The Fight for a Stateless Child’s Rights in the U.S. is Greater Than You Can Imagine

by Medhavi Modi

“I never made a child custody claim for Medhavi.”

These are the words that made me a stateless child refugee and denied me of my rights and freedom. Since I was born via IVF/Surrogacy in India, I was made stateless before being born because the intended parent in the U.S. decided not to claim custody AND did not come to India to help with legalization when I came into this world.

“Showing up” is the first step to good parenting. This absence started a domino effect of legal limbo for me, which ultimately led to a loss of my freedom because of childhood statelessness. One of my parents has been able to save me, but after standing up against some of the most powerful institutions in the world, we have unearthed massive inequities. Despite laws like the Girls Count Act, the UNHCR “I, Belong” campaign for innocent stateless children, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the “Save the Girl Child” or Trade and Tariff Act of 1930 (which protects “goods” made outside the U.S. from child or forced labor but will NOT protect “children” like me—who were made outside the U.S. with consent of Americans who do not claim custody). Therefore, innocent children like me, born “differently” via IVF/surrogacy are still made stateless. 

When will help arrive for less understood children like us? Do children like me count? Do we deserve basic human dignity and respect, if not equality? Say NO to exploiting innocent children and women, support us.

[Read Related: One South Asian Man Fights for his IVF/Surrogate Daughter’s Basic Human Rights]

One lie on a birth record can change a child’s life forever. It IS the difference between being FREE or not, being STATELESS or not.

For the record, I am very much wanted and very much loved. But when will the governments of U.S. and India ALSO respect the basic human dignity and freedom of innocent children like us, a minority within a minority? Laws of any civilized country exist to respect our humanity as a people; are IVF/Surrogacy children and families included in this “humanity”? We are ordinary citizens and are awaiting the government to speak for us.  

So, how did this happen?

The lack of legal consequences for a person from the U.S. is what creates this situation. If there were legal deterrents, a U.S. citizen would think twice before doing this to an innocent child or surrogate abroad. Instead of manipulating the resources of the most powerful nation for lies and denying rights to innocent children, it would be welcoming to see the same powerful resources utilized for the future with truth and respect for all. If a U.S. citizen had not “shown up” for an IVF/Surrogacy child within the U.S., would there still be “no legal consequences”? Would the child be stateless? I am the same child regardless of birth type or nationality, and above all, I belong here.

People have called my loving parent Maulik “hard-headed.” Well, I am VERY HAPPY about that because, despite 5 failed IVF attempts, he never gave up on me. Despite the years of my statelessness, he never gave up. I have the opportunity to live and succeed just like everyone else.

Article one of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights provides that “all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights,” and Article two  declares that “everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration.” 

Are stateless IVF/Surrogacy children covered by these Articles both in words and in practice? America is about inclusive rights and respecting diversity. Are families that are built differently welcome and equal in this diversity?  

Future is about transparency and being able to live freely. As an immigrant, IVF/Surrogacy children and family, the lure of America’s promise of truth, liberty, and justice for all are an illusion for now. But we have faith the system will eventually work and do the “right thing.” We as Americans sacrifice our lives for the freedom of others, but we DO NOT take freedom away from innocent children. It is a question of “timing” for people to understand the “less understood” minority within the minority of IVF/Surrogacy children and family. 

The harms of technology without regulation.

This is a textbook example of everything that can go wrong when technology is unregulated and a Laissez-faire attitude exists. In order to #saveagirlchild like me, my loving parent was forced to give up his friends, his job, his country, and my brother. He received no medical leave for wanting to parent a stateless and left-behind child like me, no support or help from the law, not even the milk and diapers provided by the state to other children who are “left-behind” like me. 

Am I even considered a human being?

We truly found out that it takes a village—along with my grandparents, family, and all the women in the neighborhood—to help raise me when my parent was stuck in the U.S. and I was a stateless infant in India. 

Is this the “beautiful” world I was being welcomed to? 

A stateless child is without a birth certificate and has no access to basic legal identity, welfare, benefits, education, or passport. On the International Day of the Girl, Nobel Prize Winner Malala asked for access to education for all children. But how do stateless children like me get legally enrolled in a school without a valid legal identity? Or do we not deserve an education?

