The Glee Project’s Abraham Lim: “YouTube is an amazing platform…” [INTERVIEW]

Have you been keeping up with this season’s “The Glee Project”? If so, then you know that one of this season’s favorites — the talented, funny, personality-laden dynamo with the trademark shock of red hair, Abraham Lim, was ousted in this week’s “Tenacity”-themed elimination episode. After brandishing his “Eye of the Tiger” in a confrontation with Ryan Murphy and the other mentors following his last chance performance, his time on “The Glee Project” came to an end far, far too soon. Although now gone from the show, NMR will forever be #TeamAbraham. Before his elimination, NMR was able to chat with Abraham about YouTube, the Asian American glass ceiling, and his love for the LGBT community. Also, check out that one time I infamously committed the horrifying faux paus of stereotyping Abraham Lim as gay. *cough* #TEAMABRAHAM

So, I guess we can start right off the bat. Abraham, what has it been like so far being on “The Glee Project”?

Abraham Lim: It’s felt like a dream come true for me, like, I honestly don’t want to get up if it is a dream. It’s pretty much everything that I’ve wanted to do since I was little, but I was either too afraid or just not secure enough in myself to do so. It’s definitely great to be on a show like this that is so different from all the other reality competition series where we actually get direct mentoring from the industry’s best. It’s definitely very, very cool, and I’m so honored to be part of this experience.

So were you a fan of “Glee” before you joined the show, honestly?

Abraham: Oh yeah, it’s really embarrassing. I used to sometimes go on “Glee” forums, and I wouldn’t post anything, like I would occasionally if I saw something and I was really passionate about it. But yeah, I have watched it since season one, the pilot episode, and at first, I was kind of unsure about it because it seemed very like–I don’t know–it just didn’t really grab my attention. But then I watched it, and I was so hooked. I have not missed an episode, and even if it would cost me sleep I would watch “Glee” on Hulu or something like that. I am a huge fan, and I really love the show. It is just a groundbreaking show on so many levels, and I am just a huge fan.

That is definitely cool when you are a fan of a show and you have the possibility of going on it. I can see how that would be a dream come true. What’s it like living with so many other people?

Abraham: You know, honestly, it’s really cool because on the one hand you live with 13 other contenders, and everyone is so different and everyone has a different story, so it is definitely very cool because it gives you insight into different perspectives and different stories that people bring into the house. But on the other hand, when you do see people 24/7, sometimes it can get a bit frustrating. But I mean it’s like its own little family; when I see my family all the time it’s like, “Okay, I’ve had enough.” I need some time to go do something and go into my room and have my own space. I mean, for the most part it’s been an amazing experience living with so many different people and just to learn more about them and broaden in terms of my horizon, in terms of perspective and all that.

Are there any other contestants that you just can’t stand? Anyone you have the hots for?

Abraham: [laughs] You are just digging for the dirt. No, for the most part you know a lot of them are really, really great friends. And yeah, I mean I have some really, really close friends. I am super close with Tyler and Blake and Nelly and Shanna, and I do love most of the contenders. Anyway, moving on.

When you originally submitted your audition it was through a YouTube video, right?

Abraham: No, “The Glee Project” on Oxygen actually had a website, and it had an app that we can download where we can submit an online audition. There were in-call, open auditions for everyone in different cities throughout the United States, and there were also online auditions. I didn’t actually have money to fly over to New York, and that was originally the plan because I went to ISA early last year, and I actually saw Damien and Cameron. Obviously, I knew who they were as fans because I watched the show last year. I was performing at ISA, and I ran into Damien, and I was like, “Oh hi. I just really wanted to say, ‘I think you’re great,’” and he was like, “Oh, you should try out for the show. It’s going to be auditioning in New York.” So that was the plan originally, but I had no money, so I just auditioned online, and low and behold, I got a call back and then that led to me being on the show.

Originally, did you want to be a YouTube personality? Did you want to have a presence on YouTube, or was that just a stepping stone to get into a singing career?

