My newest heroine

“We must encourage girls to embrace respectful acts of assertion and provide them with representations of female aggression that are neither sensationalized nor the stuff of fantasy.” Rachel Simmons, Odd Girl Out

“…you put your head down, let your work speak for you, and try to avoid conflict. If someone was questioning my ethic or principles, I always spoke up. Ultimately, the best way I stood up for myself was working hard….” Chef Beverly Kim

Award-winning Bravo reality competition, Top Chef , is in its 9th season and has had no shortage of drama.  At the center of a key storyline, Chef Beverly Kim has become a hero to me.  After dealing with bullying at the hands of a trio of her fellow female chefs, she bounced back into the competition during a secret, online Top Chef spin-off Last Chance Kitchen, much to the chagrin of her rivals. Though eliminated in semi-finals, I’m positive I’m not the only fan of her classy, confident behavior. 

In the earlier part of the season, Beverly became a target for the louder, more aggressive women chefs. They complained of what they saw as one-note lack of depth as she continually worked Asian flavors into various dishes. They found  her methodical and thorough approach to be slow, stupid, and selfish. They rolled their eyes at her sensitivity.  Though the TV viewer learned this through filmed asides and editing, we also saw the confrontations and cruel comments.  As more of her personal allies got eliminated, Beverly could often be found in the company of the male chefs, purposely excluded from the intensely close rival clique.  But her work seldom suffered as critics and guests alike enjoyed and praised her cooking.  

I have to admit I was not a Beverly fan at first. Though I disdained the bullies, I wanted her to be a mouse that roared. I wanted her to bust loose of her quiet, humble demeanor and defend herself aggressively.  Then I realized I wanted her to stop being me.  Like Beverly, I was brought up to be quiet and work hard.  Like Beverly, I have been bullied, underestimated and misunderstood.  I have responded by being patient or by refusing to take part in confrontations.  At times, I have retaliated in bullying ways such as  gossip, backbiting, or passive-aggressive behavior. So I began to appreciate Beverly, how she would defend herself with truth and calmness, and most importantly, through expressing her passion and talent.  As a woman of color in a predominantly white competition/industry, she embodied the values of her cultural community and taught us an alternative to dog-eat-dog on national TV. The remaining women chefs may continue in the competition and ultimately win(best believe I will pitch a fit ) but they have lost face and the respect of millions of people.  

Beverly cooked, cross-country-skied, and literally shot her way to success while never resorting to cattiness or mean girl tactics.  So she is my Top Chef. 


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