AUDREY’S WOMEN OF INFLUENCE | Tulsi Gabbard, U.S. Representative for the 2nd District of Hawaii

Story by Susan Soon He Stanton. 

Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard is a rising political star. The 32-year-old has been nicknamed the “Democrats’ Darling” and is viewed as an embodiment of the Obama era. She’s also one of six representatives born in the 1980s, the first group of millennials in Congress. And while a lot of negative things have been said about millennials, dubbed the “Why-Worry Generation” by The New York Times, Gabbard easily shatters the apathetic stereotype. She is one of the first two female combat veterans, the first Hindu and the first female of Samoan ancestry ever to serve as a member of the U.S. Congress. And though the congresswoman is busy dealing with the chaos of the federal government shutdown this past October, she briefly steps off the floor between votes to speak with Audrey Magazine.

“Congress is starting to reflect the diverse makeup of our country,” says Gabbard by telephone. “It’s an opportunity to bring voice to many different constituencies and people from all around the country who may not have been able to look at Congress before and say, ‘Hey, I can relate to that person.’”

A year into her first term, she laments a dysfunctional government that has failed to deliver on its core functions. “When you talk to people who have been here for decades, they say this is the worst climate that they have ever seen in Congress,” she says. She believes the solution is “more bipartisan friendships like [that of the late Hawaiian Senator] Dan Inouye and [the late Alaskan Senator] Ted Stevens. People who understood what it meant to serve, to put your country and the mission first and work together.”

In an effort to mend a fractured Congress, Gabbard has teamed up with Republican and fellow millennial Rep. Aaron Schock to spearhead the Congressional Future Caucus, the first such caucus dedicated to pragmatic bipartisan solutions with the millennial generation in mind. In an interview with BuzzFeed, Schock said, with the increasing number of representatives under the age of 40, that “helps give the opportunity to make people think more long term. People in their 30s and 40s look at life differently than people in their 60s or 70s.” Gabbard adds that her bipartisan efforts do not mean she will set aside her principles, but it does require Congress to “work together, listen respectfully and discover those areas where we can find workable solutions and bring those about.” She wants people to recognize that “no one gets their way 100 percent of the time, but the same can be said for any relationship or partnership that you have, be it in a business or in the home or in a friendship. It’s about recognizing the diversity of our country, doing our best to work together and making that happen.”

Gabbard is no stranger to finding the middle ground in political disagreements, even at home. Her pro-marriage-equality stance during her 2012 campaign ran against some of the statements her father, state Senator Mike Gabbard, had said over the course of his career. “I love my parents both very much; it’s no secret we disagree sometimes, surprise surprise,” says Gabbard. However, she adds, the unconditional love between them is “unbreakable.” When she was 15, Gabbard and her father co-founded the Healthy Hawaii Coalition, a nonprofit focused on teaching environmental awareness to children, and to this day they call each other for advice on a variety of issues. Gabbard, who was home-schooled along with her siblings, says her parents encouraged her to be of “service to other people and try to be a positive impact on their lives.”

Her desire “not to be a problem, but to be a part of the solution” motivated her at 21 to knock on doors with homemade black-and-white flyers during her campaign for a seat in the state Legislature. Gabbard won the election in 2002, becoming the youngest person ever elected to the Hawaii Legislature and the youngest woman elected to state office in American history.

In 2004, she decided not to run for a second term and instead voluntarily deployed to Iraq with her National Guard unit, serving two tours of combat duty in the Middle East. This past September at the National Conference on Citizenship, she accepted the Major George A. Smith HOOAH Award, recognizing a veteran who defines citizenship through service to our country, both in uniform and beyond. Not only is Gabbard the first Pacific Islander to receive the award, she is also the first female to be so honored.

Given Gabbard’s career thus far, many may be surprised to know that in her youth she was afraid of public speaking. Discussing feelings of self-doubt as she broke race, age and gender barriers, she offers advice to women who may suffer from “impostor syndrome,” a psychological phenomenon where people can’t seem to feel that they belong or deserve their accomplishments. “The first and most important question that every person should answer for herself is, ‘Why am I doing what I’m doing?’” she says. “If you are motivated by selfish reasons, then you may be faced with some of these issues. This is not just in politics, it’s in business and the military and in all industries.” Gabbard says to view career challenges not as personal advancement but as opportunities for leadership. “When you recognize that it’s not about you, but a responsibility and a privilege that you have, it changes the entire framework of your role and the path that you have ahead of you.”

It’s something she keeps in mind as she strives to balance the personal with the professional. Surfing, capoeira and vegetarianism are among her eclectic, and some would say, atypical interests. When asked if any of her extracurricular activities ever felt in conflict with her role as a politician, she responds, “I think all of the interests that I have are part of who I am. They are part of my experience or choices that I’ve made in my life.” She continues, “When I go to paddle out for a surf, there’s nothing congressional about it. I am the same person that I was before I was elected, before I went through the campaign, as I am now, and there’s no reason for that to change. Rather than a detraction or something to downplay, every part of who I am helps me to keep balanced and focused so I can do the best job that I can in Congress.”

Indeed, Gabbard values the influence Hawaiian culture has had on her as a person and on her approach to politics. “I carry the Aloha spirit with me, be it in the military or in Congress or in my dealings with people,” she says. “It is ingrained in who I am; it’s what I keep at the forefront. And I know for sure that it is complementing the work that I do.” Referring back to the government shutdown, Gabbard adds, “We need to bring more Aloha into the conversation that we are having so that they can be substantive and constructive.”

