"Sunrise" co-anchor Gia Vang has added fashionista to her duties. The journalist, who joined the KARE morning team in 2019, has helped launch a line of hats, sweatshirts and T-shirts that bear the words "Very Asian." It's part of campaign to fight racism and raise awareness.
The movement started after Michelle Li, an anchor at the NBC affiliate in St. Louis, filed a report on what people eat on New Year's Day. At the end of the segment, she mentioned that she eats dumpling soup, adding: "That's what a lot of Korean people do."
Shortly after the piece aired, a viewer left a voicemail at the station, criticizing Li for being "very Asian" and telling Li to "keep her Korean to herself."
Li shared the recording on social media. It has garnered more than 3 million views.
Her followers included Vang, who immediately voiced her support. The two of them, along with Vang's partner, decided to launch a clothing line. Sales began this past Tuesday. Within the first 24 hours, they had 1,300 orders. Items will be available at least through
Tuesday at veryasian.us. All proceeds go toward the Asian American Journalists Association.
Vang, one of the highest-profile Hmong-American TV personalities in the country, chatted Thursday by phone about why she stepped forward.
Q: How do you and Michelle know each other?
A: We reached out to each other after the Atlanta shootings in March 2021 in which six Asian women were killed. We've stayed in touch on different things since then. When Michelle posted that voice mail on Instagram, I thought, "Lord" and "Not surprised." I was really hurt along with her. I sent her a message apologizing for what she had to hear. We both wanted to reclaim the words "Very Asian." She said, "Do you think it could be a T-shirt?" I gave her a resounding, "Yes."
Q: Why did you react so strongly to what happened? How could you relate?
A: Michelle has talked a lot about feeling like the perpetual foreigner. I've felt that way in many instances, like I'm not American or not American enough. Well, the fact is we are American. I feel that very strongly.
Q: Do you think you would have reacted the same way when you were starting off in your career?
A: I've grown so much in the 13 years I've been doing this. When you first start off, you give so much of yourself to the company and the people you work for that you lose a little bit of your identity. I tried to conform to an ideal of what they wanted from me, a perfect-looking reporter who speaks English very well. I wanted it so if viewers turned their heads away from the screen, they wouldn't even know that I was Asian. I don't have time for that anymore. I'm very proud to be Asian.
Q: Where do you go from here?
A: Michelle has a million ideas. So do I. Right now, we're thankful for the conversation. But we don't want this just to be a hashtag. We want this to be a movement. This is a beautiful moment, but it needs to be more than just a merch store.
Q: What do you and Michelle have planned once you finally meet in person?
A: We're going to go on a dumpling tour of some sort.