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August 26, 2023 7 min read


Jen Cheng is a multidisciplinary artist with a passion for amplifying underrepresented voices based in West Hollywood. As an avid young reader, Cheng found the magic in reading – using character voices when storytelling to her younger siblings and envisioning how she could write her worlds into existence. Upon acceptance with a full scholarship to a summer journalism program at SF State her senior year of high school, she continued to seek out her voice and perfect her craft. Now, Cheng is about to release a book (Braided Spaces) in October and a single about self-discovery on the way, is in the process of penning both a mystery detective novel and a tween show, and will be developing a documentary project about LGBTQ elders. Her advice to young artists? “You’re still an artist even if you’re not doing it full-time. It’s like growing and watering a plant. Even if it’s not the ideal environment, if you’re keeping it alive and that’s sometimes what we have to do.” Read on to learn more about Jen Cheng and what makes her an Amazing Asian in the Arts! 

Name:   Jen Cheng


Heritage:   Chinese/Asian American


Hometown:   Oakland, CA


Current City:   West Hollywood, CA


Current project:

I’m a poet, writer, and multidisciplinary artist with a commitment to amplify underrepresented voices. That means I have several projects going on right now:

  • As a poet, I have a book releasing in October, Braided Spaces.
  • As a writer, I’m working on a mystery detective novel and a tween story.
  • As a songwriter, I have a new song co-written with an artist, about finding and trusting yourself. It will be released soon as a single and I have a friend who will help us arrange it for choirs.
  • As a filmmaker, I’m developing a documentary project about LGBTQ elders.


What are some of your favorite credits/projects:


I recently performed a poem, “Ten Thousand Butterflies,” at Grand Performances in Downtown LA. It gave me a chance to connect my grandmother’s story of surviving war to the current struggles of LGBTQ survival. The photo with me in the cheongsam is from that performance. You can see the five-minute poem on one of my links here.


Any advice for young people getting into the arts?


You’re still an artist even if you’re not doing it full-time. It’s like growing and watering a plant. Even if it’s not the ideal environment, if you’re keeping it alive and that’s sometimes what we have to do. What I’m about to say is a challenging reality for many of us. Being the eldest daughter of my immigrant Chinese parents meant my opportunities for a career in the arts was limited. I wasn’t allowed to imagine a career in the arts as a young person. It was something to do on the side, and sometimes those are the cards that life gives us. If you have a chance to gobble up an amazing opportunity, do it! Even if it’s a part-time gig or a short-term workshop, it’s worth it. When I questioned whether I should do something, I asked myself if it would make a good memory. Especially things that seemed expensive or difficult, sometimes it’s easy to stay with inertia and not do it. For example, I didn’t know anyone going to this summer camp, but they had great teachers scheduled so I went ahead and sent myself away for a week at JazzCampWestin the San Francisco Bay Area. It was a beautiful week that gave me a sense of what it felt to be around creative people and to breathe in music for a full seven days. It gave me confidence that I can learn anything if I put in my determination and time. Doing something daring gives me a chance to make a grand gesture to the universe and myself that I can do it and I’m going to do it! If there is an educational opportunity that you can’t afford, see if there are scholarships or grants you can apply to. Even a partial scholarship is helpful and you might be able to leverage that success to raise other funds. Keep going to trainings and educational opportunities, even if it’s not easy. Will it make a good memory? If it’s a resounding “Yes,” find a way to do it.


How did you get your start?


As a child, I always loved stories, reading them for my younger siblings while doing character voices or reading them for myself late into the night. I was an avid reader and wanted to give the power of a beautiful world for someone else to escape, dreaming that I could write a short story or novel to let them feel that love. I wrote for the literary journal and school newspaper. I felt validation as a writer in high school when I was accepted into a full-scholarship summer journalism camp at SF State. But it was really in 2019 that I started focusing on my writing goals as an adult, when I reflected on my childhood passions.I found “my voice” while writing custom poems for other people’s stories when I joined the band of Pride Poets, serving as a typewriter poet at West Hollywood Pride and other LGBTQ events. I’ve had a tremendous amount of creative growth in the last four years and I have so much gratitude for the support of creative colleagues and co-writers.


