Nina Davuluri Joins Macy’s in celebrating Asian-Pacific American Heritage Month

Story by Jeline Abutin. 

Embracing her cultural background whole-heartedly, Miss America, Nina Davuluri, has partnered with Macy’s in celebrating Asian-Pacific American Heritage Month. Its first stop of six took place at Macy’s in Cerritos, CA. on May 8.

“It has been absolutely incredible, especially being from New York,” said Davuluri. “I was formally Miss New York and Macy’s on 34th Street is so quintessential New York. To be a part of this campaign and to be the face of Macy’s during AP Heritage Month has really been quite an honor, so I’m really excited.”

Commemorating Asian-Pacific American Heritage Month, Macy’s has collaborated with Miss America in a quest to spread cultural awareness as well as celebrate the accomplishments of Asian-Pacific Americans.

Up the escalators on the second floor, guests were immersed in their very own taste of the Indian culture. With upbeat music along with samosas and chai lassi, onlookers watched a Bollywood performance while anxiously awaiting Davuluri.

As Miss America made her way to the small stage, with poise and grace, guests were awestruck and inspired by her strong cultural roots and her platform of diversity through cultural competency.

“As much as I’ve always viewed myself as first and foremost American, I am Indian,” said Davuluri as she spoke to the crowd during the Q&A.

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“I have my Indian roots, my heritage, my culture, my background, and that’s so important to me and that’s definitely a part of who I am,” said Davuluri. “I think the biggest thing I’ve learned is that assimilation has to happen from both sides. You simply can’t raise your children in American expecting them to be 100 percent Indian, a 100 percent Hispanic, whatever your cultural background might be, it’s just not possible. And so I think there has to be a healthy balance between both worlds. And that is still a process in my household for my parents to understand to this day and for me to find that healthy balance too. It will probably continue for the remainder of my journey as well as for my children.”

With both parents originally from India, Davuluri is second generation. Growing up with many stereotypes and misconceptions about her culture has propelled Davuluri to educate younger generations about the different cultures around the world.

Inspiring culturally rich women as well as young women in general, Davuluri, who is opening the eyes of society to a culturally aware and diverse world, is still amazed at what she has achieved.

“It’s still unbelievable, it’s very difficult to put into words,” said Davuluri. “I’ve just been very blessed to be able to wake up everyday and know that all I can do is be the best Nina that I can be and hopefully that’s enough and that’s what I’ve been trying to do this whole year. I’m thankful that it’s inspiring some young women out there.”

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At Last! An Asian American Family Sitcom Is Coming To Television

Story by Michelle Woo.

It’s what been missing on TV for, oh, 20 years. Asian Americans. No, not just sprinkled around as the best friend or doctor or quirky love interest. We’re talking about a show centered on an Asian American family, one that we can relate to, invest ourselves in and laugh with—not at.

Finally, that show is here.

“Fresh Off The Boat,” a comedy based on Eddie Huang’s memoir of the same name, has been picked up by ABC, making it, when it airs, the first Asian American family sitcom on network prime time since Margaret Cho’s “All American Girl” premiered in 1994. (God, we feel old.)

The sitcom, written and produced by Nahnatchka Khan, follows hip-hop obsessed Eddie (Hudson Yang) as he grows up in suburban Orlando with his immigrant parents, played by Randall Park and Constance Wu. Yang is the 10-year-old son of Asian American pop culture guru Jeff Yang, who wrote in his Wall Street Journal column, “The show is like nothing you will have ever seen before on television. If it makes it to air, it will blow minds, raise eyebrows and, to quote a line that my son says as Little Eddie, ‘change the game.’ I would honestly say the same if I weren’t the lead actor’s father. It’s that different. And provocative. And, yes, gut-bustingly funny.”

Just tell us when to set our DVRs.

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#IAm Campaign Celebrates AAPI Heritage Month With Star Power

Story by James S. Kim. 

In support of Asian Pacific American Heritage Month (AAPIHM), the Coalition of Asian Pacifics in Entertainment (CAPE) will be launching its #IAm Campaign, a celebration of Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) role models in the arts and entertainment. The all-digital campaign is the first of its kind, and it features some of the world’s biggest Asian stars on film, television and YouTube.

