TikToker Ashley Yi Reveals What Being A Korean American Influencer Means To Her - Exclusive Interview

If you ever hang out on the food side of TikTok, you've come to the right place. Ashley Yi, a Korean American influencer, is known for her quirky personality and delicious eats. With 3.2 million followers and over 155 million likes to date, Ashley takes her fans along for shopping hauls, food taste tests, car rides, and more. Whether it is a restaurant mukbang or an apartment tour, Ashley has garnered herself a loyal following with content creation. 

During an exclusive interview with Mashed, Ashley explained what it's like to be a Korean American influencer and discussed her quick rise to fame — she only started on the platform in November when her videos started gaining attention. It is currently AAPI (Asian American and Pacific Islander) Heritage Month, which celebrates Ashley's culture and history. That's why, along with Ashley's personal accolades, TikTok named the influencer a 2022 API Trailblazer along with 12 other known TikTok faces. Yi dug deep into her heritage, named her favorite foods, and even recalled the first time she met Gordon Ramsay. Talk about climbing to the top of the food chain! 

Ashley shares what videos she loves filming the most

I would love it if you could tell me a little bit about what inspired you to start a TikTok page.

I actually started TikTok last year [in] November. I've been in the social media sphere for quite a while, and a lot of my friends were in it, and I tried to fit myself into this mold, specifically their mold — like fashion girl, beauty, makeup. I was forcing myself to do it. It was not working. I lost myself. 

And then I saw on TikTok so many people, these creators, inspiring me. They're at home being themselves, being quirky. I was like, "Oh my God, I love them. I want to be like them." They're putting themselves out there. I was like, "I want to do that." I know I have a loud, crazy personality, so one day I was like, "I'm going to do it." Then I did it, and then in eight days grew a million followers — I was like, "I think this is what I'm supposed to do." 

So that's how it started, and then it grew. I'm still getting my foot in it.

That's amazing — congrats. I was looking through some of your videos. I saw that you have a variety, from personal ones to comedic ones to food ones. Do you have a certain type of video that you like creating or filming the most?

Yeah. My favorite videos are definitely where I'm sitting in my car, eating something and giving some life lessons that I've learned in life, because I wasn't always the most happy-go-lucky human. I was in a dark period, and I found a lot of times that what helped me the most was reading books and listening to podcasts and taking in a lot of thought leaders' lessons in life. These help me when I hear them over and over again. I always play them in the background. I was like, "I want to share these," because I actually played them for myself in the morning. If I can listen to it and then help these people too ... Because it's always nice — we always need a little pep talk. Those are my favorite videos. I actually have them on repeat all the time.

Do you think that your fans respond well to those types of videos?

They do. When I go through the comments and they say it helped them or they leave me a DM, I seriously am like, "We're all humans at the end of the day and just trying to get through life in any way possible." It really inspires me to keep going. It motivates me.

Ashley talks all things AAPI Month

That's really heartwarming. I would love to get into AAPI month — what does being a Korean American influencer mean to you, especially during this month that honors the heritage?

Being a part of this community, it didn't mean a lot to me before, because I grew up in Santa Clarita, very white. I felt like I was a white girl in an Asian-girl body. I didn't really understand the culture, and I tried to stay away from it my whole life. A few years ago, I started being around people who made me really love and appreciate the culture. I started to love it myself and understand it, [and I] started sharing it. To be a part of [trailblazing] and representing the community ... It means the world to me because it's something I'm so proud of, especially with everything going on in the world.

Asian people, in general — we're so resilient and we come together as a community like we were taught as kids. It's super beautiful, and I'm really proud to be part of it and be a voice and be there for people.

I would love to get your perspective now that there is a lot of Asian hate crime that continues to heighten, unfortunately. Do you feel any pressure to represent Asian culture, or do you feel prideful? How does that make you feel?

I do feel really sad. I'm a super empath, so taking in all that negative energy impacts me. But something that I really want to share on my platform is being a positive light, [and to] radiate love and positivity all the time that we're going through this dark time. It's all about perspective [and] being there together. I want to be a positive light. I don't feel like sharing hate crimes and all that stuff on my platform. I like to share and talk about it amongst friends, but I want to be more positive, like, "Hey, we're going through this, but we're going to stay strong."

Ashley discloses her go-to snack and meal recipes

You can definitely see the fun and energetic side of you in your videos. How do you go about choosing which foods or brands you feature? I saw you did some big candy haul, and they sent you candy. That looked fun.

A lot of the food that I try on my TikTok is stuff that I'm curious about because I'm a curious person. A lot of things I try for the first time. The candy one, I wanted to try it and then give my first general impression. It became this whole series and blew up, and I was like, "Oh my gosh," but I love helping small businesses. If they want to send me something, I'd love to share it.

I want to help everyone grow and win. That's what I love. I like to show some things that I love to do — some things that are scary in the Asian culture to people who aren't necessarily Asian, like a century egg. It's scary looking. It's a dark egg — it looks like a moldy egg. I love to share my first opinion on it, because I feel like I'm a bridge where I love to share. It's not necessarily weird or gross. It's just someone else's culture you're not used to. Giving my first impression on [things] — that's what I really love to do.

TikTok is a great outlet for that, so that's awesome. Are there any recipes that may have been passed down to you that you still enjoy making, maybe through your heritage or that you could do in general?

