Flashback Friday | Top 10 Asian American High School Girls Next Door

 

High school: such a pivotal time in young women’s lives for college/career decisions, familial tension, first loves, first rejections, no-holds-barred attitude and unexpected self-discoveries.

And when high school years are depicted on American film and television, extracurricular activities may involve solving murder mysteries (Pretty Little Liars), and unrequited love is sometimes best told through song (T.V. Carpio’s cover of “I Want to Hold Your Hand” in Across the Universe).

One could argue that Tamlyn Tomita’s Kumiko was the ultimate Asian American high school “girl-next-door” crush, even if, back in 1986, the Karate Kid had to travel all the way to Japan to be in the right neighborhood. But in the past 25 years, there have many memorable Asian American girls  – as well as British Asians, Asian-Scots and Asian Canadians that we snuck onto the list — that we can look up to (or reminisce with) in these classic tales of high school.

 

Below are our Top 10 Asian American High School Girls Next Door:

 

10.  Tina Cohen-Chang (Jenna Ushkowitz); Glee

Jenna Ushkowitz has been playing Tina on Glee since the first season debuted in 2009. After dating Artie, she connected with “the other Asian,” Mike Chang (Harry Shum Jr.), making them arguably the most prominent Asian American couple on television. As part of the glee club, Jenna has had many notable performances, covering songs such as “True Colors,” “My Funny Valentine,” and “Gangnam Style.”

 

9. Cho Chang (Katie Leung); Harry Potter

3,000 girls auditioned for the role of Cho Chang, and the Scottish Katie Leung made her debut in 2005′s Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. As Harry Potter’s first love interest, she also gives him his first kiss. Though Harry and Cho’s romance is short-lived, bookended by Cedric’s death and Cho’s jealousy of Hermione, Leung continued to reprise her role until the final installment.


8. Margaret Yang (Sarah Tanaka); Rushmore

Rushmore fans remember Margaret Yang as the sweet, bespectacled student at Grover Cleveland High School who has a crush on Jason Schwartzman’s Max Fischer. Unfortunately, the 10th grade extracurricular activities junkie is too busy chasing after the new teacher (Olivia Williams) to pay any attention to her. Yet, Margaret Yang is the one that ultimately gets to call Max out on his bullshit — “You’re a real jerk to me, you know that?” — eliciting a well-earned apology that made Noise to Signal‘s 10 Most Affecting Wes Anderson Moments.

7. Annabelle Manalo (Joy Bisco); The Debut

In 2000′s The Debut, Joy Bisco plays Annabelle Manalo, the best friend of Rose Mercado (Bernadette Balagtas), who is having her 18th birthday party (aka her “debut”). Rose’s brother Ben, played by Dante Basco, is the high school senior who clashes with his father and struggles to reconcile his Filipino American identity. Annabelle, a beautiful dancer with a dangerous thug boyfriend, easily charms Ben by putting him at ease on the dance floor (“If you’re Filipino, you can cha cha. It is in the blood.”), and, as an unexpected confidante, she makes a lasting impression on Ben and viewers alike.

6. Emily Fields (Shay Mitchell); Pretty Little Liars

The sporty Emily Fields, played by half Filipina, half Irish/Scottish actress Shay Mitchell, is one of the four leads in the murder mystery ABC Family series Pretty Little Liars, which debuted in 2010 and is currently in its third season. In the first season of the show, Emily comes out of the closet to both her friends and later to her parents (played by Hapa actors Eric Steinberg and Nia Peeples). Since then, the series has explored her difficult relationship with her mother and subsequent tragedies in the girls’ mysterious lives.

Click here to watch the Pretty Little Liars coming out scene.

 

5. Knives Chau (Ellen Wong); Scott Pilgrim vs. the World

Scorned by her first love Scott Pilgrim, Knives Chau is a 17-year-old girl learning about heartbreak (and boys who aren’t the best at communication) for the first time. Played by Ellen Wong, Knives is not just an ex determined to win her boyfriend back, but a fireball of passionate energy that bursts out of the screen even we discover she has all these hidden ninja moves up her sleeve.

4. Gabriella Montez (Vanessa Hudgens): High School Musical

In the popular High School Musical franchise, Gabriella Montez — played by the Chinese-Filipino-Spanish-Irish-Native American actress-singer-dancer Vanessa Hudgens – was ultimate high school dream girl to the ultimate high school dream boy, Troy Bolton, played by Zac Efron. The dream only intensified when the fictional relationship spilled over into reality: the High School Musical movies were released from 2006-2008, while the two lead actors were real-life lovebirds until 2010. While the first two movies were made-for-television, the stakes were upped when High School Musical 3: Senior Year was brought to the big screen.

