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Troubling Tropes in Media's Adoption Stories with Kira Omans - Ep 112

Unraveling Adoption

Release Date: 09/25/2023

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Troubling Tropes in Media's Adoption Stories with Kira Omans

"Adoptees are so infantilized in media and just seen as subjects in need of rescue and that they were given an opportunity at a better life." - Kira Omans

In a world where narratives shape our perceptions, Kira Omans defies expectations. As a transracial adoptee from China, she carries a tale waiting to unfold. But when she stepped into the glimmering lights of Los Angeles that she became more aware of the cruel twist that media had woven for adoptees. With a fire in her heart and a determination in her eyes, Kira has embarked on a journey to challenge the harmful stereotypes in media.

In this episode, you will be able to:

  • Look anew at insidious adoption narratives in mainstream media and discover their lasting effects.

  • Explore the unique identity challenges that transracial adoptees encounter.

  • Understand the implications of white saviorism in shaping false adoption narratives.

  • Identify pervasive and harmful stereotypes about adoptees portrayed in popular culture.

  • Understand the vital importance of hearing adoption stories directly from the adoptees themselves.



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My special guest is Kira Omans

With a heart for advocacy and a passion for performing, Kira Omans is a force to be reckoned with in the media industry. As an Asian-American adoptee, Kira was raised in a mostly white community in Alexandria, Virginia, and her unique upbringing has significant influence on her career and activism today. As an actor, stunt person, and voiceover artist now based in Los Angeles, she has landed roles which showcaseher talent and commitment to her craft. Yet, more important to her than the glamour of Hollywood, is the work she's doing to challenge and change demeaning adoption narratives within media spaces. Kira is dedicated to ensuring that adoptees, particularly those from transracial backgrounds, are portrayed more accurately and respectfully in their on-screen representations.

The resources mentioned in this episode are:

  • Visit Kira Omans' website to watch her stunt reel and learn more about her work in front of the camera and microphone: https://www.kiraomans.com/

  • Click on Kira's social media links:  Linktree  |  Instagram  |  Facebook  |  TikTok

  • Check out Kira's new database for Adoptees in Media, and add your own name if you work professionally in the media: bit.ly/adopteesinentertainment

  • Support Chinese Adoptee Alliance, an organization that Kira Omans is involved with, by visiting their website and considering a donation or getting involved in their advocacy work: https://www.fccny.org/

  • Watch the movie Crazy Rich Asians to support the representation of Asian actors and actresses in the film industry: https://www.imdb.com/title/tt3104988/

  • Consider watching the Barbie movie featuring Simu Liu, an Asian actor breaking barriers in Hollywood: https://www.imdb.com/title/tt1517268

  • Watch the film JoyRide that Kira mentions in this episode: https://www.imdb.com/title/tt13515090

Other Resources:





Unraveling Adoption is produced and hosted by Beth Syverson

Music written and performed by Joseph Nakao

Email questions or comments to [email protected]

Find us on Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube

Support Unraveling Adoption on Patreon: Patreon.com/UnravelingAdoption




Explore unique identity challenges
The identity challenges that adoptees face, particularly transracial adoptees, are unique and complex. Nearly always wading through questions of identity and belonging, these individuals often grapple with a meaningful connection to their culture of origin. Exploring these unique challenges is essential in acknowledging and understanding the multifaceted narratives that every adoptee carries within, thereby preventing oversimplification or misconstruction of their identities in media.

Understand implications of white saviorism
The implications of white saviorism are deeply embedded within adoption narratives, often overshadowing the voices of adoptees. This common trope centers the narrative on adoptive parents rather than the adoptees themselves, creating an imbalanced representation. Grasping the nuances of these implications will challenge and change the prevailing discourse in the media by encouraging a balanced, adoptee-centric narrative.

Timestamped summary of this episode:

00:01:16 - Kira's Adoption Story,
Kira shares that she was adopted from Zhongshan, China at ten months old and raised in Alexandria, Virginia by white adoptive parents in a predominantly white community. She also discusses her connection to her Chinese culture through Chinese dance and Chinese school.

00:02:22 - Acting Career and Adoption,
Kira talks about her love for acting and how her adoption story may have influenced her career choice. She shares that initially, she was offered small stereotypical roles, but has seen a positive shift in the industry since the release of Crazy Rich Asians.

00:06:29 - Cultural Identity and Representation,
Kira discusses the challenges of navigating cultural identity as an adoptee and feeling excluded from certain aspects of Asian American culture. She emphasizes that adoptees are still valid members of the diaspora and talks about the importance of representation in media.

00:10:40 - Progress in the Entertainment Industry,
Kira expresses her optimism about the progress being made in the entertainment industry regarding Asian representation. She shares that she feels supported by her agent and manager in pursuing meaningful roles and representing herself authentically.

00:13:26 - The controversy surrounding Michael Oher's story,
The guest discusses her frustration with the fact that Michael Oher, the subject of the film and book The Blind Side, did not receive any financial compensation. She also highlights the discrepancy in accounts between Oher's "adoptive" father and brother.

00:14:37 - The importance of evidence in court,
The guest expresses hope that Michael Oher has gathered enough evidence to support his claims before going public with his story. She emphasizes the need for him to prove these things in court.

00:15:19 - Adoption revelations and paper trails,
The guest discusses how many adoptees, including Michael Oher, find out about important details of their adoption later in life. She reflects on the challenges of discovering that you were not legally adopted and the difficulty of finding information about one's birth family.

00:16:49 - Adoption narratives in media,
The guest criticizes the portrayal of adoption in movies like The Blind Side and Instant Family, highlighting the white saviorism and infantilization of adoptees. She argues that these narratives promote harmful stereotypes and overlook the adoptee experience.

00:20:28 - Tropes and harmful narratives in movies and TV,
The guest discusses the prevalence of the orphan trope in movies and how it simplifies the adoptee experience. She also highlights the harmful narrative that reunion with birth parents is the ultimate resolution for adoptees, emphasizing that this is not always possible or desirable.

00:28:23 - Exclusion in Media Representation,
The guest expresses feeling excluded by the narrative of the film Joyride due to the lack of adoptee representation. They discuss the importance of adoptees having ownership of their own stories and the negative impact of adoption being used as a punchline or insult in media.

00:29:53 - Positive Representation in This Is Us,
The guest praises the portrayal of a transracial adoptee character in the TV show This Is Us and highlights the involvement of Angela Tucker, a knowledgeable transracial black adoptee, as a consultant. They emphasize the importance of accurate and complex depictions of adoptees' stories.

00:31:10 - Involving Adoptees in Media,
The guest encourages the involvement of adoptees in the media industry, both as consultants and in creative roles. They suggest hiring adoptees early in the process to ensure accurate representation and avoid exploitative portrayals.

00:32:03 - Reflecting on Adoption's Role in Storytelling,
The guest advises media creators to reflect on whether adoption is necessary to the plotline and if they are the right person to tell an adoptee's story. They stress the importance of doing research and respecting the adoption community before involving adoptees in the storytelling process.

00:33:16 - Amplifying the Message,
The host encourages listeners to share the episode with people in the media industry to raise awareness about the impact of inaccurate and hurtful adoption tropes.