Women to Watch: Lily Chou

Women to Watch: Lily Chou

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Welcome to KQED Arts’ Women to Watch, a series celebrating 20 local women artists, creatives and makers who are pushing boundaries in 2016. Driven by passion for their own disciplines, from photography to comedy and every other medium in between, these women are true vanguards paving the way in their respective communities.

Lily Chou has braved mosh pits and thoughtless stage divers to take some of the best photos of the Bay Area's underground music scene. A special events photographer who DJs at KALX, Chou has expanded her passion to making an online video series called JetLag RocknRoll. A travel show, JetLag RocknRoll takes viewers behind the scenes and around the world by joining forces with indie music makers, who share quintessential record stores, intimate venues where you can do the bop, the pop, or the cretin hop, tasty eateries that won’t bust your budget, and other rock 'n' roll travel essentials.

Where do you live?

Southside Berkeley.

Describe yourself in one word?



What did you do last night?

I spent last night cringing and laughing through Todd Solondz's latest film Weiner-Dog.

What can’t you live without?

You mean who. My husband -- my soulmate and partner in crime.

If you could travel anywhere in the world, where would it be?

There's no "if" here -- if I want to travel somewhere, I'll find a way to do it!

Who is your personal hero? Why?

I admire the talents and achievements of a lot of people but I don't have any specific heroes. There's no one person I aspire to be.

Lily Chou
Lily Chou.

How did you find your creative voice?

First off, let me say that I don't think I'm very creative. I don't consider myself an artist or a "creative." As far as photography and videography, I'm usually just capturing what I see to share with others, to document a moment in time. Writing is more of a creative outlet for me, and I'd say it found me. I was drawn to my mom's manual Remington typewriter (the kind where you have to punch down on the keys really hard) when I was 10, and taught myself to type by coming up with ridiculous, elaborate stories about modern-day dogs having adventures in the world of Little House on the Prairie.

What is something most people don't know about you?

I grew up in a motel for half of my child- and teenhood.

Photo of Nobunny at Thee Parkside
Nobunny at Thee Parkside. (Lily Chou)

What do you do when you feel uninspired?

I watch a film like Chungking Express. I find the colors, mood, music, and details in them so compelling.

What's your biggest 'learning moment,' and what did you you take from that experience?

When I was six years old, my parents started making me do things for myself. I'd wake myself up in the morning in time to get dressed, fix myself breakfast, and walk to school a few blocks away; after school, I could watch as much TV as I wanted as long as I bathed myself and put myself to bed so that I could readily repeat the sequence the next day. I taught myself to type, ride a bike, perform first aid, deal with bullies, pierce my own ears, ride public transit... Whether it was lazy parenting or a calculated move on their part, the self-reliance and independence I learned has stayed with me and I'm forever grateful.

What’s your greatest achievement and how has it shaped you?

Even though I have a fourth-degree black belt now, training for my second-degree black belt unleashed an unexpected maelstrom of self-doubt and fear of failure. Working through my agonizing feelings of inadequacy, completing the strenuous physical test, and earning that second stripe helped me realize that, as long as I work hard, acknowledge my weaknesses, and don't stress out about perfection, there's no reason to fear venturing into new territory.

Coffee or tea? What kind?

I don't regularly drink either but I do love a smooth, dark roast that pairs well with a sweet, preferably chocolatey treat. And, while I appreciate subtle, high-end teas, I'm known to enjoy boba-fied brown rice, oolong, or jasmine green tea.

What does a perfect day look like for you?

A perfect day means no computer and no looming deadlines, freeing me up to live life, be it taking a stroll, working out, catching up with friends, eating something delicious, or exploring a new-to-me part of the Bay Area.

Lily Chou
Lily Chou. (Photo: Travis Jensen)

Who are your local inspirations?

Marcy Gordon, my friend and wine/travel blogger, wows me with her wit and keen sense of observation. My martial arts instructor Norman Link never ceases to amaze me with his vast knowledge, abilities, and life experiences, as well as his compassion and sense of humor. His wife and fellow martial artist Susan Link beat breast cancer and continues to run 15 miles a day -- for fun!

Favorite meal?

The omakase course meal of sushi and cooked seafood at Mashiko in West Seattle.

What upcoming show are you excited about?

I'm looking forward to the Mystery Lights show at the Rickshaw Stop on July 31.

Where do you see yourself in 5 years?

Ask me again in 4.5 years.

If you could live in a book, TV show, movie, play or painting what would it be?


Where and when can people see you or your art in action?

JetLag RocknRoll video series: jetlagrnr.com.

Photography: www.wildaboutyouphotography.com.

Travel and band photography: www.instagram.com/jetlagrnr.

I can also be heard on occasion at: kalx.berkeley.edu.

And you can read my writing at: Messin Around: Rambling Non Sequiturs of a Hyperactive Mind.

Curious about who else made the list? Check out the Women to Watch series page, including photo galleries, interviews, and videos.


Do you know a Bay Area artist who is doing amazing things? We want to hear from you! Highlight her efforts using #BayBrilliant.