Be yourself always because you are enough! I’ve always doubted myself and was scared to let down people that believed in me. I wanted to be more one way or another to amplify what I THOUGHT would make for better television. This pressure of being entertaining actually made me become a bit more reserved on-camera than how I actually am in real life.
As part of our series about Inspirational Women In Hollywood, I had the distinct pleasure of interviewing Amber Lee Diamond.
It’s been 7 years since Amber appeared on the hit reality dating show with “perfect match” and now husband, Ethan, and they’ve stuck as the only couple to remain together through and beyond the show! The two are the longest lasting and most successful couple in the series history and have two beautiful daughters. The reality TV series, “Are You the One?”, first aired on MTV back in 2014, bringing together young singles to try to find love and now it’s back with a resurgence of the show on Netflix. Born and raised in Austin, TX to Taiwanese parents, Amber never thought she’d find her dream life through reality TV, especially as dating shows were far less common then than they are now. While modeling, she was scouted to audition and join the first season of “Are You the One?” Going in with zero expectations, Amber wanted to make the most of her experience and quickly connected with Ethan. Since it was the first season, everyone was there truly to try and find their match, and not make a name for themselves on social media. The drama was organic, and so was falling in love. At the reunion special, Ethan proposed, and Amber happily accepted. They’ve been inseparable raising their two children ever since. In addition to being a devoted wife and mother, she loves to cook (her specialty being Taiwanese dishes), and share her favorite recipes, workout tips, and relationship advise with her followers.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Our readers would love to get to know you a bit better. Can you tell us the story of how you grew up?
I’m a first-generation Taiwanese Texan — born and raised in Austin, Texas. My parents are pretty traditional and conservative Asian immigrants and I never made life easy for them. I ran against my stereotype — surrounded myself with mostly white kids, quit piano to play percussion and dance, I was the president of our high school dance team and was always in a relationship. I was driven to prove myself to my parents that I was Asian enough to be respected and proving myself to my friends and peers that I was “white enough” to fit in. It wasn’t really until becoming one of the very few Asian American personalities on global television, did I fully learn to embrace both sides of my culture and become so proud of the narrative that I can perpetuate for other first gen Asian Americans that never fully felt like they fit in anywhere.
Can you share a story with us about what brought you to be part of “Are You the One?”
I was doing a little modeling in college and was approached by a casting rep for lighthearted entertainment. She said she loved my look and asked if I would be interested to audition for a part in a “brand new reality show about finding love.” I never watched reality tv (besides cooking shows) and since it was the first season of “Are You The One?,” I had absolutely nothing to reference. I for sure didn’t think I would be casted — but I’m, also not the kind to turn down an interesting opportunity. I had recently gotten out of a long relationship and felt I had nothing to lose. A couple phone and Skype interviews later, I was flown out to LA for a final round of casting in front of a panel of MTV and lighthearted producers. Next thing I knew, I was flying out to Hawaiian and my life has never been the same after.
Can you tell us the most interesting story that happened to you while filming?
Filming was so much fun but also rather isolating. There’s so much that isn’t shown on the cameras. I actually tried to quit the show a couple days in (this is before I had a real conversation with Ethan — my perfect match and now husband). I felt like I was in-over-my-head and that there was no way I could fit in with all these huge personalities. One of the producers sat me down in Ryan Devlin’s (the host) changing room and talked me into giving it another day. Just a few hours after that, I had my first conversation with Ethan, and it was so organic that I felt like I was home. After that, I knew I could open up, stay, and that I belonged there just as I was.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
My mom! Honestly, she doesn’t keep up much with the American culture and certainly never watches reality TV — but she always goes out of her comfort zone to keep up with and support me to the best of her abilities. Even though her English isn’t the greatest, my mom is one of the MOST outspoken people I know. She’s so straight forward and will tell it like it is to everyone and anyone — regardless of how much they may judge and disrespect her. It’s her strength and drive to be unapologetically herself that has become my inner voice telling me to be myself, be courageous, and know that no matter what I do — if I do it with love and authenticity — I am doing the right thing.
You have been blessed with great success in your journey (being part of a hit reality TV show and now an influencer) which can be challenging. Do you have any words of advice for others who may want to embark on this career path, but seem daunted by the prospect of failure?
