scorecardresearch Skip to main content

The AAPI history I carry with me: Sarah Sukumaran

A Beautiful Resistance celebrates Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month and AAPI joy as told to Jeneé Osterheldt

Sarah Sukumaran, founder of Lilith NYC footwear brand, shares her beautiful resistance.Kathryn Page

Sarah Sukumaran puts women first.

Tired of waiting for the boys club of sneaker culture to recognize the ladies that helped build it, she took a walk in her own shoes. Literally.

Sukumaran is the founder of Lilith NYC, a women’s footwear brand. Carrying her Tamil culture in all she does, her sneaker collection pays homage to her heritage while empowering women to be the representation they want to see.

My life is a beautiful resistance because:

I am the daughter of Tamil refugees.

The AAPI history I carry with me:

Begins with my parents’ refugee journey from Sri Lanka to the states during the 1980s, which was the height of anti-Tamil pogroms in Sri Lanka. The Tamil genocide is rarely discussed in the context of AAPI history, so it’s important for me to lend my voice and hold space for our stories.


What gives you joy?

Building Lilith NYC the past two years has brought me the most joy as of late. I worked in tech for most of my career so it’s been quite liberating to explore a more creative path and to see my vision for a brand, rich in storytelling, to come to life beautifully. Hearing from countless women and femmes that the brand resonates with them always brings a smile to my face and reinforces why Lilith NYC exists.

As the founder of a sneaker brand designer, why is it important to have women of color represented in the industry?

For too long, women, especially Black and brown women, have been forced to participate in the footwear industry in the shadow of men, despite the fact that they drive sneaker culture. This lack of representation is seen within organizational structures at legacy brands as well as consumer-facing efforts. We still need to see more Black women and POC leading in decision-making roles, which means explicitly creating new roles vs. waiting for (white) men to churn out of their senior roles.


Overall, the industry has always been centered around the male athlete and we haven’t seen an evolution beyond that for many decades. Starting Lilith NYC was a response to my own decades-long relationship to sneaker culture and feeling like an outsider. When I was younger, I participated in sneaker culture by way of how the boys showed up on the playground, which was in a hyper masculine fashion. Lilith NYC gives space for women and femmes to explore and express their style, gender, and sexuality, fluidly.

Every week in May, A Beautiful Resistance will hold space in recognition of Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month. Follow us on Instagram @abeautifulresistance.

Jeneé Osterheldt can be reached at Follow her @sincerelyjenee and on Instagram @abeautifulresistance.