Fifty Shades of Beauty: Kristin Kreuk of “Beauty and the Beast”

Actress Kristin Kreuk may not have always been comfortable playing the role of starlet, but the Chinese-Dutch Canadian star of The CW’s Beauty and the Beast is finally embracing all sides of herself: leading lady, producer, adventurer, blogger and, yes, even a bit of a fashion plate.

BUY OUR FALL 2013 ISSUE WITH KRISTIN KREUK HERE.

 

KRISTIN KREUK has been in the spotlight for more than a decade, from the time audiences fell for her as Superman’s girl-next-door crush Lana Lang in the popular TV series Smallville to present-day 2013, as star of The CW’s Beauty and the Beast, which is about to start its second season in October. Though she’s become a natural at walking red carpets and posing for photo shoots, it took her a long time to embrace fashion as a vehicle for self-expression.

Sima Kumar, Kreuk’s longtime friend and stylist who acted as the creative director for this issue’s cover spread, remembers meeting Kreuk for the first time in 2002 when she was hired to style a photo shoot for Parade magazine. “I didn’t know who she was, so I was like, ‘Who is this little girl?’” says Kumar. “She was wearing cargo pants, desert boots and a backpack.”

Prior to acting in the Canadian TV productions Edgemont and Snow White, which she did right before landing Smallville, Kreuk was a bookish high school student who competed at the national level in gymnastics. “I was kind of a righteous child,” remembers Kreuk. “I was really anti-shallowness, and in my limited view, I perceived putting effort and caring about what I looked like to be something that was somehow wrong.”

“She comes from a family that didn’t feed into how beautiful she is, and she was taught that your currency isn’t in your looks,” explains Kumar. “So when Kristin first started acting, and there was a need for her to look a certain way, I don’t think she even understood it. It seemed silly and stupid to her, especially as a teenager incubated in the world of a TV set. You understand why you’re getting dressed up to play a character, but it doesn’t translate to why you have to look a certain way when you go out in public.”

It didn’t help that much of her commercial appeal at the time depended on her being the object of desire. “That was definitely something I was also pissed about,” Kreuk says, laughing. “I was like, ‘I don’t want to be seen this way. I want to be seen as a real person. So I’m going to wear the baggiest clothes ever!’”

It took an eye-opening hiking trip to Nepal, where she found herself really sick but surrounded by joyful children, for her to realize she was vehemently resisting something she actually loved.

“I literally got out of the Himalayas and was like, ‘I’m going to put on some freakin’ makeup, earrings and a nice shawl,’” says Kreuk. “‘What am I so afraid of? I love beautiful things, gorgeous textiles, colors and craftsmanship. I want to look good and feel good.’”

“She’s very defiant,” says Kumar. “If you tell her she can’t do something, she’ll say, ‘I’m doing it!’ And she does get stared at a lot, so I think she didn’t want to bring attention to herself. But once she worked through her issues and became more comfortable in her own skin, she realized that the way that you present yourself in an aesthetic sense can actually be a very deep representation of your inner beauty.”

As a biracial Asian actress, Kreuk has had a unique career in some ways, because her mixed ethnic background — her father is Dutch Canadian, her mother is a Chinese Canadian born in Indonesia — has often been a strength rather than a limitation.

“I don’t even know if [the casting director] knew I was part Asian when I went out for Smallville,” says Kreuk. “I don’t know what it is. It might just be the way that my mix turned out. I’m definitely not white, but I can bleed across many different categories, and that’s been beneficial to me in many ways.”

Though she doubts she’d be pursued for Old English roles, she can play characters for which ethnicity is not a defining factor — Lana Lang, Hannah in Chuck, Heather Thompson in Ecstasy, Maria Lucas in Vampire, even Snow White — as well as characters that are specifically Asian, like Edgemont’s Laurel Yeung and Street Fighter’s Chun-li (though she’s quick to point out that not everyone thought she was Chinese enough, nor muscular enough, for that role).

Just the fact that she was asked to put on her best Indian accent and mannerisms to portray a displaced Muslim woman (“Yes, if you go to the north of Pakistan, people do look like me, but not many people know this,” she says), resulting in her landing the acting role that she’s most proud of to date, speaks volumes. During a time when American fans’ investment in her was mostly filtered through the lens of Lana’s relationship with Clark Kent, the 2007 Canadian film Partition allowed Kreuk to be a part of a sweeping 1947 love story amidst the partition of British India that resulted in violent political and religious strife.

In recent years, Kreuk has amassed enough clout in Hollywood that both Chun-li and her current role as Catherine Chandler in Beauty and the Beast were specifically written as biracial Asian in order to accommodate her casting. With Beauty and the Beast, she returns to the world of mythology. Loosely inspired by the 1987 series of the same name, Catherine is the “Beauty,” a NYPD detective who, as a teenager, saw her mother murdered, and Vincent Keller (played by Jay Ryan) is the “Beast,” a former soldier who, as part of a top secret experiment gone awry, was injected with a genetic-mutating serum that causes him to have dangerous strength when provoked. This past May’s cliffhanger ended with one of them captured in a helicopter and the other looking up to the sky in despair.

“Last season, we established their love for each other, that they’d essentially do anything for each other,” says Kreuk. “Now you have to test it. This season, we’re going to see the toll that it takes on them.”

Though she’s proud of the show, it’s important to Kreuk that she not be confined by The CW box. Her main goal is to eventually become a creative producer. An actress who’s been reciting other people’s words for a decade, Kreuk wants to have a hand in telling stories of her own. In 2009, she cofounded the production company Parvati Creative Inc., which focuses on human-centric films that feature women both in front of and behind the camera. Supporting women’s voices is an issue she’s passionate about, and she cites female executive producers Sherri Cooper and Jennifer Levin as one of the main reasons she was excited to sign on for Beauty and the Beast.

