The Asian Americans Competing for Miss America, Including Two “Crystal Lees”

While Nina Davuluri claiming the Miss America 2014 title on Sunday night marked the first time an Indian American woman has won the coveted crown, merely focusing on Davuluri’s victory would be minimizing what a historic night it was for Asian American women overall.

When it came down to the final five, there were THREE Asian Americans in the running: Davuluri, Chinese American Miss California Crystal Lee and Chinese American hapa Miss Minnesota Rebecca Yeh.

Miss California’s Crystal Lee is a recent graduate of Stanford University (with not one, but two degrees: a bachelor’s in biology and a master’s in communication, which she earned in four years) who dreams of owning her own technology company in the future. She was runner-up to Nina Davuluri, and while the two of them squeezed each other’s hands, there was an instant realization that no matter who won, they’d both be making history. Crystal Lee is from San Francisco, her talent was ballet on pointe, and she earned some sympathy from viewers when her interview question involved her thoughts on Syria — something that even politicians are having a hard time explaining.

As fourth runner-up, Rebecca Yeh calls herself “a little bit of everything” and “a product of that great American melting pot.” Her dad is Chinese and her mom is German, Irish and Bohemian. Her talent was the violin, and her goal is to become a clinical pharmacist as well as a violin instructor. Her platform was “My Voice for Philip;” Philip is her older brother who was diagnosed with autism.

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In addition to those two, there was another 22-year-old Crystal Lee in the running: Miss Hawaii. This Crystal Lee was born to a father from Hong Kong and a mother from Ohio, but raised in Waipahu, Hawaii. She graduated from the University of Hawaii, where she studied French, and her goal is to become an advertising/promotions executive in the future. Her talent was contemporary dance, and her pageant platform involves educating others on the importance of donating blood — an issue that became important to her when her grandfather became dependent on blood donations after being diagnosed with cancer of the blood.

And this year’s Miss District of Columbia (Washington DC) is Bindhu Pamarthi, a young woman born to Indian immigrants who has been competing in pageants since she was 12. Now 23, Pamarthi is passionate about ending animal testing in the cosmetic industry and more. A graduate of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Pamarthi aspires to go to law school.

 

 

Which Asian American Women Influence You? | Audrey’s 8 Picks for Our Inaugural Women of Influence Series

BUY THE FALL 2013 ISSUE FEATURING OUR WOMEN OF INFLUENCE HERE.

Article: WOMEN OF INFLUENCE

ISSUE: FALL 2013

Influence comes in many forms, from high-profile advocates who are shaping ideas on an international stage to local heroes who are breaking barriers and defying expectations in their own communities. In our inaugural series celebrating influential Asian American women, Audrey Magazine highlights eight newsmakers, activists, leaders and trailblazers who encourage us to pursue our dreams, explore the unknown, and stand up for those without a voice.

Check out our Influential Women video introducing all 8 of our picks below, and tweet us at @audreymagazine or @adatseng to suggest other impressive Asian American women for us to feature in our continuing series!

 

OUR WOMEN OF INFLUENCE:

Keli Lee, Executive VP of Casting at ABC Entertainment

 

Somaly Mam, Co-founder and President of the Somaly Mam Foundation

 

 

Madhulika Sikka, Executive Editor for NPR News

 

Grace Lee Boggs, Lifelong Activist for Detroit and the African American Movement

 

Valarie Kaur, Founder of Groundswell at Auburn Seminary

 

Alex Wagner, Host of MSNBC’s NOW with Alex Wagner

 

Grace Ueng, Founder and CEO of Savvy Marketing Group

 

Melissa Lee, Host of CNBC’s Fast Money

 

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BOLLYWOOD GOSSIP: Deepika Padukone compares her ex-boyfriend Ranbir Kapoor to rumored new beau Ranveer Singh

The Deepika Padukone cover story for the September issue of Filmfare Magazine starts: “It’s the best time to be Deepika Padukone, right now.”

The Bollywood actress (daughter of famed cricket player Prakash Padukone) has recently seen her star power shine brighter and brighter with each film release. Last year’s Cocktail was a hit, and this year brought the popular sequel Race 2; the box office success Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani, showing she still has some sizzling on-screen chemistry with her ex-boyfriend Ranbir Kapoor; and Chennai Express, which reunites her with Shah Rukh Khan.

Next up for Deepika is the much-anticipated Ram Neela, opposite Ranveer Singh, her new “are they or aren’t they dating” co-star who’s hot off the critical acclaim of Lootera, and she’s in pre-production for Happy New Year, which reunites her with not only Shah Rukh Khan but also the director Farah Khan of her debut film, 2007’s Om Shanti Om.

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Highlights from her Filmfare interview:

On her relationship with Ranbir Kapoor:

It’s always nice to have that one screen jodi that the audience looks forward to. I’m glad that Ranbir and I have formed that. I guess it’s also the way our characters were written and what the film did for us. And what also helped was the way Ayan [Mukerji], whoh’s a dear friend, directed the film. He brought out the best in us. I’m glad I have that equation with Ranbir. He’s someone I trust my life with.

On rumors about her dating Ranveer Singh:

People are more than welcome to speculate about Ranveer and me. But there’s to much goodness around me to worry about these speculations. … [As a co-star, he's] too giving, very positive and very entertaining. He’s also extremely sensitive. He puts on this tough exterior, shows his fun side, quirky side all the time. He’s all that. But beyond it, he’s also sensitive to the energies of people. To what people say. That’s such a wonderful quality for a man to have, when everyone else is trying to be manly, tough, and all of that. It’s so nice to meet someone who’s so real and so giving and so uninhibited. What you see is what you get with him.

If you were in a lift with Ranbir and Ranveer Singh together, what would you do?

A dance off between the two of them!

Who do you think will win?

Tough. They are both superb dancers.

 

Judge for yourselves!


Audrey’s Women of Influence | Grace Lee Boggs, Lifelong Activist for Detroit and the African American Movement

Influence comes in many forms, from high-profile advocates who are shaping ideas on an international stage to local heroes who are breaking barriers and defying expectations in their own communities. In our inaugural series celebrating influential Asian American women, Audrey Magazine highlights eight newsmakers, activists, leaders and trailblazers who encourage us to pursue our dreams, explore the unknown, and stand up for those without a voice. Story by Ada Tseng.