And with that, Congresswoman Gabbard excuses herself to return to the floor to vote, certain to bring some of that much-needed Aloha spirit to Congress.

This story was originally published in our Winter 2013-14 issue. Get your copy here

AUDREY’S WOMEN OF INFLUENCE | Laura Lee, Director of Entertainment East Partnership at YouTube

Story by Teena Apeles. Photo by Conan Thai.

Overseeing more than 150 television, film, new media and original entertainment partnerships for YouTube is no small feat, especially when they involve striking deals with networks as big as NBC Universal, as cutting edge as Vice, and as treasured as the Discovery Networks. Welcome to Laura Lee’s world. As head of YouTube’s Entertainment East Partnerships since 2007, 38-year-old Lee is the highest-ranking Asian American woman at YouTube and is one of the highest-ranking Asian American female executives across all of Google. And, she will tell you, her job is certainly no cakewalk, but it is thrilling.

“No day is typical for me,” says the New York-based Lee by phone, whose territory includes the East Coast and all of Canada. Not only does she work with TV networks, she also advises top magazine publishers, like Time, Inc. (Time, Sports Illustrated, People) and Condé Nast (Vogue, Vanity Fair), on what kinds of video to produce for their channels.

One day Lee could be meeting with Jimmy Fallon and his production team, brainstorming about how to expand his YouTube audience en route to becoming the king of late night. (She notes that his channel hit a million subscribers recently.) Another day she could be working on an initiative like Ignite New York (ignitenyc.org), which Lee and her team conceived to make sure that all local creators — whether in news, music, education or sports — understand how to fully utilize YouTube. As a native New Yorker, she is particularly passionate about this project. “What we are trying to do with Ignite is not just for film or TV, but for any kind of creator … to let them know that through YouTube they have a platform to become a global brand.”

Lee says that one rewarding aspect of her job is helping a brand “give birth” on YouTube and then charting “their progress to adolescence.” Lee points to the hipster magazine Vice as an especially inspiring success story, which went from print to a “multiplatform creative juggernaut.”

“Some brands have made the transition effortlessly, but some of them, they need a little bit more handholding. But that is part of what I do,” says Lee. “It is really talking to all these different brands and making sure that we are getting the best of their creativity [so] that we can broadcast that to the world.”

A quick review of her enviable résumé reveals that Lee is good at getting original content to the masses. She was vice president of business development and operations at MTV, has produced an original series for VH-1, and oversaw the development of sports projects at Spike. The interesting thing is, Lee first started her career as an investment banker — while spending nights performing at nightclubs with her R&B group.

“I think that I always walked that fine line between being the subdued Asian daughter, but on the other hand wanting to make sure that I always engaged and nurtured my passion,” she explains. “My problem was, do I really take the big leap and try to do the singing thing 100 percent, or do I go to business school? And my parents said, ‘You are going to business school.’”

Lee did finish business school, albeit without a job because she couldn’t let go of her desire for a more creative endeavor. But look at her today. No longer the “subdued Asian girl,” Lee says that not a lot of people expect to encounter an assertive Asian female in the workplace. It’s something Lee and her Asian American friends in the industry are quite cognizant of. “We joke around about that bamboo ceiling and that we are experiencing breakthroughs,” she says. “But we would like to see more, and we hope that it is our generation that does it.

“Each company has a different rhythm,” she continues, “and to be successful in any company you have to be able to adapt and fall into that rhythm, hopefully without sacrificing your own personal style,” she says. Indeed, Lee went from wearing torn jeans at her first YouTube meeting (someone commented that she looked like a kid), to more grownup attire. “I love wearing dresses, and I love wearing heels,” she says. “I just feel more confident.”

So how many hours in a “no day is typical” workday does it take to break that bamboo ceiling and become the highest- ranking Asian American woman at YouTube? “I don’t want to scare people,” says Lee, laughing. “The honest answer is that I am a work in progress.”

This story was originally published in our Winter 2013-14 Issue. Get your copy here

Unforgettable 2013: A Good Time Was Had By All [PHOTOS]

Story by James S. Kim. Photos by Steven Lam & White Rose Production.

A cool night at the Park Plaza Hotel in Los Angeles didn’t put a damper on this year’s annual “Unforgettable” awards gala. This year, for the first time in the event’s 12-year history, KoreAm Journal partnered with sister magazine Audrey to recognize three individuals in the Asian American community in honor of Audrey Magazine’s 10th anniversary as a publication.

Guests and celebrities lined an equally cool blue carpet, then warmed themselves with somewhat responsible helpings of Scotch whiskey provided by the presenting sponsor, Royal Salute.

Television journalist Lisa Ling returned to Unforgettable, this time as the mistress of ceremonies, to emcee the awards ceremony. Clara C and Walter Hong presented the first award to singer/songwriter David Choi in the Arts & Entertainment category. As a pioneering Asian American musician in the evolving YouTube and social media world, Choi dedicated the award to everyone in the room, thanking those who supported him in his endeavors.

Actress Tamlyn Tomita and actor Tim Jo presented the second award for the Audrey Woman of Influence, which went to film producer Janet Yang, whose numerous credits include The Joy Luck Club, Shanghai Calling and the Chinese version of Disney’s High School Musical. Yang has worked for years to bridge the gap between the Hollywood and Chinese film industries, and she said for the first time in history, Asian Americans have so many opportunities to present their own culture and stories from their own point of view.

