Trisha and I chatted about:
- A day in the life of a real digital nomad (1:31)
- How she uses her diverse background in art and education (4:21)
- “How can I do what I like but also get compensated for it” (5:53)
- Why your major maybe doesn’t matter as much as you’ve been led to think (13:24)
- The unconventional ways Asian parents show support (17:08)
- The challenges of uneven cash flow, late invoices…and what to do about it (19:19)
- How Little Ning Books started as a way to diversify kid lit (25:09)
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Transcript:Click to read full transcript.
Trisha Hautéa 0:00
And all the ones of like Asian Americans, or Asians in general, were really problematic and a lot of the books could be focused on culture but at the same time, you know, Asian Americans are more than the dumplings we eat and the chopsticks we use, and that’s a lot of what the books had. And on top of that, they were written by white people. They weren’t written by Asian Americans at all.
Jennifer Fultz 0:31
You’re listening to Chief Executive Auntie, the podcast exploring the work lives of Asian Americans beyond the conventional doctor, lawyer and engineer. I’m your host, Jennifer Duann Fultz. Hey everybody, welcome to the show. My guest today is Trisha Hautéa. She is an educator and a consultant, a digital media strategist and the illustrator of Pepper Zhang: Artist Extraordinaire; a book that has been featured on multiple media outlets, including NPR, HuffPost, NowThis, Upworthy, Bustle and more. She and her colleague Jerry started Little Ning books, which seeks to bring diverse Asian characters to the children’s publishing market. Welcome to the show, Trisha.
Trisha Hautéa 1:19
Hi. Thanks so much for having me, Jennifer.
Jennifer Fultz 1:21
So tell me a little bit about your day to day. I know you grew up in New York City, but now you kind of work and live all over. So tell me a little bit about that.
Trisha Hautéa 1:31
Yeah, so a lot of my days are pretty — I don’t have a set schedule most of the time. A lot of it is a lot of meetings, trying to make sure there’s good Wi-Fi wherever I’m working. And usually, most of the meetings are virtual or if it’s in person, and I have to be in person, I’m in New York and I fly over. So I spend a lot of my time now — I’m actually leaving for Mexico City in like five hours, so I’m kind of either like packing and moving around or just like living out of a backpack somewhere.
Jennifer Fultz 2:09
I was about to ask, are you packed yet?
Trisha Hautéa 2:14
Kind of packed. But definitely should be packing more later but I’m mostly set to go. But yeah, typically my day is, you know, finding work to do or working on the freelancing consulting work I do, helping out with the podcasts I do with my friend. And if Jerry and I are working on a book, I’ll be working on illustrations for that. And then also my own personal practice, which is also artwork. So trying to figure out time management in that way is hard, especially during constant time differences. So it’s readjusting but that’s typically what my day looks like.
Jennifer Fultz 2:47
Do you have any pro tips for jet lag?
Trisha Hautéa 2:50
Stay awake, if you can, if it makes more sense, kind of just stay awake for like the 24 hours or whatever depending on how big the time difference was. If it’s from like, Mexico City, which is only a two hour difference, you’re kind of okay, but if it’s Asia where it’s 12 hours I would suggest staying awake and you know, readjusting back that way.
Jennifer Fultz 3:14
I have a three and a half year old and I really want to go back to Taiwan where my family is from, but the thought of making that flight with him…I think I could have done it when he was like little bitty and just didn’t know day and night anyway. But now I’m like, Okay, I guess I just gotta wait until you’re 10 or so.
Trisha Hautéa 3:35
Yeah, it’s pretty wild, especially like…I just was in Southeast Asia and I think my total travel time just to get there was 26 hours, and I was dead by the time. Honestly, kudos to the parents who have multiple children crying and screaming on long flights so god bless them.
Jennifer Fultz 4:00
My best friend took her then two year old and five year old to Taiwan last summer. And she was like, “I don’t want to do that again.” And I’m like, “I don’t want to do that ever.” So what do you really do? What kind of freelancing and consulting do you work on?
