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Meet the First Lifestyle and Wellness Media Brand for Asian Americans

Meet the First Lifestyle and Wellness Media Brand for Asian Americans

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Tiffany Yu is a college student at UC Berkeley by day and a social entrepreneur by night! She is the CEO of Modem, a new digital media lifestyle brand for Gen Z and Millenial Asian Americans. Below, Yu shares what inspired her to launch this inspiring new company, her thoughts on Asian representation in media, and more!

Tell us about yourself and Modem! What inspired you to create this digital media company?

For as long as I could remember, I’ve been fascinated with the intersections of health, technology, media, and culture. 

In March 2020, in response to the spike in anti-Asian hate crimes due to racism associated with the coronavirus pandemic, I co-founded and led Watercress, Medium’s first digital publication dedicated to highlighting the Asian American experience. 

I oversaw over 50 written pieces that were featured in Medium Politics, Culture, and Film. I also co-created and co-hosted Spilling the Cha, a podcast focused on dissecting the intricacies of Asian American intersectionality. 

From March 2020 to currently, I discovered from conversations with many Asian Americans that wellness and mental health in the Asian American community was highly unaddressed. 

Even before the pandemic, mental health was a crisis among many Asian American students, with many lacking the resources and support to mental health services. 

For example, Asian American college students are significantly more likely than white students to report symptoms of depression, anxiety, and suicidal thoughts but are three times less likely to seek professional mental health support compared to their white counterparts. 

Asian American students face many barriers to treatment, including cultural stigma, family pressure, and lack of culturally competent professional support. The anti-Asian sentiments, discrimination, and hate crimes that were instigated from the pandemic only exacerbated this mental health crisis for Asian Americans.

Those experiences, alongside my background in health and tech, inspired me to found Modem, the first lifestyle and wellness media company for Asian Americans. 

I chose a digital media agency because I want to normalize mental health and wellness conversations within the Asian community, as well as facilitate a creative outlet for Asian American expression and recognition. 

We live in a digital, content-driven world, and I want to ensure that the platform we cultivate is best catered towards Gen Z and Millennial Asian Americans.

What were the first few steps you took to create Modem?

The first few steps I took to create Modem were to conduct more research on the landscape of Asian American mental health. In addition to looking at recent statistics and reports, I scheduled interviews with leaders in the Asian American mental health and wellness community. 

This included professors, physicians, psychologists, and nonprofit leaders. It was important for me to speak with people in the space in order for me to better identify the needs of the community, as well as potential topics for our newsletter. 

While I was doing that, I also worked to organize the leadership team, which consisted of me reaching out to people I already knew or people that I thought would be a great fit for helping lead the company. 

Once the leadership team was finalized, I spent time creating a timeline for me so I could determine what I wanted to accomplish in the next two months, five months, and so on. Having specific, measurable goals is important when you’re building a business!

We live in a digital, content-driven world, and I want to ensure that the platform we cultivate is best catered towards Gen Z and Millennial Asian Americans.

Tell us about Modem’s team! 

When I was building the Modem team, I wanted to ensure that the diversity of our leadership team reflected the diversity of our community. One of the biggest challenges in creating products or services for Asian Americans is the cultural and ethnic diversity of the Asian American community. 

We are not a monolithic culture; the continent of Asia is so vast, and East Asians, South Asians, and Central Asians have different traditions, practices, food, and culture. 

I recognize that the term Asian American is a socially constructed category created by a bunch of old white guys back in the 1950s in order to establish a racial classification system for the census. 

However, even though Asian Americans are one of the most diverse groups, experiences of growing up Asian in America are often universally shared, and there is a camaraderie among Asian Americans when they share those experiences. 

Being mindful of this cultural common ground and ethnic diversity, I wanted Modem to be an inclusive platform where regardless of who you are, the content we create is engaging and relatable. 

That’s why, it was an early decision for me to make sure that I included leaders from different backgrounds, identities, and skills to be on the leadership team making decisions together that would shape the future of Modem.

What are your thoughts on the current state of Asian American representation in digital media, and what can be improved?

I think Asian American representation in media has been improving recently, with more diverse stories being presented on the big screen. 

Though there have been improvements in portrayals of Asian Americans in American film and media, there’s still a significant shortage of Asian Americans who are behind the camera — people who write the stories and control the narrative. 

That’s why a lot of Asian Americans feel like they are mostly seen through social media and digital media; Subtle Asian Traits, for example, is a widely popular Facebook group that contains digital content created by and for Asians. 

One of my sources of inspiration was Subtle Asian Traits because it demonstrated the potential of online content and how far-reaching it can be. 

However, because of criticism Subtle Asian Traits receives in being non-inclusive and reinforcing of mental health stereotypes, I sought to create digital content that avoided these pitfalls and contributed towards my mission of creating a healthier, more equitable world.

What do you hope readers take away from Modem’s content? How do you want them to feel?

I want readers of Modem to feel validated, supported, and seen. I want them to feel, wherever they are in life, that they belong, they matter, and they are part of a greater community.

Are there any topics/areas you’re eager for Modem to explore in the future?

Topics on our Modem Weekly newsletter that I’m particularly interested in exploring are body image, colorism, and navigating intergenerational conversations. These are all topics that hit close to home for many people, but especially for young Asian Americans. 

What’s next for Modem? Do you have anything coming up that you would like readers to know about? 

In addition to our Modem Weekly newsletter and our online content, we will also be working on supporting small businesses and restaurants by connecting them with social media influencers and providing pro-bono digital marketing. 

We’ll also be organizing Asian American monthly drop-in wellness counseling in the future, which I’m incredibly excited for! 

Where can people find Modem?

Check us out at modemweekly.co and donate to support our cause! Follow us on Instagram at @modemweekly! And be sure to subscribe to our newsletter!

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