Abraham: Honestly, for me, YouTube was more of a personal venture more than anything. I didn’t expect anything when I put up my first video, which was “Someone Like You” by Adele, and it was a cover. I had literally, like, a few hundred views; maybe if I’m lucky, a little over a thousand. For me, it was more of like I just need to take the step of being more secure in myself and being more secure in my talent. Come what may, regardless of whether it is positive or negative, I just really want to share that with everybody. Unexpectedly, it just sort of took off, but I definitely think that YouTube is an amazing platform especially for underrepresented groups within society like Asian Americans. They are not very represented, like it’s sort of different. I have grown up in the states all my life, yet I see a lot of archetype Asian characters. So, it’s definitely a great stepping stone, and you know, it has led me to this, so I am so indebted to social platforms like YouTube and all the supporters that stuck by me, because they are so amazing, and I have no idea what they saw or heard that was that great [laughs].

So you’ve talked about being Asian, and I know you have only been at this for a while, because originally you were going to go to law school. What do you think the challenges have been and are for an Asian American trying to make it as a singer?

Abraham: I would say — just off the top of my head — I wrote a blog recently about this, and if you really think about the Asian American entertainers that have really made a huge impact on the American entertainment industry over the past year, you can’t really think of much — you know what I mean? How many Asian Americans have been on the Billboard charts, how many have won an Emmy or a Golden Globe or an Oscar or have been in a hit television show? I can think of Sandra Oh, and she plays a very universal character; it’s not just her jumping on water and flying in the air. I definitely do think that it is an uphill battle, and I do think that there is a glass ceiling as with a lot of other different ethnic groups; it’s not just Asian Americans. Personally, I think in addition to being on “Glee,” obviously, I really want to — even if it is just to leave a few cracks on that glass ceiling — that’s really what I want to do. I want to be the universal character; I don’t want to just do, “Oh, hi. I got a B+, my life is over.” I want to be a heartbreaker, you know? I want to flir; sort of crazy because that’s what I am.

Are you afraid of that glass ceiling? Especially not just as an Asian American but as a Gaysian?

Abraham: As a “Gaysian”?

Yeah, as a gay Asian American.

Abraham: I’m actually not a gay Asian American. I am just an Asian American. Yeah, but you know what, though? It’s actually very flattering for me that people would think that, because I grew up with my mom and my sister, so I picked up a lot of mannerisms and even just how I talk or interact with people. It’s been sort of conceived as, “Oh yeah, so he is obviously a gay Asian American,” and it’s sort of an uphill battle too, because there are a lot of people who have been in the LGBT community that have been making a mark in the entertainment industry, which is amazing. But to be perceived as gay and also Asian American, which is actually true — the Asian American part — and to be spoken of like two minority groups, even though I’m not — one is not true — it is sort of an uphill battle, but then it’s actually really amazing, surprisingly. So many people of the LGBT community have been reaching out and messaging me and saying, “Thank you,” for being so bold, and I’m like, “That’s amazing, because I’m just being myself, not choosing to be anything other than that.” So while it is an uphill battle, I definitely think it’s a fight worth fighting. I’m not intimidated by it at all, so yes, very, very cool. I’m very flattered.

I know you aren’t offended by it, which is really cool, but I’m sorry for stereotyping you.

Abraham: I think it’s so flattering, because I have so many gay friends, and I have so many people that I know that work in this industry, and I see them, and they are all really great. A lot of them dress really well and look a lot better than I do. So thank you for that, but yeah, don’t be sorry about it, it’s fine.

Do you think there are advantages to not having been trained in singing and dancing? Of course, you’re great in both.

Abraham: Thank you. I would say that it makes you more malleable, because on a show like “The Glee Project” you are being mentored, so if we are in the vocal booth with Nikki Anders — she is our vocal producer and mentor — if she tells you to do something, if you are classically trained all your life, and you have a certain way of doing things, you can’t be as flexible with adapting to certain situations. So I do definitely think in some ways it’s made me more flexible and more teachable, but at the same time, it would have been nice to have a vocal lesson or two prior to all of this. But you know, everything happens for a reason. I think “Glee” and “The Glee Project,” it’s all about celebrating the underdog and how great it would be if someone who has had no training vocally, dancing and acting, nothing, came up and was the victor. I think that’s an amazing testament to this show.

Yeah, and I saw that before you were on “The Glee Project,” you were a bartender. Is that right?

Abraham: Yeah, I was.

And also a legal aid.

Abraham: Mm hm.

What was that bartending experience like? I’m just curious.

