ON THAT NOTE: Clara C

FULL NAME Clara Fisher

HERITAGE Korean American

AGE 26

CLAIM TO FAME After an eventful year (she got married, hence the name, and she released an acoustic album, Organika), the New York native singer-songwriter is currently working on, in her own words, “*drum roll*… Brand Spankin’ New Songs!”

Go-to karaoke song: “Forgot about Dre” or “Always Be My Baby.”

Last time I cried: Laughing with my friends.

Always makes me laugh: Stand up comedy.

Go-to comfort food: Ramen. No joke. I’m an addict and recently gave myself an intervention.

Last thing I ate: Garlic brussel sprouts, roasted butternut squash and agedashi tofu.

Currently on “repeat” on my iPod: Pharrell’s “Happy.” Trying not to listen to it too much because I don’t ever want to feel annoyed by hearing it.

A guilty pleasure I don’t feel guilty about: The. Spice. Girls.

Current favorite place: Any tropical waterside location. I dream of moving to Hawaii.

Favorite drink: I’m a whiskey lover with a growing collection.

Current obsession: DIY things. I’ve been building my own furniture, and it’s so addicting. It’s arts & crafts meets functional avant-garde artistry!

Pet peeve: Bad smells (breath, body odor, feet, etc.).

Habit I need to break: Hot Fries, Hot Cheetos, Hot Cheetos Puffs … the whole damn Hot Cheetos family needs to leave me alone! Or rather, I need to leave them alone.

Hidden talent: Latin ballroom dancing, i.e. salsa, mambo.

Talent I’d like to have: Drawing. Although my stick figures will give yours a run for their money.

Word or phrase I most overuse: I try never to over- use words or phrases. Keep it fresh on the daily.

Someone you follow on Twitter we’d be surprised about: I just logged in to see and I have no clue why or when I started following Harry Styles of One Direction.

Greatest fear: Spiders. Nasty little buggers.

Motto: Live, love, learn, laugh.

What’s cool about being Asian: Getting cash- money on New Year’s and Korean food.
My job in another life: Actress!

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

VOICES CARRY

Story by Ada Tseng. 

In so many ways, music defines a generation or a culture, giving us the soundtrack to our multilayered, bicultural landscape. And the 10 women we highlight here not only lay it all on the line and bare their souls in their music but, each in their own way, do much to round out a picture of what it is to be an Asian woman in America. Our cover girl Yuna defies the modern definition of pop star with her inimitable voice juxtaposed with a girl-crush-worthy style of chic turbans and covered-up ensembles. We have the gossamer voiced Priscilla Ahn, whom we feel like we’ve grown with as her life journey (and music) goes from melancholy to bliss. Then there’s the flame-haired Hmong American hard rocker and an indefinable artist whose voice is featured in one of the hottest hits of the year. From sweet little ditties to feminist anthems, from odes written in the throes of love to songs that feel more like a cathartic purging, their music moves us, inspires us, rocks us. Take a glimpse into the meaning and memories behind the melodies.


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1) YUNA
“The Malaysian singer has gotten a lot of questions about her Muslim heritage since her debut in the United States, a country not accustomed to seeing a pretty girl in a turban singing and strumming her guitar onstage…” CLICK HERE to read the full story.


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2) AWKWAFINA
“Nora Lum — the Chinese- Korean American rapper known as Awkwafina— admits that her catchy moniker doesn’t really mean anything. She chose it mostly because it sounded ridiculous as a rap name…” CLICK HERE to read the full story. 


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3) PRISCILLA AHN
“Priscilla Ahn — the biracial Korean American singer-songwriter — was so skilled at creating music from feelings of sadness and loneliness that when she suddenly found herself happily married, she realized she was a bit lost. “ CLICK HERE to read full story.


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4) ALLEY HER
“The fiery, scarlet-haired vocalist of the alternative metal band Fields of Prey never even listened to hard rock before she met her friend and former bandmate Ricardo Guevara in 2010. “All the screaming frightened me, to be honest,” remembers Alley Her…” CLICK HERE to read the full story.