 

 

3.  Jesminder “Jess” Bhamra (Parminder Nagra); Bend it Like Beckham

The 2002 film that picked up Golden Globe and British Academy Award nominations features Parminder Nagra as Jess, a tomboy in London who idolizes David Beckham and wants to play football (soccer), even though her Indian immigrant parents will not allow it. This ultimate underdog story, directed by Gurinder Chadha, not only kickstarted Nagra’s career (as she would later play Dr. Neela Rasgotra on the hit show ER for six years), but it also showcased early performances by Keira Knightley, Jonathan Rhys Meyers, and Archie Panjabi.

 

 

2. Lana Lang (Kristen Kreuk): Smallville

Though Smallville ran for 10 seasons, during which the relationship between Clark Kent and Lana Lang would reach greater highs and lows, involving a time travel crystal and eventual break-up, we will focus on the high school years — Seasons 1-4 — for the purposes of this list. The half Dutch, half Chinese Kristen Kreuk played Lana Lang, Clark Kent’s literal girl next door. Clark Kent (as Superman) saves her again and again, without her knowledge, but as their feelings for each other deepen, his secretive behavior continues to be a source of distrust. Smallville‘s ultimate high school moment has to be when Lifehouse comes to sing at their prom, and Clark asks Lana to dance. In that pure, fleeting moment, all other potential love interests understand that there’s no coming in between them.

1. Lane Kim (Keiko Agena): Gilmore Girls

And my personal favorite has got to be Lane Kim, Rory Gilmore’s best friend in Gilmore Girls, which ran from 2000-2007. The character of Lane was loosely based on Helen Pai, a Korean American producer on the show who was raised as a Seventh Day Adventist. Because Lane’s super strict mother (played by Emily Kuroda) disapproves of everything loud, and non-Christian, and non-mother-approved (which is most things), the aspiring drummer has secrecy perfected to a tee — hiding her rock CD collection under the floor boards of her room and concocting elaborate stories so she can date without her mother finding out. And, as an actress, Keiko Agena perfected delivering Amy Sherman-Palladino’s cleverly complex lines at super speed, a fun requisite for being on Gilmore Girls in the first place.

Click here to watch the scene where Lane reveals her scheme to get her mom to like her new secret boyfriend, Dave.

 

Tell us who your favorite Asian American high school girl next doors are!

 

 

JooWan Kim’s “Hip Hop Orchestra” Fuses Classical Music With Rap

Story by Grace Kang.

Ensemble Mik Nawooj has all the nuts and bolts you’d expect to find in a typical classical music group—flute, clarinet, violin, cello—and then you have the rappers (Do D.A.T., Sandman and RyanNicole), vocalist, drums and a pianist decked out in Taoist robes.

So maybe EMN isn’t your typical classical group. Formed in 2005 by its inverted namesake JooWan Kim, this ensemble explores new melodic territory by melding genres of classical, hip-hop, jazz and more.

iamKoreAm.com interviewed the eccentric founder and music director of Ensemble Mik Nawooj to uncover the mind behind the music.

 

Where do you draw your musical influences from, and how do you think the music you create builds upon or transforms those influences?

I draw a great amount of influence from the natural sciences as well as cognitive and social sciences. I am very interested in finding the universals of everything, so that makes me think about the First Principle a lot. I believe that the essence of musical development (and possibly the development of all human knowledge in general) lies in the process of hybridization, which is sort of similar to evolution and mutation in biology. In my opinion, any great changes require two or more foreign systems to be exposed to one another, which then make each system mimic and compete with the others, thus creating a new system.

This is the way I create a hybrid of multiple genres of music.

When and why did you start playing music? Was piano your first instrument?

When I was 8 years old, my Korean parents made me learn to play the piano. It’s a Korean thing. Especially since I grew up in Korea.

Given your classical training, what drew you to other genres of music like hip-hop and rock?

Completely by accident. When I was still doing my master’s at the San Francisco Conservatory, I wrote a novelty piece involving a rapper and chamber ensemble and people loved it (it got a full page write up in Oakland Tribune). After that, the MC at the time, Kirby Dominant, suggested that we should make an album and I wrote an hour of music.

That’s how it all began.

What’s the story behind spelling Joowan Kim ‘Mik Nawooj’?

It’s a professional habit. I am fond of retrogrades. Also, Mik Nawooj is the name of magical entity I summoned one day. I think he is Anubis. Yes, I mean the Egyptian god.

How did you assemble EMN? Were they decisions based solely on musical talent, or were there other factors involved?

All of my players are in my ensemble based on their merit alone and they are OK with my sociopathic revolutionary ways.

What do you seek to accomplish through Ensemble Mik Nawooj? Where do you see EMN going in the future?

It would be great when EMN is considered one of the best musical groups in the world. All the people who are currently involved will benefit from this. And I know this is going to happen. Mik Nawooj told me 5 years ago.

Are there any political or philosophical messages you seek to project through your music?

That hybridization has been happening for a long time and we should embrace this for the evolution of the human race.

