#46 Social Media and the Future of Queer Visibility with Mike Curato
This episode, we’re joined by Mike Curato, a gay first generation half Filipino-Irish American author and illustrator of books. He has created many picture books for young children, including his debut queer young adult graphic novel, Flamer, and upcoming books centering diverse creators and audiences.
In this episode, we chat about:
- The launch of Flamer and how it was one of the most banned, talked about books of 2023
- The difficulties with social media burnout, online bullying, and doomscrolling
- Strategies to protect our own mental health, energy, and peace
- Consuming content mindfully and compassionately
- Defining our own metrics – what impact are things having on us?
- Latest project highlighting community, diversity, and love
- Our upcoming projects for 2024 and beyond
You can find our guest at:
You can follow me at:
- Instagram: @stevenwakabayashi
- YouTube: @stevenwakabayashi
- Subscribe to my weekly newsletter: mindfulmoments.substack.com
- Visit our website yellowglitterpodcast.com
Mike Curato: Look at all the conversations surrounding book banning now, we’re not talking about gun violence in schools as much, we’re not talking about how educators are insanely underpaid for the job that they do, we’re not talking about all these other issues, right? And it’s like low hanging fruit, right?
Because it’s easy to point the finger and It makes sense, right? Because we’ve made so many gains in the last decade or 20 years or whatever, like queer folks have a voice now we have visibility. We’re not just lurking in the shadows, no, we’re out, honey, and we’re not going anywhere.
Steven Wakabayashi: Hi everyone. My name is Steven Wakabayashi and you’re listening to another episode of Yellow Glitter, a mindfulness through the eyes and soul of queer Asian perspectives. This episode, we’re joined by an extra special returning guest, Mike Curato. Mike Curato is a gay, first generation, half Filipino, Irish American author and illustrator of books. He has created many picture books for young children, including his debut queer young adult graphic novel, Flamer, and upcoming books centering diverse creators and audiences. Welcome back to the podcast, Mike!
Mike Curato: Hey, Steven. Hey, everybody.
Steven Wakabayashi: We’re so excited to have you back. And since you’ve launched, a lot has happened in your life.
Mike Curato: Just a little bit, yeah.
Steven Wakabayashi: We’ll get into it in a sec. But with all that has happened in the past year, just even looking at 2023, and as we’re rounding it out the year, anything that has come up for you as maybe like themes or thoughts? Thanks. That’s come up.
Mike Curato: So you mentioned my graphic novel Flamer, which in 2022 was one of the most banned and most challenged books in America.
So you know, that has had its consequences for me. And you and I have talked a bunch offline about social media. And so I’ve definitely. I’ve been very busy talking about censorship and book banning, and it’s taken up a huge chunk of my life. So, yeah, do we want to get into that?
Steven Wakabayashi: Let’s start there. It was definitely a rollercoaster ride. I think it was funny that we were just at the beginning of the launch last time we talked, right?
And I read Flamer. I thought it was an amazing, beautiful graphic novel that I would have loved when I was growing up, and I thought it touched on so many facets of… understanding our identity and I won’t spoil it too much, but just the whole notion of sitting in this heteronormative world and navigating our queer identity within it.
And it was just so fascinating to see how so much of our political landscape and divide in our country here in the U. S. had such an impact on the reception to it. And I saw you just from the sidelines, on social media so much talking about what queer visibility look like, the impact to our communities and just our larger world on book bannings.
And I was just like, wow, Mike is Definitely doing the most.
Mike Curato: Yeah, the most, yeah. Too much.
Steven Wakabayashi: Yeah, and I thought it would be great to just have a conversation. You and I have talked about just the role of social media, and I thought it would also be really important and pertinent for folks to, be a part of our conversation.
And so why don’t I just start there of just coming out of maybe in the beginning of the launch of the book, right? And as you had to enter the foray of the world, what has that been like?
Mike Curato: Yeah, well, I’ll say that the book came out in fall 2020 and for a year, year and a half, like it was all gravy.
I didn’t have any negative feedback. Like I really didn’t. And just for context, I don’t want to talk for too long about What’s going on with censorship? One, because I talk about it all day, and two, because there are so many resources now, that explain what’s going on, but basically, a lawmaker in Texas came out with a McCarthy era style list of books that he demanded be put under investigation, and these were books for youth, and most of that list, have books written by or featuring characters who are diverse, whether that’s like people of color, whether that’s like sexual identity, whether that’s like trans folks, many women, you get the picture here. And, you know, it’s a, it’s an old school fascist tactic of distraction and scapegoatism. So just mentioning that for context.
And so ever since then, the conversation about my book has shifted away from, Hey, here’s a great resource for teens. Here’s a great book on disability for queer youth, for Asian youth. And now it’s about, you know, whatever, whatever things they’re making up about it. You know, calling it pornography, which it is not.