Dante Basco and Lindsay Price presented Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Jose Antonio Vargas the Inspiration Award for his work as an activist for undocumented immigrants, including himself. While Vargas was grateful for the honor, he said the award was “premature,” as there was much more work to be done regarding immigration reform in the United States. He pleaded with the predominantly Asian American audience to be aware of a very prevalent issue.

Korean American L.A.-based indie rock band Run River North kicked off the night’s entertainment with a powerful performance, followed by a YouTube dream team of Clara C, Joseph Vincent and Jason Chen. Filipino American R&B band Legaci made their Unforgettable debut with a medley of their songs, while dance crew Poreotics returned with another signature set of polished dance moves. Korean American hip-hop icons Tiger JK, Yoon Mirae wrapped up the evening with fellow artist, Bizzy, showing why they are considered royalty in the Korean hip-hop scene. Guests were able to take home a  copy of their latest album, The Cure.

The event would not have been possible without presenting sponsor Royal Salute, charity partner Good Neighbors, corporate sponsors K2 L.A., BBCN Bank, Asiana Airlines, Intertrend Communications, Beverly Dental Group, Ten Advertising, Vistamar School, Sans Souci, KDB Daewoo Securities, Park Plaza Hotel, IW Group, Inc., CBS, Kabuki Japanese Restaurant, WaBa Grill, Garden Suite Hotel, Pechanga Resort & Casino, Warner Bros., community sponsors Seah Steel, Korean American Economic Development Center, Paramount, Los Angeles County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, Gary Kim, O11 Communications, NetKAL, Toyota, UC Berkeley Korean American Alumni Association, Shiseido, and Lawry’s Catering.

Audrey Magazine is an award-winning quarterly publication covering the Asian American experience, as seen from the perspective of Asian American women and is the sister magazine of KoreAm Journal. You can find more information at www.audreymagazine.com.

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Singer-songwriter and Dec 2013 KoreAm cover man David Choi.

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Producer Janet Yang on the blue carpet.

Yang accepts the Audrey Woman of Influence award.

Yang accepts the Audrey Woman of Influence award.

 

YouTube singers Jason Chen (L) and Joseph Vincent knit their brows on the blue carpet.

YouTube singers Jason Chen (L) and Joseph Vincent knit their brows on the blue carpet.

Filipino American singing group Legaci woos the crowd with their vocal stylings.

Filipino American singing group Legaci woos the crowd with their vocal stylings.

 

Run River North wows the crowd with their musical stylings.

Run River North wows the crowd with their musical stylings.

Poreotics whoas the crowd with their choreographed stylings.

Poreotics whoas the crowd with their choreographed stylings.

 

Tiger JK, Yoon Mirae and Bizzy on the blue carpet.

Tiger JK, Yoon Mirae and Bizzy on the blue carpet.

Tiger JK performs with Yoon Mirae and Bizzy, a.k.a. MFBTY.

Tiger JK performs with Yoon Mirae and Bizzy, a.k.a. MFBTY.

David Choi joins MFBTY on stage.

David Choi joins MFBTY on stage.

YouTube artists (from L to R) Jason Chen, Clara C and Joseph Vincent.

YouTube artists (from L to R) Jason Chen, Clara C and Joseph Vincent.

Actor Terrence Howard arrives with his wife, Mira Cristine Howard.

Actor Terrence Howard arrives with his wife, Mira Cristine Howard.

 

Cast members of Teen Wolf (from L to R) Tamlyn Tomita, Arden Cho and Tom T. Choi.

Cast members of Teen Wolf (from L to R) Tamlyn Tomita, Arden Cho and Tom T. Choi.

Arden Cho.

Arden Cho.

Singer Clara Chung.

Singer Clara Chung.

Singer Dia Frampton.

Singer Dia Frampton.

 

Rapper and KoreAm Nov 2013 cover man Dan Matthews.

Rapper and KoreAm Nov 2013 cover man Dan Matthews.

Activist Ju Hong and journalist Jose Antonio Vargas.

Activist Ju Hong and journalist Jose Antonio Vargas.

 

Actor Leonardo Nam.

Actor Leonardo Nam.

Korean French actress Pom Klementieff.

Korean French actress Pom Klementieff.

 

The night’s host, Lisa Ling.

The night’s host, Lisa Ling.

Actress Lindsay Price with celebrity chef husband Curtis Stone.

Actress Lindsay Price with celebrity chef husband Curtis Stone.

Indie rock band Run River North.

Indie rock band Run River North.

 

Actor Tim Jo with girlfriend Hannah Jun.

Actor Tim Jo with girlfriend Hannah Jun.

Actress Vivian Bang.

Actress Vivian Bang.

 

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Actor and voice actor Dante Basco.

This story was originally published on iamkoream.com

 

DESTINY’S CHILD: Bollywood’s Biggest Actress, PRIYANKA CHOPRA

If she hadn’t been bullied at an American high school, she may not have returned to India only to win Miss World. If she hadn’t won Miss World, she may not have become Bollywood’s biggest actress. For Priyanka Chopra, with her debut pop album just on the horizon, destiny is all about taking that next step after you fall. 

STORY by Ada Tseng.
PHOTOS by Yu Tsai.

 BUY OUR WINTER 2013-14 ISSUE WITH PRIYANKA CHOPRA HERE.

