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Life & Work with Alex Chan

Today we’d like to introduce you to Alex Chan.

Hi Alex, we’re thrilled to have a chance to learn your story today. So, before we get into specifics, maybe you can briefly walk us through how you got to where you are today?
The craft of storytelling is something I’ve always loved. I never truly realized this during my childhood or even until now in my adulthood. I think we all feel this pressure – even at a young age – to discover what our talents and strengths are and how to channel that into a career. But as we get older, certain things begin to influence our direction more, like how steady is the work or how much will it pay? These are still important questions to ask. But I also think it’s important that the first step in your path starts with what you fundamentally love, and then you can work your way forward from there. For me, I was always interested in telling stories. When I started writing for my high school’s student newspaper, I found a lot of meaning in writing about real events and creating a product that my peers looked forward to reading every two weeks. The rest of my academic career was highly focused on journalism. What I value most was being able to connect a lot of my other interests – like travel, film, fashion and the performing arts – to what I was writing about when I interned and freelanced during college.

After earning my B.A. in Literary Journalism at UC Irvine, I landed a job as a reporter for The Daily Pilot, a subsidiary of the Los Angeles Times. I owe everything to the team I worked with while I was there. Their mentorship, friendship and collaboration got me through the toughest stories, especially during the events leading up to the 2016 election and the results that followed. I loved serving my community as a local reporter and I’m proud of how much I grew while covering hard news stories. When I became curious about video creation, podcasting and more multimedia storytelling, I decided to get my Master’s in Journalism from USC Annenberg. At first, it was pretty daunting to study how much the Internet and social media have changed the way we aggregate and present news content. But now, I see it as an opportunity for reporting teams to be more innovative and creative in how we engage people. I’m learning that there really is no limit to what I can produce and which companies I can do that for, which is why I’m finding a lot of joy right now in being an independent video editor and content creator for different clients. I’m also having a blast working on my own show about upcycling clothes to encourage the stop of textile waste. Hopefully, it’ll introduce people to a more sustainable approach to how we treat our wardrobes and our relationship to fashion.

We all face challenges, but looking back would you describe it as a relatively smooth road?
Definitely not, but I’m a better person because of it. I don’t consider myself naturally good at anything. I’ve always had to study, learn and practice to really be decent at something, but that always made me value the progress and journey more than the end result. The real work and struggle it takes to be good at something is what happens behind the scenes. People may never see it, but I think that’s where the magic happens. When I’m in need of motivation, I take time to look at the first piece of work from a creator I really admire and then see where they are now. It’s a humbling reminder that no one achieves what they’re fully capable of on the first try. Looking back at the work I’m most proud of, the biggest challenge I always had to overcome was my fear over simply starting the project. Also, the nature of being a multimedia storyteller is that you assume the role of host, writer, head of video and sound, researcher, editor, producer and director simultaneously. This is what I experienced while producing my podcast and also my first short documentary last year. I made plenty of mistakes and spent countless hours working at it until I achieved a result I was happy with. But the growth I experienced from start to finish and even just the attempt to try and master something is the real success I walk away with. I’m learning that those who are experts at something are people who got knocked down more times than beginners have stepped up. So whatever you’re thinking of starting… start it!

Thanks – so what else should our readers know about your work and what you’re currently focused on?
Right now, I feel very fortunate to have the opportunity to transition from the written word to visual storytelling. Among the other work I’ve pursued, I’ve also wanted to start a YouTube channel for years. During development, I felt it was really important that the content involves something I enjoy, something I’m good at and something that will help or inspire people. That’s when I decided I would focus on our relationship with fashion and its connection to the environment. This year, I developed show ideas a lot further when the world was under lockdown. I cleaned out my closet and played around with the idea of altering old clothes I hadn’t been wearing rather than getting rid of them. I read more about thrift flipping and upcycling clothes as well as the environmental impacts of textile waste. There’s an effect that the overconsumption and disposal of clothing has on our planet’s water, air and earth. Choosing not to get rid of items you can continue wearing is one way to make a difference. My goal right now is to encourage people’s creativity by showing them how we can sew, cut, alter and re-create new looks from what’s already hanging in the closet. This month, I’m proud to begin sharing this content under my show, “Flip It + Zip It.” Although it’s early in the journey, I’m grateful that this project is teaching me how to reinvent who I am and what I do during the full course of my career. For anyone who believes they may not stick to the same vocation for the rest of their life, I would tell them that there’s always time to chart a new course.

What matters most to you?
What matters most to me is to do work that makes me happy and also helps others. I think we all have a role to play in taking care of our community and I believe there’s a role for everyone’s talents to be put to good use. I love work that teaches me more about what’s happening to people locally, nationally and globally. I feel lucky that everything I’ve been involved with thus far has done that. It’s fulfilling to understand how you can contribute to a cause that’s bigger than yourself, whether it’s the environment, human rights, public health or anything else your community needs.

Contact Info:


Image Credits:

@wilsonpumpernickel @annenberg_abroad Meekaaeel Adam Alex Chan

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