The Cornell University Program Board held its final show of the semester on May 7, starring internet celebrity, filmmaker, actor, producer, author and activist Eugene Lee Yang and fellow entertainer and comedian Jenny Yang.
Co-sponsored by the Cornell Asian Pacific Student Union, the show consisted of a Q&A led by Jenny Yang which was followed by a lip synching dance performance by Yang in his tall black stilettos.
Yang began by commenting on his initial struggles as a freelance content creator and his later success at Buzzfeed. He stated how all of his early film-work was centered around trying to impress the “higher-ups” on the projects he would work on, something which he said only damaged him in the long run.
Yang then moved to Youtube, starring on Buzzfeed’s The Try Guys, where he was given more creative freedom that ultimately contributed to his happiness and success.
As of late, however, Yang has been a prominent activist for the Asian-American and LGBTQ community. He spoke highly of A24’s new film “Everything Everywhere All At Once,” which has drawn press attention for combating Hollywood norms, in particular for its starring role of Asian actress, Michelle Yeoh.
Jenny Yang then turned their conversation to the 2021 Atlanta Spa shootings, where 8 people — 6 of whom were Asian-American women — were killed in a shooting spree. The shootings occurred as Yang was finishing his documentary “We Need to Talk About Anti-Asian Hate,” which concerns the racism and violence that Asian-Americans have faced in the United States.
“I [wanted to] raise awareness of not just Anti-Asian violence, but Asian-American history,” Yang said.
He noted the value it would bring if mainstream media were to educate individuals about Asians and Asian-Americans, which could, in turn, dispel harmful Asian-American stereotypes and bring attention to the diversity of the Asian community.
The show took a lighter tone soon after, with Yang engaging the audience in a variation of the game Kill Kiss Marry where Yang had to choose which Cornell Alum he would rather kill, kiss or marry, based on suggestions by Yang and the audience.
It proved to be an educational moment for Yang, who remarked how he didn’t know Ruth Bader Ginsburg was a Cornell alum. “That’s cool,” he said, visibly impressed.
The game continued, full of audience exclamations and Yang’s quips — many of which had to do with astrology —, until Yang turned to sharing some advice for Cornellians.
“You need to make yourself heard…I think a big thing for y’all to remember is, there is no shame in being loud and proud…And that’s a skill you have to develop,” he said.
Yang spoke about his struggles as a mostly agreeable young adult who was not yet openly queer, and how he tended to “[keep] his head down” and “just work” early in his career. Although careers and school are important, he noted, focusing on one’s own happiness and mental health is just as important.
The show peaked with a mostly-dance number of “Gay Icons Throughout History,” where Yang danced while impersonating various famous queer icons of the past.
Prior to the dance, Yang joked that he initially had a PowerPoint-based activity called “How Asian are You?,” but chose to abandon the idea after realizing Cornell students “probably had [seen] enough [PowerPoints] already.”
The show then concluded with Yang strutting back across the stage from the audience, still wearing his tall black stilettos, where he took a bow and thanked the audience.