Hot Destinations To Put On Your Bucket List: Trish Lee’s Bagan, Burma

In Audrey‘s Summer 2014 issue, we asked five tastemakers to give us a glimpse into their must-go destinations around the world. Here, bridal gown fashion designer Trish Lee shares her favorite place, Bagan, Burma.

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Travel philosophy: Why not?

Why Bagan: Only in the last couple of years has Myanmar, formerly Burma, opened up its borders to travelers, and the breadth of its beauty is still untouched by Western civilization. Bagan, the capital city of the ancient Burmese kingdom, is a vast plain dotted with 4,000 of the original 10,000 pagodas that were built between the 11th and 13th centuries.

 

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Stay: Kaytumadi Dynasty Hotel. The bungalow style hotel offers rooms that are a bit “rustic,” but you’ll really appreciate the kind staff, the privacy of the bungalows and the proximity to the ancient pagodas. Have breakfast in the garden where the ratio of staff to guest is one to one.

Eat: If Burma had a national dish, it would be mohinga. Rich in umami, mohinga is vermicelli rice noodles in a bouillabaisse made thick with white, flaky fish and a purée of lemongrass, garlic, ginger, onions and local spices. Any time of day it’s the perfect meal and widely available at most street vendor stalls.

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Do: Rent a bicycle. It’s probably a 1980s fixie, but no matter. Wake up at 5 a.m. and bike to Lawkaoushaung Temple to watch the breathtaking sunrise, away from the tour groups and crowds. After sunrise is the perfect time to visit Old Bagan and give alms in the form of a food donation to the Theravada Buddhist monks, who do not eat after noon.

Unforgettable: As I was riding my bicycle on a dirt road, a lanky young boy started riding next to me. When I stopped at the next pagoda, we started chatting. Though the 11-year-old had never been to school, he effortlessly conversed with me in English. I ended up spending the whole day with him. He took me to the tiny village he lived in, called Goh Lone (Nine Stones) by the Irrawaddy River. He could speak several sentences in over a dozen languages and showed me his collection of foreign currency that travelers had given him. His curiosity for life was palpable. When he introduced me to his family, the whole village, which consisted of about five homes, came running over to greet me. His aunt insisted I have some tea and roasted corn with their family in their one-room home built on stilts. I’ve never forgotten their generosity and warm smiles. Before I left, I asked my young companion what I could give him. He asked sheepishly for my lip balm … to give to his aunt.

 

 

trishleeTrish Lee designs bridal gowns for her eponymous line, Trish Lee San Francisco. Born and raised in San Francisco, the Burmese-Chinese American often helped her mother make dresses when she was young. “One of my fondest memories growing up in San Francisco is selecting fabric in the now very hip Mission District,” says Lee. “Back then, let’s just say it was quite a ‘colorful’ place for an 8-year-old girl, but I adored every second of it.”

 

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

Travel Fit: Stay Trim While on the Go

Just because you’re on vacation doesn’t mean you have to give up your exercise routine. New York City-based yoga instructor Sunina Young provides tips on how to stay trim while on the go.


Fit Tip #1: Stretch Post-Flight

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Whether you’re on a business trip or on vacation, stress can creep into your body in the form of muscle tension and mind fatigue. De-stress from jet lag with an easy spine lengthening and side opening movement. Sitting cross-legged, inhale, lift the arms up, grab a hold of your right wrist, lift the rib cage in and up to lengthen, then exhale and bend to the left. Saturate the body’s right side with breath. Take five full breaths, then switch sides. Repeat to release all muscle tension. Time commitment is approximately two minutes.

For the ambitious: Take a moment to close your eyes and mentally say a fit-focused affirmation as you stretch, like “I always find time for self-care.”


Fit Tip #2: Be a Morning Person

Rise and shine! Wake up a little earlier than normal — just 15 minutes should do the trick. In your commitment to stay fit, starting early is important, especially since you most likely have a set day-to-day itinerary for your trip. Make no excuses and keep the mornings your time to work out to ensure that you set the tone for the day.

For the ambitious: Wake up an additional 30 minutes earlier to meditate so you can start your day with a clear and fit-focused mind. Yogis recommend daily meditation for 30 minutes in the morning for a balanced life no matter where you are.


Fit Tip #3: But First, Water
Drinking water within 10 minutes of waking up in the morning not only speeds up your metabolism it hydrates and detoxifies the body, clearing out internal impurities and making the skin glow.

For the ambitious: Add lemon to your water for a multitude of benefits, including clear skin, a natural energy boost, vitamins C and B-complex, potassium, fiber, iron and magnesium.


