Beautiful American Cheong Sam examines the way I see the world as a Cantonese American living between two cultures.  The Cheong Sam is a traditional dress worn in Hong Kong, and it is something I grew up wearing.  It was something I was always proud of because I thought it showed off the beauty of my culture.  In our current day and age, this garment has been appropriated many times, whether it be someone wearing it to their prom, Halloween companies using it as an "ethnic costume", Western high fashion taking an "oriental" approach to design, or even porn websites using it for yellow fever scenes.  This piece is meant to interrogate how this garment has changed in meaning for me, and by extension, comment on how I see myself existing in America.  The dress creates the word 美 (mei), meaning beautiful.  But the same word is used in the phrase for America, 美国 or the beautiful country.  Using this word in the dress questions whether this dress truly represents traditional Chinese beauty, or if it has been completely appropriated and taken by America.  This word takes on further meaning because it is my Chinese middle name.  The black lace that forms the word also brings up connotations of lingerie, sexualization, and fetishization.  The placement of the opaque cloth just barely covers my body, furthering these ideas.  This work reflects how I see both myself and America. I am the same as the Cheong Sam, as I am truly Chinese but have been completely assimilated into American culture.  But at the same time, my Asian body and identity are a place of constant sexualization and fetishization from a Western gaze.  I need to constantly question whether I am the colonizer, or the colonized, the appropriator, or the appropriated.

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