Ep#8: The Donut Princess: Carrying On a Family Legacy with Mayly Tao
In this episode of Your Story Medicine, I welcome LA’s self-proclaimed Donut Princess, Mayly Tao. Mayly is the Owner of DK’s Donuts & Bakery in Santa Monica, CA and Donut Princess Los Angeles, a donut bouquet delivery concept. She’s also the host of her podcast Short N’ Sweet. Mayly shares with us the incredible story of her ancestors overcoming the immense challenges of the Khmer Rouge genocide and how that has evolved into a flourishing donut empire here in California. She sheds light on the reason why she decided to take on the hard work of running DK’s Donuts & Bakery instead of pursuing another career path after college, as well as how she finds moments to ground herself and help her mother to find moments of rest and patience.
We are finding the medicine amidst what many of us only perceive as trauma. It’s not simple and it takes a lot of releasing, but we have the power to heal and find balance between work and rest.
How would you describe your medicine?
I would describe my medicine as food, obviously. Food, especially how I was raised, it is medicine and kind of your life line. I also find my medicine in being active. In my younger years, substances were where my medicine was and in the last few years, I’ve started to develop this awareness with what you put in your body. It also goes into the medicine of snapping back into this big dick energy (BDE), the environment that you surround yourself in. That includes having a clean, welcoming space to come home to and surrounding yourself with people that nourish and support you.
What is your ancestral lineage and how has that influenced your path?
My nationality is Chinese, Cambodian, and Thai. Specifically, the type of Chinese I am is _____.
There was this huge diaspora in the Southern part of China that caused all these ____ people to flee their homeland and my great grandparents were among them. Some of my ancestors fled to Thailand, all over Thailand, but my grandparents came to Cambodia in hopes of searching for new opportunity. They thrived in business and were very wealthy until the Khmer Rouge genocide happened. The effects of this genocide took away the childhood of my parents, who were very young when this was happening. My parents managed to escape by foot and find refuge at refugee camps, eventually finding a new life in America.
My mother’s family worked so hard and saved to open a donut shop. My father’s side of the family is donut royalty. My Uncle Ted was the star of The Donut King and brought Cambodian families over to America to set up donut shops. My Uncle Ted was basically the matchmaker for my parents. 1989 was when I was born in LA and I spent a lot of time in donut shops.
My parents never got to have an education so they worked to give me a great education and once I graduated school, I came back to DK’s Donuts & Bakery and rebranded it. The Donut King is now another way our story is continuing to be told.
What was your parents’ reaction to you coming back to work at the donut shop?
They encouraged me to do something else because it’s a lot of hard work, but they wanted it to be in my back pocket. What I couldn’t escape was coming home and seeing them work so hard. I wanted to take the burden on because I didn’t want them to work so hard anymore. I wanted to make it easier for them by implementing technology and putting myself on the frontlines.
What does DK’s stand for?
DK’s used to be a chain back in the 80s and it stands for David and Kathy, but we repurpose it to mean different things and it’s really become a household family name.
How do you feel what you’re doing today is helping to heal your mother and your ancestors?
I, and many other children of immigrants, struggle with finding balance between work and rest. I have so much of my mother’s drive engrained in me but also I was raised here in America with these new ideas of self-care and grounding and the law of attraction. I try to check in with my mom and remind her of patience and investing in ourselves. Overtime, her being more open to resting and not working so hard has allowed her to let go of some of her trauma. There’s a lot of trauma that’s not healed yet but we’re making progress and that’s enough for me.
You’re not having leftovers of donuts for dinner are you!?
No, I don’t eat that many donuts, they’re a very special treat for me. A lot of the food I eat has Thai, Chinese, and Cambodian influences and I even encourage my mom to eat less rice and more veggies and proteins. It’s such an interesting shift… to think about what my ancestors would think about me not eating a pile of rice.
What are you doing to stay grounded in these times and what are you learning to release?
I learned what grounding is not too long ago so I’m still learning and unlearning, you could say. Though to ground myself, it starts with gratitude. Instead of saying “I have to do this,” I say, “I get to do this.” It’s choosing to not listen to that part of yourself that wants to be negative. You have the power of choice. I give myself alone time, take luxurious baths that make me feel feminine and important, breathing and being present. I try to get into meditation a bit too. Going to meditation classes leads to crying and releasing the negative speech, attachment, and people who don’t serve me.
We as human beings, as women, as Asian Americans, carry so much on our shoulders. It’s time to dedicate some of that time and energy to ourselves.
If you could envision yourself as a future ancestor, what would you say to Mayly who was still figuring it out?
I would tell her to welcome her mistakes, because they’re not mistakes, they’re learning lessons. Also, don’t be afraid to ask an expert. You don’t know everything. Look to the elders that have had that experience before and ask them the questions you’re wondering instead of wasting money and time trying to figure out the answers. Don’t be so hard on yourself. If my parents got through what they went through during the Khmer Rouge, you can do anything.
Conclusion: We have the ability to look to our ancestors for inspiration and motivation, though we also have the power to live our lives the way we want to live them. We don’t have to work super hard, we get to work super hard… though rest and grounding ourselves is also very necessary in this day and age. It’s all about the balance. It’s okay if you struggle to find that balance, many people do! Take small steps and take moments for yourself here and there.
Homework: Choose one grounding exercise you enjoy and give yourself the time this week to ground yourself using that exercise. Whether it be a bubble bath, breathwork, a walk on the beach, or burying your nose in a good book… you get to make that time for yourself, so take advantage!
Learn more about Mayly and DK’s:
Email: [email protected]
Watch The Donut King: www.donutkingmovie.com