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Importance of Representation and Diversity on Mx. Asian American Podcast

I recently had the pleasure of joining Karen Zheng on her renowned podcast, Mx. Asian American. It was an exciting opportunity to share my journey and discuss important topics like growing up as a minority, the significance of representation, and the inspiration behind creating Joeydolls – a line of diverse Asian children’s dolls. As a CEO and founder, I am passionate about fostering awareness, education, and cultural celebration through these dolls. You can listen to the podcast episode on both Apple Podcasts and Spotify.

Listen to the Mx. Asian American Podcast Episode

Apple Podcasts


Mx. Asian American Podcast Episode Transcript

A Personal Background

During the podcast, Karen graciously invited me to introduce myself to the listeners. I shared my multicultural upbringing, having been born in Malaysia and raised in Australia. Growing up, I encountered the challenges of being part of a minority group, particularly in a predominantly non-Asian environment. The lack of representation in media and leadership positions affected my self-perception and limited my aspirations. I vividly remember feeling that certain roles, like being a princess or an actress, were not meant for someone who looked like me.

Navigating Career Choices

Karen delved deeper into my career journey, discussing the paths I considered and the expectations I faced as an Asian individual. Despite being drawn to creative pursuits like drawing and photography, societal pressures pushed me towards more traditional careers such as accounting or finance. I struggled to find my true calling and often felt conflicted between societal expectations and my own creative inclinations. Eventually, I found myself working in the insurance industry, feeling unfulfilled and disconnected from my passions.

The Pivot to Entrepreneurship

It was during my conversation with Karen that I revealed the turning point in my professional life. After years of feeling stuck in a job that didn’t align with my passions, I discovered my love for photography and, more specifically, wedding photography. Despite its demanding nature, I felt a sense of purpose in capturing special moments for couples and providing them with cherished memories. This newfound passion led me to establish my own photography business.

Challenges and Rewards

While discussing my photography journey, I opened up about the difficulties I faced, particularly in maintaining a work-life balance and setting boundaries. Being a people-pleaser, I often found it challenging to say no and dedicated all my time to serving clients. However, this pattern left me overworked and feeling resentful. It was a crucial lesson that helped me understand the importance of self-care and the need to establish healthy boundaries.

The Pandemic and Inspiration for Joeydolls

The conversation took an unexpected turn as I shared how the pandemic forced me to slow down and reassess my priorities. With weddings on hold, I found myself with the time and space to reconnect with myself. It was during this period that I became acutely aware of the rise in anti-Asian hate incidents and the need to create a positive narrative for future generations. As a mother, I wanted my daughters to grow up feeling proud of their Asian heritage and to see themselves represented in dolls that celebrate their culture.

The Impact of Representation

Karen and I delved into the significance of representation and the profound influence it has on children’s self-esteem and identity formation. Research shows that at a young age, children recognize racial differences and internalize societal narratives. By providing diverse dolls like Joeydolls, we can help children see themselves as valued, capable individuals who can achieve anything they set their minds to. By celebrating and embracing cultural diversity, we empower future generations to appreciate the beauty and uniqueness of our diverse world.

My Experience

Speaking with Karen Zheng on the MX Asian American podcast was an inspiring experience. It allowed me to reflect on my personal journey, the challenges I faced as a minority, and the importance of representation. Creating Joeydolls has become my mission to empower children and redefine societal narratives. Together, we can shape a world where every child feels seen, celebrated, and inspired to embrace their unique identity.

Mx. Asian American Podcast Episode Transcript

Karen Zheng 0:02
Welcome back everyone to MX Asian American today we have Samantha, would you like to introduce yourself first to the listeners?

Samantha Ong 0:09
Yeah. So I’m Samantha on. I live in Toronto, and I grew up in Australia, but I was actually born in Malaysia. But I’m now the CEO and founder of Joeydolls. It’s a company that I created, that creates diverse Asian dollars for children. And I did so in hope of creating more awareness and education around Asian diversity and just really celebrating our individual cultures.

