About the Founder
Riza is the founder of the “Celebrate Asian Joy” project, and a Broadway actor. She was last seen in Mean Girls on Broadway as one of the original cast members. She was born and raised in Japan and at the age of 16 she left Japan, by herself, to pursue her dream of being on Broadway. Through her unique experiences as an immigrant on Broadway, she has learned how important it is to have representation for the younger generation of AAPI artists. She has now made it her mission to inspire the AAPI community to walk tall, and to proudly and boldly claim their joy.
Thank you so much for coming to the CELEBRATE ASIAN JOY Website!
When I was a young girl in Japan dreaming of being on Broadway, I had no idea what it meant to celebrate my identity. Since moving to the U.S., I’ve learned so much about my identity, including what it means to be a proud Asian Immigrant in this country. I am writing here to share a little bit about myself and my journey to feeling the joy in celebrating my Asian identity in hopes of encouraging others who might have felt the same way.
My first years of being in the U.S., I found myself wanting to fit in so badly and to be more “American”. I tried eating sandwiches over Onigiri, salad over Gyudon, and burgers over Okonomiyaki. Throughout high school and college, I was so proud that I was becoming more and more American as I tried to erase my identity as a Japanese immigrant.
However, after I graduated from college and moved to New York, the harsh reality hit. I was still Asian and still not “American enough”. Whatever that means.
A lot of the days I felt unseen and invisible. I thought my only way to be seen was to become more like the Americans.
That’s when I remembered my mentor Kevin Gray’s words from college.
(If you don’t know Kevin, look him up he’s a LEGEND!)
When I asked him for advice on how to be successful as an Asian Actor in this industry, he asked me:
“Is your mom an “Asian” mom?”
As I struggled to answer, he said:
“Your mom is your mom. Easy as that. You are you, and that’s enough. Don’t look for how to be successful as an Asian actor but look for what YOU want to be. Sing whatever songs you like, and audition for whatever shows you want to be in. Don’t limit yourself by categorizing yourself as an “Asian”. You’re already enough.”
When he first said these words to me, it honestly didn’t make sense. It wasn’t the quick cure I was looking for, and it was a harder answer for someone who just wanted to fit in.
But years later, after being rejected from hundreds of auditions and after months of unemployment, just when I felt like I wasn’t enough, it clicked.
His words from years ago came to my heart and I finally felt liberated. I stopped apologizing for being who I am. I was able to start my journey of searching for how to be a proud Japanese Immigrant in America.
Now I celebrate all of me everyday. Well, some days it’s still hard not gonna lie, but I’m only a human so that’s okay too.
And here, I want to encourage you to feel the joy and allow yourself to celebrate YOU everyday.
Because you’re already enough.