Instahunk Howin Wong Is Stupidly Hot In The Smartest Way Possible
Mitchell Kuga: Did you grow up in Seattle?
Howin Wong: I grew up in Renton, which is twenty minutes outside of Seattle proper. I grew up in a really multicultural area and neighborhood; I didn’t realize how not white I was until I moved to [downtown] Seattle, where the population is like, 75% white.
MK: So even if it was just a twenty minute drive there was a huge psychic difference.
HW: Definitely, very different. Seattle is really “progressive,” but you’re still othered if you’re of color.
MK: And you have a party you DJ that kind of deals directly with that...
HW: I do. For the past two years I’ve helped run a night called Darqness that’s focused on creating a place for queer and trans people of color.
MK: How do you do that? With your programming?
HW: We just try to honor the space and what people want. It’s not just DJing—we’ve had vogue competitions, rappers, singers, dancers, [talent] from all over. And we make sure people feel safe.
MK: What has the party done for you? I guess on a personal level.
HW: It’s allowed me to express creativity through DJing and figuring out where we want to play, who we want to hire—curating the talent. It puts me in a creative director role at times. It’s made me more aware of the process of organizing a space and making sure you let people know that this is a queer space. What else…I work in marketing. I have a degree in psychology and sociology. Fun fact, I grew up a Jehovah’s Witness.
MK: I’m familiar. You don’t believe in gifts.
HW: We don’t believe in birthdays.
MK: Any celebration, right?
HW: Any celebration except for the birth of Jesus Christ.
MK: Are there a lot of Asian Jehovah’s Witnesses?
HW: There’s a considerable number. But not too many Chinese, because religion is banned in China. But you can practice it in Hong Kong.
MK: How did your parents get into it?
HW: My mom got into it because they knocked on her door. That’s their main way of talking to people about it, going door to door. I was 9 when she got really stoked about it, then I fell into it around 13, I got baptized at 16, and then I left the church around 18 or 19.
MK: Was it a dramatic break?
HW: For me it was a dramatic break. When you leave, you can’t talk to your friends anymore; everyone in that community shuns you except for immediate family members.
MK: Was it the gay thing that made you realize, I can’t do this anymore?
HW: I just started questioning the dogma and the loss of identity and the depression that everyone has that’s really sad.
MK: Yeah…I mean if you can’t celebrate anything, what’s the point? Gay people just want to celebrate everything, so it’s obviously not going to work.
HW: [Laughs] It’s obviously not going to work. No, it was just everyone was depressed and not happy, but pretending to be. It was anxiety-inducing and it gave me depression because I was really hard on myself. So I left. I was just like, I left this religion, I’m gonna be gay now, I’m gonna suck dick, I’m gonna get fucked, I’m gonna fuck.
MK: Were you like, sucking dick while you were going to church?
HW: Well, not at church.
MK: No! I’m not saying at church, I meant simultaneously at that point in your life.
HW: Yeah, I was, definitely. But I was hiding it from myself. Like, I would wear glasses, but whenever I’d hook up with people I’d not wear glasses.
MK: Like it didn’t count with contacts.
HW: Yeah. I really compartmentalized.
MK: It’s like a superhero thing.
HW: Yeah, I guess so. A super slut hero thing. I was definitely like, religious boy trade. And I also started trying to have relationships, but there was no way. I don’t think I was emotionally ready, no way in hell. But I’m really well-spoken. Growing up in the church, or being raised in a tiny household, you learn to feign and pretend and to hide your emotions really well. I was very good at pretending.
MK: I think that’s something that most queer Asian folk can relate to, that sort of mask that you put on. It comes a little easier for us than for other people. I hid [my sexuality] for a long time even though there was no reason to, because my parents were so accepting. I’m assuming these experiences are a big part of why you studied psychology and sociology?
HW: I was trying to become a nurse, actually. But in taking those classes I realized, oh that’s what I do. I displace, or project, or whatever. I have so many intersections to my identity—I’m Asian, I’m a child of immigrants, I’m religious, I’m queer, also I’m a skater. So all these intersections made it easier for me to understand identity very well. So, I was good at psychology and I liked it.
