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March 25, 2013

The New Change Agents


Photo Credit: Jeff Riedel

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CAUSE: Eating-disorder prevention

TWITTER: Lynn: @mslynnchen and Lisa: @rrrlisarrr

TUMBLR: thickdumplingskin.com

AUDIENCE: 4,000 unique monthly users

IMPACT: Created an online community for Asian-Americans to discuss healthy body image

Backstory: When Lisa Lee was 17, she attended a weight-loss spa with her mother—an experience that led to a troubled relationship with food. Nine years later, she described the experience in Hyphen, a magazine aimed at Asian-Americans, and caught the attention of Lynn Chen, a 36-year-old actress. Lee's story resonated with Chen, who had struggled with eating disorders for her whole life. Like Lee, Chen grew up in an Asian-American community where topics like anorexia were off-limits.

Action plan: "Lynn and I wanted to create something that's ongoing. And we wanted to launch right away," says Lee. Over lunch in L.A., the women decided to build a website devoted to fostering positive body image within the Asian-American community. They launched Thick Dumpling Skin on Tumblr in February 2011, posting reader-submitted photos and essays, interviews, and their own thoughts on food and body image. To help build an audience, they promote the site on Twitter and Facebook—where Lee works as a diversity program manager.

Results: The site now attracts 4,000 unique visitors per month; many seek advice from the site's licensed psychologist, Dr. Michi Fu.

Today: Lee and Chen, who was named an ambassador for the National Eating Disorders Association, lecture about eating and body image issues. "We want to be a catalyst for women to treat themselves better," Lee says.

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