Do other Americans including infertile Americans agree with this brilliant legal strategy violating our child and human rights leaving us stateless OR do we #SpareTheChild? In some other instances, innocent IVF/Surrogacy children have become stateless due to DNA mismatch, again not the child’s fault. We have had our share of #babyGammy and #babyModi and so many other unreported/unknown left-behind or stateless IVF/Surrogacy children in orphanages. 

It is time to #SpareTheChild and STOMP out statelessness because it is a legal issue and NOT a personal family issue. It is not about how we became stateless—fleeing from war or messed up “paperwork” or IVF/Surrogacy—it is about how we move forward with basic human dignity and respect. Effectively, we are in an “IVF prison” for a crime we did NOT commit which is wrong on two levels: 1) We are innocent and 2) we are children. 

This means I CANNOT see my brother and tie his rakhi, hold his hand, play with him, share hugs and kisses, celebrate festivals and family events together, tickle him, laugh with him, cry with him. Most of all, we cannot share OUR stories, make our memories, or bond for life as other siblings have an opportunity to in the “free world.”

We are ordinary citizens and cannot compete against the resources of the most powerful nation in the world, which have been manipulated and exploited for selfish interests.  We all know right from wrong—does the most powerful nation have the compassion to look beyond the trees and do what is “right” for innocent children and siblings like us, or will it continue to silence our minority voices? 

We cannot help everyone but everyone can help someone.

Those are the words of U.S. President Ronald Reagan. We must make a DIFFERENCE and DO MORE for stateless IVF/Surrogacy children because we are EQUAL children and EQUAL human beings. We are deeply grateful to people both in the U.S. and Indian governments who have helped us, but we want basic human dignity and respect given to us for the FIRST time. We want ALL past, present, and future IVF/Surrogacy children to have rights equal to those of other children so that adults stop making us stateless. We may be children, but we will only be voiceless for so long…ask the billions of parents who fight for their children every day!

To all IVF/Surrogacy children, Intended Parents, Compassionate Donors, and Surrogates: The laws for IVF/Surrogacy are same for everyone—meaning if it could happen to me, it could happen to you.

We have the utmost compassion, tolerance, respect for infertility and that’s why the IVF/Surrogacy process was used BUT as it turns out it was I, the child, who was used and exploited. I am a child and all I know is what has occurred is wrong and this is not the direction our civilized world wants to move forward with. Are we future-proofing our children of today? We want IVF/Surrogacy for anyone in an ethical, moral and legal way by safeguarding everyone’s best interests and maintaining basic human dignity and respect for all.

With changing times, same-sex marriage becoming equal in 2015, is it time for IVF/Surrogacy children being treated as equal too? When an intended parent fails to show up, the compassionate surrogate is also exploited because she may not get paid for her services taking the discussion of exploitation of women to whole another level.  It’s not about whether IVF/Surrogacy is right or wrong, I am already here born via IVF/Surrogacy—we have to deal with it. Where are the laws to “protect” rights of all? Either ACT or stop saying “best interest of the child” because it is insulting. If the left-behind parent decides to raise the innocent child, what help do they get? As a parent, if your little daughter is raped or molested, as traumatic as it is, at least there is a recourse and one can approach a court. As a stateless child, there is no recourse against the perpetrator. 

When “mothers,” ask for rights of a child like a stateless child, some doors open automatically or faster. But if the SAME rights are asked for the SAME stateless child by an equally loving “father,” there are questions, delays, abuse, and offensive language. How have any of these abuse, insults, delays helped me simply because a “father” asks for them? Where is the “mother” who can help with the legal process? All one needs to do is show up.

Here’s our call to action.