Abraham: Oh, that’s a good question. Bartending is really rewarding in the sense that you get a lot of money, so cha-ching. You meet a lot of really interesting people, and it can get really, really fun. Plus, I know how to make a lot of really good drinks that a lot of people don’t know of, but on the other hand, you do deal with a few drunkards once in a while. But honestly, someone threw their ID at me and literally hit me in the chest. It was like a freakin’ ninja star, and I was like, “Okay, you can leave now,” and I just threw the card back and was like, “Bye.” Because you do have to conduct yourself, and it is about customer service, but there is respect. I think that regardless of if you’re drunk, if you are going to drink, and you get drunk and you forget about respect, then just get out.

Out of all of the mentors that you have had so far, you have already had two from the actual show. Who has been your favorite so far?

Abraham: Well, so far we had Lea and Samuel Larsen, and actually, winning dance ability week and having that one-on-one with Samuel was definitely very cool. So they are both great in so many different ways, because Lea is not a rookie, she is a veteran of Glee, she has been there since the beginning; and Samuel was in our shoes last year, you know? So both offer very valid insight into the show and their role in it, but to be honest, I was really  excited when I saw Ryan Murphy come in. Whenever he says something to me or whenever he gives me feedback, I soak it up like a freaking sponge. That man has an eye for things, and I think he really sees me and sees who I am, so that is really very, very appreciated.

And so aside from him, who else could come in that would make you just piss your pants?

Abraham: Chris Colfer. I have been really, realy excited. I was crossing my fingers like, “Chris Colfer, please come, like Jesus.” Also, Heather Morris; I actually thought that she was going to be here for dance ability week, but she wasn’t, so honestly, I was a tad bit disappointed, but that sort of evaporated when we had to do the performance and all that. But yeah, I would say Chris Colfer is a big one for me though because I feel like he is one of the people that carry the show, and his character in and of itself has broken so many boundaries for so many different people. I feel like he epitomizes the underdog for “Glee.” Definitely him. He is so inspirational even in real life, like Time Magazine 100 Most Influential, he has a movie coming up that he wrote — I mean, he wrote a book — and like, he’s just crazy, and he is only all of what? 21 years old?

What’s in store for the future for your own personal channels? You are very interactive with your fans on Twitter and Instagram, and I also notice you are still putting up videos. Where is all that going to go?

Abraham: Yeah, I know a lot of people have been wondering and asking me what’s happening with my YouTube channel. I don’t forget where I come from, and I know that YouTube was definitely a huge starting point for me, so I definitely am going to be putting up covers in the future. At the moment, I am just so busy, and there are just certain constraints that I can’t overcome, but I will be putting up covers, I will be putting up blogs on updating people with what I’m doing, where I am in my life and especially during “The Glee Project” I will be putting up certain blogs too, just recapping the episodes in my own weird way. Yeah, my YouTube channel is still alive and well; it’s just sort of on vacation.

When KevJumba was on “The Amazing Race,” he did a similar thing where he would vlog about what happened in the previous episodes before, and as a result, those episodes would get a ton of viewers just because all his followers would rush and go watch those episodes. Do you think there is a similar effect with you?

Abraham: You know, I don’t have as many followers as Kevin Jumba, so I don’t know if I have that amount of social clout yet. But for recaps, honestly, it has nothing to do with me strategically trying to get ratings. It has more to do with a lot of our international fans; I love them so much, and they watch the show online because it doesn’t air in their country or it’s coming out later on, and they want to watch it now. So it is more for people who can’t watch it or for them to refresh their minds. I know a lot of people are watching it today because they want to sort of recap everything before they watch the next episode. It’s sort of like watching all five “Harry Potter” movies, and then right before you watch the sixth one to try to refresh your memory. So yeah, it’s more something like that and just because I want to connect with my fans. Hopefully, one day I will have that pull like KevJumba does and bring those ratings with one recap video.

I’m sure you’ll get there though. I already see you everywhere I go and drive in L.A. now. I’m like, “Oh! There is Abraham on another billboard, on another bus.”

Abraham: Those are insane. My face is huge. It’s crazy. I’m like, “Oh, hello.”

I know you are really busy, so thank you for taking the time to talk with us.

Abraham: Oh no, thank you guys so much. I am so glad, because I really think that NewMediaRockstars is like — I think it’s really great what you guys are doing, and I think that you guys are giving a voice for people that just want to share what they do, so thank you for interviewing me.


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