By Delena Truong
(Editor’s Note: This is the seventh installment of Kollaboration SF’s Asian-Pacific American Heritage Month series on prominent APA figures in media. Follow us on WordPress and FB, and check in every week of May for new profiles and features!)
Some may know her as a bold fashionista, loud TV personality, a proud Bay Area homie, or not know her at all. When I discovered Jeannie Mai a couple of years ago, I was inspired. I met someone who I hope to be: an Asian American woman in the media, known not for acting or singing, but for doing what she loves. Jeannie is currently a co-host of a daytime television show, The Real. She is one member of a diverse group of women just keeping it “real” for their national audience. On the show, she is known as the fashionista, who constantly represents her culture and her hometown: San Jose. What? She’s from the Bay Area?! Yes, born and raised, and hella proud.
This is how she became who she is now:
Jeannie started, as many other makeup artists do, at MAC Cosmetics, and soon worked her way up to beautifying celebrities like Christina Aguilera and Alicia Keys. Before the time of “make up gurus” and YouTube, this is where makeup artists wanted to be. How did she go from behind the scenes to in front of the camera? Simple, she auditioned. She became a TV personality doing local and national hosting gigs, like at E!, Lifetime, MTV and NBC. But where I discovered her was on the Style Network’s Emmy-nominated show, How Do I Look. Then, like everyone else did, I saw her everywhere. She was recognized for her bold style, blue hair and her coined terms – “wearapy” and “mai” (instead of “my”).
In 2013, Jeannie became a co-host of The Real. I was pretty damn excited. Yes, she is not the first Asian American daytime host. But she is someone I can relate to – someone who made me believe that I can be up there. She didn’t get there with her acting skills, or a degree in journalism, but with her personality. One thing I would have to say is that on the show there are times where she is “trying” (insulting) someone or is the only person who agrees with her own “have you ever” questions. Sometimes, you may wonder why she is talking so loud or why she’s even talking; I for sure think that at least once a week.
It has been said that she doesn’t belong on the show. However, isn’t that the point of The Real? Featuring real people, with real stories and personalities and engaging in real conversations. She encourages individuality and having your own voice. Jeannie is not afraid to be herself and she stands behind what she says, no matter who disagrees with her – in front of all of America.
“I’ve realized that I have a lot in common with the average woman out there: I want to dream, I want to live life with purpose, and I want to look damn good doing it.” – Jeannie Mai
Delena Truong is currently the Marketing Director of Kollaboration San Francisco. She was born and raised in Oakland, and loves everything related to marketing and social media. Follow her on any platform – @delenakim