  1. If there are equal parental rights as non-genetic parents, there should also be equal responsibility and accountability if the child is left-behind or made stateless. We know of law enforcement and government officials who understand the issues but are UNABLE to help because the law requires the “genetically linked” parent to be held responsible. Some bad apples can take undue advantage of this loophole. Instead make it EQUAL. Check and balance – Simple. Give them the TOOLS via laws.
  2. All intended parents (non-genetic or genetic, male or female or other gender if recognized in some countries) should be required to declare any and all pregnancies including IVF/Surrogacy when filing divorce so that our rights are maintained equally as with other children of a divorce.
  3. Americans hold companies/people responsible and accountable to ensure products made by American companies are child-labor free, but there is no responsibility and accountability for making IVF/Surrogacy children abroad or making them stateless. 
  4. The language in the laws considers us “children born out of wedlock.” Apart from the language being archaic, it has severe legal implications on our welfare and well-being. Please change the language in the laws to be less offensive and more inclusive in line with our times. More importantly, this archaic language should NOT be used against us and hold our “freedom” and rights hostage.
  5. While the rest of society may not deal with it first-hand, parents of children with medical condition like Down’s Syndrome OR autism educate and spread awareness and not use it against innocent children to discriminate like others, should the same be true for parents of IVF/Surrogacy children, especially the stateless refugees?
  6. We understand the laws are not in favor of infertile or dysfertile people but does that mean innocent children like us need to be made stateless and have those anti-infertility laws used against us? We count too and can help if asked with compassion and truth.
  7. “At the time of my birth” (the legal argument used against me), my parent lived in America, worked in America, had a home in America, paid taxes in America, had a life in America but doesn’t have equal rights not only for him but also me and worse someone exploits this? Since when did it become “okay” to discriminate based on nationality and “birth type” (IVF/Surrogacy) and that too against children to split them from family?
  8. There are multiple prevailing laws involved in international IVF/Surrogacy and are unequal – does that mean we make a child stateless? The issue is when these laws are applied selectively and inconsistently which hurts innocent children and begins to smell and look more like discrimination rather than equality.

As with other issues, people, systems, and institutions deny, lie, demonize, vilify, fear-monger only to relent later, as we have seen in women’s suffrage, civil rights, and gay rights. Ours may be the first case but it is NOT the last with families choosing to build families differently. Divorces occur but it should NOT create stateless children—being stateless is NOT a personal family problem. Education and awareness are the solution while secrecy and stigma are the real culprits. Help and support stomping out

Education and awareness are the solution while secrecy and stigma are the real culprits. Help and support stomping out statelessness if you agree.

The following post was written on behalf of six-year-old Medhavi Modi, an innocent girl child made a stateless refugee because of being born via IVF/Surrogacy. She is learning to live in the 21st century while archaic 20th-century laws still rule her life and the lives of so many millions of other innocent children victimized from childhood statelessness. The UNHCR has launched an “I, Belong” campaign. The right answer is to help STOMP out statelessness. It’s a “paperwork” issue in the hands of people with power. Help and support other innocent children like her.

By Brown Girl Magazine

Brown Girl Magazine was created by and for South Asian womxn who believe in the power of storytelling as a … Read more ›

Joyland: A Film Rising Above Unacceptability With a Story of Acceptance


Haider wades his way through Karachi’s expansive beach, climbing and tumbling over rocks, in Mumtaz’s memory. The vast landscape is perfectly encapsulated in the 4:3 aspect ratio — an unconventional yet welcoming choice. He vanishes into the sea, leaving his storyline open-ended. The screen fades to black. The film comes to a close. The gentle humming and lapping of the waves disappear. However, I stay put. Stumped, and unable to comprehend the masterpiece that Saim Sadiq, director of “Joyland”, has blessed Pakistanis with.

[Read Related: Pakistan Had its First-Ever Trans Pride Parade in Lahore]

The winner of the jury prize at the Cannes film festival, as well as Pakistan’s entry for the Academy Awards 2023, “Joyland” has been marred with controversies (and subsequent bans) from the onset of its win. Ironic, since the film’s core message promotes tolerance and acceptance. Tolerance for unconventional norms, sexual/gender identities, and human emotions and desires.

“It’s so important to narrate these stories in today’s world, where we’re often divided and seldom united,” says producer Apoorva Charan during an exclusive chat with Brown Girl Magazine.

It’s her feature film debut as a producer, and she’s justifiably beaming with pride.

