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Jenn Tran named first Asian American Bachelorette in the franchise's 22-year history

MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

ABC's "The Bachelor" wrapped up its 28th season this week. And with that finale, we learned that Jenn Tran will be the leading lady for "The Bachelorette's" upcoming season in May. Jenn is 25, from Florida, gorgeous, of course, and was a contestant on this year's season of "The Bachelor," making it to Week 7 on the dating show. She is also the franchise's first Asian American bachelorette. She is of Vietnamese heritage. For more on that, we've called Kimmy Yam. She covers Asian America for NBC. Good morning.

KIMMY YAM: Good morning. How are you?

MARTIN: I'm great. So is this a moment for representation? What do you think?

YAM: You know, I know that it may seem silly because it's a reality TV show, but I definitely do think that, really, any type of representation that has the potential to complicate those existing depictions of Asian American women is valuable. And so I actually would say that it's a moment. Reality TV kind of presents this new opportunity. Asian Americans for so long have been written in different ways in television and movies and other media through the lens of people that definitely weren't Asian. But reality TV, in a way, you're able to see Asian Americans just living their lives and acting authentically in a way that isn't written by anyone else.

MARTIN: Well, that's interesting. You've given us a couple things to think about here. First of all, for people who aren't necessarily as familiar with or haven't thought about what you're talking about when it comes to stereotypes or the way that Asian Americans have been positioned in pop culture, say a little bit more about that.

YAM: I would say that when it comes to these depictions or illustrations of Asian American women, what we're really looking at is the sort of intersection of both racism and sexism. It's kind of this racialized sexism. So what you end up seeing on screen is the subservient Asian woman, often a sidekick. They can be oversexualized. And, you know, historically, if you really track that path of Asian American or Asian women in cinema, you really see Asian women depicted as these kinds of spoils of war or women to be won, these objects to be won. And this has persisted.

MARTIN: Have you seen any progress since then?

YAM: Yeah, I would definitely say that we have seen in a lot of our fictional media huge leaps and bounds. When we think about something like "Everything Everywhere," that movie was huge. We're giving this Asian woman the ability to be a lead, but not only that, to be extremely complicated, to have her own flaws, but also be able to look inward. Even in reality TV, the Netflix show "Love Is Blind" kind of comes to mind when a couple seasons ago, there were several Asian American contestants. And then we're also seeing the relationships that they have to their parents. That kind of complicated that story, too. And so I definitely would say that something like "The Bachelorette" could really have that potential to do something similar.

MARTIN: What would make this watchable for you?

YAM: I have to admit, I'm always here for the mess. You know, that's going to be watchable for me. But I think that any sort of authentic storylines, experiences, relationships, love, I think that that's all really valuable. Having an Asian woman be that person that is able to control their own destiny on screen, I think that that is really cool.

MARTIN: That is Kimmy Yam. She reports on Asian America for NBC. Kimmy, thank you.

YAM: Absolutely. Thank you.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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