William Kueho Yu: Asian-American Story Teller, Freelance Writer, Senior Strategist, Pioneer of #StarringJohnCho

“I am someone who is trying to tell the stories that I wish I knew.” – William Kueho Yu 

Last September, I had the honor to join Will, along with 26 other bright young leaders across diverse backgrounds as a 2016 ADCOLOR Future – a unique program that’s dedicated to identifying and nuturing the next generation of rising leaders in Advertising, Marketing, Media and Public Relations industries. We were sponsored to attend the 10th Annual ADCOLOR Awards & Industry Conference in Boca Raton FL. At the conference, we underwent an extensive three day program including activities, workshops and a Hackathon designed to inspire creativity and use our unique talents to show the world, “This is who we are, it’s time to CHALLENGE NOW!” – because the excuse of “not finding enough diverse talent” is a mere myth. Pioneers across the globe are out here bridging the gap to ensure equal representation across industries and I’m honored to know some of them.

Anyone who was a past ADCOLOR Future knows the feeling of shedding blood, sweat and tears during the Hackathon. In 7 hours, we were split up into groups to tackle a creative brief for a fictional brand and joined together to come up with creative ways to tie a brand to a social issue. Will was one of my teammates for the Hackathon (Team REFRE5H) and that day a deeper bond was formed as our teams put the “e” in we, with only 5 minutes to present to a panel of judges. Why? Well “Go hard or go home.” Like many others, there’s no surprise to me post ADCOLOR that Will is out here killing the game through his recent accolades including a 2016 Shorty Award for Best Use of Hashtag: #StarringJohnCho and 2016 American Advertising Federation (AAF) Mosaic Award winner for his Multicultural Digital Campaign: #StarringJohnCho.

I was most inspired by Will’s recent decision to leave his role as a Senior Strategic Planner at ad agency TBWA\Chiat\Day NY to pursue his passion to tell Asian-American stories through film and writing screenplays outside of his current passion project #StarringJohnCho – a viral social movement that creatively uses Photoshopped movie posters to show the world what it would look like in today’s society if Hollywood casted an Asian-American actor (specifically John Cho) as their leading man. Ultimately, tackling the issue of lack of representation of Asian actors in film

The universe deserves to hear more stories of pioneers like Will and I couldn’t pass up an opportunity to share his story. Pour a glass of wine and pull up a seat – it’s time to get personal with William Kueho Yu.

Who is William Kueho Yu?

I am someone who is trying to tell the stories that I wish I knew. I’m always curious and searching for new perspectives or experiences that will surprise me. I am willing to fail, as long as I’m failing fast. And I would rather take a position and be proven wrong than to sit on the sidelines and watch time pass me by.

What makes you jump out of bed every morning?

The opportunity to create something new. In New York City, every single person in this city is out here on their grind. Everyone is trying to make it. It’s challenges that can sometimes be daunting, but at the same it’s a thrilling chance to go out and do something that has never been done before. To make something that can change one person’s mind.

How do you define inspiration?

To me, inspiration is the moment your view of the world around you shifts. It doesn’t have to be an earth-shattering shift or something that knocks everything off its axis. But it is the moment you stop, your head almost does the puppy-dog head tilt, and you think, “Oh yeah, I guess I’ve never thought about it that way before.” Those are the moments that I live for. My mantra for the past 4 years has been #SeeTheNew. #SeeTheNew is a challenge to myself to look at the world in new ways and to continually search for the unexpected. That’s inspiration to me.

How did you muster up enough courage to leave your role as a Senior Strategic Planner at TBWA\Chiat\Day NY to pursue your passion to tell Asian-American stories through film and writing?

I don’t think I could have felt comfortable pursuing this new career track without knowing that my family was wholeheartedly behind me. As an Asian-American, there are so many unspoken pressures and expectations that center on your professional progress. While a growing confidence has developed through my ability to start projects that found varying levels of success, I still felt that making this kind of a leap would forever be a burden upon those that I loved the most. In knowing that they want me to succeed, I believe that made all the difference to me.

What is an accomplishment you’re most proud of and why?

I have no doubt that #StarringJohnCho will forever be one of the most pivotal moments of my life. This project – a viral social movement that uses Photoshopped movie posters to show you what it would look like if today’s Hollywood blockbusters cast an Asian-American actor  (specifically John Cho)  as their leading man has completely shattered my expectations of how Asian-American narratives matter in this country. It’s empowered me to be confident in my story and support others who would feel as though their story isn’t worthy to be shared.

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If you could give advice to your younger self, what would it be and why?

Be purposeful with what you want.  Too many times when I was younger, I found myself making choices based on other people’s expectations of me. I never took a moment to really think about what kind of person I wanted to be and how my decisions would reflect that kind of person. Understanding the “Why?” of your decisions brings confidence that those choices are the right ones. My younger self could have used that confidence.

Who is your role model and how do they inspire you?

My highschool freshman English teacher, Mr. Tarim Chung. Mr. Chung was one of the first authority figures (outside of my family) that was an example of an Asian-American man who could be incredibly smart while also being incredibly down to earth. It scared the crap out of me. I want another young Asian-American to look at me that same way.

If you could share with the world something interesting about yourself, what would it be?

Bowling is my jam.

How do you overcome fear?

I find that fear is something that I’m getting more used to accepting, rather than feeling I have to overcome it. And knowing what good fear feels like. In terms of good fear, I noticed that I start to feel a knot in my stomach. Sometimes, my palms will start to sweat. For me, these are signs that the decision I have to make or the idea I’m concepting is headed towards something worthwhile. And in those moments, even though you may not know where things may end up, you jump knowing it was your call to make.

In what ways has travel positively impacted your life?

Traveling humbles me. Every new city and culture that I experience puts my own life’s priorities and values into perspective and allows me to be grateful for the things I have in my life. When my feet touch down somewhere I have never been, the moment triggers my mind to open, empathize, and appreciate the similarities between cultures but also to embrace the differences. Being cooped up in the tight boundaries of the New York City bubble, traveling is cathartic in its ability to give you a moment to catch your breath.

What does the phrase “Keep Shining” mean to you?

“Keep Shining” acknowledges that there is, and always has been, a light inside you. The only thing that it can continue to do is shine brighter and brighter, until the whole world can see your light too.

I am unapologetically authentic because…?

Now is the time to be.

ABOUT WILLIAM KUEHO YU:

William Kueho Yu is currently is a freelance writer and Senior Strategist. During his experiences at TBWA\Chiat\Day and SapientRazorfish, he worked on brand strategy and digital projects for brands like BNY Mellon, Accenture, Verizon, Mastercard, and many other notable companies. His project #StarringJohnCho, an award winning (2016 Shorty Award for Best Use of Hashtag and the 2016 American Advertising Federation Mosaic Award for Multicultural Digital Campaign) social movement that literally shows you what it would look like if today’s Hollywood blockbusters cast an Asian-American actor — specifically, John Cho — as their leading man, has garnered over 1 billion impressions worldwide and continues the conversation regarding the lack of Asian-American representation in film. His work has been featured domestically and internationally from major media outlets such as The New York Times, BBC, CNN, NBC, CBS, The Huffington Post, Buzzfeed, The Hollywood Reporter, and more. He is based in New York City.

Will’s Social Channels:

Twitter

Instagram

Medium

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