Joyland is such a win for South Asia, but particularly, Pakistani storytelling. Every person I met, I felt like there was some characteristic or quirk about them that mirrored our characters in the film.

Set in the depths of androon Lahore, “Joyland” primarily revolves around Haider (Ali Junejo) — a meek, unemployed house husband in a borderline, passionless marriage. He’s happily helping Saleem bhai (Sohail Sameer) and Nucci bhabi (Sarwat Gilani) raise three kids, while the fourth one breaks Nucci’s water in the opening scene. Another girl is born, despite the ultrasound’s previous declaration of a baby boy. 

“If I were to receive an award based on my character in “Joyland”, it’d definitely be for “best at single-handedly increasing the population of Pakistan,” says Gillani, as we howl with laughter during our spoiler-riddled chat with the cast of the film. “I think that, combined with the ‘coolest bhabi’ — those two will have my name on them.”

But Nucci’s wasn’t just a bhabi who pumped out a new baby every year. Sarwat’s character was given some level of agency — a woman who reminisced about a career in interior design before marriage and kids while smoking a cigarette in secrecy.

I think my philanthropic work plays a part in how I started saying no to bechari roles. How can I be a role model to these women I’m trying to help, while playing the same characters? The change came about with “Churails” and I vehemently stuck to it. My characters need to have a voice; a backbone.

On the other hand, Haider’s wife, Mumtaz (Rasti Farooq), works as a beautician at the local salon, busy dolling up brides in Lahore’s unpredictable load-shedding.

Both Haider and Mumtaz seem to have a relatively stable marriage based equally on societal expectations and gender-flipped roles. While Haider stays home, helps in the kitchen, and attempts at searching for a traditional job, Mumtaz carves autonomy and independence for herself. This is in spite of an oppressive family life characterised and dictated by Haider’s overly conservative, traditionalist father and patriarch, Rana (Salmaan Peerzada), who wishes for the couple to procreate a cricket team of just boys. 

But Rana, known as Abba Jee, is also layered with his own 50 shades of grey, struggling with loneliness and a lack of intimacy, mirrored in his relationship with next-door neighbour Fayyaz (Sania Saeed). His emotional desires are symbolised by his physical impediments — the former handicapped with “what will people say”, and the latter with a wheelchair. The rules that he has for his children are the same that his children have for him, bound by tradition, norms, and society. They are not allowed to stray from what is considered “normal”.

The film’s women are strong which is pretty much a reflection of the women in Sadiq’s life. While Abba Jee shuns the love and companionship that Fayyaz offers, she stands her ground until firmly asked to leave. The complexity of each person’s emotions versus expectations is what makes “Joyland” relatable on a human level.

Rasti Farooq channels Mumtaz’s apprehensions and predicament with the utmost believability.

Alternatively, Mumtaz’s relationship with Haider is based on convenience and habit, where two people share the same bed but sleep facing away (partially because one of Saleem and Nucci’s young daughters crashes with them every night, illustrating the confined space both Haider and Mumtaz are allowed to be themselves in). The dynamics of their marriage drastically evolve once Haider’s eye catches Biba (Alina Khan), covered in blood as she walks numbingly into the hospital where Nucci gave birth. The introductory scene mirrored the brutal reality of violence inflicted upon Pakistan’s trans community; one of “Joyland’s” most haunting moments. 

Mumtaz is asked to quit her job once Haider lands a gig as a “theatre manager” — a cover-up for his job as a background dancer at the nightclub Biba coincidentally performs at. The film portrays the traditional Pakistani marital social dynamic; men must work, and women must housekeep. Even when some level of independence is allowed to a married woman, she must forego her right to a career later in life. Understandably, it leaves Mumtaz devastated.

“It’s so strange how that’s just an acceptable act in our society,” Farooq chimes in, voicing Mumtaz’s thoughts. “Even if a woman is good at a 100 things, ultimately, she’s expected to quit her job to be a homemaker because that’s ‘her job’.”

With time, Haider falls into a routine and rhythm of working at the theatre and spending more time with Biba, allowing him an insight into the widespread transphobia she’s regularly faced with. Biba confides her innermost desire to be what she termed as “a complete woman” in order to land the same dancing opportunities as her counterparts.