I live alone, so I don't get to cook that much, but something I make probably two [or] three times a week is Kimchi-Jjigae. It's basically a Korean kimchi soup, and you can add tofu or meat or whatever you want in it. I'm a soup gal, so I need to have that two times a week. But that's one of them, and I love the Korean soy-marinated eggs. [They're] simple things, but I always have it in my fridge.

You said you had that in your fridge, but is there one food or beverage that you have to have in the kitchen at all times?

I need to have a large jar of kimchi in my fridge. I'll probably open that jar three or four times a day, just [to] snack on it. I eat it with everything, without a doubt, because it's a nice palate cleanser.

Would you say that's your go-to snack food, then, if you had to pick one?

Yes. Seaweed, rice, and kimchi is my go-to snack every day.

Ashley reveals the one chef she'd want to cook her dinner

If you could pick any chef, what chef would you want to cook you dinner?

Dead or alive?

It could be either — up to you.

I'll choose Gordon Ramsay. He's the only chef I actually met in person, and I froze, speechless. I was like, "No, this is not how it's supposed to happen."

Have you eaten at any of his restaurants?

No, which is weird. I'm going to Vegas, though, and I wanted to stop. I have to stop at one of them because I watch all his shows. I'm a big fan.

People think he's known for being angry, but he's actually so smart when it comes to food.

He's so nice in person, too. And he is so tall. I was like, "Oh my gosh," but I froze. I didn't even get to ask him any questions.

That's all right. It happens.

Hopefully, I get another chance to redeem myself.

He's Gordon Ramsay, so it makes sense. What is one ingredient or food you could never live without?

That's a tough one to decide. I like rice, meat ... I'm a carnivore. I love meat. I'm going to have to say meat. I want it in every single meal, and I know I'm supposed to eat more vegetables, but I love meat.

What's your favorite kind of meat? Chicken, steak ... ?

I love beef.

Ground beef?

No, I love steak. I love beef in general. [With] chicken, it has to be cooked properly. It's a little finicky. If it's made well, then I love chicken, but beef, something about it ... When I eat it, [it] makes me feel alive.

You don't have to make sure that it's cooked through like chicken or be as careful with it.

It's good in everything, every dish. I still want it every time I go somewhere.

Do you have a certain dish that you make with steak or ground beef that you particularly go to?

I love it in every preparation imaginable. I love Korean short ribs. I love steak. I love it in soups. I had birria last night. I think it's the most versatile ingredient, and I'm obsessed. I'm a meat-eater — hamburgers, everything. You make me realize how much meat I eat, actually.

How Ashley goes about making successful TikToks

Do you have one go-to fast food order, and which restaurant is it from?

In-N-Out. It's because I've been craving it lately, but my order is a double-double, animal-style, grilled, whole grilled onions, chopped chilis. For my French fries, I get extra, extra, extra well done. I like them to be crunchy chips because I'm a textural person. That's it — and a Sprite. I would love a shake, but I can't pronounce the one word, "Neopatolitan."


Yeah, that one. I cannot pronounce it. My brain just [malfunctions]. It doesn't click, so I don't order it. Sprite — that's my order.

When it comes to TikTok, how long does it normally take for you to create your videos?

Editing and then putting it up, [it takes] maybe an hour. I film it, and it's hard sometimes. Actually, it might take longer, because I never film with a certain intention or a storyline. I create it after I'm editing, and then I'm like, "Oh, this could be the storyline." So I film whatever and then create something after. I don't know.

So you imagine it and then it comes to fruition rather than planning out your week?

Everything's really organic and I'm just living life, and then I'll tell something after.

When it comes to your fans, what food do you think gets the best response? Especially the candy one — I liked that video because the candy was crunchy, and I was like, "What is this candy?"

I agree. It was really exciting and fun for me because I've never had freeze-dried candy. When it's freeze-dried, it doesn't look like itself. You're eating this round ball of styrofoam-iness, but it's taffy. So it's a mind game too, but it's fun. I didn't know caramel balled up that big and exploded. I'm actually doing another series because I'm working with the company now. They're like, "What candies do you want to be freeze-dried? We'll do it." 

But I'm really happy for them. They're messaging me — I just got a message. They were like, "We hired more people. Can you not post any videos? We have to fill all these orders." I'm like, "Oh my God."

What Ashley has to say to aspiring TikTokers

That's great. Do you have any upcoming projects that you wanted to share, or anything exciting coming up?

Exciting things ... Well, TikTok is the coolest thing ever, because this weekend I'm going to the Billboard Music Awards with TikTok and I'm like, "Am I allowed to be there?" I'm going to be a speaker at VidCon, and then I'm coming out with merch. All this cool stuff is happening. I'm like, "Is this real life?" I'm very grateful to TikTok, honestly. What is life?

That's really cool and exciting for you. Is there anything else that you wanted to share with our readers at Mashed?

The one thing I always say if they want to start a TikTok: Just be yourself. Authenticity is much more important than being popular.

I agree too. When you're more authentic, people respond better to it and it makes you more successful, which is, I'm sure, why you were successful in eight days. That's really great.

I love TikTok for that. They celebrate authenticity and it's an app [where] I don't get ... You know when you go on and you feel drained on other platforms? [With] TikTok, I'm on it for an hour plus because it's good vibes. Good energy.

Check out Ashley Yi's TikTok page to follow up on her latest videos and projects.

This interview was edited for clarity.