Polartropica has always been one of our favorite artists, she puts on these detailed, aesthetic shows and always has a message behind the shimmering music. Polartropica has been so active in BLM and the Stop Asian Hate movement. They started a microgrant program with their partner, artist Lauren YS, aimed at supporting and showcasing queer, BIPOC artists. We talked to Polartropica about the challenges they've faced in the music industry, and why artists need to be involved in activism.
What has Asian American meant to you growing up and now? Has it changed?
Polartropica: Growing up Taiwanese American was fun in many ways but tricky and painful at times - I was always trying to fit in and downplay any part of me that was different from my classmates at school. I've definitely grown to appreciate and treasure my heritage, traditions, and family history!
How do you embrace your ethnicity and heritage?
Polartropica: I've been trying to learn as much as I can about where I'm from. When I get to visit relatives back in Asia, I've been more intentional about spending time listening to their stories. Because my extended family lives so far away, and I also have a bit of a language barrier, there never seems to be enough time to connect. Most recently, this past week, I lost my popo, grandmother, on my mom's side. I feel a lot of regret and sadness that we didn't get to be there to say goodbye - and I have so many other unanswered questions for her about her journey from Shanghai to Taiwan in her early 20s. It's been so lovely meeting other AAPI folks out here in LA, and celebrating cultural holidays - some of which I'm only now learning about.
What challenges have you faced in the music industry as an AAPI?
Polartropica: When I'm out at shows or playing festivals, there is definitely a noticeable presence of femmes and POC present - I tend to always feel very much at home in settings with friends and music around, but it would definitely be such a richer and more inclusive space with better ratios of diversity and representation - especially for future generations of musicians and folks working in the business.
You've been doing so much with activism and awareness of BLM and Stop Asian Hate. Why is it important for artists to be involved in activism?
Polartropica: Back when I was a kid, I remember my Dad used to tell me that it's not always easy to do the right thing - but we should do it anyway. I speak up because I believe that we all have our own special voice and power, so we can make a difference if we choose to use it. Ultimately I speak up and try to do what I can because I believe in humanity. I feel like people can change the way they see and treat each other, systems can be reimagined to be set up in a better way to support those that need it most, and ultimately, we all are interconnected and here to uplift each other in the way we coexist.
Tell me about your microgrant program! What inspired it?
Polartropica: Squidtropica is a microgrant program, and IG platform my partner Lauren YS and I started in late 2020, showcasing the work of QTBIPOC artists. The professional world or arts can be difficult to navigate as a queer, bipoc artist, so we wanted to build this special community to encourage and inspire everyone making art in these times. Grants are awarded when available and are funded by donations, a percentage of select artwork sales by Lauren YS, and a portion of Polartropica merch. We are always accepting submissions on a rolling basis via DM to @squidtropica on Instagram.
What's some piece of advice for younger Asian American fans?
Polartropica: If you have a vision, trust it, and don't be afraid to try something that no one has ever done before. Good things take time. Enjoy the process as much as you can, and love on one another as much as possible!
"At 15 years old, I begged my mom to take me to Walmart to get Taylor Swift's debut deluxe album and I never turned back. This was my very first entry point to stan fandom. Growing up in Memphis, Tennessee I was exposed to a ton of music - from rapping 3 6 Mafia to bopping to Justin Timberlake's solo discography. Now, in LA have a day job working in nonprofit development, but by night, I'm a full-fledged fangirl. I'll listen to generally any genre, but I'm a sucker for a good pop song. If you ever need someone to scream sing Carly Rae Jepsen's E·MO·TION with, I'm your girl. No, I still have not gotten over the One Direction hiatus. Please continue to respect my privacy. Twitter : samfonggg, Instagram : samantha_fong"