Introduce yourself! Who are you?
Hi! My name is Tori Hong, and I’m an independent illustrator, facilitator, and consultant. Using bold lines and vibrant colors, I explore themes of connection, care, and celebration in my art. I center communities of color — particularly Asian Americans — & LGBTQ communities in my work. I love singing Lizzo while biking down the streets of Minneapolis and spoiling my cat-babies!
Did you always know what you wanted to do as a career?
It’s funny, because as a kid, yes — I did. I loved to draw and was inspired by cartoons, anime, video games, and virtual pet sites. At the same time, I am the child of a refugee (my mom) and an immigrant (my dad). I can never fully grasp what they went through, especially when they first arrived in the United States. In order to succeed in this country, it was thought that immigrants and refugees had to change who they were to fit into a new society. The process of acculturation and assimilation led my parents — and then me! — to believe that being an artist was only a pipe dream. As an adult, I feel really grateful and privileged that I broke out of that pattern of thinking and created my own path. I could have only done this by reconnecting to my younger self; Little Tori knew me better than anyone else.
What is one thing no one really knows about you?
Maybe you already got a sense of this, but I’m a huge nerd! I grew up feeling super isolated and weird, so I took respite in books, video games, my own made up worlds… As an adult, I love to learn and cook up fantastical plans.
Has being a child of immigrants made it easier for you to pursue your dreams or has it made it harder?
I think it’s a mixed bag! Growing up, being a second generation American was tough. I tried so hard to fit into other people’s ideas of who I was and who I could be. At the same time, I was incredibly resentful because I felt invisible. When I finally made the leap to be an artist, being a child of refugees/immigrants has been a blessing. Although I largely taught myself how to make art, I can rely on my experiences to bring a depth to my work that can’t be learned from school. Furthermore, I am connected with cultural communities that want me to succeed. I think that I can be where I am today because I am queer, Hmong, Korean and American. All of these cultures have shown me different textures of stubbornness and grit.
What is one piece of advice or encouragement you would share to other immigrant/children of immigrants?
It’s okay to be who you are. The beauty about being human is the ability to hold multiple seemingly contradictory things as true. You can exercise that creativity in your life, too! None of your identities, interests, desires, passions have to come at the ultimate expense of anything else.
Tori Hong is an independent illustrator, facilitator, and consultant. Using bold lines and vibrant colors, she explores themes of connection, care, and celebration in her art. She centers communities of color — particularly Asian Americans — & LGBTQ communities in her work.