Larissa Lam is “a creative force in music, film and TV” and “a voice that inspires and empowers others” based in Pasadena! She began her journey as the chief financial officer of a record company shortly after graduating with a degree in Business Economics from UCLA, and joined a group with that label (Nitro Praise). Since then, the “Singing CFO” has written music for The Oprah Winfrey Show, released her own albums, sung the national anthem for the Lakers (twice!), given TEDx talks, hosts a podcast (Love, Discovery and Dim Sum) with her husband, Baldwin Chiu, and produced documentaries – the latest being Far East Deep South, which won her the 2021 Mary Pickford Award for Outstanding Achievement in Filmmaking! Lam’s advice to young artists is to “commit to being in the Arts and doing the work that needs to be done to be a pro at it… [the Arts] need the same investment in time, gaining skills, and experience as… other professions”.Read on to learn more about Larissa Lam and what makes her an Amazing Asian in the Arts!
Name: Larissa Lam
Hometown: Diamond Bar, CA
Current City: Pasadena, CA
Current project: Documentary, Far East Deep South
What are some of your favorite credits/projects?
I was honored to write music for The Oprah Winfrey Show. I also loved collaborating with so many world-class musicians and producers on my last couple of albums “Love and Discovery” and “Revolutionary."
Any advice for young people getting into the arts?
Commit to being in the Arts and doing the work that needs to be done to be a pro at it. Too many people I meet will say, “I’ll try it out for a year or 2 and see what happens.” They think it will be fun or easy. You need the same investment in time, gaining skills, and experience as you would with other professions.
How did you get your start?
I got my degree in Business Economics from UCLA and became the Chief Financial Officer of a record company. While I worked for the record company, I also began singing with a group on the label called Nitro Praise.
Do you have any favorite moments in your career that you'd like to share?
I’m a huge Lakers fan, so singing at a Lakers game was the biggest thrill (and I got to do it twice)!
What have you found is the biggest challenge in your career?
Trying to not be defined by the box other people want to put me in. I’ve worn a lot of hats and have excelled in different areas of my career. It’s constantly having to tell people that I’m not just a singer or I’m not just a filmmaker or I’m not just a host. I’m all of those things.
What are some interesting facts about yourself?
I love penguins, Garfield the Cat, and I’m a big musical theater geek.
Who do you admire?
Doing research for my films, I discovered all the unheralded Asian American trailblazers, like Dr. Mabel Lee. She was a leader in the women’s suffrage movement in New York and had attended Barnard College. She was a strong advocate for voting rights for women. Even though Dr. Lee helped women gain the right to vote, she was not even eligible to vote due to the Chinese Exclusion Act. That law prohibited anyone who was Chinese from becoming a naturalized U.S. citizen until its repeal in 1943. I admire her leadership and strength to go against societal norms to improve the lives of women.
When did you know you wanted to have a career in the arts?
I was brainwashed into thinking I would become a doctor like my father until about my junior year in high school when I realized I couldn’t stand the sight of blood.
Do you have any side projects you’d like to highlight?
My husband, Baldwin Chiu aka Only Won and I host a podcast called Love, Discovery and Dim Sum where we help people discover an Asian American perspective on history, race and culture.
If you could go back in time, what would you tell your younger self?
I would tell myself to start singing, acting and filmmaking earlier.
What skills did you find to be the most helpful in your career?
If you’re an artist of any kind, you’re your own business. Having the business background and entrepreneurial spirit has helped me not rely on others to drive the success of my career. I’m also good at networking with others and marketing and that’s super helpful.
Where did you study at?
What is your greatest accomplishment?
From a career standpoint, I think my greatest accomplishment is that I’ve been able to work full-time in entertainment for the past 20 years and I’m still doing it.
What are some goals you hope to achieve?
Through my films and other creative projects, I hope to help change the way American history is taught in schools so that it is more inclusive of the Asian American experience. In doing this, I hope it goes a long way into helping combat the idea that Asians are perpetual foreigners in this country. I still want to compose a completely original musical. I have many more goals that would be too long to list (LOL)!
What do you love most about what you do?
I get to work with my husband Baldwin Chiu aka Only Won and create things that are making positive change in the world.
Do you have any self care practices you do to stay focused and sane? What was your self care routine before the pandemic and how has that (as well as your views of self care) changed throughout the pandemic?
Praying is something that helps me stay sane. If I get overwhelmed, I know I can always have a little chat with God.
As a storyteller, how do you pick the stories you want to work on and what goes into putting a story together, whether on stage, page, or film?
I like stories that shed light on something that most people don’t know about and that inspires people to want to take action to make their community and the world better.
To find out more about Larissa, please visit her at:
Twitter and Facebook: @LarissaLam
Far East Deep South Documentary Information:
Instagram and Twitter: @LDDpodcast
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