Do you have any favorite moments in your career that you'd like to share?


When I recently asked a mentor to give me guidance and he said yes. It’s important for us to have mentors, to have someone who has decided to look out for my best interest. I like to find people who are older than me, who are more experienced, who have strong and valuable perspectives. His feedback, advice, and praise mean so much to me because we all need validation that we are on the right path in our art making.


What have you found is the biggest challenge in your career?


Many of us don’t start off with strong networks and the privilege to be born with contacts that help our creative careers. That’s me. I’ve been scrappy, learning to network and meet new colleagues in an authentic way. It takes time and effort to grow a network and find the generous colleagues and friends who invite you to their social events or artistic events. We all need referrals or a warm introduction to meet someone who can take us into another circle of opportunity. Sometimes it’s hard to envision where you can go because you don’t know how to get there, but with the right colleague or mentor, you might discover new ways of doing things or opportunities. I’m a giver and offer to help people first and I hope to see my kindness come back to me. I don’t like small talk and being of service is an easier way for me to bond. It’s the way I know how to connect best. And, look for things that we can laugh about together – it makes a good memory.


What do you love most about what you do?


I created a new form of card reading and poetry, combining my East-West cultural influences into a new form, Feng Shui Poetry. Sometimes we need wellness support, find a way to focus on some life questions, and I can help people when they show up curious at my table. They choose their cards from my table and I tap into my intuition to see how they can be supported. Sometimes, people just want to know they are not alone in their struggles and a custom poem offers words for their feelings. 


Do you have any self care practices you do to stay focused and sane? 


I’ve been a wellness coach for a long while so I have lots of tools. Breathwork is important. When I do tai chi breathwork on my morning dog walks, it helps me pull myself together even if I didn’t sleep well. Epsom salt baths at night are a good way to calm down from stress or physical aches so I can get a better night’s sleep. I need my morning meditation and sometimes I need mini meditations through the day as a reset button. Sometimes, if I can’t focus on my meditation, I turn on a video from a spiritual coach that I like and I meditate to her voice. I also have some spiritual songs that help me breathe deeply and feel all my chakras connect. There’s a Native American women’s group, Ulali, who sings “Mahk Jchi (Heartbeat Drum Song)” and I sing along with their voices and I feel stronger. No one else sings that song as powerfully as they do. Sometimes I sing Sweet Honey in the Rock’s song, “We Are,” and it helps me feel connected to a greater purpose. There’s something about certain songs that give us some strength and healing energy.

Are there any habits you have that have shaped your writing style?

  1. Reading my writing out loud provides a good sense of what works and what needs editing. It’s something I learned watching David Sedaris try out new work when I’ve seen him read on his book tours.
  2. I read a variety of other writers and see what I like about their style.
  3. I look at other art forms to see what inspiration can shake up my writing efforts.


What inspires you?


Knowing my story, my song, or my work could give hope to someone younger or someone struggling with something similar is important. As a kid, I knew I was different, a weirdo who needed books and music to get through my toughest times, to know I wasn’t alone in my struggles. Many of us creatives are weirdos and it’s great to meet other creatives! As an adult, I turn to books and music for personal growth. A friend asked me to say something vulnerable about why I write, so I’ll share with you: I write for the girl who was beaten up for having an opinion. We are all on a journey of healing and growth. I hope my work widens the path for others who share similar struggles, who might not see themselves in mainstream media, who might need help finding their voice.


If you could go back in time, what would you tell your younger self? 


You can do anything you decide to put time and effort into. Don’t listen to the negative criticism that doesn’t belong in your brain or ears. It’s not too late to go after your passions. Just keep asking people to be your mentors or people to help you – there will be people who want to help you.

To find out more on Jen Cheng, please visit her at:

Personal Website:

Production Website:

Instagram:   @jen.and.potato

Twitter:   @jencvoice IG

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