As a young Asian American, I didn’t have many other Asian faces to look up to. I spent my younger years obsessed with Bruce Lee and Jackie Chan because they were some of the few famous Asian roll models that we heroes on screen. But there was always one hero on TV: Grant Imahara.
When I heard the news that Grant Imahara had passed away I didn’t believe it. How could I? The man was only 49 years old. In his years he accomplished so much as a co-host of the Discovery Channel’s Mythbusters, Netflix’s White Rabbit Project, a special effects artist for movies like the Star Wars prequels and the Matrix sequels, and more.
As just a middle schooler, I would binge-watch Mythbusters on Netflix, and eventually, I finished most of the 17 seasons. Grant Imahara was an incredible guy to look up to as he and his co-hosts explored myths through extravagant science experiments. Grant Imahara is the reason I took an interest in science. After finishing my homework, I’d love to watch Grant, Tori and Kari crash cars and create giant explosions in the name of science. They were funny, goofy, intelligent, and authentic but most importantly, inspiring. Grant was an example that Asian Americans could be on TV. He, as a role model, showed me that Asian Americans were capable of creating anything. From a media perspective, he created exceptional content as a Mythbuster but from the builder perspective, he designed and built advanced robots and other contraptions.
Because I watched Grant build incredible machines on TV I wanted to be like him. I wanted to have outlandish ideas and the skills to bring them to life. If an Asian American could make machines on TV, I thought I could at least try to build projects on my own. While I’ll never reach Imahara’s master level of engineering, I strive to be able to build incredible things, even if I’m just doing home improvement projects and low budget car modifications. With the recent launch of the SituAsian Room, I still look up to Grant because he opened the door for more AAPIs to be in media.
As I struggle to find my path in life, I keep asking myself if what I want to do is playing into the model minority myth or if I’ve internalized it. Do I actually want to be a Yappie (Young Asian Professional)? Is this just what society expects me to become? Have I conformed to what they expect of me or am I following my own path? Are they different paths? Do they overlap? I bring this up because some could argue that Grant Imahara, as an electrical engineer, falls into the troupe of being an “Asian nerd”. But after watching seasons of Mythbusters, Grant has taught me that the model minority myth shouldn’t matter in how I decide what direction to steer my life because the right path forward is to be your true authentic self. Rest in peace to a legend, Grant Imahara.