MK: But we probably wouldn’t be talking right now if it wasn’t for your Instagram. I noticed that your feed veered into thotty territory maybe like a year or so ago? Was there a moment for you where you were like, I’m gonna pop my pussy a little bit?
HW: I guess seeing what was hot on my feed. And I would see really stereotypically hot white dudes be given stupid opportunities for being muscular and shirtless, even though they portrayed themselves as photographers. I’m not calling out anyone in particular…
MK: You don’t have to, because we all know who you’re talking about.
HW: We have the list.
MK: Yeah, we have the list.
HW: I was just like, what the fuck? I’m gonna do that, too. I just wanted to be given stupid opportunities to be able to do stuff. It’s weirdly given me more social power, just for having my shirt off and having followers. You know what I mean?
MK: I know what you mean, but can you elaborate on what those things are? How that power expresses itself?
HW: A lot of queer nightlife culture in Seattle is owned or controlled by white DJs in their thirties who have these running nights that are techno, house or disco. But because I had followers my opinions mattered, or had more weight. I was credible because I had followers.
MK: I mean, it sounds like you’re also benefitting from being hot.
HW: Yeah, I’m definitely riding that hot privilege.
MK: Pretty privilege is real.
HW: It is real, and it’s so silly it’s a real thing. And maybe psychology helped, but I know things like having pecs and abs and a symmetrical face matter to people. And if you use it right your opinion carries more weight than some other people’s, which is unfortunate. But I’m hoping to use my platform and my relatively symmetrical face to maybe give voice to Asian-Americans in nightlife, at least in the Seattle area.
MK: It sounds like you’re approaching Instagram a little bit like a political act.
HW: Oh, definitely. I mean, it may not seem like that and someone else looking at it might be like, no, he’s just having his pussy out just for the likes. But my voice can carry the same weight as that of a queer white DJ who’s been doing shit in Seattle for like, 10 years.
MK: I also think there’s something to be said for the fact that you don’t go the extra mile to explain why you’re doing this, you’re just doing it and people can interpret it as they will. Because none of these white men have to explain their shirtless photos. You know what I mean? If you did the mission statement thing…you don’t need to do that.
HW: No. I’m just putting myself out there. It’s weird. The more you put yourself out there, the more heat you’re going to get, but also the more attention paid. So I was just like, whatever. Exposure, exposure, exposure.
MK: Do you see any downsides to it?
HW: I think there’s a sense of disingenuousness. Sometimes people might read it that way—and I don’t blame them, because how can you get any depth from my Instagram? Unless you really look for it. Or ask me.
MK: Do you think those same assumptions are being made about white men on Instagram?
HW: Oh yeah, but maybe it’s not talked about. Maybe they’re not honest about it, whereas I’m very self-aware and honest about it.
MK: Are there certain assumptions people make because you’re Asian?
HW: Well, I can’t really show my dick, so sometimes I show my butt and maybe sometimes people assume I’m a bottom. I wish there were more Asians who did it; I know of some and I love that they’re doing it. But you don’t see Asian bodies in the media. That’s also where it started from. I didn’t see naked Asian men anywhere—TV, magazines, porn, anywhere. Unless you’re fetishized. And I was like, I want to see bodies that look like mine represented and sexualized. I want to get used to seeing it. I got so used to seeing white bodies that my body became a stranger to me. I was so used to seeing what a white male body looked like that, looking at my body in the mirror, I was like, who’s this dude? Is this mine? Why does it look like that? Why do I look like that? And definitely seeing my body on a digital platform and seeing people respond to it validated me a little bit, which is kinda sad. But you only see white bodies digitized and plastered on platforms like magazines, TV, the internet.
MK: It’s like until you see it it doesn’t exist.
MK: And that’s how we see things now, through Instagram.
HW: Yeah…yeah, yeah, yeah. I wanted to normalize an Asian body. I wanted to fetishize it.
MK: It’s interesting because it seems like we both had similar experiences in that we grew up surrounded by Asian bodies and Asian people, yet there’s such a disconnect with media representation. Even being in Hawaii, which has such a high percentage of Japanese people specifically, which is what I am, but then seeing all these sexualized white bodies. Then throughout puberty seeing my friends have these hairless bodies whereas I was always hairy, so I had this insecurity—I was like, oh my God, I need to shave all this off. I didn’t even realize that it was possible for that to be an okay thing until way later, which is crazy.
