Yul Kwon, the season 13 winner of the television show "Survivor," said he agreed to be on the show because he saw it as an opportunity to fight against the racial stereotypes in the media.
Growing up, Kwon said he struggled with these stereotypes, especially since he lacked a role model.
“I just didn’t have a lot of role models in my life, and when I looked on television, I didn’t see people that I could identify with and try to emulate,” Kwon said. “ When I got this opportunity to be on 'Survivor,' I remember thinking to myself, ‘How long might it be before another person in my community has a chance to appear on a major television show, where he’s not speaking with an accent or depicted as a foreigner? Maybe I can break some of these stereotypes, and maybe I can try to become the kind of role model that I didn’t have when I was growing up.’”
More than 50 students attended “An Evening with Yul Kwon,” Wednesday in the Memorial Hall Ballroom. The University of Georgia’s Multicultural Services and Programs, the Asian American Student Association and Lambda Phi Epsilon Fraternity, Inc., of which Kwon is an alumnus, sponsored the event.
Kwon was recruited to be a contestant on the show in 2006, in what turned out to be one of the most controversial seasons, he said.
“That’ s because they [the producers] decided to divide the contestants by race," Kwon said. "The problem was that they couldn’t get enough Asian people to apply for the show, because Asian people don’t apply to be on reality shows, so they had to recruit nearly all of them.”
Megan Segoshi, the senior coordinator in the office of Multicultural Services and Programs, said this event addressed a topic that is important on campus.
“I’m grateful not only that we have the opportunity here on campus to celebrate and embrace the Asian American identity but also now to have the critical conversation about the identities of our culture,” Segoshi said.
Qiuting Zheng, a sophomore accounting and international business major from Fuzhou, China, and the internal vice president of AASA, said she was able to relate to the struggles Kwon discussed.
“I think he covered a lot of things that a lot of us all face, but we don’t really say much about it,” Zheng said. “[The event] was very interesting, and it’s something we all can relate to. I really enjoyed it.”
Kwon said he has worked hard to shatter the racial stereotypes because a person's race does not determine who he or she is as a person and should not be a factor in his or her success in life.
“I believe that all of you have the ability to live an extraordinary life,” Kwon said. “Each of you has the ability to go beyond other people’s expectations, to make a difference in our community and to become leaders beyond the borders of your ethnicity. And the best part is, you don’t have to be on a stupid reality show to do it.”
A previous version of this article misspelled the name of Qiuting Zheng. The Red & Black regrets the error.