So there’s that.
Steven Wakabayashi: It’s a lot to unpack. I mean, since you launched in 2020, it wasn’t an issue. Why now?
Mike Curato: Picking up where I mentioned before, this is a distraction. Look at all the conversations surrounding book banning now.
We’re not talking about gun violence in schools as much. We’re not talking about how educators are insanely underpaid for the job that they do. We’re not talking about all these other issues, right? And it’s like low hanging fruit, right, because it’s easy to point the finger, at minority groups, especially queer people.
And I think it makes sense, right? Because we’ve made so many gains in the last decade or 20 years or whatever. Queer folks have a voice now. We have visibility. We’re not just, lurking in the shadows. Waiting for the sunshine. No, we’re out, honey, and we’re not going anywhere. Yeah.
Steven Wakabayashi: And companies want to monetize us.
Mike Curato: They want to monetize that. Yeah. So it’s like, we have, we have a voice and that’s flying in, in the face of some more conservative, leaning folk, I think. And so it’s easy, right? To play upon people’s fears and prejudices and be like, these people are the reason why you have problems. It’s just tales as old as time and something that I think queer folks are used to.
We can see, legislatively, I mean, hundreds and hundreds, like we’re up to 800 some odd bills brought against LGBTQ people, mostly against trans people. It’s, it’s a response, right? It’s a response to the ground that we’ve gained.
Steven Wakabayashi: Yeah. And also, I think Not just the queer community, but even the Asian community, right?
You’re working on some stuff around how folks in our communities, more than ever, I think we have visibility to see when there’s institutional violence happening and, just like going back to all these legislations, and I kind of want us to talk next about the social media stuff, but just… My last note with all of this is, I love the point that you mentioned around, there are these other issues actually people are going through, right?
Right now. Yeah. That it’s so fascinating how a lot of these arguments and things that people talk about in the legislations, sometimes they’re so heavily about these what ifs, right? Well, what if this happens? What if this? What if this person reads this book and what would happen to them? Whereas, let’s talk about just something so basic and fundamental, food insecurity.
Yeah. How is it possible we have all the resources right now in the world, right, and in our country, more than enough, and we can feed people multiple times over, but yet we still are suffering? These things that are so fundamental that we have never really gotten past, and it’s so fascinating how, I mean, not even fascinating, but it is true, right?
How as we’re going towards another election cycle that these things… These what ifs and these fear tactics and all these things are ramping up as a part of it.
Mike Curato: Totally.
Steven Wakabayashi: And you are such a staunch advocate for, I think, not only your book, but also across many books on social media, talking about these bans and the impact of it.
And just, I’ll start with myself and my relationship with social media has really changed. Over the past few years, and for many folks, you’ll see that I’m not on social media as much anymore because I was definitely in the loophole of just having so much, just as a consumer, having such a deluge of information hitting me.
But even as a creator, feeling as though I was forced to talk about these things, feeling as though I had to be forced to consume content to then talk about it. And what I realized was I was spending, 10, 20, 30 hours a week on just social media. Yeah. And feeling as though after having created stuff around it, being drained, exhausted, feeling great coming out of it.
And so at least for myself, many few years, like many past few years, has just been about reconciling that relationship that I had with social media. And I want to start there too, of just what has that been like for you? And that journey of going to talk about all this social media and maybe also what does that reconciling look like for you?
Mike Curato: I would say I definitely experienced social media burnout in the last year. I mean, much like you were saying, I was spending so much time consuming information, trying to respond to things, put things out. I was also receiving a lot of online hate. So it’s playing a dance with, you know, like changing settings and reporting people and screenshotting this and that and yeah, it’s truly exhausting and I think that it’s really impacted my mental health.
I definitely hit a wall at a certain point and it’s impacted my work schedule, you know, I’m still expected to do my job. Which is making new books, not just talk about my existing books all the time. So I’ve definitely fallen behind in my work schedule, which impacts my finances, which impact, a myriad of things.
And also I deserve to have a life, right? I deserve to not have to think, breathe, talk, book censorship every day. It’s just not sustainable. So I’ve had to make some big decisions this year. Actually two days ago, I deleted my Twitter account. Girl, bye. I’m done.
Steven Wakabayashi: Wow. X.
Mike Curato: It’s very exciting. Yeah, yeah, yeah.
I put an X on the X, over it. I actually stopped, you know, when, when a certain someone took over that company. You know, a lot was happening, a lot was being dismantled in terms of, safety, I think, and so I stayed off of it for a while, and then I got kind of pulled back in because I had to promote a book that was coming out, and then got caught up in some ugly things on there, and I was like, no, I don’t need this, so stepped away, I gave my password to my sister, I, changed the password, I don’t want to be on there.