 

When PRIYANKA CHOPRA was 17 years old, the young Indian beauty had spent a few difficult high school years abroad in the United States before deciding to go back to India for her senior year. Upon her return, her mother sent some photos Chopra had taken to apply for an engineering scholarship to the Femina Miss India beauty pageant. Within the span of a year, Chopra went from being taunted by American teenagers who called her “brownie” to winning the 2000 Miss World title at age 18 — still the youngest contestant to ever win the pageant in its 63-year history.

Now 31, Chopra says that if she hadn’t been bullied at school and desperate to return home to India, she would have never fallen into her mega-successful career in the Bollywood entertainment industry.

“I think it gave me the strength to take adversity head on,” says Chopra. “I also learned that your life and destiny is in your own hands. Take chances, push boundaries, jump, fall, fail, cry, and then brush it all off and start all over. You will face adversity at many points in your life, but you can’t let it become a roadblock.

“The incident [in high school] upset and hurt me tremendously,” she continues, “but ultimately made me stronger. Then being back home in India led me to participate and win the Miss India and Miss World crowns. I found what I loved to do, gave it everything I had and left the rest up to destiny. Nothing anyone says or does will ever change that.”

In a business that is ruled by Kapoors, Bachchans, Roshans and Khans (who are often sons and daughters of already-successful film industry folk), Chopra prides herself in being a self-made star. Her parents, both doctors in the Indian army at the time, had no connections to Bollywood. But when Chopra was flooded with acting offers after her Miss World win, her mother actually gave up her flourishing practice to come to Mumbai with her daughter to help chase her new dreams.

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“We were so far removed from this world,” says Chopra. “We didn’t know anyone and didn’t know a thing about the film business. What actually helped us through it was that we knew this was not a ‘do-or-die’ situation, so we just trusted our instincts and stuck to our values. Every day was a challenge, everything I had to face, good or bad, was a new experience, and that in itself was a challenge.”

In the beginning of her career, Chopra was involved in some commercial successes — Andaaz opposite Akshay Kumar, Mujhse Shaadi Karogi with Salman Khan and Kumar, Krrish with Hrithik Roshan, and Don opposite Shah Rukh Khan — but it took a while for her to be taken seriously as an actress and gain parts that did more than capitalize on her looks.

“Learning to be an actor and understanding the craft was a huge challenge for me,” says Chopra. “I didn’t go to acting school. My [previously] desired career path was to be an engineer. So I listened, observed and absorbed everything that was happening around me. It gave me the foundation that I needed to build on and really paid off.”

One could argue that Chopra’s biggest turning point came in 2008, with her role as an ambitious supermodel in Fashion. Not only was Chopra in the title role in the women-centric film with no male leads, she picked up most of the major best actress awards that year, including the Filmfare Awards, International Indian Film Academy Awards, and the National Film Awards.

In 2012, she further cemented her acting chops by donning a short curly hairdo to play an autistic girl, rendering her almost unrecognizable as Ranbir Kapoor’s unlikely love interest in the romantic comedy Barfi!. Nowadays, with more than 40 films under her belt, she’s respected as a hard-working actress who is bankable yet not afraid to take chances with her roles.

But it was late 2012 that brought her boldest move yet — a foray into the international pop music scene. Bollywood film is known for its musical numbers, and as part of film tradition, the actors and actresses dance and lip-synch to songs that are pre-recorded by professional playback singers. While there have been instances of actors recording songs for their own films, Chopra is the first major Bollywood star to sign a record deal with the intent of releasing a solo English album for a global audience.

Instead of staying in India, where she is already a bona fide superstar with almost 5 million Twitter followers (the most of any Bollywood actress), Chopra deliberately chose Los Angeles as her base for recording music, and she is working with American artists and producers to develop her own style that fuses universally appealing pop/dance beats with her Indian roots.

“It’s been super fun, but also scary in a way, because as a lyricist you are delving into your own experiences and emotions to create these songs,” says Chopra. “As you will hear, my music is really driven by my moods. When I’m hyper I write a pop song; when I’m sad I write ballads.”

Chopra has since released two singles, with a third due any day now. “In My City,” featuring will.i.am, was certified triple platinum in India when it debuted in September 2012, and it made a resurgence this past September when it was chosen as the NFL Networks’ official new Thursday Night Football opening theme song. Her second single “Exotic,” featuring Pitbull, not only hit number one in iTunes India when it was released this past July, it also appeared on the Billboard Dance/Electronic charts in the United States, as well as the Canadian Hot 100.

Her upcoming debut album, scheduled for early 2014, is a collaboration between Universal Music Group, Interscope Records and Desi Hits!, and both “In My City” and “Exotic” were produced and co-written by Grammy-nominated producer RedOne, a Top 40 hit-maker for artists like Nicki Minaj, Jennifer Lopez, One Direction and Lady Gaga.

“Making music is such an organic process, and there is really no set pattern,” says Chopra. “In the course of putting my album together, I have had such varied experiences. Sometimes a song has been borne out of a melody created while sitting in the studio, or it germinates from a particular emotion that you are feeling on any given day. Sometimes a story or a word tossed into a conversation — that becomes the center point of the idea for your song. It can happen anywhere and anyhow, and that’s what makes it so magical.”

