Alex Goya and Zol West are living their best lives as Asian influencers in Paris despite the criticisms that come their way.
In Emily in Paris, the titular Emily gets hired by a company in Paris and moves to the iconic city to live a life many people can only dream of. Spending your days wearing gorgeous outfits and seeing the sights, what’s not to love? But for Alex Goya and Zol West, the life that the show portrays is something they experience in real life. Raised in and around Paris, the two call Paris their home and over time, became some of the city’s popular personalities. This is despite the fact that Alex and Zol are both Asian and therefore a minority in Paris.
While Emily, being a white and straight Caucasian female, has the privilege, the same couldn’t be said for Alex and Zol. As POC and veritable outliers and targets for discrimination, that didn’t stop them from following their dreams. In fact, they have amassed millions of followers across social media. If they aren’t showing off the latest fashion trends, they doing K-pop-related content that has gone viral on the internet. We got a chance to talk to the two young influencers about their Asian heritage, their love of K-pop, how they deal with racism, and much more.
For those who are unfamiliar with you, could you describe yourself and what you do?
ZOL: Hi my name is Zol. I’m 22 years old. I am an influencer and content creator. I do dance, modeling, lifestyle, and funny videos on social media like Instagram, TikTok, and YouTube.
ALEX: I’m Alex. I’m 23. I live in Paris, but I was born in the suburbs. I’m a dancer, sometimes a model, and a content creator. I talk about fashion and how I change my hair color.
How was it like growing up in Paris?
ZOL: Growing up in Paris is very cool! I love the vibe of this city. Some people need calm and stability. Paris is very dynamic, lively!
ALEX: I was born in suburbs, but I was going to Paris all the time to hang out with my friends. So, I grow up in Paris. It’s like my hometown. That’s how I discovered the thrift store and thrift shopping.
How exposed are you to your heritage culture?
ZOL: I am very close to my culture. I was born in Mongolia. At home, my parents made sure that I don’t forget the traditions and everything that goes with them.
Do you find it difficult to balance your Asian heritage with your French side?
ZOL: I grew up in France, so I don’t have difficulty balancing my French and Asian side.
Can you describe how it is like being an Asian in Paris?
ZOL: Being Asian in Paris wasn’t easy as a kid because of racism. There is a lot of racism here, but now I don’t really mind what is said to me so I can focus on my things.
ALEX: Being an Asian in Paris, we are often taken for a tourist lmao. But personally, I had no problem because Paris is multicultural.
To you, what does it mean to be an influencer?
ZOL: For me to be an influencer means that you are like a role model to people who follow you so you have to show them the best part of yourself and share good moments.
ALEX: For me, everybody is an influencer, but different levels. I just have a bigger impact. So, I need to be the best version of myself for showing the best example for our generation, convey good value.
You have a large following on social media. What do you think it is about you that makes people like you?
ZOL: I think people like me for you my personality, my content, for who I am.
ALEX: I never thought that one day so many people would follow me. I think if they follow me it’s because they feel close to me and I inspire them. So, it makes me happy to feel like a big brother to them.
You’re very open about who you are and your identity to your followers. Where do you get that bravery?
ZOL: It might be scary for some people. There is always a good part and a bad part about everything. I am very confident about myself. I am focused on my goals, so I think this is my daily motivation.
How did you get into K-pop? What about K-pop do you like about it?
ZOL: When I was eight, I heard my older brother listening to a K-pop group called BIGBANG and I liked what I heard. At this moment I started listening to more K-pop. What I like about it is everything! The music, the performance, the dance, the vibe.
ALEX: I’m into K-pop since I discovered 2NE1 on YouTube. I loved discovering a new universe with a lot of choreography and colors. It’s very avant-gardist.
How do you come up with your choreography for your K-pop dance covers?
ALEX: I started my dance cover with the group BLACKPINK because I am a fan of them. They are so bad-ass and their music is very catchy. It made me want to reproduce their choreography. So, I released my first dance cover three years ago.
Where do you get your sense of style?
ZOL: I have a lot of inspiration, especially with K-pop idols. They have crazy styles!
ALEX: My clothing inspiration comes a lot from Asia, Japan, and South Korea. They are already five years ahead of fashion.
How important is representation to you?
ALEX: I want to give a good image of myself and send positive vibes. I want when people see me on social media to feel good about themselves and not be afraid to be themselves and who they are.
As an Asian living in Paris, have you ever dealt with racism or discrimination? How did you deal with it?
ALEX: Of course I received racism, but I don’t care. I know what I’m worth and I’m proud of who I am. I received so much racism that it no longer affects me. As an Asian, I don’t want to be subjected to oppression.
What message do you have for members of the LGBT community?
ALEX: Be proud of who you are. Love yourself because you are beautiful as a person and no one will say otherwise. The mentality is changing so let’s continue to fight for a better world.
What message do you have for your fellow Asians?
ZOL: Follow your dreams! It’s not easy, especially when you have Asian parents to not follow the normal course with school. If you want to be a writer do it! If you want to be a dancer do it! Want to be a soccer player? Do it! But most important you must do everything to make that dream come true!
Photography, art direction ALESSANDRA HUYNH @alessandra.huynh_ph, @atiashuynh
Models ZOL @zol_west , ALEX GOYA @alexgoyaa
Video edit RAY LITSALA @ray.litsala
Make up CALIANE UM @Caliumua