ART AS ACTIVISM: SPOTLIGHT on LGBTQ+ Advocate Allison Santos (PART 2)

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PART 2 of my interview with artist and activist Allison Santos. Please check out PART 1 to get the full story!

Have you always leaned towards advocacy & outreach, or was this something you gained interest for over time?

The conscious decision to do all this stuff was through Barangay, but I have always been involved in some form. The webseries was my first instance, on a larger scale, of using art for activism.

Pearl Girls Production, your production company dedicated to developing media surrounding queer Asian-Americans, is shining light on one of the many diversity issues that Hollywood has. What stirred the birth of this passion project?

This started as a joke in the summer of ‘08 between 5 friends. We had just graduated college, and had so many possibilities ahead of us. That What She Said (season 1 available here) was a running joke between us, but we all resonated with the fact that there was a huge lack of representation for people like us; queer Asian-American womyn. That was the big thing that motivated us to do something. It was even a game between us to name women in the media… now name how many of those women are Asian… now name how many of them are queer. Almost nobody. We all had different artistic backgrounds and expertise, so we combined our skills to make it happen. We started with no money, so most of the show was created by people willing to volunteer their time and talent. Utilizing the digital age of new media content creation is so important in elevating minorities and getting our stories out there. If you have a smartphone, you can make a series. That’s where it starts. We STILL get feedback and people reaching out from all over the world commenting on our series, thanking us for putting someone like them on screen. Someone even wrote a whole thesis on us and our series for his college class!

From your perspective, why is it so important for minorities such as Asian-Americans to see themselves represented in mainstream media?

For me, media is a way of validation. When you grow up watching tv and movies, you look for yourself in that. I remember the first time I really identified with a character from a movie, and it was Dante Basco’s character Rufio in Hook. I was in awe that a Filipino-American was in this film. Saving Face and Mulan are the only two other titles that somewhat resonate with me, but even then the women in Saving Face are more feminine and Mulan is a cartoon. Also, all these characters are Chinese. Where are the Filipino American, queer, masculine women in media?

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You’re a self-proclaimed “media maker, artist, techie and creative”. Where can people find out more about you & your upcoming projects?

Art as advocacy will always be a part of me, it always has been. I don’t see myself as having to choose one or the other, they are connected. Coming up, I am starting a photography business called 2100 Photography with some friends that caters to LGBTQ+ people, but it is open to all. My website is allisantos.com and all my major projects can be found there. Also, I’m working on my future talk show/podcast. Don’t know what it’s going to be called yet or what it will look like, but I’m basically aspiring to be gay Oprah.

Calling all artist-advocates! Passionate about making a difference through creativity? Contact me here for possible interview & collaboration opportunities.

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Kaytra Parkman

About Kaytra Parkman

Actress. “An old cosmic soul disguised as a 21st-century earthling”. Kaytra has no recollection of “catching” any acting bug... it was always there. At the ripe age of 3, she pointed to the television enthusiastically and declared, “I want to be IN THAT!”. After her parents jokingly reminded her she would have to be really small to fit in there, Kaytra skipped and tripped her way through adolescence until she landed a coveted spot at the Orange County High School of the Arts (OCSA). There she spent 4 years studying everything from stage combat to documentary filmmaking amongst a wide variety of young artists. A professional nerd on the side, she also freelances as a social media manager/video editor/techie, and spends her free time Netflixing and obsessing about space. Kaytra hopes to combine her love of acting, filmmaking and activism to evoke positive change both individually and globally.