In the meantime, she continues to dabble with the unexpected, whether it’s accumulating more international travels (her annual “Wild Women’s Adventure” trip with her three girlfriends has taken them everywhere from Argentina to Ecuador, from Italy to Syria and Turkey, and, this summer, Mongolia), writing personal stories on her new blog called New Culture Revolution (which she and Kumar just started in May while they were basking in Kauai sunshine eating papaya), taking more risks with her off-camera fashion choices (from her “rock-star girlfriend” furry vest look in this spread to showcase her wild side, to her bespectacled 1970s Charlotte Rampling look at Comic-Con 2013 to display her nerdier side), or — Kumar’s personal favorite — throwing out a politically incorrect joke that’s just enough to shock everyone who might think they’ve got her pinned down.

“She’s almost like a little jack-in-the-box,” says Kumar. “People have an idea of her being so prim and proper and innocent, and once in a while, she’ll pop up and be like, ‘I’m not like that!’ If you’re around for it when it happens, it’s jaw-on-the-ground funny.”

Want more Kristin? Check out photos from our cover shoot and behind-the-scenes video here.

 

story Ada Tseng
photos Dexter Quinto, dexterquinto.com
stylist Sima Kumar
makeup & hair Eman
Shot at Kaizen Studios in Toronto, Canada, studiokaizen.com.

Racecar Driver Verena Mei Just Won’t Slow Down

RACE CAR DRIVER VERENA MEI, WHO LED THE FIRST ALL-FEMALE TEAM TO EVER WIN A NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP IN THE HISTORY OF RALLY AMERICA, IS CURRENTLY COMPETING FOR HER SECOND TITLE. Story by Ada Tseng, photo by Pinky Yoshimoto, pinkyphotography.com.

 

Growing up in Hawaii, Verena Mei says her mother always told her that as long as she worked hard, she could accomplish anything.

Mei laughs. “But I know she wasn’t talking about racing.”

Raised in a family of engineers, Mei did not know anything about race car driving until she started modeling for Toyo Tires after graduating college. After attending races consistently for three years, she grew such a passion for motor sports that she was dying to see what it was like behind the wheel.

“I just knew that I could do it,” says Mei, who is ethnically Chinese. “I always had that attitude. I would see something and think, ‘I could do that!’ In my head, there was no doubt.”

In 2002, she was referred to a stunt driving school by Indy- Car legend Bobby Unser Jr., and only a month later, she earned her pro competition drag racing license, making her the fastest Asian American woman in the United States.

She then trained to be a race car driver at the Bob Bon- durant School of High Performance Driving, and it was there that she found her passion for drifting, a racing technique that began in Japan that involves the driver intentionally over-steer- ing and sliding around corners.

“Even back in 2000, they were calling me ‘Drift Girl,’” says Mei. “They’d say, ‘I could see the fire in your eyes.’ [Two- thousand-four] was the year that drifting came to the U.S. as a professional series, and it was the start of something huge.” The discipline crossed into the mainstream with Justin Lin’s Fast and Furious: Tokyo Drift, the 2006 film in which Mei has a cameo.

After competing in Formula Drift for five years and becoming the first female to win a championship in the Redline Time Attack auto racing series, Mei decided to pursue rally racing. Rallying takes place on real roads through all types of surfaces and weather conditions, and events can last for multiple days.

In 2012, Mei and her co-driver, Leanna Junnila, were the track’s only all-female driving team that was going for the na- tional championship in Rally America, which has been oper- ating since 2005.

“[Junnila] leads me, so I can drive with my ears instead of my eyes,” Mei explains. “We’re going so fast, the roads are so narrow, and you can’t see all the turns, so she gives me notes, and I have to visualize it in my head. It takes a huge amount of trust in each other.”

When they won the Rally America B-Spec National Championship in their first year of competition, they made history as the first all-female team to ever win a national title in the history of Rally America.

“She’s created so many milestones for women in racing,” says Julianna Barker, a representative for tokidoki, the Japanese- inspired pop culture brand created by Italian artist Simone Legno that sponsors Mei’s #335 True Car/Star Girl Racing rally team. In addition to a custom tokidoki helmet and a Porcino vinyl toy she keeps in her car for good luck, Legno has created a new cartoon character based on Mei called “Star Girl,” inspired by Mei’s passion for racing.

“I can totally relate to what tokidoki, [which means ‘some- times’ in Japanese] is all about,” says Mei. “Sometimes … dreams come true. And for me, I’m living the hugest dream. Throughout my whole racing career, I’ve always wanted to rally.”

Seeing that rallying is often considered the most dangerous motor sport, Mei knows that her worried mother waits for the day she stops racing. But her parents have their own way of supporting their record-breaking daughter.

“It’s funny, my dad will say ‘Be careful! Drive slow!” says Mei. She reacts in mock horror. “Drive slow?!”

Looks like Mei will not be slowing down any time soon.

 

WHAT WERE YOU DOING 10 YEARS AGO?
“I had just earned my pro drag racing license and was tirelessly (no pun intended) searching for sponsors, but no one took me seriously. It was only at the end of that year that I met Greg Fresquez from the Bondurant High Performance Driving School who believed in me and gave me a chance. It was a life changing moment. I took the opportunity and ran with it and never stopped.” — Verena Mei

 

This story was originally published in Audrey‘s Summer 2013 issue. Buy the issue here

At Coachella and Beyond, DJ Maya Jane Coles Can Move a Dance Floor

AFTER COACHELLA, MAYA JANE COLES GETS SET TO RELEASE HER DEBUT ALBUM, COMFORT, IN JULY. By Jimmy Lee, photo by Thomas Knights.

 

When Maya Jane Coles takes her spot in front of her laptop, a mixing board and two turntables at illustrious venues such as the 2013 Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival, her slight, just over 5-foot frame is hard to see behind all that equipment from across a dance floor. You can barely make out her asymmetrical haircut, with the left side of her head shaved close, floating above the top of the MacBook Pro.

But then she drops a house beat and a pre-recorded male voice offers up a brief introduction — “Give it up for Maya Jane Coles” — and immediately there’s no mistaking her presence, because the crowd is soon a dancing frenzy, like the night she deejayed at the downtown Los Angeles club, Exchange L.A., back in March. From just after midnight to well past 1 in the morning, bodies are in constant motion, and overseeing it all, with her head bobbing to the beat, as if nodding in approval of the hip-shaking as well as the lip-kissing between couples that the insistent rhythms seem to engender, is Coles.

