Cue the Fireworks! Expanding Asian Representation Through Celebration

Trends / Realness
Gabrielle Pedro Fredrick
May 2, 2023
The year is 2023. Everything, Everywhere, All at Once1 solidified its place in the cultural zeitgeist by its clean‑sweep at the Oscars, making it a record‑breaking2 year for Asian‑American representation. When it comes to marketing imagery, all major racial/ethnic groups that are not white have seen double‑digit growth in representation since last year… and yet, Getty Images' VisualGPS research reveals that 1 in 3 people still believe there is not enough representation of Asian‑American and Pacific Islander groups.

Authentic representation of different groups are key in connecting with consumers, and this segment is no exception. Getty Images’ own AAPI research3 found that 56% of Asians say that being their race/ethnicity is central to their overall identity but acknowledgements to these cultural gradations is nonexistent in popular downloaded imagery. Different nuances of representation are food for thought as we gear up for Asian‑American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month in the US. AAPI people are the fastest growing population in the US (and bring immense spending power4).

Celebrations foster connection, but lack presence
Customers are searching for inclusive celebrations. In fact, these search terms, as well as celebrations from other ethnicities and faiths have been trending in the last year with Lunar New Year (+64%) and Holi (+56%) exceeding previous years.
However, less than 1% of visuals used reflect culturally specific aspects of AAPI life.

Opportunities for better representation of AAPI celebrations

As it stands, there is little to no representation of real people engaging in these celebrations. Most popular images downloaded in relation to AAPI or US holidays consist of illustrations, leaving marketers with the perfect opportunity to incorporate authentic representation of consumers into their visual choices.

Surprised? Don’t be! Christmas is unsurprisingly the most popular holiday seen in popular imagery and its celebrations aren’t limited to the western world. In fact, most Asian‑Americans of faith5 practice some form of Christianity and often engage in celebrations such as Christmas or Easter, both culturally and religiously. Despite its overwhelming popularity over other holidays and celebrations in top downloaded imagery, there is no Asian‑American representation in Christmas celebrations. Given the broad scope of Christmas, contemplate who is seen engaging in gift giving or tree decorating this year and consider the diversity in who celebrates this holiday.

Lunar New Year
Recently made a public state holiday6 in California and celebrated by Asian‑Americans from many different countries, there is very little representation of people celebrating one of the most important holidays for the Asian diaspora. Consider incorporating images of families and friends celebrating together while acknowledging important cultural aspects of the holiday, such as food or the red attire that people wear to celebrate the holiday.
Like Lunar New Year, Diwali has recently become a public holiday for county schools in states such as New York and Virginia7 – but there is no representation of the holiday featuring real people in popular downloaded images, despite an above‑expected increase in searches for Diwali‑related imagery over the last year. Both a religious and secular celebration, aspects of Diwali such as rangolis and candle lanterns are beautiful visual cues, but it’s also important to highlight the real people who celebrate this festival in order to better connect with consumers.
Ramadan is the most sacred time for the of the Muslim faith and is something to be considered here in the western world. There are almost 4 million Muslims living in the United States, and Islam is now the world’s fastest growing8 religion. Like other Asian celebrations, there is no representation of real people engaging in this celebration in popular downloaded images. Aside from wishing Muslim consumers Eid Mubarak in this revered time, add a more personal aspect to your Ramadan imagery by highlighting celebration through gathering with family and friends, or Asian‑American Muslims breaking fast at sundown.

Holi is the most represented Asian‑American celebration seen in our most popular downloaded imagery, with some caveats. All people‑focused visuals associated with the holiday are focused on Rangwali Holi (lively celebrations utilizing colored powders), but the representation is not authentic. Originally celebrated by Hindu‑dominant regions of southeast Asia, most downloads of this celebration feature white people engaging in Rangwali Holi ‑ and no Asian representation. Push for more authentic representation of the people who celebrate Holi outside of imagery that may appropriate9 some of its cultural artifacts.
1) The Metaverse Gets the Hollywood Treatment (Getty Images)
2) In the end, it was an 'Everything Everywhere' night at the Oscars (NPR)
3) Admerasia x Getty Images: Authentic Visual Storytelling for the Asian American Community (Getty Images)
4) Dismantling the "Model Minority" Trope (Getty Images)
5) Religion (AAPI Data)
6) California Celebrates Lunar New Year (New York Times)
7) The push to observe Diwali in the U.S. — and why some remain skeptical (Washington Post)
8) Muslim Americans celebrate Ramadan (US Embassy & Consulates)
9) How to Celebrate Holi Without Culturally Appropriating It (Yes Magazine)
The Power of Funny Faces :-) :-) :-)