And it’s been, I’ve been months off of it, and I realize, I’m much happier not being a part of that black hole, and, we’re currently recording in October, so maybe last week. Something, I got an email about how their privacy settings are changing yet again. And it just sounded like, no, I’m not giving you any more of my personal information.
I just don’t need this anymore. And so I called my sister and I was like, just delete this for me. And we did. And… Yeah, I’m really excited. It’s, and I, I primarily am active on Instagram. Sometimes I’m on TikTok, rarely am I on Facebook. And I think it’s still a useful tool in some ways. I mean, I still have to promote my work, but even that, it’s just making a reel for a TikTok, I mean, that can take up, end up taking up like a few hours of one’s time. I can’t afford to spend that time. I just can’t. And so I’ve been staying off of it a lot. I, I use, an app that locks me out of social media, especially when I’m trying to get stuff done, because it has become a habit where I’m like, Oh, I need a minute breather. I’m just gonna open up this app and you fall into a hole for like 20 minutes.
Like, oh crap, like I have to get back to work. So that’s, that’s partly where I’m at right now.
Steven Wakabayashi: Yeah.
I think there’s so many nuggets there. I’ll just go backwards. Around breaks. Isn’t it so fascinating that we quit consuming content as a part of taking a break, you know, and people are like, Oh, I’m going to take a five minute break and go on social media.
It’s like, no, you can actually go outside. You can sleep..
Yeah, it’s not a break, actually. Yeah. And, and these products have been designed and, you know, coming from my background, having worked in that landscape, you have people with PhDs in social science, behavioral science. Creating the mechanisms to consume content and that whole aspect around almost going to this, right, this dark hole, 20 minutes have passed, you don’t know what has happened.
All of this has been constructed in a way so that happens purposefully, right? And then The other notion around like deleting accounts and having these boundaries, I think that’s phenomenal. Amazing, right? The one app that I use is called One second, one sec, I think. And it actually, every time you launch certain apps that you tag, what it will do is it’ll have this loader that takes about a minute.
It’ll say Hey, just take a one minute long breath before it opens the app. And so you kind of get to rethink is it worth opening? And surprisingly, I’ve actually said, No, I’m good. I don’t need this app. And that one minute pause before it launched was enough for me to actually rethink was it something where I wanted to spend my time.
Mike Curato: Mm. That’s an interesting tactic. Mm hmm. I think something that I try to track also is like, Hey, how do I feel after I spend that 20 minutes? on whatever. I feel like oftentimes than not, I’m not like, gee, I’m really glad I, I’m really glad I scrolled through my feed for 20 minutes. I rarely think that to myself, I mean, every now and then, I guess it’s one thing if a friend like sends me a, a post of something, that they, They know that I’ll laugh at and whatever like that’s that can be cute because it’s like okay I’m interacting with a friend and we’re laughing about this thing together but just like sitting there by myself I’m like yeah oh I don’t know and then it’s also easy to like doom scroll right where it’s like something can be going on and it’s like oh my god I’m just Falling down this rabbit hole of like, of awfulness and I mean, Steven, you and I have talked about consuming news and how are we learning about things these days? Is it enough to just read someone’s post and be like, now I know about this whole situation? Or is it like, oh, I actually, I have to educate myself? Read a book or talk to someone who has, first hand experience of what this is like. And I’m not saying it’s not useful to, have those kinds of posts, but, I mean, even me just posting my little song and dance about, censorship, I didn’t just tell you everything you need to know, obviously, and, there are so many layers to it, socially, politically, all these different people that it impacts, and, I have a unique perspective as an author, I don’t have the same perspective as say like a student that’s being directly influenced, an educator that’s having their, their job threatened or being threatened with jail time and in states like Florida.
Steven Wakabayashi: Those are all really important points, right, I think where that 7 15 second video is great are for life hacks, right? You go on TikTok, you find a life hack, amazing, right? But the nuances around certain, to your point, social, political, economical, problems and issues that have plagued communities, countries, the world for years.
How can we distill all of that into a 15 second video without really understanding, I think the key word here is nuance, right? Even this whole concept of bad versus good, where there’s the enemy versus the non enemy, and as we break down the complexity of that, everything is a mix of bad and good, and certain people might have a little more, you know, things that aren’t great that they push out, and some people might have a lot more things that are beneficial and even though that whole context, right, bad and good, it can be flip flopped depending on who is impacted by, right?
And yeah, it’s, I think what we’re starting to lose, especially talking about the news cycle, right? And also even on this podcast. We used to talk a lot more about current events and why we haven’t put any specific ones is not because we don’t want to talk about it, but after we do the editing, the production and all this stuff with the podcast, we’re already in another news cycle, like four other cycles have passed and the relevancy of it has gone.