Amid today’s landscape of globe-trotting DJs dispensing irresistible dance grooves, Coles is distinguishing herself with the ability to move a dance floor. But being a club DJ isn’t even her primary focus. “I definitely consider myself a writer and producer first and a DJ second, though I couldn’t live with either,” says Coles.

Born in London of British and Japanese ancestry, Coles grew up in a household hearing Jamaican dub and reggae, Brazilian bossanova, French classical and American jazz, courtesy of her music-loving parents. She learned how to play the guitar, drums, cello and saxophone, even though “I’m not great at music theory; I’m better playing instruments by ear,” she says. So Coles taught herself the bass and keyboards, as well as how to use music production software.

By the time she was 15, she was using that knowledge to produce hip-hop and trip-hop tracks. The electronic dance music that she would come to create resulted from a growing girl’s partying ways. “I would say I started making more electronic music after I started going clubbing in East London at around 17,” says Coles.

“I was just really inspired by the music and wanted to create my own take on it,” she adds. “Making music is my favorite thing to do in life; there is nothing I would rather do.”

Coles has remixed artists from Ella Fitzgerald and Florence & The Machine to Massive Attack and Little Dragon. “I just listen to the track and decide if I have a good idea for it that I think can take the track into a new space,” she says. “Where possible I try to be respectful of the original, too.”

She has also crafted recordings that forgo the pounding beats of a club track for songs with a more relaxed, seductive vibe. And she’s also applying those keyboard-, guitar- and bass-playing skills to her own original creations, which will be part of her debut album, Comfort, scheduled for a July 1 release.

“It has tracks on it that were started four years ago, to tracks that were literally done a week before mastering,” says Coles. “So it’s been a really long process until I got it to a place that I felt happy enough to draw a line and say, ‘Finished.’”

Comfort will also be released on her own label, called I/AM/ME. “I didn’t have to make concessions creatively,” says Coles. “I like the satisfaction of doing it all myself and knowing I had full control of the outcome. Making an idea in my head come to life or reshaping an idea into something new is the most exciting part of the process for me.”

 

This story was originally published in Audrey‘s Summer 2013 issue. Buy it here.

 

 

Party Like An Asian … IN VEGAS

Considering she’s been going there for almost a quarter of a century, it’s safe to say that Associate Editor Kanara Ty knows Vegas. Here, she shares her insider secrets to Sin City.

Go ahead and judge me, but I proudly call Las Vegas my second home — after all, I’ve been making memories there since I was a kid. For a lot of Asian immigrant families living in Southern California (like mine), going to Las Vegas was the easy choice for a family vacation: it wasn’t too far of a drive nor too costly. The adults spent countless hours at the slot machines or tables, while the kids would wander around the arcade or the Adventuredome at the Circus Circus Hotel and Casino. For meals, it was either gorging at a buffet, or hitting up local spots off the strip, at the Asian strip malls that began at the intersection of Valley View and Spring Mountain Road. Holidays like Chinese New Year and Christmas drew lots of families to catch Asian acts from abroad, like Hong Kong singers Andy Lau and Sammi Cheng, Taiwanese pop singer Lee-hom Wang, and more recently, Cantopop singer Sandy Lam and K-pop artist Kim Bum-soo.

Of course, when I turned 21, Vegas was no longer just a place I could enjoy with family. It turned into a weekend hotspot for dabbling in acts of debauchery — eating, dancing, shopping and drinking at any given hour of the day. Sleeping, of course, was not an option. When I stepped into my first Vegas club in 2005, Tao was the first big “megaclub” on the strip. I’ll admit I was peeved at the generic Asian theme, but it was also the first of its kind — an Asian themed nightclub with restaurant — in Sin City. This ushered in a new era of entertainment in Vegas: no longer just a gambler’s paradise, it became a playground for nightlife revelers. Today, Tao is still one of the top- grossing clubs in Vegas, but options abound with current top billers XS (Encore) and Marquee (Cosmopolitan), and the recent openings of Hakkasan (MGM Grand) and Light (Mandalay Bay). Electronic dance music (EDM) has taken over the club scene, with household-name DJs like Tiesto, Kaskade, and Deadmau5 all signing exclusive contracts and holding residencies at various venues in the city.

But Las Vegas is more than just pretty lights and drinking till dawn. It’s increasingly becoming a bona fide vacation destination for Asians everywhere — and the city has taken note, catering its food and entertainment to Asian customers. Furthermore, an increasing number of Asian Americans are truly calling Las Vegas “home.” According to the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund (AALDEF), the Asian American growth rate in Nevada is the highest in the nation (at 116 percent), with Asian Americans making up 10 percent of the population in Clark County. Over the years, I’ve seen economic opportunities develop and more Asian-owned businesses pop up (the Vietnamese bánh mì store, Lee’s Sandwiches, even has a franchise out there!).

With so much more to do in Vegas than just gamble and drink, here are some of my favorite Asian-friendly spots to eat, drink and play — on and off the strip.

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DINING 
We may all have our individual reasons for traveling to Vegas, but there’s one thing we can all agree upon: the food. My parents are pretty closed-minded about what they eat, so that meant they wanted rice with all their meals. Turns out, some of the best food in Vegas isn’t at the latest celebrity chef-owned restaurant. Check out some of these delectable places in the Chinatown neighborhood of Las Vegas and beyond.

Pho Saigon 8
While Pho Kim Long is arguably the more popular place for pho off the strip, locals told me that this is a much better spot for pho. And they’re absolutely right: I’ve grown to love Pho Saigon 8 for the amazing beef broth. It’ll definitely help cure any hangovers you have the next day.

Ichiza
( japaneserestaurantinfo.com/ichiza/) If you’re a fan of Japanese tapas or izakayas, Ichiza makes the best hamburger steak I’ve had to date: it’s huge, juicy and has this great demiglace sauce that goes perfectly with the ground patty. It’s kind of a cool place, with specials written on paper on the walls (uni mochi, anyone?). Get their honey toast for dessert — you’ll end your meal on a very sweet note.