Fit Tip #4: Work Your Core

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As soon as you wake up, do leg lifts from the comfort of your bed — no equipment, no excuses! Lying down, interlace hands behind your head, deep inhale, exhale, lift the chest up as you flex the feet and lift your legs 20 degrees. Inhale, then keep the chest lifted and core engaged as you lift the legs up energetically to a 90-degree angle. Exhale lower for six breaths, inhale lift for five breaths. Try 12 slow reps. Time commitment is approximately four minutes.

For the ambitious: Add bicycle crunches, scissor kicks and bridges.


Fit Tip #5: Full Body Toning

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Start in child’s pose by standing on the knees wider than the shoulders. Bend down so the rib cage fits perfectly between the thighs, and reach your arms out in front of you, forehead to the ground. Breathe in for five counts, breathe out for six counts.

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Flow into plank pose: Tuck the toes, slowly shift forward while lifting the knees off the ground. Engage the core, tuck the tailbone, puff up through the upper back, keeping the entire spine in neutral alignment. Breathe in for five counts, breathe out for six counts. Transition to fallen triangle pose by bringing the right knee in towards your chest and then kicking the right foot out to the left side and placing the outer edge of that foot to the ground. Lift the hips high, shift the weight to the right side, engage the core, and reach the left hand up to the sky as you open up the left side of the body. Breathe in for five counts, out for six counts. Step the foot back to plank position. Repeat the positions in order, left and right, four reps per side. Time commitment is nine minutes.

For the ambitious: Add a chaturanga push-up after plank pose.


Fit Tip #6: Do Cardio Anywhere

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Pack your sneakers — you can jog, run, sprint anywhere! Get your heart rate up any chance you get. It’s the most efficient way to lose weight or maintain a healthy weight. Other forms of cardio include jumping jacks, plank mountain climbers, jump squats and burpees.

For the ambitious: Plan a full day committed to fitness by going hiking, biking or swimming.


This story originally appeared in Audrey’s Summer 2014 issue. Get it here.

A hot yoga instructor in New York, Sunina Young grew up in a Korean American household in Bayside, N.Y., with parents (her father was a taekwondo grandmaster) who always encouraged her to follow her heart. She obtained a master’s in communications and worked in fashion and beauty PR. It was during those years that she developed a love for yoga. After realizing that, despite a “picture perfect life,” she was unfulfilled, she left her job to pursue yoga. She wants to share with the world, both in her classes and on her blog, how to experience a dy- namic sense of self-love through movement. Check out her yoga and beauty blog at sunina.com and youtube.com/suninatv

Spotlight on Heart Defensor

FULL NAME Heart Defensor
HERITAGE Filipina American
AGE 25
BORN & RAISED Philippines, now based in L.A.
CLAIM TO FAME The pink-lovin’ YouTube personality, known for her openness and hair to-die-for, has gone beyond describing her fashion hauls and giving hair and makeup tutorials to doing a weekly YouTube show with Seventeen Magazine called Fashion Remix!


My go-to karaoke song: “I Will Survive” by Gloria Gaynor and “Independent Women” by Destiny’s Child.

Last time I cried: When I picked up the March 2014 issue of Seventeen Magazine and saw my spread talking about me and my very own show with Seventeen.

What always makes me laugh: My boyfriend Arnold. We have way too many inside jokes.

My go-to comfort food: Too many to mention!

Last thing I ate: Does caramel frap with extra whipped cream from Starbucks count?

Currently on “repeat”: There’s two! “Love Is an Open Door” by Kristen Bell and Santino Fontana (from the movie Frozen) and “Half a Heart” by One Direction.

A guilty pleasure I don’t feel guilty about: Watching Desperate Housewives every night before bed.

Current favorite place: My home. I’m a homebody!

Favorite drink: Water, green tea and Starbucks caramel frap.

Current obsessions: Cute notebooks, loose sweaters and big bags!

Habit I need to break: Eating and drinking sweets.

Hidden talent: It’s not a hidden talent since I do it all the time on my channels, but I LOVE TO SING!

Talent I’d like to have: To be an amazing dancer like Beyoncé and Ciara!

Word or phrase I most over-use: I definitely say “definitely” all the time!

Most treasured possession: Secret! :)

Favorite hashtag: #ThatsHeart because I love seeing my viewers tag me on their pics, which I often repost.

What’s cool about being Asian: Asian genes. ;) We never age, muahahaha!

My job in another life: I’d probably be a registered nurse, which I would suck at because I don’t like seeing blood LOL.

