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Meet Carmen

“I am proud of my parents’ and grandparents’ journey”

We’re celebrating Asian and Pacific Islander (API) heritage month with stories from the API community. We met up with and spoke to a few Lush team members, including Carmen, who were kind enough to reminisce about their childhoods, share their stories, and give us all an intimate look into their lives.

This is Carmen’s story.

Who’s a person that shaped who you are today?

My mom. She emigrated from Hong Kong to Halifax in 1974 to start a life with my dad. She is still my hero and biggest supporter today. I will always remember how hard my parents worked to provide for my brother and I, how they navigated being immigrants, English as their second language, and building their own community here. My mom is a shining example of putting others first—she took time off work to prioritize my brother and I when we were kids. So much of who I am today is shaped by what my parents were able to provide for us, but it truly is the love and support from my mom that has shown me that compassion and empathy are the greatest gifts.

Carmen’s mom had a huge influence on the person she is today.

An old photo of a woman in yellow pants and a black blazer is in a gold-rimmed frame and sits on a windowsill.

What's something about your culture or heritage that brings you joy?

I am proud of my parents’ and grandparents’ journey, and how that shaped our family and the life they built by embracing Western culture, but also keeping our Chinese traditions alive. One of the things I love about my culture is the language. It’s so vibrant and musical. I love speaking Chinese any chance I get! Sitting down at the dinner table is one of my favorite things about our culture—definitely missed this during Covid!

How do you think your experience of your culture has differed from your parents or grandparents?

My parents and grandparents were always so timid to “disrupt the peace” or ask for what they wanted. Rather than stand out, they wanted to “blend in” so a lot of their experiences were based out of fear rather than feeling empowered. Unfortunately, they were also treated with a lot of biases and often turned away for opportunities or experiences because of their race. I feel lucky to have a different experience because of where I grew up (in a diverse neighborhood) and as a second-generation Chinese, a lot more progress has been made to embrace and understand our culture. I also feel lucky to work for an organization that really does “the work” of lifting up everyone’s diversity and hear everyone’s experience as their own.

Tell me about an item that’s important to who you are.

My grandmother gave me a gold necklace of my Chinese zodiac sign when I was 16. I keep it in a red pouch. It’s a reminder of one of the many significant things about Chinese culture, the magical stories and folklore I grew up listening to and, in a way, is a fun way to help the Western world develop an understanding of the Chinese culture.

Carmen’s gold necklace that she keeps safe in a pouch.

A gold necklace with a green circle pendant sits beside a pink pouch on a tan sheet.

Can you share a memory that’s shaped who you are and why?

I remember when I first traveled to a small town in Ontario as a teenager. It was one of the first times I visited a place where I looked different than everyone else. I remember people staring at me, whispering, pointing and it was one of the very first times I felt uncomfortable about my race/appearance. When I met people, I was asked, ”Where are you from?” but they couldn’t wrap their heads around how I could be Canadian—the whole “Where are you really from?” question is real.

The experience still stands out in my mind as it was a defining moment for me that I laughed it off and avoided difficult conversations of educating people during my interactions vs. pretending it’s funny because I hear it all the time. Since then, I’ve encountered many more situations similar or worse than that one but the difference between my 14-year-old self and me now is that I take every opportunity within those interactions to use my voice, speak my truth, and educate people.

For more stories and ways in which you can support the API community, check out our other resources.

A very special thanks and credit to: