"The two fights that I got in when I was a kid, they were both racially motivated"
Steve Aoki has said that he grew up in a white upper class society that was ignorant to other ethnicities.
In an interview with NetShark, Aoki discussed growing up as an Asian American and his relationship with his Benihana founder father.
During high school, Aoki admittedly struggled with his identity and was targeted due to his race, “the two fights that I got in when I was a kid, they were both racially motivated,” says Aoki, “I’m not one to really keep things inside. I couldn’t really talk to my mom because she would be like, ‘You have to shrug it off,’ and ‘Don’t cause any trouble. Do not cause any trouble. We’re lucky to even be in this community, we don’t want to be ostracized.'”
However, Aoki still expressed gratitude for his upbringing, saying that he was forced to find his own voice in an ethnically ignorant society, “I’m happy that I grew up in this more conservative white upper class society that really bred this ignorance towards other ethnicities, where I was able to find my voice.”
Speaking about his father, Aoki said that whilst his father offered him the opportunity to enter the Benihana business, he was never forced into it, nor was he funded to follow his own dreams, “[my father] was never a person to give me handouts or give me money to find my dream. That’s definitely not his approach.”
“He was always putting that drive into his kids. I think a part of his genius in his restaurant businesses was being a marketing guru. He was doing very out-of-the-ordinary stunts that restaurants normally wouldn’t do, like race hot air balloons or offshore powerboats. He was just a very interesting person to look up to.”
“He left the lane open for me to follow in his footsteps but he didn’t push it at all.”
In the interview, Aoki also mentioned Bruce Lee, who he described as a childhood hero.
“Bruce Lee was a huge childhood hero running through my adolescence because he was loved by all communities. There are plenty of Asian people that are in pop culture that are just loved by the Asian community, but he was one of the only ones that was globally loved by everyone. I always looked up to that kind of idea that us Asians have the capacity to actually be part of popular culture and influence outside, not just our own culture.”
Steve Aoki: I’ll Sleep When I’m Dead is currently available on Netflix.