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5) HOLLIS WONG-WEAR
“That girl singing the hook from Macklemore & Ryan Lewis’ hit song “White Walls?” That would be Hollis Wong-Wear, a frequent collaborator with the Grammy-winning hip-hop duo — and the one who inspired Macklemore to write a song about his Cadillac…” CLICK HERE to read the fully story. 


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6) CHHOM NIMOL
“Chhom Nimol, 35, the lead singer of the Los Angeles band Dengue Fever, is part of a family of well-known musicians in Cambodia. Chhom’s brothers and sisters taught her how to sing while they were growing up in a refugee camp in Thailand…” CLICK HERE to read the full story. 


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7) TERESA LEE
“While the 28-year-old is counting down the days to new motherhood (“I know this sounds insane, but I swear the baby is tapping out very distinct rhythms in my belly,” says Lee), she continues to write music and can’t wait to take their child on tour with them one day…” CLICK HERE to read the full story.


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8) NADIA ALI
“Nadia Ali first garnered attention in 2001 for her band iiO’s hit single “Rapture,” the quintessential early 2000s dance song that inspired partygoers to get on their feet and lose themselves amongst the strobe lights…” CLICK HERE to read the full story.


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9) THAO NGUYEN
“The first song I ever wrote was a rap song in the third grade. I had a choice to write a book report on Charlotte’s Web or to do something else, so I wrote a rap about Charlotte’s Web. My secret dream was to become a rapper, so it was a no- brainer that I would do a rap song at that age….” CLICK HERE to read the full story. 


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10) CARISSA RAE
“One day in 2011, at a friend’s music video shoot, she met a boy, a fellow singer-songwriter named Michael Alvarado, and little did she know that after three hours of talking and laughing, he had told his friend he was going to marry her…” CLICK HERE to read the full story.

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

 

Disney’s ‘Aladdin’ Now On Broadway

Story by Taylor Weik. 

It’s finally time for everyone’s favorite thief to take his turn under the flashing bulbs of Broadway. Disney’s Aladdin, the musical adaption of the 1992 Walt Disney film, officially debuts at Broadway’s New Amsterdam Theatre on March 20. The musical features an all-star creative team, including Tony Award-winning director and choreographer Casey Nicholaw (The Book of Mormon), with music by Alan Menken, lyrics by the late Howard Ashman and Tim Rice, and book and additional lyrics by Chad Beguelin.

Of the 34-member cast, the two leads are both Asian American. Playing the title role of Aladdin is Adam Jacobs, whose mother is Filipina (Jacobs portrayed Marius in the 2006 Broadway revival of Les Misérables), and biracial Thai American Courtney Reed, whose credits include In the Heights and Mamma Mia!, will play Princess Jasmine.

“It doesn’t feel real,” says Reed about the role. “She has always been my favorite Disney princess, and now I get to bring her to life. It’s a dream come true.”

The musical comedy promises a full score with brand new songs, though Disney fans can rest assured that five of them will be from the original film. “It may be cliché but ‘A Whole New World’ is just a classic,” says Reed. “The arrangement for the show is gorgeous, and I love singing with my co-star Adam.” The production will also introduce new characters, specifically Babkak, Kassim and Omar, Aladdin’s three sidekicks.

Even the classic Disney characters will have some new lines to work with. “In expanding the story for Broadway, we’ve been able to add a little more depth to [Jasmine], and she’s a bit more modern than you may remember her from the movie, so the audience will get a chance to see a more dimensional Jasmine,” says Reed. “I just have to trust myself and my director to stay true to the essence of the princess I watched on my screen every day growing up!”

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

‘PIONEER GIRL’ BY BICH MINH NGUYEN

Story by Susan Soon He Stanton.

