VOICES CARRY: Chhom Nimol

Story by Ada Tseng. 

In so many ways, music defines a generation or a culture, giving us the soundtrack to our multilayered, bicultural landscape. And the 10 women we highlight here not only lay it all on the line and bare their souls in their music but, each in their own way, do much to round out a picture of what it is to be an Asian woman in America. Our cover girl Yuna defies the modern definition of pop star with her inimitable voice juxtaposed with a girl-crush-worthy style of chic turbans and covered-up ensembles. We have the gossamer voiced Priscilla Ahn, whom we feel like we’ve grown with as her life journey (and music) goes from melancholy to bliss. Then there’s the flame-haired Hmong American hard rocker and an indefinable artist whose voice is featured in one of the hottest hits of the year. From sweet little ditties to feminist anthems, from odes written in the throes of love to songs that feel more like a cathartic purging, their music moves us, inspires us, rocks us. Take a glimpse into the meaning and memories behind the melodies. 


Chhom Nimol, 35, the lead singer of the Los Angeles band Dengue Fever, is part of a family of well-known musicians in Cambodia. Chhom’s brothers and sisters taught her how to sing while they were growing up in a refugee camp in Thailand, just across the border from Cambodia, during the Khmer Rouge regime.

Upon their safe return to Cambodia, Chhom made a name for herself by winning a national singing contest, and shortly after she moved to the U.S., her American bandmates Ethan and Zac Holtzman discovered her in a Long Beach nightclub. They were looking for a vocalist to sing in Khmer so they could record covers of Cambodian psychedelic rock. Chhom agreed to join their band in 2001; 13 years and seven albums later, Dengue Fever released their latest EP, Girl from the North, last December, and another new record is already in the works.

First Musical Memory: When I was 6 or 7, I remember going to a neighbor’s place, and we would listen to music on their radio. Mostly it was Khmer-Surin music, a mix of Thai country songs with Khmer lyrics that is popular near the border. I still love that music so much; it has good memories for me.

First Song: I was about 18 years old, on a singing trip to Australia. I really liked this Cambodian man so much, but he already had a girlfriend. I was young. My heart was broken, and I wrote my first song. The English translation of the title is “In This Life We Cannot Be Together.” It is a very sad song. I still remember all the words.

Turning Struggle into Art: When we first started the band in 2001, I had a problem with my visa to stay in America. Our car was stopped by the police after a show in San Diego, and they arrested me and put me in jail. I was so scared because my English was not so good, and I did not have money to pay. Plus, they only let me eat burritos in jail, and I did not know how to eat burritos. I was lucky that my sister, my band and my friends raised money to help me, but I had to stay in jail for 22 nights. That was a terrible time in my life. There is a song on our first album called “22 Nights.”

Check out Chhom Nimol’s distinctive sound at AudreyMagazine.com/denguefever.    

This story was originally published in our Spring 2014 issue. Get your copy here. 

Designer Handbag Rentals Available in Korea

Story by Y. Peter Kang.

A new service in South Korea allows women to flash the latest high-end handbag without forking over a lot of dough.

MBC reports that a luxury goods rental service has customers depositing their own upscale handbagwith a broker which then entitles them to pick out a handbag for a fee of about $20 to $30 per week. If the customer’s bag is rented by another customer, they get a percentage of the rental fees. If they don’t add a bag to the pool, they can still rent a bag for a higher fee of about $50.

Members are reportedly happy with the service.

“I think it’s a great thing, to be able to change up your bag for the price of a cup of coffee,” one customer told MBC. “It’s fresh and new.”

MBC reported that peer-to-peer rental services were first popularized in the United States following the Great Recession of 2008. One notable example of a P2P rental service that has taken off is Airbnb, a site in which homeowners can rent out rooms to cost-conscious travelers.

This story was originally published in iamkoream.com.

Paris Fashion Week: Chinese Designer Masha Ma

Story by Ruby Veridiano.

You can certainly tell that Masha Ma once worked for Alexander Mcqueen.

Inheriting the drama in design from her former boss, Ma succeeds in crafting showmanship. Her latest collection for the Fall/Winter 2014 closed out Paris Fashion Week with vigor, presenting her signature mode of chic and futuristic aesthetics.

