Katerina Jeng and Krystie Yen // Ep 12 // Building a Collective of Creative Activists with Slant’d

Welcome to Episode 12 of the Asian Hustle Network Podcast! We are very excited to have Katerina Jeng and Krystie Yen on this week's episode.

We interview Asian entrepreneurs around the world to amplify their voices and empower Asians to pursue their dreams and goals. We believe that each person has a message and a unique story from their entrepreneurial journey that they can share with all of us.

Check us out on Anchor, iTunes, Stitcher, Google Play Music, TuneIn, Spotify and more. If you enjoyed this episode, please subscribe and leave us a positive 5-star review. This is our opportunity to use the voices of the Asian community and share these incredible stories with the world. We release a new episode every Wednesday, so stay tuned!

“Andy Nguyen is the mash-up king in the food industry.” – Food Network

Katerina Jeng and Krystie Yen are the creative entrepreneurs and co-founders of Slant’d, a collective of Asian Americans celebrating the journey of self-discovery. By sharing personal stories and creating welcoming community spaces, Slant’d is redefining what it means to be American.

The collective launched the inaugural issue of their annual anthology-meets-art book on Kickstarter in 2017 and has since been featured on TEDx, Talks at Google, CBS News, People, Colorlines, and more.

Beyond Slant’d, Katerina is also the Strategic Director at Spectacle, an inclusive content marketing agency. She is a 1st generation Filipina-Taiwanese-American activist, poet, and rabble-rouser. Katerina has a Bachelor of Arts in English & Music from Cornell University.

Beyond Slant’d, Krystie is also channeling her creativity for good as a social entrepreneur on a mission to make the world a more inclusive and equitable place. She conspires with awe-inspiring leaders of color on projects that shape culture, tackle social injustices, and build communities. Krystie has a dual degree in Business Administration & Public Health from UC Berkeley.

Please check out our Patreon at @asianhustlenetwork. We want AHN to continue to be meaningful and give back to the Asian community. If you enjoy our podcast and would like to contribute to our future, we hope you’ll consider becoming a patron.
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Maggie: [00:00:23] Hi, everyone. Welcome to the Asian hustle network podcast. My name is Maggie.

Bryan: [00:00:27] My name is Bryan.

Maggie: [00:00:29] And today we have two very special guests with us. They are Katerina Jeng and Krystie Yen, and they are the creative entrepreneurs and co-founders of Slant’d, a collective of Asian Americans celebrating the journey of self-discovery. Their mission is to cultivate the community that Asian Americans want, need, and deserve.

So Katerina is also the strategic director at Spectacle, which is an inclusive content marketing agency. She is a first-generation Filipina-Taiwanese-American activist and poet. She has a Bachelor of Arts in English and Music from Cornell University.

And Krystie is also channeling her creativity for good as a social entrepreneur, on a mission to make the world a more inclusive and equitable place. And she has a dual degree in Business Admin and Public Health from UC Berkeley.

Welcome, Katerina and Krystie.

Katerina: [00:01:21] Well, that was an amazing intro. Like you guys really did your research well. And I’m very impressed.

Maggie: [00:01:29] Oh my goodness. It’s all you, guys. So it’s you guys who are impressive. We’re very happy to have you on the show.

Bryan: [00:01:35] Yeah.

Krystie: [00:01:36] Yeah. Sorry, go ahead.

Bryan: [00:01:38] Go ahead.

Krystie: [00:01:38] I was just going to say, I was just hearing that I was like, wow, we’ve come such a long way. I feel like from our first intro that we’ve ever given or like the first bio we’ve ever written and I just feel so good about where we’ve landed.

So just like, it feels more like who we are.

Maggie: [00:01:53] Well, we’re very excited to unravel that story, and yeah, so we love to start off and just know a little bit about, you know, your background. You know, the family that you grew up with, you know, did you grow up in a very traditional Asian household, or were they more laid back? Tell us a little bit about that.

Bryan: [00:02:10] Yeah. Let’s start with Krystie.

Krystie: [00:02:12] Sure. So I don’t know how much your listeners know about your backgrounds as hosts, but if they know anything about Bryan, I just discovered that we grew up basically like neighbors. I’m in a similar upbringing I’m going to assume like the 626 or we jokingly call like the Boba neighborhood.

And so I think for me, what that meant was I had a very traditional Asian American upbringing where I was raised by, you know, an immigrant mother from Taiwan and all she really wanted was for me to go to a really good university and get like a job at, you know, one of the big four companies or big three management consulting companies. And then just be really secure with benefits for the rest of my life.

And I think I never questioned that growing up because it was such a conservative neighborhood where we spent most of our time at like SAT school, extracurriculars like marching band. And it really wasn’t until like going into college and actually realizing like my first existential crisis of nothing of what I’m doing is actually making me happy.

Like I definitely thought I was checking off the boxes, but at the end of the day, like my soul never felt alive. And I knew there was like latent creativity that was just, it was there, but there was like nothing really pushing me or giving permission to go chase after this. And I think with Slant’d, it’s what gave me permission to chase after my creativity.

So after really following like traditional success stories for Asian Americans, I decided that one day, I just wanted to trust my gut because I just wasn’t happy anymore. And so eventually, I left corporate but I took a really long time. And I think for a while, I beat myself up about it because I was like, you know, especially growing up as a millennial and being in the Bay area for a little bit, I went to college in the Bay.

Like you see these success stories of entrepreneurs where they’re like quit everything tomorrow and follow your passion.

Bryan: [00:04:00] Easy, man.

Krystie: [00:04:01] I know it’s like easier said than done. And so I just remember seeing a lot of those stories and just. Feeling like I was behind. And then I think tackle that, like, we’re a couple that with like the immigrant parent voice of like, everything has to be secure, it’s coming from a very survivalist mentality.

Like I felt a lot of guilt, like a lot of Asian guilt chasing after what I loved. But I think like, being around actually the Asian American community and seeing other entrepreneurs like doing the thing, I was like, actually it’s possible. And it’s okay for us to chase after things for fulfillment and not just survival.