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A post shared by Saim Sadiq (@saim.sadiq)

Haider’s daring closeness to Biba leaves Mumtaz — who at this point is reliant on him as a best friend more than the physical intimacy he fitfully provides her — alone, isolated, and depressed. For Haider, it is liberating to leave problems at home and escape into a secret world centred around his deepest desires. He doesn’t want to be a bad person. He doesn’t wish to hurt or leave his wife. But his happiness now seemingly lies in dancing and exchanging stolen kisses with Biba. Farooq agrees:

I think Mumtaz and Haider were best friends at this point. They had an unspoken love for each other, which stemmed from the sanctity of their relationship. They might not be in love but they did love each other. In the eyes of our society and otherwise, they were married, but they’d drifted so far apart. There was love but it wasn’t possible to return from how distant they were.

This point of no return brings Haider to a crossroads — one where he is torn between his loyalty to Mumtaz and his love for Biba. Ultimately and ironically, in a particularly passionate moment, it is his curiosity pertaining to Biba’s sexuality that drives her to throw him out of her life. Defeated and guilt-ridden, he comes face-to-face with a pregnant and non-confrontational Mumtaz, who, by now, is aware of what Haider has been up to but doesn’t have the mental capacity to verbally digest his infidelity alongside a child she doesn’t want.

Her apprehensions about bearing and raising children are indicated throughout the early days of her pregnancy. The clutching of her stomach, the tightening of the rollercoaster belt during a visit to Joyland park, and her unease during the ultrasound are just a few examples of Mumtaz’s angst. 

Abba Jee’s 70th birthday was the straw that broke the camel’s back. Mumtaz, surrounded by family and friends and feeling emptier than ever, takes her own life. A tragic full circle where one life ends as the other begins. Her suicide is harbingered by Rana’s birthday speech as he recalls a palmist once saying his bloodline would end with Haider. 

[Read Related: #JusticeforJulie: Pakistan’s Failure to Protect its Vulnerable Trans Population]

“Joyland” is replete with polarity. There is a seamless hand-in-hand flow of happiness and devastation, longing and antipathy, birth and death. Pakistani society’s struggles with misogynistic gender roles are depicted in the most gentle, sensitive, and nuanced ways. The struggle is also ironic, considering Pakistan has one of the most progressive transgender legislations in the world. Trans people have the right to self-identify their ­gender in Pakistan – a right still denied to the trans community in many progressive countries, such as the UK.

A deeply reflective film with memorable and emotional characters doing justice to their performances. It’s currently running in cinemas here in the UK, and we highly recommend watching this poignant piece of art.

Photos Courtesy: Studio Soho/Khoosat Films

By Queenie Shaikh

Desk bound by day and travel bound all other times – Queenie thrives on her weekly dose of biryani and … Read more ›

Indo Caribbean Actress Saheli Khan Lands Role as Young Anna in Disney’s Musical ‘Frozen’

Saheli Khan, young anna in disney frozen
Saheli Khan

From singing and acting to drawing immaculate figurines, Saheli Khan, 11, has made her debut in the North American Broadway tour as young Anna in Disney’s musical “Frozen.” As a first-generation Indo Caribbean, with roots in India and Pakistan, she continues to pave the way for young people with similar backgrounds.

[Read Related: Rebecca Ablack: The Guyanese Actress Talks Netflix’s “Ginny and Georgia” and Indo Caribbean Representation]

Khan has always enjoyed entertaining those around her and she continues to have the motivation to pursue her passions. In school, she always sought to lead her class in songs and she was encouraged by her parents and teachers to enroll in music and acting classes, even at a young age. These ventures fueled her passions even more.

Continue reading to learn more about her journey!

What do you like about acting the most?

I like to portray different characters. Specifically, I like playing characters who have strong personalities and those who portray a sense of bravery, especially during problematic occurrences.

As a first generation Indo Caribbean actress, how do you feel about your journey as a young Disney princess? Do you feel that you are paving the way for other Caribbean and South Asians who want to pursue similar paths?