 

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

Run River North Releases Their Debut Album

Story by Taylor Weik. 

“The album art is actually inspired by ancient Korean art,” drummer John Chong is saying, gesturing to the cover of the seven-inch vinyl — a large white square smeared with blue, gray and purple brush strokes detailing mountains and trees, clean and dirty at the same time — when all of a sudden, rock music begins blasting from the next room over, and the windows and doors start vibrating with the beat. It’s 5 p.m. at the Troubadour, just two hours before the indie folk-rock band Run River North takes the stage to promote their newly released, self-titled debut album.

“If you go to LACMA, you can find a lot of Korean landscapes with clouds, mountains and a lot of black,” Chong continues as if nothing has transpired, yelling over the music. The other five band members — Alex Hwang, Joe Chun, Daniel Chae, Sally Kang and Jennifer Rim — titter at his attempt to be heard in the small bar that now pulsates with rock. “We’re performing a sold-out show at the Troubadour,” says lead vocalist and songwriter Hwang. “Again.”

The last time Run River North performed at the Troubadour — the West Hollywood, Calif., club with a long, colorful history, famous for kicking out a very drunk John Lennon, and whose stage has been graced by everyone from Fleetwood Mac to Guns N’ Roses — it was 2012 and they were operating under the moniker Monsters Calling Home. The San Fernando Valley-based group changed its name when fellow indie band Of Monsters and Men rose to fame with its hit song “Little Talks.”

“We’re now Run River North, which can mean many things,” says Kang, who plays keyboards. “It describes the different ranges of our music — from being laid-back and letting our harmonies shine through, like in ‘Growing Up,’ which represents the steady flow of a river, to being as crazy and loud and thrashing as some of our other tracks that are a little more rock-ish, which portrays a rushing river.”

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Run River North captured the attention of YouTubers (and auto execs) in 2012 with their music video for their upbeat single “Fight to Keep,” filmed entirely in their cars while driving through parking lots and across streets. Honda executives took note of the video — which has garnered more than 200,000 views on YouTube — and booked them as musical guests on Jimmy Kimmel Live. “Fight to Keep” is arguably their most popular song and is included in the new album — the one Chong was describing at the Troubadour — but the members have other favorites.

“My favorite song right now is ‘Beetle’ because we added an extra four-minute jam section for the show,” says Hwang. “Also I get to play the electric guitar, which I don’t usually get to do.” Rim, the violinist, favors “Lying Beast,” a softer, more lyrical tune inspired by a Korean folk song “to add a bit of our heritage.”

Their heritage is reflected in more than just the melodies. All six of Run River North’s members are Korean American, and more than a few of their songs function as stories of their experiences as children of Korean immigrants. “Monsters Calling Home,” which Hwang penned, pays homage to their parents and the sacrifices they made to leave behind their homeland for the “American Dream.” They’re walking heavy to the beat of a broken drum, Hwang croons in the song while Rim plucks violin strings in the background. Digging for worth in a land under a foreign sun.

Though their identities as Asian Americans play a significant role in their music, Hwang and the others members make sure to produce content that everyone can relate to and enjoy. “Our mental process when making music isn’t ‘this is what Asian music should sound like,’ but ‘this is what good music sounds like’ — it just so happens to be that we’re Asian American,” says Hwang. “We try not to be so intentional about our Asian-ness, but let the quality of the music speak. The way we look to people should come second to the way we sound.”

While Run River North has a loyal fan following, their biggest fan may be Korean American actor Steven Yeun. Not only did he tweet his support and encourage his followers to buy their debut album (Hwang and Yeun have been friends since before Yeun landed the role of Glenn Rhee on AMC’s The Walking Dead), Run River North takes a portable Glenn Rhee doll with them on their adventures, Instagramming photos of him wherever they go, whether it be on stage at SXSW or at a sleepy Nashville diner on their way to their next show, accompanied with the popular hashtag #glennontourwithrrn. “You have to tote the fine line between self-promotion and braggery, especially when it comes to social media,” says Hwang. “Glenn is that buffer for us so we can stay humble while sharing fun snapshots from our lives.”

Some of these snapshots are playing a role in documenting the rise of Run River North from a local “baby band,” as Chun calls them, to a more widely recognized name. After their album release show in March, they spent the entire month of April on tour with the Goo Goo Dolls, driving all over the Midwest and East Coast, before focusing more on the West Coast in June. Even so, when asked to share a favorite memory from their past year, what sits with Chong isn’t performing with celebrities or singing on the radio.