Inspired by the wondrous evening bloom of the cactus plant epiphyllum, her collection featured flowery textures that honored femininity with an avant-garde lens. Both poetic and apocalyptic in nature, Ma offers a version of the feminine that casts her as a warrior. For the Fall/Winter season Ma chooses navy, white, and black as her color palette, blooming in the form of knits, woven fabrics, and embroidered flowers. Flower lace face masks add to the drama, giving the effect of mystery. Layers were also a big part of this collection, along with the color white (Part of Ma’s signature style), which manifested as identical platform shoes and over the knee boots for all models.

Masha Ma is a Chinese designer. She graduated from Central St. Martins in 2008, the same year she released her namesake label. A recognized talent, she has won numerous awards and her presentations have been bought out by prestigious stores such as Spiga 2 in Milan and Harvey Nichols in Hong Kong. She is based between Shanghai and Paris.

Masha Ma FW2014 from Masha Ma on Vimeo.

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VOICES CARRY: Hollis Wong-Wear

Story by Ada Tseng.

In so many ways, music defines a generation or a culture, giving us the soundtrack to our multilayered, bicultural landscape. And the 10 women we highlight here not only lay it all on the line and bare their souls in their music but, each in their own way, do much to round out a picture of what it is to be an Asian woman in America. Our cover girl Yuna defies the modern definition of pop star with her inimitable voice juxtaposed with a girl-crush-worthy style of chic turbans and covered-up ensembles. We have the gossamer voiced Priscilla Ahn, whom we feel like we’ve grown with as her life journey (and music) goes from melancholy to bliss. Then there’s the flame-haired Hmong American hard rocker and an indefinable artist whose voice is featured in one of the hottest hits of the year. From sweet little ditties to feminist anthems, from odes written in the throes of love to songs that feel more like a cathartic purging, their music moves us, inspires us, rocks us. Take a glimpse into the meaning and memories behind the melodies.


That girl singing the hook from Macklemore & Ryan Lewis’ hit song “White Walls?” That would be Hollis Wong-Wear, a frequent collaborator with the Grammy-winning hip-hop duo — and the one who inspired Macklemore to write a song about his Cadillac. “I thought it was the perfect metaphor for his career at the time,” says the 26-year-old. “And he loves Cadillacs, so I said, ‘Write about what you love. Why not?’”

Wong-Wear is a musician in her own right. Though she’s performed in choirs and theaters from a young age, it wasn’t until she discovered poetry that she realized she wanted to create art. “I realized I had something to say,” she says. “It was the first time I was being validated for my personal narrative.”

Spoken-word poetry naturally led her to hip-hop — she was part of the two-women rap collective Canary Sing — and she loved the challenge of being a lyricist, MC and freestyler, especially as one of the few Asian American (she’s biracial Chinese) women rappers in the Seattle music scene. But just as she was making a name for herself in hip-hop, she went in another direction, starting a synth-pop group The Flavr Blue with bandmates Parker Joe and Lace Cadence.

“I’ve never felt like I fit into a box, so I’m always pushing myself to be daring and different,” says Wong-Wear. “In the seven years that I’ve been making music, I’ve done rap, R&B, dance/electronic music and super lounge-y soul. I’ve sung in a jazz quartet. I’m way more motivated to do something I’ve never done before than to perfect one particular type of music.”

Nowadays, in addition to her work on The Flavr Blue, she’s excited about who “Hollis” can be as a solo artist. But don’t expect her to make an album of hip-hop/R&B songs just because she’s riding high on her high-profile Macklemore collaboration. Wong- Wear won’t be satisfied unless she surprises everyone — even herself. “I want to channel that rawness, honesty and emotional heft that I had when I first started out in poetry,” she says, “and carry it through to where I am now, so that I’m always evolving musically.”

First Musical Memory: Raffi’s “Baby Beluga.” Live in concert, the VHS tape. I watched that video every day for years.

First Song: I wrote a song on the piano when I was 17, and it’s about being trapped in the suburbs. Now that I think about it, it was the suburban California version of [Lorde’s] “Royals.” [Laughs] Not as polished, but very dark.

