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Check Out Natalie Tseng’s Story

Today we’d like to introduce you to Natalie Tseng.

Hi Natalie, so excited to have you on the platform. So before we get into questions about your work-life, maybe you can bring our readers up to speed on your story and how you got to where you are today?
I come from a middle-class Asian-American family. In the 70s, my Filipino mother and Chinese father immigrated to the U.S. from Guam and the Philippines. They assimilated to western society and naturally passed on their lifestyle to me and my two older brothers born in SoCal. Empathy, respect, and kindness have always been an integral part of my culture and upbringing. One of my greatest joys has been making people laugh thanks to my hilarious dad. In fact, I was voted as the female class clown in 6th grade. I never only wanted to care about myself, and that holds true.

My parents have encouraged me and my brothers to chase our dreams and do what we love, which is a very untraditional parenting style compared to their strict Asian parents. My parents still wholeheartedly want us to live a happy, fulfilling life by our own standards. That also implies we need to embody the willingness and courage to endure the trials and tribulations that come with reaching our goals. I followed their lesson around four years old when I wanted to be an artist, and they fully supported me. I quickly grew an admiration for art and entertainment because I enjoy observing stories shown in film and TV, especially animation for the artwork. Plus, my parents took me and my brothers to Disneyland at least once a year as our family vacation. Some of our best family moments were at Disneyland because of its nostalgic and magical atmosphere. I knew I wanted to contribute to art and entertainment to inspire others as it did for me.

I craved to create in any way I could (within our family’s budget, of course). My attention to detail became this obsession with perfection when it came to my personal artwork. I started drawing random objects and copying cartoon characters with a humble pencil and paper. Between elementary and middle school, I took extra fine art and even cake decorating classes for kids outside of school, but they became too expensive. I gained art practice by creating gifts for my loved ones, and I do it to this day because of how joyful people become when receiving something one-of-a-kind. The dream of becoming a professional artist paused when I entered high school. Many of my closest friends wanted to be in the STEM field. I followed a path that I thought would make me successful. I took honors/AP classes, joined honor societies, played tennis for four years, and volunteered. As I was finishing high school, my passion for art steered me away from a potential nursing path. I dove head-first into the arts again when I attended Cal Lutheran in 2016. Despite the art awards and recognitions, the critic in me crept up thinking my art wasn’t good enough yet to keep me financially safe. I made marketing communications my second major because I was excited about the media, business, and creative aspects blending together. With my perfectionist mindset, I graduated valedictorian with a B.A. in Art and Marketing Communications in May 2020 right in the middle of the Covid-19 pandemic.

In the midst of rising tragedies in our communities of color and the rapidly changing social climate, I couldn’t allow myself to ignore them. I started developing my charity project Chibi for Charity in an effort to donate to multiple communities in need and share something positive. I developed a 2-D digital art style that would be easy and lighthearted while I applied for jobs. I used my art and marketing comm skills to execute the artwork, social media posts, and distribution on my own. I raised over $300 for GlobalGiving, National Alliance on Mental Illness, Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation, Equal Justice Initiative, Asian Americans Advancing Justice, First Nations Development Institute, Children of Armenia Fund, and Humane Animal Rescue. Meanwhile, I attended every virtual panel and expo I found relating to entertainment, particularly animation, discussing the importance of on-screen AND off-screen diversity and representation. I’ve joined animation organizations like Rise Up Animation, Asians in Animation, and Asian Queens in Animation helping diverse creatives be heard and taken seriously. Now, I volunteer as a Newsletter Supervisor for Rise Up to give back to the first organization that reignited my passions and reach one of my new life goals: uplift underrepresented communities.

We all face challenges, but looking back would you describe it as a relatively smooth road?
As someone with scoliosis who wore three back braces from 6th grade to sophomore year in college, I understand the physical and emotional pain that others could be going through. I was embarrassed about my bulky plastic shell underneath my t-shirts because it made my physique look strange. As I grew taller, my condition got so severe that I had to wear my brace 23 hours a day. I was an insecure pre-teen not wanting to wear it as much as I should have, but I had to confront reality. When I had to wear my brace in public, I hid my body in bigger sweaters in 100-degree Cali weather because of how deeply self-conscious I felt. I had to get monthly x-rays for my doctors to check if my S-curve was shifting. The doctors kept adding more padding and adjustments that would make sitting and sleeping feel impossible. I was trapped in my own body and mind, but a good support system and a strong sense of humor helped me through it. You could say that I “embraced the brace,” but it wasn’t overnight. It was countless days and nights in tears asking myself, “why did this happen to me?” but now I understand. Through this struggle, I learned it’s essential to have self-love and people who will try to understand you despite your differences. I’m forever thankful for everyone who accepted and treated my condition, saved me from back surgery and laughed with me when times were tough.

Graduating during the early stages of a pandemic was unpredictable and terrifying. Originally, I had the Disney College Program in Anaheim set up for the fall, but Disney rightfully decided to cancel it due to severe Covid conditions. I didn’t have a post-college long-term job due to the struggling job market. Honestly, I thought becoming a college valedictorian would give me a boost in job offers, but it didn’t. I felt stuck and hopeless, but Chibi for Charity and the organizations I’m with now helped me realize there are so many ways to evolve other than a job.

Thanks – so what else should our readers know about your work and what you’re currently focused on?
Right now, I dabble into art, marketing, and production! Since childhood, I’ve been known to be the artsy one in my circle. I’ve used traditional and digital materials. My current favorites to use are oil paint, iPad, and digital cameras. I tend to gravitate towards portraits and landscapes that tell meaningful stories or even just pleasant aesthetics. For marketing, I enjoy the process of graphic design and building a brand identity. Plus, I’ve used social media for about a decade now, so I’m comfortable exploring cultural trends, finding graphic ideas, and communicating there. I’m a frequent user of Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, Snapchat, TikTok, Pinterest, and YouTube. For production, I’ve been familiarizing myself with the pipelines and the tools needed to organize assets. Recently, I’ve learned about the payroll side of live-action and animated shows as well.

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