Fear of failure is something I struggle with still. The bigger my platform became and the more “successful” my journey as a public figure/influencer was, the more I learned about “Imposter Syndrome.” It’s easy to idolize and put people with a social following on a pedestal and as someone who gained that status, I still felt extremely ordinary. It was a confusing new role to navigate! Also, wondering if I should be more transparent or more private and fighting the urge to feel fully heard by everyone — because there is only so much of yourself you can showcase and explain off IG stories and pictures. By putting your life out there for the world to follow — there is a lot of room for interpretation and I find a lot of people making me out to be what they want me to be in their own minds. That being said — the amount of love and support that has outpoured to me from sharing my story has been incredible. The beauty of a platform is that there are always more people out there that think and feel similarly to you — and IG has helped me find the individuals that can relate to me and that I can inspire with my stories.
What drives you to get up every day and accomplish your goals?
I’ve always been very self-driven — and I find that to be the only way to be. My husband and my girls put so much love and meaning in my life, but as soon as I start living for anyone rather than myself, the more lost and hesitant I become. Take care of yourself and your goals and then you can find clarity to lead others around you.
What change do you want to see in the industry going forward?
I would love to see more Asian representation in all of entertainment and media. Reality TV, scripted TV, movies — everything. I feel passionate about the fact that growing up I never had many Asian role models to look up to, so I was constantly comparing myself to the beauty and cultural standards of white leads. It seems like all other minorities had their own niche entertainment market too, but when an Asian actor/actress was casted on a role — it more often was to fulfill a comedic role to make fun of the Asian culture (accents, foods, customs). In the last few years there has been tremendous progress and it has been so exciting to be part of it — but I’d like to see even more awareness spread and more Asians represented as humans and not just a walking/talking depiction of the Asian caricature.
I’d also like to see reality tv shine a light on couples and families with healthy relationships more. I understand that drama and toxic behavior makes for great and entertaining television — but there are ways to make a strong and loving relationship interesting to watch and I’d like to see that challenge taken more often by production companies.
What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now? Where do you see yourself heading from here?
I’ve signed on with an agent to maximize my influencer relations and learn more about the industry. There have been a few projects we were starting that have been put on hold because of COVID — but ultimately, I am going to focus on my family and life goals while sharing them with my growing platform. That’s all I can share for now.
We are very interested in looking at diversity in the entertainment industry. Can you share three reasons with our readers about why you think it’s important to have diversity represented in film and television? How can that potentially affect our culture and our youth growing up today?
1. Young minorities need a variety of role models to relate to. Not to say that an Asian girl cannot look up to a strong White lead, but when there are ONLY strong White leads out there, young children start to believe that they can never be held to the same standards. No matter how hard I tried to “be more white” to fit in, I was always ridiculed with how different I was. This is something that shouldn’t have made me feel less than.
2. Not all Asian American girls are Mulan’s and not all Black girls are Tiana’s. In high school the Facebook Doppelganger profile picture was a huge thing and it seemed like all my friends had so many options to consider as their “doppelgänger”. For me, all my friends kept suggesting “Oh, Lucy Liu of course!!” Y’all, I look nothing like Lucy Liu — but frankly, there just wasn’t a great pool of Asian actresses to even consider.
3. America should be a melting pot. There’s a fine line one between cultural appropriation and submerging yourself into a foreign culture to explore. With more representation of different cultures and customs in the media, the more all Americans can see the differentiated values of immigrant families and why/how different traditions can be lost in translation.
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.
1. Be yourself always because you are enough! I’ve always doubted myself and was scared to let down people that believed in me. I wanted to be more one way or another to amplify what I THOUGHT would make for better television. This pressure of being entertaining actually made me become a bit more reserved on-camera than how I actually am in real life.
2. Don’t be scared to speak your mind. I don’t know if it’s growing up southern, Asian, or just a ME thing — but I’ve always been very politically correct with my responses because I didn’t want to offend anyone. Through motherhood, age, and my little fame — I’ve learned that you cannot please everyone so always speak your mind and be unapologetically yourself. When Ethan first sat with Kayla at the match up ceremony — I was livid. I knew it didn’t make sense and I felt hurt that I didn’t know more about what was going on — however, I answered Ryan Devlin with my head held high. Something like “Ethan’s very level-headed and Kayla could benefit from that”? I think the producers were frustrated I wouldn’t speak to my emotions more and in retrospect, I entirely agree with them.
