Livia Areas-Holmblad on Hosting WETALK
About two years ago, after spending a couple of years covering a range of cultural events throughout the city for Sinovision’s daily show, Sinovision Journal, I started to host WE-Talk. For the show, I’d be interviewing one person per episode, rather than several at a single event, and I would talk to them for a substantial period of time. At that point, I honestly didn't think it was possible for me to meet more interesting people than I had a chance to meet, almost on a daily basis, by simply doing what my position entailed.
Although I may not meet as many people in my current position, I learned that more often than not, quality trumps quantity. That is, the impact my current guests have on me now is a lot stronger than before when there were many time constraints among other limitations.
In a short time there were so many lessons learned and the moving, interesting, funny and at times sad stories were countless.
Initially the show required that I interviewed one subject who was influential in the Chinese/Chinese American community in New York or I’d talk to people who had established a connection between the western and the eastern sides of the world – yes, exactly as the name of the show implies. Last year the format changed a bit and instead of interviewing people who were already influential or who had already created such global connections, I started interviewing people who were in the process of doing that. They were trying to make it here and redefine the American dream to match their own ambitions and aspirations. My subjects were young, often younger than me, but also full of stories, accomplishments and displayed great talent in different ways. Every now and then we bounce back to the old format, when we have a special guest to talk to, but normally my interviewees are like most people in the city. Their stories just stand out. They were writers, musicians, artists, directors, engineers, investors and the list goes on.
Artist Qinmin Liu
There are also occasional guests who are just visiting New York City with set plans and many things to do but still manage to find time to sit down with me, which of course is extremely appreciated. Nancy Kwan, for example, a classic Hollywood actress based in L.A. who opened doors for many people in the industry and has starred with William Holden, Pierce Brosnan among other timeless talents. At times I didn't even get to sit down with those guests and instead we skipped around while holding teddy bears (Qinmin Liu brought so much energy and characterized eccentricity!)
Photographer Bai Feng interviewed by Livia
Among the people I had a chance to interview this year, a few of them were especially memorable to me and to the rest of the team; like Bai Feng, whom I interviewed last June. She’s a young, successful independent photographer and writer from China, who brought everyone to tears during our shoot when she shared a story that illustrated why she decided to give up on Journalism. Despite getting hit by a car in the beginning of the year and being unable to walk for a while she’s the sweetest, happiest girl and a self proclaimed "stalker of love," which is the reason she created New York Love Story, an online documentation of couples love stories in the city, and the title of her second published book.
Vegan Chef Daphne Cheng
Then on July I talked to Daphne Cheng, a vegan celebrity chef considered to be one of the pioneers in the plant-based cuisine movement that has been revolutionizing the contemporary urban restaurant scene in New York City. Daphne opened up a lot when she explained to me how she discovered veganism, when as a teenager she recovered from anorexia. She went from having a very dark struggle with an eating disorder to having a vegan empire, where she creates beautiful, inventive dishes while getting praised for her talent. Daphne serves as an inspiration to anyone who’s on the road to recovery or struggles with overcoming personal problems.
Artist Xin Liu
The following month the artist, researcher and engineer Xin Liu dazzled all of us with her intellect and her ability to use installations, performance and mixed media as platforms to discuss the connections among technology, social culture and ideologies. Xin has presented her works around the globe; has worked for companies like Google and Microsoft; has attended some of the best schools around the world and was excited to start studying at MIT, where she’d been given a scholarship. Before going to the top school in the world Xin was going to spend some time in the desert, without any electricity or comfort, to focus on her art. She truly embodied technical aptitude and artistic flair.
Artist Liliano Gao talks to Livia
Just recently I talked to Liliana Gao, an artist whose works address the solitude of human consciousness and societies' cultural differences. Liliana was remarkable not just because of her art but because she represented what it takes to achieve professional success in New York. She manages Ethan Cohen Fine Arts in Chelsea and in Beacon and had a lot to say about hard work, ethics and persistence.
There are many, many more guests that will always, and often, be remembered by me and by all the other people who worked on their stories. Guests who opened our eyes to different things, music, history, cultures, traditions, customs and generally what it means to have a dream and to make things happen in this competitive, globalized world. However they are able to show that themselves, better than anyone can reiterate. Of course that’s why we talk, on camera, so they can show exactly what they bring and how much they add to our city and to the rest of world.