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May is Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month (AAPI Heritage Month). AAPI Heritage Month is an annual celebration of historical and cultural contributions made by Americans of Asian or Pacific Islander descent. Although May is over, recognizing and celebrating APPI Heritage Month and AAPI influencers must be done all-year round. Only 20.6 million Americans are of Asian or Pacific Islander descent, which accounts for about 7% of the United States population.
The Origins of AAPI Heritage Month
The effort to officially recognize AAPI contributions started in the late 1970s. In 1977, New York representative Frank Horton and Hawaii Senator Daniel Inouye introduced similar joint resolutions to each other that would allow the President to proclaim the first week of May “Pacific/Asian American Heritage Month.”
Both resolutions failed to pass, prompting Representative Horton to introduce House Joint Resolution 1007 the following year. This joint resolution requested the President to proclaim any week in May Asian/Pacific American Heritage Week, under the condition that that week included May 7 and 10.
The House and Senate passed this resolution, and President Jimmy Carter signed it into law in 1978, making 1979 the first time Asian/Pacific American Heritage Week was celebrated. In 1990, Congress expanded observance from a week to a month. May was annually designated Asian/Pacific American Heritage Month in 1992 by President George H.W. Bush. Asian/Pacific Heritage Month was renamed AAPI Heritage Month in 2009.
Why Celebrate AAPI Heritage Month?
The simple answer is that representation matters. Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders’ contributions to this country matter; recognizing those contributions in the face of a history of bigotry, hate, and abuse is so important and matters.
In 2021 Kamala Harris made history by becoming the first female Vice President, but she also made history by being the first Asian American Vice President. Marvel’s Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings debuting in 2021, gave us Marvel’s first Asian superhero. More and more shows and movies like Netflix’s Never Have I Ever and the spin-off TV show To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before, XO Kitty.
Unfortunately, the titles and people listed are from the last decade. If we only go back forty years, AAPI people in this country especially were depicted in such reprehensible and bigoted ways. In some cases, they still are, which is why AAPI Heritage Month matters so much: their culture deserves to be celebrated and represented with dignity.
AAPI Influencers That Should Be On Your Following List
Here are some of our favorite AAPI Influencers you should follow all year round!
Smellis – @mxsmellis
- 267.9K Followers
- 8.1M Likes
First on our AAPI influencers list is Smellis. Mx. Smellis is a Korean-American, non-binary high school art teacher, and artist in Seattle, Washington. They use their platform to promote their tattoos and art. Smellis uses their platform to express themselves and who they are to a wider audience. They used to do duets with other creators, but now they primarily post clips on their teaching and tattoo endeavors. They occasionally post sketches and vent art, normalizing discussions surrounding mental health.
This has been in my drafts for awhile, and I wasn’t sure if I was ever going to post it.. But I wanted to reintroduce myself to all the people that found me years ago who might be wondering what I’ve been up to! #trans #nonbinary #teachersoftiktok #tattooartist #transteacher #introduction
Missy – @becauseimmissy_
- 411K Followers
- 27M Likes
Up next on our AAPI influencers list is Missy, a Thai-American creator for Comedy Central. In conjunction with her husband, Missy is a comedian who creates comedic parodies of posts we see on social media every day. From pregnancy and engagement announcements to relatable graduation skits, Missy does it all. Missy’s solo videos and the couple’s collaborative videos have been featured on the Comedy Central TikTok account.
Ahmed Al-kadri – @ahmedlovesbread
- 692K Followers
- 39.5M Likes
Ahmed Al-Kadri is a Yemeni-American comedian on TikTok. Al-Kadri tackles issues like colorism and racism with his unique content and humourous jokes. He uses his platform to promote his upcoming stand-up comedy performances, post clips of previous performances, and create relatable and funny content for all to enjoy. Merch and tour date tickets can be bought on his website.
Not sure about longer-form content on TikTok? Here’s all the information you need to know about it!
Aisha – @arbacn.net
- 1.2M Followers
- 92.1M Likes
Aisha is currently studying to earn her Arts degree in college. On her TikTok account, she chronicles her misadventures of being a young adult in morbidly hilarious, extremely relatable videos about just being in America today. In addition, Arbacn occasionally posts her vacation and life adventures on her Instagram account.
Emily – @not.even.emily
- 1.3M Followers
- 66.6M Likes
Emily’s original claim to fame was on Vine, surpassing 400 million loops in 2016. Her massive success from Vine allowed her to flourish on TikTok, Instagram, YouTube, and Twitter. Like other previously listed APPI influencers, Emily primarily posts comedic skits and clips. Emily is a go-to APPI influencer to check out if you need a laugh!
Meg – @bootlegmegz
- 2.3M Followers
- 57M Likes
Meg is a 22-year-old effortlessly comedic TikTok star who made it onto Teen Vogue’s 21 Under 21 list for her TikTok comedy and musical talent in 2020. Along with Teen Vogue, during the Coronavirus lockdown, Meg had been interviewed for Slate’s “Three Breakout Stars of Quarantine Comedy” conversation. Funnily enough, Meg considers herself a “professional internet yeller” through her content.
Another one of these 🔥😎🔥😎🔥😎
David Suh – @davidsuh
- 4.4M Followers
- 121.1M Likes
David Suh is a professional photographer who helps people find their confidence and empowerment through photography. Suh’s TikTok content primarily shows viewers how to pose, line up their shots, and set their camera settings to get the best photo of themselves that will give them the most confidence. Want long-form content about his craft? Check out Suh’s YouTube channel for his tips and secrets.
Only through mental fortitude did I stay calm through my favorite candle breaking #HBOMaxPartner #ChampionTheBold @hbomax Share in the comments or in your own content how you plan to be bold this AAPIHM
Maia – @mxmtoon
- 2.8M Followers
- 142.4M Likes
Need new songs to add to your playlists? Next up on our APPI influencer is Maia! Maia is a singer-songwriter known for her singing and playing the ukulele. Maia’s first self-recorded (with GarageBand on her laptop) and released EP came out in 2018 titled plum blossom. Her debut album, the masquerade, was released in 2019 and earned her internet fame with the TikTok famous song prom dress.
Replying to @jodieshvwke
What changes came with the new Spotify Redesign? Read all about them here!
Drew Afualo – @drewafualo
- 8M Followers
- 341.3M Likes
Drew Afualo is a content creator, comedian, and as of late, a podcaster. Her new podcast, The Comment Section with Drew Afualo, was recently released. Afualo is known on TikTok for responding to men’s misogynistic, fatphobic, and generally hateful comments with her comedic twist.
BOOOOOO 🍅🍅🍅 #fyp
Danny – @dannyphantom.exe
- 8.2M Followers
- 615.8M Likes
Last but certainly not least on our AAPI influencers list is Danny. Danny uses his TikTok platform to express himself and his interests. His videos range from a wide variety of topics such as mental health issues, video games, anime, tabletop roleplaying games, and a plethora of other things.
@Julia Maggio thanks mom
We hope you found some AAPI influencers that interested you and encouraged you to follow them! Likewise, we hope that this AAPI Heritage Month taught you something new and will continue to bring awareness to the contributions of AAPI Americans.