“When we were up in Seattle recording our album, there was one night when we went to Costco and just bought a bunch of food to prepare a feast,” he says. “It was a long day, and at the end we sat and ate together like a family. It was one of the best feelings. We aren’t a nuclear family, but we’re a family nevertheless, and we remind one another where we come from and belong in this crazy world.

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

New Reality Show to Feature Lives of ‘Ultra Rich Asian Women’

Story by Ruth Kim. 

When we said we needed more Asian representation on screen, this wasn’t exactly what we had in mind. A new Vancouver reality show will spotlight the “luxurious lifestyles of ultra rich Asian girls.” The name of the series: HBIC TV, which stands for Hot Bitch In Charge. Cringe.

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Although details on the show are sparse at the moment, HBIC TV has announced that a casting call and audition will be held on June 26. The producers, Kevin K. Li and Desmond Chen, say that most of the show will be in Chinese and will feature young women who have inherited large fortunes, according to CTV News Vancouver.

On the show’s official Facebook page, there’s a brief description of the types of girls producers are looking for:

Are you the next #HBIC of Vancouver? Got a Centurion Black Amex Card?

Hermes, Lanvin, Dior, Louboutin, Chanel, Lambos and Ferraris are all a part of the daily lives of our HBICtv Divas.

“If you’re into the high fashion, the couture, the fancy cars, and the foie gras dinners, and popping the champagnes on the weekend like it’s every day,” Li said. “You know, Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous, but in Vancouver with this demographic.”

A short preview video for the show features a group of rich, Asian women buying necklaces worth $150,000 and gabbing about each other’s plastic surgery results.

While the show has already been met with groans from the Asian American community, there will likely be an audience that tunes in to all of the drama. Think we’ll have our next Asian Kardashian?

Top photo via HBICtv Facebook, other photo and video via VanCity Buzz
This story was originally published on iamkoream.com.

Kina Grannis: A New Sound & A New Look For Her Latest Album

Story by Ada Tseng.

It’s been half a decade since Kina Grannis began writing her 2010 debut album Stairwells, which featured songs that were practiced, appropriately, in the stairwells of the University of Southern California, where she attended college. Now 28, she’s gone through much personal growth, spurred by everything from the tragedy of her grandfather’s passing to the joy of a new marriage to her frequent musical collaborator, Jesse Epstein. These life experiences gave her the courage to write songs about topics she may have shied away from in the past. She also began working with producer Matt Hales (also known as Aqualung) to experiment with her music sonically.

In the days leading up to her new album release this past May, Grannis uploaded a series of “Making the Album” videos onto her YouTube page, where she let her large and supportive online fan base glimpse behind the scenes, from Hales’ unique instruments (the glockenspiel is featured on the track “This Far”) to her pet corn snakes, Hubert Cumberdale and Jeremy Fisher, who often joined them in the studio. Now that the album’s out, we follow up with the Japanese American hapa.


Audrey Magazine: Why the title Elements?

Kina Grannis: I was looking over the titles [of my songs] one day — “The Fire,” “Dear River,” “Write it in the Sky,” etc. — and the word “elements” came to mind. The idea of the basic elements of life really struck me. To me, that’s what this album is all about: family, love and loss. Beginnings and endings, past and future.

AM: You wrote a lot of the songs in a cabin in the woods. Have you secluded yourself in nature to write before, or was this a new experiment?

KG: I’d actually never done this in the past. A sophomore album is an interesting thing. For the first album — in my case, Stairwells — you basically have your pick from all the songs you’ve written in your life, up to that point. And before Stairwells, I had all the time in the world to be writing. Since then, however, I’ve been touring and posting videos almost nonstop, so by the time I needed to start working on the new album, I had very few songs to start from. I started doing these retreats as a way to get out of my normal routine, connect to myself and nature, and really give myself a safe place to start flexing those creative muscles again. Thankfully, it ended up being a really natural and inspiring way for me to get back to writing.

AM: Can you talk about what inspired the song “Winter,” about the impending ending of a relationship?

KG: Strangely enough, “Winter” was inspired by a vase of dead flowers. I found them in one of the cabins I stayed in, and they were so beautiful, but there was something really sad about them to me. Soon enough, I found myself singing the chorus. This song really hit me hard emotionally when I was writing it — when I realized I wasn’t singing about the flowers at all.

AM: The song “My Own” features your two sisters. What was it like growing up with musical siblings, and how did that collaboration come about?

