Photo by: Adriana Aguilar

Known to her followers as JENerationDIY, this popular Canadian YouTuber is branching out from her DIY, fashion and beauty content to return to her first passion – music. Vancouver's Jennifer Zhang recently released "Falling To Your Knees" – a track written in response to a racial, hate-fueled comment made on one of her YouTube videos. Though she is adored by more than 2.5 million subscribers, Zhang still faces discrimination and negativity.

“With the outbreak of COVID-19, I along with many other Asians had to deal with a lot of racism and hate speech.”

With her latest single, the young artist looks to inspire others to accept themselves and embrace their own unique identities. JEN Z recalls fearing ridicule growing up for expressing her culture that was amplified by the lack of media representation. As a result, she shunned her heritage as a means of fitting in. Zhang now uses her personal experiences – both positive and negative, to inspire others to unapologetically be – and celebrate, who they are.

“I'm finally at a place in my life where I don't want to fit into what the world wants me to be. I no longer feel like I need to pretend that being Asian isn't a part of who I am, so I wanted to create something that expressed this and show others like me that it's okay to not follow what you're being told you need to do.” 

Playing piano for 16 years and being a part of school choirs throughout her life, Zhang's passion for music is nothing new but rather one she was too shy to share with the world – until recently.

“Releasing original music was a way for me to step outside of my comfort zone to share with the world something that I’ve been wanting to do for a long time.”

The brand new "Falling To Your Knees" music video works to capture the feeling of control and constraint that racism, misogyny, and societal standards have had on Zhang and how she is ultimately working to break free of that, express who she truly is, and take back the control.

Always creating, writing and recording, JEN Z is excited to share more of herself  – and her new music, in the near future.

Q: What inspired you to tackle the music world while simultaneously being one of Canada’s most successful Youtubers?

I’ve always been super passionate about music, playing piano for 16 years and joining the school choir etc., but I was always too shy to release original music until recently. Songwriting is one of the only ways I feel comfortable expressing my thoughts and emotions, and I also find the process of creating a song so fun. Releasing original music was a way for me to step outside of my comfort zone to share with the world something that I’ve been wanting to do for a long time.

Q: Tell us about your single “Falling To Your Knees”:

A couple months ago, when the pandemic was picking up, I started getting some racist comments on my videos, and I wrote this song in response. Even though I wrote this song out of frustration in that certain moment, I see it as a culmination of the years of thoughts I’ve wanted to express and me finally standing up for myself, taking back the control. The process of making the song was very DIY and low budget. I made a demo track on GarageBand and recorded the vocals in my bedroom with pillow and blankets to absorb the echo in the room. Because of quarantine, I sent off the track to get produced remotely. The whole process was really interesting and super fun.

Q: What can you tell us about your music video for the track?

One of my favourite films of all time is “Ex Machina,” and I really felt inspired by this movie for the music video. Essentially I’m portraying a robot whose every thought and action is being controlled by a man who is the evil genius creator. He tells me what to wear, how to eat, and how to act, and at first I go along because I don’t know any better, but as I start to “malfunction” in his eyes, he builds himself a new robot who will follow his directions. It’s then that I realize I’m a robot and that I’ve never had any true control over my thoughts or actions, and I plot to overthrow him and break free. I wanted the video to reflect the feelings of being controlled by societal expectations for women and people of colour and how I’m learning to break free of those shackles and take back control of my life.

Q: How important is it to embrace your heritage and create representation for people possibly facing the same discrimination that you did/do?

I think representation of all types of people in the media is so important in order to accurately reflect what society looks like in real life. Nobody deserves to feel othered or like they don’t belong because they don’t fit the norm. Growing up I’ve always felt the pressures of societal standards for what a girl should look like and act, as well as the struggles of fitting in as an Asian Canadian. There were always parts of myself that I would be scared to express or embrace because I would be made fun of for my culture, food, and features. But over the years, it gets tiring trying to hide parts of yourself, and so it feels good to finally start embracing everything that makes me who I am.

Q: What advice can you give to others who face racism and hate speech?

It’s not a reflection of you, but a reflection of the hate in those people’s hearts and inability to accept anything that is different.

Q: What is the secret behind building a dedicated fan base?

Being authentic and being yourself. I know it’s so cliche, but I think it’s so important for people to see that you’re a real human being with real thoughts and feelings because it gives them a way to connect to you.

Q: What’s getting you through these times?

A lot of facetime calls with my friends and Among Us game sessions.

Q: What’s next for JEN Z?

I’m always writing and recording new music, so hopefully that will see the light of day very soon! I’m really excited for people to hear what I have coming, but for now, stay tuned.