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That said, her ardent Bollywood fans need not worry about her abandoning the silver screen any time soon, as Chopra’s filming schedule has definitely not been put on hold amidst the madness. Always the multitasker, the impossibly busy triple threat recently re-teamed with Hrithik Roshan for the superhero sequel Krrish 3, released in November, and she will soon finish filming the upcoming Mary Kom biopic, in which she plays the titular role of the celebrated Indian boxer. Chopra was also recently named the new Guess Girl, becoming the first model of Indian descent for the clothing brand and following in the steps of such well-known names as Claudia Schiffer, Anna Nicole Smith and Kate Upton. Handpicked by Guess CEO Paul Marciano, not only will Chopra appear in their holiday ads shot by Bryan Adams (yes, the musician) in the December issue for almost all the major American fashion magazines, her music and Guess campaign video will stream across the brand’s 1,700 stores worldwide.

Looking back, even though the teenage Chopra dealt with her share of mean high school girls who didn’t appreciate her South Asian roots, her experiences in the United States weren’t all bad. Her exposure to American hip-hop and R&B during her formative years — she was obsessed with Tupac Shakur and wore black to school every day for a week after he passed away — has influenced the eclectic mix of music she co-writes and listens to today.

And Chopra recognizes that we’re now in a different time: as the world is becoming more global (our own Miss America is of South Asian descent, after all), we just might be ready for an Indian pop star in America.

 

This cover story was originally published in our Winter 2013-14 issue. Get your copy here

“Crazy Rich Asians” To Become a Movie: Audrey’s Picks for a Dream Cast

Kevin Kwan’s debut novel is a ridiculous read — and we mean that in the best way. Set mainly in Singapore, the story follows the homecoming of Nicholas Young, who’s in town for the highly anticipated wedding of his best friend Colin Khoo to model/hotel heiress Araminta Lee. Nick is bringing his American girlfriend of two years, Rachel Chu, to the wedding. What Rachel doesn’t know is that Nick is a member of Singapore’s elite, and apparently everyone is out to end their relationship, from overbearing mothers to cutthroat exes.

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What really makes Crazy Rich Asians so fascinating is that the novel is a hilarious insight into the social intricacies and hierarchies of the Singaporean jet set — new money vs. old money, Mainland Chinese vs. Overseas Chinese, traditional Chinese culture vs. traditions that are actually remnants of colonial rule. Calling upon his own childhood experiences, Kwan weaves great (and greatly exaggerated) details into his story that makes for a read you can’t put down. It’s got all the makings for a very entertaining movie, so when we heard that the production team behind The Hunger Games films had nabbed the rights to this summer’s best guilty pleasure read, we just had to come up with our own dream cast. Hollywood, better take notes!

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Godfrey Gao as Nicholas Young, 32, a history professor at NYU with Cantonese pop idol looks (described as a Takeshi Kaneshiro lookalike) and heir to the Young fortune. Why: A ridiculously good-looking guy with international appeal is absolutely required for this leading man role, and the Taiwanese-Malaysian Canadian actor/model, touted as the world’s first Asian male supermodel, has been described as a younger Kaneshiro.

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Gemma Chan as Rachel Chu, Nick’s girlfriend, a 29-year-old down-to-earth, natural beauty, raised by a single mother, who is also an economics professor at NYU. Why: An up-and-comer in Hollywood, this Chinese British actor can pull off Rachel’s sensible, effortless and intelligent charm.

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Fan Bingbing as Astrid Leong, Nick’s cousin and closest confidante who also happens to be a double heiress and Singapore’s most sought after socialite. She’s married to Michael Teo. Why: The Chinese actress has the presence (and red carpet fashion cred) to play Singapore’s biggest style icon, oozing radiance every time she walks into a room.

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Daniel Wu as Michael Teo, a son of schoolteachers and a graduate of Caltech (he was a National Merit Scholar!), the co-founder of a start-up tech company happened to land Singapore’s most sought after socialite. Why: Michael is a straight-laced former Armed Forces Elite Commando who is facing an eventual meltdown because of his marriage into high society. A hunk on the verge of a breakdown? Wu’s got plenty of acting experience (and the good looks) to pull that off.

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Brenda Song as Peik Lin Goh, the youngest daughter of the new money Singaporean Goh family and Rachel’s close friend from Stanford. Why: Song can call upon her Disney days for the over-enthusiastic spunk it’ll take to play Peik Lin, one of Rachel’s few allies in Singapore.

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Wang Lee Hom as Colin Khoo, Nick’s best friend and heir to the Khoo Teck Fong fortune, one of the richest families in the world. Why: Wang’s recent roles have required a disguise — perfect for a man disguising his true feelings about his upcoming nuptials. (Basically, we wanna see the Taiwanese American singer/actor in a Hollywood film.)

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Angelababy as Araminta Lee, a luxury hotel heiress and supermodel who is engaged to Colin Khoo, and has a serious obsession with Astrid Leong and her couture wardrobe. Why: The Hong Kong-based Chinese actress/model has the young supermodel look down. We think she’ll be gorgeous as the society bride of the year.

liza wang

Liza Wang as Shang Su Yi, grandmother to Nicholas and matriarch of the Young family. She inherited the Shang fortune, lives in a Euro-style palace that doesn’t show up on Google Maps (complete with secret service Burmese guards). Why: She is Hong Kong’s biggest diva, famously known as a stage and television actress. Her larger than life personality is very fitting to play the matriarch of the Young family.

