Sharlene is a producer, director, writer, and was a host for MTV News Canada. After launching the MTV network in Canada, Sharlene had the special opportunity (and a dream come true!) to also bring MTV News to the country as the show's first Reporter/Producer, paving the way for more young women of color on-screen. She also created and produced the oh-so fun SHARLENE VS, an MTV travel series that took viewers to the most exciting cities in the world right alongside their favorite artists. Her nomadic spirit is rooted deep in her blood; Sharlene is a first generation Hakka-Canadian. She has accomplished so much in her life already but it is what she describes as her passion that impresses us even more. Sharlene searches out and creates original video content to tell untold stories. She also happens to be one of the nicest, most encouraging, and genuinely supportive woman you could meet. I mean, she interviewed Adele for cryin' out loud. ADELE!!!
Here is our interview with her:
Soma & Ulte: Can you tell us all who you are?
Sharlene: I’m Sharlene Chiu, I’m 33… and from Toronto!
S&U: What was your job before you came to LA?
SC: I was a Producer and On-air Host for MTV Canada, specifically with MTV News, where I reported on music and covered a variety of topics within pop culture, film, fashion, and social issues. I also had a travel show that I created, wrote, produced, and hosted for MTV called Sharlene Vs.
S&U: Why do you love LA?
SC: Other than the constant sunshine and warmth (which are absolutely valid reasons on its own :), I was really drawn to the creative community and opportunities in LA. A lot of my friends have also gravitated here from the east coast so that helped make the transition really smooth. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve placed a lot more importance to being surrounded by positive people and spending quality time together, whether that be simply just cooking dinner or enjoying a bbq in a backyard surrounded by greenery. I feel really happy here – it’s crazy how much of an effect the presence of sunshine can have!
S&U: What would you like to do now?
SC: My main motivation is to develop and produce original video content that tells untold, hidden or forgotten stories in an effort to share new perspectives of looking at life and culture.
S&U: What is your definition of feminism/female empowerment?
SC: I define female empowerment by women who love and support one another. I know it sounds cliché, but it is so important to stop judging, criticizing and tearing one another apart (for men and women) because you can’t achieve anything good, if you come from a bad place.
S&U: What were/are some of the personal struggles you’ve encountered as a woman?
SC: Ha! I don’t think we have time to list them all! On top of being a woman, I’m also a person of color, petite in frame/vertically challenged, and have a baby face – so, one main struggle out of the many is getting respect right out of the gate. The existence of unequal pay between sexes and races has also been a struggle I’d like to see eradicated.
S&U: How did your parents shape your views on women?
SC: My mom is an incredibly strong and opinionated woman and my dad is an incredibly strong and opinionated man, and I was raised by both the importance of fairness, kindness, and hard work. There was never a question as to what I could or couldn’t do in life and I think in a way that shaped my views on women. That, if we work hard and are fair and kind in the process, we should be able to achieve whatever we want.
S&U: Can you tell us about being Hakka? And how has that influenced you?
SC: Hakka is a dialect and a group of Chinese people – there are hundreds of different incarnations but my personal background is Hakka from India. Like most Asian kids growing up, it wasn’t “cool” to embrace your culture because it was different, so add to that, the fact that Chinese people generally don’t accept or even know what Hakka is, accentuated the “I don’t belong”-ness. It wasn’t until I was in my twenties that I started to research Hakka people that I realized how truly special it was. Hakka is translated as “guest people” because of their nomadic ways (both chosen and forced) and many were pushed out of China to countries like India, Jamaica, and South Africa, where they created and thrived in new communities. Knowing that, it made so much sense why I’ve always had such a strong desire for travel and exploration (it’s in my blood!). Usually, when I answer “I’m Hakka,” after being asked what my background is, I’m met with a puzzled face, so I’d have to say that living 33 years of that, definitely influenced my passion for creating content that showcases all types of unknown stories and cultures. I’m a big believer in that the more we know, the less ignorant of others we can be, and hopefully, the more we can accept and help one another. Hopefully. Fingers crossed.
*Side-note about Hakka women, specifically – I read that they were the only group of Chinese who didn’t participate in foot-binding. *Insert fist pump emoji.
See what we mean?! How could you not love this woman?!!
We’ve attached some of the videos Sharlene has made below as well as her website here if you want to look up more on this incredible woman!
We love you Sharlene!!
Soma & Ulte