CLICK HERE FOR MORE ASIAN AMERICAN INFLUENTIAL WOMEN!

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Grace Lee Boggs used to think Martin Luther King, Jr. was naïve. At the time a Malcolmist, Marxist and Black Power activist, Boggs would dedicate many more decades to civil rights and labor movements in Detroit. Scholar and activist Angela Davis says in the documentary American Revolutionary: The Evolution of Grace Lee Boggs: “Grace has made more contributions to the black struggle than most black people have.” And yet 35 years later, in 2004 when she was in her late 80s, Boggs would publish a column about revisiting King’s writings on nonviolence and how she came to believe his “prophetic vision is now the indispensable starting point for 21st-century revolutionaries.”

“Ideas have their power because they are not fixed,” says Boggs, who was such a big believer of conversations that she often recorded her fiery debates amongst her activist friends. “Once they’re fixed, they’re dead.”

The 98-year-old Boggs has been involved in the African American Movement for more than 70 years. A Chinese American woman who pre-dated both the Asian American movement and second-wave Women’s Movement concerned with gender inequality, Boggs’ first experience with activism came when she got involved with protests in the black communities of Chicago over rat-invested housing. A Ph.D. graduate in philosophy who was told they wouldn’t even hire “Orientals” in department stores, she worked for $10 an hour in a philosophy library and lived rent-free in a woman’s basement that was surrounded by rats.

Once Boggs witnessed the 1941 March on Washington Movement, which pressured President Roosevelt to ban racial discrimination, she was hooked on the power of mass movements as a tool for change. And when she married the late James Boggs, a black auto worker, union activist and writer who proposed to her on their first date, she found her kindred revolutionary spirit who would fight by her side for 40 years.

American Revolutionary director Grace Lee first captured Boggs on camera for The Grace Lee Project, a 2005 documentary about the many women around the country named “Grace Lee.”

“She blew my mind, as a Chinese American woman who devoted her life to radical revolutionary politics,” says Lee. “She had been steadily working on a very local level for so long without anybody knowing about her, and when I read her [1998] autobiography, I was shocked. It was like, ‘Where have you been all my life?’”

This is a woman who wrote radical leftist essays in the ’40s under her underground “party name” Ria Stone, had a thick FBI file that stated she must be Afro-Chinese, helped organize Dr. King’s 1963 Grand March down Detroit’s Woodward Avenue, and founded Detroit Summer, a multicultural program that encourages Detroit youth to transform the community. She still travels the nation as much as she can, and continues to host visitors in her home to listen to their ideas and reflect on how she can help them change the world.

While Boggs had never considered herself an Asian American activist, she’s become an icon that expands our notions of what an Asian American activist can be.

“When we think about Grace in the 20th century, she is very much an outsider,” Scott Kurashige, a historian who edited Boggs’ 2012 book, The Next American Revolution: Sustainable Activism for the Twenty-First Century, says in the documentary. “[But] in the 21st century, she represents the uniting of people from different races and different backgrounds in a way that is now defining America.”

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GRACE LEE BOGGS-ISMS

You don’t choose the times you live in, but you do choose who you want to be.

Keep realizing that reality is changing and your ideas have to change. Don’t get stuck in old ideas.

History is not the past. It is the stories we tell about the past. How we tell these stories – triumphantly or self-critically, metaphysically or dialectally – has a lot to do with whether we cut short or advance our evolution as human beings.

Do something local. Do something real, however, small. And don’t diss the political things, but understand their limitations.

We can begin by doing small things at the local level, like planting community gardens or looking out for our neighbors. That is how change takes place in living systems, not from above but from within, from many local actions occurring simultaneously.

You cannot change any society unless you take responsibility for it, unless you see yourself as belonging to it and responsible for changing it.

 

BUY THE FALL 2013 ISSUE FEATURING OUR WOMEN OF INFLUENCE HERE.

Audrey’s Women of Influence | Melissa Lee, Host of CNBC’s Fast Money

Influence comes in many forms, from high-profile advocates who are shaping ideas on an international stage to local heroes who are breaking barriers and defying expectations in their own communities. In our inaugural series celebrating influential Asian American women, Audrey Magazine highlights eight newsmakers, activists, leaders and trailblazers who encourage us to pursue our dreams, explore the unknown, and stand up for those without a voice. Story by Ada Tseng.

CLICK HERE FOR MORE ASIAN AMERICAN INFLUENTIAL WOMEN!

 

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CNBC unveils their new set on the floor of the NYSE with, from left, CNBC’s Brad Rubin, Carl Quintanilla, Melissa Lee, Jim Cramer and David Faber. PHOTO BY CHARLES SYKES/CNBC/ PHOTO BY VIRGINIA SHERWOOD

Melissa Lee has always been a fast talker. “There’s no explanation for it,” says Lee, laughing. “It’s not like I have a lot of kids in my family and I had to talk fast in order to get a word in edge-wise, but I think it’s just the nature of the business. I’m surrounded by people who talk fast all the time, because, as a trader, there’s not a lot of time to spare.”

CNBC’s fast-paced style is modeled after sports news, and Fast Money, which Lee took over in 2009, was conceived to be the SportsCenter of finance.

“Think of it like we’re all gathered at the end of a hard day’s work,” says Lee, continuing the sports analogy. “It’s been a hard game, we’re in the locker room, it’s a bit more informal, and now we can go deeper into the stock moves, the nitty-gritty play-by-plays, and what the strategy is for the next game, the next trading day.”

Most of the show is unscripted, and while there are often other women and minority panelists on her show, it’s not uncommon to see Lee at the center of her desk, surrounded by men, leading the conversation and asking mile-a-minute follow-ups to get to the truth of their opinions.

“Some people would say I’m too contrarian, but a large part of what financial journalists must do is take the other side so you can see both the merits and risks in investing,” she says. “Particularly when it comes to stocks, you don’t want to hear somebody talking up their book. You haven’t done your job if you’re not pushing back and really making sure their arguments are holding water.”

