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Asian Boston-based influencers looking to change traditions

Asian influencers based in Boston are changing the game against stereotypes
Asian influencers based in Boston are changing the game against stereotypes 02:16

BRIGHTON - Several Asian content creators are changing in the game in Boston, gaining followers and influence, while changing the perception of success within the Asian community.

With more than 55,000 followers on Instagram, Armani Thao, or @forkingwitharmani, didn't set out to be a food blogger.

"It was an accident, essentially," said Thao.

It was through his love of food and photography that Thao got his start eight years ago, back when many influencers didn't look like him.

WBZ-TV joined the Cambodian content creator at Birds of Paradise Bar in Brighton, mixing cocktails and sharing food.

"So when I first started, I think representation was lacking here in Boston but today I would say there's predominantly more Asian influencers than anything," Thao explained.

Breaking Asian stereotypes

Local content creators breaking the Asian stereotype that all Asian people are academically and financially high achieving, more timid and well-to-do.

"People come up and say, 'I didn't know an Asian guy could be tall, or have long hair or have tattoos,'" Christian Doan told WBZ-TV.

Known as @chopstickmurphys, Doan embraces his Asian-ness on his Instagram page that has 60,000 followers and counting.

"I hope that we're putting that level of influence," Thao said of his rising popularity.

Doan revealed that Thao was his inspiration for his own social media journey.

"You did for me, honestly. Because he's been in the game for a longer time."

When the hobby turned into a career, it was a tough conversation for Armani to have with his Cambodian immigrant parents.

"As much explaining as I did, they were never going to understand it because they don't use the Internet."

"Food and family are such big things"

"For Asians, it's like food and family are such big things," Doan said. "I think that's why partially why every Asian wants to whip out their phone at a restaurant."

It's mainly why Birds of Paradise Bar owner Ran Duan took over his family's Chinese restaurant business. When the recession hit and jobs were hard to come by, Duan's father asked him to bartend at their Brookline restaurant, Sichaun Garden. That's where Duan's love of cocktails blossomed. He's competed nationally as a bartender, bringing his family's restaurant to the global stage.

He recalled his youth spend at the restaurant.

"I was doing homework at the restaurant, I was there after school, I was helping them with takeout. It was kind of like free child labor," Duan joked.

Duan has reinvented Sichuan Garden, adding Blossom Bar to the mix.

"Why is that so important to you," Chan asked.

"I think it's important because if you want to survive the times – you have to adapt," Duan replied.

He's creating tasty, Instagram-worthy cocktails and dishes – a shift from his parent's mom and pop Brookline eatery.

It's a welcomed change for younger influencers like @chopstickmurphys.

"We're affected and influenced by growing up in the West and so a lot of this food reflects that upbringing here," Doan said. "What Ran's doing, it's like what we would want to do if we were to open a restaurant."

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