Trisha Hautéa 4:20
Yeah, so right now, well, my background is kind of all over the place. But I’ve recently been stepping into the impact investing and sustainable finance space. So I kind of work with a mix of organizations from super big corporate ones, to nonprofits, to the UN and really everywhere in terms of just how people are allocating their finances. And so I also work with a friend and mentor on the Sustainable Finance podcast. So I help him out also with the podcast. I’m very new to the podcast space itself. And then I also do just general consulting, which could go for communications, branding, to business strategies, and things like that. And then also just, I do tattoos. So sometimes I’ll tattoo people for commission and then also just general artwork. So it’s very everywhere in terms of the work I do.
Jennifer Fultz 5:21
I get bored if I do the same thing for too long. And sometimes I get frustrated with myself like, “Well, if I could find one thing and just stick with it, I would maybe be a lot further along,” but I also kind of like having the option to do whatever people will give me money for.
Trisha Hautéa 5:44
Yeah, I think the one thing I’m finding and…I’m trying to find that balance of like, “How can I do what I like but also get compensated for it?” I also, I’ve done consulting but now is the first time I’m really like stepping into the space and doing it as a full time gig without a formal structure. So it’s been really interesting and being like, “Okay, what am I really interested in? What do I hate doing? What do I not want to waste my time doing?” You know, so it’s been a very, I totally feel that. I feel like I would just lose it if I stared at the same thing all the time. My brain just doesn’t work like that, either.
Jennifer Fultz 6:22
Yeah, I think I spent the first maybe year or so of my, quote unquote, it’s not really full time because I have a small child. But I spent the first year of my freelance career kind of in, I called it my ‘laboratory stage’ where I just like, if somebody wanted me to design a document, sure, I’ll design a document. If someone wants me to build a website, I know how to build a website. Awesome. But then from that, I was able to pick and choose kind of what A) what I was really good at; B) what people would give me the most money for, and C) kind of what was the most sustainable. So I think that laboratory phase is really, really valuable. How long have you been freelancing full time?
Trisha Hautéa 7:05
Full time, literally, I think four months ago. So it’s very, very new. I did do consulting previously, here and there. But now it’s the first time I’m traveling while doing the thing. And also just wanted to say to what you said before, being a mom is a full time job. So you did have a lot of things to do.
Jennifer Fultz 7:27
Yeah, I started freelancing officially, kind of put my shingle out there when my son was eight or nine months old, would not necessarily recommend. But I was at the point, I don’t know. And for those of you who are not parents, this may not make a whole lot of sense. But when you have an infant, you are simultaneously exhausted and bored out of your mind. It’s a very strange feeling because I went from like sixty to zero. I was a teacher before my kiddo was born, and basically I had him and I just didn’t go back to work. So I was like: okay, I’m working every day. And then tschoom, nothing. It’s a very strange experience. What were you doing prior to making the jump to full time freelancing?
Trisha Hautéa 8:17
So I was working in kind of like the startup space, which was not really what I anticipated. I also was not making a living wage. So you know, I think there was a sign that was kind of like: okay, this is not really for me, but at least I can figure out what I like. But prior to that I was in a lot of different spaces. I think we both talked about this offline, but we were both kind of in genetics, right?
Jennifer Fultz 8:45
Trisha Hautéa 8:45
It’s weird. I also was an educator, but an art educator, and I was also working at different institutions doing programming and also lesson plans and working like congressional briefings and stuff like that. But this is all simultaneous while I was in grad school, so very like, everywhere. So for genetics, it was really about genetic education and making that information accessible. A lot of communities don’t really–different communities have had really bad experiences in the past because of genetics. And people don’t trust scientists sometimes and completely fair. Example: eugenics. So one of the things that we would do is really educate different communities and have different people from everywhere share their perspectives about that, and show that scienc is pretty beneficial in terms of learning about how your genetic makeup works, getting tested, DNA tested and all these things. So it is just like all of that, but making this information pretty accessible when typically, it’s not. Especially with just science jargon can be very intimidating for someone not in that space. So making this information accessible to public school kids, and even younger, to college, everywhere. And then to that went into kind of talking about policies and stuff like that. So we worked with NASA and Hollywood people in terms of how they presented online, like on to their channels. And then I was also working in arts education. So I worked with MIT and I was working with them in terms of STEAM, which is a combination of like science, art and technology and math. And then same thing with just the other institutions I was working with. And then I was also an art teacher. So I did IB education, which is like, AP times 10. So I realized I really didn’t like grading. So I never actually became a formal teacher because I realize I really hated waking up at 7 AM and dealing with like 30 teenagers who are full of emotion. So I didn’t go that route, but definitely used that educational background.