“My job at CAPE is simple: to put more Asian faces in front of and behind the camera through events, education, and advocacy,” said executive director Jennifer Sanderson. “We are change agents for our community and the entertainment industry, but we still have a long way to go to overcome the false stereotypes and misrepresentations that plague us. That’s where the CAPE #IAm Campaign comes in. “The goal is to share stories, who we really are, instead of perpetuating stereotypes that are ever present in the mainstream media.”

The #IAm Campaign begins today with two web releases: a fun eight-episode web series, “Making I AM: Get me Your Friends,” and a set of 19 mini-documentaries featuring AAPI artists and leaders telling their stories of overcoming obstacles and chasing dreams.

The eight-episode series follows actor (and KoreAm columnist) Randall Park as he becomes the “Nick Fury” for CAPE’s campaign. Tasked with assembling an all-star group of Asian American artists and role models, Park relentlessly pursues that goal—sometimes resorting to drastic measures.

In order to recruit The Walking Dead’s Steven Yeun, Park agrees to set him up on a date with model Jessica Gomes. As Yeun finds out, however, he’s not the only one who fell for that false promise. Park also somehow out-dances Harry Shum Jr. in a dance-off to get him to join, although Dancing With The Stars judge Carrie Ann Inaba might have been a tad generous with her score.

YouTube stars Michelle Phan, Ryan Higa and Wong Fu Productions also make appearances alongside actors and actresses Brian Tee, Leonardo Nam, Amy Hill, Bobby Lee, Melissa Tang and Kelly Hu. Journalist Lisa Ling and Master Chef Christine Ha join in as well. You can check out the videos onCAPE’s YouTube channel and on the #IAm Campaign website.


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Asia’s Ridiculous ‘Finger Trap’ Beauty Test Determines Whether You’re Pretty Or Ugly

Story by Michelle Woo. 

It’s being called the “finger trap,” and it’s the latest Asian beauty trend swarming through social media. (And no, we’re not talking about those 10-cent gag toys that would turn your fingers blue by cutting off your circulation.) The concept is simple: Touch the side of your index finger to both the tip of your nose and your chin. If your lips don’t touch your finger, congratulations! You’re pretty! If they do, well, er … there’s always Photoshop?

According to Refinery29, the trend originated with a Japanese meme. Chinese actress Xinyi Zhang—who’s stunning, by the way—tried it out and then lamented the fact that she “didn’t pass.” This prompted her legions of fans to take the test and post selfies showing their results. Now everyone from “ancient Chinese generals to K-Pop stars” has gotten in on the finger-trap action. The test, also known as the “Beauty and Ugliness Identification Method,” is one of biggest trending topics on Weibo, China’s version of Facebook. HelloGiggles called it “the new thigh gap.”

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Some say the finger trap trend is just another reflection of Asia’s absurd beauty standards, while others, including Refinery29 fashion intern and Weibo user Venus Wong, brush it off as “a harmless fad.” Curious, I tried the test and failed. Sob. At least I’m not alone. Under this ridiculous measure, Angelina Jolie, Jessica Alba, Christina Hendricks and Victoria Beckham are also part of Club Ugly.

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New Film Stars K-pop Star BoA and Dancing With the Stars’ Derek Hough

Story by Lorna Soonhee Umphrey.

K-pop fans get a chance to see their “Queen of Pop,” BoA, in a whole new light, as she makes her American feature film debut in Make Your Move, co-starring Dancing With the Stars’ Derek Hough.

Set in the underground dance clubs of New York, the film tells the story of star-crossed dancers Aya (played by BoA) and Donny (played by Hough), whose respective families are competing to see who has the most successful dance club in the Brooklyn scene. Their brothers (Aya’s brother is played by Korean American actor Will Yun Lee) also are former partners who had a testy falling-out, making the pairing of Aya and Donny a somewhat forbidden one.

The film’s writer and director Duane Adler (Step Up, Save The Last Dance) said that he wrote the role of Aya specifically for BoA. “I got introduced to her personally years ago through a Korean filmmaker friend of mine who said, ‘You make dance films, you need to know who this girl is.’ So when I started writing this movie, I wrote it with her in mind,” he said, during red carpet interviews at a March 31 screening at The Grove in Los Angeles.

