Young Change Makers: Why and How Peipei Li Is Helping To Change Our World

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I wish someone would’ve told me you don’t have to please everyone. During the initial stages of artistic creation, I often fall into the trap of worrying about whether my work will leave lasting impressions on everyone. Even when I’m not creating art, I am always thinking about how to be the person that pleases everyone. However, this is an impossible task. I’ve only come to realize this recently and I know I’ve invested too much unnecessary unconcern on this matter.

As part of my series about young people who are making an important social impact”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Peipei Li.

Peipei Li was born and raised in China, and she now lives and works in Los Angeles. Peipei was trained as an illustrator at Savannah College of Art and Design, and she is now exploring other art media such as oil painting, performance, and installation. Peipei sees art as a form of self-expression and self-exploration, and she also uses it to ask the question: what’s the human connection to the society we are living in? Throughout her artistic career, she has always been interested in human connections and relations to the world, and the balance between one and oneself. Peipei believes everyone has power from within, but sometimes people forget about it. As an artist, Peipei hopes when audiences see her work, they can re-recognize their own inner strength. Once they start to think about it, the power from within will come back to them. Peipei’s newest exhibit “NEW ORDER” can be seen at Yiwei Gallery in Venice, CA Wednesday — Sunday, 12pm — 5pm April 8th through April 30th.

Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit. Can you tell us a bit about how you grew up?

My name is Peipei Li and I was born in 1996. I’m from Shenyang, China and studied at Beijing Normal University, Zhuhai. Later, I transferred to Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD) and majored in illustration for my Bachelor’s. Now I live in Los Angeles, and I am focusing on my own artistic creations,

Is there a particular book or organization that made a significant impact on you growing up? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?

My earliest encounters with somewhat formal forms of literature were O. Henry’s short story collection. I very much like his story style and his written works have had profound influences on my creation to this day. I thoroughly enjoy O. Henry’s description of characters; his works not only mock the ugly side of humanity, but also use intricate details of minor characters to depict the beautiful side of human nature. Under O. Henry’s influence, I have developed a great interest in characterization and in topics related to humanity. This is why most of my works revolve around individuals and their souls. The piece of literature that left the most memorable impression on me is his work titled “A Service of Love,” which discusses the story of a poor couple studying art and living the same dream. In an effort to survive, both of them complete side jobs and heavy duty-work without telling the other, thus silently dedicating themselves towards the pursuit of their shared dream.

How do you define “Making A Difference” through your art, and can you explain what you mean or give an example?

Success and the idea of making a difference can be hard to quantify and judge. Maybe it’s because I am the less ambitious type; I think that as long as my work can result in positive impacts, then that can count as making a difference. I have always held the belief that art is created for other people’s viewing and this idea has been a compelling force in my process of creation. While I hope that my works can have positive impacts, I have gone through some events that led me to realize that not everyone is capable of understanding my art. Much like how no one is perfect in this world, and so I do not expect everyone to understand my concepts. As long as there is one person out there who understands, that can count as a step towards success.

Let’s now jump to the main part of our interview. You are currently leading an upcoming art exhibit that aims to make a social impact. Can you tell us a bit about what you and your art is trying to change in our world today?

The meaning behind “New Order” is opposition towards consumerism. I realized that many are getting caught up in the trap of consumerism and even take pride in it. In fact, such behaviors not only compel those who are not keen on consumption to follow suit unwillingly, they are also crushing their own spaces of survival in the indulgence of consumerism. This is why I created my work titled “New Order.” I hope that through my works, the viewers can re-examine their own living conditions, drop the anxiety they have acquired due to consumerism, stop relying on relentless purchases as a means of comfort, and instead find the power that resides within themselves so as to find an easier way of living.

Can you tell us the backstory about what inspired you to originally feel passionate about this cause?

This actually is a very long story and one that I cannot easily retell specifically. I seemed to have loved drawing from a young age, when I was five I started to discover a passion in it. When I first spoke out about wanting to become an artist, I was 10 years old. I remember being in a classroom and the teacher asking everyone about their dreams. Many spoke about being a scientist, a teacher, a doctor, a lawyer… and so on. When it came to me, I said I wanted to become an artist. From then on, I have worked hard. Now that I look back, it seems like my efforts have paid off.

Many of us have ideas, dreams, and passions, but never manifest them. We don’t always get up and just do it, but you did. Was there an “Aha Moment” that made you decide that you were actually going to step up and do it?

If I had to say it, it was probably when I realized that my work can really affect others and provide them with emotional support. Before this realization, I have always been someone who lacked confidence. Even though I have never stopped studying and creating, I have also struggled to really believe that my works possessed the kind of power I wanted them to have. However, when I came to the realization that my works were truly filled with emotions and capable of strengthening others and inspiring them to reflect, I recognized the need for me to stand up and let more people see my work. It is only then that I can use my art to help others.