Inspiration: My mom emigrated from Hong Kong to the U.S. by herself, and she was an entrepreneur who started a Cantonese restaurant. So I think I inherited the hustle of being an immigrant from her, and I apply it to my own life and career. Her drive and relentless energy inspires me, and that’s why, for example, it’s important for me to manage the band that I’m in, to be at the helm of my own music. My goal is not to be a singer; my goal is to be an artist and businesswoman.

See Hollis Wong-Wear in Macklemore’s “White Walls” video and more at AudreyMagazine.com/holliswongwear.    

 

This story was originally published in our Spring 2014 issue. Get your copy here

Vanessa Leu’s Compassionate Collection Shines Bright at the “Other Paris Fashion Week”

Story by Ruby Veridiano.

In the midst of the flurry of back-to-back shows at Paris Fashion Week, a hidden gem was glistening right in the center of the city. Inside the Carousel du Louvre, the “other fashion week” was transpiring. Tranoi, a trade show in Paris boasting over 450 brands, invited buyers from all over the world to have a look at some of the brightest designers on the rise.

Among those rising stars was Vanessa Leu, a California-based Taiwanese jewelry designer whose talent has catapulted her work in the spotlight. As one of the top brands featured at Tranoi, Leu was granted the center stage in the Louvre, being placed at the very front of the exhibit’s foyer.

Rightfully so, as Leu’s stunning creations are unique, edgy, and artistic while remaining subtly chic. The “Future Ring” reflects the elegance and edge of a modern woman, using black diamonds and druzy, and set on a two-finger ring piece. The “Wish Cuff”, featuring a quartz with healing powers, is set on a bracelet of thick metal, contrasting the strength and softness of a woman’s spirit.

I believe that the reason why Leu’s jewels shine so bright is beyond the aesthetic and craftsmanship of her design. The gems she carefully chooses are made to act as beautiful talismans to “protect and inspire beauty in the wearer”, channeling the gems’ healing and transformative energies. While other jewelry makers may tend to sacrifice the ethics behind the creation of their products, Leu, a spiritual seeker, is committed to building a compassionate collection that uses conflict-free diamonds and recycled precious metals all made under fair labor practices and the highest ethical standards.

Leu’s jewels have appeared everywhere from Katy Perry’s earlobes on the cover of GQ magazine to Brooke Burke’s neckline on the American hit show “Dancing with the Stars”. Not to mention, her jewelry has lent some extra shine to countless starlets on the red carpet.

Leu’s philosophy, combined with the beauty of her work, leaves no surprise as to why she has won countless awards and is recognized by Women’s Wear Daily as “One to Watch”.

Vanessa Leu was once a writer and journalist in her native Taiwan. In her younger days, she provided aid to Taiwanese aborigines. She is based in Los Angeles, California.

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VOICES CARRY: Alley Her

Story by Ada Tseng. 

In so many ways, music defines a generation or a culture, giving us the soundtrack to our multilayered, bicultural landscape. And the 10 women we highlight here not only lay it all on the line and bare their souls in their music but, each in their own way, do much to round out a picture of what it is to be an Asian woman in America. Our cover girl Yuna defies the modern definition of pop star with her inimitable voice juxtaposed with a girl-crush-worthy style of chic turbans and covered-up ensembles. We have the gossamer voiced Priscilla Ahn, whom we feel like we’ve grown with as her life journey (and music) goes from melancholy to bliss. Then there’s the flame-haired Hmong American hard rocker and an indefinable artist whose voice is featured in one of the hottest hits of the year. From sweet little ditties to feminist anthems, from odes written in the throes of love to songs that feel more like a cathartic purging, their music moves us, inspires us, rocks us. Take a glimpse into the meaning and memories behind the melodies.


The fiery, scarlet-haired vocalist of the alternative metal band Fields of Prey never even listened to hard rock before she met her friend and former bandmate Ricardo Guevara in 2010. “All the screaming frightened me, to be honest,” remembers Alley Her, 31. “I was brought up singing in a choir at church, and I was playing in a pop-rock band. [But] after some time of studying the techniques and style of hard rock, I started understanding the emotions behind such music. Afterward, I made it my ambition to be the first female Hmong hard rock vocalist, and I’ve been trying ever since.”