So Adler sent over the script to the global K-pop star, and it didn’t take much convincing after that, according to BoA. “Ater I read it, I said, ‘Oh my gosh, I could relate to the character,” said BoA, also at the L.A. screening.

And, once she knew that the choreographers for the film would be dancing veterans Napoleon and Tabitha D’umo (So You Think You Can Dance and America’s Best Dance Crew), she jumped on board with the project. “They’re great, amazing choreographers, and I had wanted to work with them even before I started working on this project,” BoA said.

This being her first English-language feature film, the singer admitted it was a challenge to act in English. “It was pretty tough, but I think I did my best, and it was really great to work with Derek and Duane,” she said.

Hough, who said it was “great to work with BoA,” was the one on set who shared with some fellow cast members just how prominent a pop icon BoA is.

“When I got the role, I didn’t know who BoA was,” admitted Wesley Jonathan, who plays Hough’s foster brother in the film. “Then, one night we’re all in Derek’s room, and Derek puts her on YouTube. She’s amazing—her dancing, her music and everything.”

Notably, Make Your Move was scheduled to have an April 16 VIP premiere, but TV Report said that it was canceled because of the tragic South Korean ferry sinking, which occurred this week. BoA also reportedly has canceled other planned interviews for the film because of the incident, which has a nation in mourning.

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Artist David Choe Says He Fabricated Podcast Story About ‘Rapey Behavior’

Story by James S. Kim.

Korean American artist David Choe is known to be provocative in his work, but he may have gone too far when he told a story on his podcast about a questionable sexual encounter with a massage therapist that some are flagging as rape. After the initially obscure DVDASA podcast garnered greater attention and caused some to accuse him of rape, the artist issued a statement recently saying that he’s not a rapist and that he fabricated the encounter.

“We create stories and tell tales. It’s not a news show. It’s not a representation of my reality,” Choe said in his statement, which was posted on the podcast’s blog. “I’m sorry if anyone believed that the stories were fact. They were not!”

The episode of DVDASA, which Choe co-hosts with adult film actress Asa Akira, aired on March 10, but it was until weeks later on April 17 when a XoJane, an online women’s lifestyle magazine, highlighted Choe’s encounter with a female masseuse at a massage parlor in Los Angeles. Since then, others including Gawker and the Daily Mail picked up the story.

In the podcast, Choe said that, halfway through the massage, he got an erection, and after thinking on how to best act on it, decided to start masturbating in front of the masseuse, whom he calls “Rose.”

Choe said in the podcast that he took the woman’s hand and placed it on his penis, then asked her to “kiss it a little.” When Rose refused, he said he took the back of her head and forced her into oral sex. She refused to have intercourse with him, and apparently asked him to lie back down to finish the massage, he said.

The story was Choe’s account of an “Erection Quest,” which co-host Akira describes as “trying things you’ve never tried before to obtain a super hard erection.” When Choe finished his account, though, Akira said, “You raped … allegedly.” In the podcast, Choe also mentioned that the masseuse later asked him if he’d like to go out with her, and that apparently indicated to him that she did like him. After the podcast members talked about “rapey” behavior vs. “rape,” Choe said, “I just want to make it clear that I admit that that’s rapey behavior. But I am not a rapist.”

In the XoJane article, the author, Melissa Stetten, wrote, “I don’t know if ‘Rose’ really had a crush on David or not. All I know is the way David told the story makes it seem like he forced an unwilling woman to give him oral sex.”

After XoJane published its article, Choe responded the next day on DVDASA’s website, saying his story was entirely fictional.

“I never thought I’d wake up one late afternoon and hear myself called a rapist. It sucks. Especially because I am not one. I am not a rapist. I hate rapists, I think rapists should be raped and murdered,” he wrote. “I am an artist and a storyteller and I view my show DVDASA as a complete extension of my art. If I am guilty of anything, it’s bad storytelling in the style of douche. Just like many of my paintings are often misinterpreted, the same goes with my show.”

