Now that we’re drawing near the end of Asian Pacific American Heritage Month, I’d like to shout out and dedicate this piece to some of the most badass Asians and Pacific Islanders! These influential people have left lasting footprints on the course of history, leaving behind important legacies and inspirational stories, and shifting the perspective and representation of Asian and Pacific people. I’m here to talk about six of the most prominent Asian Pacific Americans who, with their strengths and talents and perseverance, have made a course-changing impact.
1. Tiger Woods
A mixed-race professional golf player, Woods is described as a “Cablinasian” (being a quarter-Chinese, quarter-Thai, and half-African American) who has held the titles of PGA Player ten times over the course of twelve years! Despite the media scrutiny and controversy involving his personal life, he became the youngest man and the first person of African-American descent to win the U.S. Master as well as having been one of the highest paid athletes.
2. Linda Sarsour
Perhaps one of the most fearless civil rights activists, Linda Sarsour is the Palestinian Muslim American who is “every Islamophobe’s worst nightmare.” A mother of three and the former executive director of the Arab American Association, she is the most outspoken, independent, and badass woman on this list.
3. Bruce Lee
Lee was one of the most important figures in the Hollywood industry, as he contributed to reshaping Asian representation in media during the sixties and seventies. An actor and pro martial artist, Lee has starred in iconic films like Enter the Dragon and Fists of Fury.
4. Lata Krishnan
Lata Krishnan is an Indian-American tech entrepreneur and the cofounder of Smart Modular, a company that sold for approximately $2 billion. Krishnan is also well-known as the highest paid female executive in Silicon Valley. She’s the cofounder and co-chair of the American Indian Foundation as well as a board member of the London School of Economics. She’s one fierce businesswoman.
5. Lou Diamond Phillips
Phillips is a Golden Globe-nominated actor famous for his role as Ritchie Valen in La Bamba. A Filipino-American actor blessed with a talent, he’s also won an Independent Spirit Award for his supporting role in Stand and Deliver. As an advocate for the Native American community and an activist who publicly showed his support for the Filipino Equity Act, Phillips continues to inspire and motivate.
6. Mirai Nagasu
Another strong woman on the list, Nagasu was the first Asian-American figure skater to land a triple axel in the Olympics, the second American in international competition after Tonya Harding, and, worldwide, the third. A bold and intrepid figure skater, she has progressively broken records, being the youngest since Tara Lipinski to win the U.S. senior ladies’ title and the first lady since Joan Tozzer to consecutively win the junior and senior titles.
Notable Mentions (Non-American)
+ Phoolan Devi
I think she has the most interesting and badass stories. Known as the “Bandit Queen,” Devi was an Indian bandit and gang member. She was a sexual assault survivor (having endured multiple gang rapes, sexual abuse, and domestic violence from her husband who was three times her age), a revengeful fighter who killed her rapists, and a low-class woman known as the “oppressed feminist Robin Hood.” Later in life, she became a Member of Parliament. Full of attitude and resilience, Phoolan Devi was a powerful woman who deserved a place on this list.
+ Corazon Aquino
After the exile of former President and dictator Marcos and the assassination of her then-husband Benigno, Maria Corazon Aquino assumed office and became President of the Philippines. Being the first female President in Asia, she was widely credited for the restoration of democracy after the country endured two decades of authoritarian rule. Originally a housewife, Corazon serves as a symbol of freedom, inspiration, and courage—having experienced seven attempted coups.
Do you agree with our list? Who are your Asian and Pacific American role models?