Emily Eaton meets activist and role model, Amazin LêThi
BY EMILY EATON. IMAGE ALINA OSWALD
HIV/Aids and equality advocate, global ambassador, bodybuilder, author, fitness and wellness coach, actor, entrepreneur… is there anything this woman can’t do?
We jumped at the opportunity to talk to Amazin LêThi about the various hats she wears, her foundation, and the impact of its work for this, our Women On Top issue.
“The Amazin LêThi Foundation came about as a result of my own experiences,” Amazin tells me when we meet in central London one afternoon.
“I was severely bullied, experiencing racism and homophobia, and as a young adult I was homeless for a period of time. At my lowest point, when I was contemplating suicide sports and the arts helped me, [so] I wanted to empower LGBTQI youth and those affected by HIV/Aids through various programmes, because I didn’t want anyone else to have to suffer like I did.
“Unfortunately, people do, and that’s why I do this.”
The foundation supports young people from the age of six right up to 23, helping them to develop various skills as well as offering access to employment opportunities.
“It’s important to teach life skills and business skills,” Amazin says passionately. “We want to provide a fast-track at a time when they’re struggling. We also allow youth from different parts of the world to share their stories. They connect with each other and see their similarities. It’s amazing.”
During our conversation, Amazin talks about her experience as an Asian woman, and the importance of role models. “It’s so hard not seeing yourself in the media,” she tells me.
“Asians are bullied more than any other ethnic group yet we’re invisible – no one talks about it. I’m the first Asian Athlete Ally Ambassador, which is a great achievement, but we need to talk about why Asians aren’t more widely represented in TV, sport… everywhere.”
Why are LGBTQI Asians invisible, does she think?
“In regards to coming out, there’s a great pressure on Asians because of the history of the one child policy… it’s so important to not disappoint your parents and people are trapped in lives they’re unhappy in.”
Sports and the arts may have helped Amazin during her darkest times, but did she have a favourite activity? “I did many sports,” she says. “Really anything I could get my hands on. There were struggles in team sports however, and bodybuilding allowed me to compete as an individual. I was a victim of bullying and developing muscles through bodybuilding helped me be so much stronger.”
Physical education can often be a struggle for LGBTQI youth – many of us have painful memories of being sneered at in school changing rooms – and these experiences still sadly ring true. What words of support does Amazin have for queer people who are, or have been, pushed away from something as beneficial as sport?
“It’s true that LGBTQI people can develop a negative relationship with sport as a result of bullying,” she says. “It’s a shame. But don’t let bullies win. You have the opportunity to speak up and try to create a safer community.
“There are also LGBTQI sports group you can join if you want to get away from that environment. It’s your life so don’t let others control what you get to enjoy. Everyone deserves to experience the positive aspects of sport.”
Amazin seems to always be doing so much, and advocacy can be draining emotionally as well as physically. How does she look after herself whilst leading such a busy life?
“As an Asian advocate, my time is wanted everywhere because my experiences are unique. It’s definitely important to take yourself away from it sometimes. I can only help others if I help myself too. I have a daily self-care routine and I do yoga which helps me relax. I dedicate some days to having down-time and I indulge in retail therapy – it all helps!”
What advice does she have for people – specifically queer people of colour – who want to be more involved in advocacy and tackling underrepresentation?
“Find your purpose and your passion,” Amazin says. “I went through a journey and as a result of it, I found mine. Think about what you want to stand for and be brave.”
Among all the incredible things she’s achieved, what’s been a career highlight for Amazin?
“There’s a lot I’m proud of, but one of them is actually doing the recent It Gets Better video. I tell my story so often, so at this point I’m very detached from it. I say the words but I’m not thinking about their weight. But seeing the It Gets Better video once it had been put together, with the visuals and everything, actually made me very emotional. I realised my story again and it touched me”.
This piece was originally published in the May 2019
Find out more about Amazin’s work at amazinlethifoundation.org
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