Many young people don’t know the steps to take to start social movements, but you did. What are some of the things or steps you took to get your project started?

First of all, I believe the most important aspect is to have a plan. Since one single person cannot be capable of completing a project by themselves, they must elicit support either through shared responsibility or through investment. Before they can do that, they must present a completed plan in front of the other party. Also, the crafting of a holistic plan can also help demonstrate one’s professionalism as well as critical and logical thinking. I believe all of these aspects are very important, hence why I always think about the concept behind my work and the effects I would like to achieve before I begin on a new project. After that, I won’t lose a sense of direction even if I later develop second thoughts.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began creating your art?

It’s hard for me to talk about a specific and interesting story. When I’m creating, I usually find myself accompanied by pain. Or I can say that it is through pain that I can derive an endless source of inspiration to create. Yet, at the same time, I feel like the process of creation itself should be intriguing enough as a story.

None of us can be successful without some help along the way. Did you have mentors or cheerleaders who helped you to succeed? Can you tell us a story about their influence?

If we talk about this topic, then I have so many stories to share. I am really happy that when I was in the process of creating, many of my friends provided full support. Especially Klein Lee and Joey Guo. Klein Lee is my sister; even though she isn’t usually one to pay compliments, she was always there for me when I felt down. She always found ways to improve my mood when I was in self-denial. She took me out for rides to help me free myself from the burden of my work. On the other hand, Joey Guo was the opposite, she was always soft and good at complimenting others. She compliments me unreservedly when I need it and makes me feel amazing in everything I do.

Here is the main question of the interview. What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why? (Please share a story or example for each)

I wish someone would’ve told me you don’t have to please everyone. During the initial stages of artistic creation, I often fall into the trap of worrying about whether my work will leave lasting impressions on everyone. Even when I’m not creating art, I am always thinking about how to be the person that pleases everyone. However, this is an impossible task. I’ve only come to realize this recently and I know I’ve invested too much unnecessary unconcern on this matter.

I wish someone would’ve told me to not care about what other people say about you. Much like how I was concerned about making more people appreciate my work, I am also worried about being discussed and being spoken about in critical terms. Whenever I hear about differing interpretations of my work, I tend to have strong reactions. These emotions merely stem from my inner lack of self-confidence and that’s why I am concerned about other people’s comments.

I wish someone would’ve told me that failure does not matter. I, of course, have gone through several episodes of failure. Every time I feel like a failure, I begin to doubt my work as well as my own value. When I fail, I worry about whether I’m running out of inspiration and that I will no longer create meaningful works. But now that I look back on the last three or four years, I have undergone transformations through an accumulation of experience in failures and I have developed brand new thoughts because of such experiences.

I wish someone would’ve told me that being relaxed is okay. Before this year, I rarely had time to rest like I do now. In the past, I was often too busy to dedicate time to unbridled creativity due to the burden of homework and the need to learn new stuff. I was always worried that if I relaxed myself, I would regress or that my existing abilities would deteriorate. When I lacked inspiration, I did not know to unwind myself and instead pressured myself more; but such attempts would not bring improvement and can actually wear out my mental capacities.

I wish someone would’ve told me that my parents have been proud of me all this time. The thought of spending too much time studying has plagued me; when people my age could already relieve their parents of monetary concerns, I could not contribute my efforts. This kind of thought tormented me for a long period of time. Nevertheless, I used this exhibition as an opportunity to talk to my parents and I understand now that they have always been proud of me despite everything.

If you could tell other young people one thing about why they should consider making a positive impact on our environment or society, like you, what would you tell them?

In reality, it is tremendously difficult for one single person to leave an impact on society. An individual’s strength is hardly powerful enough. For those who hold goals of transforming society and saving the world, they would find themselves quickly tired out by the tasks associated with achieving such unrealistic objectives. Yet, at the same time, no matter how little one’s strength may be, he or she can always be appreciated by another. So, the best thing to do is to keep trying even if you only have the power to influence one single individual. Even then, you can be proud of your achievements. As long as there are more people who are willing to think like that, then society will surely move towards a more positive place.

Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would like to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them.

If such an opportunity truly exists, I would like to have lunch with one of the leading performance artists of our time, Maria Abramović. I really appreciate her and her art, especially her artwork titled “Rhythm 0.” It was in 2014 when I had initially heard about this piece of work. At that time, I was much younger, but I respected Abramović as an artist with thoughtfulness and courage. In “New Order,” I was inspired by her to try using elements of performance art as a result of the courage and strength I see in her.

How can our readers follow you online and across social media?

My Instagram is

My website is

This was very meaningful, thank you so much. We wish you only continued success on your great work!

Thank you so much!

Young Change Makers: Why and How Peipei Li Is Helping To Change Our World was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.