Jennifer Fultz 11:01
Yeah, my last teaching job, I think I had a total of 145 students.
Trisha Hautéa 11:06
Oh my god.
Jennifer Fultz 11:08
We had a block schedule. So I only saw half of them each day. But still, I’m like, by the end I’m like: will you just get out of my room?
Trisha Hautéa 11:15
Yeah. And it’s like, I loved my kids. They were awesome. And you know, they inspired me and motivated me. But I was also like: I want to go home and I have to grade like 60 essays when I get home. So it’s like, you’re awesome, but I have to deal with you for so many hours.
Jennifer Fultz 11:32
The auxiliary workload of teaching is very high. And I kind of wish I had known that before I chose teaching to be my quote unquote career. I got my masters in education and then I had a student teaching experience, but it’s it’s still different when it’s only you. It’s all down to you and you got to plan the lessons, and teach the lessons, and grade the homework and after a while I just stopped giving homework because I didn’t want to grade it any more. Which is maybe not the best approach. Speaking of education, I really do love how you just wander, and I say wander in a good way. Like you just go wherever your interest and opportunity. What was your sort of formal education background? I know you have a BFA, is that correct?
Trisha Hautéa 12:23
Yeah. So my formal education was like you said, a BFA. So I was doing art history and fine art. And my parents were not totally thrilled about the decision, but you know, they supported me regardless. And then I got my masters in education as well. So I had my masters in teaching, realized, literally like three weeks before graduation, I wasn’t going to take the test for becoming a certified teacher. And then I also got my masters, my MBA. Sorry. So I got my MBA afterwards. So my background is pretty everywhere. So I did a little bit of like social entrepreneurship stuff.
Jennifer Fultz 13:11
It does sound like, though, that you did pick degrees that have been helpful for you. You’re still using your education background, you’re still using your art background, you’re still using your business degree. So that’s some comfort I guess.
Trisha Hautéa 13:24
Yeah, it’s so interesting to me, because it’s like you’re fed this idea that, you know, the major that you take is the one you’re going to use for life or whatever. And literally, I have friends who — we went to a performing arts high school in New York. And, you know, they went into college for opera, and then they left it. And literally, some of them are becoming computer engineers. They’re like, actually, I’m going to learn this and do coding. And I’m like, okay. So it’s really interesting to just see how everyone’s trajectories are working in that way.
Jennifer Fultz 14:00
Yeah, that was my experience too. And I don’t know how much of that is like Asian parents or is this everybody? How much of it is like the immigrant experience? I also grew up in a Chinese church. I don’t know which part of it but I definitely had the like: There. Is. One. Path. That. You. Follow. And then none of that, literally none of that has ever, or that whole pathway idea has not worked at all in my life. So I don’t know where that comes from.
Trisha Hautéa 14:33
I totally feel that. I’ve noticed, yeah, I have friends also who’ve done that thing where they’ve listened to their parents, and they’re really unhappy with that decision. But they’re like: oh, it’s too late now. I’ve been in school for like a bajillion years. I have to just keep going. And then it’s like, oh. So I think that it definitely does sit with a lot of people. But sometimes parents are more forgiving than others. And I think it’s a matter of how people have approached it for sure.
Jennifer Fultz 15:02
Yeah. You mentioned how your parents were maybe not super supportive. When you decided to study art. Did they come around? And if so, kind of how did that happen?
Trisha Hautéa 15:15
Yeah. So they’ve never been like blatantly unsupportive of me. I think there would just be like, subtle hints of like, you know, you go to like the family gathering. They’re like: oh, cousin X, Y, Z is going to be a doctor like, oh, or a lawyer and then they do like the hint, hint, why aren’t you doing that thing? But–
Jennifer Fultz 15:34
Why aren’t you going to marry that one?