As a public figure in the music world, would you say that you seek to break down the barriers built up by racial prejudice against Asian Americans and other people of color either through or outside of your music career?

Racism works a lot like religion in my opinion. It only exists when you believe in it. I tend to be pretty agnostic about things until I know they’re real. So far, there hasn’t been any “racism” that put me down. It was largely people who were ignorant. Fortunately, I haven’t dealt with so many of them yet.

I am not really a political person, so I don’t foresee myself “fighting against” things. However, if something blocks the path to my objective, I will do my best to eliminate it.

What is the next big project for Ensemble Mik Nawooj?

We have yet to release a professionally recorded full length album. So, our first album would be a good place to start.

What hardships did you go through on your journey to becoming a musician?

Becoming a classically trained composer wasn’t really hard, as I really like learning new things. However, doing something significantly different and making a living is challenging. People detest things they don’t understand.

What is the most memorable time or moment since the formation of Ensemble Mik Nawooj?

MTV randomly featured us and we didn’t even find out about it until much later.

What do you hope people will take away from your music?

I want people to feel happy and better.

 

This story was originally published in KoreAm Journal

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Be sure to check out Ensemble Mik Nawooj headline their on show on NOVEMBER 1ST @ Yoshi’s Oakland .

They will also perform for a subscribers only concert on Dec 4 @ Yerba Buena Center for the Arts and will be featured in UnderCover Presents on Jan 17 & 18 @ the Independent in SF.

Learn more on their official website.

Throwback Thursday: Is Dating A Co-Worker A Good Idea?

Story by by Paul Nakayama and Naomi Fujimoto.

Is workplace “commingling” a good idea? Guest columnist Naomi Fujimoto says all’s fair in love and work, but Paul Nakayama wouldn’t touch that with a 10-foot laser pointer.

NAOMI SAYS:

Workplace dating is the stuff of great drama. Glee and Grey’s Anatomy — where would they be without it? And what about The Office — the shrugging, the fumbling, the knowing glances? Even on 24, with the fate of the world in question, they still found time for love. All in a day’s work. But enough about TV. I’m real-life proof that you can get your honey where you get your money.

Whether you’re looking at each other over an operating table or a corporate cube, your co-workers see you at your best and your not so best. You see how they deal with stress and relate to other people. And whether they can follow through. In the workplace, people are themselves. Sober. Decent. Good relationship material. (If you’re just looking for a hookup, stay away from your nine-to-five crowd. Sleeping your way to the middle is a bad idea.)

I’m Japanese and an editor, so it won’t be revealing much to say that I love rules. I love that they help me figure out how people will act at work — and, possibly, outside of work. While I can’t say that every girl wants a hero, I like a guy with good problem-solving skills. Responding to an IT “code blue,” Sean had a confident walk that made him look like he could handle anything. Including me. I had to find out whether he was a MacGyver or a MacGruber.

Our romance started small, tiny even, as workplace entanglements often do. When he stopped by just to say hi or lingered in the hallway, my office mates noticed. One day we went to lunch (Asian fusion, natch). Soon I saw that he could troubleshoot my Mac and share his fries. This unofficial stuff paved the way for our office courtship. Pre-dating can last weeks (if you’re lucky) or years (if you’re me). With all the visits and lunches and hallway conversations, this face time will further your status more than Facebook. Same with those happy hours, where your guy can put his hand on your back to help you throw darts.

Ah, the happy hour. As long as you’re not a boozer or a bimbo, the happy hour is your friend, the one that encourages you and your work buddy to pair off. Enjoy it! But here’s where I’ll come back to the rules again. Keep it rated PG! When you think “workplace grind,” visualize your efforts on a big project, not on the dance floor. (For real. My friend had to see her co-worker dirty dance at the company party. Ew.) Your office friends will be happy for you, but you don’t need to flaunt how in lust you are. Chances are, they noticed the chemistry before you did. They are, after all, people who see you 40-plus hours a week.

Sure, you could meet someone online or in a bar or through a setup. Or you can sit back and see what happens with that guy you always go to lunch with. Maybe it won’t go anywhere. Or maybe it will go somewhere for just a few months, like it did for Sean and me. We broke up recently, and the vibe at lunch has changed. No regrets, though. He was a MacGyver — just not mine.

My awful truth? Workplace dating might seem inexcusable or irresponsible, but it’s also irresistible. If you’re willing to risk a few awkward moments in the elevator, give it a try.

PAUL SAYS:

Imagine an adorable bear cub playing with a ball; you can’t help but fawn over it. You approach, unable to stop yourself from petting it. It coos as your hand approaches its face. It is so darn cute! Then suddenly, the cub growls and bares its fangs and mauls your pretty hand into meat strings. You scream and panic, stumbling over your dumb self as you try to escape, but then you realize that you’re locked in a cage. You slap your forehead with what’s left of your hand and curse your own foolishness as that once cuddly bear cub leaps onto your back and takes you down. It’s a horrible tale, I know, and yet so many befall the same fate, except instead of loving a cute but vicious animal, it’s dating a co-worker.

