Jessica Nguyen + Project Voice
Many know Jessica as the founder and host of Project Voice, a Podcast series aimed at empowering Asian and Asian American women through dialogues of social justice and identity politics. However, if you ask her, she'd identify herself first and foremost as a lifelong digital content creator who works with all mediums, constantly thinking about what the next project will be.
Why do you do what you do?
To help guide others through their journey of self-identity by empowering them with the tools and knowledge that I had the privilege of obtaining from my private liberal arts college education and connections. I am well aware that vocabulary is not what everybody has access to so creating Project Voice was my way of disruptively leveling the playing field for many of the people I care about in this so-called game of life.
And of course, to connect with others who have their own stories to share. I could sit and have an introspective conversation over tea with somebody for hours on how we perceive ourselves and how others perceive us as Asian women. Project Voice acts as the bridge between our community and the rest of the world.
What is the best compliment you've ever received?
“Thank you." I think hearing these two words is enough to make my day, even though they’re not exactly a compliment, ha-ha. I’ve witnessed very emotional moments during my pre-interview and interview sessions, when some of us were on the verge of tears as we were speaking to each other. It was the act of letting out everything that we felt too afraid to share when we felt like we weren't in a space safe enough to do so, that made me feel that every ounce of energy I’ve put into this project was worthwhile. To be thanked for allowing others to just be and feel makes me feel like I’m fulfilling what I’ve fought for for so long.
Where do you thrive?
I thrive when I’m on the go; that’s why I love to travel. There are so many places to see and people to meet. I can’t stand to stay in one place for so long - it’s all about moving forward for me!
What's one bad habit you can't seem to shake?
Definitely staying up late. Sometimes, I’m not even staying up late for work. Sometimes, I just want to Tumble my feelings (the verb for being active on Tumblr).
What is the best idea you've heard recently?
I’ve been following this amazing Youtuber, Lavendaire for a couple weeks now. I was never someone who gave herself enough time for self-care, so to finally stumble upon an Asian female YouTuber who produced content that was mainly focused on self-care and personal and professional development (and that maybe I could see myself producing one day, too...) was very refreshing.
What's the biggest lesson you learned this past year?
Believe it or not, a good number of people - including some of my friends - have described me as a radical because of how I present myself. I guess, some would say I was surrounded by a group of radicals during my college years. I’d argue otherwise.
I once called out on someone for his toxic male behavior and told him to never speak to me again. I did it without a second of hesitation. My mind was set; I didn’t want to surround myself with anyone whose behavior was contributing to this culture of toxic masculinity, even if that person wasn’t aware of how much emotional harm his actions and words were creating on others. My friend was there to witness the moment so soon after, he had to check me by asking, “Jessica, how do you expect to dismantle a system that’s been existing for thousands of years?” And his question got to me, making me realize that I need to check my privilege every now and then as well.
The biggest lesson that I learned this past year was that I needed to make myself more palatable for the mass audience, people who didn’t have the same opportunity to receive the type of education as I did. I recently finished reading a book, “Originals: How Non-Conformists Move the World” and in a chapter titled Moderated Radicalism, I read about real life examples of people who wanted to change the world but because their ideas were considered “radical” in the public eye, they had to find their own means to make themselves more digestible so that others can truly understand where they’re coming from. I believe that most of us want most of the same things in life; the question is: how do we use language to convey this universality of beliefs?