Karen Zheng 0:38
Awesome. Thank you so much, Samantha for being on the show. I usually like to start from the way back when I interviewed my guests, could you tell us a little bit about how and where you grew up? And how was like young Samantha like,

Samantha Ong 0:52
Yeah, thank you for having me. So, yeah, I touched on a little bit about like, where I grew up and where I was born. So yeah, I was born in Malaysia, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, but I moved to Australia when I was a baby, like eight months old. And my dad did so mainly for, you know, for a better life for me. So he found a job over in Australia, I didn’t know anyone. And he just pretty much picked up and left and you know, took me and my mom ova. And so yeah, basically just brand new immigrants to Australia. You know, back in the 80s 90s, there were really hardly any Asians in Australia, and though really was I think this like, like, first like wave or should I say, like, it’s still very new immigration coming into Australia. So there wasn’t really, I’d say, a bit of racism, even for my mom. And, you know, I probably didn’t really understand it growing up as a young child.

But now looking back, I see all these things that affected me as, as a child, you know, anything, you know, growing up into adulthood, you know, this thing’s like, you know, not having, you know, being able to see yourself on TV. And even to this day, in Australia, you don’t really see too many Asians, or people that look, you know, look like myself on TV, or even especially in leadership. So I remember even thinking when as a child, like, I remember vividly thinking, I can’t ever be a princess, I can’t be an actress, and play those main roles, things like that. So I think those sorts of thoughts, like really affected, like, where I saw myself in the world, and like, how, how I really valued myself in the world. And I just thought, like, I was always meant to be in the sidelines. And so just kind of like, you know, when it came to making like, your career path and stuff like that, it didn’t really have a clear career path like I wanted, like, I always thought like, I would just go along with what was sort of set forward for me sort of thing.

And I also remember thinking like, because my, I was always playing with like, blonde dolls, and stuff like that. I always envied my blonde classmates, I remember thinking, Wow, they’re so lucky people in that way. They’re so pretty. You know, and then the opposite of that, who that I’m not as pretty as them. And that I couldn’t find love or anything or happiness because I was look like this. And, and so I remember Yeah, I was just, I thought myself more lowly than my classmates.

Karen Zheng 3:59
Yeah, I see. I could totally see where you’re coming from. Because like, for me, it was mostly I grew up in. I think, I grew up, I grew up in the southern part of the US and Georgia. And I actually grew up around a lot of diverse, like, my community was very diverse and like, the kids around me were really diverse. But I think for me, it was similar to you how I couldn’t find a role model in the workplace, or like, for me, it was most starkly obvious in all my teachers like they were all white. Like from elementary school all the way to like even high school, right? I probably had like one or two like person of color, people of color. Teachers and I totally also get what you’re saying about your self esteeem like as a child, seeing these like conventional beauty standards, being all white people and like blonde hair and things like that, as a child is really hard to grasp, but you did mention that you sort of went to towards a career path that was like, sort of set for you. And what was that? And did you have any idea of like, we want to pursue going to high school or college?

Samantha Ong 5:27
Yeah, good question. It’s interesting, because I think I’ve always been quite a creative person, like, I remember think, I remember, as a child, I would always be drawing, and I was always attracted to something really creative. I really love creating. And because I was Asian, I think there was this sort of like pressure to go be an accountant and go be, you know, a doctor or a lawyer or something, something traditional career path, and I just completely didn’t see myself doing that. But, you know, I, you know, later in high school, because I always did, I performed well, because I thought, you know, that pressure, I know, I felt like if I studied enough, I worked hard, I’ll be able to achieve the career path that I wanted.