Trisha Hautéa 15:36
You know, they’re like how are you going to make money? And then you know, even my grandma would be like: “Oh, true. She’s going to be a starving artist. What is she going to do?” And you know, it happens. But after a while, I think I definitely try to do my best in terms of making sure that it was worth it in terms of the education I was getting. I wasn’t just like sitting around making art and doing drugs and sitting down and painting big… I dunno art school is very interesting in that way. And there were people in school that I was like, why are you in school? But there’s also the fact that I was really trying to make sure that they knew that it wasn’t going to be a waste of my time, you know? So, after a while, they’re like, okay, you know. I had to do like the institutional name drop for them to like, be a little bit proud. I had to do the thing. So I was like, okay, at least like somehow. I think after a while, they were like: huh, you have a background in art and managed to get into XYZ space. That’s okay.
Jennifer Fultz 16:44
I must be good.
Trisha Hautéa 16:45
They were like: “okay, I guess it’s working for you?” So, you know, they definitely, they weren’t like cool with it at first, but I think they’re starting. They trust me now, obviously, in terms of the decisions I make.
Jennifer Fultz 16:57
Well, and you’ve made it work. You’re not starving, you’re not, I don’t know, doing drugs or being a bomb or whatever.
Trisha Hautéa 17:05
Yeah, I definitely watch too much Netflix.
Jennifer Fultz 17:06
I think everybody does it.
Trisha Hautéa 17:10
Yeah, I think. Yeah, luckily, they are totally cool with what I do. And my mom’s a nurse. So, as I mentioned before, I kind of do tattoos. So when I was first starting out, she would like send me boxes of like, sterilization equipment.
Jennifer Fultz 17:26
Trisha Hautéa 17:27
So she would just send me boxes of like the cloth and the gauze and everything. So she was like supportive in a really weird way. But she’s usually not being like: “I love you. I care for you.” Here’s: “I guess I could support you.”
Jennifer Fultz 17:40
Yeah, and I think i think that’s something that I’ve heard from a lot of my guests. Like Asian American parents, for the most part are not going to be like: “We love you so much.” They’re not going to say it. They’re not going to say it.
Trisha Hautéa 17:55
Jennifer Fultz 17:55
But they’re going to send you sterilization equipment for your tattooing or they’re going to refer you to their friends who have a business or they’re going to ask you how you build websites and all that. That’s their way of being supportive. And I think when I was younger, I didn’t understand that and I’d be like: “my parents don’t like me, they don’t care what I do. Wah wah wah.” But I think as I’ve gotten older, I’m like, okay, that’s how they show it.
Trisha Hautéa 18:26
Jennifer Fultz 18:27
And when I choose to accept that then everybody’s a lot happier and I’m less resentful and less of a jerk.
Trisha Hautéa 18:35
Yeah, it took me a while to realize a lot of the things my parents said were definitely out of love. You don’t realize it when you’re younger and you definitely take it for granted. Like even my dad now, like I’ll paint and something, I don’t know what I’ll do, but then he’ll like: “send me a picture,” and then he’ll show all his coworkers, when he’s at work, like sharing his phone. Or when I see coworkers they’re like: “oh, I saw this drawing that you did.” I’m like, Oh.
Jennifer Fultz 19:04
I don’t even know you, but thanks.
Trisha Hautéa 19:06
Yeah, so it’s you know, it’s like the subtle things that show love, for sure.
Jennifer Fultz 19:12
Yeah. What are some of the challenges you face with your full time freelancing?
Trisha Hautéa 19:21
Definitely invoices not getting paid. So that’s always not fun and having to kind of nag people to just pay you. So that’s hard. The other thing is, I think not having a true consistent schedule. Like one day never looks the same. So it’s like really figuring out how to have discipline in terms of how you’re going to spend your day. It’s like cool, I might have like five meetings, two meetings. But then what am I going to do in between that? Like how am I going to allocate my work? And every day does look different. So I think that’s definitely a challenge, is I could be going down the YouTube rabbit hole or something. Or like during my work, and no one’s going to tell me otherwise. So it’s like, no one’s going to tell me I’m doing the wrong thing or I will get in trouble. It’s just myself. So definitely self-discipline and time management and then also making sure you get fairly compensated for the work you do.
Jennifer Fultz 20:31
Do you have a clause in your contract about like, overdue payments or anything like that?
Trisha Hautéa 20:38
Yeah, yeah. Luckily, I have a friend who is a lawyer and who’s a friend slash client, actually. But one of the things she gifted me was contracts, so yeah.