According to Buzzfeed, Vice is “looking into” the incident involving Choe, who is currently involved in the company’s web series Thumbs Up! and has also served as a correspondent for Vice’s HBO show. When asked by Buzzfeed whether Vice would continue to work with the artist, Vice spokeswoman Cappi Williamson said, “Vice staffers are aware of it [David Choe’s story] and reviewing the situation internally.”

Here’s the podcast in question from DVDASA Episode 106, “Erection Quest.” The story beings around the 1:13:00 mark.


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Justin Bieber Apologizes After Visiting Controversial World War II Shrine

Story by James S. Kim. 

Pop star Justin Bieber isn’t exactly known for his cultural sensitivity, and on Wednesday, he added another reason for that reputation. During a visit to Tokyo, Japan, Bieber posted two photos on Instagram that showed him visiting a controversial World War II shrine, causing outrage among South Korean and Chinese netizens, as well as some lawmakers from those countries.

One photo showed Bieber praying in front of the Yasukuni Shrine, and another showed him posing with a priest. Bieber tweeted the photos with the caption, “Thank you for your blessings.”

Bieber quickly apologized and removed the photos after he came under fire from Chinese and South Korean fans, some of whom called for the singer to be banned from performing in their home countries and even demanding he be “run out of Asia” permanently, The Independent reports. On Instagram, Bieber said he did not realize what the shrine represented and was initially just struck by its beauty.

The singer explained that he had merely asked his driver to stop when he saw the “beautiful shrine.”

“I was mislead (sic) to think the shrines were only a place of prayer,” Bieber said in his post. “To anyone I have offended I am extremely sorry.”

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The Yasukuni Shrine honors Japanese soldiers killed in World War II, along with several war criminals. Visits by Japanese dignitaries over the years have strained relations between Japan and neighboring Asian countries, who view it as a symbol of Japan’s past militarism. Earlier this week, 150 Japanese lawmakers visited the shrine, and while Prime Minister Shinzo Abe did not come along, he made an offering to the shrine.

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De-stress With These Earth Day-Friendly Products

In honor of Earth Day, here are some Earth Day-friendly products to help you de-stress:

1.) The new green line from a Victoria’s Secret model. Kora Organics by Miranda Kerr Daily Hand Creamkora
2.) Cleaning may be therapeutic, but cleaning with toxic-free products is divine. Simply Spotless New York Essential Cleaning Kit.

3.) No more toxic, smelly manicures at home with this unique water-based nail lacquer. Scotch Naturals in Roasted Mellow.

4.) Their focus is on safe-for-baby products, so it’ll baby your sensitive skin, too. Erbaviva Body Wash.



Speaking of stress…

Nagging headache? Can’t sleep? Not very productive at work? It could be stress. Left unchecked, chronic stress may play a part in up to 80 percent of diseases and illnesses, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention — everything from insomnia to hypertension to premature aging to even death.

And boy, are we feeling it. According to the American Psychological Association’s Stress in America survey for 2013, 43 percent of women say their stress levels have increased in the last five years. In fact, the APA report showed that Millennials and Gen Xers experience the most stress and the least relief — they have higher stress levels than older generations and they are not managing it well. This is supported by a recent study in the Journal of Applied Psychology, which found that not only were women more stressed than men but 20-year-olds were more stressed than 30-somethings.

If that doesn’t scare you into de-stressing, how about these unsavory tidbits: Chronic stress leads to obesity, acne and infertility, and a recent study found that men found women with a high level of the stress hormone cortisol less attractive.

Stressing about de-stressing yet? Relaaaaaax. We’ve done the research for you and found a variety of experts to provide easy tips on how to take it down a notch in our everyday lives. CLICK HERE.  

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

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Marissa Webb Named Banana Republic’s Creative Director

Story by Steve Han. 

Mega-brand Banana Republic has hired Marissa Webb, a former womenswear designer at J. Crew, as its new creative director and executive vice president of design, it was reported in the Los Angeles Times this week.

Webb replaces Simon Kneen, who was in charge of the store’s design department from 2009 to 2013, during which time the retailer lost ground to competitors J. Crew, H&M and others. Gap Inc., Banana Republic’s parent company, revealed earlier this week in its financial reports that the retailer’s sales declined by 4 percent from the year before.

