Victoria sisters learn to think outside the box of stereotypes

By by Dianna Wray - DWRAY@VICAD.COM
Aug. 2, 2012 at 3:02 a.m.

Growing up in Victoria, the Gill sisters had to work to navigate through the stereotypes and expectations that came with being Asian-American.

Adopted as children from South Korea, Kelli, 29, and Mindi Gill, 26, moved to an area where they were the only Asian children for much of their childhood. They grew up in a world where people assumed things about who they were and what they were like just by looking at them.

"As you get older, you think those stereotypes will quit, but they don't. You're supposed to be good at math and science, to play tennis, the piano, to be quiet and shy - those are all things that people automatically think," Mindi said.

It was rough growing up living under such expectations, Kelli, Mindi's older sister, said.

"It can definitely put a little pressure on you in regards to living up to things," she said. "Because of the stereotypes, it's almost like people look at you like, 'Well, you're Asian. You should be able to do that.'"

The Asian stereotype can also work against people when they're trying to get into college. Getting into colleges has gotten very competitive, Kelli said.

"It's almost become a shark tank. If you're SAT scores aren't perfect, you aren't getting in," Kelli said.

Because of that, Kelli said she has often found herself consciously trying to avoid adhering to those kinds of preconceived notions - telling herself not to be too eager or answer a question too quickly or appear too passionate.

The sisters agree they have tried to learn from their experiences to help them grow as people.

Kelli, a registered therapist, has learned to be more comfortable with herself, working to simply respond to the world as she is, instead of worrying about stereotypes, she said. Reconnecting with the Asian community has helped her in that process, she said.

"I think it definitely comes with age and being comfortable with who you are," Kelli said. "Reconnecting with the Asian community has really been helpful in trying to find my voice and increase a level of confidence in who I am."

Mindi, a student and employee at University of Houston-Victoria, tries to take her experiences and learn from them, to keep an open mind about people, no matter how they may appear.

"You learn to be very strong and it helps to make you think about how you look at things. I never judge a book by it's cover," Mindi said.



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