KG: My parents had a lot of instruments in the house [when we were] growing up. We had a grand piano, and under it, there were about 15 different assorted instruments, from violins to recorders to an accordion to a Japanese koto. Most of them didn’t really get touched by us, but just having them around led me to really experiment with music as a kid. My sisters and I used to sing together all the time — usually Disney songs, Christmas carols or whatever our favorite albums were. “My Own” came about one day when I was thinking about my family — how they are so unique and amazing and entirely mine.

AM: Looking back, was there a moment when you realized music was something you wanted to pursue more seriously?

KG: Before I even started taking singing seriously, and before it ever occurred to me to touch a guitar, I had that moment. I was at an annual Christmas concert when I was about 15. Something struck me so deeply, watching all these people standing in front of us and singing their hearts out, that I basically ran out of the concert balling. I hid in the bathroom for the rest of the night trying to figure out what was wrong, and that’s when it hit me. I felt if I didn’t make singing a main focus in my life, that I was going to be missing out on who I was.

AM: By the way, we love your new look! Was this just a fun change, or does it feel like the start of a different phase in your life?

KG: It definitely coincided with a new chapter in my life. I had been touring around, living a Stairwells-driven life for the better part of three years. When I got home after the last tour, it just felt different. There were also a lot of other significant changes going on in my life at the time. I felt the need to start this chapter fresh and uninhibited, and that’s when I said goodbye to 19 inches of hair.

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

After Living in South Korea, A Brazilian Man Gets Plastic Surgery to Look More Korean

Story by Michelle Woo. 

A Brazilian man has undergone plastic surgery in order to look more Korean. The results are exactly the same as whenever an Asian person goes under the knife to look more white: weird and cringe-worthy.

Brazilian television station RBS TV reports that a 25-year-old model has had 10 surgical procedures on his eyes to achieve an Asian appearance. Originally blonde and blue-eyed, the man who goes by “Xiahn” became fascinated by plastic surgery while studying in South Korea as a foreign exchange student. “Koreans have many surgeries to modify the shape of their eyes and become more like Westerners,” he said. “It was easy to tell when one of them had done it, walking on the street wearing sunglasses and a surgical mask.” Cosmetic procedures are so prevalent in the country that some hospitals offer “plastic surgery certificates” to help patients get through immigration since they often look nothing like their passport photos.

Xiahn’s mother was concerned that the surgeries would cause vision problems but he assured her otherwise. “As much as the size of the eye has decreased somewhat, I can see normally,” he said. Apparently, he has no regrets about the procedures. “I believe I have only one life and if I cannot be who I want now, I will never be able to,” he explained.

And the world has strangely shifted.

This story was originally published on iamkoream.com.
H/T The Korea Herald
Photo via RBS TV 

Sandra Oh for Audrey Magazine Summer 2014 (Cover Story + Photos)

Story by Michelle Woo.
Photos by Lever Rukhin.

After nearly a decade of breathing life, love and humanity into Grey’s Anatomy’s beloved Dr. Cristina Yang, Sandra Oh is looking in a new direction. The woman whose eyes — and every emotion behind them — changed the way we look at Asian women on the screen, is now turning her attention to the next generation.

It’s nearly impossible to sit at a table with Sandra Oh inside a Korean café in Los Angeles and not study her face. That face. The one that, throughout her 10-season run as hyper-driven surgeon Cristina Yang on ABC’s Grey’s Anatomy, has said so much with every subtle movement — a crinkle in her forehead, the flutter of her eyelids, the quiver of her chin. The face that made fans gasp for air when she was abandoned at the altar, grin in satisfaction every time she fired off one of her sassy one-liners (“I am laughing, just not externally”), and loyally watch her navigate years of twists and turns, from an icicle stabbing to a plane crash to PTSD.

Just where does that expressiveness come from?

“That’s a really good question because I have no idea,” Oh tells me, touching her cup of latte with the foam shaped into a heart. “You’re not conscious of it, like you’re not conscious of how you’re looking at me: your head is slightly tilted, your eyebrows are slightly up, your eyes are open and your mouth is soft. You’re not conscious of any of that.” She does say that people, particularly men she’s dated and her mother, have often pointed out her inability to mask her emotions. “If I’m angry inside of me at a three, it comes across as a 10.”

We end up talking a lot about faces, a topic the actress has passionate feelings about. Wearing a fitted navy blazer, her hair a plump array of ringlets (she has naturally wavy hair), Oh says she once read a magazine article about the rise of plastic surgery in Korea influenced by K-pop stars, and it still upsets her. “I was taking a shower and just thinking about that,” she says, leaning in intently as she speaks. “It’s a very dysfunctional thing. Korean women don’t even know what they look like. Before even finding their own identity, they change it. I find that so … antihuman.”

