My Post-Modern Life is a series that focuses on alumni of the collegiate hip-hop community and how they continue their involvement with dance after they graduate.
When Jeffrey Liang donned his first pair of heels, he took off in a sprint and didn’t look back. It seemed that from an early age, he wanted to defect from societal expectations and be his own person. He wanted to find creative solutions to society’s problems and later discovered that dance was the way to go.
Liang started dancing in high school and immersed himself in the hip-hop dance community when he started college at UCLA in 2010. From NSU Modern to Team Ferosha, Liang was deeply involved in the community as a dancer, choreographer, and leader.
“I think that being a dancer in college really shaped my college experience. It was my first way of socializing in college,” Liang said. “It turned me into a very efficient leader. It definitely gave me a lot of experience that I still talk about in job interviews today.”
Though he significantly contributed to the dance community, Liang recognized how UCLA’s dance community contributed to his own personal growth and coming out.
“It was really important for me because being a part of NSU and Team Ferosha were really pivotal for me coming out because I only really came out during my freshman year in college and…to put it bluntly, they saw the gay in me and yanked me out of the closet basically,” Liang said.
After graduating from UCLA in 2013, Liang knew that he wanted to keep dancing. At first, he wanted to become an industry dancer but quickly became distraught by the lack of representation in the industry for both Asian-American and queer dancers.
“At all these auditions, boys have to dance like boys and girls have to dance like girls. Any industry choreographer will say that to class like that’s kind of how the industry is, and me being my radically queer self, I’m like ‘That doesn’t fucking cut it,’” Liang said.
Eventually, Liang stopped auditioning for agencies and began to market himself as more than a dancer. He choreographed for NSU Modern and his other teams at UCLA, and after graduation, he began choreographing for regular studio classes, music videos, and even for his drag alter-ego Miss Shu Mai.
Though Liang was satisfied with his creative career, he still faced adversity from his family. His parents, at first, did not approve of his choice to pursue an artistic career, but Liang understood their reasoning.
“Take what your parents say into consideration because obviously they know what’s best but at the same time, a lot of what immigrant parents say to you comes from a survival tactic that they’ve grown up with and they don’t know how to raise somehow else and they just want you to be successful and that’s what they came here for,” Liang said.
Liang made it his mission to be an advocate in entertainment. He wanted to use his creative talents to be a voice for others. As a health educator for APAIT, he worked with medically under-served minority communities at risk of HIV/AIDS and connected them with resources. He used his identity as a queer Asian-American man to share his story and help other people write theirs.
“My career is about solving an issue, representation, finding a voice for people, and reclaiming power for queer, API folx who are always left out of the conversation,” Liang said. “That’s my purpose and the issue I want to solve. What do you want to solve?”
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