And so a big, I think, challenge has been, especially as we’re talking about creating stuff ourselves in our own ecosystem here. We’re starting to talk about the things that are much higher order because I think they are really pertinent and they’re like themes that I think people are struggling with but it’s just going back to the whole aspect of news and just speaking from my experience, I felt that I was on this rat race of creating content to trying to be relevant, to make it relevant. And at the end, I was like, I’m never going to beat this. I’m never going to beat this beyond, right?
Organizations and institutions that literally employ hundreds of journalists. Just to cover these things and create all these buzzy, bitey, sound bitey things. Or even creators that have the whole week dedicated to make all this because this is their livelihood. And realizing that, you know, one, like, I can’t, you know, chase this and compete against this as an institution.
But the second part is, and this goes back to the thing that you mentioned earlier, like, how do I feel? But not just from the consumer side, but as a creator side. After I made this and I put it out, how did I feel? And 9 times out of 10 I was like, I’m tired, I’m cranky, I have no more energy for the things that I need to be doing, right?
Yeah. And lastly, I was feeling as though I was forced to do it. Rather than it was coming from this place of joy and enjoyment.
Mike Curato: Yeah, I think, I think it is about measuring costs, right? Mm hmm. Mental, emotional costs, and then, you know, a lot of what I was doing, I mean, that’s technically unpaid labor, right, where, yeah, I feel like, oh my gosh, I should do every interview that I can.
I should respond to every… new story. I should, should, should, should. And it’s like, well, I could. I don’t know if I should now that I’m, looking back, I’m like, I don’t know if I should respond to everything. I don’t know if I, if I need to give away my time. when I, I could be, as you said, focusing on something that I care about even more.
I’m working on a book right now that I think could be very impactful and could help other people. And like my art, my writing, that is my biggest tool when it comes to activism and like using my own voice. That’s the metric that I’m using now. It’s like how much time away from that project is really worth it. Compare the impact that either one’s going to make, I need to focus on what I’m here for, like what my job is and that is to use my art to comment. on society and, and how I feel about it. So that’s where I’ve been leaning my energy towards these days.
Steven Wakabayashi: I think that’s beautiful.
Mike Curato: And making decisions, making decisions, having to say no. I think a lot of times saying no is saying yes to something else.
Steven Wakabayashi: Where was that, let me ask you, where was that pivot point when, was there something that had happened that you were like, I’ve got to change this, or was there a moment when you had a reflection, like where, where was that moment where you’re like, I’m going to shift a lot of this stuff.
Mike Curato: Yeah, I think it was late spring, early summer, maybe late spring this year. You know, it’d been a whole school year cycle of band books crap. And I was doing so much, I was doing so many interviews and like, And just stressing out about it, I, I think I mentioned earlier how, you know, I, I re re entered the Twitterverse to promote something.
But then I got sucked into like some really ugly stuff about censorship and I remember this one day in particular, it was a few days, but there was this one Twitter thread that was like especially horrendous to me. And it really impacted a trip that I was on. Like we were driving somewhere, my partner and I, and I saw this thread and I was like, God, it just like put me in such a negative space.
And so I like, I closed the app. I’m like, okay, I’m not going on there anymore on this trip. And then when I got back, I started, you know, I went back and I was whatever, reporting, blocking, blah, blah, blah. And I just broke down. I called my sister. And that’s when I gave her my password. But I was like, there are people in the world who actually believe these lies about me.
You know, I’ve been called some pretty awful things. Like I’ve been called a groomer and a pedophile and you name it. And it’s like, at a certain point, even though I know, okay, they don’t know who I am and those are lies and I know that. But knowing that there are people in this world that honestly believe that about me without Having done any kind of like research or like, you know, they just take it at face value like, Oh, because someone said so, I’m now a predator.
And people actually believe that about me. And I was like, I, I can’t, you know, I just can’t be a part of that space where people are allowed to just say the very worst things about people. And yeah, that’s when I was like, you know what? I have two more interviews scheduled. in the next week and a half. I’m going to do those and
I’m saying no, it’s everything else this summer. I just can’t anymore. You know, and maybe there were like, maybe there’s one or two things that I ended up doing because they were, I thought, high profile enough that it could maybe make some difference. But yeah, that was it. And then moving into this fall, I just, You know, I saw the writing on the wall with my own production schedule and it’s like, Oh my God, look at all this work I have to do.
Like I have to really batten down the hatches and like get to work. I mean, I not only said no to a lot of requests from media, from educators, from students, which I feel bad about, right? Like I feel like I’m letting people down, but at the same time, I’m like, I gotta do my thing. But I’ve also said no to like things that I want to do, like trips and concerts and, and whatever.
