How Mixed Asian Artist Alex Porat Connects to Her Asian Heritage
By Maina Chen
May 15, 2020
Alex Porat, a Chinese-Polish Toronto-based singer, songwriter discussed her dual identity alongside the release of her new single “happy for you.”
The 22-year-old singer celebrates diversity encouraged by her Malaysia-born, Chinese mother and her Polish father. From a young age, Alex was encouraged to be creative. She told NextShark that she would spend her childhood singing karaoke, in a choir, or lining up for TV show auditions.
She would go on to perform YouTube covers, eventually, performing her own originals. Songwriting is Alex’s therapy and helps her conquer her emotions, with her latest inspiration coming from her fears.
Breaking into the music industry wasn’t one without its struggles as Alex noted the “tall barrier” blocking the way of being considered a “real” musician compared to being labeled as only a cover artist.
That’s why when it comes to collaborating and highlighting fellow Asian creators in her singles and videos, she feels “super grateful that I’m in a position where I can help support talented creatives of color.”
The young singer grew up a big fan of Studio Ghibli films and Korean dramas and has since developed “a huge appreciation for how Asian creators make art,” admiring Asian media giant 88rising and harboring hopes of collaborating with fellow mixed artists Conan Gray and Joji.
“What are you?” is a question she’s grown used to hearing and still wrestles with the notion of being “Asian enough” or “White enough.”
“I always feel like I’m lying if I say I’m Asian without saying I’m also half white, and the same the other way around,” she said. “I think both cultures, though not always overtly, still see me as different than them because of my mix.”
In the past, she attempted to learn Mandarin to better converse with the half of her family whose English wasn’t the best but found herself struggling. Her teachers didn’t hold her to the same standard as her peers.
“Maybe they felt like it wasn’t as necessary for me to learn it,” she said.
It remains one of her biggest regrets that she isn’t able to have fluent conversations with those family members.
Her Asian heritage is one she’s proud of now, but in a childhood story she shared, that wasn’t always the case. In her third and final eligible year in a row of auditioning for a show, Alex found herself having to perform while staving off a fever. Her mom tried to be supportive, but her worry was slipping through. She would ask the singer if it was better to go home.
The only thought to go through younger Alex’s mind was, “This is your only chance.”
So she powered through the minute and a half she spent hours waiting in line for but didn’t make it until the end.
Months later, she would continuously pick herself apart and “question myself, my face, my body, my voice… I didn’t realize that it was the beginning of a journey of insecurity.”
Now, she said, “Being an artist is not only about music and expression, but also about being a role model for anyone who looks like me, so it’s extremely important to me to always be confident in who I am and to share that.”
And when it comes to the spike in racism and hate crimes against Asians who are scapegoated for the outbreak of COVID-19, she chooses not to stay quiet. Despite not having as many troubling reports in Canada, she worries about her mom who goes on weekly grocery runs for the family.
“I think that because I am ‘only’ half Asian some people think they can get away with saying racist things in front of me, but I’m not a bystander,” she said. “It’s part of who I am and important to stand up for it.”
Feature Image via @alexandraporat
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