But I didn’t really know what I wanted. And it just knew that I had to be, you know, quote, unquote, successful. So I remember late high school, I remember dabbling with the internet was coming in. And like the internet was coming in. But yeah, it just seems so long ago now. But yeah, the Internet was good. So like, I was creating websites. And I was doing that from my own home. And it was, I was really enjoying playing around with Photoshop, just really, like creating. And I remember telling my parents, I wanted to be a web designer, and they were just like,

Whoa, but what kind of career path is that? And so it really got me down. And even though I loved it so much, I spent all my time doing that. I love like photography, I remember being the only one. Always taking my camera with me. And I’m always the one photographing everyone. I was always like, the girl with a camera, and I was always doing that. So I yeah, when they like really shut me down, was it Oh, okay. Because my dad was in it. So they said, why can’t you just be in it? Because I was good with computers as well. And I think it just like, fell into that. Like, the more that stereotypes or Asians are good at math or agents that got it. So I was like, Okay, well, I guess I have to do that. And, like, even when I dropped chemistry in my last year, one of my teachers was like, so disappointed. Like, I can’t believe you dropped chemistry, but I just, I absolutely hated chemistry.

So, yeah and in Australia what you what you do and you apply for university. You don’t just apply for all the universities. You have like a ranking system, so you would rank what courses you want it to go to. And I think it was one to 10. And so it was really all over the place, because I was like, I like imaging, so maybe I could be like a radiologist.

And then I was like, oh, but you know, maybe finance is like, would be stable. I really don’t want to do it. So I had them in there and just like completely different. And I just had no idea. So and then when it came to the radiology, like, I went to a hospital one time one day and just for an experience, and I was like, This is not for me. And even on the first application. The first question was, why do you want to be a radiology? I couldn’t even answer that.

I had to take it out. And then I just had commerce like commerce, finances. And then I had science, so science, I wanted to do math, because I was I was taught I was good at it. So so that’s why I had it in there. And then yeah, so then I followed the path of at the time, I was going to be an actuary. And then I really just couldn’t stand studying anymore at university because I think like subconsciously, it just really wasn’t for me, and I just didn’t know it at the time. I at the time, I just thought I was too lazy. I can’t concentrate. Like I just I’m not good at this sort of thing. But I didn’t really occur to me that maybe I wasn’t good at it. I didn’t have I couldn’t commit to it because I just had no interest. So I ended up getting out of it. But I majored in finance. And then when I identify as like, Okay, now what? And then because my dad was in it, but in an inch always been an insurance company. So I was like, Oh, I don’t know, I’ll just, I’ll just apply an insurance company. So ended up being.

So I just sort of like, at the end sort of just drifted to what I thought I had to do. But it wasn’t also quite sure. Like, it was just really all over the place, because I really didn’t, I didn’t feel like I didn’t really have the ability to, like, really explore what I really wanted. Yeah. Yeah, so that’s why I was just so all over the place.

Karen Zheng 10:41
No, that totally makes sense. And like, it’s really, really hard actually, for high schoolers to decide what they want to do. Cuz like, it’s like, you’re 18 you haven’t experienced like, hardly anything in life. Right?

Samantha Ong 11:01
And it’s crazy. I when I think about it, they only tell you like certain like the mainstream career path.

No doctor accountant, like these mainstreams. But now I’m out in the world. It’s just, there’s the 1000s of more avenues. And just those main say exactly. So, yeah.

No, I just just saying, I wish I hadn’t known these things. And like, what it really means to be successful. Because I think in my, the, what I was taught, like, to be successful, you have Yeah, work hard, study hard, get a good job. And then you just work at a job, and then that’s considered successful. Whereas I have a different viewpoint on that now.

Karen Zheng 11:55
Yeah, absolutely. So once you start at this insurance company, even like just listening to you talk about it now. You’re kind of like, oh, I have to do this. Because, you know, I have to what was like sort of your experience? And like, what made you eventually pivot towards like, entrepreneurship?

