Crazy Rich Asians continues to take the world by the storm, reigniting the push for more diversity in Hollywood and mainstream media. The glitz and glamour of Singapore’s wealthiest families weave together a timeless love story based on the first book of Kevin Kwan’s first trilogy. Crazy Rich Asians has sparked, yet again, necessary conversations about cultural identity, relationships, and the entertainment industry in the modern-day.
Pop singer Katherine Ho, a sophomore at the University of Southern California, reflected on her musical endeavors with the L.A. Times HS Insider, encouraging students today with her journey, and passing on the message of her beautiful cover of Coldplay’s “Yellow” in Crazy Rich Asians.
With former training in classical piano, Katherine is able to accompany herself. From voice-over auditions in middle school to A Capella Academy in high school, every opportunity has shaped her vibrant, golden sound and warm personality. Summers at A Capella Academy, leading Westlake High School’s choir, and singing at annual Chinese New Year shows are some of her fondest musical experiences.
When Ho is not studying chemistry or singing, you can find her exploring the diverse cuisine options in Los Angeles with family and friends (she loves Shin-Sen-Gumi Hakata Ramen in Little Tokyo and BCD Tofu in Koreatown).
Her playlists to jam out to include artists such as Taylor Swift, Khalid and Tori Kelly — artists that have a unique “gift for storytelling” that she admires. If she could only choose one artist to collaborate with though, it’d definitely be Taylor Swift, the artist she’s grown up listening to.
In terms of her own songwriting process, while some songwriters can “whip out a song in 30 minutes,” Ho’s songwriting process occurs over a course of three to four days — most comfortably in her room at home.
Since the release of Crazy Rich Asians, Ho has received an overwhelming deluge of positive responses regarding her cover of “Yellow.” While speaking about the entire process of of auditioning and recording, which was a whirlwind much like the film itself, Katherine always expresses gratitude towards her family, friends, and mentors.
From text conversations with an A Capella Academy coach and late night phone calls with her father, to falling asleep by the piano before chemistry class, Ho was not expecting to record a song for a project that is utterly “groundbreaking.”
What does “being yellow” mean to Katherine, and how did her identity change over time? In middle school, auditions for Asian American female voiceovers were limited due to limited demand, Katherine said. Though she was proud of being Chinese, identifying as Asian sometimes was “a source of insecurity” where she felt an incessant need to prove herself.
Why was “Crazy Rich Asians” so touching for her?
“It made me realize how wrong I was to think all that, and embrace my identity.”
But that’s not all! Katherine has advice for you on high school, and college apps (we’re looking at you, seniors!).
For creativity blocks, her main advice is to talk to people, mentioning that in college, “taking classes or asking other people in your creative art may have tips.” One of her favorite pieces of advice from one of her professors at USC is that “sometimes, you’ve got to write the bad song before the good one comes out.” Got a weird sleep schedule? Katherine chuckles: “get a good night’s sleep! Weird sleep schedules catch up with you!” She knows.
Social media, a tool that often gets a bad rap for being extremely distracting, can also be a way to get those creative juices flowing.
“When used correctly, social media is a wonderful platform,” Ho said.
These platforms not only help artists gain a following, but social media is crucial in creating the culture in this digital age. Constance Wu is an actress that Katherine admires for using her platforms to enact societal change.
“Art is heavily intertwined with politics. Be the spokesperson about issues you care about,” she said.
As far as the future of music, Katherine hopes to see a continuous trend in cultural crossovers in music — the globalization of music was part of the reason she was very excited to record “Yellow” in the first place!
“There is still a lot of work to be done. Asians are still very much underrepresented [in the entertainment industry],” Ho said.
No matter what the current state of the music industry may be, she is a living testament to her own mantra.
“Believe in yourself and go for it if that’s what you’re passionate about,” Ho said. “Hard work and talent will override the stereotypes.”
It is important to never allow the topics of representation and diversity die out as movies come and go, and it is necessary and crucial for the development of our culture and for democracy itself to be constantly challenged and reminded by young people like us to implement the changes that need to be made beyond the entertainment industry, and in our daily lives.
Katherine Ho’s cover of Coldplay’s “Yellow” can be found below and on iTunes.