donnalau-350I have such a beautiful and rich Chinese culture running through my blood. I am the youngest of 5 children. My Grandfather my Mother’s Father settled in New York, along with my Auntie Bow who lives in Bronx, where they grew bean sprouts for Chinese restaurants, and my Grandfather (Mom’s Dad) was a successful business man, working Chinese Resturants and investments, as my whole family has. My other Aunties (Mom’s sisters) settled in San Francisco, where they too worked in Chinese resturants, real estate, as taylors, and laundry mats.

My Great Grandfather on my Father’s side came to America to work as a cook, and brought his family over to Los Angeles, where he sold vegetables at the LA Farmer’s Market, as a cute story of him falling asleep daily and his horse and wagon would end up at the market, lead by his horse. Later my Father was brought to America by my Grandfather and Grandmother where they owned and operated a Laundry Mat called Hong’s Laundry. I grew up playing at that laundry mat on 6th street learning to be an entrepreneur.

My Father went back to Hong Kong and met my Mother and brought her to California, where they worked at the Laundry mat, and managed the apartments that my grandparents owned, my Father went to school to become an Engineer, and my mother a stay at home Mom. My Mother and Father brought us up as Chinese and tried their best to constantly feed us with all of our rich Chinese culture (which was only what my Mother knew), we spoke Cantonese (Tai-sun dialect) everyday, and celebrated all the Chinese Holidays, Chinese New Year, and all observed. My Father and Mother came from Canton China, from the village of Tai-Sun.

My Grandmother (Father’s mother) played a huge influence on me, later living with us, teaching me how to use chopsticks picking up tangerines, and so many other things about my Chinese culture. My siblings and I grasped to my culture, and determined to not lose any of the traditions, I took Chinese brush painting, which changed my art, and understanding the meanings of my brush strokes, and to this day has had a great influence in my art. I learned to paint with feeling, and care, and have had many art exhibitions where I have displayed my art and creations.

I grew up in Los Angeles the first 6 years of my life and then we moved to the suburbs where I attended 2nd grade to High school, and later college. My mother constantly reminding me of my great opportunity to be educated, as she did not have the privilege of this opportunity. I remember learning how to read at the same time my mother learned English in night school. I recall the day my Mother and Grandmother became an American citizen, as a young child gathering in Los Angeles, as I too raised my right hand to accept the oath and promise, and welcoming my American dreams.

I was a PROUD Chinese American mixing in with the all American blond blue eyed kids, and mixed cultures, their were only a few of Asian kids. I only knew how to be American which challenged my parents who fought so hard to keep me Chinese. Deep in my soul, I was CHINESE, but found it challenging to fit in, it has and was not easy, and I still am introduced with challenges in my life that has built my character, and my human spirit. I would not change anything that has happened to me as it made me who I am.

Because of my AMAZING upbringing I knew in my mind that my parents wanted me to be successful, and to truly live the American dream, as they were living. I knew it was my duty to LIVE my dreams, and to do anything I wanted, and to leave some sort of legacy for my nieces and nephews, to know that my relatives worked so hard for us to have the best education, and to always try our best to have the best.

After high school I was lost but knew I had to go to school, later finding my true calling to express myself as an artist. I was able to study art, where I received a degree in Advertising design, and studied Illustration, Graphics packaging design, Children’s book Illustration at the Art Center in Pasadena, and Junior college, and later study Animation, and soon started my hand painted clothing line “Art is On!,” and then working for Nickelodeon Animation, where I was one of the first artist to work on Dora the Explorer, then on the productions; Catdog, and Oswald the Octopus, and later working at Cartoon Network Animation Studio (Hanna Barbera/ Warner Bros) where I helped produce Generator Rex. Ben 10, Generator Rex Crossover, and Regular Show where I was honored with Emmys for my contributions.

With all of my experiences and work ethic I learned from my Chinese up bringing, I seemed fearless, and feel sometimes the American dream running through my blood, as I do today on Thanksgiving feeling grateful for my Great Grandfather making that choice to come to America.

I am an author of several fitness books (Personal trainer and Wellness coach for over 16 years), also working 2-3 jobs pretty much all my life, I also wrote a book about my Mother’s Chinese cooking and traditions, to carry on for the the next generations in hopes of preserving the Chinese culture I have grown to LOVE.

Recently I funded 2 Kickstarters (a fundraising platform for creative projects), Surf Soup which is my most current project, a series of Children’s Picture books, Animation, Designing a Couture Surf Clothing line, and Surf Soup TV, a non-profit project that gives back and highlights the GOOD, and gives back to charities, teaching everyone that we are all in the Soup together, and more can be achieved with like minds, and effort together, and teaching children character, just what my parents taught me. The other Kickstarter was a small campaign to bring awareness to Shark Fin Soup, and the prevention of Shark Finning, which my family’s company Lee Kum Kee Soy sauce donated the sauces for my project, as well as interest in my Cooking segment for Surf Soup TV.

As I write this today on Thanksgiving morning, I discovered on TV the banner while watching the Macy’s Day Parade, “Chinese American: Exclusion/Inclusion”…It was true SERENDIPITY that I saw the banner. I was drawn to tell my story which I will be filming my Surf Soup journey in a documentary, as I create my project to inspire others, I end my writing today with Deep Gratitude to my Chinese Ancestors, and my Mom and Dad, for giving me the most amazing opportunity to follow my American Dreams.

As my Mom and Dad prepare a very special traditional Thanksgiving oyster recipe handed down by my Great Grandfather, that he made as cook, I give Thanks.

I would not have accomplished any of this without the influence of my Chinese culture and traditions. I am so GRATEFUL.

With Peace Love and Harmony! Happy Thanksgiving!

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