Jamie-Chung

Jamie Chung as Amanda Ling, a wannabe New York socialite who used to date Nick. Why: Chung is so gorgeous — and we’re sure she can do snarky well — so she’s perfect to play the posh and fashionable ex-girlfriend of a billionaire heir.

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Maggie Q as Francesca Shaw, who is still pining for Nick after a threesome with him and Amanda Ling one summer in Capri. Why: She’s the cattier of the two girls after Nick and we think Maggie can play one hell of an ice queen.

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Michelle Yeoh as Eleanor Young, mother of Nicholas. Why: The Malaysian actress is well-known for playing strong leading women, but we think it’s about time she plays against type and takes on a challenge: playing the over-the-top, crazed mother who stops at nothing to end her son’s relationship with his Chinese American girlfriend.

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Joan Chen as Kerry Chu, Rachel’s mother who works in real estate and harbors a secret past. Why: Kerry is the hard-working, resilient one of the cast and Chen can capture that perfectly. Chen is also a scene-stealer no matter what role she’s in, which is perfect for Kerry’s dramatic reveal.

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Archie Kao as Edison Cheng, a successful private banker who is obsessed with being in the media spotlight. Why: Kao has a certain charisma that can get under your skin — in an effective way. We’re challenging him to play one loud, obnoxious and fame-whoring husband.

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Charlene Choi as Fiona Tung, who comes from a politically connected family and has three children with Eddie Cheng. Why: Charlene Choi possesses a calm demeanor as an actress that’s effective in quiet moments, which is perfect for the role of Fiona, the wife who remains silent to her husband’s wild antics.

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Edison Chen as Bernard Tai, the quintessential bad boy heir of Singapore. Why: Because Chen is the quintessential bad boy actor. It’d be fascinating to see him make his return to the silver screen playing someone just like himself.

Nichkhun Horvejkul

Nichkhun Horvejkul (of KPOP group 2PM) as Alistair Cheng, the younger, good-for-nothing brother of Eddie Cheng, with puppy-dog looks and who works in film production in Hong Kong. Why: The useless son with good looks? Thank goodness Nickhun is really pretty to look at.

clara-lee

Clara Lee as Kitty Pong, a gold-digging TV actress from Hong Kong with a penchant for skimpy outfits and who has Alistair Cheng whipped. Why: She’s one of Korea’s hottest sex symbols — we’d love to see her play a tacky, money-hungry soap star that shocks everyone at every turn.

AUDREY’S WOMEN OF INFLUENCE | Janet Yang, Film Producer and Cultural Ambassador

Story by Ada Tseng.

Janet Yang remembers every little detail about her first trip to China as a teenager in 1972 during the Cultural Revolution: the flight to Hong Kong (because there were no direct flights to China at the time); the rickety bridge they had to walk across to get to Shenzhen; the giant Samsonite suitcases of flour, sugar and rice they brought for their relatives, whom her mother hadn’t seen in over a decade (being careful not to go over the import quota); the little old lady porters with bound feet who hoisted up these giant suitcases on their shoulders; the military songs blaring over loudspeakers; the interrogation at the border; the flood of relatives that came from all over the country to meet them at the train station in Canton; her relatives’ fascination over shower caps and contact lens cases (they hadn’t seen plastic toiletries before); and her cousin’s textbooks she flipped through that read, “Down with American imperialists!”

This was soon after the famous Nixon-Kissinger trip to China, the first time an American president had visited and a symbol that ended 25 years of separation between the two countries. Yang’s parents were part of a generation who came abroad to the United States for school in the ’50s, with every intention of returning to China — until the Cultural Revolution happened and the government started targeting intellectuals. Suddenly it didn’t seem safe for them to return. Though the United Nations ambassador from China was now encouraging American visitors, many were still fearful.

“At the time, it was such a big deal, even for overseas Chinese, to go back to China,” says Yang. “It was a very, very mysterious place, because it had been so cut off for so long, so much so that my parents decided we shouldn’t even all go together. They split us up — my mom and I went first; my father, brother and sister went on a separate trip — because the mentality at the time was: ‘If we all go together and get stuck there, who would help us get out?’ It was like a big black hole back then.”

Today, Yang is a successful film producer who is widely considered the go-to person for Hollywood industry professionals who want to tap into the exponentially growing China market. And nowadays, that’s a lot of people. BofA Merrill Lynch Global Research recently estimated that by 2017 the China box office could yield $5 billion annually for Hollywood studios, compared to $2.2 billion today.

“To me, to have experienced this dramatic shift in one lifetime is amazing,” says Yang. “Everything’s topsy-turvy now. It used to be such a big deal for us to bring over sunglasses and watches to China. Now, they’re buying up our country. When Chinese people come to the U.S., they just want to shop, because they can’t believe how cheap everything is. It’s so weird.”

Yang calls her 1972 trip to China a life-changing moment. “Before, I was really just an American kid growing up in a Jewish neighborhood,” she says, “and then the world opened up.” She immediately started learning Chinese, and once she got to college — she was a student at Brown and a visiting student at Harvard — she asked all her teachers to look out for opportunities for her to move to China. Ironically, her parents were dismayed. What would she do with a Chinese studies degree? At the time, it seemed to have no practical application whatsoever.

She moved to Beijing in the early ’80s, as part of the first wave of American expats going to China, and she worked at the Foreign Languages Press Office. The Cultural Revolution had just ended, and it was a fascinating time for experimentation.

