13 Asian American and Pacific Islander Influencers You Should Follow on Instagram Right Now
The Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) community dealt with a lot of enraging and heartbreaking traumas this past year. Being scapegoated for the COVID-19 pandemic led to the enormous increase in anti-Asian hate crimes that just won't let up. Now that it's May, the official Asian Pacific American Heritage Month (APAHM), join me in taking this month as an opportunity to celebrate the vast communities under the AAPI umbrella and to start educating ourselves on their oft-forgotten histories and continued struggles in the U.S.
A simple way to do that, not to mention entertaining, is by following AAPI content creators online. As a Filipino-American, I didn't see myself represented in traditional media growing up, which is why the digital world became my safe haven. Seeing unapologetic Asianness online, especially when celebrated by millions of followers, helped me feel seen and embrace my own culture.
So, in honor of APAHM, we're sharing 13 AAPI influencers that you need to follow right now. Regardless of your background, you'll enjoy following these content creators who have beautifully photographed beauty, fashion, and lifestyle content, as well as sometimes educational yet always inspiring posts.
1. Marcela Alcalá and Norma Alcalá
Beauty content creators Norma Alcalá and Marcela Alcalá are the mother-daughter duo behind @platinumpunk and @mexicanbutjapanese. The tandem posts videos swatching the latest beauty products side by side and sometimes wearing matching-ish outfits. Norma, now 69, challenges the concept of "age-appropriate." She told Who What Wear, "I don't believe that you have to do/not do, wear/not wear certain things at certain ages." It's a joy to watch a healthy mother-daughter relationship rooted in a shared love for beauty and self-love. Plus, vintage lovers will enjoy Marcela's occasional posts about her enviable vintage clothing collection.
2. Jenny Ong
Jenny Ong started out as a fashion blogger in 2012 at Neon Blush and has since transitioned to creating content about living sustainably as an "earth activist," according to her bio. "The farther along I went with fashion blogging, the more I felt trapped in excess. I've never felt good about excessive consumption," she wrote on her website. Now, living in Los Angeles with her seven chickens and two dogs, Ong makes the eco-conscious lifestyle look both stylish and approachable, sharing daily bits about her root crops to harvesting chicken eggs.
3. Aimee Song
The OG fashion blogger, Aimee Song, started documenting her covetable style in 2008 on her blog, Song of Style, which she also named the clothing line she launched with Revolve in 2019. Song, who values Asian representation, even had a Barbie doll made in her likeness. "I know how isolating it feels as a kid to not have a doll that looks remotely similar to you, so I wanted to make sure that with this opportunity, my Barbie represented Asians," she told Teen Vogue. The Korean American globetrotter posts a blend of lifestyle, fashion, and beauty content, and advocates for mental health to her 5.6 million Instagram followers.
4. Rachel Nguyen
Vietnamese American Rachel Nguyen started her blog, Thats Chic, at 17 and her YouTube channel later on to document her Cali-cool style. Despite a constant stream of projects with brands like Mejuri, she disliked that content creation was one-sided. So she created Warde, a Slack community. "Warde stemmed from seeing a common thread in the beauty of humans that I've interacted with or had left comments," her Warde bio states. With dedicated channels like #bookclub, #mystics, and #plants, she brings her community together to engage in dialogue about everyday things.
5. Gabs Gibbs
Gabriella Gibbs is a Filipino makeup artist and one-half of pop twosome Gibbs the Duo, with her sister Alyssa. The Manila-based influencer creates impeccable makeup looks that are heavily inspired by pop culture, like this butterfly eye makeup a la Mariah Carey or this Death Becomes Her-inspired look with her sister. The Philippines has been under some form of strict lockdown since March 2020 and her colorful, fantastical creations, as well as her fresh, barely-there beauty looks, serve as an escape. Come for the makeup, stay for the cat content.
