Natalie Tran was recently invited by Brown University’s Asian American Student Association to give a talk about Asians in media. The witty & funny 18-minute presentation raises a lot of great points about how Asians are under-portrayed and stereotyped in the in the media. “Media is aspirational. The idea being that putting out negative, or stereotypical, content reinforces those qualities in the public mind.”
Knowing that as a celebrity her words can be used against her or taken out of context- she prefaced with a disclaimer:
“I usually shy away from talking about this kind of stuff in public, because, for me, it’s a very ongoing, very evolving, personal, sometimes conflicting and shifting conversation that I have with myself. I don’t know if that rings true for a lot of you guys as well. But I want to preface this talk by saying what I say today may not necessarily be how I felt in the past. It may not be how I feel tomorrow. It’s just how I feel right now. And what I’m saying isn’t trying to represent how you feel or any other Asians feel, it’s just my personal thoughts.”
Natalie Tran, was born in Australia in 1986 to Vietnamese parents, is a YouTube celebrity, comedian and social media star and YouTube celebrity whose videos have been viewed more than a half a billion times- making her the most viewed Australian YouTube user of all time . Her YouTube channel, CommunityChanel is the home to some of her relatable modern life observational posts such as “How to Cross When a Car Stops for You” and “Hiding Food from Yourself”.
Tran’s parents were refugees from Vietnam and immigrated to Australia in 1981. Both of her parents were professionals back in their homeland- her mother a lawyer and her father a literacy lecturer. When they arrived in Australia, as with most immigrants coming to a new country, they had to take lesser jobs- her mother sorted mail at the post office and her dad became a public school teacher.
One of her first experience of her Asianness wasn in 9th grade and was transferred to a new school and signed up a strange class during lunchtime. When she got to the class, they all had to sit down in a big circle and a small ball would get thrown to you and you had to say something about yourself. When the ball got to Natalie, she said I said, ‘My name’s Natalie, I’ve just come from Five Dock.’ The teacher was, like, ‘Whoa, you can speak English!’ They put me in ESL class, I guess because I was Asian. I also got put in the bottom English class and the highest maths class. That’s a weird thing to go through when you change schools, when you’re hormonal and you’re a horrible teenager.”
While she was at University, her boyfriend was away and she had free time on her hands so she started to make Youtube videos. In the early days, only her friends viewed her videos until one day one of her movies was on Youtubes’s homepage and her audience grew and her traffic increased.
Her humor is based on her background and she sometimes hightlights the quirks and nuances of her family but she draws the line at setting them up as caricatures that are the punch lines of the jokes. “When I write content, and when I reference my family, I try never to poke fun of my culture,” Tran said her Brown University talk. “That doesn’t mean that I don’t talk about the funny things that they do or the funny things that they say. But I don’t make fun of their Asianness. Because I don’t find Asianness very funny.”
Tran has been widely recognized and awarded for for her creativity and she’s attracted global media coverage and actively participates in conferences and award shows in her native Australia and around the world.
Tran credits her success to her parents, once writing that they both “endured so much to give my sister and I great lives.”
She runs a small film company, while pursing her passion for writing and working a script for a romantic comedy that she hopes one day will make it to the big screen. She’s also delighted about the numbers of female comediennes that are in the media today, “You see how many cool women that are out there, and for me that’s so refreshing that there’s so many strong female voices — comedic or not comedic.”