May is Asian Pacific American Heritage Month, and ECAASU is highlighting movers and shakers today striving to foster change within the Asian American community. We talked to Stephanie Gancayco, founder and Editor-in-Chief of Hella Pinay, a digital media platform celebrating women-identified Pilipinas, and how she celebrates APAHM.
Tell us about yourself.
My name is Stephanie Gancayco (she/her), I'm a first-generation Pilipina-American currently based in New York and originally from the Bay Area, CA.
Tell us about your work and what inspires you.
I'm the founder and Editor-in-Chief of Hella Pinay, a digital media platform celebrating women-identified Pilipinas, and I also design a contemporary clothing brand that collaborates with Indigenous women artisans in the Philippines called HALIYA. I'm inspired by my people and culture and also the incredible resilience, beauty, and creativity in our AAPI communities.
What do you stand for?
I am really passionate about creating spaces for Pinays to be seen and heard, for our diversity and complexity to be represented and to show others that we are humans, not just stereotypes. I want to shine a spotlight on Pilipinx artistry and culture and help preserve ancestral craft and tradition. I really really want to see the artisans I work with make a super sustainable livelihood and pass on their knowledge to further generations. I also really believe in healing of both self and community through knowledge and awareness - I believe it's so important for us to learn from our history to help heal the deep fragmentation in our community. I just really want to see our people thrive.
How does your work empower you?
Hearing from others in the community that they're inspired to dig deeper into their roots or feel pride in themselves and their heritage through the work I do is a bigger gift than I ever could have hoped for. Also, the learning I gain from all the research I am constantly doing is empowering AF. We have so much to be proud of, so much incredible history, so much deep wisdom in our ancestry - the more and more I uncover, the more powerful and whole I feel.
May is Asian Pacific American Heritage Month--why is this month important to recognize and celebrate?
APAHM is important because it recognizes our achievements and just how much we give and have given to this country. As AAPIs we have almost zero representation in mainstream media, and of the tiny bit that is out there, the majority has historically been pretty racist and perpetuates stereotypes. That is thankfully changing!! I'm so happy to see more and more AAPIs being out there and saying, hi, we're here, we deserve to be seen as people and to be recognized.
How do you celebrate APAHM?
Every month is APAHM haha - I'm just trying to keep doing what I'm doing.
What’s one piece of advice you would give to AAPI students and young professionals striving to more socially conscious with their work?
It might sound cliche, but seriously: believe in yourself and stay true to your intentions. The work can be really difficult and you're gonna face all kinds of obstacles - stay positive and stay pushing! Also I would say, if you really want to do something and make a difference, just go for it. I wanted to be doing this work years and years ago but I didn't believe in myself and always held myself back - I actually ended up getting diagnosed with cancer last year and that's what shook me awake like: our time here is limited. Just get out there and do it! If your intentions are genuine and you're putting in the work, the right people and the right situations will align.