What Does Home Mean to You?
On Sunday August 25th, hundreds of Asian women and gender non-binary creators gathered in Brooklyn for The Cosmos Summit: Home–bound. Entrepreneurs, creatives, students, and leaders from all over North America showed up in bright outfits and even brighter smiles for a day of workshops, art, and community. It was a momentous day we’ll never forget.
If you didn’t get a chance to join us, we’ve got you covered! Over the next couple of weeks, we’ll be recapping The Cosmos Summit programming, Cosmos Market, and the Wellness Oasis. Keep scrolling to relive some of the magic with us!
All photography below by Kristie Chua.
VIP Breakfast with Orcé Cosmetics
We kicked the morning off with an intimate VIP Breakfast sponsored by Orcé Cosmetics, an Asian woman founded beauty brand creating products specially formulated to reveal and enhance Asian complexions.
Founder Yu-Chen Shih opened up about her unexpected journey into beauty entrepreneurship:
“I tended to be one of the darker-skinned and heavier-set girls amongst my relatives and peers growing up. I was often criticized for my appearance – even by my own family, which sadly drove me to spend my most carefree years on obsessive diets and skin whitening treatments. As a teenager, I developed body dysmorphia and bulimia. Although I didn’t know it at the time, it was this trauma that I channeled into creativity. Since then, I have embarked on a journey to heal myself by helping other women around me feel more confident through makeovers that help them highlight their natural beauty.”
Dissatisfied with the lack of representation in the beauty industry, Yu-Chen set out to flip toxic beauty standards and celebrate the diversity of skin tones in the Asian diaspora. Rather than use a Pantone color book for Orcé’s Come Closer Foundation, she created custom shades based on real people. The result? An intentional product that honors the unique needs of Asian skin. Fun fact: did you know we are more prone to water loss and sensitive to environmental pollutants?!
The Cosmos began with a Google Doc titled Project Summit in November 2017 in which we wondered, “What would happen if we brought hundreds of Asian women and gender non-binary creators together in one room?”
We knew no one was going to create that feeling of home for us… so we set out to create it for ourselves at The Cosmos Summit: Home–bound. In the opening reflection, cofounders Cassandra Lam and Karen Mok shared their personal definitions of home:
“I am the daughter of Vietnamese boat refugees and the first in our family to be born on American soil. I grew up on fragments of memories that authentically reflected the fragments of their childhood and livelihood lost to war. To this day, I know very little about my own family story. But through reading the works of Vietnamese-American writers, I’ve come to realize the gift of a life lived at a distance from painful memories. The holes in my family tree are no longer spaces for shame and hurt, but rather imagination and possibility. I learned from my parents that home is a feeling that can be carried on your back, across oceans, and in the hearts of those you love. Home is mine to claim and create wherever I go.”
- Cassandra Lam
“One month after I met Cassandra, I was officially diagnosed with Major Depressive Disorder. The day after the first Cosmos Retreat, I began a leave of absence from work to take care of my depression. So home to me also means honoring that there are days where I will be sad. And to accept and go through those emotions rather than hide, escape, or blame. Home means talking openly about my mental health because I believe healing and acceptance requires de-stigmatizing mental health care.” - Karen Mok
In her talk Made in America(ish): Owning Your Labels as an Agent of Change, Deepti Sharma (Founder of Food to Eat) invited us to question and expand our understandings of American identity beyond whiteness. After all, the Asian and Pacific Islander diaspora alone is comprised of 40+ countries!
She led with vulnerability that we could all relate to. Growing up without representation in media, she recalled feelings of not belonging.
“No matter how much I craved some gentrified ideal, I would always be myself - an Indian American woman.”
Her journey to self-acceptance and empowerment was fueled by a desire to kick the status quo and assert her voice. As an Indian-American mother and entrepreneur, Deepti invited us to expand our understandings of American identity beyond whiteness by honoring our multidimensionality.
Our unique perspectives aren’t weaknesses - they’re strengths that empower us to become agents of change in our own communities! To close out her inspiring talk, Deepti invited community members to take the stage and share stories of labels that no longer dictate our destinies.
Afterwards, we welcomed Dr. Kiona, a mixed race Asian-American strategic curator, educator, researcher, and entrepreneur, to take the stage. Well known for her digital travel platform How Not To Travel Like A Basic Bitch, which explores the intersection of travel with race, politics, gender, and privilege through a collaborative digital educational space, Dr. Kiona used storytelling and data to inspire us to break the silence.
“My privilege has granted me the words that my mom and grandma could not say. As people with varying privileges, we must use it for the liberation of others and ourselves. Being silent kills relationships in and out of our own communities.”
In her talk Silence Kills: The Importance Of AAPI Reclaiming Our Voices, she surfaced the intergenerational effects of silence in AAPI communities and what it does for ongoing AAPI misrepresentation.
To bring these themes home in our own lives, Dr. Kiona invited us to discuss and open up to one another:
In what ways has silence hurt you?
In what ways has your silence hurt others or yourself?
What is a time that you were not silent and are proud of?
Daylong conferences can be exhausting. Nothing takes away from a wonderful day like anxiety and overwhelm! So at The Cosmos Summit, we chose to change what hasn’t historically worked for us. Instead, we focused on creating opportunities for our community members to practice agency.
People are not one size fits all. So why does conference programming often feel that way? Rather than fill the afternoon with standardized programming, we invited everyone to reflect on their personal needs and prioritize their wellbeing.
From that place, we created our dream schedules that authentically reflected not only what we wanted to experience, but when and how. Learning and growing on our terms, as it should be!
Our 8 incredible workshop leaders led 2-3 powerful sessions each, covering topics like mental health, fundraising, side hustles, public speaking, workplace burnout, environmental sustainability, and more. Every workshop was voted on and curated from within the community! To see the full programming lineup from our inaugural event, head over here.
“Coming Home” Art Installation
Home–bound is a lifelong journey with many stops along the way. To honor this theme, Chinese-American artist and designer Bianca Ng created a custom immersive art installation titled Coming Home. Did we mention she’s also our creative director here at The Cosmos?!
Coming Home was a quiet meditative space designed for self-reflection and healing.
Attendees entered into a dreamlike room constructed of soft fabrics, swirling with words and figures that explored the connection between mind, body, and self-forgiveness. In small groups, we entered the installation with noise cancelling earmuffs where all were welcomed to stay as long as they needed.
Building off Bianca’s signature black and white illustrations, this intimate exhibit invited us to contemplate what coming home to our bodies means. We came. We cried. And we acknowledged our bodies as our first homes.