Over the past two years, the rise in anti-Asian hate and xenophobia, combined with a global pandemic have made normal, everyday life difficult for the AAPI community. By sharing stories and insights from those in the Chinese American community, Committee of 100 hopes to shed more light on the issue but also help celebrate the amazing accomplishments from within the Chinese American community to the world at large.
The staff of Committee of 100 sat down with some of our Next Generation Leaders and asked them about their careers, what the past year has been like as a Chinese American and their hopes for the future. Committee of 100’s Next Generation Leaders program focuses on young leaders who are passionate about the organization’s mission to promote the full inclusion of Chinese Americans across society and advance the betterment of U.S.-China relations. The program was first established in 2014.
This month, we spoke with Alexa Khan, Creative Director, Producer and a Co-founder of a film production company Three Flames Pictures and its sister company commercial and content creation 3 Sparks Digital. Three Flames Pictures is a film production company that produces both U.S. and international films. The films have received awards and been officially selected at internationally renowned film festivals such as Cannes Film Festival, South by Southwest, and an official selection to the Oscars. 3 Sparks Digital has helped many small businesses and has been heavily involved in AAPI community outreach projects and helped raise funds to help AAPI hate victims, AAPI students in need, and senior citizens.
Alexa majored in finance, real estate and law before working at UBS Financial Services and then moving on to Merrill Lynch, where she spent 7 years in wealth management. It was there that Alexa decided to pursue her dream of working in the film industry and earned a real estate brokerage license to help family and friends while setting up Three Flame Pictures.
You can connect with Alexa on LinkedIn here.
Committee of 100: As a Chinese American, what are some of the challenges you have encountered to become a leader in your respective field?
Alexa: Before I started my production company, I studied acting for three years while I was in finance. When I switched to the film industry in 2016 it was difficult for me to be cast, especially as an Asian American. Many of the roles out there were mostly for racially ambiguous actors. Deciding to create my project was the start of creating our production company. I partnered with a film producer, Trevor Doyle, who happened to be of Caucasian descent. During our first time around raising funds for our films, it was very difficult since the responses were that a film with an Asian lead will never be in mainstream Hollywood. Additionally, I have received more pushback from even AAPI investors and Chinese investors that films with too many Asians will not do well. It felt like we AAPI members ourselves put limits on ourselves as if we were not enough.
Committee of 100: There are more than 6 million Chinese Americans in the United States today and it is one of the fastest-growing populations in the U.S. Do you feel that Chinese Americans are well represented in government, business, and other parts of society?
Alexa: I feel that Chinese American and AAPI community members are not represented proportionally given the percentage of our contribution to the labor force. As our 2022 fella Next Gen leaders service project 20 Million Project and US Bureau of Labor statistics showed AAPI make up over 60% of the labor force yet only around 8 % represents the C-Suite in the U.S. With these statistics no wonder why our community members are not heard enough and not seen enough in the US. I have noticed the lack of representation in both the Financial and Entertainment industry. Only recently I have seen an awareness of the disproportionate representation and have yet to see a drastic change despite the wins and recognition we are finally getting.
Committee of 100: What do you believe needs to be done so that more Chinese Americans feel empowered to follow their dreams and push forward to create the programs/businesses/position they want?
Alexa: We as AAPI and Chinese Americans must come together and help the ones ahead of us and pay it forward to the ones needing help. I feel that one of the reasons it took us so long to be recognized is that although we have over 20 million members in our community it is divided into many different groups. We as Asians tend to be running in parallel or sometimes even against each other because of the origin of our countries. Whereas other minority groups like Latinos and African American communities band together to create one strong and loud voice that is very difficult to avoid, therefore it has been stronger. I believe the more we come together and encourage each other to push each other forward and help each other voice out will aid us in reaching our goal. So I would encourage our Next Gen Leaders to be the voices of the voiceless as we are privileged to be in this group of leaders in their perspective industries and fields.
We represent a small number of our community although we came from different industries we are nevertheless people who are in a better position than a huge percentage of our community. Our Next Gen leaders are in a closer position to make an impact than let’s say someone who is living in a lower-income community in desperate need of help due to discrimination and surging hate against them. Therefore, I would encourage each leader to make choices at work by working on projects that have a positive impact on our Chinese American and AAPI community vs other projects given the opportunity presented. If there are no opportunities please get involved and perhaps create a project that will make that change.
Committee of 100: What moment or learning experience inspired you to work in your professional field?
Alexa: As I was studying Economics in college, I was watching a documentary about the Great Depression in the US. In the video it showed people living in extreme poverty and lining up for food and while they were waiting they were distracted by a violinist playing. As quick as the clip of the violinist was, it still is ingrained in my memory so vividly. What I found so profound from the video was that no matter what happens people always like to escape and enjoy entertainment and that it has the power to bring joy even amid the hardest times. I believe that entertainment is one of the best ways to spread a message and a powerful tool to impact and make changes. It also unites people in a way that no other methods can. I made the switch from finance to the film industry because it felt like I can make more of a difference in the film industry vs being in wealth management one client at a time.
Committee of 100: For those Chinese Americans and AAPIs who just recently graduated college, what advice would you give to them?
Alexa: Your voice is important, it’s ok to speak up and speak your mind. It does matter. You can speak up through everything you do from the way you treat others to getting involved in a local networking mixer or being a part of nonprofit organizations, etc. Also become a part of a community, as a young adult you can make your own choices of what community you want to be a part of because having the community around you, will empower you to grow faster and it also makes it more fun.
Committee of 100: What do you most want to be remembered for in terms of making your mark on this world?
Alexa: The positive impact and changes that I made in people’s lives. Leaving whatever I was involved in a better condition than before.