So like, I just feel so grateful for that. And I mean, a lot of that happened over the last, like five to 10 years. So yeah, it’s been a while, but I definitely feel like I mentioned in the intro, like. I just feel so much happier and just so much more myself. But I’m definitely grateful for the initial journey of, you know, having a good work ethic and learning to really appreciate, I think, the sacrifices our parents made for us to chase after fulfillment and not just survival.

Bryan: [00:04:59] And we have to apply it too, like, it does take a lot of courage to make that jump. It’s like, you can hear all these mentors, tell you what you need to do until you’re mentally ready to make that jump. You can make that jump, you know? So thank you for making that move and thank you so much for doing what you do.

Maggie: [00:05:14] Yeah. And I also wanted to touch on that too. I feel like I resonate with your story a lot because I come from a family of non-entrepreneurs as well. And so no one in my family is an entrepreneur and they also wanted me and my siblings to, you know, like graduate, go to college, you know, get a well-paying job until the day that we’re 65, you know?

So. It was very challenging for me to present to them the concept of entrepreneurship because they knew nothing about it, you know? And at some point I was just like, I feel like I want more of in my life, you know, not to just sit in a cubicle for the rest of my life. So really applaud you for, you know, taking that step and really making that jump.

Krystie: [00:05:52] Yeah, thanks. Yeah. I feel like I don’t want to discredit my parents and immigrant parents because I think it’s so well-intended and some of my friends know this, but actually, when I finally quit corporate in May of 2019, it took me five months to actually tell my mom that I quit my job. 

So it was like a mini version of the farewell where I was like, do I tell her that I left? And I was pleasantly surprised. Cause when I finally told her, I know I had your stereotypical Asian mentality of like here are all my talking points, here is like plan A to plan Z of how I’m going to make money and survive in New York City. And she literally didn’t ask for any of that. And I was, I started crying because she basically said like, I trust you that if you’ve made this decision, I know it’s not done lightly.

I’m really proud of you. And like, as you know, like that’s so rare to hear. So, it actually gave me way more trust actually in like our immigrant parents that like, if they’ve been here long enough, I think they, at the end of the day, know that if you’re chasing what you love doing like that’s what really matters.


Bryan: [00:06:56] Katerina, share your story.

Katerina: [00:07:00] So I did not grow up in the 626, although I wish I did. I grew up in Long Island in a very white Jewish, suburban neighborhood. And so, so my childhood was like bar and bat mitzvahs. Just wanting to fit in. Really rejecting my Asian American identity. I remember I went to a Chinese school, but I don’t speak Chinese.

And growing up, I just wanted to fit in with the kids around me. And it wasn’t until after I graduated college where I was like, Oh shit, like, there’s this huge part of my identity that I’ve never dived into. Fast forward to me being introduced to Krystie by a mutual friend and similar to you both, they started a Facebook group just for Asian Americans to chat about what was going on in their everyday life and how to deal with things that we deal with as Asian Americans on a day to day basis.

And I was like, wow, this totally opened up my world. And that was sort of the spark for Slantd. And I also had a very traditional Asian American tiger dad. He is from Taiwan extremely strict. I always joke about that when I was a child, my schedule is more packed than it is today as a 29-year-old adult. Like it was prep school, violin lessons, piano lessons, Chinese school, dance classes, like literally everything you could think of on the planet.

And so. Now I’m unlearning a lot of that. I’m unlearning a lot of like we need to always be working really hard to be considered successful or to be happy, or like, the amount of work that we produce also determines our value and how we should feel about ourselves. So I’m in the process of unlearning a lot of those things.

But as Krystie mentioned, I am so grateful for a lot of those values that my dad instilled in me, like the hard work ethic, being persistent, just being passionate about whatever you’re doing, and seeing things through. So there’s good and bad to everything. And yeah, I feel like it’s been such a journey. I’m a little different in that. I’m very like I love taking risks. So when Slantd produced, like when Slantd showed an opportunity for being something bigger than what we thought it was going to be at, when it started out, I was like, let’s do this. I left my job. I always hated corporate America.

I can’t deal with like, politics and bullshit. So when stuff went out to happen in corporate America, I will just be like, this is dumb. Like we can all be working harder and not be dealing with stuff that’s not productive. And so I was very eager to leave the regular nine to five and kind of build this life that I’ve always dreamed of.

And so I took the leap and I’ve been like very proud and happy and excited about being self-employed and being an entrepreneur. So we’re both here in the same place. It just took a little bit of time for us to get there. And I think everyone’s journey is valid. Like I’m risk-tolerant, Christy’s risk-averse.

That’s totally fine. There are so many ways to become an entrepreneur and there’s no right or wrong way just is based on what your values are and what you’re comfortable with.

Bryan: [00:10:15] Yeah, I really love this conversation because it just really shows us like how like money you guys are with us. Like, mean that, you know, like I’m really risk-tolerant.

Like if I feel passionate about something, I’ll just leave the next day, you know, I just figured things out, you know? So I really love that mentality too. And just having that eagerness to make a difference too. It’s not just like having a mission or building a dream that you always want to. It’s having a goal in mind and that vision, you know, So let’s start with how you guys started Slantd, you know, like you guys met, you know, you guys are very likeminded, love your mission statement, by the way, the mission statement. Wow. It’s very similar to AHN.

Maggie: [00:10:56] Resonated with us so much. Cause I know you guys were all about uplifting the Asian American community and you know, making sure that you have a safe space for Asians. So it’s very similar to AHN that’s why.

Bryan: [00:11:08] You guys are our inspiration. You guys came first.

Maggie: [00:11:13] Well would love to know, you know, what really inspired you to create Slantd and, you know, what were the first few, you know, pinpoints that you saw, you know, each of you saw in your lives that really drove you to, you know, think of that conclusion like I really need to make this community for Asians.

Bryan: [00:11:32] How did that idea come about too? It’s like a random coffee day, random zoom day. Like how did it come about?

