Persephone Pioneers

Persephone Pioneers: DISGRASIAN

Jen Wang and Diana Nguyen are the masterminds behind the hilarious site DISGRASIAN, the hilarious take-down site of all things pop culture, pop offensiveness and offensiveness in general. The duo have been featured on NPR, The Daily Beast, Metro NY’s “Best of the Blogs,” The Associated Press, and Hyphen magazine, and also regularly contribute to the Huffington Post. Based out of LA, Diana and Jen are creating some of the best content out there (provided that Tila Tequila or Gwen Stefani’s weird token fetish with the Harajuku Girls doesn’t get there first), by critiquing pop culture at large. Hilarious, refreshing and all together just plain badass, Persephone Magazine, please welcome Jen and Diana of DISGRASIAN.

Persephone Magazine: Can you both talk about why you created DISGRASION?

Jen and Diana: Frankly, we hated our jobs, like so many other people who have started blogs. When we created DISGRASIAN, Jen and I were employed in creative fields–me working in TV development and her as a freelance journalist–but both of us felt very creatively stifled. I think if you’re the kind of person that really has something to say, and you spend all of your time feeling gagged, eventually you just blow up and have to shout. And that’s what I feel like we were doing at the beginning: shouting from the rooftops, ten posts a day, all the brain vomit we’d been storing up for years. Over time, thankfully, we realized we could speak in room voices every once in a while and still be heard.

PM: Was there a plan to always have it as a conversation or did you start out with something else?

J&D: We originally envisioned the blog as a Smoking Gun-type hit list, just a photo of a person and a list of their so-called “offenses.” We didn’t ever plan on writing posts about current events or telling personal stories. But we always treated the project like a slam book; Jen writing something for me and then passing me the e-baton, me adding something and passing it back. Our conversations were always like that anyway, and if anyone ever spends time with us together they quickly realize that our in-person chatter is also like that. Before the blog, we used to exchange dozens of emails a day that read very similarly to our posts. Now, we probably exchange only a dozen in a day, but it’s still mostly fun banter and funny screen grabs.

PM: Did you both start out as writers or was it something that evolved naturally when you created the site?

J&D: We both started as writers. I was a former music journo, an English major in college that typically skipped my professors’ office hours to finish my weekly column. Once I started working in Hollywood, though, I was using most of my writing energy to write show treatments or advertising copy. It was such a bummer. I could actually feel my writing voice getting worse and worse.

Jen came from a strong writing background–after finishing undergrad at Yale, she completed the MFA creative writing program at Columbia and entertained the lifestyle of a novelist before going into journalism. She’s so talented with words that it’s almost frightening. I think I once read a piece she wrote for Vogue Homme, about men’s accessories or something, and it brought me to tears. It’s both awesome and awful to have a writing partner that good, for obvious reasons.

PM: Why pop culture? Do you think it’s an accessible way at dissecting race and cultural appropriation or is that a limited approach?

J&D: While I believe that pop culture is the most accessible and palatable way to address larger themes or issues, it would be a lie to call that a strategy. I–and I think we–write about pop culture because we care about it. It’s what we live and breathe, what we ingest and process naturally, what we enjoy thinking and talking about. I also happen to think pop culture is innately important and worth dissecting. That doesn’t mean I’m happy that CNN makes news reports out of reader tweets, but I’ve never questioned the cultural value of things like the music, film… Facebook, Rebecca Black, texting, whatever.

PM: Diana, you have talked about how you felt if you both had started out to make an “Asian-American blog” or a “political blog” or a “feminist blog,” you think it would have never gone anywhere. Do you both think DISGRASIAN is sustainable in many ways because of the fact that its so funny?

J&D: Aw. Thank you for calling it “so funny!” I think that when Jen and I talk about blog sustainability, we’re–perhaps selfishly–thinking more about our own interest in the blog than about the readers’. I’m very glad that our readers have stuck with us for so long, but I’m also glad that Jen and I have been able to keep writing together for so long. I really don’t think we’d have lasted longer than a few months if it wasn’t a humor blog. Writing every day is hard enough to do with punchlines; it would be almost unbearable without.

PM: What do you think are the biggest misconceptions about the writing or even the blog? What are some of the best responses you are getting?

J&D: I think that there’s a lot of misconceptions about our personalities. When people meet us for the first time, we are often told that we “aren’t nearly as bitchy” as previously thought. Additionally, we have strong opinions and we aren’t afraid to express them, we have senses of humor, we love to toss ideas back and forth, we love to weigh on in what’s going on, we’re never scared to call bullshit on anyone, all of that is true. But people assume that we thusly love to confront and debate and argue and one-up everybody in person, around the clock. Like when we’re out to dinner we obviously want to argue about Jackie Chan or Bai Ling. And that’s hardly the case. When I’m not blogging, I probably just want to hang the eff out. I’ve also noticed that many people assume that we have Teflon skin and criticism doesn’t hurt us, which is obviously not true. I think we’re always ready to defend the issues that we fight for on the blog. But frequently people don’t like what a blogger writes, they skip over attacking the words and just attack the writer. A lot of our hate mail is drivel, ALWAYS misspelled, people us calling us angry, stupid, lonely, jealous cunts.

I once did a video interview with my friend, actress and blogger Lynn Chen. We shot it to make it seem like I was being insanely rude to her out of jealousy about her looks. She’s painfully gorgeous, which I had written about in a previous post plugging her movie, and we wanted to make it a running joke. Anyway, a fan of hers didn’t know it was a joke, stalked me on Facebook, and sent me the longest email I’ve ever read about how ugly and horrible I was, also criticizing my taste in friends and men. That was a bit on the creepy side. I didn’t like that so much.

PM: What awesome work can we look forward from you both in the future?

J&D: I am obsessed with penning cheesy romance novels for Harlequin, and I think Jen and I should write Hardass Asian Children’s books. Today’s kids need our help!

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