3. Don’t listen to the haters (so much). Being on reality tv is like watching yourself make mistakes and then having it amplified for the world to see. It’s good to be open minded and gain self-awareness through the process — however, trolls are trolls and you should NEVER lower your self-esteem for them. When I was on TV — I had people photoshopping pictures of a pig’s snout over my nose and tweeting hateful things. Hello insecurities! I know petty hate is something everyone in the public eye has to deal with — but I do wish I was prepared a little more emotionally to handle it.
4. People are WEIRD, and you should love that. I did grow up in a little bit of a bubble because North Austin is a pretty well-educated and safe area. Well, when I went to film Are You The One? — I was put in a house with ALL these amazingly huge personalities that I had never experienced before. It was super intimidating and made me become a bit reserved at first — but the more I warmed up to everyone, the more I started really loving each and every cast member. They are the wild and diverse family I am so lucky to have! It’s cool because I (preshow) probably wouldn’t have naturally become friends with most of the people in the house; but after experiencing something so intimate and exclusive with them — I’ve learned to appreciate and love so many more different and interesting people in my life afterwards.
Can you share with our readers any self-care routines, practices, or treatments that you do to help your body, mind or heart to thrive? Please share a story for each one if you can.
I wake up early and journal/mediate with my planner every morning. My brain is so scattered constantly, and I find that If I can visually see my goals and expectations for the day, it really eases my anxiety.
Also, I LOVE kick boxing and group fitness classes (pre-COVID of course). My friends and fitness instructors have called me a “little Tasmanian devil” because I go HARD throwing punches and kicks. Something about beating up a made-up person that embodies all of my anxieties and it’s so satisfying to me. I’m also such an extrovert and feed off of people’s energy — so I like being in a group setting where I feel like every move I make can motivate all the others around me. I also make sure I’m always standing in the front of the class — even if I suck. I guess I’m just one of those people that perform better under pressure.
Music and dance play an enormous part as my creative outlet. Every single day (ask my kids/husband) I crank some music with good vibes and just DANCE — contemporary twerking, ballet, whatever — just dance. It’s a great way to physically get my emotions out and clear my head to take on whatever the day will throw at me. It’ll get endorphins flowing too! My daughters also love to join me, and I love seeing them feel the music and just let go. I wish I had done this more as a kid because it would have helped me be more open and not be so in my head.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
“Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one’s courage” — Anais Nin.
One of my favorite quotes that I truly believe in and have seen manifest in my own life. Life is all about experiences and if you stay forever silent and in your comfort zone — you will never see it expand to its full potential. Like I mentioned before, I NEVER in a million years thought I would ever be casted to be on reality tv but once the opportunity was there, I gave it my all with an open mind, and I was able to find a whole new potential for myself in the process. Courage can mean so many things. Courage in being true to yourself, courage in leaving a toxic relationship, courage in realizing YOU are the one that needs to change, courage in pursuing things that your gut knows is right, courage to make mistakes. Doesn’t mean life will be easy and handed to you. With courage, life expands, with life expanding, more challenges will be present but the more you overcome the more you and your life will grow. Making a TV relationship work was/is NOT an easy task. Marrying your perfect match isn’t a complete fairy tale — it takes courage to make it work and that’s exactly what Ethan and I did. We worked through the hardship and made it work.
You are a person of huge influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be?
Diversity, acceptance, and authenticity. I have always had a bubbly, outgoing and positive personality — so many would be surprised to learn how lonely and unaccepted I’ve felt for most of my life. I was such a chameleon and sought acceptance everywhere I went, I never felt like I fully fit in anywhere. I believe with more diversity represented in the media in a positive and normal light — the more everyone can strive to just be themselves and feel accepted and loved as they are (no matter how different they may feel). Hopefully with diversity, being different becomes a norm that brings us all together.
Is there a person in the world whom you would love to have lunch with, and why? Maybe we can tag them and see what happens?
Jaime Chung! My gosh, she is a trailer blazer for the Asian Americans of our generation. I have a special appreciation for her as a role model because started out on an MTV realty show and spring boarded her incredible career from it! She’s so talented, SO stunning, and not afraid to tell her story through her work. Such an amazing and scarce role model for all Asian Americans trying to break into the entertainment industry.
How can our readers follow you online?
Follow my Instagram at @amberleediamond to keep up with my family
This was so informative, thank you so much! We wish you continued success!