At 42, Oh wants to help empower young men and women, particularly those discouraged by the lack of faces like theirs in movies and on television. Having just hung up her white coat for the final time on Grey’s, a show she’s dedicated nearly a quarter of her life to, winning a Golden Globe and five Emmy nominations for her role, she ponders where to go from here. She’s going to act, no doubt — she’s in the upcoming comedy Tammy with Melissa McCarthy, which hits theaters on July 2, and she’s starring in a play in Chicago this summer called Death and the Maiden.

But she’s also looking to do more. “You get to a point in your life when you realize you can do things in a more concrete way,” says Oh, who comes across as soulful and introspective. She wants to be part of a shift that moves society forward in its representation of people of color, which involves seeing more Asian American actors propelled from clichéd sidekicks to rich and meaningful characters. Pausing for a moment, she tries to think back to when Asian American women first started taking on television parts that historically weren’t available to them.

“If you go back to, I dunno, 10 years ago, Lucy Liu was on, ummm, what’s that show?” Oh asks.

Ally McBeal,” I reply.

“Yeah, she was on Ally McBeal, and … who else was there?”

“There was … Margaret Cho.”

“Yeah, well, Margaret had her show, like, 20 years ago,” Oh says. “So we’re tapped into this industry and those are the only two people we can think of? That’s really, really sad. I know that we have more than a handful that we can point to now, and it’s really about bumping up those numbers, you know?”

The issue is one that hits her deeply. Oh has an email that she saved from her producer, who wrote to tell Oh something her daughter had randomly said at dinnertime. The producer’s daughter is 10 and adopted from China.

She pulls out her iPhone and looks for the message. “Here, I’ll read it,” she begins. “She said, ‘I used to think I was kind of ugly because I had squinty eyes, and then I met Sandra and she has squinty eyes and is beautiful, and now I don’t think I’m ugly.’” Oh puts down her phone and takes a slow breath. “When I read that, I burst into tears because I felt like that when I was 10, and if someone as beautiful and as full of life as she is can feel that way, then how many other 10-year-old girls feel that way?”

She shakes her head. “I just keep thinking, how can I transform this?”

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THE LACK OF DIVERSITY in the Hollywood landscape is part of the reason that Oh feels “so lucky, sooooo lucky” to have been able to play the nuanced, emotionally complex role of Cristina Yang. Part of the original crop of surgical interns at Seattle Grace Hospital when the show premiered in 2005, Cristina became what Slate television critic Willa Paskin proclaimed “one of TV’s most original and influential characters.” She was quick-witted, sarcastic, competitive, brutally honest and unyieldingly loyal — her friendship with main character Meredith Grey (Ellen Pompeo) was a pillar of the show.

Prior to filming the season finale (which aired after press time), Oh felt like she was getting off a “fast-moving train,” and the fact that she would never scrub in again hadn’t fully hit her. She did, however, find a moment to plot out which items she would steal from the set. “I took a rug from Cristina and Owen’s [Kevin McKidd] apartment that we stood on for I dunno how many years,” she confesses. “And you know, I’ll probably take my stethoscope.” McKidd, who plays Cristina’s on-again-off-again love, says he’s going to miss the marathon workdays he spends with Oh, who introduced him to the practice of meditation and would play with his kids whenever they visited the set. “With most actors, when you talk to them, they’ll nod while looking on,” says McKidd. “When you talk to Sandra, she’s engaged and really listens and there’s no bullsh-t. She’s a deep-thinking, compassionate human being.”

As for why she’s leaving Grey’s, Oh says, “I feel like I’ve completed my job. Working with the writers, we’ve unearthed every stone.” While she says it’s too early to really see the ripple effects from a primetime television show where almost half the cast are men and women of color, Oh believes she was part of something monumental. “I just haven’t felt that there’s been another show that has brought so much light to a different type of casting as ours did,” she says. “It’s the magic of time. It was the right time in society, in the culture. It was the right grouping of people.”

Beyond race, the series was also gutsy in other ways. A couple seasons back, Cristina had an abortion. A child simply would have shattered her career, the one by which she defined herself. “There was no fanfare about it,” says Oh. “That’s how far we have come as women. My character was making that decision based on what was right for her as opposed to a medical emergency or her being attacked or reasons that would otherwise have been more palatable.” She points to the fact that Cristina had also gotten pregnant early on in the show, in 2005, but before she could have an abortion, she lost the baby. Over the past decade, she says, there’s been “a shift.”