Diversity has always been important to me, but in today’s society, I feel that most people would like to be accepted and encouraged. As a Disney Princess, I am simply helping to broaden the field for all young people to see that skin color should not matter.

Saheli Khan
Saheli in Hidden Folk outfit| Photo courtesy of Saheli Khan


What do you like about your character, Anna? Is there anything that you may dislike?

Young Anna is a ball of sunshine! She is happy, funny, and a delight to be around. Despite having a troubled childhood, she grows up to be just as joyous, but she is also courageous as she goes on a journey to find her sister. I love everything about young Anna and she truly embodies who I am as a person.

Who is your inspiration and why?

My parents are my inspiration. My mom is beautiful, loving, and she works hard without ever giving up. No matter the task, she finds a solution and keeps on going with a smile on her face. She always tells me, “Whenever you feel overwhelmed, remember whose daughter you are and straighten your crown.” And my dad is my best friend. He’s insanely funny, caring and knows all the best places to eat! My parents are exactly how I want to be when I grow up.

If you had a magic wand, what show would you do next?

I would love to be Annie on Broadway or play the lead in a series or movie. 

What is the one last thing that you do before you step out on stage and the curtain goes up?

There are many things I do before I step on stage. I do fun and silly things quietly with my “Frozen” sister, Mackenzie Mercer, and play with my Anna pigtails for good luck.

What are your other passions?

I love to sing, act, and spend time with my younger cousin, Ayla. I also love to draw and color since it makes me feel relaxed. I was told I have a great ability to draw and make figurines ever since I was a child. And I love exploring new cities and eating at great restaurants with my family.

Saheli Khan
Saheli dressed in her “Young Anna” costume | Photo courtesy of Saheli Khan

What advice do you have for young people who are just starting their careers, specifically within the field of musical theater?

To have a positive mindset, practice diligently, and enjoy every moment within the journey. I have learned that there may be some occurrences that may not take place the way that you want them to, but there’s always an opportunity to learn from them.

 Aside from your career, how do you balance your schoolwork and acting?

I attend school virtually, which is essential when I am on tour. Each day I have scheduled school hours that allow me to focus and complete all school assignments. Once that is done, I have most of the day to work on extracurricular activities, go on outings, and hang out with my friends. Though performing takes a large chunk out of my day, it helps that I enjoy it, so it doesn’t feel like work.

What types of roles do you see yourself playing?

I love to play humorous characters such as young Anna from “Frozen.” I truly enjoyed this role as it captures who I truly am.

What are your plans for the future?

To be the best version of myself regardless of what career path I choose.

[Read Related: Nadia Jagessar Talks Finding Love, Not Settling and Shines Light on her Indo-Caribbean Roots]

Khan’s debut marks the start of a budding career. With her array of talents and future goals, we are bound to see more of the young actress in the future and more representation of Indo Caribbeans in mainstream media. If you would like to purchase tickets for Disney’s “Frozen,” click here

Feature Image Courtesy: Saheli Khan

By Anita Haridat

Anita Haridat is the owner of the wellness website, Healthy Spectator, which is a platform to help people find inner-balance … Read more ›

In Conversation With Kevin Wu: Creating Content in a new Generation

Kevin Wu
Kevin Wu

Kevin Wu, previously known as KevJumba, is an American YouTuber, from Houston, Texas, with more than 2.68 million subscribers on YouTube and more than 323 million views. His content consists of vlogs, social commentary, musical parodies and more. Wu also streams on Twitch and has released original music as well as freestyles. His most popular YouTube video is titled “Nice Guys” with Ryan Higa. Wu has also worked with many individuals including A-Trak, Chester See, David Choi, Globetrotters, Iyaz, Jamie Chung, Jeremy Lin, Ryan Higa, Wong Fu Productions, and more. He has also appeared in movies such as “Hang Loose,” “Revenge of the Green Dragons,” “Man Up,” and more. Wu is one of the first original YouTubers gaining popularity in 2008 and even had another channel, titled JumbaFund, now known as Team Jumba. Continue reading to learn more about Kevin Wu’s journey!

