During the month of May, we recognize Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage Month as we focus on the contributions, achievements, and influence of the API community across the globe.
Home to over 200+ million people, Brazilians have roots that span across the globe. Interestingly, the API community is one of the most significant ones with almost 3 million Asian-Brazilians making up this melting pot. Additionally, there is an estimated Korean-Brazilian population of 50,000 and Chinese-Brazilian population around 250,000.
Despite Brazil’s impressive ethnic diversity, Asian-Brazilians have faced discrimination within their own country. Sadly, and inexcusably, anti-Asian rhetoric has increased since the pandemic — as it has in many parts of the world. However, this has also inspired a wave of activism among younger Brazilians of Asian descent.
Below, we shine a light on a few notable names you should know more about this AAPI Heritage Month — and beyond.
Sabrina Sato, @sabrinasato
The Former Big Brother Brasil 3 contestant and current TV presenter was born in São Paulo to a Japanese mother and Lebanese-Swiss father. Sato’s sense of humor landed her a spot within the popular comedy group-turned-show, Pânico. In addition to gracing the cover of Vogue Brasil, Sato has a large social media presence including 31M Instagram followers and 1.2M subscribers on YouTube.
Leo Hwan, @yoobanboo
Coined as one of several rising Brazilian “artivists,” Hwan is a co-founder of YouTube channel, Yo Ban Boo which highlights the challenges of Asian-Brazilian identity. It covers humorous and feel-good stories centered around Brazilians of Japanese, Chinese, Korean, Taiwanese, and Okinawa descent — think short sketches, vlogs, video essays and more.
Jun Matsui, @junmatsui
Best known for his master tattoo work without the use of paper or stencils, Matsui is a freehand needlework artist has captured the attention of brands like Shiseido, Honda, Vogue Japan, Dita Eyewear and Rolling Stone Magazine. He cites his greatest influences as Irezumi (traditional Japanese tattooing) and the Maori tribal graphics of Aotearoa (better known as New Zealand). In 2015, he became the subject of a documentary that spotlights his eye-catching work which plays with rich dimensions, shadows, and light.
Ana Hikari, @_anahikari
As one of the first actresses of Asian descent to have a leading role on a Brazilian soap opera, Hikari. is best known for her reoccurring role as “Tina” on the longstanding show Malhação: Viva a Diferença. She has leveraged her popularity to speak out against hate crimes and prejudices within both the Asian and LBGTQ+ communities, in addition to starring in more recent shows: We Are Five, They and Young Hearts.
Lais Miwa Higa, @miwazita
The former Miss Okinawa, Japanese-Brazilian activist and doctoral researcher at University of Sao Paulo, Lais Miwa Higa is a proud member of Plataforma Lótus. Created in 2016, the feminist collective hosts discussions, fairs and creates educational material for those of >Japanese, Chinese, Korean and Okinawan descent.
Fernanda Takai, @fernandatakai
Lead vocalist and guitarist of experimental rock band, Pato Fu, Fernanda Barbosa Takai is described as a “singular voice" for our time. The Grammy Latino award-winner has done projects with artists like Gilberto Gil, Duran Duran and collaborated with brand like Disney.
Tomie Ohtake, @institutotomieohtake
Born in Kyoto, Japan, the lauded visual artist landed in Brazil after the Pacific War started in 1936. Her work has been featured in over 20 international Biennales (six in São Paulo) and more than 120 solo exhibitions over the course of her lifetime. If travelling to Brazil, make sure to check out the Instituto Tomie Ohtake featuring her iconic works.
For more resources on how to support the Asian community, read this piece on how we can all #stopasianhate. As always, continue to love one another, protect another, and speak up.