“I really tried to create a character who followed herself,” Oh says. “[Grey’s creator] Shonda Rhimes, the writers and I were very interested in creating the kind of character who is not bound by a husband, not bound by a family, and is only really committed to herself and who she is in the world.”

How she became that character — and how she becomes any character she plays — is a calculated process in itself. “You can see Sandra’s dedication in the look of her scripts,” says costar Chandra Wilson, who plays no-nonsense surgeon Miranda Bailey. “They are completely marked up with highlights and colored tabs and notes that are full of intention. It doesn’t matter the size of a scene — she wants to be honest every single moment.”

Oh’s supreme focus revealed itself early on in her career. Her big break came when, at age 19, she beat out more than 1,000 young women for the title role in The Diary of Evelyn Lau, Canada’s made-for-television film about a tortured poet who flees her disapproving parents for a life on the streets. At her audition, she asked the producer and director for a moment to focus. Then she laid on the floor for five minutes. “I love that girl,” Oh says with a laugh, reflecting on her younger self. “She didn’t know you’re not supposed to do breathing exercises in the middle of a f-cking audition. She only knew to follow her own instinct.”

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The actress says she gets her audacity from her mom and dad — a former research scientist and businessman, respectively — two people who, as she describes it, “freakin’ left Korea in the mid-’60s and just changed their lives.” Oh adds, “The insanity and challenge of my parents’ generation going through occupation, living through occupation, living through the second World War, living through the Korean War, then coming out of the Korean War and then in their mid-20s, coming to America — that to me is fearlessness. It’s like, hey, I’m gonna go to some American school and not know the language and then get a job. I mean, who does that? Immigrants do that.”

Oh gets philosophical as she ponders what drives success. “There are so many articles and books and studies about this generation not being challenged, and my belief is that if you’re challenged, you find out who you are much quicker,” she says. “Privilege is such a trapping because it’s a longer road to ever finding out who you really are. You have to be able to say no to a safe place.”

For Oh, who grew up in a suburb of Ontario, Canada, that meant pursuing acting in spite of her parents’ objections, trusting that they would still love her and ultimately understand her. A self-described “extremely hyperactive, hyper-sensitive kid,” Oh began performing when she was 10, playing the Wizard of Woe in a musical operetta called The Canada Goose. She trained in ballet, then studied drama at the National Theatre School in Montreal and went on to star in a London, Ontario, stage production of David Mamet’s Oleanna. “I just lucked out,” Oh says of her path. “I lucked out with the family I had. I lucked out with where I grew up. I lucked out in a lot of ways where, in my early years, I didn’t encounter anything that crushed me.”

More than luck, though, Oh’s evolution is the result of careful decision-making, beginning with the characters she chooses to play. Those have ranged from the dual-life-living artist Jade in the film Double Happiness to the inscrutable personal assistant Rita Wu on the HBO comedy Arli$$ to the asskicking wine seller Stephanie in the Academy Award winning indie megahit Sideways. Oh says she made a commitment to herself early on that she wouldn’t take on stereotypical, throwaway roles. “There are certain bars that you strive for, that you set for yourself, and then hopefully you’ll achieve that bar and then you’ll get another bar,” she says. “So at one point, that was a bar. I said, no more ‘prostitute to the left.’”

Then she chuckles and adds, “But one of the prostitutes that I’ve played — I haven’t played that many — was in this wonderful film called Waking the Dead that Keith Gordon directed. I played the Korean prostitute, and I didn’t want to go in on it, but then I decided, well, someone’s going to take this part and it should be me. It turned out to be a really, really positive experience. Keith was a wonderful director, and it became much more than a cursory part. I think I had no dialogue, but my goal was that if the camera was ever on my face, people would think, ‘What’s going on with that character?’ It
was about her inner life.”

When asked if it frustrates her when other Asian American actors take on token roles, she says with zero hesitation: “Never. Never ever, ever. Ever.

“It is hard out there,” she explains. “Doing what we do as actors is crushing every day. If anything, I search for the magic that they are bringing. Because they better bring it. Every actor has a choice, an opportunity to transform something. If you enter into a situation where there’s no room for transformation and you feel comfortable playing something that’s demeaning, then that’s on you. But there’s a whole range of what is right for you as an artist. Let’s say this character is a completely demeaning character and that demeaning character is essential to the story — I’d wanna play that.”

Oh believes the issue of responsibility as an actor of color is “very complex.” She says, “I don’t think you can rule out responsibility. If you so choose to take it, it’s there. But I also feel as much, if not more, responsibility to who I am as an artist. The next step for me is to try to figure out that balance. Having said that, one serves the other. If you are true to yourself as an artist, you will do good work. If you do good work, if you do truthful work, you will represent a culture well because you will be seen, hopefully, as an artist that’s worthwhile and someone who we want to see telling our stories.”