Lee didn’t grow up interested in finance, but her first journalism internship in college was at the New York Daily News, where she was placed in the business section.

“I saw that you covered the earnings that companies report, that there were analysts out there that covered stocks, and a whole new world opened up to me,” she says. “It became about how these stories affect people, because we’re talking about people’s 401(k)s, their college savings plans, their play portfolios. Whatever the reason, our job is to help people.”

This became abundantly clear during the 2008 financial crisis, when Lee found herself working around the clock and on weekends — rare in financial news.

“As a journalist, that was probably one of the biggest stories we’ll see in our lifetime,” says Lee. “It basically made us think everything we thought not possible was actually possible; that there would be no more Lehman Brothers or Bear Stearns, that Bank of America would buy Merrill Lynch. We also realized that at that very moment, people were making decisions based on what we’re reporting; what we’re saying on the air was moving the global markets, and there was a tremendous responsibility there.”

As an analyst on television, Lee hopes that she can help demystify the stock market for those who might find trading to be daunting, especially younger people who have just seen a generation lose a lot of money in stocks. She wants to encourage youth to save and take a longer-term view when it comes to their finances. Her own grandparents came to the U.S. from China and worked in a laundromat, but because they invested in businesses and the stock market, they were able to send five children to college.

“The stock market can be a tremendous tool to help build wealth in America,” says Lee. “I think you have to look at money as a vehicle for what you want to do in the future, and I hope we help people embrace it.

“One of the thrills of working at CNBC is that you have a voice,” she continues. “It’s playing in gyms, in banks, on trading floors, and in CEO offices. It’s a thrill when the CEO of General Electric tells me that when he’s in the office, he watches Fast Money at 5.”

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WEB EXCLUSIVES

On how her first journalism job introduced her to financial news

I really had no exposure to the world of finance when I was growing up, but when I was in college, the first internship that I got was a print internship at the New York Daily News. They assigned me to the Business section, so that’s how I got my start. Looking back, it was pretty remarkable. Most of the staff were minority women, which is very unusual, and they turned me onto these various professional organizations like AAJA, which eventually helped me get more internships. I worked at Wall Street Journal for a summer, the Washington Post Business section for a summer, and back to Wall Street Journal. After that, I’ve always been geared toward business.

On being an Asian American woman in her industry

I don’t think you’re treated differently in terms of daily interaction at work, but you feel it in terms of the audience reaction. It’s always eye-opening to me, when I get a [racist] email or tweet. And it’s fine if they don’t like my personality, I completely accept that, but what’s shocking is that sometimes people hate you not for what you said, but they bring up me being Asian. Tell me you think I’m dumb, but don’t tell me you don’t like me cause I’m Asian American. That just reminds you that as far as we have come, there is still more work to be done. I hope that in some small way, I can be an example for other people out there.

Her best money advice

You should save as much as you can early on and put money in the stock market. I know that’s tough lesson, but time is on your side when you’re young. Save every penny you have. Don’t spend it on getting your first studio on your own, live with roommates. Don’t buy that handbag, don’t get the extra pair of shoes, don’t do the summer rental in the Hamptons. When you own your first apartment and sell it at a profit and buy a bigger apt, you’ll be much happier. When you have 401(k) you started at 21 instead of 29, that makes a big difference.

You have to have a longer-term view when it comes to money. You have to look at money as a vehicle for what you want to do in the future, so if you think, “By the time I’m 35, I want to have my own home, I want to take vacation, I want to not live off of credit cards and still have decent credit rating,” then you can’t spend every penny you make right now.

Who influences you?

That is tough, because there have been so many people along the way. One of the most influential conversations I’ve ever had in terms of shaping my career path was with this HR woman at CBS that I interviewed with. My absolute favorite show growing up was 60 minutes, and I wanted to intern there, and she said, “I can give you an internship here, you can answer phones and bring people coffee, but you’re not going to learn anything. You’re much better off going and working for a newspaper and learning how to report.” And that’s when I realized you have to think about the fundamentals first, and I’m a much better reporter today because of it.

Melissa Lee’s new CNBC documentary Rise of the Machines premieres September 18 at 9pm.

All around us, there’s a technological revolution underway powered by devices as small as a grain of rice. They are sensors, capable of tracking and recording everything we do. They’re in our smartphones, our cars, our appliances, even our bodies, and they’re connected to the Internet toshare information and make our world smarter. Virtually all products that use electricity – from toasters and coffeemakers to jet engines and MRIs – now have the ability to “talk” to each other, and to us. And, what they have to say is profoundly transforming our lives – the way we travel, treat disease, and enjoy our homes. Today, there are more devices than people connected to the Internet, and that number is expected to rise to 25 billion by 2015.

In this one-hour documentary, CNBC correspondent Melissa Lee experiences firsthand the impact of this brave new world – its promise and its perils – and discovers how the future of the Internet has already arrived. CNBC explores how the widespread availability of diagnostic sensors is not only changing healthcare and saving the lives of premature infants, but transforming industry and improving the safety and efficiency of our railways and jetliners. Lee takes a ride in a driverless car to see how cameras, radar and GPS are used in the quest to fill our freeways with autonomous cars and reduce the number of accidents. Viewers will go inside a home equipped with some 200 sensors which respond to the owner’s movements and daily habits. And CNBC travels to Rio de Janeiro, the world’s first “smart” city, in the spotlight as it prepares to host the 2014 World Cup and the 2016 Summer Olympics.

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Audrey’s Women of Influence | Valarie Kaur, Founder of Groundswell at Auburn Seminary

Article: WOMEN OF INFLUENCE
ISSUE: FALL 2013

Influence comes in many forms, from high-profile advocates who are shaping ideas on an international stage to local heroes who are breaking barriers and defying expectations in their own communities. In our inaugural series celebrating influential Asian American women, Audrey Magazine highlights eight newsmakers, activists, leaders and trailblazers who encourage us to pursue our dreams, explore the unknown, and stand up for those without a voice.