And that’s not to say that I’m, I’m not still, I mean, it’s important to refuel and take care of oneself and like have time off. But I’m just saying I’ve had to make some serious cuts from lots of different sectors of my life in order to make room for my creative life. So that’s what it came down to.
What is most important to me in my life? It’s the people that I love and my art, and I have to protect, my relationships with people and my time for my craft.
Steven Wakabayashi: Yeah. I deeply resonate with that, where there has been a few instances when I’ve hung out with my friends and I brought so much of this very heavy… Side of Steven and we’re just like the whole time we’re just talking about all the things that are wrong with the world Right, and you know, sometimes I do have that side of me But there are times when I was like I should have you know seen that maybe you know The bandwidth for everyone that I was with at the time Maybe it was already low, but also realizing that it doesn’t have to be my whole life.
My life does not have to be the news cycle. And I have had a few friends tell me Steven, we get this is a big part of your life, but this is also not putting you in a good mood. Uh huh. Right? And I like relate so much with that, where it’s like the trip, where it’s like you, you’re coming in with this good intention, but it’s, draining you beyond your capacity and not realizing that you’re not showing up as your best authentic self because it’s taken that away, you know?
Yeah, I think with the portion of Just the time that we have left in the world. So I was actually reading an article someone sent me where, have you, have you seen those posters that have like one dot for each week that you have left of your life, right? And it just maps out.
Mike Curato: Oh, geez. No, I haven’t.
Steven Wakabayashi: So, so there’s this matrix someone made where basically each dot represents a week of your life and they mapped it out to a rough average of like 90 years for the average lifespan of an individual.
And it’s not that many dots, actually, because it’s only like 52, and then you multiply that by 90, so it’s about, you know, a few hundred rows.
Mike Curato: Yeah, I just Googled it, so I’m looking at it now, and it’s like, um, okay, wow.
Steven Wakabayashi: Right? So, there’s really not that much. And then, okay, I’ll add this one onto your foray.
So, an author also took that a step further and said, What are the life events that happen in a year, realistically, and how many times do I have left of that in my whole life, right? And so they mapped out how many, and this person is like a big sports fan, so like how many, you know, championship games are left in their lifetime, but they had more around relationships and family, like I visit my family once a year and they’re only going to survive up to this many years. They’re like, I only have 20 trips left to visit these people, right? And they’re like, it’s so fascinating to put in a perspective this reality that we, what we actually have is so limited.
And going back to how this fits within the larger sphere of like social media, right? We might not realize that, these 7 minutes, or this 20 minute that disappeared, and, while numerically that might seem so little in the scope of a day, if it’s draining us, if we’re not showing up to these moments and these commitments we have with people, other projects, right, And that squanders these other larger order things.
Yeah. What we might not realize is that, like, 20 minutes has really impacted these things that we only have a limited number of, right?
Mike Curato: Totally. Yeah, I think about the time where it’s like, you know what, at the end of my life, I’m not gonna look back and be like, God, I wish I was on social media more. You know, I’m not going to say that,
Steven Wakabayashi: I wish I had more X accounts, right?
Mike Curato: Oh my gosh, I just, I never saw enough reels. I never, I never commented or liked enough. I never, it’s like, oh my God.
Steven Wakabayashi: I never had enough followers.
Mike Curato: Right? Oh my God.
Steven Wakabayashi: But it’s true.
Mike Curato: It is true, and I think it’s, it’s so weird the sort of social cachet that we, the sort of social value that we place on, on things like follow count and, and likes and stuff like that, where, so on Instagram, I have a blue check mark.
And so when. You know, sometimes I’ll meet new people and they’ll be like, oh, are you on Instagram? And it’s like, yeah, sure. You know, instead of being, what’s your phone number? It’s what’s your social media? And they’ll be like, whoa, blue check mark, you know? I don’t know what that really tells you about me as a person though.
There are a lot of people with blue check marks in the world who are assholes. And there are people without blue check marks who are incredible people making big, a big difference in the world. I, you know, it’s like, it just, it just doesn’t matter.
Steven Wakabayashi: Yeah, man. And going back to when we see the bigger scope of our lives and even like news, right, regardless of if it’s on social media, I don’t say to myself, Oh my God. I wish I had consumed more news and I’m at a point where I would actually go into the news to look at it for the whole week like roughly what’s happened and I’m trying to get out of this like day to day news cycle understanding there’s so many things that happen But a question that I had to ask myself was, am I willing to give up my day to understand everything that’s happened?
It’s almost like a FOMO, but in a news capacity, right? And I think we have to kind of let go and release some of that because in reality, we cannot understand what happens to, what, 7, 8 billion people on this earth and what they’ve done in a day, to catch up on the day for everyone, there is going to be stuff that we just will never understand, right?