One of the stories Oh will be telling post-Grey’s is that of Paulina, a former political prisoner who encounters the man she believes raped and tortured her 15 years earlier, in the award-winning play Death and the Maiden at Chicago’s Victory Gardens Theater starting June 13. Director Chay Yew, one of the first people Oh met when she moved to Los Angeles, calls the actress “a shining bright light. She is able to fiercely love and embrace all the characters she embodies, despite their flaws, shortcomings or darkness. In turn, we find ourselves in every character she portrays.”

To center herself, Oh meditates every day in her Los Angeles home — she’s on the board of a nonprofit meditation group called InsightLA. Her best days, she says, always involve “family and friends and some sort of creative work.” She keeps her personal life private and doesn’t consider herself a celebrity (“I detest that word,” she says). And now with Grey’s behind her, she’s looking to do something — something more.

When Barack Obama was elected president, Oh says it was a “game-changer,” explaining, “I could feel the rumbling inside of myself because I somehow felt I was part of that change.” Now, more than ever, she wants to encourage Asian Americans to be bold. She’s involved in community outreach and says she’s open to starting a dialogue on race, in Hollywood and beyond. “I’m trying to teach Asian American girls that they are perfect the way they are and all they need to do is discover themselves,” she says.

If they ever need some inspiration, they can simply look at her face.

 

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

 

 

Stylist: Anita Patrickson for The Wall Group
Makeup: Georgie Eisdell for The Wall Group
Hair: Christine Symonds for The Wall Group
Location The Legendary Park Plaza Hotel

Yuna Kim Graces the Cover of ‘VOGUE KOREA’

Story by James S. Kim.

Yuna Kim hung up her blades for the final time after a farewell performance in Seoul earlier this month. But the South Korean queen of the ice isn’t done with figure skating quite yet.

Kim told Vogue Korea that she was looking forward to the next stage in her career, which will involve developing younger skaters and keeping South Korea in the conversation for the sport.

“Thinking about how I am going to be living a completely different life, I am excited and also afraid,” she admitted. “However, my anticipation is greater. I will still be working in sports. Since figure skating is something that I know the most, I won’t let go of it, and I hope to be able to help my juniors.”

Readers of Vogue Korea will also be able to see an entirely different side of Kim in the June issue. Her photo spread brings back memories of her 2010 record-setting gold medal free skate in Vancouver, where she skated to George Gershwin’s Piano Concerto in F,” as she dons the bob and edginess of a 1920s flapper.

Check out these photos.

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This story was originally published on iamkoream.com
(Images via Vogue Korea)

21 Questions With Chuti Tiu

Story by Jeline Abutin.

Most known for her roles in The Internship and Rampart, Chuti Tiu is back with her very own screenplay Pretty Rosebudsread more about it here! Get to know the talented Tiu with these 21 Questions:

 

1. Favorite form of exercise: Pilates.
2. Least favorite mode of transportation: Car — I’m so stressed out with traffic!
3. Recent song I’m obsessed with: “Let It Go.” I’m so obsessed. I wake up with it! I’m singing it constantly!
4. TV show I can’t get enough of: House of Cards.
5. Go to food: Pho.
6. Most used social media site: Facebook.
7. Greatest fear: Being laughed at in a derisive way.
8. One thing you might not know about me: I absolutely adore cats, I think I’m becoming one.
9. Favorite drink: Super, super dirty vodka martini with extra olives.
10. Least favorite food: Liver.

11. Habit I need to break: Pursing my lips
12. Guilty Pleasure I’m not so guilty about: Super duper dark chocolate. 70% dark chocolate, anything more than that I don’t like.
13. Favorite clothing store: H&M and Forever 21.
14. Go to pair of shoes: Comfort: Sketchers slip-ons with fur on the edge. Had them for over 5 years. Fashion: Pair of simple silver high heeled sandals from Aldo. They go with everything
15. Hidden talent: Classical Pianist. I also have perfect pitch!
16. Must have this summer: Sunblock. I use SPF 50, cannot leave home without it.
17. Favorite part of my culture/heritage: The food! There’s so much I love about it, but I have to say the food.
18. Always makes me laugh: My husband.
19. Last thing I ate: Kale Chips that I made!
20. My job in another life: Dolphin trainer, veterinarian, something with animals.
21. Asian American Actor/Actress I admire: Lucy Liu for her career, her talent, her attitude and flexibility. She produces things that aren’t typical.