Buldogi’s Gourmet Hot Dogs
(buldogis.com) A play on the Korean marinated beef dish bulgogi, Buldogi’s menu features an extensive list of fancy hot dogs. I highly recommend the Angry Dog, which has spicy pork bulgogi, Asian slaw, jalapeños and spicy mayo.

Korean BBQ
Sura BBQ Buffet is all-you-can-eat (AYCE) Korean BBQ that’s open until 3 a.m. — need I say more? If you’re not in the mood for AYCE, try the popular chain Honey Pig, where you can get your pork belly fix at any given time of the day. If you’re lucky, you might even get the heart-shaped shot glasses for your soju.

Fukuburger Truck
(fukuburgertruck.com) If you’re without a car in Vegas, this Asian fusion burger truck might be a little troublesome to get to. I’m a fan of the #2 (Tamago Burger) and the #4 (Ki- noko Burger). Once you try it, you’re going to make sure you have a ride next time you’re in Vegas.

Monta Ramen
(montaramen.com) Even with all the awesome ramen places in Southern California, I still get cravings for Monta’s Tonkotsu broth from time to time. Who would have thought Vegas would have such great ramen?

Lotus of Siam
(saipinchutima.com) A little more expensive than some of the other options on this list, but well worth it. The award-winning restaurant definitely rivals some of the best Thai I’ve ever had in my life. Get the Drunken Noodles (with either seabass or soft shell crab), as well as the Nam Prik Ong, a northern style red chili dip, with raw veggies and fried pork skins.

Market Café
For as long as I can remember, I’ve been coming to this restaurant at the Califor- nia Hotel in downtown Las Vegas sim- ply for one thing: the oxtail soup. And I’m not the only one — it’s definitely a favorite among locals and Vegas regu- lars. Be warned: you can only get the oxtail soup after a certain hour (usually 10 or 11 p.m.). Another favorite off the menu: Zippy’s chili (normally just found in Hawaii).

 

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NOBU HOTEL AT CAESARS PALACE 
Nobu Matsuhisa has become more than just a master sushi chef. Renowned for providing a high-class experience at his restaurants, Matsuhisa is applying the same concept to the world of hospitality by joining forces with Caesars Palace to create the world’s first Nobu Hotel. Staying at Nobu is unparalleled to other hotel experiences in Vegas, simply because of the unique Nobu touch. With furniture heavily influenced by Japanese woodworker George Nakashima, the design of each room juxtaposes raw and natural elements in neutral tones with bold traditional and contemporary Japanese graphics. (Some of the artwork was curated by Matsuhisa himself.)

My favorite guest amenities in- clude being served Nobu’s signature tea upon arrival, 24-hour access to Nobu’s first ever in-room dining menu (Blue- berry and Yuzu Soba Pancakes!), and of course, a turndown service to die for: luxurious Fili D’oro Italian linens, a pillow menu, and Nobu’s own blend of linen mist. Details Nobucaesarspalace.com.

 

NIGHTLIFE
Perhaps the most exciting nightclub opening of 2013 is Hakkasan Nightclub and Restaurant at the MGM Grand. The Las Vegas location of the high-end Chinese restaurant (there’s also one in London, New York, San Francisco and Mumbai) will feature a nightclub with high-profile acts like Tiesto, Deadmau5, Calvin Harris, and Steve Aoki. Hakkasan will go face-to-face with another rival — the Cirque-de-Soleil-themed Light Nightclub at Mandalay Bay, with its impressive roster of headlining DJs: Skrillex, Zedd, and Axwell and Sebastian Ingrosso of Swedish House Mafia.

For those who aren’t into the EDM scene, nightclubs like Moon Nightclub (at Palms Hotel and Casino) and Tao Nightclub feature DJs who spin hip-hop and top 40.

 

DAYPARTIES
You don’t have to stop partying when the sun comes up. With summer now in full swing, there are pool parties a plenty up and down the strip. Daylight at Mandalay Bay is currently shaping up to be the hot new dayparty in town, rivaling Marquee’s Summer Lovin’ night/dayparties with Kaskade, and Encore Beach Club’s Daystar Sundays.

 

DETOX
Before you head back home, take some time to detox at the Qua Baths and Spa at Caesars Palace for any of their signature treatments. Tip: Get there early enough to score one of the heated chairs in the Roman bath area. For those looking for a cheaper (and unique) alternative, check out Imperial Health Spa, which has various sauna rooms with red clay, jade or salt to help with detoxification.

Story by Kanara Ty, illustration by David Teas. Originally published in the Summer 2013 issue of Audrey Magazineclick here to buy it!

 

After 10 Years of The Awful Truth: A Teachable Moment

COLUMNIST PAUL NAKAYAMA RUMINATES OVER HIS INABILITY TO FIND THE ONE WITHIN THE PAST DECADE AND COMES UP WITH A FEW PRACTICAL LOVE LESSONS.

 

It’s hard to believe, but this is my 10th year writing The Awful Truth. I joked around with my editor that I was probably the most veteran employee at the company.

“So,” she asked, “in a decade, what have you learned about relationships or love?”

I opened my mouth to answer and instead, changed the subject to sports. If I were going to be clueless in a conversation, it would at least be regarding something I didn’t care about. When I started working on this column, I was an idealistic 28-year-old. I thought I’d definitely be married with kids in a 10-year span. But one minute, I’m watching marathons of 24, and in the next, I’m effing 38.

So, I thought about it. Why didn’t it work out with some of the great loves of my life, or why haven’t I found The One? (And by The One, I don’t mean Keanu Reeves, though at this point it’s better than nothing.) I stared at a blank page on my laptop in hopes of writing out a clever answer. My head started to hurt, so instead I watched five seasons of Mad Men. You probably think that I’m single because I’m addicted to television. You’re not wrong, but there’s more to it.

Half procrastinating, half ruminating, I started organizing a bunch of names into columns as an exercise. Column A: Girls I liked. Column B: Girls who liked me. Column C: Girls from A and B that actually dated me. And in doing this, the answer revealed itself before me — like with dating, I was overthinking things.