Her’s mother is Lao, her dad is Hmong, and their family migrated to the States seeking asylum post-Vietnam War, when she was 6. “I actually have a photo that my parents took of us during that time because my sister was very ill and we didn’t think she was going to make it. So my mother sold her last piece of jewelry to hire someone to take a photo of her children,” she says. Her was 13 when she wrote her first song to try to cheer her sister up, and that was when she discovered her ability to express herself through music.

Fields of Prey’s first single, incidentally, was titled “Red.” Why can’t you see that you are mine, she belts in both hard rock and acoustic versions of the song. I’m your salvation, your demise. Her and her guitarist Sunny X’s Hmong heritage made them favorites at the first-ever Hmong Music Festival in 2012 in Fresno, Calif. Though Fields of Prey recently made the difficult decision to disband last December, Her is still working with a few of her former band- mates to release a new album. “I am proud to say that through my struggles as a musician and in the world of Fields of Prey, I have become the person I have always wanted to be,” says Her.

First Musical Memory: Dancing and singing with my mother when I was about 7 years old. She used to teach me and my sisters folk songs from Thailand. We would sit together and watch videos of grand concerts and performances from Thailand, and I used to fantasize that I was on stage performing along.

Influences: I’d have to say my influences are a compilation of many different genres and styles, ranging from Avenged Sevenfold to Green Day, Paramore and Flyleaf to TLC and Whitney Houston, to bands like Train and Collective Soul — all melting together to make up the full scope of my music personality.

Favorite Song: My favorite song with Fields of Prey is called “Ghosts.” It’s on our Perfect Dark album. I wrote this song for my bandmates. It is a tribute to our struggles, an apology for our imperfections, the anthem to which we live our lives and the reminder to never forget the dreams that we dreamed.

What’s Next: Sunny X, Arion Tucker and I are still writing and creating new music together and will continue to do so. We will never stop. We have been spending night and day in the studio composing and experimenting with crazy ideas. A new project is in the works for the three of us, and my favorite single “Sleepwalker” will be released soon.

Go to AudreyMagazine.com/alleyher to hear her distinctive sound.    

 

This story was originally published in our Spring 2014 issue. Get your copy here.  

VOICES CARRY: Priscilla Ahn

Story by Ada Tseng.

In so many ways, music defines a generation or a culture, giving us the soundtrack to our multilayered, bicultural landscape. And the 10 women we highlight here not only lay it all on the line and bare their souls in their music but, each in their own way, do much to round out a picture of what it is to be an Asian woman in America. Our cover girl Yuna defies the modern definition of pop star with her inimitable voice juxtaposed with a girl-crush-worthy style of chic turbans and covered-up ensembles. We have the gossamer voiced Priscilla Ahn, whom we feel like we’ve grown with as her life journey (and music) goes from melancholy to bliss. Then there’s the flame-haired Hmong American hard rocker and an indefinable artist whose voice is featured in one of the hottest hits of the year. From sweet little ditties to feminist anthems, from odes written in the throes of love to songs that feel more like a cathartic purging, their music moves us, inspires us, rocks us. Take a glimpse into the meaning and memories behind the melodies.


 

Priscilla Ahn — the biracial Korean American singer-songwriter best known for angelically melancholy songs, like her first hit, 2008’s “Dream” — was so skilled at creating music from feelings of sadness and loneliness that when she suddenly found herself happily married (to actor Michael Weston), she realized she was a bit lost. Whereas before inspiration would come naturally, the 30-year-old’s latest album, This Is Where We Are, released in February, required her to dig deeper. Holed up in a hotel room outside of Palm Springs, secluded from all the distractions of the world, Ahn wrote most of the songs on her new album in the middle of the desert.

“I wanted to incorporate cooler beats,” says Ahn of her fifth album’s new sound. “I’ve always loved indie electronic music like Lykke Li, Little Dragon and chillwave stuff, but I never knew how to write those kind of songs. Finally, I got a keyboard with pre-programmed samples, and it opened this huge door of new song ideas.”

First Musical Memory: I remember learning the theme song from the movie The Land Before Time, “If We Hold On Together.” My mom got the sheet music for it, she’d play it on the piano, and I’d sing my heart out. I was probably 5 or 6, and I remember one time, I was singing and just started crying! My mom was like, “What’s happening?” I was thinking about my grandfather in Korea because I missed him. [Laughs] The song just moved me so much.

