As a celebrity stylist, talk show host and former creative director of Elle magazine, Joe Zee has become one of the most famous faces in Canadian fashion.
In celebration of Asian Heritage Month, Zee caught up with ET Canada’s Cheryl Hickey and spoke candidly about the challenges he faced as an Asian man entering the fashion industry.
“I sort of came into my own early ’90s and everything was well, so it was a very different time,” he shares. “And to be honest, I did not see anyone that remotely look like me reflect back. So on the covers of magazines, inside the pages of magazines, I did not see any Asian male or even Asian female to really come back at me.”
Zee adds: “This is 2021, we have not had a single female Asian person on the cover of American Vogue, with the exclusion of our Vice President Kamala Harris.”
In February, Harris achieved another notable first as the first Black woman, and the first woman of South Asian descent to grace the front cover of the publication.
Zee says it’s a “travesty” that it’s taken until 2021 for this to happen.
Meanwhile, the fashion icon also shares how others can tangibly support the Asian fashion industry.
“Listen, really educate yourself and see what’s out there,” he says. “Yes, you can shop, you can definitely wear the clothes, but I think it’s also really supporting and acknowledging that it exists. Let’s write the editors, let’s tell them we want to see an Asian face on the cover of the magazine. When that happens, let’s buy the magazine, let’s look at it on the website, let’s share it on our social media. The more amplification we can have of our message, the more it’s going to be out there.”
Additionally, Zee encourages everyone to support the Asian community all year long and not just during Asian Heritage Month.
“I hope that people can take this message and this ideal and carry it forever, because this is a great month. But I don’t want us to check this at the door on June 1 and worry about it next year,” he reveals. “You know, this is really something that is about work for our community, but also for everyone else to be able to carry into the future.”
Watch our interview with Zee above.