Radio DJ Becky “Mits” — A Walking Contradiction Equipped With a Mic, Quick Mouth and Comfy Crocs
Kristen Nemoto Jay
It’s the impression that Becky “Mits” Martin makes of her parents’ face that many — whose report cards in high school were not ideal — can relate to. She opens her hands up like a book, pretends to hold a report card that’s filled with letters other than A’s or B’s, and stares stoically down with all the seriousness of a poker player who’s lost a hand that’s yet to be revealed. With perfect comedic timing, still in stealth mode, she glances up to say: “I was the worst Asian student” with a hearty laugh.
It’s impressions like this and her general witty personality that’s gotten Martin over 11,500 followers on Instagram and reeling in tens of thousands (sometimes millions) of views per Tik Tok post with nearly 870,000 current followers. It’s her relatable personality and sharp tongue that caught the attention of her program director when she was a sales assistant for iHeartRadio, which led to her current role as a radio DJ on 93.9’s Sam and Ryan Show for the past three years. She’s happy, which has been her mother and father’s ultimate dream for her and her two other siblings, despite the little hiccup that she had in high school. They only worried how those lack of grades would translate into the “real world,” which is “normal, right?” asks Martin with a shrug as she understands now that they just wanted what was best for her. She credits them for most if not all of her success, a testament that she still appreciates to this day.
“It must have been hard for them because they did see the potential in me and granted, I could have tried harder in school,” admitted Martin while on a Zoom call from the iHeartRadio station headquarters in Dole Cannery located in the Honolulu Nimitz area. “They are the most supportive parents. I was and am really lucky.”
Despite not being a good student, Martin chopped it up with humor and could still foresee life after high school at Mid-Pacific Institute, especially in the entertainment industry; she just didn’t know exactly what that would look like. A fake microphone made out of foil and a paper towel roll with “E! News” written on it gave her a glimpse during spirit week of her senior year.
“I borrowed my mom’s blazer and everything,” Martin continued. She’s still a little peeved that she didn’t win the “Most Likely to Be on Oprah” award but now acknowledges the fact that not everything is what it’s meant to be; especially noting the student who won “Most Humorous” is now a prosecutor. “I was like, come on guys, she’s funny but not funny anymore!”
With the support from her family, Martin graduated from Mid-Pacific Institute in 2013, moved on to college and graduated with a bachelor’s degree in communications from Portland State University in 2017. She was an intern at Disneyland for a couple of months before she began working at three different retail places just to “keep busy, move out” and try to figure out her next move as a recent graduate. Feeling lost and a little down on herself came up for not knowing what she wanted to do in terms of her career, especially after she was fired from one of her retail jobs. Though her family never made her feel bad about who she was or what she was doing during that time in her life, she couldn’t help but compare herself to her otherwise “successful” family.
“You know my sister is a lawyer, my brother is a teacher at the University … my father is an attorney and my mother is currently getting her master’s … so as I’m watching them growing up, I definitely felt the pressure of having to be successful in some sense,” said Martin.
When she got a job as a sales assistant at iHeartRadio in October 2018, things started to quickly fall into place. By February 2019 she was offered the radio DJ position — “thrown” as she says — and part of the decades-long relationship that was and still is the Sam and Ryan Show currently on iHeartRadio’s 93.9 The Beat. Her main role, she said, is to add a female perspective to the otherwise male-dominated hosted show and audience. Her candid and honest personality gives the show a good balance, especially on topics that need a female perspective, including the controversy of Ye (formerly known as Kanye West) and his past threats on social media to his former wife Kim Kardashian’s new boyfriend Pete Davidson.
“What he [did was] terrifying and scary and a lot of people, mainly men, don’t understand because they’re not women,” said Martin who also notes that she’s still a Ye fan but separates her love of his music from him as a person. “If you took away all of their fame and money, there are many instances where women like Kim would stay because they believe it would be better for the kids or herself if they just went back,” Martin said although their talk show is supposed to be an escape from heavy topics such as the Ye drama, because he’s a prominent figure in the hip-hop community and it’s a topic that many women can relate to, it’s important to keep the conversations going.
“You don’t want to risk the fear of being ignorant [by not talking] about certain things,” asserts Martin. “It’s a delicate tango in finding the balance [on the show].”
Though her perspective has attracted many listeners to tune in, the first year, she admits, was tough. Like any relationship that’s forced to quickly morph and change, especially if it’s three people versus two.
“I had to get used to some communication styles as I’m sure Sam and Ryan had to with me as well … that couldn’t have been easy for them,” said Martin. “Like any relationship you go into, it takes some work and getting used to.”