CLICK HERE FOR MORE ASIAN AMERICAN INFLUENTIAL WOMEN!

by Ada Tseng

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On September 11, 2001, Valarie Kaur watched in horror, along with her fellow Americans, as the two towers fell. A third generation Sikh American — her grandparents came from India to California a century ago as farmers — her fear and sorrow took on another dimension when she realized the image of America’s new enemy looked like her family. Kaur was flooded with email alerts about hate crimes directed at her community, and four days later, a man she knew as “uncle” was murdered in front of his gas station by a man who called himself a patriot.

Though her first instinct was to hide, Kaur and her cousin took a road trip across the country to chronicle hate crimes against Sikh, Muslim and other Americans. This initiated her journey an activist, and her footage was eventually edited into the 2006 feature-length documentary Divided We Fall: Americans in the Aftermath, with the help of filmmaker Sharat Raju, who would eventually become her husband and creative collaborator.

“When I look back at my college self, I see how much I had yet to learn,” says Kaur. “I was naïve about the challenges and personal costs of working for social justice. I hadn’t learned how to weave joy and balance into my projects, and I often worked myself into the ground. But I also admire parts of me: the easy impulse for compassion, a willingness to be vulnerable, a readiness to leap into the unknown.”

Kaur has been telling stories since she was teenager, realizing her Sikh faith, history and culture were absent from her schoolbooks. However, in 2004, when she was wrongfully arrested while filming a protest at the Republican National Convention and injured by a police officer — resulting in a chronic pain condition that left her functionally disabled in her right arm for years — she realized storytelling wasn’t enough. Embattled with the desire to fight for others, she enrolled in Yale Law School to work on civil rights issues.

After law school, she founded Groundswell at Auburn Seminary, a nonprofit initiative based on the idea that there’s “a groundswell of people, especially young people, who are calling upon their faith, tradition or moral compass to challenge the status quo.” Groundswell encourages people to lead campaigns for social change, whether they’re fighting for immigration reform, religious freedom, LGBTQ equality, human trafficking, hate crimes, gun violence — you name it.

Even with numerous success stories under her belt, Kaur’s life of activism is not without obstacles that challenge her faith. One such moment came on August 5, 2012, when there was a fatal mass shooting at a Sikh temple in Oak Creek, Wisc.

“The last year has been an unprecedented moment in the history of the Sikh American community,” she told India Abroad, who featured Kaur as a Person of the Year this June. “In the wake of Oak Creek, I experienced sadness and grief that felt similar to the aftermath of 9/11. But this time, 11 years later, something remarkable happened: the nation’s cameras turned to our community. For the first time in 100 years of history, we stood at the center of the nation’s attention. … As a result, tens of thousands of people stood with us to say that an attack on one of us is an attack on all of us.”

Civil rights organizations including the Sikh Coalition and Groundswell had been campaigning for years for the U.S. government to better monitor hate crimes, and this past June, an FBI advisory policy board passed the vote to track hate crimes against Sikh, Hindu and Arab Americans.

“Storytelling is an act of rebellion, art, introspection and revelation,” says Kaur, who is working on a feature documentary about Oak Creek. “I always knew that I wanted to spend my life using stories to help heal the world. But I didn’t know how. As a scholar, unearthing untold stories of the past? As a filmmaker, telling stories on the big screen? As a lawyer, using stories strategically in halls of power to fight on behalf of people? As a public intellectual, using stories to deepen national discourse in the media? For the last decade, I’ve experimented with all these forms of storytelling, and I began to blaze my own path.”

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WEB EXCLUSIVES:

On Groundswell

Coming out of law school, I founded Groundswell, an initiative at Auburn Seminary that connects and equips people across many faiths and backgrounds in one network to wage campaigns. We train people to use storytelling in movements for social change using digital tools. We run campaigns responding to today’s most pressing social issues, including LGBTQ equality, human trafficking, hate crimes, and gun violence. In little over a year, our base has grown to nearly 100,000 members. We now invite all people of faith and moral conscious to use the Groundswell platform to launch their own campaigns.

On the Yale Visual Law Project, where she makes films and trains students in the art of visual advocacy at Yale Law School

The Yale Visual Law Project is now beginning its fourth year at Yale Law School. We have sister organizations at other law schools too. My hope is that more lawyers and advocates will partner with filmmakers to use storytelling for social change campaigns.

We recently released our latest film The Worst of the Worst about the practice of solitary confinement in America’s supermax prisons. The film shows how supermax prisons harm all who walk through the doors by using personal stories of the people inside: a former inmate trying to rebuild his life but haunted by memories from the prison, a guard suffering from PTSD and the buddies trying to help him, and a desperate mother on a mission to support a son who spends 23 hours a day in isolation. It reflects my belief that changing the world requires more than battling individual bad actors; it requires challenging those institutions of power designed to bring out the worst in us. Within months of its release, the film has played a role in reforming the supermax prison in Connecticut and emptying its cells.

Who influences you?

My mother’s father was Captain Gurdial Singh Gill, who lived with my brother and me our entire childhood. He is the single greatest influence on my life – my guiding star and pillar of wisdom.

My grandfather’s last lesson to me was this: In life, you will endure the noise and whip of the whirlwind. But if you dare to walk the path of a saint-soldier, the deepest part of your heart will always be sheltered from the swirling hot winds. You just have to practice residing in that still sacred center. For me, each day presents an opportunity to live boldly like Papa Ji, and each night to close my eyes with love and gratitude in my heart, as he did.

 

BUY THE FALL 2013 ISSUE FEATURING OUR WOMEN OF INFLUENCE HERE.

 

Audrey’s Women of Influence | Grace Ueng, Founder and CEO of Savvy Marketing Group (with Web Exclusives!)

Article: WOMEN OF INFLUENCE
ISSUE: FALL 2013

Influence comes in many forms, from high-profile advocates who are shaping ideas on an international stage to local heroes who are breaking barriers and defying expectations in their own communities. In our inaugural series celebrating influential Asian American women, Audrey Magazine highlights eight newsmakers, activists, leaders and trailblazers who encourage us to pursue our dreams, explore the unknown, and stand up for those without a voice.