Maggie: [00:11:37] Yeah.

Katerina: [00:11:38] So I can, I can start our, the story of our love, our love story.

Krystie: [00:11:45] Yeah.

Katerina: [00:11:46] At bread’s bakery in New York City, just to talk about the random UX project that I was working on, this is when I was going through like a quarter-life crisis.

Like, what do I want to do with my life? I was working at a startup at that time and I was also taking a UX design course at a general assembly. And so I actually interviewed Krystie as a user research interview. We ended up having like a really long, just like energizing and inspiring conversation about like being in a new city, being a woman, like trying to find your place in this world.

And as I mentioned before, later on, Krystie invited me to this Facebook group called Project Boat. And I would say that was the first spark for Slantd, where there were all these amazing conversations happening in this private Facebook group. And I was like, this needs to be out into the real world. And so so I was like, does anyone want to start a Xen?

And I created like a humble Google spreadsheet where people dropped in story ideas, Krystie dropped in so many ideas. And I was like, Hey, like, do you want to do this together? And I was recently looking at my old emails just to like reminisce on our journey. We had, Krystie and I had a calendar invite for Xen chat and it was like 30 minutes in like December of 2016.

And that was probably the first time where we were like, what can this actually look like? And then from there, we rallied a group of friends to start a Kickstarter campaign, to launch issue one of Slantd and everything was just like friends, family, and fools. For that issue, we send out a Google Form.

This is like, I feel like it’s like a Google-sponsored video, but it’s not. We send out a Google form to ask for story submissions. I want to say we got like maybe 30 to 40 for the first issue. And then we launched the Kickstarter campaign, which I think was the first like light bulb moment of wow, the world really wants Asian American stories and spaces for Asian-Americans to be seen and to thrive.

So our first Kickstarter campaign was fully funded in less than 32 hours. And we ended up raising $17,000 for issue one. And from there, there are so many iterations we can talk to, talk to you all about regarding our existential crises as a company and as a brand and what we stand for, but that was the initial spark.

And today we offer the annual literary magazine as well as community gatherings now, all virtual, thanks to COVID. And we also just launched our B2B arm of the business called the impact studio, which Krystie is spearheading. So we’re doing a lot of this cultural consulting work for other companies that need more diversity equity inclusion. So it’s been quite a journey, but here we are today.

Bryan: [00:14:36] I love it. I love your execution. And I love your vision. I love the goals and you’re absolutely right. There is a big need for space for us to all communicate and talk like this. I think for us when we started the Asian hustle network, we kind of started as a place where people share their hustle, share their stories.

But it became a community where people feel like they wanted to belong to something greater. And on top of that, like a lot of people, I guess, like, I think Krystie could relate to me, like living in 626, we’re not a bubble, you know, like we’re the absolute majority in our community. So it didn’t know like where minorities and yeah, lots of circles, you know?

So that seeing how people outside another place of the country feel like they’re minority makes it because it’s more motivation to like, Hey, we need to take a step back and give a space for people to feel like they belong to something that, you know, that we all have in common with. That’s okay to be Asian. That’s cool to be Asian, you know?

Maggie: [00:15:35] Yeah. I agree. And also I think that the mission is great as far as Slantd. You know, I think that once you presented two other people that, you know, we’re sharing Asian stories, right? You have the opportunity to use your voice. Right?

And I feel like a lot of Asians growing with our families tell us, like, you should be quiet, you know, don’t create any chaos.

If you do go through the entrepreneurial route, you know, don’t tell anyone don’t tell any of your cousins because you know, they’ll make fun of you. It’s like all this like generational limiting belief that you should always like stay quiet and not create any noise. Right. And I think that’s what affected our community so much.

And other communities see us in that way, like, Oh, because Asians are so quiet like they can’t do anything to make a change. Right. But once we started telling people like, Oh, we have a voice, right. We can share stories. We can talk about our stories and share them with other people. So that. Everyone can better understand us.

We can better understand other people. Then it’s like, yes, like we have this opportunity, and this torch so that we can make a movement for our community. Right. And I think a lot of Asians just like, they feel so confined where if they have the opportunity to share their story, they’re like, Oh, like, yes, I want to share my story.

Right. Like I want to talk about my life so that I can inspire other people. Right. And then other people want to be inspired too. So. It’s amazing that when you guys were doing, yeah.

Bryan: [00:16:59] Yeah. Let’s take a step back and talk about your original goals, your original vision too. And how that, how that changed your timeline.

When you guys first started in 2016, right? 2017. Until now. What’s the vision like then? And what’s the vision like now?

Krystie: [00:17:16] Yeah, it’s really funny. You say that. I mean, everything you’re saying resonates so deeply with us, as you heard from Katerina like we started off as like a humble magazine.

It’s funny when we say Xen cause is like a stapled Xerox photocopy thing. And now if you’ve seen the magazine, it’s actually like on average, like 120 to like 150 pages and it’s yeah, it’s, it’s such a beautiful work of art, I think mainly because it’s a tool for self-actualization. And I think when we first started the magazine, it was just meant to be a space to uplift every day Asian-Americans.

And I think that piece is really distinctive and really important to remember because, you know, when we grew up looking at media like we didn’t really see people who look like us and representations obviously important, but to be able to democratize that and to be able to say that like everyone’s story matters is really powerful and it’s like, not, I would say it’s not coincidental that Slantd started after the 2016 election. I think this like an unsettling feeling that we all had as a community of like, We were overlooked. We, people, don’t think our voices matter. What is our way of kind of defining this is a new administration and showing the world and society that our stories and our voices and our journeys matter.

So like, I think we didn’t realize at the time how political we were going to be. But, I mean, our roots are 1000% political and activists on their own. Right. We just didn’t realize it at the time. It was just like our creative way of trying to put our voices out there. And actually no one on the team has actually contributed to the magazine, their stories.

Like we actually opened up space for other people to share their stories and it’s our goal at the time was like not to write about Asian story, but to just have Asian people telling stories because you know, eventually, in the future, it’s like, it’s not really about the Asian American experience per se.