Samantha Ong 12:18
Yeah, okay, so, so I was working in Australia, so in an insurance company, it was, it was a job. So I didn’t really realize, you know, I, of course, I had aspirations of being successful. So I wanted to go up the career ladder and get more experience. But where I was at, I just felt like, I wasn’t really going anywhere, I just felt really stuck. So I didn’t realize that it was my career at the time, but I was, I just told my head, like, I can’t, I want to go get more experience overseas. So that’s sort of how I pitched it. And then being Asian, I’m the oldest daughter. So it was really hard for them to let me go overseas, like on the other side of the world. And so at the time, I really wanted to just really go back to finance because I thought, you know, finance where, like, I can make a lot of money, I want to want to be in, in New York, like doing finance. So that was my goal at the time, I’m trying to get to New York. And, so I ended up like, it was so hard to get a job in New York, because actually, it was like right after the 2007 2008 financial crisis. And so it was a lot of people that were still quite unemployed, unemployment was really quite high. So it was hard for me, even when I moved over to I ended up moving to Canada first because it was easy for me to get a visa because of the Commonwealth. And so I thought if I can get to Canada, it’s pretty close. I can, you know, get try to get job interviews. But at the time, you know, they were telling me, why would we hire a foreigner, there’s so many Canadians that were unemployed. So it was really hard. So I was applying for these banking positions and they’re like, You need a credit history and all this to even apply for a bank and I was like, I was just brand new. So in the end, I ended up back in find out sorry, back in insurance. Because that was where my experience lie. And so I was stuck in insurance again, and I knew I was I felt I felt really stuck. And I didn’t want to be that. Okay, well if I do this a little bit longer, I’ll get more experience and then maybe I can do something else. But then it ended up I ended up insurance for another I think it was eight years. Oh my gosh. Oh was like a total of a decade. Yeah. So and then at the end, I remember thinking I just I can’t wake up in the morning to go to work is just I was just completely dreading it. And I remember like getting all the time because I, I think I just like my body was just subconsciously hating it. Yeah. So I was really depressed and so my, my husband, but it was my boyfriend at the time he was like, you’ll really love photography, why don’t you expose it I was thinking I couldn’t make money doing photography. And he was like, Well, my friends getting married. Maybe you could ask him and then we, I ended up asking him and he’s like, Yeah, I don’t have a photography, I didn’t even think of having a photographer had like a really low key wedding. So I did it for like, super cheap, and then just did it. And I was like, Oh, my gosh, I really love wedding photography. I really, it was so nice to have a purpose in that I could use my creative outlet, but at the same time be able to give something so special to someone. But after the wedding, they thought they said, Oh my gosh, I can’t believe I never even thought about having a wedding. But I was like, no, no, sorry, not a wedding photographer.

But now that you’ve given me all these pictures, I be able to look back and see all these moments that I didn’t even see. For example, one that really struck me the most was when they were having their first dance and the two moms were hugging. And I caught that. They didn’t even know that was happening. And so when they said when they saw that they just cried. And so it was that sort of feedback really opened up. Yeah, my, my world into wedding photography, because I thought, Wow, if I could give that to someone and make them feel touch with the special memories for people, I can give someone, something so special that they can really treasure for a lifetime. And it gave me so much purpose. So I ended up hustling, doing that on the side for I think a couple of years, I made three, two or three years while I was working full time still and then making enough money that was able to quit.

Karen Zheng 17:14
Well, the way your body just kind of told you that you needed to get out of here.

Samantha Ong 17:22
Oh, my gosh. Yeah. When I went into that, I never got sick.

And yeah, it’s true. Like, I think my body really did feel that I needed to get out. Yeah, yeah. So and then you transition into photography, and I love how like, sort of your creative, like creative. Hobby sort of manifests itself now. And then your first thought was like, well, it’s just a hobby, I don’t think I can make money out of it. Because I feel like in the Asian community, like our that’s what our parents like, have taught us, right, that we need to have hobbies that are creative, but they can never be career paths, you know, because they’re just hobbies. How are you going to make money out of that? Right? Exactly. Like, it’s not a job like how Yeah, but it’s funny, because I went into wedding photography, I felt more secure about my finances than in a job because when I was in the job, I guess, I felt like I wasn’t doing it. Because my heart wasn’t fully there. I felt like it was never able to, like, give it 100%. So I always felt insecure that they could always let me go because I wasn’t performing as well as my, my peers were. And so but when I went to wedding photography, I always knew that like, I’m good at this. So I felt like more control of my circumstances. And so it was interesting that yeah, they were taught that having your own business or even just, you know, freedom, the freelance world is insecure. But now looking back, having been in that position, I felt more secure than I’d ever been. And I made way more money than I made before. Wow. So you start you leave the insurance company and then now you are doing this full time.