As my warm little analogy illustrates, dating a co-worker is a dangerous proposition. Think about how many of your exes were brutish, annoying or clingy. You sighed constantly with deep relief when things ended. Now, think about the good ones you’ve had. In an office setting, what are the real odds that you’d meet one of the few good ones and none of the horrible trolls?

Imagine walking to the copy room and running into your ex, the bipolar one who’d refer to himself as “we.” And they’re demanding, “Why did you leave us? Why why why? (And are you done with the copier, skank?)” That would certainly be a good time to run away, but oh, that’s right — you can’t because you work together.

Breakups are manageable when you have space or at least an escape route. Not possible with an office tryst. Or what if it was your heart that was broken? During the Halloween party, you hook up with that longtime crush of yours from accounting, only to discover later he was boofing everyone. Work is miserable enough as it is without having to see some douche bag’s face every five days out of seven. Eventually, you’ll see him hitting on someone new at the office, repeating the same coaxing lines. Your fists will be clenched in anger, and your poor laptop will “accidentally fall down some stairs.” I can’t even begin to warn you against the dangers of being around the open bar at the company holiday party … you’ll be fondly remembered as the drunken mess that flung cheese at everyone like it was poo, all while sobbing openly like a Bieber groupie.

I get why office romances happen. The fact is, it’s hard meeting people after college, and you spend more time with co-workers than your best friends. Things happen. And there are plenty of examples of people finding real love in the office. So why not, right? Well, there’s more to lose in an office romance. These things often end poorly, and you’ll only succeed in making your sucky job even suckier. I’ve been in one or two myself that ended in less than desirable ways where the consolation prize is a giant bag of awkward. In this economy, I think it’s better to have a job than a chance at love, the same chance I could take at my other usual hangouts: the karaoke bar, the 7-Eleven or my parkour club. Because looking for love in the office is a man-eating baby bear that will devour your heart, and it’s just common sense not to wrestle bears.

This story was originally published in our Fall 2010 issue. Get your copy here

Guide to Vacationing in Korea … With Three Generations Worth of Baggage

Story by Anna M. Park. 

In Korean culture, 60 is a big deal, just like the first birthday. Some people throw small galas at a local hotel ballroom. Some buy extravagant gifts. Some send parents on trips of a lifetime. The rationale for the celebration at 60 came from a time when surviving six decades (read: war-torn Korea) was a momentous achievement.

These days, not as much. Now 70 is the new 60, and if family tradition is any indication, so will every decade thereafter be. And as second-generation Korean Americans, often a “sandwich” generation raising kids while taking care of retired parents, there’s the responsibility of upholding Korean tradition and respecting your elders, while setting a good cultural example for the next generation.

So when my mother-in-law’s 70th came rolling around, we decided on a big family trip to the motherland — South Korea — a place half the family had never been. That meant seven people ranging in age from 7 to 70, only one of whom spoke fluent Korean, and another only somewhat familiar with modern Korean society. We weren’t sure where to start, but the goal was eight days, five cities, smack in the middle of spring break. Through trial and error, we learned a lot during this mother of all vacations, something that will prove useful next year for my parents’ 70th, when I’ll be doing this all over again.

Screen Shot 2013-10-16 at 10.46.22 AM

First, find a tour guide. Yes, you have to do a tour. My husband and I generally eschew tours, but for children and retirees, you need a guide. Trust me, it will save your sanity.

There are non-Korea-based English language tours, like SITA, that are pretty expensive. There are also Korea-based tour companies that are quite affordable, but the guides only speak Korean or you’re traveling on a megabus with 30 other people. My brother-in-law chanced upon Sally Tour (sallytour.co.kr) during a Google search. The founder, Sally Kim, had worked at one of Korea’s largest travel agencies, whose clients included FIFA and the LPGA, before opening her own shop in 2010. She specializes in customized group tours of seven to 10 people, with most of her clients coming from Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia. Having lived in Canada for a while, she’s fluent in English, and we communicated with her mainly through email. She was responsive, detailed and patient throughout our myriad tweaks to the itinerary and accommodations. All in all, she made the planning part of our trip a relative breeze.

Second, pack light. This we did not heed. And though we had a minibus completely at our disposal, we were responsible for dragging our own luggage on and off the minibus, the taxi, the train and the plane, and since we changed cities practically every day, well, let’s just say the two men on the trip got plenty of exercise.

Third, personalize the itinerary. The best thing about moving through an entire country in eight days with Sally Tour is you can tweak the itinerary according to your family’s particular needs. Kimchi-making class? Our grandmothers made kimchi in our garages. Pass. A bit too much Korean food? Ask the guide for a free night like we did. We found a surprisingly good Italian place in Busan (with decent wine!). Want a bit more time to shop or linger over the hotel breakfast buffet? Ask to push back the pick-up time. The guides are generally flexible, which we really appreciated, especially towards the end of the trip when the pace of the seemingly nonstop schedule started to really wear on nerves.

