This "RepresentASIAN" article is about Daisy Zhou, a Chinese-American woman who is defying all of the stereotypes and making a name of her own in a tough industry where Asians are most underrepresented. Born in Shanghai, Zhou moved to the United States at the age of five and spent a majority of her childhood and education in America. Originally hoping to major in English or History in college, she fell in love with cinematography and chose to stray from her plan, taking a risk and applying to New York University's Tisch School of the Arts. She graduated with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Film and TV.
For a while, it seemed as if things were moving slowly in comparison to her brother, who had majored in computer science and quickly secured a job. It was unclear where her chosen career would lead her as she remained true to her passion and worked tirelessly to direct various originals. It was Zhou's speculative screenplay piece on dancer Omari Mizrahi, however, that eventually caught the eye of Nike, which offered her a shot at large exposure and sent her uncertain career off to a running start. She was asked to write, direct, and shoot a commercial for their “Be True” campaign that would launch in June 2017 for LGBTQ Pride month and worked with transgender dancer Leimoy Maldonado to create the following masterpiece in just a week.
Zhou's work speaks for herself. Her stunning cinematography was a major hit and has received outpouring support, as well as over 73,000 views on YouTube and 33,000 views on Instagram as of August 2017.
This is probably... the most amazingly illustrated, beautifully edited & narrated, and most inspiring advertisement... that has ever been put together!
Zhou's commercial has appeared on 34th Street & 7th Avenue, a major crosstown street near Times Square. It was described by Adweek as "striking" and "poetic," and it was also ranked as the #1 commercial Worldwide. Her transition from a hopeful, unknown filmmaker to a collaborator with one of the world's biggest brands truly embodies the spirit of the American dream.
I was able to interview Daisy about her triumphs and the road it took her to get there. Her edgy, approachable, and genuine personality shines through in her answers:
1. When or how did you discover your passion for filmmaking?
Filmmaking was something I discovered in high school−I flirted with the idea of maybe one day making films but never actually dared to pursue. It wasn't until college that I−at the very last minute that I dared to go for it−applied to Tisch's film program. I think I fell in love with it when I realized I felt truly myself doing this. Whatever shitty job I was doing at first−it still felt right, it still felt like something I SHOULD do. From that moment on I've kept on this path and will stay.
2. Has being a minority helped or hindered your path to success in any way?
I'm pretty young, so it's hard to tell what exactly it is that's preventing me from moving as quickly as I should. And truthfully, I'm happy to be where I am. I think as a POC and woman, it's difficult to be in a position where you're always "different" or the outlier. There are many projects that probably don't want “different.” Part of this process is to be okay with that. The answer maybe isn't with them but with what YOU can bring to the table. I give myself responsibility to do that.
3. What is your message to young Asian-Americans who feel obliged to meet stereotypes or are discouraged due to lack of representation in certain areas? (For example, there are few Asians in the film industry).
I’d say−It's almost a law that doing anything well is difficult if you don't believe or want to do it. If you feel it in your bones that making films or art or joining the circus is right for you, then you will find a way. Emotions are a powerful driving force. Loving what you do will protect you from giving up, will push you to excel, and fulfill you. My parents are so proud of me for what I do because I found my success all on my own. But this pride took time, as did my work.
It's never easy to get to the top, but Zhou's consistent efforts have shown that having big dreams as well as the drive to pursue them will always be rewarding in one way or another. This is only the beginning for her unique career, and I'm sure "Daisy Zhou" will be a name we will be hearing again and again in the near future.
Author: Claire Cao
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