[Read Related: Superwoman and Humble the Poet’s #IVIVI Music Video Celebrates Toronto’s Diversity]

We really enjoyed the project ‘Underneath the Lights.’ On the track “WHY U IN LA” the lyrics, “Don’t know who I might be, it might surprise me. I could be a hypebeast, That’s nothing like me, It’s so enticing.” How do you feel this speaks to the idea of self-discovery? What have you learned about yourself, diving back into making content?

I love that song we did. The artist who sang those lyrics his name is Zooty. I really provided the energy and direction for the musical piece, but I give credit to my producer Jonum and Zooty credit for the lyrics. Both guys are a slightly different generation, gen-Z, whereas I grew up as a millennial. I find that I left a lot on the table when I left YouTube at 23, so when I work with gen-Z I have so much that I want to give. Coming back to YouTube this time around, it’s all about self-reliance. Coming from movies and television, you have to depend on people to get a better product. But with YouTube, I’m going back to my roots and putting my wit and effort into every part of the process again (writing, directing, performing, producing, editing). I want the result to be authenticity and a homegrown feeling.

[Read Related: JusReign’s Reign on YouTube]

When you started your YouTube channel you were known for your vlogs and social commentary. How do you feel about the new age of content creation — where content is in surplus but individuals aren’t feeling the content?

It’s hard to say whether or not individuals are or aren’t feeling content — the taste is just so wide now. It’s like living in Los Angeles; food is very competitive, and when picking a restaurant you have every ethnic variety and even fusion foods. I imagine opening a restaurant in LA to be very competitive and the attention to detail in what you make has to be authentic or hit a certain demographic. I feel on the Internet, YouTube does a decent job of catering to your sensibilities, the so-called algorithm. However, the personal connection you get with content creators has somewhat been shifted, and now it’s become more interest-based (ie gaming, how-to, music, politics, etc.)

How do you feel the original algorithm has changed, and what do you miss most about that time?

I don’t remember talking about algorithms back in 2010 to 2012. People watched their favorite Youtubers because their homepage included their subscriptions first and foremost, and then if your subscriptions hadn’t posted anything new, you would typically check the most popular page. Then trending became a thing and now you have algorithms generating your timeline based on a bunch of data. I think it’s forced creators to think externally and hanging onto identities i.e. what are my interests? Am I a gamer? Am I a streamer?

We parodied your music video for “Nice Guys” for our orchestra music camp skit back in high school. If Chester, Ryan, and you, had to recreate “Nice Guys” today, would you focus on the concept of self-love for the current generation? We also really loved “Shed a Tear.”

I definitely think self-love would be a very nice theme. Recreating it would be nice, actually. I think it’s hard to get three people to all be in the same room again, especially after leading different lives. But “Nice Guys” was something special for each one of us, and Chester See deserves a lot of credit because of his musical talent. It’s made me realize today the impact of music. I really enjoy the expression of music because it forces you to be more artistic, versus just saying what’s on your mind. Like poetry, or hearing harmonies.

You’ve worked with many individuals and groups in the past including, A-Trak, Chester See, David Choi, Globetrotters, Iyaz, Jamie Chung, Jeremy Lin, Ryan Higa, Wong Fu Productions, and more. If you could create content with any group of individuals who would be your dream collaborators?

At this stage in my life, I really enjoy coming back and rekindling those creative connections and checking in with previous friends or acquaintances. Doing a video with Ryan Higa, Jeremy Lin, Chester See, David Choi, Wong Fu, Jamie Chung, those would all be very fun. But the first step would be to just see how they’re doing. So that’s the closest thing to a best case scenario for me. I’m not trying to force any collaborations at the moment (haha!). Unless it’s convenient.

As an NBA fan you expressed you would like to talk more about basketball on Ryan’s “Off the Pill Podcast.” How do you feel watching sports and has playing sports helped you become more in tune with yourself?

After going through a lot of physical adversity after my car accident, reconnecting with sports has been really helpful. I played basketball for a while and I’d like to get back into soccer. I wanted to talk about basketball on Ryan’s podcast because I was still dipping my toes into Internet content/social media and didn’t want to talk too much about myself at the time.

As a content creator how do you balance not letting validation get to your head and authentically connecting with your audience?