It’s just like, we have so many stories out there that we can just share stories as a whole. Like I look at Ted Chang, the science fiction writer. And like, if you read his books, you would never know that it’s written by an Asian American, right. It’s just such a beautiful, captivating human story. And I think that’s what we’re trying to capture with the magazine and to fast forward to where we are today.

Like we talk a lot about how creativity is our form of activism and it took us a long time to come back home to ourselves with that. Cause like I said in the beginning like we were so scared to call ourselves political, to call ourselves active. Because of, you know, our parents told us to keep our heads down, to stay out of trouble, to not rock the boat.

I think like we talked about self-discovery and this journey and it’s so messy. And part of that is actually discovering that like we have a responsibility as this new generation. To actually use our voices for good and to use our stories, to move people like not just in our community. So we feel like our lane is not maybe in policy or advocacy, but using storytelling and art and like humanity and empathy to really build bridges and to help people just like understand that fundamentally like the diversity that makes us human is like worth celebrating. And to now stand up for like our black brothers and sisters, which is something that honestly we hadn’t thought about in the beginning, but it’s something that we feel like is very central to who we are, because if we can’t, we have to love ourselves and love our other communities too.

Like our freedom is tied to the freedom of other people too. So I think, yeah, that vision has definitely evolved over time. I think it’s still rooted in creativity, but now we’re really like unabashedly confident in the fact that like, we are also rooted in activism. So that’s why we call ourselves a collective, we used to be just a magazine.

And then we thought we were a media company because we didn’t know, we realized what we were building at the time. You know what we’re building with something that didn’t exist before. And now we feel very good about calling ourselves a collective because it’s you believe it’s something bigger than yourself, you know, you believe in the greater good, you have strength in numbers and it’s for a shared purpose.

Katerina: [00:21:03] Yeah. And one thing I love thinking about is how our evolution as Slant’d has also evolved with who we are as people like Krystie mentioned in the beginning, we outwardly said to our team that we’re not a political organization, like we’re solely focused on stories. A lot of us also didn’t consider ourselves creative people at the beginning of Slant’d and fast forward three to four years later, Krystie’s doing a lot of creative writing. I’m now a self-proclaimed like baby burgeoning poets. We fully believe that everyone is creative, even if you don’t think of yourself as creative. And I think we also all consider ourselves activists now, and it is a journey that takes a lot of time to figure out like how you want to show up in this world, what are your unique talents and skills that can contribute to the wellbeing of everyone?

And now there’s no denying that we are a political organization. And I think to be in this space, it’s just a requirement of like being a good human and using your voice for good in this world, especially with what’s going on right now with like the largest civil uprising, our generation has experienced.

So we’ve taken on this journey and so has Slantd. And one of our visions that will always be there is inspiring other people to be on this journey too, and exploring all the different sides of you, the political side, the creative side, and not just the side that. As traditional, traditionally raised Asian kids, we were taught to pursue like math and science or being a lawyer or being a doctor.

Like we are so much more multifaceted than we are often taught. And this journey of Slantd has not only taught us as the people working on Slantd, but also the collective and the people that attend our events and reader magazine. So that’s been really fun to just reflect on is how things have changed as we have changed as people too.

Maggie: [00:22:58] I love the different reiterations and realizing, you know, how far you guys have come. I think it’s very similar to AHN as well. When we first start outright.

Similar to Slantd, I think that when we first started AHN, we didn’t even in terms of be, you know, about, you know, policy and working with activists and we wanted to really allow Asians to share their stories in the beginning.

Bryan: [00:23:23] Yeah. We actually broke off into a very activist focused organization called Hate is the virus.

So we actually have co-founded that we’re like super political negative rallies. It’s more in China back.

Maggie: [00:23:38] Yeah. So it’s just like come to this realization that you do have a voice and we have this platform to make a change. Right. And in order to make a change, we have to ensure that. We’re honing in on these influencers and people of influence to fulfill their civic duty.

Right. And we have that power and we have that platform to do so.

Bryan: [00:23:57] Yeah. That’s also the reason why we want to amplify you guys’ voices as well. When we came across your Facebook page through a recommendation by a friend.

And we read into it, right? Oh my God. Like I wonder if they’re at the Asian Hustle network.

Krystie: [00:24:12] Yeah. That’s that’s funny. A friend actually was sent me the AHN Facebook group and was like, I think you should join. There’s a lot of people in there that I feel like you would like to know. And I think that’s been such a beautiful discovery and a pleasant surprise.

I think after starting Slant’d was just like, how freaking generous. This community is, I’m just saying with money. I’m saying with like time and energy and connections like I remember the beginning of Slantd and even still today, it’s like, You know, we were just starting off. We were just like a group of friends starting this in my little apartment.

And every time met someone and we shared the vision for Slantd. They would be like, Oh my God, there is like there’s like five people I want you to meet. Like, we need to follow up and have this conversation. And then like, you know, you have another conversation and it’s just like an exponential ballooning of that.

And I think that was actually one of the things that helped us realize that we were more than a magazine. Like we had our first launch party, which we thought was going to be like 80 people. You look back on it now you’re going to do it like at a salon or like an art gallery and like there’s no way.

But at the end of the day, it ended up being like a sold-out event with 300 people. At the Museum of Chinese America. And they were like party Crashers. Yeah. We, we were so confused and it was beautiful because it wasn’t just Asian Americans there. Like there were other BiPAP folks there, there were white allies and just like the magic and the energy that you felt and like how supported you felt like so many people come to our events and they say, if they’re not from the 626, like this is the most Asians

I’ve seen in any space I’ve been in. Yeah. And I’m sure Katerina can speak to it too in Denver. Right. Which is like so different from New York City and the community is like the magic of all of this.

And I think that’s just like being able to uplift people in our community. Like I fully believe in the shine theory, like, you know, a rising tide raises all boats. Like it’s not a competition here. Like I think to be able to dismantle and unlearn those thoughts is really, really important to actually building a coalition of Asian American organizations that is gonna make a difference.