Engaging, humorous and unexpectedly suspenseful, Bich Minh Nguyen’s Pioneer Girl is the story of Lee Lien’s literary pilgrimage to uncover a mystery that connects Rose Wilder, the daughter of Laura Ingalls Wilder, to Lee’s own family. Lee, the child of Vietnamese immigrants, grew up in the Midwest. Her perpetually dissatisfied widowed mother shuttles Lee, her brother Sam and her grandfather from town to town as they struggle to make a living running generic Asian-themed buffets catering to Americans. A gold pin that Lee’s grandfather received from a woman named Rose in Saigon causes Lee, a frustrated, out-of-work scholar, to speculate that the pin originally belonged to Laura Ingalls Wilder. Lee abandons her mother and their restaurant to embark on a cross-country adventure, discovering secrets hidden within Rose Wilder’s papers. Reappropriating the American classic Little House on the Prairie series to echo Lee’s transient upbringing in the heartland, Nguyen’s striking prose spins a multi-generational tale that investigates the narrative we use to create our family histories. Nguyen speaks with Audrey Magazine about her latest novel.

Q: Can you talk about your inspiration for intersecting the life of a young Vietnamese American woman with the Little House on the Prairie saga?

Bich Minh Nguyen: As a child, I strongly identified with Laura Ingalls Wilder. Her family was always looking for a home, a right home, where they wanted to be. In the back of my mind, it resonated with me as an immigrant story. I came to America in 1975, and I think what my family went through in resettling paralleled the Little House on the Prairie books I was reading.

I wanted to create a link between Lee’s family and the Ingalls. Both the Ingalls and the Liens are constantly moving. A phrase used in the Little House books is “itchy wandering foot.” The pioneer spirit is the belief that there’s got to be something better if we just keep moving — we just need to find out what’s beyond those hills, what’s beyond the visible horizon — and that feeling can be intoxicating.

Q: Lee is discriminated against for being an Asian American Wharton scholar. She’s constantly pushed towards ethnic lit. Is that something you’ve come up against while writing this book?

BMN: It can be difficult for writers of color to write about people who are not of their own background, without facing some kind of criticism. There’s a belief held by many people that if you are a person of color, you should only be writing about your own experience. When I began, many people were puzzled why an Asian American would be interested in writing a story involving Little House on the Prairie. The notion was that these books are so iconically American, why would an Asian American be interested? I wanted to question that questioning, to create a narrative of the Rose Wilder stories with the story of the protagonist, Lee.

Q: Lee makes some pretty juicy discoveries about Rose Wilder’s personal life. How much of it is true?

BMN: I took a ton of liberties. However, I did spend a lot of time reading Rose’s journals at the archives. But Lee’s theft of archival materials is made up. It’s not something that I would do myself, but I love imagining it. The Rose Wilder Lane papers in Iowa are cataloged in a fairly messy way. I was surprised there were so many souvenirs and trinkets jumbled together, and the thought crossed my mind, “Boy, you could just take one of these things.” Every once in a while a scholar will find a treasure trove of lost letters. I’ve always loved this idea. You’re an ordinary scholar, and you make an accidental and incredible discovery.

In Rose’s papers, I did find a photograph of a Vietnamese man that she took while in Saigon. The photo struck a chord. I thought, maybe she really did develop friendships there. It was the first connection I could make between something having to do with Laura Ingalls Wilder and the Vietnamese American experience.

 

Q: Your descriptions of the pseudo-Asian buffets in small Midwestern towns are appalling and fascinating. Did you have a lot of experience eating at those buffets growing up?

BMN: I did. And for research purposes, I had to go back. I went to the worst ones, the most grimy and rundown. For years it fascinated me that these restaurants are in the middle of nowhere but are somehow surviving and run by Asian people. They serve corn syrupy fast food. It’s really American food more than Asian.

Q: Lee’s brother, Sam, chooses to move to San Francisco to be around other Asians. You grew up in the Midwest, but you have recently moved to San Francisco. Can you speak more about your motivation to relocate Sam?

BMN: When I wrote Pioneer Girl, I was living in the Midwest. I had no idea that I would ever move to the Bay Area. Part of the Midwestern experience for me is conflicted. When I was growing up there, I always thought, this is where we are, this is our home. However, there’s a longing to see what the coasts are like because all you ever hear is that life is on the coasts, in California or New York, and the middle is just fly-over country. I wanted there to be a character who not only felt that way but did something about it. But it’s not a positive thing Sam does; it’s a selfish thing, and that’s what happens to a lot of Midwesterners who leave. It can feel like you are abandoning something. I wanted to get at that feeling.

