Korean Adoptee Portrait Series - Cory Stewart

I met Cory Stewart through my friend and fellow Photographer Jenny Risher last year. She said we are twins and will become longtime best friends haha. The first time we spoke over the phone we ended up chatting for a few hours about our experiences growing up, fears and frustrations growing up as an adoptee. We both share alot of experiences growing up and I’m excited to share Cory’s story with you.

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Where did you grow up? 

I grew up in Kalamazoo, MI until I was 29 then moved to Detroit, MI to pursue a film career.

What was growing up like in your hometown? Kalamazoo was a small college town that offered lake effect snow and 40 mins to Lake Michigan. There always seemed to be something that was going on. Whether it be small concerts in Bronson park, great neighborhoods for trick or treating, Western Michigan football games and sledding on giant hills. It is a good town to have a family in. I always felt safe when it came to being in that town. Even after the Kalamazoo Uber driver shooting, the town still feels like middle America you see in movies. I moved because of that reason. I felt stuck and didn't see myself going anywhere while I was in Kalamazoo.

What are a few things you wish more people understood about (Korean) Adoptees? I wish more people understood that just because we are from Korea that we don't all come with the language. I was adopted at 4 months old and only understand English. I also wish people knew that there really is differences when it comes to other Asian countries. There is serious history when it comes to Korea and it still goes on today. During the 80's there was a surge of American families that were adopting from South Korea. I also wish people would stop asking me if I am from North or South Korea. 


Did you ever get picked on growing up? If so how has this shaped who you are now as an adult? I wasn't necessarily bullied because I am Korean or adopted but I definitely was treated differently. There were more questions people asked about myself than other kids. I was never looked at as "top pick" when it came to sports, plays, and other things. It taught me to be more patient with people. It also made me question how people learned about other cultures. I never questioned where I was from growing up but the more people ask "where are you from"  the more it dawned on me that I am from another country. I found more ignorance than understanding in people growing up. I also found humor from those who didn't really understand what a Korean adoptee is.

As a Korean male, was it difficult growing up to date women? If so what advice could you give to younger Korean teenagers/young adults about dating?

I have always been in love with white women. I never found interest in Asian women, not because i found them unattractive but I was growing up in a mostly all white school for 12 years of my life. I chased and chased girls my entire life. It was hard to go up to girls growing up and just feeling okay about asking them out. It wasn't that they would come right out and say, "You’re Asian and I don't find that attractive" but I could get a sense it was part of it. I have dated a lot of women in my life. I have found love only a few times but those who are no longer around actually looked at me for me and not just my outer shell. They took the time to get to know me. Probably why they aren't around anymore haha. I have gone through a lot of change growing up when it comes to dating. I found that its more about the person than it is about anything else. I'd tell younger adults or teenagers, take your time finding someone. Don't be afraid to go up to someone who you find attractive but also listen to that person. Just because you find that person physically attractive doesn't mean they are intelligently attractive, spiritually attractive, or emotionally attractive. Find out what you really want first then go find that. 

Do you want to travel to South Korea? If so what would you be excited about? What are you nervous about? When I was younger I never had an interest in traveling to Korea but as I have gotten older and wiser, I find myself more and more fascinated by the idea of visiting. I would love to see how the country is holding up. Where certain land marks are. I want to eat the food especially. I would be most nervous about communication there. I would hope it would be easy to communicate with people and really take in everything. 


What made you want to get started  in production?

Film, movies, theater, acting and anything entertaining has always been my focus in life. I love to see peoples reactions to anything. My mom and my two sisters would spend hours watching musicals. My dad and my brother would go watch action films in theaters and then spend hours talking about them. I love to get away from my mind and movies, music and theater have always helped. I didn't know until later in life that film and creating content was my true passion in life.


As a content creator in Detroit, how do you feel about the Asian representation in the industry? Does this ever bother you/phase you?

I believe Asian representation in the film industry has come along way from the old days of white males and females playing the roles of real oriental people. I see Asians really being taken seriously and not only for Kung Fu movies or Korean soap operas. It still has a long way to go but as of right now we have so many wonderful talents working in the industry that are truly paving the way for others. It is a wonderful start to something great.

What advice would you give to an Asian American who wants to become a videographer/production?

My advice would be just go out there and learn. Go out and try anything you find creative or fun (keeping everyone and thing safe of course). Don't be afraid of what others will tell you. Criticism is all apart of learning and growing as a creator and with that you should take it all in and hone your skills.