CLICK HERE FOR MORE ASIAN AMERICAN INFLUENTIAL WOMEN!

by Ada Tseng

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“ONE OF MY CEO CLIENTS SAID TO ME, ‘GRACE, YOU WILL THINGS TO HAPPEN.’ ALL ENTREPRENEURS WILL THINGS TO HAPPEN; YOU HAVE TO REALLY WANT IT. ESPECIALLY WHEN THERE ARE MOUNTAIN-MOVING GOALS, YOU HAVE TO INSPIRE PEOPLE TO MAKE IT HAPPEN.” — Grace Ueng

Grace Ueng was supposed to be an engineer. Her father was a professor at Georgia Tech, she grew up surrounded by engineering magazines, and after only applying to universities that had engineering programs, she ended up at MIT. But when she got there, she found herself scrambling to find her place in this environment of technical geniuses.

What she discovered was that she was a better leader than a programmer. Despite the fact that she had mapped out an escape route to study English at another Ivy League, she ended up being elected president of her MIT class and continued to serve for the next three years. After transferring to the school’s Sloan School of Management, where she studied management science and marketing, Ueng started the Sloan undergraduate Management Association, which still runs today. She would eventually go to Harvard Business School.

“I wasn’t the super geek who codes, but because I went to MIT, I really understood technical people,” says Ueng, who has worked for a number of technology start-ups and led campaigns for entrepreneurial technology companies that produced more than $1 billion of value for investors. “A lot of technical people don’t know how to bring their brilliance to the market, but in order for people to take advantage of their invention, it has to be packaged up. That’s where I come in.”

Nowadays, as CEO of Savvy Marketing Group, whose slogan is “Your successful venture is our passion,” Ueng has been called everything from “a success accelerator,” “a strategic weapon” to “a corporate therapist” by clients that now understand how strategic marketing can be integral to the success of their company.

When Ueng founded Savvy Marketing, many of her earlier clients were based in North Carolina’s Research Triangle Park, home to many of the nation’s prominent high-tech research and development centers. Ten years and approximately 100 projects later, she has branched out into health care (marketing medical technologies and devices), has started a nonprofit practice (recently, she helped revamp the business plan of a local organization that gives small business loans to rural and underprivileged populations), and has begun consulting companies interested in taking advantage of the Chinese market (an area she became interested in after teaching entrepreneurial marketing at Shanghai’s Fudan university).

Looking back, when she was working in executive teams where she was often the youngest member and the only Asian American woman, she says she was always trying to be superwoman. “Also, because I was a single mom, I felt like I had to prove that I could do what men, who had wives to do everything at home for them, could do,” says Ueng. “And now I realize women should just be themselves. I was always so focused, but you can’t always plan life.”

This was a lesson that was cemented eight years ago when she “literally went downhill at 40.” A few days before her 40th birthday, she was involved in a biking accident that left her with a broken neck and without her short-term memory. Neurospecialists told her she couldn’t work for months, but she was able to relearn everything and finish the projects she promised she would finish. Since then, she’s established a healthier work-life balance, and her second chance at life just makes her appreciate her work more.

“I want my clients to think big, and I want to help them get big,” says Ueng. “One of my CEO clients said to me, ‘Grace, you will things to happen.’ All entrepreneurs will things to happen; you have to really want it. Especially when there are mountain-moving goals, you have to inspire people to make it happen.”

 

WEB EXCLUSIVES

On being initially intimidated while studying at MIT

I sometimes think that if I went to a less intense school, maybe I would have been an engineer. But it was my freshman year, I was put with the smartest woman from Korea and the smartest person from the Philippines, and everyone was so intensely brilliant. Then there was me, from Georgia, where people say, “Hey y’all!” I realized being a science brainiac wasn’t my thing, and decided to do what I wanted to do in that environment. It was definitely very rigorous, but I was always surrounded by very collaborative people at MIT.

On her bike accident at 40

It was a life-changing experience. After my head injury, my first words were in Chinese, [which she had learned as a kid but didn't speak as an adult]. It was such a wild experience, and when I started forgetting my Chinese, they told me it was good cause my brain was healing. I couldn’t work for a number of months because I had to rest, and that was hard. It made me really appreciate life because it was almost gone, and I was also asked to do more inspirational talks, which I loved.

On her initial goals when working with clients 

First, I always want to understand what the client’s goals are and how our influence can help them be successful. When Ping Fu [of Geomagic, now 3D Systems Corporation] hired me, she told me, “I seek truth, not comfort.” And our role to always tell the truth to our clients. We see things in a different way. They’re so close to their business, and we can give them an outside perspective, and sometimes it’s tough, because I definitely see all the issues, but it’s my responsibility to point them out and help figure out solutions. It’s our responsibility to go in quickly, assess the situation, ask for the right data, gather the right data, and generate new data in order to glean insights and help implement change.

Who influences you? 

Well, I’m most influenced by my parents and the way I was brought up, and then, on a day to day basis, by my 16-year-old son. And also my friends and clients, because I’m picky about the people I work with. I work with people with integrity and big goals. But I even learn from my interns because young people have a totally different point of view, and as much as they say I mentor them, it’s a two-way street. I think I learn from everybody, and you should learn from everybody.

BUY THE FALL 2013 ISSUE FEATURING OUR WOMEN OF INFLUENCE HERE.

 

Audrey’s Women of Influence | Somaly Mam, Co-founder and President of the Somaly Mam Foundation

Article: WOMEN OF INFLUENCE
ISSUE: FALL 2013

Influence comes in many forms, from high-profile advocates who are shaping ideas on an international stage to local heroes who are breaking barriers and defying expectations in their own communities. In our inaugural series celebrating influential Asian American women, Audrey Magazine highlights eight newsmakers, activists, leaders and trailblazers who encourage us to pursue our dreams, explore the unknown, and stand up for those without a voice.

CLICK HERE FOR MORE ASIAN AMERICAN INFLUENTIAL WOMEN!

by Ada Tseng

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“When I was in the brothels, I felt like I had died inside, even though my body was alive,” says Somaly Mam, a former human trafficking victim who has dedicated her life to ending the sex slave trade around the world. “I would have loved for someone to help me, but there was nobody I could call or trust. These memories inspire me to do what I am doing today. You cannot forget, but you can forgive and love again.”