Mike Curato: Yes. And can I add that like, as queer people, as Asian people, as et cetera, et cetera, we know that there are many stories that go unreported, that are a big deal, you know? Big stuff happening right now that we’re not hearing about, um, and there, there always has been and there always will be because yeah, as you said, like, it’s just impossible first of all, with like the sheer number of people.
And then just the importance of how different people’s stories matter in the context of a society. Certain stories are going to get shared and others. Not so much. And then whose perspective of that story are we hearing?
Steven Wakabayashi: Yeah, well, one immediately coming to mind was, what was that documentary about the Stonewall riots?
And it’s just like all these attractive gay white twinks were like on the front lines. I was like,
Mike Curato: Oh, that movie, that awful movie. Oh, no, I did not go see it because I saw the trailer. I was like, Oh, I’m sorry. What is happening right now? Yeah. It’s not what happened. And then I was reading how the, I don’t know, whoever, the director or the writer or someone was like trying to defend his choice of like, well, we needed a character that was more relatable, more mainstream, and I was like, honey, like, get out.
Steven Wakabayashi: Artistic interpretation. That’s what he said.
Mike Curato: Yes. Like, half your kit, you’re going home. Like, I don’t want to, you know what I mean? I, wow. Yeah. At least, at least like. That didn’t do well at all, I don’t think. I don’t even think… Yeah. I think most gays were like, pass. Yeah, hard pass.
Steven Wakabayashi: But that’s the point, right?
It’s, there’s so many stories that are happening, but then all these stories that people are also fabricating, and then having their own artistic interpretation of, and I mean, I just go back to even what is on TikTok. You see all of this content that’s also being regurgitated from books that people are not even reading.
There’s some creators who literally just read like the cliff notes of a book and start creating content off of it. And for myself, like I read a lot and I read a lot of just personally and just like, you know, self improvement, self realization, self actualization from just like a bunch of different authors.
A lot of BIPOC authors have written a lot of amazing books on like trauma. I read so much about it and it’s so fascinating. I’ll watch TikTok videos and I’m just like, I know exactly where you got this from, but this isn’t even close to what the author had written or talked about. And they’re using these like terminologies or even like the phrasing of it.
And this is what I’ve been saying to people is, you know, At least going to the root source of some of these things, you’re going to get what is really the essence of maybe 50%, 70 percent of a lot of what TikTok is talking about now because all these creators are just trying desperately to make all this like short form content, right?
Right. But going back to maybe how we’re like consuming content and I guess the lesson here is it’s just like opening our perspectives up to Realizing that, there’s so much stuff out there, that is fighting for our attention. And we have to feel empowered to figure out where we put that energy towards, right?
Mike Curato: Yeah, there’s a, there’s a lot. There’s a lot to sort through.
Steven Wakabayashi: Yeah, but on the flip side, it’s so funny. I, I randomly also go on YouTube and I watch this channel called like Movie Recapped, and it just recaps these movies in like 15 minute segments, and I’m just like, great, I just didn’t want to watch that movie, let me just watch a 15 minute, like condensed version of it.
But I mean, to the point we’re talking about, I think they give credit to the author. They clearly use clips from the movie, right? And it’s not like their own interpretation of it. Yeah. But it’s interesting.
Mike Curato: Just the synopsis, yeah. Yeah. They’re not trying to like retell the movie. Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. Like all those TikToks and stuff you were talking about, it’s like, Okay, you’re just telling me that you own a thesaurus.
Like, I don’t… Mm hmm. You know what I mean? It’s like…
Steven Wakabayashi: Yeah.
Mike Curato: It’s nothing original.
Steven Wakabayashi: Yeah. Or even like in my realm, right? With like user experience, product design. I see a lot of these people giving these, recommendations of these, things to do or do in business, and it leaves out so much of the nuance of the processes, and, for example, so in our non profit at QTBIPOC Design, we run an accelerator program from September to December, we have one right now, and a big part of our bootcamp is underscoring what we’re trying to teach is less about the perfect tool, the perfect solutioning, the perfect thing that you’re going to put into your repertoire, but we’re teaching you a practice of how to adapt to situations. And some of the students get frustrated because they’re like, you just tell me what tool to use, tell me what app to use, tell me da da da da da.
And after having been in the industry for so long, it’s like, it’s never about that. And I’m sure it’s the same for you. It’s what am I illustrating on? What tools am I using? What’s the paper? What is the digital devices? Right? And it’s like, actually it is none of that. And I think it’s so funny you go back to the content that certain creators are desperately trying to create content.
Well, I’m going to give you these like short answers to some of these things, but. The reality is sometimes, even the recommendations we get and we consume now, how relevant is it going to be five years from now, ten years from now, right? Well, for you, maybe I want to flip to the other side of a shift that you’ve been making, right, with having reconciled a relationship with social media, deleting your ex account.
