Ellisa Sun, a Nashville recording artist, is releasing a new music video for her single I’m From Here to share some of her experiences as an Asian American living in the south. With profound storytelling and a wonderful cast of Asian American actors, the video shows us what it feels like to be an outsider in a country centered around whiteness.
Sun partnered with Nashville-based music video director Oceanna Colgan, whose work has been featured on NBC, CNN, ABC, and Billboard.
The video features a cringe-worthy but fun-to-watch brunch scene with Chinese-American actor Sarah Wang (25), surrounded by a crowd of obnoxious “Karen-esque” white women—visibly uncomfortable and out-of-place.
The scene is followed by actor Lily Wright (4) playing with all blonde Barbie dolls in her bedroom and clearly noticing the difference between her hair color and theirs. These powerful scenes, mixed with shots of Sun performing the song with a band, paint the story of exactly what so many folks experience in this country: feeling unseen and underrepresented in popular culture and rarely seen as a “real” American.
In the extended version of the music video, Sun interviewed several Nashville-based folks, many of whom she met while getting involved with API Middle Tennessee. All of the guests answered the question “have you ever been asked where are you really from? and how did it make you feel?” with vulnerability and courage. The guests also answered the question of “what being American means to them”. The responses are haunting and extremely thought-provoking, with a wide range of responses showing us that no one group is a monolith–the API community is more like a colorful, complicated, beautiful tapestry.
The COVID-19 pandemic shed a light on America’s xenophobia and lack of empathy towards the Asian American and Pacific Islander community. Ellisa, a 2nd Generation half-Chinese American from Los Angeles but recently relocated to Nashville, is a unique artist blending elements of indie soul, jazz, and blues into a rich palette of storytelling and instrumentation. After moving to Tennessee, where it became more and more apparent that she was often the only Asian person in the room, she had to come to terms with her identity using the only tools she knew how–singing and songwriting.
Embracing one’s identity can be both scary and empowering. For Ellisa, creating art is the most honest way to process these complex feelings in a time when our country needs it most. Ellisa hopes to provide a sense of healing, and to give other Asian Americans permission to take up space with pride and courage.
Ellisa submitted a live version of I’m From Here to NPR’s Tiny Desk concert in April 2020, where it was very well received among the AAPI community. Ellisa also performed the song for Rise APA’s virtual town hall–organized by CNN and Wall Street Journal writer Jeff Yang— in May 2020. She performed the song for an audience for a panel of elected officials including David Chiu (California State Assembly) and Sharon Tomiko Santos (member, Washington House of Representatives). Ellisa was also awarded the Countering Hate with Art grant from The Slants Foundation.