First Song: The first song I wrote is called “The Beach Song.” If you ask me to play it, I can’t remember. But I was 14, and I had just started playing guitar. I lived in Pennsylvania, so we’re land-locked, and we’d go to the ocean for vacation. So the song is about how I loved going to the beach and relaxing.

Favorite Story Behind a Song: I do a song in my live shows called “The Boobs Song.” [When Ahn was first dating her husband, she found a book of poetry in his house with an inscription from an ex-girlfriend that said: “I hope you like the poems and that they remind you of my boobs.” She then wrote him a song about it.] It’s funny, even though it stemmed from fear and sadness. It was early in our relationship, and I had to be careful because I can get jealous really easily, and I didn’t want to show that bad side of me yet. So I was like, “Oh, this is fine. I’m OK with this,” even though I totally wasn’t. [Laughs] I was young, about 22. He reacted well; he totally threw out the book. Now, I’ll tell the whole story before I play the song, he’ll be in the audience, and he’ll grin and bear it. He’s a good sport.

Fulfilling a Dream: I actually just performed at the Ghibli Museum! I did an album with a lot of Japanese cover songs and songs from [Japanese animation studio Studio Ghibli] movies called Natural Colors. So I did a secret show at the Ghibli Museum on December 23, 2013, right before Christmas. That was the highlight of my life.

(Half) Asian Influences: Though I didn’t realize it until just recently, I think it all played into my songs subconsciously, even if it’s in the questions of where I belong. Even when I was little, I’d look in the mirror and think, “I don’t look like my mom, and I don’t look like my dad.” Because I’m a mixed breed of them, I thought my parents bought me at Kmart! [Laughs] But now, I’m so proud that I did grow up with a different culture.

 

Hear Priscilla croon at AudreyMagazine.com/priscillaahn.    

This story was originally published in our Spring 2014 issue. Get your copy here

Yuna Kim in Confirmed Relationship With Hockey Player

Story by Steve Han. 

Yikes! The Queen has found a King.

Star figure skater Kim Yuna, known as “Queen Yuna,” is dating ice hockey player Kim Won-jung, her agency confirmed Thursday.

South Korean tabloid website Dispatch set the Korean Internet on fire Wednesday after releasing a series of photos, one of which shows Kim, 23, taking a leisurely stroll alongside the 29-year-old hockey player in Seoul with her arm wrapped around him. Kim’s agency, All That Sports, later revealed that the two athletes are indeed dating.

“Most of what Dispatch reported is true as Kim Yuna and Kim Won-jung are in a relationship,” the agency said in a press release.

The couple first met in July 2012 while training at the Taeneung Training Center in Seoul where South Korean figure skaters, ice hockey players and short track skaters share the ice rink throughout the day prior to international competitions, including the Winter Olympic Games, according to Dispatch. They began dating in August 2013. Both of them also recently graduated from Korea University.

The photos published by Dispatch were reportedly taken on Sept. 5 last year, which was Kim’s 23rd birthday, but the reporter who broke the story decided to hold them until now to avoid being a distraction to Kim’s preparations for the Winter Olympic Games, where she controversially settled for a silver medal behind Adelina Sotnikova of host country Russia.

“We set the date for the release of the photos sometime after the Olympics out of consideration [for Kim],” said Na Ji-yeon, the Dispatch reporter who broke the news, according to YTN News. “We decided to release the photos in March after all her [competitions] were over.”

Kim Won-jung plays for the military club Daemyung Sangmu in the Asia League Ice Hockey (ALIH), which is a three-nation league with three teams from Korea, one from China and four based in Japan.

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This story was originally published in iamkoream.com.

Iconic Asians with Dina Yuen

Now you can help bring an Asian-focused television show to life! Iconic Asians with Dina Yuen showcases influential Asians using “a format that combines the best of Anthony Bourdain’s No Reservations and The Oprah Show.” The show will feature celebrities, musicians, chefs, politicians, activists, athletes and many more.

Iconic Asians with Dina Yuen shows Asians (particularly children and young adults) around the world that there are ways to become what they dream of.”

Dina Yuen shared a few words with us to let us know why this project is one that the entire Asian community should care about.


