How BTS and TikTok Have Impacted Representation, According to Japanese Breakfast’s Michelle Zauner: ‘It’s so Much Cooler to Be Mixed Race’

Crying in H Mart author Michelle Zauner is half-Korean, sharing her thoughts on representation in pop culture. That, of course, included BTS’ impact, as well as the inclusion of social media platforms like TikTok.

Michelle Zauner is the author of ‘coming-of-age’ memoir, ‘Crying in H Mart’

V of BTS, Michelle Zauner of Japanese Breakfast, and J-Hope, Jungkook, RM, Jin, and Jimin of BTS attend the 64th Annual GRAMMY Awards
V of BTS, Michelle Zauner of Japanese Breakfast, and J-Hope, Jungkook, RM, Jin, and Jimin of BTS attend the 64th Annual GRAMMY Awards | Emma McIntyre/Getty Images for The Recording Academy

She’s the New York Times bestselling author behind Crying in H Mart. In a recent interview, Zauner compared Crying In H Mart to Catcher in the Rye, with the memoir detailing her relationship with her mother. 

Zauner also writes about her experience growing up with the band Japanese Breakfast, especially “In Heaven” off Psychopomp.

Japanese Breakfast’s Michelle Zauner commented on BTS and TikTok’s impact on representation

As a mixed raced artist and author, Zauner shared her thoughts on representation in pop culture. Social media impacted accessibility, she noted, with streaming and TikTok ingrained in the music industry.

“I don’t think I really felt that way until the last five years, with the popularity of K-pop and BTS,” Zauner said during an interview with Rolling Stone. “And the internet has such a huge part of it now.” 

Thanks to social media, BTS reached a global audience, appearing in virtual concerts during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic and hosting live streams. J-Hope became the first Korean artist to headline Chicago’s Lollapalooza. 

The “Dynamite” and “Butter” music videos broke YouTube records. Recently, the BTS members created individual Instagram accounts and videos on the group’s TikTok account.

“You’re scrolling through TikTok and you can watch a Nigerian family eating their cuisine,” Zauner continued. “You have this crazy insight into representation that we never saw before because there’s no gatekeeping. I feel like it’s so much cooler to be mixed race, and so not cool to be a white person right now.”

In April 2022, Zauner met the BTS members at the Grammy Awards. There, she was nominated in the Best New Artist category, while BTS snagged a nomination for Best Pop Duo/Group Performance.


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Michelle Zauner described growing up half-Korean

Even the band name Japanese Breakfast is a dichotomy of something foreign (Japan) to something quintessentially American (Breakfast.) As described in Crying in H Mart, Zauner had a unique relationship with her Korean roots, especially connecting to her mother’s culture through food.

“I never felt ashamed of being Korean,” Zauner said in the same interview, “but I really didn’t like feeling like people were projecting some kind of stereotype on me in a way that I had no control over. I never wanted anyone to think of me as docile, or agreeable, or hyper-feminine.”

“In some ways, my personality morphed into something that was in direct opposition to that,” she continued. “To a point where it’s like, I don’t even know if those parts were true to who I am, or if they were just my rebellion to what I felt like was being projected onto me.”