Can you share a little bit about maybe positives that have come out of it?
Mike Curato: Oh, yeah, I mean… I think that I’ve gotten way more love than hate, you know, to be honest. And is that a product of, you know, changing my settings? I, I think I, I do believe that though, that most people have been very supportive and I get tagged in things every day where someone’s talking about Flamer and how it’s impacted them positively and from all different age groups.
So that’s great. It’s great knowing, okay, despite all of these awful bans, there are still people accessing it and it’s in the world doing what it’s supposed to be doing. And that gives me a lot of fuel to continue making new work. And then the new work, you know, is where I find a lot of solace and it’s, it’s a seed for future hope, I think.
So the, the less time that I spend, focusing on the negative and the more time I spend focusing on the new thing that I’m creating, I don’t know, the more, I don’t know, present is the right word, but The more grounded I feel, maybe grounded is, I mean, I guess those are similar things, but the more useful I feel where I’m like, okay, this is not me trying to put out a fire or be on the defense or anything related to what someone else is trying to do or say to me.
This is no, this is coming from me. This is coming from my community, right? The book I’m working on, you know, I interviewed a lot of different people, this is my story, this is other people’s stories, and it’s a responsibility That I feel to put them in the world, you know, I mean, we were just talking about what stories have gone unreported and I, I like to think that this is something that’s trying to reconcile, you know, hey, here are some voices and experiences that don’t get the microphone much.
And that’s what I feel excited and passionate about. Yeah. So yeah, that’s. It’s giving me life,
Steven Wakabayashi: I mean, it’s a duality, right, where we can give attention to either the folks doing the marginalization and then the marginalized folks, right? And where are we putting our energy towards?
And what are we creating stuff around, right? And sometimes we forget, putting attention into our communities, into those who haven’t gotten attention before, and connecting with these folks, we don’t realize that We’re actually helping and benefiting tremendously, which takes me to the next topic of upcoming projects, things that you’re about to launch.
Mike Curato: Yes. By the time this podcast comes out, a compilation called Marvel Super Stories will have come out. And I have a short story in there about Wiccan, who is a Scarlet Witch’s son. He is a gay. He is gay. He is But just a cute little six page story, and they’re, this is like a middle grade age book, so a bunch of authors and illustrators were asked to like, take a Marvel character and tell a short story about it, so.
So that’ll be out, and also in, December, a new picture book that I illustrated, which is called If I Were a Fish, based on the… TikTok sensation. Everyone knows that song. It’s fine, we’re a fish. And that was written by Karouk and Olivia Barton. So that was pretty cool and like the fastest book project I’ve ever worked on.
Wow, I needed to stay off of social media during that time, let me tell you, and not do anything at all because I think I illustrated that whole book in three weeks. I was tired. And my like, marathon project that I’ve been working on for literally a few years, I think, is called Gaytions. Which, Steven, you know about, because you are one of the fine folks that I interviewed for the book.
And that’s not going to be out for a while, but I’m currently illustrating it. I, I wrote the book. It’s a graphic novel. It’s my first grown up book, as it were, but Gaysians is a story of four friends who call themselves the Boy Luck Club, and the story centers on The gay Asian American experience through the eyes of distinctly different people who all share a common struggle, right, of facing shame and demanding acceptance.
Steven Wakabayashi: Yeah. I think the narrative and the plot is something that I haven’t personally seen. And really excited to have it really be in the foray for our community members to take part in. The first thing is like friends, but geishas, and it’s yeah, it’s like their adventures. And I think there’s so much beauty in being able to tell so many complex stories that’s within our own community, because sometimes I think we get so lumped together as just one archetype, and I think it’s a beautiful narrative of many different stories.
Mike Curato: Yeah, like I wanted to show, you know, I think a gay, when you say gay Asian, you know, I think a certain stereotype may be conjured, and we’re not a monolith, they’re all different types of gay Asian people.
And I’ll also add that this story is kind of inspired by my own experience. I graduated college in 2003. I moved to Seattle from upstate New York, and pretty much all my friends in college were straight. Well, one of them came out, so that was a nice bonus. But Basically, all straight friends. And then, , when I moved to Seattle, I like started living my gay life, basically.
And I was lucky enough to meet a bunch of gay folks who took me under their wing. And most of those folks were Asian. And I didn’t realize at the time, like how important that was. It wasn’t until I lost that, right? We all started moving, like I came to Brooklyn, and I realized later, I had never been seen before in such a three dimensional whole way.
Those friends could understand me in a way that no other friends up to that point could understand my experience. And even though, yeah, we were different people, it’s like, oh, you just get it. You just, understand what I’m going through. So that is the inspiration. That and I’m obsessed with The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan, and I love how she’s able to tell all these different stories, through these different characters.