I remember my friend telling me about how this girl had sent him a one-page letter from summer camp. Prepubescent boner on full alert, he promptly replied with a five-page gesture, full of wit and passion. She wrote back with another one-pager, saying mostly that camp sucks. This is pretty much the analogy for how I chased girls whom I thought I saw a chance with, seeing signs when there were none. In modern terms, it’s the same as texting a girl, getting a nebulous response a day later, and thinking, “She texted back … there’s a chance!”

Making a small thing seem like a big thing was my thing. I’d break up with girls that offended me in minor ways because I would think, “If she’s capable of that, what else is she gonna do to me?” For example, I called it off with this one girl because she made me eat a spoonful of mayo in front of my friends to prove my love for her. I did it to save her face, but oh, did I loathe her for that. Come to think of it, she made me eat the Devil’s seed, and I’m glad I dumped her.

As I get older, I realize I’ve become a little superstitious. I believe in jinxing myself. I’ve seen enough great opportunities go sour because I couldn’t wait to tell my friends about some girl and how we made a connection. You know, boasts that would end with “Well, I wouldn’t call her my girlfriend … yet.” And sure enough I never did. To me, luck is now a big part of whether it works out with someone. Even if she’s the right girl, it’s just good luck or bad luck as to whether you met her at the right time. So if luck is a factor, least I can do is shut the hell up and not jinx myself.

Another thing I used to do wrong was fall for girls for all the wrong reasons. Just because she can sing her ass off and give me goose bumps does not mean we’re meant to be. Otherwise I’d be in love with Mariah Carey, and she’s insane. Or just because she thinks video games are art and shares my opinion that “Bioshock” is a masterpiece of modern storytelling does not make her Mrs. Right, though technically it makes her right. Sadly, it wasn’t from self-realization, but rather Chloë Grace Moretz’s 12-year-old character in 500 Days of Summer that taught me that nugget of wisdom.

In writing this piece, I had a High Fidelity moment. I considered talking to all of my exes to suss out where things fell apart — you know, what the common thread of my failed relationships might be. But they’re all nice girls — too nice to call me a dick to my face — so I sat and thought on it. As you’ve already guessed, the common thread is me. If there’s any hope for this trend to end, it’s got to start with that. So, finally, the following is a list of things that have caused problems in the past that I will take to heart.

Be honest with how I feel. Not be jealous, or if I am, not be Real House- wives-y about it. Learn to enjoy her interests every now and then, unless she’s into S&M. Don’t dance unless there are strobe lights or it’s dark. Never dress up as Pocahontas ever again. Forcing a schedule on love seems to almost always ruin it, but taking it for granted is a slow death. Don’t be mean to girls who enjoy mayo; they’re people, too.

This story was originally published in the Summer ’13 issue of Audrey Magazine. Buy your copy here

 

 

Matthew Moy in “2 Broke Girls”: Should We Still Be Offended By This Character?

Actor Matthew Moy’s Han Lee in the hit CBS comedy 2 Broke Girls encapsulates many of the stereotypes Asian American males are most sensitive about — from his thick, foreign accent to his role as the perpetually emasculated punch line. Now that the show will return for a third season, will the criticism be addressed, or are we being too sensitive? Story by Ada Tseng.

 

As I’m waiting for Matthew Moy to arrive at Hollywood’s The Republic of Pie for our interview, I can’t help but eavesdrop on two young women (one Caucasian and one Asian) gabbing on the sofa next to me.

“I don’t know why, but I’m just not attracted to Asian guys,” the Caucasian girl says. She insists she’s not trying to be racist. In fact, she, of all people, definitely understands racism, because her ancestors were German Nazis in World War II (they still have some of the old uniforms), and her family’s all embarrassed about it now, but what’re you gonna do? Crazy, right?

As I’m processing the unexpected turn this conversation has taken, in walks Matthew Moy, all 5-foot-1-inch of him, all smiles. You can make a lot of assumptions about Moy, the Chinese American actor who’s been criticized for perpetuating the emasculated Asian male stereotype in one of CBS’ most successful sitcoms, but you can’t deny that he has a knack for comic timing.

In 2011, Moy, an actor previously known for his recurring role on Scrubs, successfully booked a television role that would catapult him into mainstream fame. 2 Broke Girls co-creator Michael Patrick King, the writer/producer best known for creating the Sex and the City franchise, partnered with comedian Whitney Cummings on the script. Kat Dennings and Beth Behrs were cast as, respectively, Max, a sardonic working-class brunette, and Caroline, a blonde heiress recently stripped of her riches, who are waitressing in a diner in Brooklyn, while trying to start up their own cupcake business.

The collaboration proved successful. When 2 Broke Girls debuted, the premiere was watched by 19.2 million viewers, making it the highest rating for a fall premiere of a comedy series since fall 2001. It won the People’s Choice Award for Favorite New TV Comedy and was nominated for three Emmys.

But the supporting characters rubbed many viewers the wrong way — the perverted Ukranian cook Oleg, the pot-smoking African American cashier Earl, and especially Korean American immigrant Han, the diner’s boss who appeared to be a walking joke.

Phil Yu, who runs the popular Asian American blog Angry Asian Man, was one of the first to catch wind of the potential caricature. On February 24, 2011, he posted the pilot’s script, which included Max mocking Han’s inability to pronounce R’s, calling him “Rice,” and pointing out his “camel toe” from his pants being hiked up too high in the front. In comparison, the controversial version that made it on air seemed mild if unoriginal: a joke about a samurai sword, another about nicknaming himself Bryce Lee.

Asian Americans activists are often preaching to the minority choir when Hollywood does us wrong, but this time around, the mainstream media joined in on the criticism. The Hollywood Reporter’s headline was “The Sorry State Of ‘2 Broke Girls’: Racism and Lame Sex Jokes.” The New Yorker bemoaned the ensemble cast “conceived in terms so racist it is less offensive than baffling.”

