Hina is a Japanese, non-binary lesbian who creates comedic and fashion content on TikTok, and focuses on bringing light to lesbian culture and the intersections of their identities. To Hina, the most important thing is bringing representation to their communities, especially young queer Asian folks who never saw themselves in the media.
What does it mean to you to be part of the API community?
My entire identity is centered around my culture. As a child, I immigrated to the United States from Japan. My parents changed my name to "Katelyn" and my Japanese name, Hina, was no longer used. For most of my young life, I always tried to fit into the American mold of how to be, how to act, or how to speak. I "fixed" my accent and stopped speaking Japanese. I asked my mom to stop packing me a bento for lunch. After about a decade of living in the US, I felt lost and depressed. Sensing this, my mom took me on a trip to visit home. When I arrived back in Japan, I felt an inexplicable peace, and a sense of belonging and safety washed over me. I had lost myself by neglecting who I was and where I was born. When I came back to America, I decided I would take Japanese classes again, speak only Japanese to my mom, make Japanese friends, learn to cook Japanese food, and read Japanese books. I never let that sacred part of me fade away again. There is a tremendous tenderness in my heart for the people in my API community, because many of them have had very similar experiences to me. By connecting with this community, I'm never alone and I always have a piece of home with me.
How has the TikTok community inspired you?
I am truly indebted to the TikTok community. I have never in my life felt more accepted, more visible and more proud of my identities anywhere else. What I think is beautiful about TikTok is that your videos will be seen by someone who needs to see it, which makes it easy to find your community. My fellow API and queer creators, who are all so creative, talented, funny and intelligent, inspire me every day. The TikTok community is a place where I can go to spend time with people who feel like my friends. On TikTok, people are authentic and candid, which I feel allows you to find true connection within the community. It inspires me to feel the world isn't all that big and we all have something that connects us.
What is your favorite TikTok video that you've created and why?
My favorite video I've ever created was a collaboration with my fellow API creator, Austin Cho where we played out a scenario of a gay and lesbian married couple. We met through TikTok and we have an insane creative chemistry. It's my favorite video, because I think it's a testament to TikTok's ability to create community and the magic that can come from connecting with others in the community. We've become really close friends and creating with Austin is so fun.
What is something people may not know about you just from watching your Tiktok content?
People might not know English is my second language. Because I don't have an accent, people tend to assume that I'm a native English speaker, but my mother tongue is Japanese. When I moved to the US, I actually had to relearn English. My dad was always at work and at home, I always spoke Japanese to my mother, so I ended up forgetting English. It became a really big insecurity when I was growing up, because I thought people perceived me as being stupid because I couldn't speak English as well as others. Because of my insecurity, I was driven to learn a lot of different languages. In fact, I've learned seven or eight languages.
What are some of your passions on and off of TikTok?
I believe my life's purpose is to create more and more meaningful representation for Asian, lesbian and non-binary people in popular media. Whether that be on TikTok or in the writers' room. It is the single most powerful force behind why I do what I do. I am passionate about creating a safe space for people to exist without shame or hiding themselves.
What advice would you give to a comedy creator who's just starting out on TikTok?
If your comedy hurts somebody, then it's not funny, which is one thing I stand by. I think a lot of people have to challenge themselves and ask "how can I make comedy that is funny and is relatable, but also uplifting and makes people feel good?" I think that's what brings people back to your content. I like to make fun of lesbians as lesbian myself, but I do it in a playful way. It's really about learning where that line is when you make comedic content. Also, people should not be afraid to be as niche. Finding a niche and what makes your content really special is a novelty. People love seeing things they've never seen before. Think about your interests and see if there a two things you love that you could bring together. Maybe that's comedy and reading books. Find those niche spots that make you unique.