Even though her book is mostly about like her and her mother’s relationship and, you know, anyway, it was, it was a seed of inspiration and then I kind of did my own thing with it, but I do give Amy her flowers in the book, I’ll say.
Steven Wakabayashi: I think it’s beautiful. And it also points to the fact that when we do this work, We build off of each other, you know, and I think the way that you’re building off of it and making it so relevant for our communities, and especially our listeners, I think we should definitely do an episode when you launch it, when that happens, and share a little more.
Mike Curato: Yeah, 2025, so stay tuned, but that’ll be our agreement, Steven, and I just like pop on the show every like year or two, be like, guess what?
No, I, I totally am going to be on, yeah, when it comes out, like, yeah, very excited to share.
Steven Wakabayashi: Yes. Yes. And I am so excited for you. Just all the things that we talked about, I think it’s so relevant more than ever, and I just hear so much from my friends and also the community of just this struggle navigating this media, social media, news landscape.
And I just really appreciate you spending the time with us to talk about your experience with it. And before we go, I just wanted to ask a few questions. The first is, for our listeners, is there something that you just want to leave them with, a little lesson from our conversation today? .
Mike Curato: Are you getting enough rest?
Hmm. Here’s the question that I have to ask myself. I’m very worried for everyone ’cause I just feel like we don’t get enough rest, , and I know for me, I am constantly like worried about work, you know, oh my God, I didn’t do enough work today. Ah. And it’s like sometimes we kind of push our bodies and our minds like beyond, you know?
And so, I’ve tried, I’ll also say for, you know, woo woo listeners out there, I’m a Pisces, Sun, a Scorpio rising and a Capricorn moon and I feel like my water sign and my like earth sign are at odds with each other because my Capricorn internalness is like, girl, you need to get to work. What are you doing?
Come on, come on, come on. And like, you know, my Pisces is like, I’m tired. I’m tired all the time and I want to cry. And my Scorpios, I don’t know. Ready to pop off about something. So yeah, I think I’ve started looking at it from a perspective of Okay, the rest is actually an investment. The rest is to restore, the rest is to make myself stronger for getting the work done and doing the work well, you know, because they’re, you know, burnout is real and Not only social media costs up, but just overworking oneself.
So if that’s a little lesson that I’ve been going through lately. So I hope that, yeah, y’all are taking some recuperative moments for yourself.
Steven Wakabayashi: I love that. It’s a very important lesson for sustainability of ourselves, you know,
Mike Curato: especially that like, you know, I’ll just say since we’re. on your show, you know, the model minority myth of like, I have to, I have to do the work, I have to address, I have to meet demands, I have to, I have to, I have to.
Nope, no you don’t, not all the time, no.
Steven Wakabayashi: Such a good reminder. And coming out of that, maybe what is one thing that’s bringing you joy lately?
Mike Curato: One thing, I’m happy to report there, there’s more than one thing, but I guess I’ll, I’ll say the umbrella of fall. I know this is coming out in December, but I just love the autumn.
There’s something, there’s just something so, so great about it. I live in the Northeast, and so it’s getting crunchy, like the leaves are turning, the air is brisk and crisp, so I think being outdoors is really helpful to my spirit. All year round, but I don’t know. It’s a special time. I feel like fall doesn’t last long enough for me personally.
And part of fall also means It’s like beginning of baking season for me. So I just, I had my first bake the other day. I finished dinner and I was like, you know, I could use a little sweet thing. And I had frozen blueberries.
So I made a blueberry crumble and it was. to die. So, yes, celebrating fall and all of its, all of its things.
Steven Wakabayashi: Yum. And last question, how can people get in touch with you? How can people learn more about you?
Mike Curato: Well, we’ve talked a lot about social media. I can’t guarantee I will get back to you.
Steven Wakabayashi: That’s a good boundary.
Mike Curato: Right. Right. It’s at Mike underscore Curato. Tiktok is at Mike Curato, and my website is Mikecurato.Com, so you can check out all of my books and stuff like that there.
Steven Wakabayashi: Awesome. And if you want to learn more about our podcast, you can visit our website at YellowGlitterPodcast. com. And also, if you enjoyed this episode, give us a rating review.
That is how other people find out more about yellow glitter. And we appreciate you sitting with us, listening to our conversation, and also huge thanks to Mike for being on and having this beautiful, open hearted conversation. Thank you, Mike.
Mike Curato: Oh, big thanks to you, Steven, for doing this podcast , thank you so much.
Steven Wakabayashi: Yeah, and these are such, such needed conversations, and hopefully for folks listening, you might take a few nuggets out of it. And with that, we close the podcast, another wonderful, beautiful episode. Thank you, Mike, so much. And for those of you all, we wish you well. Bye now.