and stuff that I got to see at UC Berkeley.
And I got to do train and theater in Paris, which is like how many people can say that. That was really cool. And that was definitely planting the seed. So to answer your first question was, how did I choose or how did I make that change? It was very, very gradual. It was super gradual. There was no one moment where I'm like, I'm throwing this all away and I'm going to totally switch.
They're like nuggets of ideas. You're like, Oh, this is really fun. Like no back to public health, back to public health.
Bryan: [00:24:15] I mean, your stories are very inspirational, you know, and I think about it and I sometimes compare it to my life too. It's like, 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, honestly.
Minji: [00:24:35] Wow. Good for you. This is where I tanked in college. I was like, what?
Bryan: [00:24:40] But go back to your point where you really felt lost. I never think being lost is a bad thing. I think being lost at an early age is actually a blessing, you know? Cause then you can find what you're truly passionate about. I have a couple of story two on my side as I too was supposed to go to Berkeley. But my senior year, similar to you because it's a relationship, Yeah, we broke up. And it really affects me mentally. So I did solve that my senior year, I got kicked out from Berkeley.
And I had to attend community college, you know, and since I, school is a huge part of my identity. My parents pretty much just own me. Now I do what the hell what's going on with you. And that was probably the darkest time of my life, but it was during that time that gave me the seeds to plant like Asian Hustle Network or that I wanted to do more in my life.
I didn't want the school to define who I was, you know, it was during that time where I met people in my community college classes, that are really successful entrepreneurs right now, you know, and I realized that just because you went to a grade school or whatnot, you don't let that school dictate your reputation of who you are as a person, you know?
You, in those dark moments, you define yourself. And I think that people who actually go to dark moments become the most successful. It was probably talking to you right now, you know? And I think that everything happens for a reason and I commend you for that. Cause it's a really dark, scary time. If that's everything, how you feel about yourself, like, and going through not just that part of your identity and trying to fix it and forming new groups of friends, that's extremely hard having your parents approval, like breathe down your neck. Like my dad was extremely disappointed in me and he wanted me, similar to you, he wanted me to become a doctor. Right. And at this time he didn't know what computer science was. This is like, I'm also in my thirties. So this is before computer science team popular. He was like major in computers? What the hell is that? He just only for the second time.
Minji: [00:26:44] I mean, if you said that to someone now in college, the like, are you crazy? That's the future?
Bryan: [00:26:52] I mean, maybe it was like, Oh, let's tell like my friends, like I majored in CS before it got popular. All these kids are held smart now. But I mean, I I can totally relate to you. It's the dark times that really define us. And for whoever's listening right now, you may feel like you're in a dark situation, your life's going nowhere.
But if you continue to breathe, if you continue to live on, you're going to find your sources of motivation that come from the most random places. So don't give up, you know, life is still so long when you're young, you look at life as like, Oh my God, what’s life would be like after 29. Well, that's going to end at 29.
Minji: [00:27:31] Yeah. That's more dope, you guys. I love my thirties. I can't even put it into words, right?
Bryan: [00:27:39] Yeah. Like 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 still sprinting so much when you're young. Take it at your own pace.
You know, I think when you're young, you often compare, like you said, before you live in a tunnel, like you only see one thing and unfortunately not 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 know, you lose yourself where you lose all that stuff.
And some people let it get buried for all their life, unfortunately. Whereas some people decide to rise up and we're hoping that the Asian community rises up after they listened to your story. You know, like it's very inspirational that you are able to divert from a bad situation, turning something good in your building, constantly building on top of that.
You know, and we want, definitely want to segment ourselves to try to listen to like, you know, some of the stuff that you were able to achieve like after this relationship, when things are turning up, they're hitting momentum. You're obviously on the board of directors of collaboration. Now you want to hear all that?
Minji: [00:28:47] I really, I really appreciate that to be honest. Like I feel a certain level of, no, imposter syndrome, but it feels like a lot of... I'm honored, but I'm also like, Oh my gosh. Like 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, you know, 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 who, you know, 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 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 like, in a very specific way, subtle racial tensions or competition, or like a specific culture that was breeding there.