So I don’t know if Kat you’re gonna say anything about Denver, but.

Katerina: [00:26:15] I would just reiterate like how impressive and mind-blowing it is to see a group of people that look like you, especially when you’re not from a diverse place. And we hear that all the time when we used to do in-person events in Denver about just like the sense of belonging that a lot of us felt at these events that we didn’t grow up having.

So just wanting to second what you were saying.

Maggie: [00:26:37] It’s amazing. So I’d love to know, I mean, you guys go through many, many stories all the time. And I love to know, was there a moment in time where you heard some story, or if there were any stories that you came across that really stood out to you, and really spoke out to you and that made you believe like, you know what, we really have something first lantern and I really want to continue, you know, discovering stories like these.

Bryan: [00:27:03] And we know like the entrepreneurial experience, it doesn’t matter what industry you’re in. It’s extremely difficult. There are so many ups and downs, so many doubts. There are always times you’re out late or like up late at night, thinking to yourself, like, is this all worth it? But what I want to do, you know, like you want to hear, like, what are these turning points that the community is sort of pushing through and validated your ideas?

Katerina: [00:27:25] I would say there are so many stories where when I read them, I’m like, wow. Like I cannot believe that this was unearthed with the process that we have created with Slantd. But I would say the thing that really stands out to me when you asked that question is the journey of storytelling that our contributors take.

So when we asked for submissions, we just asked for a story idea. We don’t ask for a fully fleshed-out piece or a draft. Let us really take a chance on that potential and give people who don’t consider themselves writers or creatives to create something beautiful. And so seeing the first draft to the final draft is just absolutely mind-blowing.

We’ve had people completely pivot what they had submitted to what they ended up submitting for the magazine throughout that process. And like Krystie said, it really is a journey of self-actualization and unearthing these really personal things about yourself, these themes that you grew up with, and a lot of times dismantling what we’ve learned and coming into our own and stepping into our own identity. So I would say for me, the journey stands out, and just seeing how powerful storytelling is not only for a tool of self-discovery, but stating your presence to the world and then inspiring other people to do the same and get on that journey of self-discovery has been really fulfilling and amazing.

Krystie: [00:28:53] You don’t have much more to add to that other than like that’s why I believe so deeply in our co-creative process. You know, Kat mentioned that, like, we take a chance on people we really do, and it’s never about like, cool, we signed off on your idea now. Go write and we’ll see you at the finish line.

It’s very much like we dig into them and we do like on one storytelling workshops with them, just to understand like the core emotions behind what they’re trying to write. And the reason why some of these stories pivot so drastically is because more times than not, they’re finally honest with themselves about what story they actually want to share.

And it’s scary as hell like to be able to sit there and be like, Oh my God, this is a big part of myself that I was too scared to be vulnerable about and put on the page, you know, and I think it’s a testament to our process into our people that we’ve been able to create a space where they feel safe enough to do that.

And then I think to layer on top of that, like we believe so strongly in relationships. And so a lot of our writers, we pair them up with artists who are also Asian American identifying, and they together get to create a visual piece to supplement the written piece. And so throughout that process, they become friends.

When we played matchmaker with them and it’s just like such a beautiful way to see people’s stories come to life in multiple ways. So I agree. I think the journey itself is probably the most fulfilling, but a story for me that stands out that actually had a very personal impact on me was from our first issue.

And it was about the power of names. And we have one, this issue actually is our first-ever screenplay. It talks about the power of names, but from a very different perspective. But the one in issue one was about the power of this woman’s last name and how she when she got married, changed her last name to match her husband.

And after they went through a divorce, she started to question like, how much of herself does she give up in the process? And it was like a really deep, almost like meta exploration of a name. And she went all the way back to think about like, Well, the last thing that I got was actually from my mother.

And then she started thinking about how like her mother and that generation chose names for themselves as a way to like reclaim their identities and reclaimed our power. And it resonated so deeply with me that actually for people who don’t didn’t know me before my last same is actually Mak, it’s my father’s last name.

And I’m actually in the process of changing it to Yen, which is my mother’s last name. And the reason for that is because I was raised by a single mom. And my entire life, like, she’s been the reason, like why I am who I am today and like all the most wonderful ways. And so as like a final act of, not final acts, but like the biggest act of filial piety, I felt like I really, really wanted to change my name to like honor her for work and her sacrifice.

  I don’t think I was able to do that without having read that piece in issue one, like it just deeply resonated so much, like in my soul that I felt moved enough to make a personal change.

Maggie: [00:31:49] I feel like my heartstrings are being tugged on right now. I thought that was, yeah.

I mean our journeys, like you said, they’re always an ever-evolving word, you know, figuring out who we are on an everyday basis, you know? I’m finding more and more about, you know, the history of my family, culture, heritage. You know, I think that I will continue to learn more and more about it every single day as we grow up.


Bryan: [00:32:15] Yeah. I mean, just on the topic of names as well, like how’d you get from the name Slantd, I’m kind of curious about. What is the meaning behind that? How’d you guys ended up with that name? Because we love it and we like it a lot. It feels like it’s strong and political at the same time, it’s like…

Katerina: [00:32:35] We get either a lot of love for it or a lot of hate for it.

Like it’s a very binary situation. So it’s actually interesting. Cause I feel like most people, our age, like the millennial group, understand what we’re doing with the name Slant’d in the fact that we are reclaiming a previously derogatory term, turning it into something beautiful and empowering and really writing our own narrative that has been historically written by other people. So thank you for liking it. We do get a lot of criticism for it because you know, it does stem from a previously derogatory term. And so it’s something that we’re definitely trying to change and kind of take back that power. But the way we came across it was we just had a big old brainstorm about what our name for the magazine could be.

We went through some really terrible names. A lot of food-related names, a lot of cutesy names. And I don’t know if there was other final contenders really stood out as like the one that was bold, provocative. It inspired a discussion about Asian American identity and what is appropriate or not appropriate.