After being orphaned as a child during Cambodia’s Khmer Rouge rule, Mam was forced into prostitution by an abusive man she called “grandfather,” and she suffered for many years until a French aid worker helped her escape Cambodia in 1993. Mam says that at the time, she had no idea that she would devote herself to this cause, eventually co-founding the French nonprofit foundation AFESIP in 1996 and, in 2007, becoming the president and face of the Somaly Mam Foundation, which supports victim services, eradication efforts, and survivor empowerment from their New York Headquarters. Somaly and her team have rescued over 7,000 women and girls to date, and have touched the lives of tens of thousands more through peer education and outreach efforts.

“My life immediately changed the day I met a girl named Tom Dy who suffered from HIV/AIDS,” says Mam. “She reminded me of my past life in the brothels, and I immediately took her home with me because I wanted her to feel safe. There are more and more girls who need help to build new lives with dignity, but how? It takes five minutes to save them from brothels, but what are you going to do with them? This is the challenge.”

Mam not only participates in raids to help girls as young as 5 escape, but the foundation provides shelters and rehabilitation programs that help reintegrate the victims into the world. When Mam first started AFESIP, she asked trusted friends to help teach the girls how to sew; nowadays, there is education provided for the younger girls, and career training for the older ones, from hairdressing to computer skills and English-language classes.Eradicating human trafficking, now the second most profitable criminal enterprise, requires more global attention. At the Clinton Global Initiative meeting in 2012, President Obama named human trafficking as a national priority, and he became the first ever U.S. president to visit Cambodia. However, a 2013 UN report stated that people trafficked now come from at least 118 countries — 58 percent are for sexual exploitation and most are women, with the number of children increasing.

“When you see a woman sitting on the street, ask yourself who she is, what her story might be, where she might come from,” says Mam. “If she had a choice, maybe she would have chosen something different for her life. Please do not look down on her. Please do not abuse her further. There are a lot of problems in the world, and human trafficking is only part of the larger problem of the breakdown of values and connection between people.”

Mam not only provides this connection for her girls who call her “Mom,” but she encourages them to speak out for themselves through the foundation’s Voices of Change program, run by survivor Sina Vann. Some of the girls also host the “Somaly’s Family” anti-trafficking radio show in Cambodia to spread awareness. By empowering the victims, they are, in a sense, creating a powerful legion of mini Somaly Mams.

“I am so proud of the survivors in the program who stand up and advocate for those whose voices are not being heard,” says Mam. “There is a young generation of leaders who are engaged in this fight, and that gives me great hope for change.”

 

WEB EXCLUSIVES:

On the Voices for Change program

Voices for Change is designed to give survivors an opportunity to help themselves by helping others, to have their voices heard in the courts of law and public perception, and to have influence and impact on effectuating change. It is our vision that from those who have struggled through the pain of slavery will arise a new generation of leaders who stand for justice and free will. Some of our survivor-leaders host their own radio talk show, for the purpose of raising awareness in the community: in Cambodia, radio is still the best way to reach the masses.

In collaboration with UNIAP, Voices For Change conduct trainings in combating human trafficking to police, gendarmeries and local authorities who obligate to implement law legislation. In addition, they facilitate a student coalition as [a means of] groundbreaking local activism to combat human trafficking in the next generation.

On watching her girls grow up

My work means so much to me because I watch these children get their childhood back: especially when I see them going to school. Thousands of women have been reintegrated with sustainable livelihoods; some of them have gotten married and now have their own families. I cannot tell you what these stories mean to me. In addition to two girls who are now university students, there are three more girls who have just taken their high school diploma exam in the last couple days. After all they have been through in their lives, they are going to have a degree in the near future.

On Sina Vann, her right-hand woman and the Voices of Change co-director

Sina is a survivor, trafficked when she was 12 years old from Vietnam to Cambodia. She was drugged and locked up, and for many years was forced to take 20 clients a day — if she refused she was beaten. When she came to us, she hated all Cambodians because of what had been done to her. My staff said we could not take her — she was too much a fighter, too violent and unpredictable. She didn’t speak Khmer, I didn’t speak Vietnamese, but I took her hands in mine and looked her in the eye. I was careful and loving with her, and soon we understood one another. Sina stayed with us — she did not leave! — and as she recovered in the center, she learned Khmer and English and began to show leadership qualities. Now she works in the field every day doing outreach and advocacy, visiting the centers, inspiring the younger girls, and traveling to speaking engagements and conferences.

Who influences you?

Mainly my girls influence me. I see them recovering, going to school and having hope. Secondly, my team’s work: they work so hard to support victims and survivors. Thirdly, my team of Voices for Change survivors; they stand up and advocate for those whose voices are not being heard. And all the supporters around the world influence me too. Without them, none of our achievements could have happened.

 

BUY THE FALL 2013 ISSUE FEATURING OUR WOMEN OF INFLUENCE HERE.

 

Audrey’s Women of Influence | Alex Wagner, Host of MSNBC’s NOW with Alex Wagner

Article: WOMEN OF INFLUENCE
ISSUE: FALL 2013

Influence comes in many forms, from high-profile advocates who are shaping ideas on an international stage to local heroes who are breaking barriers and defying expectations in their own communities. In our inaugural series celebrating influential Asian American women, Audrey Magazine highlights eight newsmakers, activists, leaders and trailblazers who encourage us to pursue our dreams, explore the unknown, and stand up for those without a voice.

CLICK HERE FOR MORE ASIAN AMERICAN INFLUENTIAL WOMEN!

by Ada Tseng

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ALEX WAGNER
Host of MSNBC’s NOW with Alex Wagner

If two Fulbright scholars from Burma have a daughter, and this progressively minded woman, who worked at the historic nonprofit American Association of University Women (AAUW) to empower young girls, procreates with a top U.S. political strategist who worked on Ted Kennedy’s and Bill Clinton’s campaigns for president, you might just end up with someone like Alex Wagner, the host of MSNBC’s daily political opinion program NOW with Alex Wagner.