[inaudible] Many things and pinpoint well, this fall and this fall and this fall, and I don't look at things as I like you 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 that like the things that were the problem. Also in my mind, 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 this way where the path and got in so much trouble and in such a bad situation, but they're also the reason why I'm here today.
Right? So everything can be everything, you know? It's not this binary thing of this is bad and this is good. It's really kind of up to us of 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.
Like for many years, I don't blame my family for what happened to me. 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 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 like 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 really creative and that I liked school and I liked learning. That's also a huge part of me and that also defined me.
So I also think because mental health is so fragile sometimes, or like it's tough to completely encapsulate. It's important to also recognize like it's good not to overly romanticize darkness. Darkness is darkness in it.
Bryan: [00:32:16] You don't want to be in that spot.
Minji: [00:32:19] I don't ever want to encourage a young person, like go through hard shit, you know?
Cause if we shoot that narrative 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.
Bryan: [00:32:32] Don't force anything.
Minji: [00:32:34] But if you find yourself there, it's going to be okay. You know, it can feel like you're hanging on for.
Maggie: [00:32:39] I feel like someone's darkness, whether or not they consider it to be dark.
It might not be considered dark to someone else. Right. I think everyone has their own perception of what their darkness is. If it is darkness, then yes you can consider it darkness. You know and take the opportunity and make it better, you know? Depends on your perception. That's your point about you, you know, you being in a Korean family. I think it relates to all, a lot of Asian households. Right? A lot of us, like, we don't really talk to our parents about some of that, you know, dark stuff. You know, it's really hard for parents to open up about that stuff. If you were 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: [00:33:25] Thank you. Thank you. It's definitely been a bumpy road and it's taught me more than anything to be compassionate to my own parents. To be honest, like, yeah, 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, cause we talk, but it's like showing grace to the fact that like, you know, they don't know how to talk about mental health. They don't know, like, this is nonsense to them.
Bryan: [00:33:58] And then mental health too. You're like, especially our parents' generation. It's like, bro, like we came from war to come here, you're here talk to me about mental health?
Maggie: [00:34:08] 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 okay. It's fine. Cause then we're like collectively rising. Right. But if you walk into this conversation kind of like entitled, like you should know this and you should care about it. Like, well, you try to like make a living, again in a country you don't know the language, you don't know the culture.
Bryan: [00:34:32] If hats off to them, then I wouldn't be able to do that.
Minji: [00:34:36] But yeah, I mean, these are our stories, so it just is what it is. And then to go into kind of what collaboration was, after college, I still [inaudible] 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 on each end?
Bryan: [00:35:06] Oh no, I think I'm older than you.
Minji: [00:35:10] But it became really popular. I feel like after college, but, but that's how I discovered Asian American creative scene. It definitely planted seeds over the years. And then like, I'd always dabbled in this idea of like, Oh, that'd be really cool to like, 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 within public health for three and a half, almost four years after college. And during that time is when I started volunteering for collaboration. 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 really 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 like amazing artists that I watched on YouTube. Like I met David Choi.
[inaudible] Like, yeah. I just met all these people and I was like, they're doing it. What if I did it?
Bryan: [00:36:22] Yeah. I mean successful. Does he please? And I want to, 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, you know, because 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. He kind of thing where you quit your job and you figure it off. It can be a gradual process, you know, for you you're planting the seeds. You're ready. As you, you had a job to progress into this career that fit your vision.
You know, how did your parents take that? How did you take that? What's the transition like?
Minji: [00:36:57] To clarify, I wasn't much of a goal setter, so this is where I feel like this is what 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 am not at all, not condoning that. But dreams without a deadline or a timeline or measurable KPIs. They're just ideas. You know what I mean? So at the time I wasn't setting myself on any sort of gold 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 like 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 actually 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 macys.com, which was like one of the best experiences of my life. And it was a test to my will basically. Because PK, the founder of collaboration. He basically, when I asked him at 20 years old, I was like, PK, I want to be an actor. It's when I like just, I was like shooting my shot.
