Celeste Yim; Toronto; @celestrogen
Let’s say we’ve just met at a cocktail party. How would you describe, in a nutshell, what you do?
I would probably be overcompensating for how nervous I feel and make a dumb joke. Then I would tell you that I am a nice student who moonlights as a comedian and writer.
Where did you go to school and what did you study?
I am about to enter my last year at the University of Toronto, studying media, English, and gender studies! I write and read a lot of things about a lot of things.
What was your first paying gig out of school? (In your field, or not.)
My first job was at a summer camp teaching photography and video production.
What was your BIG break? How did you land it?
I think I’m still waiting for my BIG break (appearing on Ellen), but I’ll always be grateful to Liz Perle, the genius behind Huffpost’s teen vertical, who gave me my first platform for writing and never once judged me for how many semicolons I misused as an overly confident tween.
Describe the moment in which you first realized, I think this is actually going to work out?
Am I supposed to have had this moment? Has everyone had that moment? Oh god. Doubt is an intrinsic, unfortunate part of both writing and comedy (and being a person), so I can’t say that I even know now that anything is “going to work out.” I think I am constantly reassured, though, by all the women of colour in comedy who successfully share their voices despite all the constant bullshit that works against us.
What would you say has been your biggest failure or shortcoming, career-wise, to date? How did you bounce back?
My biggest shortcoming continues to be undervaluing my work and skills. I am always simultaneously working hard and apologizing for not working hard enough. I have to remind myself that I am doing enough work, it is good work, and I should be proud of it. Oh! And that dumb dudes who don’t think so don’t matter.
Name one piece of career advice you always give.
Don’t do things just to pad your stupid résumé! Work hard doing something that you enjoy doing—those will be the successes that matter most to you, especially when it’s 2 a.m. and you’re working on some part of it. I’m not saying you shouldn’t take a well-paying job (in fact, my second piece of advice is: get paid for your work). But where possible, do not negotiate your fulfillment for an opportunity in which bragging is the number one payoff.
Did you deal with barriers in your field because you are a woman? If so, what were they?
I deal with the occasional blatant sexism, of course, but I think the woman-related barriers in writing and comedy appear in very insidious ways. Male superiors can be condescending, they can overlook your work and value, and they can make assumptions about you because of the way you look.
Are you making a fair income for your work? Why or why not? Do you have a side hustle for extra cash? If so, what is it?
At the beginning of this year, I promised myself that I would not do any unpaid work. Focusing on asking for and receiving payment has been one of the hardest, best decisions of my life. It has helped me understand the worth of my time and labour. As a young woman, demanding fair income is an act of resistance against the many forces that take advantage of your skills.
What’s the worst stereotype you’ve heard about millennials at work?
I am very uncomfortable with the myth that millennials are uninformed. People my age spend their days reading all kinds of information in different capacities. Also, millennials (of colour) invented the memes that are going to save us all. Good job, millennials.