Jennifer Fultz 20:47
Trisha Hautéa 20:48
So she sent me a few freelance contracts that I could use, which is nice. But yeah, typically, it’s not going to be like five months or anything, but it’s still like–
Jennifer Fultz 20:58
But we still have the effort of having chase them down.
Trisha Hautéa 21:01
Jennifer Fultz 21:01
And all of that. I found that having a button on the invoice that’s just like ‘Click here to pay’ reduced the lag time on invoices quite a bit. And in order to use that I have to pay like processing fees but for me that’s worth it because that’s time I don’t have to spend like: “Where is my invoice? Hello?”
Trisha Hautéa 21:23
Yeah, it’s like: Oh, I was expecting this amount this week but I guess not. I guess I will have to go nag them. It’s just like that thing of like, ugh, I hate. But you’re an adult. But it doesn’t happen all the time. But it does happen.
Jennifer Fultz 21:41
Yeah, and especially when that’s your sole form of income. That makes it really difficult for you.
Trisha Hautéa 21:48
Yeah, yeah. It’s like I don’t think people realize that. I think people think that you’re doing other things and sometimes you know you do rely– Well consultants or freelance rely heavily on people paying on time. And I don’t think other people who are paying for that work realize that. They’re like: “oh, it’s easy. And I can get someone to do this real quick.” And then not actually think of considering the other person.
Jennifer Fultz 22:13
Do you have late fees?
Trisha Hautéa 22:15
Yes, yes, I do.
Jennifer Fultz 22:17
Are they big enough?
Trisha Hautéa 22:19
I think, yeah, they’re not as big as they probably should be. But it hasn’t happened so many times that I had to really put into a fee. So yeah, sometimes it happens, or they’ll throw me a bone and do pay more.
Jennifer Fultz 22:33
I had, after a couple, sort of miniature nightmare scenarios last year, I consulted a lawyer and also a couple of my business mentors, and I put in a project rescheduling fee. So basically, if the client does something that derails our schedule, I put their project on hold, and then to restart it, it’s a 2000 dollar fee. And I know it seems insane. But the reality is that, you know, and I think for you to like, I can’t just go get another project like, tomorrow.
Trisha Hautéa 23:12
Jennifer Fultz 23:12
There’s a lot of lead time for that. I pay for my childcare based on how much I think I’m going to be working. I also turned down other projects based on how much I think I’m going to be working. And so a delay is incredibly costly to me. I’ve never had to use it. But I have noticed that since I put that in my contract, my clients are much more responsive.
Trisha Hautéa 23:34
I should definitely do that.
Jennifer Fultz 23:37
The rescheduling, the pause clause thing, like time is money and also time is just time. Like once you, you know, you can’t ever get more times.
Trisha Hautéa 23:45
Jennifer Fultz 23:46
I’m very protective of it.
Trisha Hautéa 23:49
No, that is such a good idea.
Jennifer Fultz 23:51
And also nobody’s ever like, you know, fussed at me for it either. It’s just in there. But yeah, I’ve noticed since putting that in there, all of my clients are much more responsive. And I think I put like, six or seven calendar days or something like that. You know, because I get that stuff happens. But if stuff happens just tell me about it like don’t just vanish.
Trisha Hautéa 23:52
Like when people do they ghosting thing.
Jennifer Fultz 24:18
Yeah. And I’m like: are we still doing this?
Trisha Hautéa 24:21
I thought we had decided… yeah, totally. That’s such a good idea for sure. And I think it scares them a little bit more. Like, oh, okay, yeah, I really can’t waste time.
Jennifer Fultz 24:29
No. So if you get to the point where you’re having too much trouble with invoices. Or honestly, even before then, just like up the– I’m serious, just up the [unintelligible] a little bit and see what happens.
Trisha Hautéa 24:43
Yeah, I’m definitely going to relook at these contracts for sure.
Jennifer Fultz 24:48
Yeah, your contract is a very important piece to protect you. I want to talk a little bit about your book and your publishing house that, you know, this minor detail that we haven’t mentioned at all. Tell me a little bit about the backstory behind Little Ning books.