And I was like, PK 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 like, don't do it. That was his, so he wasn't like, don't do it. He's like, 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 like, do not drop out of Berkeley. And he's like, 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 rejection and unstable pay and like a really different hustle life, right. He literally framed it as like, maybe you actually want it.
That's how I framed it. Not what I thought you were going to say to me, man. I thought you were going to like, give me all your connections and tell me where to go and who to talk to..
Bryan: [00:38:57] My dad's like he can't do the LST Fisher degree. I was like, all right, fine.
Minji: [00:39:01] Yeah. But honestly though, it's like, you need to hear nos though. Honestly, I really value, I personally value people who have given me, like given it to me straight.
Maggie: [00:39:12] Exactly. Yeah. Yeah. I definitely 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 a few rejections, you know, he wanted to make sure you have thick skin, you know?
And I think like going, like going through all these rejections. I would love to know like what your mindset was like and like how you were able to kind of overcome those. Like, what were you feeling like? I'm sure you've had rejections here and there. And like, I mean, we've all had rejections, right? And so like, what was your mindset like at that time?
Minji: [00:39:49] I think I think acting definitely 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 really well, like your rate of success is actually very low, but that means that you gotta be trying over and over and over again, the expectation is you're not going to succeed very often, but that means that you've got to try a bazillion times because if you want to succeed a bunch of times, that means you got to try times 10.
Bryan: [00:40:25] All you need is one,
Minji: [00:40:27] Right? Exactly. I'm eternally grateful. I actually just did an Instagram live last week with PK to promote our empowered conference because he, I became his successor, you know, 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 collaboration, the whole shebang. And I actually turned that down for a year, cause I was just like, y'all are crazy. Like I can't do that. Like I really thought it was just bigger than need than life. And, That's so that year was, PK was one of the people that really believed in me. He gave me good advice. He was looking out for me for real, you know, and, I think his advice changed my life a hundred percent.
And his belief in me changed my life because he didn't like shove anything down my throat in either situation. He just more like gave his opinion 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 cause they're on their path.
You just give them as much as you can. That's what he gave me. And so that year where I was like, mulling it over. I had started acting class during that year. And I really 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 like, they're going to know this is a lie. You know, the set was run by like a white casting. 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 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. You know what I mean? Like, okay. 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, it 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, 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 like this full-day, you gotta take risks, but you also pay the consequences.
If you just dive into a tank full of sharks and you're like covered in blood, you know what I mean? Like don't do that.
Bryan: [00:42:55] It goes back to it. Start small and think big, you know, it's super important to just start small too. Cause I think a lot of people tend to think of their goals and like, they want to see big results happen like overnight, as you got older, that's typically not the case. You know, I think great things take time and, and people have to move at their own pace too. Like you can't be like, Oh my God, my friends gained this and that. Or she's a full-blown actress or full-blown entrepreneur. I can be like that way too. Like everyone. You may not see it, but there's, there's more to this person's story than what they show you.
The parents' connections, their hard work, and late hours, you don't know.
Minji: [00:43:39] For sure what I've noticed in like the artist's world. This was, I was so lucky. I think being part of Kollaboration 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 own brand or whatever, and how to run collab because I was in the community. I was in this environment. Right. There's a difference. There's 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 actually thought about writing it out somewhere so that in my opinion, what I feel like I've been sponging for the last 11 years watching other people succeed and fail because some people they rode the YouTube wave. Some people did like an album way to start away. The number of successful journeys with pitfalls and peaks, and you gotta be determined. You have to have confidence in yourself, but like that confidence comes at a price. You have to work on that. Like 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? 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 cup of tea. That's not mine, but that's cool if it's yours, but it doesn't have to be mine. Right.
Maggie: [00:45:27] It has their own path, you know, 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 is able to make it on YouTube like I should probably do that too. You know, it's very easy to follow.
Bryan: [00:45:42] Don't forget that social media is a lie.