 

Tell us a bit more about yourself and what you do.
After studying Industrial Engineering and Operations Management in college, I founded my first company, Dragon Music International, at the age of 20. With DMI I spent several years as singer/songwriter working with various producers and other artists in the Anglo and Latin music industry. Finding myself at a crossroads in my mid 20′s trying to figure out what I really wanted to do with my life, I returned to my Southeast Asian roots.

During my extensive travels through Asia, I grew heavily involved in rescuing children in prostitution, working with orphanages and senior citizens in India, Thailand, Cambodia, Indonesia and China. The profound impact of witnessing the best and worst of Asia inspired me to create my next endeavor– multimedia company AsianFusion.

Through AsianFusion, I get to wear a multitude of hats: CEO, author (Indonesian Cooking, Iconic Asian Americans, The Shanghai Legacy), food writer, travel & product reviewer, marketing strategist, journalist (interviewing Asian celebrities around the world) and product creator– all with the underlying goal of celebrating Asian cultures and people.
These days I’m focused on finishing my next three books, developing my television show Iconic Asians with Dina Yuen and creating several product lines.

What gave you the idea to create a show focused on Iconic Asians?
Growing up in San Francisco, despite the fact that there were a lot of Asians, I was still bullied for being Asian. Through my teen years, I felt there was something wrong with the way I looked because I wasn’t the typical blond, blue-eyed American girl. Later in my 20′s, after experiencing the two extremes of Asia– the rich cultures, compassionate people and amazing food, versus the children forced into prostitution, people living in slums and corruption, I wanted to create a platform that celebrates the beautiful aspects of Asian culture. I never had Asian role models growing up, only to find out later that there are “Iconic Asians” around the world doing positive, amazing things on a local and global scale. Iconic Asians with Dina Yuen gives Asians both in America and around the world what they’ve never had before– one show where awesome Asians are highlighted, celebrated and lauded for their achievements.

What makes this show different?
Iconic Asians with Dina Yuen is unique not only because it’s the first show of its kind to focus on interviewing Asian leaders and celebrities of all industries, but also because of a format that combines Anthony Bourdain’s No Reservations (the fun lighthearted food scenes) with The Oprah Show (a more in-depth look into each Iconic Asians’ personal life).

Why is it so important that we showcase Asians in mainstream Hollywood?
Asians have long been an integral part of America’s foundation– structurally, culturally and financially. While mainstream Hollywood still has issues with giving fair representation to the African American and Hispanic American communities, at least our brothers and sisters in those communities have made significant progress. Both have major networks of their own (BET, Univision) in addition to major roles in television and film. Asians however, have made little progress in mainstream Hollywood, still for the most part, relegated to roles that involve cleaning (maids), prostitution, martial arts or heavily-accented stereotypical FOB roles. Given the enormous contributions Asians have made to America and the world, it is high time that Hollywood embraces an Asian-focused show not just because it’s Asian but also because it’s about amazing people that everyone can get inspired by.

How can we help?
My team’s goal is to raise 50k to get Iconic Asians with Dina Yuen off the ground and find a permanent home on a major American network. Hollywood executives have expressed to me that they want me to prove there would be public support for a show like this. We hope that all of you out there will spread the word so that we end up with tens of thousands of people contributing $10, $25, $50 or $100 rather than just a few people contributing $1k (though of course all contributions are greatly appreciated). The power lies in all of you to prove to Hollywood that small gestures from the many voices mean far more than their preconceived and outdated notions of what the public wants to see on television.

For more information and to help contribute to Iconic Asians with Dina Yuen, click here. 

National Film Society’s Comedy Web Series, Awesome Asian Bad Guys

Story by Ada Tseng. Photos by Craig Stubing, unwrittenfilms.com    

In 2011, Patrick Mendoza Epino and Stephen Dypiangco started a YouTube channel and new media studio called National Film Society. Part of the joke was that their name sounded very official and old-school Hollywood, but in reality, the playful, self-mocking and slightly absurd videos, from “Film School or No Film School?” to “Manny Pacquiao vs. Batman,” were made by two Filipino American filmmakers who riffed on everything. Eight months after they started, they caught the attention of PBS Digital Studios, which added National Film Society to their lineup. Since then, they’ve given out National Film Society “awards” (aka slightly inappropriate Barrel Man statuettes) to their confused actor friends, filmed commentary about the popular PBS series Downton Abbey, and interviewed subjects from documentarian Morgan Spurlock to Cookie Monster.