6. Bretman Rock
Each morning, Filipino-American content creator Bretman Rock Sacayanan starts his Instagram Stories with "I'm having a cute day because I woke up." That should clue you in on how raw, entertaining, and charming he is. The hilarious Hawaii-based beauty vlogger released makeup lines with Morphe and Wet n Wild and even has his own reality show, MTV's Following: Bretman Rock, which premiered last February. More than 25 million followers across his platforms follow him for his skilled makeup looks, funny anecdotes, fitness tips (his killer core workout sequence called the "absolutely not" even went viral), and his random hobbies that include beading necklaces and creating resin ashtrays. Sometimes, you just want to follow the life of an unproblematic human.
7. Nabela Noor
Nabela Noor's "Pockets of Peace" series on TikTok—which was created when she was battling COVID-19 in 2020—attracted almost 6 million followers, but the Bangladeshi-American content creator has long been championing beauty diversity and advocating for self-love through her makeup tutorials; brand collaborations (Olive & June and E.L.F. Cosmetics, among them); and her own inclusive, eco-conscious fashion label, Zeba, launched in 2019. In September, she's extending her self-love message to children through Beautifully Me, a children's book she authored. "I spend every day helping people unlearn negative and unhealthy beauty standards. I hope that this book serves as a conversation starter...on the impact of our words, the importance of self-love, and discovering what makes you beautifully you," she captioned on May 5th on her Instagram.
8. Chriselle Lim
A YouTube early adopter, Chriselle Lim launched her channel The Chriselle Factor in 2011 and has since been a trusted voice in the beauty, fashion, and lifestyle spaces. The Korean American content creator has used her voice more recently amidst the anti-Asian rhetoric when she called on her followers to "speak up about what is happening right now. Let's break the model minority stereotype," she said in a February 16th video. These days, 2.6 million followers on TikTok enjoy her "rich mom" persona with hilarious clips on how to look rich.
9. Hāwane Rios
Hāwane Rios is a kanaka 'oiwi or a native Hawaiian content creator and singer who highlights traditional art forms of chant and dance. According to her website, she is "moved to write and sing songs with a healing and unifying message." Her beautifully shot photographs are part-educational and part-activism with photos and captions calling for native Hawaiians' rights as well as highlighting aspects of their culture.
10. Jenn Im
Another OG YouTuber, Jenn Im's YouTube page was created more than a decade ago and has amassed more than 3 million subscribers. Aside from being a style icon, with Eggie, a clothing line she launched in 2017, Im continuously highlights her Korean American heritage with videos about Korean cuisine, her traditional Korean wedding, and the struggles of growing up Korean American as well as the challenges first-generation immigrants, like her mom, face. More recently, in an attempt to foster community, she's been hosting a monthly Zoom book club at Curl Up Club to discusses her favorite books with her followers.
11. Zain Shah
Zain Shah is a South Asian creator championing queer people of color. Shah, who's had projects with Fenty Skin, says in an Instagram caption, "I've spent half my life trying to fit in, not talking about where I come from." Shah hopes to represent "how dynamic South Asian culture can be" by posting flawless beauty looks on social media, highlighting aspects of their culture, and talking about issues affecting queer people of color.
12. Jikaria Sisters
In a little over a year, Omika, Rishika, and Aashika Jikaria, better known as the Jikaria Sisters on TikTok, already gained more than 600,000 followers on the platform where they post choreographed dances to trending songs with Bollywood mashups. The Indian American siblings were born and raised in New York and struggled with their diasporic identities. "Growing up, we felt as if our Indian and American identities were mutually exclusive...as if engaging with our Indian identity made us less American and vice versa," the sisters said in an interview with a local publication. Now, through Western and Asian fusions of music, choreography, and even outfits (think: Powerpuff Girls sweatshirts with traditional Indian head accessories), the sisters embrace both aspects of their identities and encourage others in the diaspora to do the same.
13. Asia Jackson
In 2016, Asia Jackson pioneered #MagandangMorenx, a global movement that literally translates to "beautiful brown skin" aimed to "challenge colorism in Filipino communities as I was bullied for having a darker complexion while living there," she wrote in an April 5th caption. The African American and indigenous Filipino content creator and actor posts about beauty, fashion, and lifestyle but also advocates for mental health with honest posts dedicated to how her use of antidepressants helps. She also speaks up about the erasure of Black Asians in the media and educates people about her indigenous Filipino community.