And just this huge discussion about like cultural appropriation versus appreciation, race, identity. All wrapped up in one little name. And so that’s always been our mission is to spark this dialogue and to make talking about race and identity easier in our everyday lives. And so we were like if we can accomplish that with our name alone, we’ve done a great job.

So it started out just with like a bunch of memes and landing on Slantd. I think it was Krystie’s sister, Crystal, who thought of the name. So kudos to Crystal she’s, she’s been such an amazing part of the team. But yeah, that’s how we landed on it.

Bryan: [00:34:23] That’s that was really awesome to hear that you guys are reclaiming something like that.

Cause that’s, that’s how we felt about our name as well, Asian Hustle Network. So the word hustle has such a negative connotation to it. I just got hustle you know. When you talk about the word hustle with the Asian community, it comes in a very positive light. Like my parents came to the United States and we hustle our way through and my parents, I have this hustle to take care of, like give us the American dream, you know? So we pretty much feel the same way you want it to turn into a very positive thing. You like the word hustle, like resonate with who we are, our identity, a lot, you know?

Even when we’re referring to like having side projects when you have a full-time job, it’s called a side hustle, you know? And we love that you guys are repurposing Slant’d, do the same thing and having this conversation right now, it’s like, I have a lot in common, you know, I kind of wish that we met you guys earlier teamed up so much earlier, like decent, great in the world.

Krystie: [00:35:21] Yeah. Things happen for a reason at the right timing. So I feel like it was, yeah, it’s never too late. And with the name, I feel like it was a bold statement and it was just so interesting with timing because that was at the same time that the Supreme court case came out around the slants. The rock band, the Asian American rock band.

And we became friends with Simon from the slants because of our name as well. You know, it’s like, we got your back, you got ours. Like we support, we see what you’re doing. We see, we hear you. We value you. And at the same time, that’s actually how we got introduced to our lawyer. Who literally it was, is this lawyer, John Tran, he’s incredible.

He’s based on an Irvine. And he found us on the internet. I think it was actually through Simon from the slants and he just sent us a cold email and was like, Hey, I really believe in this mission that you all have. And yeah, I don’t know if anyone’s ever given you any legal advice. But I would love to help you protect your name because it is obviously something so important for you.

And I just really believe in the cause that you are all championing. And I love that so much because we were literally nothing at that time. Like we were just an idea and someone in the community believed in us and felt this generosity of spirit to reach out and be like, we see you and we love what you’re doing and more of this needs to happen.

And so I think of Ahn in that same way where it’s like, if an entity like that exists it’s like giving our community permission to chase after things that we really care about. And, you know, I think Bryan, you asked the question earlier around like the struggles of entrepreneurship. And for me personally, I think that actually giving myself permission every day to be an entrepreneur is one of the hardest things, especially coming as someone who’s like, so risk-averse, or I’m trying to be more fluid and open with things. A life coach has helped, but like being more fluid with stuff and just giving myself permission to take risks like this and to go after things I care about.

And what I’m passionate about is probably the biggest struggle. But I think like having this community and having people and having a partner like Katerina has been really helpful in giving myself permission, you know, just like to go out and dream a little bit bigger.

Bryan: [00:37:28] Yeah. I love it. And shout out to John Tran as well. He also trademarked our name as well.

Katerina: [00:37:37] Our lawyer dad, like,

Krystie: [00:37:41] Oh my God. He’s like our fairy godfather. I just like, this is incredible. Shout out to John. We love it.

[talking over each other]

Oh my gosh.

Katerina: [00:37:54] We should send him something.

Krystie: [00:37:57] I know.

Bryan: [00:37:59] And Simon earlier, Simon Tam, right? He’s a great guy as well. Like we connected him a couple of times.

Maggie: [00:38:08] So, I mean,  we watched your video on the Kickstarter campaign and I did notice that a majority, if not all, are women on your team, is that correct?

Katerina: [00:38:17] Yes. Yes. I love to male-identifying amplifiers, but our favorite team and historically we’ve all been mostly women.

Krystie: [00:38:27] Wouldn’t I get things done. I’m going to just say that, but like we welcome all, but it just turns out that people who have stayed and flourished in the core team at least have been female-identifying.

Bryan: [00:38:38] We love that too, because we, for our team, at least we try to staff our team with a lot of different perspectives. Now tell me from different orientations, sexual orientation and different beliefs, different parts of the world, you have people, our team in London, Australia, Canada, and we realized that now it’s bigger than just the United States like Asians from around the world and Canada, Australia, Europe are feeling the same thing. And when we have to bring together, these people collect mentalities and different life experiences. It’s all the same. We all have this desire to belong to a community.

So I love the way you guys are staffing your team. Do you agree? No offense to all the guys in my team, but like girls do get it. You get it done.

Krystie: [00:39:24] Yeah. So, I mean, we would love to have more male and like gender nonbinary folks, for sure. I think if any of them are listening and want to help out, I feel like definitely shoot us an email because we think the diversity of perspective is really important.

Like I think we’ve been working really hard to diversify beyond East Asian. So although a lot of us, I think, look East Asian or East Asian passing. It’s actually not true. Like we do have a lot of Southeast Asian representation and now some South Asian representation, but it’s really, really important to like demonstrate within leadership, you know, that we actually value diverse perspectives.

So we will, we would love to have more men and gender nonbinary.


Bryan: [00:40:00] Where can I submit an application.

Katerina: [00:40:06] Another thing I’ve noticed just in general, in these spaces of activist space, also a lot of like DEI spaces is sometimes I’ll look around the room and it’s usually mostly all women and I’m like, where are the men? And so I don’t know if it’s the fact that society doesn’t give men permission to be vulnerable.

Christy and I wanted to have an entire quarter based on a quarter of events on Asian masculinity and helping our male counterparts get more comfortable with these spaces. We do see men in these spaces, but I would say a lot of the events and gatherings I go to its mostly women. So that’s something that’s been on my mind lately is like, why is that? And how can we get more men involved?