A graduate of the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York, Webb was adopted by an American family from Korea at age 4. She also previously worked for Polo and Club Monaco. In 2011, she launched her own eponymous label, a casual contemporary clothing line that is sold at retailers like Barneys New York.

“I’m thrilled to be joining the extremely passionate, talented design and creative teams at Banana Republic,” Webb said, according to the Fashion Times. “This is an amazing opportunity for me to combine my unique vision with a brand that has such a strong legacy.”

Established in 1978 in San Francisco, Banana Republic has more than 600 stores in 32 countries around the world.

Webb’s first collection for Banana Republic will debut in the summer of 2015.

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The Line Hotel in Koreatown

Story by Anna M. Park.

Los Angeles’ Koreatown is known for its food, drinks and even karaoke song rooms. What it’s not known for is hospitality, and I don’t mean the old-school waitresses at some Korean restaurants. That is, until now.

A collaboration between the Sydell Group (Ace Hotel New York City and Palm Springs) and celebrity chef Roy Choi, the Line Hotel has officially become Koreatown’s go-to place to stay and soon, to eat and play as well.

Taking residence in the historic midcentury building designed by Daniel Mann Johnson + Mendenhall (formerly a sad Radisson), the Line houses 388 guest rooms designed by L.A. artist Sean Knibb, featuring specially commissioned local art and nods to the surrounding ethnic enclave (stools in the shower, Korean snacks in the minibar). Knibb also designed the cavernous lobby, a mélange of materials and soothing hues with its textured paneling (actually made of T-shirts dyed in an ombre of indigo), raw concrete pillars and circular banquettes, a mix of highbrow — marble tables, tufted chairs — and organic, everyday materials. The lobby wall facing the street is now floor-to-ceiling windows with an outdoor patio, opening up the Line to the bustling street life of colorful locals and office workers alike.

Artwork made from discarded laundry detergent bottles and molded T-shirt paneling at reception continues the highbrow-lowbrow mix of the Line.

Artwork made from discarded laundry detergent bottles and molded T-shirt paneling at reception continues the highbrow-lowbrow mix of the Line.

The angular moonscape-like banquettes in the lobby.

The angular moonscape-like banquettes in the lobby.

It’s a philosophy that seems to permeate the hotel. Guests are constantly being welcomed, almost to excess, a departure that indicates that the Line is definitely not your typical Koreatown experience — it’s actually more of a modern Seoul experience, where customer service has become key in the last decade. Indeed, Choi wanted to duplicate the experience of a classic international hotel bar in Korea with his Pot Lobby Bar, now open.

Though Choi’s highly anticipated hot pot restaurant Pot, as well as the speakeasy-style lounge Speek by nightlife impresarios the Houston Brothers and Choi’s other restaurant Commissary (a “vegetable but not vegetarian” focused restaurant), has yet to open, there’s already plenty of activity in the lobby — a variety of people in suits meeting in the peri- winkle wood banquettes, stylish young women twittering in Korean, their eyes darting about as if trying to spot a lumi- nary. (Indeed, on this day, Choi rushes by, donning his signature T-shirt, slouchy jeans, cap and bright aqua sneakers.)

“We want our guests to immerse themselves in the neighborhood,” says Sana Keefer, in charge of culture/creative at the Line. “Not just stay in the hotel, but have the Koreatown experience.” To that end, specially commissioned Linus bicycles are available for guest use and the in-house mag, Here, features maps and local businesses like Beer Belly, the HMS Bounty and Soowon Galbi.

It’s a fresh attitude starting to take hold in Koreatown. Some may call it gentrification, but what makes these changes different is that much of the growth of the neighborhood is helmed by Korean Americans. (The Houston Brothers, as well as Angie Myung, co-founder of the lifestyle brand Poketo, which will have a store and streetside newsstand on the lobby floor, are Korean American.) “The good thing is that we have a large Korean American base, a youth base,” says Keefer (herself of biracial Korean heritage). A young, hip American hotel, that’s what they’re going for, she says, while embracing the community with its Korean-speaking staff and translations throughout. “It’s a tricky thing to pull off,” adds Keefer, “but so far so good.” Details

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