Lastly, be prepared. And by that, I mean mentally and emotionally. Your mantra should be: It’s not about you — it’s about them.

You’re going to have trying times. You’re going to disagree. You may even have an almost-bar fight over why you didn’t stand up to Mike Miller for your brother in the 11th grade. But for the sake of the kids and especially your parents, be an adult about it. This trip is a microcosmic reflection of your life — you are now the grown-up. You’ve got the power. Use it for good.

This story was originally published in our Fall 2013 issue. Get your copy here

Not For Weak Stomachs: Removal of a 25-Year-Old Blackhead

In September we showed you the results of sleeping with makeup on for an entire month and called it a horror story. Now we take that back. We take it all back. Apparently, that wasn’t a skincare horror story at all. This is.

We’re provided with scant details, we know the patient is the aunt of the person taking the video and we know that they are Chinese American or Canadian. However, one thing is certain: this is a blackhead pimple that has been clogged for 25 years.

You may have a lot of questions at this point. How on earth did this person not handle this thing before? How are those tweezers going so deeply into the skin? Why can’t we stop watching this video until the end? And when the grotesquely thing finally comes out, why does it look like that?

Don’t say we didn’t warn you. These six minutes may very well ruin lunch for you. But just like a car crash, people can’t seem to turn away.

 

Flashback Friday: Lisa Ling & The Early Days of “Our America”

This story was originally published in our Spring 2011 issue. Get your copy here. 
Story by Janice Jann

Our America (OWN) | Lisa Ling, 37, brings the glorious melting pot of America to television in her new investigative series, Our America, on the Oprah Winfrey Network, airing Wednesdays at 10 pm. Here, the seasoned journalist gives us the scoop on her new gig. 

Audrey Magazine: What is Our America about?
Lisa Ling: I grew up as an Asian American, a Chinese American, not feeling like I fit into any culture. This series is kind of a window into who we are as Americans.

AM: You’ve reported all over the world. Why focus on America now?
LL: I worked in so many different parts of the world, but I found myself fascinated by things that were happening in our own backyards.

AM: Do you think Our America covers lighter topics than your previous shows?
LL: [The National Geographic shows] are fascinating to do, but I believe these shows have more heart than anything I’ve ever done. No matter the topic, we feature people who ultimately came from a mother who love him or her. That’s something I keep in the back of my mind.

AM: I’ve heard that faith is something you tackle in this series.
LL: It is. I think a lot comes out of the fact that I’ve been searching for a long time. I have seen a lot that made me question God. But what my husband helped me realize — he’s a man of strong faith — is God works in everyone and if you are questioning where God is, then it’s a sign that maybe God wants to work in you to try to be a light. I’m fascinated by this topic. I can’t stop thinking about it.

AM: What’s cool about OWN?
LL: There’s a lot of heart behind every show that is being produced and I’ve never had that experience working in TV before. It’s really unique.

 

Guy Talk With Michael Yo: Dating As A ‘Blasian’

Story by Paul Nakayama 

This column used to be called The Awful Truth because dating advice can be exactly that. After watching the impossibly racist “music” video “Asian Girlz” by the band Day Above Ground (aptly named since they must’ve been living under a rock), I think the awful truth is that some people just plain suck. But the other side of it is that interracial relations, especially dating, can be a complicated issue. I recently had a chat with comedian and co-host of CBS’ OMG! The Insider, Michael Yo, self-proclaimed “Half-Black Brother with a Korean Mother,” to talk about growing up in an interracial family and his dating experiences.

Q. Where did you grow up?
Michael Yo: I grew up in Houston, Texas, in a predominantly white neighborhood. I was the only “Blasian” growing up. We didn’t even have the term “Blasian” back then. In my neighborhood, they never asked me, “What’s your ethnicity?” It was more like, “What are ya? I don’t understand what you are.”

Q. What were the race dynamics like in your neighborhood?
MY: I had white friends, and small sets of Asian and black friends. It’s weird. Back then, it’s like the stereotypes were kinda true. I was on the basketball team, which was mostly white kids, a couple of black kids and one Asian. You know, ‘cause the Asians were studying most of the time.

Q. What, but not you? You have an Asian mom and you weren’t locked in a dungeon to study?
MY: [Laughs]. My dad has a Ph.D. in nuclear physics, and my mom never went to college. But my mom was always the one pushing me to study while my dad was the opposite. He was like, “School is not your thing.” My dad was very honest that way, and my mom hated to hear that. She was like other Asian moms, wanting to compare their kids to other kids. But she couldn’t brag about my grades. I was the dumb kid out of the whole group. But now, when they say, “My son doctor, my son lawyer,” she says, “Oh yeah? Turn on TV.”