Karen Zheng 19:19
Are there any like difficulties you face while you were doing the photography business? And what were some other rewarding moments that you had?

Samantha Ong 19:30
Yeah, definitely really rewarding in the sense like, you know, just what I mentioned before being able to get something so special in someone. So I think I’ve always been like a people pleaser, I think and so I think I really let that overtake my entire business without realizing it. I was always wanting to give so much of myself and because wedding photography was just service-based business. I allowed all I time to be taken up by this. And because I loved it so much. I forgot all about what else I loved. And this became my life. And everything that I felt that I was worth was in this business was doing weddings was doing photography, giving, giving my all to everyone. So even though when I quit my corporate job, I thought, if I could work for myself, I can give myself time to go, you know, take, take a day off, go do more yoga, go enjoy my joy, my time and go to the spa, stuff like that, like, do we have to treat myself. Instead, it was the complete opposite. Like I was my, I was my worst boss, because I never allowed myself to stop. And so even though I had a break, if I had a break, I’d be like, I don’t know what to do with myself, I guess I’ll just go work because I love it, you know, and then, and then because I’ve worked all the time, then it started to brew into like resentment a little bit, because I was completely overworked. And I just didn’t have a sense of self anymore. So I think that was my difficulty not being able to really have boundaries and not being able to say no to people because I wanted to be able to be there for everyone.

Karen Zheng 21:32
Do you think that was that that kind of contributed to you also pivoting later? into starting Joey dolls to?

Samantha Ong 21:45
Yeah, yeah, absolutely. So it’s good that you asked that. Because when it really forced me to stop was the pandemic.

Yeah, it was 2019. I had my daughter and my, like, my first baby bee. And even with a baby, I didn’t know how to stop. I might add her. I know, I had a and then I went straight back into weddings. Like, you know, how are you supposed to? Like, 30 day? Yeah, I’m in. Yeah, I literally took that to heart. And it was. I was like, I did, like, I think it was three or four days in a row, like back-to-back weddings. And it was like, I know, it was like insane. And I was in so much pain. And my body was so still so like recovering so much. And, like, you know, being sleep deprived and all of that. It was just, it was a lot. And I didn’t really realize that like how much I had taken on for myself at the time, but because with weddings, I committed myself to someone. So I felt so bad to be able to like, Okay, now I’m pregnant, I’m gonna cancel on you. I just, I didn’t want to do that to people. So I just

it because I was committed to all these weddings. Like, I felt like I had the obligation to fulfill all of them. And I thought I couldn’t. And I think that really sent me down like a really dark spiral. Because it was just so hard. You know, navigating motherhood for the first time, you know, my husband and I work together, he was actually at home. So it was really good. But just navigating parenthood Technicolor, like I was really I think suffering from postpartum depression with the lack of sleep and having to work I remember us like waking up at 4am Feeding my daughter and still like I was I remember dictating emails to him to be able to, like it was ridiculous.

And I think that like I was overworked before that. But then in 2019 When I had her it was just like, really, it was really bad for me. And so when 2020 came around it because the pandemic, I had no choice to not work because I Yeah, we were all in lockdown. And so at the time, as I mentioned to you before, I really felt like my business was really evaluate my business so much that it was my like my self worth. So if I was my business was doing well then I felt good about myself. So because that was taken away from me, and like weddings were being canceled or postponed but there was so much uncertainty.

I remember just lying around going, what do I do, like, who am I? And I didn’t know when I could go back to doing weddings because no one knew when we would be back. Because you know wedding planning is so far in advance. So people didn’t want to take that risk and was really looking into the following year.

