Taiwanese identity is contested, challenged, and complicated for a variety of reasons. Its ongoing interrogation, though, presents a ripe opportunity to further challenge our own assumptions about belonging and personal choice. The people of Taiwan are not simply the indigenous, benshengren, or waishengren. They include expats, more recent migrants, foreign exchange students, and more. And, interestingly, the concept of Taiwanese identity has become less tethered to race and ethnicity, and more indicative of, simply, where you call home.
Singer Dooley Candler, known as 杜力, is not ethnically Taiwanese, but proudly claims an American Taiwanese identity. Originally from Arizona, Dooley came to Taiwan (Chiayi, to be specific) in his 20s and has made the country his home for nearly two decades. He’s even been featured in Marie Claire Taiwan, where he shares that his aspirations for Taiwan include a continued democracy and progressivism in all aspects of society (“希望台灣能一直民主進步下去，在各方面都能達到更好的水平.”)
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Dooley, who speaks Mandarin Chinese and Taiwanese, is a prominent celebrity in the Taiwanese entertainment circuit. Recently, he made headlines for an appearance on local television show “Super Entourage” (小明星大跟班), where he shared context for the racist origins of blackface and slavery in America after hearing that they wanted to perform a rendition of the “Ghana Coffin Dance.”
He also runs Exclusive Entertainment, a talent agency for Taiwan’s artists and performers. In addition to connecting local rising stars with great opportunities, the organization hopes to expand the industry’s sense of what it means to be identity, and to showcase Taiwanese talent regardless of ethnic background.
Their newest event is a talent competition called “Taiwan’s Got It!” In the promotional video, Dooley shares that he wants to give Taiwanese expats a special opportunity to showcase their talent: “it’s not your race that dictates your talent, or your nation of birth… it’s your ability.”
The website states that Taiwan’s Got It! will be a “national talent show that features cultures from all over the world. Taiwan is a beautiful country with people from all over the world. This makes it a country full of culture, many styles, and unlimited talent… all on one big island! It’s all inside of Taiwan and we want the world to know that Taiwan’s Got It all!”
Submissions of all-inclusive talents (“singing, dancing, playing the spoons,” etc.) are encouraged on the Taiwan’s Got It! website. Application portal is open until May 16, 2021 8pm Taipei Time. Applicants must be available on May 23, 2021 for a live performance in front of an esteemed panel of judges in Taipei. Other rules and regulations may apply.
To highlight Taiwan’s solidarity with other communities around the world, Taiwan’s Got It! is standing with National Emergency Management Organization (NEMO) in St. Vincent and the Grenadines to aid victims displaced by the volcanic eruption of La Soufriere Volcano on the island of St. Vincent on Friday, April 9th, 2021. Donations can be made to the Taiwan’s Got It! organization and will be wired to NEMO at the end of the collection period.
For more information about the talent competition or supporting the victims associated with NEMO please visit the Taiwan’s Got It! website.