Q. Being on TV, how does that help your game with dating? Inciden- tally, writing for a magazine has zero dating perks.
MY: I’m just a dude who interviews people. So it’s weird to get that kind of attention when you’re on the other side of the camera. The other day I was driving down the street, and this girl pulls up next to me screaming [high- pitched voice], “OMIGOD I love you!” And she almost wrecked her car. They know who you are, but you have no idea who they are. You have to go and find out about them.

Q. It’s similar to how people can stalk someone on Facebook before a date. How do you react to someone knowing so much about you?
MY: Here’s what I like about it: when they say, “I feel like I know you.” That’s like the biggest compliment to me. I’m OK with them not really knowing me, but for them to feel like they know me must mean they have some kind of connection with me.

Q. So, let’s talk about dating with your unique perspective as someone half-black and half-Asian.
MY: Dating is dating. Women are women. I would date anyone: black girls, white girls, Asian girls. With the white girls, you know, they didn’t know what I was, so their parents didn’t know which stereotypes to apply. I mean the biggest thing about dating a white girl is more about how their parents will react. You know, a lot of parents will say they’re not racist or they don’t care until you’re actually dating their daughter.

Q. Do you think this is true for all ethnicities or just the girls that were white?
MY: I can’t say for all the ethnicities, but my own experience with white girls, and it’s not all the time obviously, but there were times when a girl would say, “Oh, my parents will totally be fine.” And then we started dating, and her parents found out, and they weren’t cool. She never knew that side of her parents. And sometimes you experience a side of her parents that [the parents] are experiencing for the first time.

Q. That’s interesting. For me, my first girlfriend was white and her parents were very cool with me. It was actually some of the parents of my Chinese or Korean girlfriends that didn’t like that I was Japanese. I was either a pervert or a war criminal.
MY: You automatically get stereotyped no matter what ethnicity you are. I’m half-black and Asian so what do girls automatically ask? “Oh, so are you big or small?” I get put into a box all the time. It’s just a stereotype, and I get it.

Q. I’m full Asian, so my box sucks. What about your parents? Do they have a preference? For girls to date, I mean.
MY: My parents being interracial, they never cared who I dated. So I never felt that pressure, whereas I know a lot of Asian parents want their daughters to date someone Asian. Now, I’m older so they just want kids. My mom is all, “You have baby? You have baby?” That’s all she cares about. And I do want that. My parents have been married 40 years, so I know what I want, and that’s what makes it so hard to find the right one.

Q. It does take a while to find the right one.
MY: In your 20s, you’re all about hooking up. You don’t really care what they say. True story, I was walking on the beach with a girl, and she looked up and said, “Oh my God, look at the shooting star.” I look up, and it’s an airplane. But all I cared about was hooking up so I said, “Make a wish.” Now I actually care about content. In my 30s I care about what they’re doing, if they’re hungry for life, for a career. Now I want somebody that I can grow with.

You can follow Michael on Twitter @MichaelYo, or his website, MichaelYo.com.

This story was originally published in our Fall 2013 issue. Get your copy here.

Accomplished Pianist Trades Keys for Camo as Soldier in Afghanistan

Story by James S. Kim

Making a career change at the age of 30 might raise a few eyebrows. If the career change meant joining the Army, that might raise a few more. If the career change meant joining the Army and leaving behind a career as a classically trained musician, that would downright turn heads.

But that’s exactly what Spc. Anne Pyungan Cho did.  When Cho spoke to KoreAm by phone from Afghanistan last month, she was just a few weeks into her nine-month deployment there. A resident of Los Angeles, she works as an automated logistics specialist and supply clerk at Kandahar Airfield. Her decision to trade in evening gowns and concert halls for Army fatigues and the landscape of a war-torn country is one that she says is layered with her love of music, desire to give back to the U.S. Armed Forces, as well as her faith.

Every Sunday, with her own free time, she leads the worship for three different services and practices with the choir on Wednesday and Saturday nights, although fighting might put these on hold. She said she hopes that she is able to help provide fellow servicemembers with some peace and comfort.

“I’m enjoying playing music [here],” said Cho. “Music is really strong—it can move people, it can encourage people.”

Cho’s relationship with the piano began at age 5, while she was growing up in Korea. She had a knack for the instrument, with a natural talent for sight-reading music, and would often play piano at her church.

After immigrating to the U.S. in her late teens, she attended Union High School in Santa Monica and, by her senior year, was considering applying for Juilliard at the behest of an instructor. But her family insisted she stay close to home while her grandmother was battling breast cancer.  So, Cho decided to pursue a music scholarship at Pepperdine University instead and managed to secure an audition.

The day of her audition, she had prepared two pieces to play before the music professors, but the response was less than enthusiastic. Before she left, however, another professor handed her a piece to play for the group. It was one that Cho hadn’t seen before and was considered a complicated piece.

