Kelly Lan loved crafting, scrapbooking, and combining different art mediums as a child. A self-proclaimed visual storyteller, Lan now channels her creativity into both her work as a web designer and the founder of Hello Prosper, an arts education brand that crafts stories of Asian women pioneers who dared to be great. Lan was inspired to start Hello Prosper because she saw few female role models in the media that looked like her while growing up.
“We should be celebrating Asian women in pop culture, history books, and art,” said Lan. “I was fortunate enough to be raised to use my voice and know just how strong Asian women are. Now, I want to spread that message. If we dig deep and learn about female histories, those stories can empower our communities. Hello Prosper also exists to undo harmful public perceptions of Asian women. It addresses the fractured sense of self resulting from assimilation, displacement, and historical amnesia.”
If Not Me, Who?
Lan spent her formative years in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, north of Philadelphia. She attended a Quaker school from third grade through high school, which Lan credits with teaching her how close communities can be extremely supportive. After graduating from Syracuse University, she began her successful career in design work.
One day she came across Vashti Harrison’s book Little Leaders: Bold Women in Black History. Lan was captivated by the stories inside and thought something similar had to exist for AAPI women. However, after scouring bookstores and online sites, the best she found were compilations focusing on the accomplishments of many women, with only one or two of them being Asian.
“It came down to the idea of reaping what you want to see, and if not me, who?” laughed Lan. “In doing research, I realized my experience of not seeing many Asian role models is not uncommon. For many American students, their first exposure to AAPI studies is at the college level. At Hello Prosper, we believe that curriculum needs to start earlier, and our work encourages dialogue across generations at home and in the classrooms.”
Dare to Be Great
Since its inception, Hello Prosper has created a line of products that include prints of trailblazing Asian women, time capsule cards to encourage the pursuit of dreams, Zodiac Posters, and a collection of stories about Asian Women Suffragists.
It also hosts community events, which included the exhibition AGAINST ALL ODDS: ASIAN WOMEN WHO DARED TO BE GREAT at the Pearl River Mart Art Gallery in New York City. Lan dreams of the day Hello Prosper will have similarities to the educational aspects of the Barbie brand, but with more National Geographic influences.
When asked what advice she’d give girls wishing to pursue a career in design, Lan encourages them to build a body of work they can refer to when seeking new opportunities. Additionally, she stresses that tying art back to solving a problem can be a strong North Star regarding career trajectory. Lan also advises embracing collaboration.
“In college, I was very protective of my work and not open to working with others, but when you embark on a project like this, you realize just how necessary collaboration is for success,” she shared. “There’s freedom with creating and pursuing something you love. There’s a passion for moving forward. That’s essential, especially when catching yourself sending an email at 1 a.m. and wondering if this is all worth it. I truly believe in Hello Prosper; its mission is an essential part of my purpose.”
Hello Prosper Founder Kelly Lan
Written by Erin Prather Stafford
Images provided by Kelly Lan
Creator Spotlight features interviews with artistic women/girls and showcases their work. If you know an artist you’d like to see spotlighted, email Erin at erin(at)girlsthatcreate(dot)com.