At the time, Moy responded to press with the equivalent of a shoulder shrug, while Korean American TV writers traded jabs publicly: Danny Chun, writer of The Office, tweeted “Pretty subtle of 2 Broke Girls to have their Asian stereotype not wearing a coolie hat. Shows they respect their audience,” while 2 Broke Girls’ Sonny Lee responded, “Chillax. I’m an Asian writer on the show and find it stereotypical for fellow Asians to pull the Asian stereotype card.”

Partway through the first season, it was leaked that 2 Broke Girls was looking to cast “a hot Asian guy” who hooks up with Caroline, a move many assumed to be a direct reaction to the criticism. But for most critics, the one episode role in which the Asian American guy was a one-night stand was too little, too late. “I feel like a lot of people wanted it to be a big deal,” says actor Tim Chiou, who was cast for the part. “And honestly, I don’t think it was revolutionary, but at the same time, it was just cool to see something different.”

The collective anxiety all culminated in a January 2012 press conference, where co-creator King got snippy with reporters demanding a response to the racial stereotypes, and his un-finessed defensiveness (“But I’m gay! I’m putting in gay stereotypes every week. … I find it comic to take everyone down!”) only fueled the fire. Leading up to the second season, King wrote a guest column in Entertainment Weekly that explained that, while they liked to shock people with their humor, they relied on the studio audience to help them judge what’s funny versus what’s too far.

Nowadays, with 2 Broke Girls having finished two seasons and renewed for a third, Moy is more direct when it comes to defending his body of work.

“People were just stressing themselves out,” he says. “A lot of people were really judgmental at first, and it’s understandable. But we have years to let them know who this character is. We’re only a 21-minute show. Be patient, and all the layers will come out.

Screen Shot 2013-08-06 at 11.03.02 AM

Once Moy was cast, the writers catered the Han character to him. They gave Han a ferret named Alvin, a nod to Moy, who used to work at a pet hospital and owns two chinchillas. In addition, the writers had a field day with Moy’s small stature.

“A lot of hate comes because of the way I look,” says Moy. “But I can’t help that. They want me to look like Daniel Dae Kim, John Cho and Sung Kang. I don’t look like those guys. They want someone with perfect bone structure. I have perfect bone structure, underneath my fat.”

“It’s funny because you see Asian jokes all the time on other shows,” says Chiou. “But for Han, all these facets of being small, cheap and awkward are all magically wrapped up into one guy. It just so happens that Matt is able to get a whole series of jokes from all angles because of who he is and this character he created.”

“All I have to say is that I’m trying my best, so if people want to hate on that, they can,” he continues. “But I try my best to make them laugh.”

The auditions for 2 Broke Girls took place the middle of the 2011 pilot season, and the casting directors saw Asian American male actors in all shapes and sizes to find their Han Lee, described as “33, Korean Born, Lovable, Thin Man; Thick Accent.”

Justin Chon (Twilight, 21 and Over) and James Kyson Lee (Heroes) were amongst the actors in the room, but in the final round, it came down to Moy and Eddie Shin, a Korean American actor who has been on shows such as Gilmore Girls, That ’80s Show, and BBC3’s award-winning Phoo Action.

Even though he didn’t end up getting the role, Shin remembers having a lot of discussions with family and friends when he found himself advancing to the final rounds of casting.

“Any time in my auditioning experience that a character comes in and has a thick accent, it’s potential red flag territory,” Shin explains. “But all I had to work with are five [audition] pages in the first episode of a series by a show creator with a very successful track record. And as an actor, you want to work, but on the other hand, you don’t want to be crying all the way to the bank. So that was the dilemma.”

Moy, who had trained in voiceover acting prior to pursuing on-camera work, came into his audition with strong acting choices. Not ethnically Korean himself, he based his Korean accent on Korean women restaurant owners he knew in Los Angeles. “I could have just done a [generic] Korean accent,” he explains, “but then there’s no character behind it. So I had to choose somebody I knew from my personal life, and the older Korean ladies were very much like the character [of Han], because they’re very positive, and they take care of people.”

“My take was different, more grounded,” Shin remembers. “Because as much as I hate to admit it, sometimes I see nerdy portrayals of Asians, and it’s like, ‘Dude, I have friends just like that.’ And this character reminded me of people of my parents’ generation that I had known my whole life. So I tried to create a real portrayal of that, which may have been less funny.”

Moy can’t tell if most of the hate is coming from the Asian American community, but there’s one thing he will say. “I’ve never gotten any hate mail from short people,” he jokes. “I’ve gotten nothing but support from the short community. We’re united.”

Screen Shot 2013-08-06 at 11.03.35 AM“I think he has a really tough job,” Chiou says. “First of all, you have to understand how to highlight the joke. And even though it’s being made at his expense, he has to be a part of the joke, because that’s how he develops a relationship with the other characters. And then eventually you get the sense that they’re making the joke out of love, which is something that happens in all sitcoms.”

“If I made the acting choice for him to take it personally every time they make fun of him, that hurts [the audience],” says Moy. “They’d feel his pain. But he’s not in pain because he loves all those people in the diner, and [insults are] just the way they show each other they love each other.

“I always expected that people would react strongly to our show,” Moy continues. “We don’t just push comedy to the edge — we take two steps off the edge and then we pull it one step back. But I definitely wasn’t prepared for all that attention.”

Shin was less surprised by the backlash. “There’s an enormous sensitivity to every Asian American portrayal because the American media so drastically underrepresents us,” he says. “And when we are represented, it tends to be for very specific functions, so part of that sensitivity is rightfully there. But I’ve also learned that I can’t live my career for someone else. At the end of the day, I have to trust my voice. Why should Matthew care about opinions of people he’s never met in his life when it comes to his career? It’s hard enough being an actor in Hollywood, and to add that factor into your decision-making is ludicrous.”

“The role could have easily gone to a lesser actor that could have created more of a caricature,” says Chiou. “But Matt’s really talented. Before, the writers were breaking up the lines [to convey the broken English], and Matt was able to say, ‘Look, I can do [the accent] without you having to write down the beats. Just write him as a real guy, and I can do the rest.’ And little by little, the writers are giving him more stuff to do.”