Details Hardcover, $26.95, bichminhnguyen.com.

 

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

I Think I Am In Friend-Love With You

Story by Ada Tseng. 

Comic artist and illustrator Yumi Sakugawa’s first book tackles the intense feelings that can come with platonic love between best friends. 

Little did Yumi Sakugawa know that when she posted her comic I Think I Am In Friend-Love With You on Tumblr, it’d go viral and gather enough online fanfare for it to be published in print as her debut comic book. Sakugawa, who studied fine arts at UCLA and has had her worked published on websites like The Rumpus, Sadie Magazine and Wonderhowto, penned the story about an adorable one-eyed monster who has met its ideal best friend — but isn’t quite sure if the friend reciprocates the same feelings.

The idea is based on “friend-loves” that Sakugawa has had in the past. For her, they’ve mostly been male friends where the line between platonic and romantic is blurred, but the story, told through ageless, genderless characters, can refer to any type of platonic love. “I don’t want to date you or make out with you,” the monster clarifies in its confessional letter. “Because that would be weird. I just so desperately want you to think that I am this super- awesome person, because I think YOU are a super-awesome person.”

Sakugawa wrote the book as a therapeutic way to sort out her own intense emotions about this unique type of friendship. But once it was out in the blogosphere, she found that readers sometimes interpreted the book’s message differently. While some thought it’d be a cute gift for a best friend, others thought sharing the comic might be the worst way to reject a person who you suspect has more-than-friendly feelings toward you. The book can be a Rorschach test for people’s own views on friendships and relationships; Sakugawa herself welcomes all different interpretations. “Maybe my next book should be a sequel called Friend Zone,” she jokes.

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Excerpted from I Think I Am in Friend-Love With You, copyright © 2013 by
Yumi Sakugawa and published by F+W Media, Inc. Used by permission of the publisher. All rights reserved. 

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

Always Go Swimming With Strangers

Story by James S. Kim. 

Do you remember when you were taught important life lessons? Leave it to Ye-bin, an adorable little Korean girl, to make a completely hilarious and aww-inducing mess of things when it comes to learning about strangers.

Ye-bin’s mother asks three different times what she should do if a stranger came up and offered cookies, ice cream and even take her swimming. Ye-bin replies, “I like that!” to every single situation, even adding in a shoulder shimmy to show her enthusiasm.

The second time around, after being corrected by her mother, Ye-bin seems to be on point. Cookies? A firm “No!” Ice Cream? “No!” Swimming—can she go three for three? Swing and a miss.

Ye-bin does have some excuse for her poor showing. She doesn’t seem to be fully engaged in the conversation, as there seems to be a television running off the screen that has most of her attention. She probably only heard snippets and “cookies,” “ice cream” and “swimming,” to which any proper child would say yes to—not from strangers, of course.

 

This story was originally published in iamkoream.com 

Want more adorable Asian babies? We have just the thing:
1) The Ultimate List of Adorable Asian Babies
2) Adorable Asian Babies Who Dress Better Than You

VOICES CARRY: Carissa Rae

Story by Ada Tseng. 

In so many ways, music defines a generation or a culture, giving us the soundtrack to our multilayered, bicultural landscape. And the 10 women we highlight here not only lay it all on the line and bare their souls in their music but, each in their own way, do much to round out a picture of what it is to be an Asian woman in America. Our cover girl Yuna defies the modern definition of pop star with her inimitable voice juxtaposed with a girl-crush-worthy style of chic turbans and covered-up ensembles. We have the gossamer voiced Priscilla Ahn, whom we feel like we’ve grown with as her life journey (and music) goes from melancholy to bliss. Then there’s the flame-haired Hmong American hard rocker and an indefinable artist whose voice is featured in one of the hottest hits of the year. From sweet little ditties to feminist anthems, from odes written in the throes of love to songs that feel more like a cathartic purging, their music moves us, inspires us, rocks us. Take a glimpse into the meaning and memories behind the melodies. 


