One notable Asian Australian on YouTube is Sydneysider Natalie Tran.
With over 400 million channel views, Tran’s communitychannel is the most subscribed YouTube channel in Australia. She uploads videos in the form of short skits pointing out the intriguing banalities of everyday life, scripting each one and playing all the characters herself. Reality TV drama, racism Down Under and the frustrations of finding dropped food on the floor are just a few of the topics Tran has addressed.
Just why are so many (young) Asian Australians drawn to Tran, whose parents were Vietnamese refugees? Why are so many non-Asians, Caucasians drawn to her and her rather humorous videos as well?
Tran’s tendency to subliminally break down typical Asian stereotypes – in a way embodying the average Asian Australian – in her videos is arguably what makes her so attractive to Asian Australians. Attractive in the personality sense, that is.
Through her skits, Tran indirectly sends out the message that it is extremely normal for Asian Australians to eat Aussie (Western) food, shedding the common conception that Asians consume rice and noodles day and night. In Re The Australians Are Fooling Us, Tran professes her undying love for Vegemite. In Couldn’t Fit Another Bite, she gobbles down mouthfuls of lamingtons like it is the end of the world.
From such videos, Tran conveys the notion that “if one is Asian, it does not mean they cannot like Western food”. Many Asians in Australia do consume Aussie foods such as Tim Tams, their palate for this fare most likely developed at a young age while sharing lunch with Australian friends at school. But this is not exactly a common sight; it would be heartening to see all races enjoying Australian food. How can Asian Aussies not warm towards fellow Asian Aussie Tran who stuffs her face with local foods non-discretely, proudly?
Confidence exudes from Tran as she speaks directly to the camera in her videos, stripping the stereotype that all Asians are passive. She even throws in vulgar language to emphasise her points. Racism against Asians is common Down Under, possibly encouraging Asian Australians to keep quiet. Through her opinionated videos where in one she claims to be a proud to be Australian, Tran asserts her right to speak as an Australian citizen of Asian ethnicity. It is only natural for Asian-Australians to pay attention to her – here is someone of the same ethnicity as them standing up for what she believes in, what they believe in; it is time Asians spoke up.
There is evidently an overarching theme of “no shame” in Tran’s videos and she comes across as an adventurous Asian Australian on YouTube, shedding the closed, conservative mind-set stereotype that Asians are thought to possess. In Just Keep It, Tran bids viewers farewell by pointing to her face, jokingly saying, “This probably ruined it anyway”. Then there are numerous times where Tran unglamorously dresses up and acts like a kid or gets naked (censored, of course) in her videos.
In a modern, multicultural Australia where there are countless opportunities for one to develop their talents, Asians are increasingly or at the very least tempted to do what Asians are not traditionally known to be good at. Today, many of them boldly pursue creative passions and proudly study the Arts as opposed to carving out a prided career in law or medicine. And so it is fair to say that they are able to relate to Tran’s open-mindedness and fearless ability to try new things and put herself in the shoes of the weirdest characters.
At times, there are glimpses of Tran conforming to the Asian stereotype. Tran features her mum every now and then in her videos and from this it is clear Tran values filial piety and is a filial Asian daughter herself. It is possible Asian-Australians relate to her because of this – there is still a strong yearning to show utmost respect to elders in Asian cultures today.
Tran’s appeal to the Caucasian Australian audience can be put down to a few reasons. For one, she speaks impeccable English and is able to articulately convey her opinions to a predominantly Anglo-Saxon, English-speaking population, encouraging them to listen to her.
Also, Tran does not let her ethnicity get in the way of what she tries to say in her videos and does not draw too much attention to it. That is, apart from a few occasions, she rarely refers to herself as Asian in her videos (although she is proud of being Vietnamese). She – perhaps unconsciously – comes across as just another ordinary person living in Australia.
This puts the focus on the range of everyday topics she addresses in her videos, puts the focus on the everyday events so familiar to each person watching, in a sense putting the focus on their lives and enticing them to watch.
In recent times, Tran has been sporadically putting together videos, sometimes even taking months in between uploading a new one. However, her videos reap hundreds of thousands of views within a matter of days of being upped onto YouTube.
It will definitely be interesting to see if Australians will continue to watch this outgoing, strong-headed Asian Australian’s videos in the years to come.
Given that Tran has an extremely likeable down-to-earth, fair-go persona, why would they not?