It’s April 3, and 2 Broke Girls is taping the second-to-last episode of the second season, and despite what the Internet haters say, on the Warner Bros. studio in Burbank, Calif., Matthew Moy has become kind of a rock star. Sure, his adorkable character is dressed like he’s off to Little League, and he’s about to get hit in the groin with a baseball for a laugh, but the fans cheer wildly for him as soon as he comes on set.

His accent has been slightly lightened, and he delivers zings much more than he used to in the first season, but let’s be real, the small jokes at his expense are just as rampant as ever.

“My character has a little more bite now,” says Moy. “But Han is still a nice guy. And maybe he gets picked on the most because he can take it the most. I’ve been picked on a lot in my life, by both Asian Americans and non-Asian Americans. I can take it.”

An episode earlier, Shin made a guest appearance as Tom, a Law & Order producer who wants to shoot a scene in their diner. The role was written non-Asian, but once they cast Shin, the writers found an Asian angle to their story. One of the rewrites that was pitched on the spot during the live taping involved Han trying to strike up a brotherhood with Tom by speaking to him in Korean, and Tom responding, “Dude, I’m from Pasadena.”

Shin laughs at the memory. “I had to sit there and write out the Korean phonetically, and Matt’s like, ‘What do you mean I have to learn Korean in 30 seconds as a set up for your joke?!!”

The bit ended up making it into the episode, but there were other jokes that didn’t make it.

“There were times where Michael Patrick King would come over with Sonny Lee and say, ‘We’re thinking of pitching this joke. Is it in any way offensive?’” says Shin. “And there were some that were like, ‘Even if it gets a laugh, it’s not worth it because you’re going to get crucified, man!’

“But it’s complicated,” Shin explains. “Talk to anyone involved in comedy, and they’re the most censor-free people in the world. Once you’re hypersensitive about dissecting everything, it kills the whole world of comedy. I certainly don’t believe that the show’s humor is malicious. But Michael Patrick King is a very openly gay man with a certain comedic sensibility that can be very biting and edgy. And when he pitches a joke, it’s hilarious. But someone else could do a word-for-word delivery of the same joke, and you might be like, ‘Now it sounds a little weird.’”

But if the audience laughs, there’s a good chance it’ll make it on the air. While the racial jokes are still hit or miss, Han is now often the unexpected hero of the story. In one episode, he saves the girls when they’re held up at gunpoint in the diner. In another, he gives a generous cash Christmas gift to save the girls’ cupcake business from going under. Even in the episode in which Shin guest stars, what seems like Han’s stereotypical stinginess is revealed to be a ploy to make sure Max and Caroline aren’t being taken advantage of by the Law & Order producers.

“I don’t think there’s anything wrong with expecting more from the TV that you watch,” says Chiou. “And it’s valid for us to voice our opinions whenever we see things that we perceive to be racist, insensitive or awkward. But we also have to celebrate these little victories.”

“Never in my life has something made sense to me as much as acting,” says Moy. “I didn’t even think that I could be on TV, but once I took the time to learn [the craft], I realized it’s not an impossible dream. I just had to work hard toward it, and it became realistic.”

After the show taping, Moy comes over to the stands to thank me for coming. Six Asian American college girls from the audience quickly gather behind me, excited that he’s approaching.

“Are those your friends?” he asks, genuinely caught off guard by his group of Asian fangirls. I shake my head.

“You’re so cute!” one of them says.

Moy smiles shyly, as if he’s not sure how to respond, waves at them, and then quickly rushes back to join his on-set family.

WHAT WERE YOU DOING 10 YEARS AGO?
“Ten years ago I had just learned how to drive a car. I was a hit with my carless roommates! Grocery store trips were luxurious.” — Matthew Moy

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

Summer 2013 | Pop-arazzi: Tobit Raphael

DEPT: Pop-arazzi
AUTHOR: Ethel Navales
ISSUE: Summer 2013
PHOTO: Stasi Photography

“THE FILIPINO AMERICAN ACTOR LEARNS A THING OR TWO FROM VINCE VAUGHN AND OWEN WILSON IN THE NEW FILM THE INTERNSHIP.”

 

“I thought I was dreaming. I was constantly biting my tongue just to check if I was awake,” says Tobit Raphael, the Filipino American actor about to star in his very first major mo- tion picture. “It was one of those things that just kinda fell from the sky — like I was struck by lightning. I wasn’t even expecting to get a call-back.”

Before he knew it, the now-24- year-old, just a few years out of UCLA theater school, found himself in front of the camera alongside Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson, starring in the summer’s first big comedy, The Internship. The film follows middle-aged Billy and Nick (played by Vaughn and Wilson) who lose their jobs as salesmen and have to start at the bottom of the ladder in their new careers — as interns at Google. Raphael plays a nervous and socially awkward computer programmer, Yo-Yo, who is placed in the same internship team as Billy and Nick. “That kind of social anxiety is really prevalent in my generation,” says Raphael of his character. “It was really fun [to play Yo-Yo] because I feel like I can relate to him in some ways. I think he has a lot of heart.”

It’s no wonder landing the role was such a surprise to Raphael — unlike most young actors, he didn’t pursue acting until relatively recently. “I always thought I was gonna end up in something boring,” he says. But then in high school, “I really started exploring being creative as an actor. I realized that a lot of people enjoyed watching me do that, and I enjoyed doing it.”

And who enjoyed watching him the most? His parents. Raphael says he’s thankful that his parents were enthusiastic about his leap into the creative arts. When he got to college, he realized that many Asian parents may not have been quite as supportive — he was one of the only Asians in his theater pro- gram. “It’s something that I think about a lot. One thing in particular with being Filipino is that you don’t see a lot of Filipino American [actors]. If you see Asians at all, you usually see a lot of Chinese, Japanese or Korean actors.” But Raphael doesn’t let that discourage him, saying that being Filipino helps him by allowing him to “stand out.”

So what’s next after The Internship? We’ll soon find out, but mean- while, the up-and-coming star is sure to take his own advice: “Do it because you love it. That’s what life is about — doing things that make you happy.”