“The most interesting thing for me was that artists were coming out of the woodwork,” remembers Yang. “After being fed one thing for so long, writers and filmmakers were trying to create [art], and I was so taken by their bravery. I realized I was carrying all these biases about what we could do, because the images of Chinese onscreen [in America] were so horrible, and it was the first time I realized, ‘We can make things.’ Even if it was a bad movie, it was still exciting.

“That’s when I decided that film was important,” she continues. “In the beginning, I just wanted people outside of China to see these Chinese films. I figured it was a good way to introduce them to China and also see Chinese people in a different light. I wanted people to have the same experience that I had.”

She returned to the U.S. to get her M.B.A. and was then hired to run World Entertainment, a company in San Francisco that imported and distributed films from Hong Kong and China. Eventually, she was hired at universal to help open up the China market, and that’s when she met a lot of Chinese filmmakers early in their careers, including Zhang Yimou and Chen Kaige, and introduced them to other Hollywood executives.

The first time Yang worked on a film in China was in 1986, for Steven Spielberg’s Empire of the Sun, starring a 13-year-old Christian Bale. They were in Shanghai while Bernardo Bertolucci’s The Last Emperor was shooting in Beijing, and with two high-profile films being simultaneously shot in China, they all recognized they were part of a groundbreaking moment in history.

“People were clueless about China back then,” says Yang. “I mean, they’re still clueless now, but really clueless then.” Yang helped set up a system for Hollywood to work in China. She knew there needed to be a bilingual person who understood American filmmaking working with the head of each major department. At the time, the first crop of Chinese students were coming out of UCLA film school, and Yang gave many of them their first opportunity to work on a major Hollywood studio project. She and her team spent months in China, getting all the permits and laying the groundwork so that once Spielberg arrived, he could quickly work his magic.

Now a veteran with an extensive understanding of both the American and Chinese movie industries, Yang has served as president of Ixtlan, a production company she formed with Oliver Stone, for seven years; was instrumental in the productions of Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story and The Joy Luck Club, two rare Hollywood films with Asian American leads; and was sought out by Disney to produce High School Musical: China, the first time a global franchise was made specifically for the Chinese market.

But it all came full circle in 2012 with the production of Shanghai Calling, directed by Daniel Hsia and starring Daniel Henney as a Chinese American lawyer who is sent to Shanghai on business. It gave her the opportunity to help tell a story about contemporary China, one that showcased why she loves splitting her time between the U.S. and China — and why she dedicates herself to not only being a film producer but a cultural ambassador who can bridge the gap between two very different countries.

“If it weren’t for China, I’m not sure if I’d even still be producing,” says Yang. “It’s such a wild and woolly world out there these days. I grew up in a Hollywood where it was easier to make films. I know I have some supposedly impressive credits, but I couldn’t make any of those films today. Not one. So everything has a time, and it’s really just about trying to keep up without losing yourself. China has opened up a lot of different opportunities, so I’m happy I’ve stuck around long enough to do this.”


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 This story was originally published in our Winter 2013-14 issue. Get your copy here

Brenda Song Opens Up About Her Controversial Character in “Dads”

Story by Carol Park.

Not only is Brenda Song not your stereotypical Asian American who grew up to become a doctor, lawyer or engineer, she’s a former teen star who’s managed to make the jump to adult roles while avoiding the pitfalls of a child actor.

 

“Transitioning from child to teenager to adult is a difficult process for anyone,” says Song, who began acting and modeling at the age of 7. “But doing it in front of the camera, you can grow with your character, and I’ve been fortunate to grow in the right direction.”

 

Song made a name for herself playing the ditzy heiress London Tipton on the Disney Channel’s The Suite Life of Zack & Cody and The Suite Life on Deck from 2005 to 2011. Since her Disney days, she’s played various grown-up roles on ABC’s Scandal, FOX’s New Girl and most notably the Academy Award-winning The Social Network. Currently, the 25-year-old plays Veronica on the FOX sitcom Dads, executive produced by Family Guy creator Seth Mac-Farlane. Veronica is the vice president at a successful video game company owned by childhood best friends, Eli and Warner, played by Seth Green and Giovanni Ribisi, respectively, whose lives are turned upside down when their fathers move in with them. Fellow Asian American Vanessa Lachey stars as Warner’s wife.

 

Though Veronica is described as the “voice of reason, who is never afraid to stand her ground with her bosses,” according to FOX’s website, the role was criticized by various groups, including the Media Action Network for Asian Americans, as racist and offensive. The controversy centered on Song’s character forced to dress up in an anime outfit and jokes aimed at Asians.

 

“With the controversy, I found it interesting,” says Song. “People took a 30-second bit and, in my eyes, blew it out of proportion. Our show isn’t for everyone; that’s why I was so attracted to the character of Veronica. On a show like that, we’re able to poke fun at stereotypes. It’s empowering to get ahead of the joke.

 

“Something I might find funny, my dad may not find funny,” she adds. “But we’re not out to please everyone.”
Working with MacFarlane, Green and Ribisi has been humbling and a blessing, says Song. The show has helped her grow and learn from an amazing cast and crew, and she believes the show is innovative and creative while racy and edgy at the same time. And now that FOX has ordered another nine episodes from the show, it’s likely Song will have more opportunities to learn from her colleagues.