So that whole 2020. All my contracts were all pretty much gone. And so in even when 2021 rolled around, they again postponed and canceled or, you know, downsize their wedding. So it was again, yeah, so I couldn’t pretty much kind of work for those two years as well as I could before. And also in 2021, I was pregnant with my second daughter, and so I didn’t want to get sick. And so I had my husband take on a lot. And so it was really those two years where I was able to really slow down and reprioritize my life because I was forced to, but you know, staying home with my daughter realizing the importance of being home with her. Because even before when I when I had her, I remember thinking, Oh, my gosh, like, why does she need me so much like I need to work? Wow, like looking back and thinking about my attitude about that. It’s just so crazy. Because I was able to spend all this time with her, I really valued that time alone together. And just thinking like, I can’t do weddings forever. I really do want to be spent, like I had kids to be with them. And I really wanted to be a present mom. So. So that’s when I was like, oh, what what do I do you and I don’t know. And then, and that’s when, you know, the rise in anti Asian hate was happening, I was just really watching the news. And just, it made me really scared for the world that she would grow up in thinking like, what what’s going to happen?

So all I remember thinking is that I want her to feel proud about how she, how she looks, who she who she is where she comes from her culture, because I remember even thinking when I was young, I remember telling my dad like speak English and all this stuff, like, you know, I didn’t feel proud to be Asian, because we were in lockdown. You know, she couldn’t play with other children. So I started looking for dolls out there. And I really wanted her to have a doll that looked like her so chic, you know, to change that narrative that I had. And then looking at the dolls out there, I was just like, Oh, it wasn’t anything that I really connected with. And that I felt like good, and comfortable for her to play with. And so I felt really frustrated. And that’s when my husband again was like, Oh, what if you’re having so much trouble looking for adults that they want to make them? And I was like, Ah, I never. Yeah, it’s funny. He always has these ideas in my head. So if they’re good ideas, and yeah, so that’s when I was like, Oh, why don’t I make any there’s no adults out there that I like, why don’t I make one that I would like. And at the time, I was thinking because she was nearly like around one years old at the time. Andat one years old, we would put her in her Chinese outfit in a Korean outfit. So I thought I wanted her to be able to see that in a doll. And I couldn’t find that in dolls. And I was just thinking, Why Why don’t dolls really celebrate culture that way? Like, why are all the dolls, the ones that I saw, which just, you know, fair-skinned dark hair, and then there’s somehow Asian, I really wanted the dollars to really celebrate Asian culture.

And so that’s when I came up with the idea of doing traditional dresses. And, and, yeah, and that’s when it all started brewing in my mind to, to be able to do this and be able to do this for her and other children and really change that narrative for generations.

Karen Zheng 29:10
I love that. And I’m glad you got the two years of the pandemic to sort of find yourself and figure out your other hobbies and like reprioritize. And I love love the mission behind Joey dolls and to change the narrative. And I know, like the doll industry just recently started diversifying, right probably in the past five years or so. Which is crazy to me. And wondering like, you know, you’re doing this mostly for your daughters and how would you think that you would have grown up differently if you had like these dolls to represent yourself? Or, while you were growing up?

Karen Zheng 0:02
No, I love that. And I’m glad you got the two years of the pandemic to sort of find yourself and figure out your other hobbies and like reprioritize. And I love of the mission behind Joey dolls and to change the narrative. And I know, like the doll industry just recently, started diversifying, right, probably in the past five years or so. Which is crazy to me. And I’m wondering, like, you know, you’re doing this mostly for your daughters? And how would you think that you would have grown up differently if you had like, these dolls to represent yourself while you were growing up?