According to Wagner, her interest in journalism started “in utero,” and she worked on her school newspapers from elementary school all the way through college. Politics also runs in her bloodstream, and early memories of her father include him coming home every night from the Ted Kennedy campaign, immediately picking up the phone and asking for the poll numbers of the day. “When I was little, that’s how I learned to answer the phone,” says Wagner. “I’d stand on the chair in the kitchen to pick up the phone, and I’d say ‘Give me the numbers!’”

There was always a healthy amount of debate at the dinner table, a skill that would prove helpful many years later when she launched her own show. In addition to showcasing a young, diverse female voice, NOW with Alex Wagner values Wagner’s unconventional broadcast background: she worked on music and cultural magazines before becoming the cultural correspondent for the Center for American Progress; executive director of the advocacy organization Not on Our Watch, started by the likes of George Clooney, Brad Pitt and Matt Damon; White House correspondent for Politics Daily; and then a contributing analyst to MSNBC’s Countdown with Keith Olbermann and The Last Word with Lawrence O’Donnell.

NOW highlights issues close to Wagner’s heart, including income inequality, social mobility, immigration, surveillance and national security, but it’s important to Wagner to make news interesting and accessible to a wider audience — whether it’s having openly gay Speaker of the New York City Council Christine Quinn come on to talk about how even conservative New Yorkers are congratulating her on her marriage, or booking untraditional guests like Questlove from The Roots to talk about his reaction to the Zimmerman verdict. “We are all part of the national dialogue,” says Wagner. “It’s just that some voices are heard more than others.”

In 2012, Wagner was given the opportunity to sit down with Burma’s Nobel Peace Prize Laureate, Aung San Suu Kyi, as part of Amnesty International’s Rights Generation town hall event in Washington, D.C. Wagner’s family on her mother’s side are Burmese exiles who were granted safe passage to the U.S. when her grandmother was hired to head the East Asian books department at the Library of Congress. Decades later, Wagner was able to take her 96-year-old grandmother to meet the iconic pro-democracy leader.

“I don’t want to take away from the fact that it’s a difficult time for Burma,” says Wagner, “but just the fact that Aung San Suu Kyi was released [from 15 years of house arrest], then the fact that she was in the U.S., and then finally that my grandmother could be in the room, alive, to see her gain freedom and have her granddaughter interview her — I never imagined it in my wildest dreams.”

Wagner credits her grandmother, who used to take her to Burmese Democracy Movement protests as a kid, for gifting her a passion for activism and advocacy early. “She was always trying to get arrested,” says Wagner. “Nowadays, more people know about Burma, but this was a time when unspeakable atrocities were being committed against ethnic peoples of Burma, and nobody was paying any attention. My grandmother was out there waving her signs, and she got arrested when she was 84 or 85.” Wagner laughs. “I remember my mother was so indignant, but my grandmother was completely unapologetic.”

It’s this type of political spirit that Wagner wants to inspire in her viewers. “I hope the show is a reminder of the importance of politics, service and democracy, and that it will encourage more people to believe in the process and participate,” she says. “It’d be great if someone thought, ‘I want to make a difference in that issue, so I’m going to run for PTA to get involved in these questions of education, I’m going to march against this cause, or I’m going to get involved in a death penalty case.’ I hope we promote awareness and optimism about the power to change.”

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WEB EXCLUSIVES

On how her parents met

My mother is a Burmese exile. My grandfather was involved in the Burmese government before the military coup, things became very difficult for my family in the early 1960s, and they needed to get out of the country. Both my grandmother and grandfather had been Fulbright scholars who came to the US in 1950s, and my grandmother had done her master’s in Library Science at Catholic University in Washington DC, so they contacted their circles to see if they could get assistance getting out of Burma. The US Library of Congress actually needed someone to be the head of their East Asian Books Department, so they arranged all the papers and necessary visas for my grandmother and uncle and mother to get safe passage to the US. But it took 3 or 4 years for them to get out of the country, and in an absolutely stunning move, the Library of Congress kept the position open for years so that my grandmother and family would have a place that they’d be able to come in the US. My mom and uncle went to college in US, and my grandfather eventually joined them a few years later. My mom was very politically-minded in college and eventually ended up in DC working for Teamsters labor union, and my dad was person who hired her.

On starting NOW with Alex Wagner in 2011 in the midst of the presidential campaigns

[MSNBC president] Phil Griffin is kind of a maverick. He is just went for it. He said, “Let’s just do this thing at noon.” He was upfront. “You’ll probably suck for first six weeks and the first six months, and then you’ll figure it out.” [laughs] He had a very open and adventurous attitude toward it, and since he is the president of the network, if he has that attitude, it’s contagious. You think, let’s give it a shot!

On some levels, it’s harder to start a show during a presidential campaign, but in other ways, it’s easier, because it’s a pre-determined set of stories. Now, we’re in a different period, so the way we go about picking stories is like developing a different muscle group. In some ways, it’s scary and difficult, but if you’re curious about world, it’s a very fortuitous time to be in news.

On learning to share her political opinions on air

There’s a difference between having your point of view in a discussion with your producers and saying it on the air, and it’s taken some time and experience to figure it out. Sometimes I have said things that perhaps were not the most thought-out, but as I’ve gotten more comfortable with the medium, my producers and I have become more comfortable showcasing my opinion and writing scripts that are reflective of my point of view. But at same time, it’s important for us to allow room for debate and discussion that gives ample time to people who have different points of view. As much you may hear my opinion and understand where I’m coming from, I try not to make it so that I’m litigating my point of view — that my view is the only view. Preserving that is a really important part of the show.

Who influences you?

Nelson Mandela is a huge inspiration. I was just looking through biographies of him a couple months ago, when we thought he might pass way, and his life is so incredibly extraordinary. His perseverance and belief in a hope unseen. That’s the story of Mandela that I think everyone should carry with them at all times.

BUY THE FALL 2013 ISSUE FEATURING OUR WOMEN OF INFLUENCE HERE.

