AAPI Heritage Month Q&A Series: Annabelle Schmitt
AAPI Heritage Month commemorates Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders that have contributed to America’s rich history and success. Growing up as an Asian American/Pacific Islander can be considered a collective experience that can impact each an every one of us in a variety of ways. Our cultural identity shapes a facet of who we are and I am happy to be featuring a variety of strong voices that will share their experience as an Asian American/Pacific Islander in America. I hope that this series helps you connect with your own heritage and reminds you to be proud of where you come from!
Today, I am sharing the experiences of a true gem of a person, Annabelle Schmitt. She’s a woman with ambition who I truly admire and she always inspires me to embrace myself as is. Annabelle is wise beyond her years and so passionate about self love and female empowerment. I absolutely love her content and highly recommend checking her out! She’s such a cute person, extremely genuine and I hope you love her as much as I do! Continue reading to learn more about Annabelle’s experience as an AAPI below!
Q: What ethnicity are you?
Q: Do you speak your language?
I speak Mandarin Chinese.
Q: Were you always proud of your heritage or did you initially reject it?
I was confused by my heritage as a child. I don’t think I felt ashamed of it at first and I didn’t reject it either but as I grew older and started to realize even more how different I looked from everyone, I began to feel embarrassed by it. I hated speaking Chinese to my mom in front of my friends because they always made comments about it. Even positive ones about how cool it was that I spoke a second language made me feel embarrassed. All I heard was “You’re different. You’re not like us.” and as a child, I hated feeling that way.
Q: When did you begin to truly embrace your heritage and why? to truly embrace your heritage and why?
I joined a Chinese Folk Dance Troupe at the age of 10 that helped me view my culture through the beautiful lens of dance. It wasn’t until college, however, that I truly embraced it. After being fetishized by so many men, I was angry that something I was struggling to embrace was being weaponized against me. In a strange way, it actually helped me start to feel prouder of my own identity and claim it more.
Q: What do you consider to be the best parts of your heritage and culture?
The food, the beautiful qipaos and Lunar New Year. I will never grow tired of Taiwanese street food or Szechuan food (many Szechuan dishes are popular in Taiwan) and I’m always wanting to introduce friends to my own culture’s cuisine! Otherwise, I’ve always loved the beautiful qipaos. I saw so many Asian women wearing these on special occasions as a child. They’re truly beautiful and have such a rich history. As for LNY, there’s always amazing celebrations going on for this holiday. I love seeing the performances and eating special New Year dishes. It’s a great time to reconnect with my culture and celebrate it.
Q: What was the first experience where you felt that demarcation of being a minority/different?
Growing up, I lived in a predominantly white suburban area. I attended a Catholic school in which myself, my sisters and one black girl were the entire POC population out of 150 students at the school. I remember seeing school photos of me as a kid and feeling that I looked different. It really hit me, though, when kids started asking me to speak Chinese on demand as though it were some cool party trick.
Q: How did growing up as an Asian American/Pacific Islander affect your relationship with your parents?
I’m mixed race, so my dad is white and my mother is Taiwanese. My mom was pretty strict, as typical Asian parents tend to be, and my dad was also pretty strict. It was hard having a social life growing up, as I could never seem to hang out with friends because my parents would just tell me I had to do my homework. However, they were always wildly supportive of me and encouraged my achievements throughout my youth and even now.
Q: Did you have any Asian American/Pacific Islander role models growing up in media (i.e. movies/TV/music/books, etc.)? Did this affect your self-image?
I always felt like I stood out as a mixed race Asian girl. I can’t recall having any role models in the media. I discovered Cassey Ho of Blogilates in high school, though, and she’s always been someone I’ve looked up to ever since.
Q: How do you feel about the rise of Asian Americans/Pacific Islanders in media today?
I am here for it! It’s so exciting seeing women, like Constance Wu, own their culture. I identify strongly with my Taiwanese heritage, so seeing AAPIs onscreen is something that’s truly incredible for me. It’s hard to explain how much a lack of representation impacts you growing up, but the fact that Crazy Rich Asians made me cry like a baby begins to explain at least some of it.
Q: If you could give your younger self advice regarding growing up Asian American/Pacific Islander, what would it be?
Being AAPI is beautiful and powerful. It’s to be part of a beautifully diverse group of so many wonderful people. Don’t shy away from it. Your experience as a mixed race woman of color may be different, but it’s your own and it is magical.
Q: How do you connect with your heritage and culture today?
I try to attend AAPI events but it’s admittedly hard at my college. Penn State has a Taiwanese American Student Association but it’s almost entirely international students and students who were born in Taiwan and then immigrated here. They communicate entirely in Chinese and while I do speak the language, it’s simply different. That said, I did attend their Chinese New Year celebration this year and it was so wonderful to be in that community. Otherwise, I’m majoring in Chinese so I can maintain that language and tie to my culture. Also, this summer, my family is taking a trip back to Taiwan!
About Annabelle Schmitt
Annabelle is a 21 year old intersectional feminist fashion blogger. She’s dedicated to inspiring and empowering women through radical self love and social justice. Her hope in sharing her own story is to help other women feel less alone and become empowered to step into their own power.