Bryan: [00:40:50] Definitely. And maybe we could talk about collaboration too, because our group right now is predominantly men.

Maggie: [00:40:56] Yeah.

Bryan: [00:40:56] If we can bring together our communities, I think that’d be great for the Asian community.

Maggie: [00:41:00] Asian has been predominantly men when we first started the group.

It was a 30 to 70% ratio between women and men. But we started bringing on more women moderators and start encouraging more women to share their stories. And I think that trickled down to other women feeling inspired to share their own stories as well.

So now it’s really converted to a 54 and 46% between men and women, which is good. We’re heading in the right direction, but we still need a lot of work. But yeah, I agree. You know, just being in ARGs and like ARGs were like Pan Asian and equity groups like that. I do notice that there are more women compared to men and I’m not sure why that is. I think, yeah. Similar to what Katerina was saying maybe they didn’t feel like they don’t have a voice in those certain groups. But we’re looking into that too, yeah.

Bryan: [00:41:50] Always looking to improve, but since, like, I’m kind of curious too, when you guys work together, what kind of struggles have you guys faced, like working with a co-founder or trying to execute an idea when you guys have different approaches to solving the same problem?

Maggie: [00:42:06] Yeah. And like Bryan and I always say that like, co-founders, there’s, they’re pretty much like being married to each other. Right. And in terms of like you two, meeting each other in that bakery store. What was like some of the evolutions that you guys have gone through? You know, what are some things that you guys really worked well together on? And what are the differences that you guys work well on?

Krystie: [00:42:25] Yeah. Wow. There’s so much, but yes, we are basically married.

Katerina: [00:42:28] Love to say that, we’re basically married. Same thing.

Krystie: [00:42:33] I mean, we were also open books. I feel like we’re not afraid to get vulnerable and just be honest about the process. And it’s definitely challenging at times, right?

Like we’re long-distance we met once before we decided to get married.  

We’re wild, yeah.

Yeah. But it’s. We, we knew deep down, despite the differences in maybe perspective or ways of working, like we still shared a very core set of values, and just like this belief and this love for the community. So I think that’s what always bonds us.

And also knowing that things come from positive intent, but I think. Like every relationship, no one tells you that you need to be really explicit about expectations, about communication styles. And I think all of those things are exacerbated with the long-distance relationship. So, you know, it’s no secret.

We tell this to other people and other founders actually, like we highly recommend getting like a business therapist or a coach. And we actually got one when we were going through a really rough patch in our partnership. And it was the first time that we actually, I think sat down and just got really honest about how we were feeling, not just about like the business, but on like a very deep, personal level. And really taking stock of like where we were both really strong in and being honest about what we have gaps in.

And I think just being very candid and transparent about like, What do we need help with? You know, it’s like an ongoing journey. Like, and as long as both people are all in and willing to do the work, it’s definitely possible to make it out to the other end. But it’s, you know if you don’t talk about it things and you just make assumptions like it definitely can go awry.

And so it’s just, it’s been a work in progress, but I would say that we’ve come pretty far from like where we first started. Cause you take it off of faith and like the honeymoon phase of everything’s really beautiful and fun and exciting. And then you’ve never worked together before. So you just, you forget, you know, you forget certain things and for Katerina and I, like, we were building friendship at the same time, we were building a partnership, which is its own struggle in its own right.

And so I think just being really intentional about. People are like, I think big learning from that. And I think personally I’ve applied that a lot with the rest of our team. Like whenever we bring someone in and being very intentional about, you know, who they are as individuals, what are their communication styles and all of that, to ensure that you have like a very strong and healthy working relationship from the get-go.

But I don’t know, Katerina, if you have any thoughts on like how our friendship and our partnership has evolved over time.

Katerina: [00:44:57] Yeah. I mean, that’s spot on and I think. Some of the biggest things that we learned from Julie who was our partnership coach was one, yeah, open, honest, and often communication is always the key to everything.

A lot of times you get into conflicts and it’s a misunderstanding, or there was a lack of information and getting on the same page about something that’s bothering you, that’s little to something that might be a bigger conflict. Like just always be, be upfront about it is always a great solution. And then also just realizing that.

It’s rarely about right or wrong. And it’s more about just understanding. So I think over the past couple of years, I’ve learned that there are so many different working styles and all of them are valid. Another thing I’ve learned is that our weaknesses shouldn’t be seen as weaknesses. And so with Julie, we did this exercise called superpowers and shadow side.

So it’s like everything that you have a strength in, there’s also a shadow side to that and things you need to be aware of, but instead of calling it a weakness or something that you need to change, It’s just something you need to be aware of and maybe slot in other people to fill those gaps, but it’s not something that you should be ashamed of.

And so I think a lot of it is just like tweaking your perspective on things and changing them from a binary of good or bad to just, this is something we need to figure out and we’ll figure it out with these tools that we have in our tool kit. So I feel like we’ve learned so much about building a strong partnership and like Chrissy said, it’s always a work in progress, but once you have those tools in place of like good communication, often feedback, you know what to do when you’re getting stressed or you’re you’re feeling burned out.

Once you have those tools in place, it becomes a lot easier to manage different things happening in your relationship. Yeah. It’s like a marriage.

Krystie: [00:46:46] Yeah. I was going to say actually one of the key things to I realize is like, don’t model your leadership after someone else’s. And I think that’s something that we both learned that like, you know, we came from corporate and it’s a very masculine and white supremacist type of structure.

So, you know, certain things that were valued there may not be valued in the company that we’re building. And so being really authentic about that. And so I think one of the fun tools we actually use is personality tests. Like we fricking love personality tests. So there are things like the Enneagram. We look at astrology. What house you’re sorted in for Harry Potter.

Like we do this. It’s like a fun light way to actually get to know each other better and to have the vocabulary to actually talk about how we work and how we think. Because no one really teaches us how to articulate those things. Yeah. Similarly to slam two’s idea of wanting to can make race, an easier topic to talk about.