A year into her role as a radio DJ, Martin started recording videos on Tik Tok, creating her own voice and name for herself, going by the stage name Becky Mits. “Mits” is short for Mitsue, a middle name she shares with her maternal grandmother. No subject is off-limits and neither is her filter as she creates under a minute hilarious bits, covering various topics such as celebrity gossip, life on and off set, her dating life and social media trolls; all paired perfectly with a hip-hop song to conclude her dry and oftentimes dark sense of humor. The result of each video is original and authentic, much like Martin’s personality, which is a mashed-up combo of Aly Wong’s salacious tongue, Rebel Wilson’s dry humor and Chelsea Handler’s sass. When the COVID-19 pandemic forced everyone to quarantine in their homes, Martin’s videos provided some comic relief and escape from the world, prompting her Tik Tok account to reel in millions of views. Her ability to joke about her insecurities, while providing a transparent life on and off the microphone, gave people a reason to smile and relate to the otherwise self-proclaimed introvert living in an extrovert world.
“I think a lot of people think being in entertainment means you’re an extrovert and that’s actually not true for me,” said Martin. “I don’t like to be the center of attention but I do like making people laugh.”
Granted some of what she says on social media has raised some eyebrows but Martin challenges the double standard that’s upheld to her as a woman, particularly an Asian American woman, and notes that some people would then try to bring her down by trolling her on social media.
“I will always get comments about my appearance on social media,” emphasized Martin. “[Sam and Ryan] never do … But I guess I’m doing my job right if they can’t say anything about my personality and they have to resort to my looks.”
The comments used to bother her but now she understands that it comes with the business; further finding support from Sam and Ryan who explained that they noticed those who say such hateful things have more problems of their own that it’s best to just ignore and keep going.
Martin has taken that advice to heart and continues to make content, use her voice, and find other ways to peel back biases about who she is and what she’s supposed to be. Though her hometown roots grounded her in Mililani and parts of ‘Aiea and Mānoa, culturally, however, she’s still trying to figure out what that means. Though mainly of Japanese ancestry and partly Portuguese and Native American, Martin is still trying to maneuver what her culture as a local also means to her and who she’s continuously evolving to become.
“Being a local girl, especially if you’re of mixed race, is a weird place to be in Hawai‘i,” said Martin. “I wasn’t raised in Japanese culture because even though my grandmother on my father’s side was from Japan … she married a local boy who was [of Portuguese and Native American ancestry and] in the military … And then my mother was raised by her [Japanese parents] but they have been in Hawai‘i for years and years. So I definitely feel like I’m not in touch with that culture as I’d like to be yet at the same time I still want to be a good representation of what it means to be a local Japanese American woman; because all three of those things mean something completely different.”
Representation is especially important to her as she remembers not seeing many Asians within the entertainment industry growing up. Her one recollection of a character she resonated with as a child was Disney’s Mulan, whom she loved and had her parents take her to every costume store to find the Mulan warrior outfit for Halloween (not the kimono) when she was four years old. They ended up settling for the kimono as none of the stores had the warrior outfit that she wanted to emulate.
“[That story] is very reflective of who I am now,” said Martin with a smile. “I am very much a woman and very proud of that but I didn’t follow the steps of what an Asian woman is supposed to [be].” Martin continues to say she resonated with how Mulan was so “defiant” and says she’s very much like that to this day. She appreciated that form of representation in the Mulan story as it made her feel less of an outsider.
Martin says she sees the entertainment industry changing for the better in acquiring more stories that better represent people of color, especially Asians. She hopes in the next 50 to 60 years that entertainers will be lauded for being great entertainers who happen to be Asian rather than an Asian entertainer, a concept far from the days of Sixteen Candles’ Long Duk Dong and Breakfast at Tiffany’s Mr. Yunioshi.
While Martin reiterates she doesn’t necessarily want to be looked at as the best representation in her field, and that she’s just doing her “own thing” which happens to be on the radio, she notes that she’s very happy with what she’s doing and hopes to help any young people with finding their true passion.
“I’ll get messages at least once a week from a kid asking me how I got to where I am today,” said Martin. “I tell them that they have to start at any advantage or any opportunity that you can get even if it’s an internship that pays nothing. You never know who you’ll meet and then be the best at that position. Ask yourself what you can do to stand out.”
No matter how busy she is, Martin says she will “always respond to a kid” asking her for advice. She knows what it feels like to need some guidance as she recalls her former high school teacher, “Mr. Chance,” was the “only one” who reached out and took the time to mentor her. Along with her family’s support, she credits his kindness and guidance as to the reason why she believed she could apply to college. She wants to pay it forward to others who may feel a little lost in their lives and let them know that the feeling is only temporary.
“I hope that young individuals still work hard in school but know that their grades don’t reflect their self-worth,” concluded Martin. “It’s not the end of the world as long as you’re willing to learn from your mistakes, keep moving forward, and be determined to succeed. It’ll end up working out for you.”
If all else fails, she says, you can always laugh about it. That’s what she loves to do on Tik Tok anyway, while letting others know that they can do the same whether it’s at or with her.
Catch Becky Mits on the Sam and Ryan Show on 93.9’s The Beat, Monday through Saturday from 6 to 10 a.m. You can also follow her @beckymits on Tik Tok and Instagram.