Cue the Fireworks! Expanding Asian Representation Through Celebration

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The year is 2023. Everything, Everywhere, All at Once solidified its place in the cultural zeitgeist by its clean‑sweep at the Oscars, making it a record‑breaking1 year for Asian‑American representation. When it comes to marketing imagery, all major racial/ethnic groups that are not white have seen double‑digit growth in representation since last year…

Yet, Getty Images' VisualGPS research reveals that 1 in 3 people still believe there is not enough representation of Asian‑American and Pacific Islander groups.

Authentic representation of different groups are key in connecting with consumers, and this segment is no exception. Research included in Getty Images x AdmerAsia’s AAPI toolkit found that 56% of Asians say that their race/ethnicity is central to their overall identity but acknowledgements to these cultural gradations is nonexistent in popular downloaded imagery. In fact, less than 1% of popular downloads by Getty Images’ customers reflect culturally specific aspects of AAPI life. Different nuances of representation are food for thought as we gear up for Asian‑American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month in the US.

Opportunities for better representation of AAPI celebrations

As it stands, there is little to no representation of real people engaging in common and significant AAPI celebrations. Most popular images downloaded in relation to AAPI or US holidays consist of illustrations, leaving marketers with the perfect opportunity to incorporate authentic representation of consumers into their visual choices.

Pretty young mom decorating christmas tree with her lovely little daughter joyfully.
675923059, Images By Tang Ming Tung
friends celebrate the new year toasting
1071720138, franckreporter
A young girl and her mother enjoy lighting earthen lamps on the occasion of Diwali, the Hindu festival of lights.
525971251, India Photography

Christmas

Surprised? Don’t be ‑ Christmas is unsurprisingly the most popular holiday seen in popular imagery and its celebrations aren’t limited to the western world. In fact, most Asian‑Americans of faith2 practice some form of Christianity and often engage in celebrations such as Christmas or Easter ‑ both culturally and religiously. Despite its overwhelming popularity over other holidays and celebrations in top downloaded imagery, Asian‑American representation in Christmas celebrations is limited to 3%. Given the broad scope of Christmas, contemplate who is seen engaging in gift giving or tree decorating this year and consider the diversity in who celebrates this holiday.

Lunar New Year

Recently made a public state holiday in California3 and celebrated by Asian‑Americans from many different countries, there is little to no representation of people celebrating one of the most important holidays for the Asian diaspora. When recognizing Lunar New Year, think about including images of families and friends celebrating together while acknowledging important cultural aspects, such as food or the red attire that people wear to celebrate the holiday. Red, by the way, symbolizes luck4 and is meant to help bring in prosperity in the coming year. 

Diwali

Like Lunar New Year, Diwali has recently become a public holiday for county schools in states such as New York and Virginia5 – but there is no representation of the holiday featuring real people in popular downloaded images. Both a religious and secular celebration, aspects of Diwali such as rangolis and candle lanterns are beautiful visual cues, but it’s also important to highlight the real people who celebrate this festival in order to better connect with consumers.

Ramadan

Ramadan is the most sacred time for those of the Muslim faith and is something to be considered here in the western world. There are almost 4 million Muslims living in the United States, and Islam is now the world’s fastest growing6 religion. Like other Asian celebrations, there is no representation of real people engaging in this celebration in popular downloaded images. Aside from wishing Muslim consumers 'Eid Mubarak' in this revered time, add a more personal aspect to your Ramadan imagery by featuring celebration through gathering with family and friends, or Asian‑American Muslims breaking fast at sundown.

Holi

Holi is the most represented Asian‑American celebration seen in our most popular downloaded imagery ‑ though with some caveats. All people‑focused visuals associated with the holiday are focused on Rangwali Holi (lively celebrations utilizing colored powders), but the representation is not authentic. Originally celebrated by Hindu‑dominant regions of southeast Asia, most downloads of this celebration feature white people engaging in Rangwali Holi ‑ and no Asian representation. Push for more authentic representation of the people who celebrate Holi outside of imagery that may appropriate7 some of its cultural artifacts.

Gabrielle Pedro Fredrick
Researcher, Creative Insights
Coming to Getty Images after over a decade in television and media, Gabrielle revels in using research and industry news to detect and isolate emerging visual trends. As part of the Creative Insights team, she identifies topics and opportunities for improved visual representation through the company’s VisualGPS research platform. Having studied for a Master of Arts in Mythological Studies at Pacifica Graduate Institute, she hopes to eventually get her PhD, studying the evolving influence and intersections of mythology and folklore in pop culture.

WORKS CITED

1) NPR
2) Pew Research Center
3) The New York Times
4) The Conversation
5) The Washington Post
6) US Embassy & Consulates
7) Yes Magazine

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