Filipino American singer Carissa Rae Alvarado, born and raised in Southern California, first started appearing in YouTube videos in 2008, crooning covers of Alicia Keys and Michelle Branch when she was still in high school. One day in 2011, at a friend’s music video shoot, she met a boy, a fellow singer-songwriter named Michael Alvarado, and little did she know that after three hours of talking and laughing, he had told his friend he was going to marry her.

A year later, there was a ring on her finger, and their individual YouTube followings only grew when they shared their proposal and wedding videos with their fans online. Eventually, Carissa Rae and Michael also officially combined their singing personas to create the duo called Us. In addition to their love songs about different stages of their relationship, their 270,000 subscribers can’t get enough of their general adorableness. The 23-year-old recalls how they got all their friends and family to sing Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believin’,” her favorite karaoke song, at their wedding reception. She admits to being scared of whales since she was 8. She loves jump roping. And they post new videos every “ThUSday.”

“My husband always knows how to make me laugh,” she gushes. “Even if it’s just a silly face he makes. I always tell him he is the most handsome and most ugly person I’ve ever met, because he can make some of the nastiest faces ever, and it just cracks me up!”

The duo recently released their sophomore pop/folk album No Matter Where You Are last November.

First Song: The very first song I wrote was about love. I was about 15 years old when I wrote it. It was basically about when you literally are so in love (in this case, it was puppy love) with a person, he or she is all you can think about. So no matter where you go, you see that person’s face.

Absence Makes the Heart Grow Fonder: My husband and I were in a long-distance relationship for a while when we were dating. He lived in North Carolina, and I was in California, so one way that we coped with the distance was writing songs about it. “Near or Far,” which is on our first self-titled album, speaks about how we don’t need to worry about the miles in between us, that I’ll always be right there with him in his heart. This song was a wonderful reminder to stay strong and never give up on us even though distance was tough.

Favorite Music of the Moment: Lorde’s album Pure Heroine has been [playing] on repeat lately. She is such a wonderful songwriter!

Instrument Envy: I’d love to learn how to play an upright bass. The instrument itself, along with the sounds it makes, just fascinates me.

Guilty Pleasure: Excessive shopping is a habit that I need to break. I personally love shopping and can’t get enough of it, but my wallet (and my hubby) aren’t as thrilled when it comes to new clothes. If I weren’t doing music right now, I’d probably be working in fashion.

Fall in love with Carissa Rae at AudreyMagazine.com/carissarae.

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

VOICES CARRY: Thao Nguyen

Story by Ada Tseng. 

In so many ways, music defines a generation or a culture, giving us the soundtrack to our multilayered, bicultural landscape. And the 10 women we highlight here not only lay it all on the line and bare their souls in their music but, each in their own way, do much to round out a picture of what it is to be an Asian woman in America. Our cover girl Yuna defies the modern definition of pop star with her inimitable voice juxtaposed with a girl-crush-worthy style of chic turbans and covered-up ensembles. We have the gossamer voiced Priscilla Ahn, whom we feel like we’ve grown with as her life journey (and music) goes from melancholy to bliss. Then there’s the flame-haired Hmong American hard rocker and an indefinable artist whose voice is featured in one of the hottest hits of the year. From sweet little ditties to feminist anthems, from odes written in the throes of love to songs that feel more like a cathartic purging, their music moves us, inspires us, rocks us. Take a glimpse into the meaning and memories behind the melodies.  


Born and raised in Virginia, Vietnamese American Thao Nguyen began playing guitar and writing songs as a pre-teen, before starting the alternative folk rock band Thao & The Get Down Stay Down with two of her College of William & Mary classmates in 2005. Last year, after years of touring and numerous albums, Thao & The Get Down Stay Down released their third full-length record, We the Common, which was inspired by Nguyen’s volunteer work at the California Coalition for Women Prisoners in San Francisco, Calif. The title track, “We The Common [For Valerie Bolden]” is dedicated to the first prisoner Nguyen ever met. Though Bolden, who is serving life without parole, has not heard the song — there are strict rules about bringing music into prison — Nguyen has read her the lyrics. “I just had a very intense interaction with her that stayed with me,” remembers the 29-year-old. “She talked about how she doesn’t want to die in there. She wants to see her daughter. I was struck by how lighthearted and casual our conversation was, yet it was punctuated with very poignant moments.”