Trisha Hautéa 25:05
Yeah. So actually, Jerry and I met through a mutual friend. A family friend of mine and his, Jerry’s. So we both had this mutual friend. And Jerry was like really frustrated because he has two kids. And when they were younger, I think she was like five. She’s like four and five when this happened. But she, her name is Madison, and she was really frustrated that she couldn’t find characters that look like her and children’s books. And the one thing that she– Oh, might I add also, the kids are half Asian American. And yeah, so they’re half Asian. They’re like half. So Jerry was born in Brooklyn, and he was telling me: “oh, yeah, we’re in this really diverse city but I can never find books that would look Like Madison. And all the ones of like Asian Americans or Asians, in general, were really problematic. And, you know, kind of stereotypical and yes, a lot of the books could be focused on culture, but at the same time, you know, Asian Americans are more than the dumplings we eat and the chopsticks we use. And that’s a lot of what the books had. And on top of that, they were written by white people, they weren’t written by Asian Americans at all. So he was noticing, like: “cool, I can’t find anything that looks like Madison, and I can find books that have animals that she likes, but that’s not her.” So he’s really struggling with that. And he was like, “I want a book that Madison would love and really represents her as a kid” you know, beyond like, all of the cultural things, which again, are important, but that isn’t all we are. And you know, that perpetuates a lot of stereotypes that exist. So he was like, I want to make a book for her. So we were talking and we met and I was like, I love this idea, I’m really excited. And so we were playing around with what Pepper looks like and she’s going to be an artist and I was like, oh, it could be kind of like me and my experiences and have elements of us both growing up in the city and so things like that. So that’s how Pepper was born. And it was really a lot of fun. It was really an experiment for us because neither of us have made a book before. And so we ended up making the book, we finished it, and we had a Kickstarter. So we made the thing on Kickstarter, we had a video that a friend of mine helped us make, and literally the day it was going to close, the Kickstarter was going to end, we raised our funds within like two days and we’re like: “okay, cool. I guess we’re just going to leave it up” because that was kind of anticlimactic. We made the money we needed. And we ended up raising 200% more the day, like the last day. And we were like, we had a meeting together and because our offices were pretty close to each other in the city. So we would just meet in between like lunch breaks or whatever and have meetings. And I would give him the drawings. And literally we were like, “wait.” Looking at the Kickstarter, and we’re like: “oh my god, wait, what? It is something wrong with it? Like it’s going up like crazy, like what’s going on?” And we didn’t realize that all of these news outlets randomly were featuring the book and featuring the Kickstarter. And we had no idea this was happening. And we thought there was a glitch in the system or something and that’s kind of what happened. So it kind of blew up way more than we like, actually– We were like, okay, cool, we’ll like sell 50-60 books. It’ll be great, like, cool, and ended up selling like 1300 of them which was pretty fun for us not really knowing how this process works. It was really fun learning experience. And yeah, so we got enough, a bunch of like TV outlets and like news outlets and like all these things. We read the book to a lot of schools. And yeah, it’s been like a fun ride.
Jerry does again have two kids. So he’s a stay-at-home dad. Well, his office at home. So he moved out to the suburbs, and he’s living his suburban dad life now. I don’t see him as frequently. But yeah, you know, we were trying to figure out like, what our next books are. We just made a coloring book, which is also available online. And in Chelsea Market at Pearl River Mart. And so both the books are available there. And yeah, we ended up doing that. And the other book is a coloring book with princesses from around the world. Because his two daughters are both now obsessed with little princesses. So he was like, all right, Trisha, [unintelligible]. Are we gonna make this other one? I’m like: “cool, whatever.” So we did another one with like, all diverse princesses. So we’re trying to figure out, maybe not necessarily focused on Asian Americans for the next books, for Asian American characters, but the first one is definitely based on that. And I think that now we’re just going to focus on general, closing the representation gap for children and children’s books.
Jennifer Fultz 30:16
That’s fantastic. And as a parent, I’m like, YE-EES! Oh that makes me so glad. And I’m going to be getting copies of everything.
Trisha Hautéa 30:27
Yay. I’m glad.
Jennifer Fultz 30:28
I was just really curious, just because I am not a visual artist. And so I don’t really understand how the process works. How did you come up with the character design, I guess for Pepper? And I don’t know, I’m thinking like, you were saying, you know, “we’re more than dumplings. We’re more than chopsticks.” But so how do you draw an Asian American character and maybe this is just all the internalized white supremacy that I have grown up with. Like, how do you draw an Asian American character that’s not, you know, a stereotype.