We all seek validation. It’s innate, but it’s about where you seek it. Nowadays I remember to validate myself first, by starting with my mind and body. After a while, you can get a sense of when you need validation versus being totally unconscious of it. Sometimes that sense of validation is important, so we know to check in with our parents, or see if a friend needs positive feedback. To connect with the audience, that’s like number five in my priority list (haha!). Having an audience can be scary; you definitely want to be in tune with yourself first.

How do you deal with comments consisting of “I miss the old KevJumba?”

I just smile. I miss the old KevJumba too!

[Read Related: The Authenticity and Individuality of 88rising’s Niki]

As live streaming has become a new form of content now, how have you enjoyed live streaming on Twitch for the Head In The Clouds Festival both in 2021 and 2022? We really enjoyed seeing Ylona Garcia sing “Nice Guys!”

It’s fun, I enjoy live streaming and I really appreciate 88rising and Amazon Music for inviting me both years to be the host for their livestream.

What was the decision behind putting your family in your videos?

I put my Dad in my videos accidentally; we were on a ski trip. I think people responded really positively in the comments, and then I just sat down had a conversation with him on camera, and it became a hit. After that he just became his own character. I think I tend to come alive more when I am interacting with someone on camera.

We really liked seeing you upload videos to Team Jumba. Is the mission still to donate earnings to a charity that viewers suggest?

At the moment, no. The Supply, which was the charity I donated to before, has since shut down. I also don’t make much money on YouTube anymore, since I was inactive on my channel for a while, so that format from 2009 will be difficult to replicate.

We really enjoyed the ‘KevJumba and Zooty Extended Play,’ specifically the track “With You in the Clouds” featuring fuslie. How has Valorant inspired your music as well as other forms of content creation?

The album was really experimental. I find the personal connections I made in gaming to be the most enlivening. “With You in the Clouds” was inspired by TenZ and, since he’s such a legendary figure in the pro FPS community, we had to do a worthy tribute. I think paying tribute to the things you like is a really great way to think about content creation.

How do you feel your childhood experiences in Houston, and playing soccer, have shaped you to chase your dreams of acting? How have you enjoyed acting in comparison to YouTube?

I love acting. It’s a wondrous lens at which to see your relationship with others. I find that in studying acting, you are often really studying the human experience or the mind. It’s like learning psychology but you are on your feet, or you are reading great theater. Playing soccer and growing up in Houston don’t really contribute directly to why I enjoy acting, but I very much enjoy coming from Houston and thriving in soccer. It made me commit to something and seeing how consistently “showing up” can really ground your childhood and prove to be valuable, later in life.

How do you feel we can uplift each other across the Asian diaspora and unify to create ripple effects of representation?

I think listening is probably the best thing you can do. Just genuinely hearing about something, or someone, helps you really invest in them during that time that you are there. So I think that’s probably the first step.

What made you go back to school and finish your degree at the University of Houston in Psychology?

No one reason in particular. I was also studying acting at the time back in 2017-2018 when I completed the degree, so it was just testing my limits and seeing what I could balance. I finished it online.

What are your upcoming plans?

Just experimenting on YouTube for now. Making videos with my own effort.

Your first video was uploaded back in 2007 and was titled ‘Backyard,’ where you are dancing to a song called “Watch Me” by Little Brother, off of the “The Minstrel Show.” We also really enjoyed your video with Ryan Higa titled “Best Crew vs Poreotics.” Are you still dancing these days?

Yes. The body does what the body wants.

Lastly, what do you hope individuals take away from this interview with Brown Girl Magazine?

Nothing in particular. I try to let my mind flow when I answer questions. I may have jumped to conclusions before fully investing in some of the questions, so I apologize. If you are reading, I thank you for your time and patience. I also thank Brown Girl Magazine for putting together a vast array of questions that allow my mind to stretch and work out a bit. I hope you find a stronger connection to your own truths, and I hope I did not disturb those in any way. Regards.

Photo Courtesy of Kevin Wu

By Arun S.

Arun fell in love with music at a young age by way of his middle school music teacher Mr. D. … Read more ›