 

Summer 2013 | Online Dating Diary (O.D.D): Back To The Real World

DEPT: The Market
AUTHOR: O.D.D. Girl
ISSUE: Summer 2013

“AFTER DEALING WITH THE BIGGEST ONLINE FROG TO DATE, O.D.D. GIRL DECIDES TO TAKE A BREAK FROM THE ONLINE DATING WORLD.”

 

In my last column, I made a vow that I would be honest with myself, specifically about what I wanted: more of a relationship and less casual dating. I would stop going along with what the guy wanted, which always seemed to end up with me being a doormat or a best friend. With that in mind, I decided to vocalize what I was looking for (and not looking for) when the next guy came around.

Then along came Brandon (not his real name).

I met Brandon online and went on a couple of dates with him. From the beginning, I was brutally honest: 1) He wasn’t going to sleep with me right off the bat, and 2) I wasn’t going to take on the role of his therapist. With that in place, it was fun getting to know him through texts and drinks, exchanging stories about growing up in our respective hometowns, and work adventures. Then out of nowhere, he laid a stink bomb on me: He was suicidal, possibly a borderline personality, with a lot of baggage, and would make the worst boyfriend ever. He started to unpack every dark secret he’d ever harbored while I just sat there looking dumbfounded the entire time. I thought maybe we could just be friends, but he began to act possessively and it got to the point where I almost had to dial 911 while at work. Thankfully, we drifted apart before it escalated any further.

There was one thing about Brandon that stuck with me: He had asked me why I chose to continue dating online when there simply weren’t any quality men online. I realized that I had hit a slump and needed to take a break from online dating. I had grown too comfortable with how convenient it was. And as soon as I got offline, I discovered I wasn’t the same person I was nine months ago when I had started actively using an online dating profile.

In fact, one of the most important things I learned from online dating was the power of withholding information. In addition to my concealed face, I kept a bare-bones profile on the dating site — and it attracted a lot more men than I would’ve imagined. There are plenty of dating articles that tell us how men love the chase — this idea of acquiring information is just a part of that. Now, when I meet new guys, I’m social, but I don’t give out too much personal information.

Regardless, going back to the “real world” wasn’t very different. In fact, I started recognizing some of the guys who had messaged me on the dating site at actual events. While initially it was alarming to be in such close proximity to them (even though they didn’t realize it was me), I relished in the realization that some of their personalities were very different from their online profiles. Of course, all this means is that online dating has become very normal. It hasn’t replaced meeting people in real life, but it may impact our dating patterns.

I tell you, though — I wasn’t offline for very long. After three weeks, I went back to the dating site. Since Brandon, I’ll admit I’ve become numb. I’m starting to develop an attitude where I don’t care how my dating escapades turn out. A girlfriend pointed out that because I had only been in love once in my life, right after college, the online dating experience probably made me even more jaded. Which made me think about my dating style: Should I continue with the serial dating and risk becoming more jaded? Or is it better to date a lot less, but risk not developing a love life?

Until next time. — O.D.D. Girl

Summer 2013 | Pop-arrazi: Rila Fukushima

DEPT: Pop-arrazi
AUTHOR: Anna M. Park
ISSUE: Summer 2013
PHOTO: Sasaki Tomokazu

 

“THE MODEL-TURNED-ACTRESS DISHES ON WORKING WITH HUGH JACKMAN IN THE WOLVERINE.”

 

On the last day of production of the highly anticipated film from Marvel Studios, The Wolverine, director James Mangold tweeted some black and white photos he took of “three people I adore”: Hugh Jackman, who plays the title character; the Japanese model Tao Okamoto, who plays Logan’s love interest Mariko; and the elfin beauty Rila Fukushima.

Herself a former model who first gained international attention when she appeared in the D&G spring/summer 2004 campaign, Fukushima hasn’t just won over one of Hollywood’s top directors. She’s just signed with ICM Partners, one of the world’s largest talent agencies. “There are so many roles I’d like to try,” says the Tokyo-born actress, now based in Los Angeles. “I love a good challenge, and I look for roles that speak to me somehow.”

In her big screen debut, out in theaters July 26, Fukushima found plenty of challenges in Yukio, the ninja character who first appeared in the original 1982 comic book, tasked by Wolverine’s nemesis to find the mutant. “The role required intense training in a variety of martial arts styles and tech- niques, from sword fighting to bo staff,” says Fukushima, who is fluent in English. “I think the biggest challenge was the physicality of the role. Long days of martial arts and stunts were really hard. It was both incredibly rewarding and humbling to go through it. I definitely learned a lot of things about myself.”

After all, Fukushima isn’t your typical martial arts actress. Raised in Tokyo, she graduated college with a degree in English literature. While working at an advertising agency, she met an agent who encouraged her to give modeling a try. “I am not sure exactly what my first job modeling was; it was so long ago,” says Fukushima, who has been modeling for at least a decade. “But I remember that it was for one of the magazines that I would regularly buy. So one day, I got to pick up an issue, and I saw myself in it. It was such a sur- real experience, seeing the pages I had worked on in a magazine that only a few months before I was just a reader of. It took a while to get used to that feeling.”

Since then, Fukushima’s appeared in everything from Elle to V Magazine to Vogue Japan, and has done campaigns for Vera Wang, Gap, Calvin Klein CK One and Kenneth Cole Reaction. And as a model, she had occasion to work with now-co-star Okamoto. “It was a lot of fun to get to work with Tao,” says Fukushima. “She is a very talented ac- tress, and I had an amazing time work- ing through the script and spending time together with her while shooting the film.”

It seems there was a lot of bonding on set, from director to co-stars to crew. (The film features a number of Japanese actors, including Hiroyuki Sanada, as well as Asian American actors Will Yun Lee and Brian Tee.) “We had a great time every day,” Fukushima recalls. But there was one moment she particularly relished.

“One of my best memories was seeing Hugh with his shirt off for the first time,” she says. “I’m not sure if my reaction will make it into the film, but I must have looked really surprised. It was like looking at a Greek god.”

WHAT WERE YOU DOING 10 YEARS AGO?
“In 2003, I was still living and working in Tokyo. The summer was probably really hot and muggy, as it always is in Tokyo, and I was just a few months away from getting to go to New York.” -Rila Fukushima