Trisha Hautéa 31:06
Right? So, I think one of the things–
Jennifer Fultz 31:10
She’s so cute.
Trisha Hautéa 31:13
Yeah, that was a really fun project. So she was actually based on Madison, his daughter, one of his daughters. So we were kind of mixing a bit of her in and then also mixing in just a, I don’t know, we different kinds of ways to make her look Asian but not stereotypically Asian. Does that make sense? Because, you know, oh, my God, like the books we would find, like the characters would have lines as eyes. It’s hard. It’s just oh god it was horrible. So we were like, alright, we’re going to avoid doing that. But I think we really just focused on her being a kid from New York City. You know, I think both of us, Jerry and I were very lucky to grow up in a very diverse place. So I think we used a lot of inspiration for just like our every day. And Jerry definitely based it off Madison, so it’d be a mix. So you’d be like, okay, I kind of like this style of illustration, or for her face. And then he would just send me pictures of Madison in different outfits that he had on his phone. And then there was one that we really liked where she was in a white dress. So I use that. And I had a bunch of materials in my house. So I was just playing. So that was, it was just kind of a play situation of like, we’ll figure it out as we go. So there were different iterations of her but we finally picked the final one.
Jennifer Fultz 32:30
Sounds like magic to me.
Trisha Hautéa 32:34
It was really interesting because it was my first time. Like, I’m a formal artist, but it was really interesting to truly develop a character. It wasn’t in my wheelhouse at all. Like I didn’t go to school for illustration. I was really winging it, but it worked out it seems like.
Jennifer Fultz 32:52
She’s adorable and the book is beautiful.
Trisha Hautéa 32:54
Jennifer Fultz 32:57
So did you end up self-publishing this?
Trisha Hautéa 32:59
Yeah. So we’re self-publishing because initially, we were like, well, Jerry was looking into it. And we were like talking about it. And there were publishers that were interested. And then one of them I won’t say who, but literally was like: “Oh, you know, I would really love if she talked more about how she loves being Chinese.” And we’re like, what the heck? Like, the point is that we don’t go into like, these stereotypes. Like we don’t have to talk– Like, yes, it’s so– Yes, we can’t not– We can’t deny who we are and our identity, but I think it’s such a problem when people are like, you are just Asian and you should just be known for– It’s like we are beyond this kind of word that’s put on us I think. And like a lot of the books that we like– these publishers were like: “oh, she just should talk about how she loves being Chinese. She just loves it.” And we’re like, no. We’re like, the point of this entire thing is so that we don’t perpetuate stereotypes.
Jennifer Fultz 34:02
I mean do White people walk around talking about how much they love being oh wait never mind.
Trisha Hautéa 34:07
Unless you’re an–
Jennifer Fultz 34:09
We’ll just going a little bit about them.
Trisha Hautéa 34:10
Unless you’re a certain kind of person.
Jennifer Fultz 34:14
Right. Well and what I love especially about like movies like Always Be My Maybe and even Crazy Rich Asians to a certain extent, like they’re movies with and about Asian Americans but they’re not movies about race and being an outsider and being an immigrant. Like it’s just a romance; it’s just a comedy. And it’s just full of Asians. And I’m like, you know I think there’s a time and place certainly for the, you know, for the immigrant stories, for that perpetual foreigner stories, but it gets tiring a little bit sometimes. I don’t know and I don’t mean that as a criticism, but just there is– Now we have these other stories and we’re more than just stuck between worlds, we’re more than just, you know, looking for our heritage like some. We’re also just people in love. And we’re parents, and we’re entrepreneurs. And we’re all of these things. And so I really kind of love this moment that we’re in.
Trisha Hautéa 35:20
I agree. And I think it was really exciting for us too, because just the responses we were getting from parents was so validating. And in terms of like, “Oh, my God, like, my kid– like, I couldn’t find any books that had someone who looks like my kid.” And it was like, that wasn’t a problem. And again, there’s nothing wrong with being proud of your heritage and your culture and where you’re from. But, like, you know, there’s some again, as you said too, We are at this moment where the narrative is shifting and the way we’re portraying these stories of who we are is shiting. And it’s such a good time to be part of that in terms of like watching it happen or like: oh my god, yes. It was like a perfect time for us to make this book also. So it was really nice just to have parents send us pictures of their babies reading the book, and being excited, and wanting to read the book and saying it’s their favorite one. And you know, it’s just been really validating and I’m really excited to make more books. So stay tuned for those. I don’t know.
