February 20, 2024

APASO Hosts 21st Cultural Vogue: MSU’s APIDA/A Community Celebrates Identity Unapologetically

On Feb. 17, hundreds of high-energy attendees filled the stands of the Wharton Center for Performing Arts to watch a variety of Asian Pacific American Student Organization (APASO) affiliates perform at the 21st Cultural Vogue. The event is the MSU APIDA/A community’s primary talent showcase, held annually. 

“The purpose of Cultural Vogue is to be a showcase of our APIDA/A diaspora,” said comparative cultures and politics junior and APASO President Hanaa Yoo. “That’s done through dances, skits, singing and other performances. So, it’s a great way to bring the community together.”  

For each performance, cheers and roars came from various ends of the crowd for their favorite student groups, friends and even siblings. Some attendees brought signs in support of the clubs. At the end of the show, performers earned awards such as Audience’s Choice. It was the first time in Cultural Vogue history these awards were handed out.  

“I think the event went really well. Our turnout was great! I feel like the crowd was super involved. We had so much energy the entire time,” said political science, economics, and history senior Megan Smejkal, who served as the APASO Cultural Vogue chair. But it wasn’t just the crowd that brought the energy: “There was so much life in every performance!” 

The energetic mood was fitting, considering the event’s theme: Unapologetic. Along with cultural exhibitions and contemporary performances, skits and spoken word helped tell an important story of cultural enrichment and pride in APIDA/A identity.   

Performances ranged from a rock act by Thai Club, spoken word by the APASO, an acapella medley from Spartan Sur, and choreographed dances from several groups, including the Korean Student Association and the Chinese-American Student Coalition. There were also traditional dances from the Hmong American Association and PERMIAS. Traditional Tinikling was performed by the Pilipino American Student Society and Spartan Diabolo amazed with an acrobatic set of traditional Chinese yo-yo. Twinjabi, a music duo of two Punjabi brothers, served as keynote speakers, sharing how their personal journeys into music meant remaining true to themselves.  

Beyond celebrating culture and camaraderie, Yoo said the timing of this event held special and particular significance for this branch of the Spartan community. 

“When we first put out the date for Cultural Vogue, there were some who wondered if that would be the best time because it follows so closely the remembrance events of Feb. 13,” explained Yoo. “But really, what this event does is bring community together. We thought that was exactly what we needed this week. Cultural Vogue helps build community.” 

For psychology sophomore Maddie Schurman, building community and becoming exposed to other cultures was precisely why she attended Cultural Vogue for the first time. 

“I thought it was amazing. It was really cool to see all the Asian-based clubs and organizations come together to celebrate our diversity, especially because we’re a predominately white institution. So, it was great to see ourselves band together and celebrate our differences,” she said. 

Schurman added that, as someone of Chinese descent, she had been exposed to the Chinese Student Association and was also aware of the Korean Student Association. However, she had not been exposed to many of the other groups.  

“Being able to witness the different dances and performances today opened my eyes to their cultures,” she said.  

As chair for the event, Smejkal said exposure is a goal for Cultural Vogue, with the understanding that being Asian or Pacific Islander or Desi American or however one identifies, is not about being recognized as a monolith nor conforming to societal expectations. An event such as Cultural Vogue shows, in front of glaring lights, the rich variety and depth of APIDA culture as well as intersectionality in APIDA/A identity.  

“What does it mean to be ‘Asian enough?’ Why are we always falling into this archetype of oriental mythology? We don’t need to be that. So, Unapologetic [as a theme] was telling everyone regardless of age, regardless of their nationality, that you can be who you are,” said Smejkal. “No matter what. You don’t have to prove yourself. You can just be you, whoever you want to be.” 

For attendees like Schurman, the message was received loud and clear. 

“I really liked the message, and I think that’s something we can take even after college into our careers — just appreciate ourselves for our fullness. We’re not just one thing,” Schurman said. “We’re not just students at Michigan State. We’re Chinese or Vietnamese, men, women, all those things. It’s about expressing our identities and not apologizing to the world for who we are.” 

Spartan helmet