Harvard FIG Magazine recently sat down with student Christine Lee and interviewed her on how Pavé The Way® Jewelry pieces resonate with her style and story. Read her full Q&A below:
When we started talking about this shoot, you said you wanted to talk a little bit about the concept of making space for yourself. Could you talk a little bit about how and when you first started thinking about making space?
Coming to college was definitely a big stepping stone for that, as it is with a lot of people, I’m sure. But I think something that I thought a lot about, especially with making a YouTube channel, was, “who do I want to be, and how do I want to present myself?” Because this channel was a dedicated space for me, I couldn’t really rely on anyone else for this at all. It was something that I kind of charted for myself, in terms of the creative aspect and direction. It was very much a figuring-it-out-as-I-went-along kind of deal. Bringing out what parts of myself I wanted to share, figuring out what were the parts of me that I was proud of. So I think it was very much like self exploration slash trying to build this space for myself online simultaneously. In terms of that whole journey, it’s been kind of continuous in that sense. And I’m still very much in that process while being here, you know. But, I do feel like I’m a lot more in touch with the more concrete parts of myself, saying things like, “this is what I like [about myself].”
It sort of sounds like this part of this making space was more about identifying within yourself sort of almost the areas you had space for that you wanted to grow and develop. Is that how you thought about it?
In high school… you don’t really have to think about it too much, because that’s the environment you’ve been in for so many years. In college, all of a sudden it’s a big change where you are meeting new people and you’re presenting yourself in a new way. So I was thinking a lot about not only the more implicit parts of myself, but also the more explicit identities that I hold, like being Korean American, the fact that I am low income, a daughter of immigrants. I think a lot of these things I had just accepted, I hadn’t really thought about much, but then I have thought about a lot more in college.
What does making space look like within these Harvard spaces, the Harvard community, look like as opposed to in other moments within your life?
I think when we’re talking about Harvard specifically, it is something I’ve become very aware of. This is very much a space of academic privilege, but I was coming into this space with my multiple identities, knowing that this was not a space that was necessarily built for me existing here. How would I like to go about spending these incredibly formative years of my adulthood? Because of that, it’s been very much about finding certain communities, finding the spaces where I feel like I can really be myself. Within these walls, I think my YouTube channel has definitely been a very interesting space for that, because it is so reliant on me being not only like a university student, but [the Harvard name] is a reason why so many people like watching. So I feel like navigating that is really interesting.
It’s exciting. It’s awesome, it’s really weird. I’m so aware of that– my existence here. And this journey I’m going through here is very tangentially connected to this image that people have outside of it, in YouTube and social media.
Who do you look to for guidance, for support, and for inspiration within your space?
I think my sister’s someone I’ll always look to. She’s a senior at Boston College. And she’s always been on the older sibling pathway, one step ahead of me, and she’s also only like, a year ahead. I’m literally always just peeking ahead to where she is because she’s always like one or two steps ahead. So I think I’m always turning to her. But also turning to my parents is a big thing just because they ground me and, if I ever do feel really overwhelmed being here at Harvard, no one knows better where I came from than them.
I was curious about your choice here of the concept of making space as opposed to taking space.
I think that probably stems from who I have always been. Very, “I have to do what I can to get into a good college, which means always following the rules, and listening to what people told me to do” -making sure I’m following the right path. So I feel like now that I’m here, it’s been a very interesting journey of trying not to let that be my whole identity, again, in college. I’m taking this opportunity to really explore, thinking I’ve done that other way all my life. I’m used to it. If I have to, I can go back to it. But what do I want to do beyond that? Like in terms of expressing myself a bit more openly, assertively, trying to think about what I actually really want to do, what’s worth my time.
To me, this brings up the idea of selflessness, and that as a sort of highest compliment– the very gendered idea of woman is selfless. But also that it’s like literally not having a self, not having a space. I’m curious what you think about that.
I really resonate with that idea of selflessness being gendered. That definitely does make sense, especially being an Asian American woman in particular. That’s something that has historical underpinnings and something that is just so pervasive in everything that I do, and how people perceive me. And something that I’ve always gotten a lot is comments about my Asian American identity, learning to be an Asian American at Harvard. There’s this whole big thing with just being the perfect model minority student, so I’m trying to grapple with that. And also I feel like it’s much more nuanced than that, so much more complex than just, “Are you the model minority example or not”?
As this is a jewelry shoot, and also, as these earrings are so provocatively titled, I was curious about why you were drawn to these pieces.
Because these mushroom earrings are always just, wherever you set them down, they just make room, they grow, they just take up the room that they’re in. I feel like that idea, especially being a low income student, definitely points to some of the opportunities that I have here. It’s easy to get caught up in all these experiences and opportunities that I have now that I am here at Harvard. But I think just looking back and just thinking about my childhood and my parents, who work seven days a week, for like 12 hours a day in our family dry cleaning business. I never even thought about some of the things that happen here that are so normal and casual for people here who have just grown up in those kinds of spaces and privileges. So I really liked this idea of saying, “Okay, even if I don’t necessarily feel like I belong here, I’m here.” So I’m just going to run with that.
What role does jewelry itself play in your life?
I really like how it’s a really nice conversation starter. Pretty classic. Something else about me is that I’m 1000% more of a listener than a talker. I love listening to people. But I feel like I still want to show that I have things to say about myself, express about myself. This is a great way to do it. Once I reel people in, then I can hear more about their stories, too, which is what I’m most interested in. So I definitely feel like it’s just a great way to start conversations.
Read the full Harvard FIG feature and more at harvardfigmag.com