Jennifer Fultz 36:31
I was about to ask if you have anything in the works right now if you’re free to share?
Trisha Hautéa 36:36
Yeah, so we were, we just released our coloring book like a month– oh, my God, how time is flying, in August. So we’re pausing right now. Like I said, Jerry is very busy being in dad. So he’s looking for his next source of inspiration. We have a few ideas floating for sure. So one of them might feature a boy character. One of them might be on different people. I don’t know, we’re gonna play around a bit. We do have like sketches. We just haven’t fleshed anything out. But we just finished the coloring book, which took like a year.
Jennifer Fultz 37:15
Yeah, I bet that takes a long time to get all of those illustrations. Again, not an artist, so like all of this is just magical wizardry to me. So thank you so much, Trisha. What advice would you give to Asian Americans who want to pursue, well, any of the things that you do; education, creativity, arts, entrepreneurship?
Trisha Hautéa 37:39
Yeah, one of the things I really would love for people to know is that just show up. Show up and be present. You know, you do have to balance between saying yes to everything and then rejecting people. Like you just have to be good about your time but at the same time when you get an opportunity, do show up. Whether it be like a networking event, you can meet a lot of people. Make connections. So the remote life can be a little lonely when I’m not like in-person or I’m not in an office. So stay connected, stay grounded and find ways in which you can keep your inspiration. And play around. I mean don’t be afraid to play around with different industries. I have literally been in a ton of industries, it still doesn’t make sense to me. But you know, I’ve made it work and don’t be afraid even if you don’t have a degree in the thing. If you’re willing to learn, people will be willing to take you in and kind of teach you. So seek mentorship also, so find that people you are inspired by also, and talk to them.
Jennifer Fultz 38:47
For sure. Yeah, I’ve been in a lot of I’ve been in a lot of fields too. And that’s kind of given me a lot of confidence because I’ve never not been able to make it work.
Trisha Hautéa 38:59
Jennifer Fultz 38:59
I don’t say that as like, oh, I’m so great. I don’t mean that at all. Like I fall on my face all the time. But there’s always a way. There’s always a way forward. You know, if you’ve gotten this far, there’s always a way that you can get to where you need to, where you want to go.
Trisha Hautéa 39:15
Yeah. Yeah, I agree. Definitely. And, yeah, be confident in that. Like, everyone should not be afraid to just be there. Like, make your way, like it. Have your seat at the table. Make this seat at the table, you know, like we said. Or build your own table.
Jennifer Fultz 39:32
Exactly. Exactly. Well, thank you so much for your time, Trisha. I love the converstation. I think our listeners are going to be super inspired. Where can people find you on the internet?
Trisha Hautéa 39:43
Okay, yeah. Okay, so at Little Ning Books, Littleningbooks.com, available in different stores. So Chelsea Market, Pull River Mart, the MOCA Museum in New York, Amazon, but we prefer you support local. But if you want to ship it far, you could do Amazon. And then also for our Instagram handles are @LittleNingBooks. And then my personal one is @ PHD period underscore. And then for art that I do I sometimes post at @TRISH.inc.
Jennifer Fultz 40:25
Alright, cool. And I will link those in the show notes for everybody. T hank you so much, Trisha.
Trisha Hautéa 40:29
Thanks so much, Jen. Appreciate it.
Transcribed by https://otter.ai
Trisha Hautéa is an educator and a consultant, a digital media strategist and the illustrator of Pepper Zhang Artist Extraordinaire, a book that has been featured on multiple media outlets, including NPR, HuffPost, NowThis, Upworthy, Bustle and more. She and her colleague Jerry started Little Ning books, which seeks to bring diverse Asian characters to the children’s publishing market.
Links and Resources
Trisha’s website: https://www.trishahautea.com/
Little Ning Books: https://www.littleningbooks.com/shopPodcast listeners can take $5 off on orders over $25 with the code Pepper19.
- Trisha’s website: https://www.trishahautea.com/
- Little Ning Books: https://www.littleningbooks.com/shop
- Podcast listeners can take $5 off on orders over $25 with the code Pepper19.
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