We want to make this type of partnership building and people skills building an easier thing and a more fun thing for everyone. So, you know, we joke about that stuff, but it’s it’s been really helpful. And actually, when we have new folks join, we do have them fill out some of these personality tests, just so we have something as a starting point to talk about because yeah, it’s just like, we’re a creative company.

So like why not take creative liberties to figure out how each other likes to work?

Maggie: [00:48:02] Yeah, I love it. I love it.

Bryan: [00:48:04] Definitely love that a lot too. I mean, just taking tons of figure out like your leadership style. It goes a long way. Even with our organization too. Like we always tell each other it’s okay to be brutally honest, especially for me.

I tell my team to be very mean to me all the time because I’m here to improve. I wanted to listen to honest feedback because the danger of having an organization where we’re all nice to each other, It’s that things get swept under the rug all the time.

In fact, you’re building a worst culture because no one’s really honest to each other anymore.

So once in a while, I would tell my executive team, like I just, be really mean to me in front of people. It’s okay. You know, I’m not the type of leader where I take things personally. I’m the type of leader where I see things to be improved upon. I always incrementing it’s okay to fail. It’s okay to make mistakes inside our group.

People make mistakes all the time. Just go ahead. I want people to be more like take more risks. It’s the reason what we’re doing so many things since AHN is because you bring on people are crazy ideas, you know.

For us, it’s like, we’re not too comfortable with like doing giveaways or, you know, just putting ourselves out there in general.

But we have people on the team who are when we just enabled them. And when. I’m against it, I tell them to be honest me. They’d be like Bryan, you’re being too hesitant. I’m like okay. All right. I need to take a step back and alright, let’s execute this. Let’s come up with a plan. Let’s do it.

You know, and I feel like you guys are the same way, you know? One thing I really love about what you guys do is the personality tests. I think that’s something that we should really focus more on AHN is the personality test because for us, like we bring you in with a certain skill. Like you are really good at event planning. You’re really good at writing and you’re really good at strategy operations. I’m putting the team and then that’s sort of what we do, but I think you guys have a better operational standpoint than we do right now. And I really commend you for thinking about that.

Maggie: [00:49:57] Yeah. I also really loved the personality tests.

I think that in the first couple of years, starting out a company or a business it’s so easy to get like, so like busy with just like, you know, operations and wrapping up your product. Right. And you forget to really like to learn about your team members, right? Learn about the personalities and stuff like that.

And I feel like we can definitely do better in AHN. I think every company should do that as well, you know, learn about their employees, their peers and see how we can work better together. So I really love that.

So I know Slantd is about redefining what it means to be American.

We’ll love to know what it means to both you Katerina and Krystie, what it means to be American to you.

Krystie: [00:50:41] Ooh, that’s such a juicy

Maggie: [00:50:46] Christy. You can go first.

Krystie: [00:50:47] Oh my God. I just bought, yeah, I called voluntold. What does it mean to be American?

I don’t think I have any like beautifully pithy statements other than to finally be seen and valued as I am and not to be questioned about why I belong here. Like to be fully accepted that I belong to take up… I belong here and that I deserve to take up space.

Maggie: [00:51:16] That was beautiful.

Bryan: [00:51:17] We put you on the spot. We completely understand.

Maggie: [00:51:22] Katerina.

Katerina: [00:51:25] It’s actually something that I’m struggling with right now, just because our leadership is so incompetent. And I feel like there is a lot of shame with being American, especially if you look at how other parts of the world are handling Coronavirus, the many struggles our country is currently facing.

And so, you know, one thing I’ve been working on is actually getting my Taiwanese passport. What if something happens in the US and I need a bounce.

But I think what gives me hope is. Being with people like everyone on this call and on this podcast, being with the activist community, being with other BiPAP groups, because I think that is the future of America.

And I also look at gen Z. So we have a group of trailblazers, which are more traditionally known as interns, but we don’t like calling them interns because they give us so much more than what traditional interns are perceived to offer. And they’re all gen Z. So they’re all in college or recently graduated and they are so inspiring.

Like they are thinking about social issues, political issues, identity issues at their age, when, when I was in college, I just wanted to party and get good grades. Like I was not thinking about my identity or like global warming or like the Race Wars. And so I think. What will help me, and I think a lot of other people too, is focusing on the future of America and what it could mean to be American and what we’re growing into, where, like Krystie said, like everyone belongs here.

Everyone can have an opportunity to thrive here, and it doesn’t matter what your skin tone is, what your race is, how you grew up. Like everyone is welcome here to make America the great place that it was supposed to be. So I think I’m currently struggling with that, but I am hopeful, especially with the new generation, all these amazing activists work and this like work of new future building happening in our communities. That is what is really inspiring me to be hopeful about what it means to be American.

I think we’re going to get there in the future like change is happening. I think we can all feel it around us, but yeah, it’s definitely a work in progress.

Krystie: [00:53:35] Yeah.

I think it’s our responsibility as the generation to redefine it, you know, and to build the America and the vision that we believe it can be. So I fully agree. I think it’s like about the future. Like it’s not about going back to normal life. What was normal was not working.

Maggie: [00:53:50] Right. Right. Exactly. Well, it was amazing having you two on the show.

How can our listeners learn more about the two of you? And do you have any final words you’d like to add in maybe talking about your Kickstarter campaign?

Katerina: [00:54:05] We are running our Kickstarter campaign until September 18th I believe for issue four revolutions. If you want to preorder your copy, that’s where you can do it.

The link is bit slash Lee. Big dot Lee slash…

And then on the internet, we just launched a beautiful new website slantdd.com. No E in Slantd. And then on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter we’re @slantdcreative. So come find us on Instagram, especially we’re very loud about all the things that we do so you can keep in touch with us there.

Maggie: [00:54:43] Amazing.

Bryan: [00:54:44] Yeah, we can just so much of you on the show today.

Thank you two. It was

Maggie: [00:54:48] amazing hearing your stories.

Katerina: [00:54:50] Thank you for having us.