Samantha Ong 0:54
Yeah, I don’t really think it would make a difference. Because when I was looking for doors, I came across so many articles about how much children young children really see, rate, you know, racial differences at such a young age, and that these sort of narratives are really built from such a young age, like, I had no idea that I was actually that young. And so being able to see myself reflected my adult play through hopefully, you know, and me is getting a lot better now. I really think that being able to see yourself valued in society makes such a difference. Like, I all I want for my children and for other children is to know that, you know, they can be whoever they want, they’re good. They’re, you know, they’re mazing, just as they are, you know, they can achieve anything that they want, I felt so like, limited to those ideas of what Asian girl should be. So you know, that, I remember, like, you know, you can speak up or I can only be in these sort of career paths, I had to be good at math, you know, all those, like, sort of stereotypes that we say are wrong with stereotype yet. I’m following those more. It Yeah. So I really want the future generation to feel proud of where they come from, to, to really embrace their culture. And, you know, I think about culture in the sense that it really is passed down from generation to generation. And I just, I think, like, now as an adult, like, I realized how beautiful and wonderful our culture is, there’s just so much beauty in it. And, and I just don’t want it to be lost. And I think being able to really embrace and feel proud of our culture, from generation to generation is so important to be able to, yeah, celebrate all these. The world is so diverse. And because it’s so diverse, that’s well, that is why it’s so beautiful. And it’s so it’s so interesting. It makes us all so interesting and unique and special.

Karen Zheng 3:28
Yeah, definitely wholeheartedly agree with that. But now the real question is, how did your daughter react when you made your first doll for her?

Samantha Ong 3:38
Yeah, good question. So at the time, I was designing them on the computer, like, getting them again, the face, right, and all of that, and she couldn’t really speak at the time. And I remember, every time I would pull up the images, she would giggle and laugh and point at the screen. And she wouldn’t do that. Otherwise, yeah, she was so interested in what I was doing. And I remember when I gave them to her, she, like I had, I had more dollars than I do right now, because I was just playing around with different ideas. And so I think we had something like nine or something like that. And when she got them, there were just so many of them, and we laid them out and she just wanted to like jump on them and play with them. And that’s really why I wanted to do like a plush doll. Doll because I really wanted young children to be able to play with them be able to snuggle with them from a young age, and even when, like now she’s much older. So I’ve gone through like so many prototypes and so many versions. And like even recently when I I made the new version. I made the Korean doll. I was inspired off my daughter’s handbook. And so both of my daughters use the same handbook. And so recently, she wore the humbug for her first birthday. And so when my oldest daughter saw the doll, she said, Oh my gosh, that looks like Jasmine, my youngest daughter. And I thought, yes, like, that’s exactly why I created these dolls, so that she can really see herself or even her sister in these dolls. And then another time, she picked up the doll, and I didn’t prompt her on this at all. But she picked up the doll. And she said, she’s a princess. And oh my gosh, like, that’s completely, like that narrative change that I wanted. Because I mentioned before I told you that I never thought that I could be a princess.

And I never thought I could, you know, someone like that was like valued or special, you know, whatever you want to call it. But the fact that she called the Korean dollar, a princess, and then she also actually read it to my, my, or her sister, I think that is just exactly why these dolls are so meaningful. And I really hope that these sorts of stories can, will happen with other children that they will see themselves or their siblings or their Asian friends. And, yeah, these, I really do hope that these dolls aren’t just for Asian children, I really hope that these are for all children to be able to embrace all cultures. And so it’s also interesting because I created these dogs. And I wanted them to have diverse skin tones as well. And actually, at the, at the very beginning, I wanted each culture to have options for skin tones. But unfortunately, with my mask reduction, it’s like really difficult to do. But it’s like my goal to do. But I still have different skin tone options for the collection. And so it was important to me because like even, you know, Asian beauty standard is like the whole idea of like, that Asian Pearl skin and the skin so and I remember even when I was pregnant, my my husband’s Korean so he has fairer skin than me. Like I was told that, Oh, I hope your daughter has big eyes like you and, and frisky and like my husband and I thought oh my gosh, like this whole, like idea of like, the focus on our eyes and our skin is just I just wanted, I want children to feel proud of who they are and how they look no matter what you know. And so that’s why I created these dolls with these joyful faces, these different skin tones so that we can really see and embrace different skin tones.