 

Her appreciation for the experience is likely due in no small part to her recognition that it’s difficult being an ethnic minority in Hollywood. Of Hmong Chinese and Thai descent, Song says sometimes castings can be difficult because people don’t listen to her. But she stays one step ahead, sticking to her guns, and the knowledge that the right roles will come along sooner or later has gotten her through the challenge, she says. “At the end of the day, as long as you’re passionate, if you’re enjoying what you’re doing, [ethnicity] shouldn’t matter.”

 

Indeed, for Song, any difficulties in her career are eclipsed by a challenge closer to home: her mother’s fight with breast cancer. A two-time breast cancer survivor, Song’s mother is currently undergoing treatment for her third bout with the disease. The experience changed her, says Song, who supports various breast cancer organizations. All she’ll say is, “Mom’s an amazing woman.”

 

Though Song hopes for better, fuller, older roles in the future, for now, she’s focused on taking it one day at a time. “Regardless of what you do, you have to look at things and the lessons to be learned, because the moment you stop learning, you need to stop doing what you’re doing,” she says. “You never know what the universe is going to bring you.”

 

Dads airs Tuesdays at 8 p.m. on FOX

This story was originally published in our Winter 2013-2014 issue. Purchase yours here.

 

Undocumented Student Heckles Obama About Immigration, President Responds

Story by James S. Kim. 

A Korean American activist for immigration reform interrupted President Barack Obama during a speech at the Betty Ong Center in San Francisco on Monday.

Ju Hong, 24, has been vocal about the rights of undocumented people, and he was standing behind Obama when he began shouting, NBC Bay Area reports.

“I need your help,” Hong said. “My family will be separated on Thanksgiving,” he said. “Please use your executive order. You have the power to stop deportation.”

Others in the crowd joined in, shouting, “Stop deportation, yes we can.”

When Secret Service agents rushed in to remove Hong from the crowd, the President said he could stay, prompting cheers from the audience.  Obama then responded by insisting he does not have that power to bypass Congress on the issue.

“I respect the passion of these young people,” he said. “But we’re also a nation of laws, that’s our tradition.”

He emphasized addressing the laws that require deportation and called on Congress to pass “common sense” immigration reform, saying that it was an issue that needed to be solved now and not to be left for the next generation.

Hong, an undocumented immigrant himself, is a University of California, Berkeley graduate and a research assistant at Harvard University. He is also a member of Asian Students Promoting Immigrant Rights through Education (ASPIRE), and several members were also present during Obama’s speech.

He told NBC Bay Area that while he has supported Obama, he has been disappointed about his efforts on immigration reform.

 

 

This story was originally published at iamkoream.com.

Steven Yeun Named to People Magazine’s ‘Sexiest Men’ List

Story by James S. Kim.

Actor Steven Yeun’s character, Glenn Rhee, dates one of the more attractive The Walking Deadcharacters, but Yeun is no slouch in that department himself. People magazine’s “Sexiest Man Alive” issue, which goes on newsstands this Friday, is giving Yeun his due for what many people already know.

The magazine didn’t choose the 30-year-old as the sexiest man, but he’s still one of People’s top picks. During his photo shoot, Yeun explained what he considered attractive in others.

“The quality that I think is sexy … is style, kind of how you carry yourself,” he told People. “I don’t think it has to do with all the ‘sex’ part of it really. I think it’s just how you exude your presence in the world. I find how you are as a human as probably the sexiest thing.”

Apparently, Yeun himself wasn’t expecting to be on the list. “When I first heard that I was going to be in the issue, I asked if they were sure, that was the first thing I asked,” he said. “Maybe second question was, is this a joke? But it’s an honor. It’s really awesome.”

Yeun said his girlfriend (yes, he is taken) was the first to hear about the news, and she was very cool in finding out that she was dating one of the most attractive men on Earth.

“She was really chill about it, and she’s so supportive, so it was great,” he said.

For a glimpse of the photo shoot and Yeun shirtless, take a look at the video below.

This story was originally published in iamkoream.com.

Dutch Reality TV Judge Cracks Racist Jokes at Chinese Singer

Story by Young Rae Kim. 

This week’s video may cause you to be outraged and ruin your perfectly normal day. So consider yourself warned!

A celebrity judge on Holland’s Got Talent cracks racist jokes at a Chinese contestant while thinking that he has to be the funniest person alive. The jokes, which occur 0:48, 2:38 and 2:58, used references to Chinese food and also pointed out that the contestant’s appearance did not “fit” his voice.

“You look like a scientist!” said judge Gordon Heuckeroth, a 45-year-old Dutch singer and TV personality. When contestant Xiao Wang said he would be performing Verdi, Heuckeroth asked, “Which number are you singing? Number 39 with rice?”

Netizens were fuming after watching the video and some drew comparisons of the Dutch judge and Simon Cowell. However, most noted Heuckeroth was on another level of being a racist jerk.

“Simon is extremely sarcastic and blunt, to the point of being rude. But he’s not a f—ing blatant racist,” said Reddit user mankstar.

Other users pointed out how the judges stereotyped the contestant based on his appearance.

“Don’t you know only beautiful people can sing?” a commenter asked sarcastically.

A fellow judge, on the far left, showed his disapproval of the racist comments of his peer and shook his head in unbelief after the jokes were made. At the end of the clip, you can briefly catch him confronting his co-worker before the video is cut off.

The judge on the left says, “You’re really not supposed to say things like that to people…it’s awful”. However, the racist judge seemed oblivious to his wrongdoing.

 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2AjJbBMnxts

This story was originally published in iamkoream.com.