“When they asked me to play some more songs, I was like, sure. I’ll just do some sight-reading, which the professor didn’t know was my strength,” said Cho.

Cho nailed the piece perfectly, then another, and another, as the professors eagerly fed her music books. “Everyone changed their minds,” she said. “They were clapping, they were saying, ‘Oh my God, you are the pianist we are looking for.’ And then I got the full-ride to Pepperdine.”

Her first year at Pepperdine proved to be difficult academically and emotionally, especially after her grandmother, with whom she was very close, passed away. After taking some time off from college, she returned to earn her music degree, and her career soon took off after that. Pepperdine eventually hired her as its music director, and she became one of the youngest ever to hold an adjunct faculty position at the university.

Cho, a self-described workaholic, was working four days a week at Pepperdine, while also performing at concert tours in Germany, Italy and Australia. She also had the chance to perform at the renowned Carnegie Hall. In addition, Cho traveled the world through her church on short-term mission trips, during which she developed a different calling as a musician—one that led her to a recruiting office last year.

She had long admired the Korean War veterans she met in Korea and the U.S.

“I was honored by their sacrifices and what they did for us as a country,” she said.

Then, after her global travels, she added, “I had opportunities to see other countries where the U.S. helped.” Cho thought it was her turn to give back.

While her job as a supply specialist in Afghanistan isn’t glamorous, Cho said she is right where she wants to be as a musician and member of the Armed Forces.

“I think the experience I had from Pepperdine, and even in Korea, built up and made [me] who I am today,” she said. “I find myself more excited and motivated every day here. I’m doing the same thing, just in a different place for a difference audience—not at Carnegie Hall, but in Kandahar.

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This article was originally published in the October 2013 issue of KoreAm Journal

Throwback Thursday | How The Internet Changed My Sex Life

This story was originally published in our Fall 2011 issue. Get your copy here.
Story by Paul Nakayama and Lena Chen

PAUL SAYS: 
My editor asked me, “How did the Internet change your sex life?”

“It gave me one?” I replied. Never mind that she didn’t laugh. It was sort of true what I said, but it’s not the whole truth. Now, I’m not talking about learning some power moves from online porn and changing my sex life that way (though that’s cool, too). I’m talking about how it became a conduit for getting more dates.

Years ago, after one particularly demoralizing break-up, I went on Match.com and did a quick search to see how many other fish were really in the sea. After inputting just two parameters, my zip code and an interest in women, I eagerly rubbed my hands together to see what lay in the digital land of opportunity.

Well, not much. Sure, there were hundreds of girls, but guess what? Just like in real life, when I walked up to girls in a club, saw them tower over me in their high heels, and I skulked away mumbling, “Sonnuvabitch,” size seemed to matter. Profile after profile, I saw the same damning words: Height must be at least 5’9.” With age, superficial rejections don’t bite as much, but to a 20-something me, it was a spirit sucker.

So, what did I do? I went onto my AsianAvenue.com blog and bitched about it. And then I bitched some more on Livejournal. I guess it was sort of like how I’m bitching again on Audrey. Point is, I wrote about it … a lot.

Before I knew it, people started reading what I was writing. Better still, female readers would start messaging me, asking if I wanted to grab coffee. All right, to be fair, there were more guys than girls wanting to hang out, but whatever, I figured it was due to gender proportions in my city.

I’m a would-be writer, so maybe I could use that to get a would-be sex life. That’s what I tried. But it was an early time for the Internet. There were things I had to get accustomed to. For instance, instant messaging started as a great “pre-date” method: getting to know someone, flirting, building a rapport. I thought it was great since I was better at typing than talking. But my own issues would come to the surface. I’d scream at the computer screen, “God! It’s ‘they’re,’ not ‘there!’” I’d sabotage potential dates if I didn’t like their grammar or if their screen name looked like tHiS. I know, what a snobby dick, right?

But it wasn’t just me with issues. There were women that used question- able photos. I mean, I was pretty sure that I wasn’t talking to Lucy Liu. Or, there were other photos where I had to ask, “Why are you hiding behind this house plant?” There were women that loved the buffet lines more than a conversation. I even had an eerie encounter where a girl invited herself over and refused to leave. Fearing a murder-suicide, I fought hard to stay awake, but losing the battle, I scribbled my last will and testament on a magazine.

Eventually, though, I started figuring it out. I met some really great women online, some that I dated very seriously for many years. I’m a true believer that the Internet can help you find someone suitable, open some doors. Just don’t crawl through someone’s Facebook page before you even get to know them. Nothing says “creepy stalker” or “restraining order” like telling someone everything that you know about them on your first date. But if you’re conscious that the Internet is just a tool for dating and not a crutch, it could totally lead to something great. In fact, you know what? I’m going to try and snag a date with the real Lucy Liu. I’ll just follow her on Twitter and see where that goes.