HW: A spectrum needs to be shown. Because a lot of white dudes think that Asian dudes are hairless.
MK: Yeah! In my early days of Grindr I would actually warn people before meeting up with them. Just so you know, I’m hairy. Because you’re expecting me to show up and be this hairless twink and that’s not gonna happen. But I also feel like, why did I need to do that?
HW: No, but I get that. You were put into this psychic box, a psychic prism.
MK: Are you dating anyone right now?
HW: Uhh, define dating. I’m seeing people, but I’m officially single.
MK: Ok. Who are some of your favorite Instagram folk? Someone that you see in your feed and you’re like, ohh, that guy.
HW: No one, really. Of course, I’ll see a picture and I’ll be like, oh, that guy’s cute, but I won’t be like, trying to go on their page all the time to refresh. Wait. I think may be I’m lying to you, to your face. Maybe I do? Let me think about this.
MK: It’s ok if you don’t wanna say, cause, you know, then you’re putting your shit out there.
HW: Um, no. I do. I hate talking about my crushes because I hate my crushes.
MK: They’re problematic.
HW: They’re problematic. I’m problematic. Everybody’s problematic.
MK: I know, it’s hard.
HW: No shout-outs to anybody.
MK: Do you have a type?
HW: Yeah…but, also problematic. I hate having a type.
MK: It’s so hard, right? It’s like, do you really go in and dissect that? Or do you let desire be what it is?
HW: I do, it’s both. I let desire be what it wants to be, but I hate my type. It’s a lot of psychological…well, ok, this is what I’ll say. Because I grew up in a heavily religious organization I’m really attracted to, basically, youth pastor trade. A little more clean-shaven. If you look like you’ve given a sermon, you’re my type.
MK: Sounds like you’re describing yourself.
HW: Yeah, I mean…a little bit. I think I try to be what I’m sexually attracted to. I call myself a club dad, not a club kid, because I feel like when I’m at the club I’m like a dad. I dress to pass as a nightlife personality, but I’m always in the back helping people. And I don’t drink.
MK: I was wondering where the @dads_smooth_ass came from, because you don’t really read as a dad. But I see it a little bit.
HW: Partly from me trying to be a club dad, also, slash, I was just imagining an Asian as a dad and I’m smooth. When you think of daddies, you think maybe hairy white dudes. And dad’s smooth ass…it just came on a whim.
MK: You mentioned that a lot of people assume you’re a bottom because of all the ass on your page, but also the fact that you’re Asian. I think the assumption is that every Asian is a bottom. I feel like that’s been said a lot and even in my own personal experiences I know a lot of Asian men who are bottoms. And I’ve been thinking a lot about the chicken and the egg thing. If you, a) perpetuate the microscopic Asian penis myth, and b) the myth that all Asians already like this and only want this, then yeah, you are going to have a lot of Asian bottoms because they’ve been taught that that’s all that they can do.
HW: Like, what came first, I guess?
MK: Yeah, well, I think if you were to take a study, there is a high percentage of Asian men who bottom, who are bottoms. And I don’t know if that can actually be a biological thing, or if that’s society being like, you’re Asian, you’re a bottom. That’s your role.
HW: I think it’s maybe a cultural proclivity. I think Asians are better listeners. That’s just what I think, because we have to be because white people talk over us all the time. And I do bottom. I think there’s a proclivity to that…I don’t know.
MK: Like, culturally we’re bottoms. We’re cultural bottoms.
HW: Yeah we’re more…
HW: We’re more receptive. I think Asian masculinity is a little bit more…it’s not the same as white masculinity, at all. But that doesn’t mean we can’t top, because I do know Asian tops and guys that like being topped by Asian men.
MK: But I feel like it’s rare.
HW: It takes more work to be a bottom and Asian men are more tolerable of that stuff. There are several things that go on, like you said, that stereotype and that cultural proclivity to be more receptive and be like, ok, we’re going to have sex, I don’t mind doing that.
