Former MTV Correspondent SuChin Pak Speaks on Minorities in the Media



Hannah Fuchs

Colgate’s ALANA (African, Latin, Asian, & Native American) Cultural Center and the Korean American Student Association (KASA) brought SuChin Pak, a former MTV news correspondent to campus on Wednesday, November 3 to speak on the media’s portrayal of minorities.

SuChin Pak became an Asian American role model as the first Asian face on MTV news in 2001. While working with MTV, she covered events like the MTV Video Music Awards and MTV’s pre-Grammy show but she has also covered momentous events like September 11 and the earthquake in Haiti.

Pak’s latest work is with Pepsi’s “Refresh” project, which strives to empower youth across the country.

“Self-empowerment comes when you can fully express who you are without a juggling act,” Pak said at the Colgate event.

Pak’s presentation focused on self-image and, particularly, how life as a minority can complicate perceptions and self-acceptance.

In her documentary, “My Life (Translated),” Pak discusses these unspoken struggles with other minorities. The film chronicles a feeling of insecurity within different minorities who view themselves harshly against the backdrop of American pop-culture beauty.

“In SuChin’s documentary, it was clear that all minorities, especially women, are affected by the media’s portrayal of beauty,” Elise Bronzo, ALANA’s Outreach Program Coordinator said. “While SuChin was insecure about the shape and size of her eyes, other minorities are insecure about the size of their lips, hips, hair and other body parts.”

Pak dealt with her own insecurities growing up in mainstream American culture, and her life story was the primary focus of her lecture.

Pak recalled taping her eyelids to create creases which temporarily made her feel better about herself. For most of her life, she considered getting plastic surgery to create folds in her eyelids, a very common procedure for Asians and Asian Americans.

Pak also discussed the balancing act between her parents’ indigenous culture and her new American world.

Making the leap to a career in American media was a formidable task, especially since there was little Asian presence in the profession.

“I had to figure out how to make an identity out of a void,” Pak said. “But as a minority I felt it was my rite of passage to battle stereotypes and fill the void.”

Pak bravely filled that vacuum. Her work on MTV and with youth led to a realization that she could have her own definition of beauty, one that did not entail plastic surgery.

“She explained herself and her personal experience in a way that helped non-Asian students understand her struggles in the media while also empowering Asian students to believe in their ability and beauty,” Bronzo said.

Pak said she has enjoyed her time at MTV, mostly because she was able to work actively in the field.

“The MTV I love is the one that is the megaphone for youth culture,” Pak said, though she wishes there was a greater depiction of ordinary young people.

Her outgoing and down-to-earth sensibility has enabled her to be a role model for both Asian Americans and youth alike. Pak encourages youth to step out of their safe zones and live their lives as Americans without rejecting roots.

“I thought she was really impressive,” first-year Jeehyon Yoh said. “She advocated values I grew up with and reinforced my idea of beauty, without the surgery.”

Pak believes that the character definition of Americans is constantly transforming, a message that can resonate with the entire Colgate student body.

“This generation will define what it means to be American,” Pak said. “With the progress in technology, the youth are their own program directors and can control the pop culture reference, creating their own stories and channels.”

“It’s great that the school brings prominent youth figures to school, bringing diverse perspectives to campus,” first-year Jessica Ospina said.

ALANA’s goal is to bring relevant speakers to campus that can identify and break down the roots of prejudice. For this reason, Bronzo felt the event was a success.

“She provoked the audience to consider the experiences of their peers and the greater minority population, which is what we are hoping to accomplish in every event that ALANA supports,” she said.