Sioejeng Tsao is not afraid to seek discomfort and does not shy away from confrontation. She is an artist, speaker and activist of Chinese descent born and based in Amsterdam, also known as SEEYOUSIOE. Her work, consisting of paintings and digital illustrations, is a colourful exploration of different social aspects like feminism, sustainability, racial justice, power dynamics, reclaiming space, gender and queerness.
Who are you today, and what is different from 10 years ago?
I am a feminist illustrator and activist who speaks her mind and tries to amplify the voices of the underrepresented. I would say that the biggest difference from now and ten years ago is that I was still searching for external validation, whereas now, I am finding more love within myself.
What advice would you give yourself at the age of 16?
Don't be afraid to be different. Stay authentic, bold and trust yourself. Never let others make you feel like you should play it small just because you are a woman of color.
From a creative standpoint, what or who has been your most significant influence?
I would definitely say the injustice in the world, even though that sounds quite heavy. But I feel like being an artist in this day and age comes with a responsibility to visualise what needs to be seen. Images or messages that don't come across in mainstream media, for example.
When you started working as an illustrator, did you already go about it with the idea that it would be so charged with activism?
No, I had no idea. I would've loved to just draw beautiful things with less of a load, but I feel like a queer woman of color many activist subjects matter to me personally. The art scene today is still very white, cis male and hetero. So, activism just influenced my work organically.
Your work focuses on different social aspects, especially feminist issues and racism against the Asian-Dutch population. This must take a lot of energy and a toll on you. I imagine speaking about different topics also attracts a lot of negative reactions. How do you cope with that?
It took some time for me to learn how to cope with negative reactions or private messages. But I've had so many beautiful reactions where people I barely even know share their personal stories and how it changed their perspective. That they feel seen and heard. Honestly, those reactions make me feel like I can push through and that it really does make a change. Making sure that I am conscious about my screen time and also turning off the ability to send me a private message as a follower if I don't know you on Instagram helped a lot.
What was the best personal or professional advice you were ever given?
I would say to think like a white man. What I mean by that is that we as women of color are taught to make ourselves smaller. That we should be thankful to live in a western society and always stay humble no matter the circumstances. Not to talk loud or take up space. So every time that I get a project request and I'm afraid to ask for more money, I remind myself that there is no white man who even hesitates to take up space and ask for what he deserves. The imposter syndrome is something we as women really need to unlearn to grow as successful entrepreneurs.
Where or what is your happy place? How do you find peace?
At home, with my dog and partner. Making sure to catch enough sunlight and walks through nature. Also, community over individuality. I really needed to learn that it's impossible to go through life all alone. We need our chosen family who understands and loves us for who we are and collaborate on beautiful ideas.
How important is a connection with nature for you? How do you nurture this connection?
Very important. I feel like a lot of people who live in the city are disconnected from nature and what it brings us. Which is literally fresh air and water. Because I have a dog, I make sure to take long walks through the park and see how happy she can get about the most silly things I wouldn't even have noticed if it wasn't for her.
How do you take care of your body, mind and soul?
I make sure I eat well. Sleep enough hours. Walking my dog. And I love to write in my journal to reflect on my past and manifest the future. Also, I would love to do yoga more, but it's hard to find places that are not culturally appropriated.
How do you take care of your skin?
Make sure to clean my face every day, also when I didn't wear any make-up. I used to have a whole Korean skincare routine, but I found out that too many products inflate my skin since I have eczema. So now it's just water, make-up remover, foam cleansing and a cream purifying toner.
Do you have any daily, weekly or monthly rituals?
I do an extensive tarot reading at home at the start of every month. It really helps us reflect on the past month and what we can expect or adjust for the upcoming month. But, honestly, it has never been wrong.
What is your guilty pleasure?
Listening to Ariana Grande and watching Temptation Island hahaha.
Can you share one piece of wisdom with our community, something you have gained in your life that will encourage women reading this to grow and find their inner strength and confidence?
Definitely to find your inner strengths and passion. Gaining knowledge on something that you're passionate about. Make time for the things you really love and care about. Learn how to save and earn money in ways that are more efficient than time-consuming. Be more gentle with yourself and unfollow accounts that make you feel insecure. Try to spend less time caring what other people think and try to do things not to impress others, but mostly yourself.
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