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Kathleen Tso, Banana
At work with

Kathleen Tso, Banana

Kathleen Tso and Vicki Ho work in digital marketing and branding respectively; together they launched the visually vibrant Banana magazine in New York, aiming to create a voice for contemporary Asian culture. We hear from Kathleen (above, left) as issue six of their annual magazine is published.

How do you start your week?
The whole Banana team has been working from home since lockdown began in mid-March. We closed issue six in May and April remotely.

Banana isn’t our full time jobs, so we have all been focused on our 9-to-5’s during these uncertain times. We haven’t had a chance to regroup as a whole team in person since early March so we really miss the collaboration and support from each other.

Before the pandemic, we used to start our weekly meetings with an Onigiri from Yaya Tea Garden and a maybe a latte from Urban Backyard.

Describe the state of your desk and what you can see in your studio/office
We always meet at my apartment in Little Italy for Banana around my dining room table. It has become my full-time workspace for my full-time job as well. It’s gotten MUCH messier over the last few months.

Let’s just say we can’t use the table to eat our meals on anymore. It’s next to a huge window so gets tons of natural light and I can see classic Little Italy buildings and fire escapes outside the window. I got to know my neighbors a lot more and what they looked like when we used to all poke our heads out the window and clap for the essential workers at 7PM.

Which magazine do you first remember?
The first magazine I remember is J14, and getting it from a grocery store. I was mesmerized by all the amazing tear-out NSYNC posters inside.

Which magazine matters to you the most right now?
New York magazine has been extra meaningful to me in the last few months. What NYC has been through in the last eight months is incredible, and the magazine has shown how much love and community there is in this city during hard times.

You adopted the name Banana from a nickname used against Asian immigrants; such language seems from another time, is it really still used?
It’s definitely still used within the Asian community. It’s not always used with a derogatory intent, and is sometimes just used in jest between immigrant parents and their kids who were born and raised in the United States who have grown up with dual cultural influences.

Luckily this isn’t a term that people outside of our community use against us.

We love the way Banana combines the traditional and contemporary sides of Asian culture. Is it difficult to hit the right balance?
It actually comes very naturally during the storytelling process! Traditions and our history is so ingrained in our experience today and that comes out in the stories we tell.

Who are your readers?
Our readers live all around the world. With the increasingly globalized experience, the dual cultural influence of the West and the East permeates within the Asian experience around the world.

Banana is a form of advocacy for Asian voices in the creative space. And we hope that it helps inspire Asians as well as brings awareness to allies.

Share one piece of publishing/business advice that has helped you.
Don’t take on more than you can handle!

Looking ahead, what are you excited about this week? Are you optimistic?
It’s Election Week, so I’m cautiously optimistic. Gotta hold out hope… but it gets harder each year.

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