 

 

LENA SAYS:
When I started an OkCupid account, it was 2008 and online dating seemed to be the exclusive realm of the marriage-hungry or the hopelessly awkward. I went on some dates, but the site’s matchmaking formula, an algorithm that calculated compatibility using answers to personality tests, seemed hit-or-miss, no more effective than meeting a stranger at a bar. Overwhelmed by pages of search results and underwhelmed by e-suitors I met up with in real life, I never found much success with the site. Nowadays, I’m dating someone I met offline.

These days, however, OkCupid has become the go-to destination for Millennials short on time or opportunity. For those skeptical of venturing online for romance, don’t underestimate the prospect for finding lasting love. I’ve witnessed more than one longterm relationship come out of web-arranged dates. (One blogger I know met her husband on MySpace.) Online dating can be charming in its ruthless efficiency and democratic nature. On the web, everyone is fair game — just a wink or a poke away. People I might not otherwise encounter in day-to- day life are suddenly potential romantic partners. In some ways, that’s fantastic. (Who wants to only date people exactly like themselves?) In others, it’s terrifying. (How do I know Casanova666 isn’t an ax murderer? I don’t, so I carry pepper spray.)

When my friend, Danny, 30, was dumped by his girlfriend, one of his first steps toward recovery was to sign up for an account. Soon, he was booking himself two dates a night. Within a month, he’d shared coffee or drinks with so many women he could no longer tell them apart. One evening, he spent the first half of a date trying to figure out which profile belonged to the woman in front of him and what they had previously chatted about. Though his method may be questionable, if Danny wanted to remind himself of the other fish in the sea, then the World Wide Web is perhaps the biggest sea of all.

With the array of choices online, it’s tempting to rely on search features that comb through user databases to spit out results based on age, ethnicity, religion, education and even dietary preferences. The criteria with which you can assess potential partners range from the trivial (pet ownership status) to the maddeningly obscure (foreign languages spoken). Should a romantic decision really come down to whether someone is more of a dog person or a cat person? The Internet can make dating seem like an interview process. It’s easy to get caught up in looking for the next best thing or to falsely believe that you don’t need to compromise on your vision of an ideal partner or relationship, because there’s always that elusive better offer.

Cyber romances also blur the line between reality and illusion. Since you can chat extensively with someone before ever meeting, you naturally develop impressions and attachments that color your expectations. While I cringe at the thought of all the grammatically inaccurate spiels I’ve encountered, I’ve also encountered the flipside: a particularly crafty wordsmith might be able to wield a thesaurus and throw in an esoteric film reference or two, but they can be dismal conversation from across the dinner table. Unless one plans to carry out an entire courtship through electronically submitted data, what goes on online has to eventually get tested out in real-life. When people enter dates believing they’re meeting someone they already know, they can find themselves disappointed by a wildly different in-person impression or an unexpected real-life quirk.
Just as most offline marriages end in divorce, for every MySpace engagement, there are countless deactivated profiles. Citing “burnout,” Danny has recently cut down on the number of ladies he asks out for in-person meetings. This isn’t to say that online dating is any more or less desirable than traditional avenues of courtship. Romantic or not, online dating isn’t a passing trend or a substitute for the “real thing” — in today’s world, it is the real thing. So if you decide to venture into the abyss, just keep the following in mind: winks or pokes are far more effective electronically than in person.

 

More stories from Audrey Magazine’s Archives here.

 

Scary Girlfriend Alert: Woman Arrested for Public Display of Humiliation

Story by James S. Kim

Public displays of affection always make a walk down the street considerably more interesting than most people would like. Still, they don’t draw the attention of crowds and video cameras like public displays of humiliation, as in the case of a viral video uploaded a couple of days ago. It captures a very loud dispute between a man and a woman, as well as an apparent third party.

The five-minute video has over 140,000 views on YouTube as of Tuesday since it was uploaded on Oct. 6. In a crowded street in Hong Kong, a man is shown kneeling in front of his girlfriend, who is scolding him in Cantonese for apparently inviting another woman to his apartment.

At one point in the video, the girlfriend grabs the man’s hair with one hand and begins to slap him repeatedly with the other as a growing crowd watches on. The man, weeping, asking his girlfriend, “Listen to me before beating me, I told her not to come!”

A second woman stands close by, but it is not clear if she is the “other woman.” The man pleads with her several times to confirm his story, but she remains silent for most of the altercation, only making a few halfhearted attempts to stop the beating. Individuals in what turns out to be a sizable crowd start chiming in, but the girlfriend yells back to mind their own business.

Although the video doesn’t show it, the 20-year-old woman, surnamed Cheng, was arrested by Hong Kong police for “common assault” after a bystander called the authorities. The 23-year-old victim, surnamed Chui, was taken to Queen Elizabeth Hospital for treatment. The Hong Kong police has labeled the case as a “dispute over love affairs.”

This story was originally published in KoreAm Journal