MK: Straight Asian men might be considered the least desirable while straight Asian women are often highly desirable, but in an exoticized way. Where do you think gay men fall in that spectrum?
HW: In this awful purgatory of, what do I do?
MK: Do you feel like there’s the option to pick and choose?
HW: I think we get put in a box. Or you just feign being white by getting real buff and having a nice body. And then I think you’re a little bit more socially accepted? Man, I haven’t thought about this in a while.
MK: I think about this every day.
HW: No, I do, but I think about it emotionally rather than putting it in words.
HW: What are the emotions?
MK: Frustration. And eye-rolling a little bit. Like, c’mon. Be better, have more confidence. And sadness, a little bit, too. Sometimes I want to reach out to folks, or be friends with them so they can be more confident. Not to say that Asian men don’t have confidence. I could be projecting. Maybe they have plenty of confidence. I do think that fewer and fewer Asian men are being pigeonholed into that stereotype.
MK: What do you think is changing?
HW: [This idea] that Asians are the bottom, or that they’re passive. But, in order for that to happen, your body has to be buff and physically fit, I think. And you have to culturally pass as white, I think.
MK: Was that your motivation for beefing up?
HW: A lot of reasons. Cause I like being fit, and I started working out when I was like fourteen, fifteen. And there was a rejection of that aesthetic at alternative bars here, so I like having a conventionally hot body and taking my shirt off in white queer alternative spaces. And I like the idea of white men being upset at how attracted they are to me.
HW: Everything I do is a slight fuck you. It’s like a fuck you to gay white men.
MK: But then the fuck you is actually a fuck you, because you’re fucking them.
HW: Yeah, I guess. I guess so. For example, there’s this bar called Pony which is a queer alternative bar. A lot of the walls have 70s porno. They play a lot of Italo-disco, house, acid house music and the look is very new-wave industrial. So I would go in and DJ and have my shirt off, and the manager was like, what the fuck is this kid doing? Having his shirt off? Does he think this is a normal gay bar? That’s kind of why I did it.
MK: Right. Where the fuck does he think he is? Church?
HW: Yeah, exactly. And I wanted to show what a hot Asian man can look like.
MK: Were you always pretty confident about yourself and your body?
HW: Yeah, pretty confident.
MK: OK, cause that’s another thing I feel like is pretty important. Asian men who apologize, or don’t feel entitled to that kind of confidence, even though they might know it or feel it.
HW: Yeah, and I know that I’m very blessed with that. I’m very aware that I’m very lucky to be, I guess, have a good body. I’ve always been athletic. I was on the basketball team.
MK: Me too. [Laughs]
HW: So I just had like, a fit body. I haven’t met a lot of Asian men that are apologetic about it, but I have met a lot that need to work really hard at it.
MK: Yeah, they need to work twice as hard.
HW: Oh, ok that’s what you meant. Yes, definitely.
MK: That’s not what I meant, but that’s a point too. I did mean that a lot of gay Asian men don’t really own their hotness.
HW: Oh, yeah, no, they don’t. Like, you look really sexy as you are. Sometimes I see hot Asian men with not as attractive white boyfriends and I’m like, what the fuck, what are you doing? You need to tell your boyfriend to work harder, because if you’re working hard to get that, he needs to work harder to get you. Or keep you, or whatever. I think Asian men should own it more often. I think Instagram is helping, though. I see a lot of Asian men putting themselves out there, or starting to, or experimenting with it. I’m really thankful for social media platforms.
MK: Give us the workout regimen for your ass.
HW: [Laughs] I can do that. Just lots of squats.
MK: Squats all day.
HW: And try to do like, your-booty-almost-touching-the-floor squats, like all the way down. Also, maybe if you don’t want to do that, but you’re a walker, just stretch your legs farther back and squeeze your buns a little bit and that’ll help.
MK: Wait, like, while you’re walking?
HW: Yeah, while you’re walking, just have your leg kick back further.
MK: So do you just always walk that way now?
HW: No, but if I haven’t worked out my legs in a while, it’s like, let me do something about that.
MK: Ok, wasn’t sure if that was just a habit.
HW: No, haha.
MK: Alright, hot.—