 

Audrey’s Women of Influence | Madhulika Sikka, Executive Editor for NPR News (with Web Exclusives!)

Article: WOMEN OF INFLUENCE
ISSUE: FALL 2013

Influence comes in many forms, from high-profile advocates who are shaping ideas on an international stage to local heroes who are breaking barriers and defying expectations in their own communities. In our inaugural series celebrating influential Asian American women, Audrey Magazine highlights eight newsmakers, activists, leaders and trailblazers who encourage us to pursue our dreams, explore the unknown, and stand up for those without a voice.

CLICK HERE FOR MORE ASIAN AMERICAN INFLUENTIAL WOMEN!

by Ada Tseng

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PHOTO COURTESY OF NPR/DOBY PHOTOGRAPHY.

MADHULIKA SIKKA
Executive Editor for NPR News

Every week, 26 million people tune in to National Public Radio programs and NPR Newscasts — more than the total circulation of the top national newspapers — and since January 2013, Madhulika Sikka, an Indian American woman born in England, has been responsible for setting the agenda for the entire news division.

On any given morning, her team could be placing equal importance on the Detroit bankruptcy, President Obama’s economic tour, the golden age of television, new methods to engage their audience in an honest discussion about race, and Prince George Alexander Louis of Cambridge, a.k.a. the royal baby.

“I’m a big believer in satisfying your wonk and your whimsy,” says Sikka, who previously executive produced NPR’s newsmagazine Morning Edition. “It might have something to do with my own personal news ADD, but I just think that we’re curious people, and we’re curious about lots of things. It is no accident that we have a program called All Things Considered.”

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Sikka is extremely pleased with NPR’s global health and science coverage that other broadcasters don’t cover as thoroughly — exploring tuberculosis outbreaks around the world and incidents of polio coming back — but she also wants to make sure her listeners are prepared for lighter water-cooler conversations around the office.

“We have two extraordinary female correspondents that covered Syria as well as anybody, and I’m proud of that coverage because it’s vital to our mission,” says Sikka. “But I’m also proud of the enormously great coverage we’ve done on cultural issues, like this summer’s series on the different kinds of media that kids are exposed to.”

But being multifaceted in content is not enough: it’s also very important to Sikka that NPR News continually evolves with technology and that there’s a fluid relationship between all platforms, whether it’s radio, digital tech, multimedia or social media. “None of us could have imagined the incredible range of ways we get to tell our stories now,” she says. “It’s really incredible the things we can do, the tools that we accrue, and how technology allows us to be in places that might have been completely out of reach before.”

Next year, Sikka will be publishing her first book, The Breast Cancer Alphabet, a collection of personal essays she wrote when she was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2010 and went through treatment in 2011. “There’s kind of a mythology around breast cancer that’s very pink and fluffy and positive,” she says. “And that is not the experience the whole time, so I felt like I gave myself permission to not feel that way. It ended up being an alphabet — starting at A for Anxiety, H for Hair, M for Mastectomy, ending at Z — and I hope it will be of use to other people going through it.”

Whether it’s providing “4 Tips To Help A Foodie Get Through Chemo,” penning a Daily Beast article about her late mother’s bravery (“As I wrapped her body in a red sari for her funeral, it dawned on me that her refusal to dress in Western clothing was more pioneering than anything I had ever done”), or slipping behind the scenes to study how best to engage her growing NPR audience (an intellectually curious group that hungers for, above all, interesting stories), Sikka wants us to open up our minds in terms of how we view the world.

“I think our primary goal is to provide information so they can be informed about the decisions and choices they make,” says Sikka. “If [our listeners] learn one thing that they didn’t know before, then we’re doing pretty well. An informed democracy is a more healthy democracy.”

 

WEB EXCLUSIVES:

On why she’s wanted to be a journalist since she was 16

I wanted to be able to shed light on things that were happening around the country and around the globe. I grew up in England watching the BBC and being impressed at their ability to be everywhere, to open a window to places and issues that I might not have otherwise thought about. And I thought that was a wonderful thing to do.

On the difference between working on Morning Edition vs. being Executive Editor of NPR News

When you produce a daily news show, it’s very focused. You’re responsible for filling two hours every day without a break, so producing Morning Edition helped me hone the skill of working fast and being decisive — which is what a deadline does to you.

[Being Executive Editor of] NPR News is different. I’ve been a news person my whole life — that is what runs through my blood system, and that’s hard to eliminate — but now, to have a hand in discussing broader coverage, and even coverage online, is a really exciting new prospect for me. How can we move, how can we react, what’s appropriate for each particular outlet? For example, when the President came out unannounced [to speak about the Zimmerman verdict and reactions in the African American community], I realized it was a pretty extraordinary thing to hear a President speak that way, so we were able to get together very quickly and talk about what we’d do in next hour, the next morning, the morning after that, what we’d do online, etc. And that’s really what you come in for.

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On her first book, The Breast Cancer Alphabet

I never thought I’d write a book, and I certainly didn’t think this was the book I’d write if I was going to write a book. When I was getting treatment, I was just writing a little bit for myself, because I had things I needed to get out. A lot of people encouraged me to write and then talking to people helped me hone a concept. My agents and publishers are excited about it, because they think it’s a different kind of cancer book.

Who influences you?

I wrote about my mother and her death in an article that was published in the Daily Beast.  It took me a while to come to the realization that she was a very brave woman. She got married when she was not quite 18, left her family behind and moved to England in 1960s.

I think that there’s a different measure for our modern interpretation of a brave woman, but it’s kind of extraordinary to think about that generation of women in the Indian diaspora and the idea that you’d have three kids with a stranger in an arranged marriage and raise them by yourself with no family around in early 1960’s England, which wasn’t the most hospitable place in the world for people of color, all without the benefits that we have today. I can’t go a week without calling my family in England, but Skype wasn’t even around when she was alive.

So are there amazing pioneering women in journalism? Yes, of course, and also in other spheres of life, but when I actually took the time to think about what my mom did, it’s pretty remarkable.

 

BUY THE FALL 2013 ISSUE FEATURING OUR WOMEN OF INFLUENCE HERE.