And my daughter, whenever I asked her, which is your favorite. She always always always picks up the Filipina doll and the Indian Of course, like she picks up the Korean doll too, but she always seems like a Filipina and like in the Indian doll which are darker skin tones and I think that’s so interesting that from a young age, she does see those tones and she loves them. And so I really hope that you know this idea of wanting like fair skin you know, we can change that narrative on it that I like the ideal beauty standard

Karen Zheng 8:58
No, I think it’s super amazing and also heartwarming to hear the stories of how your daughter’s reacted to the dolls are holding on to the last question or so I’m just wondering how you’re doing with work life balance, especially taking care of your two daughters right now. While also you know doing all the stuff for Joeydolls

Samantha Ong 9:27
Yeah, cuz I’m still I’m still running my photography business. Like managing it as well as doing toy dog and the two kids and and also like my youngest isn’t is full time at home with me. And my oldest is only in like part time school. She’s only in school for three hours a day so I still have other the rest of the day which is still a lot. Yeah, it’s it’s a lot to manage. and I still am working on the whole, like, you know, boundaries and like, I think a lot better when it comes to work, being able to say no to things and not taking on. But when it comes to work with my children, it’s still been really difficult. Right now, I pretty much am only able to work when they sleep or like it wouldn’t take they take a nap or when they go to bed at night. So right now, like often, nine 930 is like when I’m able to work and I go to bed pretty late, sometimes one or two, and I’m trying to get better at. Yeah, the kids wake up at six, sometimes seven sometimes.

And so yeah, being able to do this, like every day is just, it’s not good for my health. And it’s not, I’m not able to be the best mom the best, I’m not able to function properly. So I am trying to get better at this. And I’m hoping that soon my daughter will be in full time school as well, that will help a lot. But I still have my youngest daughter at home all day. So yeah, I do have to find way that I can manage this better, like without, without going crazy. So I don’t have this down pat right now, but I’m just doing the best that I can. And I will say I do have a really good husband that is able to step in, where he can like he’s taken over my photography business, a lot, a lot more. And so I don’t have to do too much. But still being able to manage like getting the joy dolls off the ground doing all this on my own. It’s been a lot.

So really, because I make it my priority to respond to every message, every comment, because I really do believe in community that our community has been so supportive of the mission and how much they love the doors and what it means for them. And I really am doing this for them. And I really want them to know that. Yeah, this is for them. And I Yes, I’m working all the time. But I think this work is so important. And I hope after all at once this gets going, I really do hope that I can set this example for my children or others that like the career path isn’t like so straightforward. And I actually looking back, I’m actually glad that I went this really windy road in being in insurance or business and then going into photography, and then doing this because each path has taught me so much. And I think I really needed to go through those paths to be able to get to where I am now. Because if I didn’t know anything about business, I wouldn’t have started my photography business. And if I didn’t know anything about starting a business, I wouldn’t have been able to do this. So I Yes, I do feel like this is my mission. But and it took me a long time to get here. But I think all for a reason. And I’m glad that I’m able to use everything that I’ve learned over the last couple of years in my my in my work to be able to do this now. Yeah,

Karen Zheng 13:35
yeah, totally. I like after having interviewed so many people, I totally see what you’re saying. Basically, like every experience you’ve ever had before has led to to this moment right. So all those other previous jobs the windy road was meant to happen. And yeah, I love and you on this note, thank you so much for coming on the show where listeners find you or and find joy those.

Samantha Ong 14:08
So you can jump on www.joeydolls.com That’s our website and then on Instagram, just @joeydolls. We have a TikTok, but I don’t really use it too much, but it’s @joeydollsco and then there’s Facebook as well as just @joeydolls. But yeah, thank you so much for having me and talking about my experience and how I started Joeydolls. I’m really happy to be able to be here and share this with all of you.

Karen Zheng 14:34

Transcribed by https://otter.ai

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