Humans of Khmer America

Norita Smoeuk

My name is Norita Smoeuk (@popcrimes), or Nori for short. Khmer families know me by, Fifi. I am an illustrator under the name, Popcrimes​ and I am also a classical dancer for the Cambodian Dance Troupe of Oregon​.

I was born and raised in a suburb of Portland, Oregon, and still live there. I grew up in the Khmer community here in Portland, and I also frequently visit with family in Long Beach and other parts of the US. I think that being around other Khmer families has always kept me close to our culture and interested in learning more about it.

I studied art at the University of Oregon​ and I now work as a freelance illustrator. I would like to successfully publish my own comic book in the future, and work as a concept artist for a big studio like Nickelodeon or Disney.

My role models are my mom and dad. Both have taught me that my life was precious and that I can be a strong and independent woman in charge of my own life. My mother is the most hardworking woman I know. She owns her own salon business, she is a seamstress, she rents out clothes and dresses people for traditional Khmer weddings, and she teaches dance! The only thing she doesn’t do is cook. (I STILL LOVE YOU!) I don’t know how she does it all, but she’s always encouraged me to be creative and to be hands on and learn new things. My father is one of the kindest and understanding people I know. I don’t think I’ve ever seen him in a serious argument with anyone. He’s also taught me to be very thorough and never take half-measures, but also to enjoy life when you can. I think my interest in drawing came from him, because I always asked him to draw me pictures when I was little.

I think it’s very important to know about my parent’s native culture because it is also my culture, or at least the solid foundation of it. You appreciate life more knowing where you came from and how your parents and their parents persevered through hard times. They inspired me to pursue my passion as an artist, and for that I am grateful. They saw that I had talent so I want to give back by working hard and becoming successful and representing Khmer.

My hobbies include baking cupcakes, makeup, and watching wrestling! I’ve also been getting into cosplay and learning how to make props.

What I like about Khmerican​ is that it brings us all together as one big community. I think that’s how it should be, we should all be supporting each other. It’s also my go-to for Khmer related news updates.

I haven’t been back to visit Cambodia since I was fifteen, and that was ten years ago! I want to go back so bad! I miss my cousins and relatives, the food, the beach, and all the beautiful temples and architecture. I’ve only been there twice, and I miss it.

Without my Khmer identity, I would just be a simple nerd that draws superheroes and magical girls. I am proud to be Khmer and honored to be representing such a beautiful and rich culture. In ten years I would like to be a positive role model and example for other young Khmer kids who want to be become artists when they grow up. It doesn’t have to be just a hobby, you can touch and inspire so many people with the art you create. You CAN be successful. You don’t have to go for the career your parents expect you to choose, do what feels right for YOU and makes you happy. Then you can show them that you can be great with what you’re passionate about and build an empire, as long as you put your mind to it and never give up. GET OUT THERE AND SHOW THE WORLD!!

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