Maggie: [00:45:43] Yeah, exactly. Really think about like, what are you good at? You know, what makes you unique so that you can really Excel in your own field because no one can do it the same way you can do it. You know, everyone has their own flavor and their own spice and you just have to figure out like what it is that you're great at.
Bryan: [00:46:02] Yeah, as we're coming up to the top of the hour, we kind of just recap all the key points that we talked about so far. I mean, you have amazing story so far.
And just to talk about some of the key points, some of my big takeaways from this is like, you know, everyone moves at their own pace. You know, darkness is not exactly a bad thing.
Mind your own path. Eventually, don't worry that, don't ever feel like you're alone. You know, 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 know, you kind of give things a lot more and when one path close for you like a new opportunity opens for you, you know, And another thing that you really brought up too is start small and think big, you know, you had your, your eyes on becoming an actress and becoming more involved with collaboration and you made it happen.
You know, some people will just. Give themselves a lot of excuses, like, Hey, just too hard right now. I have my job. I have my friends, but I can't do any of this, but you made time for it. You know, you made it turn into a passion now for a full-blown entrepreneur. Yeah. How successful now, when we talk to our community, you're really well known.
Well, you know, I was talking to my own personal network. I'm like, who should I interview that's strong female boss? Minji Chang. I'm like, okay. We'll reach out to her. So I think absolutely well, like given the hardships that everyone has, and this truly inspirational for our community to listen to that too. Yeah. Yeah. No, I wouldn't usually things like the Asian life is like, sort of perfect. So you go to a great school, a great job, but you show that you don't have to take the conventional path to become successful, you know?
Minji: [00:47:41] And I, and I also want to say thank you. Well, thank you. Thank you. Thank you times a thousand. That's really, really sweet and kind. And I also want to say, you know, if people aren't, if it, 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, like, I don't want to shame anybody for not having drama, you know, like 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, that's really 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 listened to a great song that moved you to like, feel alive, like pay attention to those feelings, because that'll kind of give you clues as to like what 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. Right. You have right now and moving forward, you know, to make it as interesting as you want. Right. And that's, I really 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 it comes with a lot too, because you're taking responsibility for election. 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. Like, yeah, there are problems everywhere. Everybody can kind of list off like all the things that are up against them, time or I'm too young, or that person didn't want to help me [inaudible] give 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 happen? And then be with ventless 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 let small things become the roadblock to why their opportunities stop. If they get into that shitty attitude, honestly, sorry, I'm just like cruising, but like, it could be the thing that like ends it cause no one who would you kind of like, would you be the person that people want to work with?
That's a big question. Are you trustworthy? Are you, you know, decent to be around, hopefully, fun to be around? Like all these things. It's good things to ask somebody who wants to do something different. Because you can't just walk into a room, demanding everybody to give you everything you want. And like, you know, 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.
Bryan: [00:50:43] That's awesome. I mean, we do appreciate you being on our podcast, you know.
Minji: [00:50:48] Thank you for having me.
Bryan: [00:50:49] Super excited, but how can our listeners reach out to you and learn more about you?
Minji: [00:50:53] you can follow me at @minjeezy. It's a nickname that stuck on Instagram. And my podcast is called, First of All, I talk about a lot of these kinds of things, mental health, dating, my parents, like all that stuff, ad nauseam on a weekly basis, you can check out First of All.
Bryan: [00:51:11] Yeah, Definitely. We will put that in the show notes.
Maggie: [00:51:13] We will. Yeah. Thank you. Yeah, it's amazing having you on the show. Thank you so much for sharing your story and energy.
Minji: [00:51:20] Thank you for having me. And honestly, again, congratulations you guys. I really admire the Asian Hustle Network. It's so inspiring for me to see all the things you're sharing in that space.
I really appreciate you guys.
Bryan: [00:51:31] Definitely. Thank you.
Maggie: [00:51:32] Thanks, Minji.
Minji: [00:51:34] Bye.
Outro: [00:51:35] Hey guys, we hope you enjoy this episode. Please subscribe to the show.
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