Asian ≠ disabled

Marlee and JaeBy Jae-Ha Kim
April 23, 2013

I found this picture of Marlee Matlin and me. I remember it was a fun photo shoot. While she was in hair and makeup, the photographer took a few test shots of me to make sure the lighting etc. was set up properly. He snapped a picture of the two of us before I interviewed her. She had just gotten all made up.

Me? As you can see, not so much. But, I still like the photo. And it reminds me that I want to dig out that James Dean shirt for the summer. (I used to collect them. Did you know that?)

Anyhow, the interview went well.

But, I have memories of an uncomfortable conversation I had with the editor later when he told me why I had been chosen to interview the actress. He said that he wanted someone who would make her feel comfortable. And since she was hearing impaired and I was Asian, we’d both have something in common.

Yes, you read that correctly. He viewed my being Asian as a disability.

If this happened today, I would set him straight. But I was in my early 20’s and didn’t know how to defend myself to someone more than twice my age. I remember being embarrassed by his words. I should’ve corrected him.

© 2013 JAE-HA KIM | All Rights Reserved

Comments (7)

  1. ryanjhlee says:

    Life is full of missed opportunities…

  2. Stephen says:

    It’s cool you got to interview Marlee, but sheesh, that editor.

  3. Derek says:

    Is it possible that, per many of your columns, the common ground was triumph over adversity?

  4. Many people in the deaf community do not like her. When I was going to school for sign language interpreting, they had nothing nice to say about her at all!

  5. Wow! This editor thought that being deaf and Asian were about the same?

  6. Tom Meyer says:

    I think that you could be considered disabled, but only by marriage…. 😉

  7. John Harrold says:

    from the interview: I found this to be relevant too.

    “The actor John Lone (Year of the Dragon and Iceman) says he wants the press to refer to him not as, “Chinese actor John Lone” but simply as “actor John Lone.”

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