In the United States, oppression persists for a multitude of reasons; race, gender, class, sexuality, etc. Understanding others’ lived experiences is challenging, especially when one cannot relate due to differing identities. In order to discern how others experience discrimination, Nikki Lee began a series, called Projects
, in which she inserted herself into different communities by modifying her physical appearance. Through these projects, Nikki Lee challenged societal norms and stereotypes through her approach of immersing herself in different identities to gain a unique perspective on various backgrounds. While these projects sparked controversy against Lee for cultural appropriation, her motives behind the projects were to dismantle stereotypes and fully immerse herself in identities apart from her own. Lee created The Ohio Project
to highlight an immigrant’s aspiration to fit into White working-class subcultures and her desire to escape immigrant stereotypes. Lee attempts to blend into American culture by taking this photograph with a man in his trailer holding a rifle, sitting below a confederate flag.
As a Korean immigrant, Lee created this series to emphasize the social struggles of immigrants and the challenges of fully connecting with American culture. The Ohio Project highlights the White, working-class, racist subculture, with Lee being the only out-of-place factor in this image. Lee seems to have ‘Americanized’ herself by dyeing her hair blonde and wearing clothes that were trending in American culture during the late 1990s. The Ohio Project speaks to a myriad of forms of inequality; displaying Lee’s hardship with her immigrant identity, conforming to American beauty standards, and being a minority within a White-dominated space. The Ohio Project sheds light on the complexities of immigrant identity and the challenges of assimilation in a country where racism and discrimination are prevalent.