One of their most memorable videos was titled “Awesome Asian Bad Guys,” where they paid tribute to the badass Asian fighters in the action films they loved watching in the ’80s and ’90s. Unfortunately, in typical white male-dominated Hollywood form, these impressively skilled Asian guys always ended up dying very quickly at the hands of a Bruce Willis, an Arnold Schwarzenegger or a Mel Gibson. Dypiangco’s favorite bad guy was George Cheung (Rush Hour, Rambo 2); Epino’s favorite was Al Leong, who was killed off so many times that he’s inspired an “Al Leong Death Reel” compilation on YouTube where he violently perishes in almost 20 different movies. At the end of this National Film Society video, they mention that it’d be awesome to gather all these Asian bad guys together one day and create a super team, kind of like “the Asian Expendables.”

They had no idea they’d actually do it one day. “We just thought, conceptually, it’d be funny,” says Epino. “We weren’t like, ‘Let’s make it!’”
“It just seemed like it’d be ridiculous and fun,” says Dypiangco. “And it seemed like it’d be something that’d work really well on the web.”
Once they got some actors on board — including Tamlyn Tomita (beloved for her role on Karate Kid 2), Yuji Okumoto (who played the Karate Kid’s nemesis in the same film), comedic actor Aaron Takahashi (onboard to play the villain), and even Al Leong himself — Epino and Dypiangco launched a Kickstarter campaign to raise money to make their Awesome Asian Bad Guys web series.
A year and a half later, Awesome Asian Bad Guys is scheduled to premiere in San Francisco at the 2014 CAAMFest in March. There, it will play as a short feature, but online, it will be separated into approximately 10-minute webisodes. Though there were some “bad guys” in their dream cast that they weren’t able to lock down — including Bolo Yeung (Bloodsport, Double Impact) and James Hong (who turned them down four times) — Epino and Dypiangco’s team of Asian American actors were game to play fictional versions of themselves in the action comedy. The story begins with Tomita, who alerts the National Film Society about the dangers of Takahashi — who people might recognize as the funny guy with glasses in the Amp’d Mobile and State Farm commercials, but, in his personal life, is the leader of a gang with a diabolical plan to take down his competition in the entertainment industry.
“See, Tamlyn had a twin sister named Pamlyn whom Aaron killed,” explains Epino, with a straight face. “So she comes to us to help her get revenge.” He laughs. “Don’t ask why she comes to us. She just does.”
“She asks us to help recruit this team [of Awesome Asian Bad Guys] to take down Aaron,” says Dypiangco. Other co-stars include Dante Basco (Rufio in Hook, Ben in The Debut), who plays Takahashi’s right-hand man, and Randall Park (Larry Crowne, The Five-Year Engagement, Veep), who is desperate to join the team of Awesome Asian Bad Guys to show that he can do more than just play the goofy Asian sidekick. Epino and Dypiangco even got Nuo “Sunny” Sun, who has worked on films such as The Avengers, The Expendables and The Last Airbender, to be their stunt coordinator.
“[Patrick and I] are on the Awesome Asian Bad Guys team, so we get to do some action, but we do it as [versions of] ourselves,” says Dypiangco. “So we’re not super skilled.”
“We’re poorly skilled,” says Epino. “But we were available to do the fight training more often than any of the rest of the actors, whose schedules we’d have to work around because they would sometimes book other gigs at the last minute.”
While they did some research on other web series to get a sense of the online medium, the story mostly references The Expendables, the film series starring Sylvester Stallone and other action hero actors, including Jet Li. Yet while they were shooting, the cast and crew kept telling them it felt like they were making a Naked Gun movie.

“That wasn’t necessarily conscious,” says Dypiangco, about being inspired by the over-the-top crime comedy film franchise from 1988 to 1994 starring Leslie Nielson, “but I think people thought that because [Awesome Asian Bad Guys] is just super silly.” He laughs. “But I actually watched Naked Gun again recently, and it’s pretty good!”

 

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This story was originally published in our Spring 2014 issue. Get your copy here