“The Feeling Kind,” their latest music video for another single off the new album, made local news when the California Highway Patrol had to halt the shoot mid-production. It was the first music video to be shot on the new San Francisco-Oak- land Bay Bridge after it opened last September. “We had a salsa dancer dressed in full carnival regalia,” explains Nguyen, “and the outfit was beautiful but also revealing. I think traffic on the bridge came to a dead stop.” Luckily, they had gotten enough footage to make the parade-themed video.

After finishing up their We the Common tour early this year, Nguyen and her bandmates will begin working on their new album, tentatively scheduled for early 2015.

First Musical Memory: Listening to Smokey Robinson for the first time on the radio. And playing my brother’s Casio keyboard.

First Song: The first song I ever wrote was a rap song in the third grade. I had a choice to write a book report on Charlotte’s Web or to do something else, so I wrote a rap about Charlotte’s Web. My secret dream was to become a rapper, so it was a no- brainer that I would do a rap song at that age.

Best Advice: When I was 17 and living in Virginia, in the suburbs of D.C., I went to a small coffee shop show to see one of my favorite musicians, Erin McKeown. I got her to sign something, and I told her, “My dream is to do what you do.” And she was very direct and straightforward with me. She said, “It’s not a dream. You just do it.” I took that to heart, and she was right.

Inspirations: I looked up to Chrissie Hynde from The Pretenders, Cowboy Junkies and country blues players. I didn’t know any Asian American musicians when I was growing up, so I want young [Asian American] girls today to see that it’s a possibility to make music your career.

 

Check out Thao & The Get Down Stay Down at AudreyMagazine.com/thaonguyen

 

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

LOVIN’ LILAC

Get in on Pantone’s color of the year with tips from makeup artist Christina Choi on how to do orchid, lavender and plum on every type of eye. 

For spring, we’ll be seeing a lot of plums, lavenders and lilac in makeup and on the runways. I love this color trend because these shades look especially great on Asian skin tones. It’s also flattering for dark brown, brown and hazel eyes. Here, I show you how to wear this trend on three different eye shapes using Christina Choi Cosmetics. Finish each look with a sweep of Luxury Gloss in K-Pop, our new shade for spring, infused with argan oil and vitamin E — it’s the perfect complement to the lilac eye trend.


THE TOOLS:

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From left: Deluxe Stamp Brush, Angled Shadow Brush, Bullet Crease Brush and Contour Crease Brush, all by Christina Choi Cosmetics.

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Purple Galaxy Eyeshadow

 

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Island Orchid Eyeshadow

 

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K-POP Luxury Gloss

 


 EYE TYPES:

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Eyes with small crease (thin double eyelids):
-Dust a sheer layer of Splendor Eye- shadow, a baby pink, from lash base up to the brow bone using the Deluxe Blending Brush.
-Keeping your eyes slightly open, contour the natural crease line with Chai Eyeshadow, a medium matte brown, using the tip of the Angled Shadow Brush. This brush is designed specifically for a thin double crease.
-Line the upper lash line with Purple Galaxy Eyeshadow, a deep eggplant purple with silver flecks, using the Perfect Liner Brush. For a softer look, apply dry. If you want a more liquid liner effect, add a touch of water to your brush, mix, apply and wing outwards.
-Dust the lower lash base with Island Orchid Eyeshadow, a neon-lilac, using the Deluxe Stamp Brush. This brush is designed to make eye lining a breeze. Just use the side of the bristles and stamp onto the lower lash base starting from the outer corner, working your way in.

Eyes with no crease (monolid):
-Apply two layers of Island Orchid along the lower lash line using the Deluxe Stamp Brush. Then apply Island Orchid to the eyelid, blending and diffusing with the Crease Defin- ing Brush.
-Frame the upper lash line with Purple Galaxy Eyeshadow using the Bullet Crease Brush to slightly smoke out the liner. For a more dramatic effect, add a couple layers of Purple Galaxy, making the liner thicker and diffusing the edges with the Bullet Crease Brush to create a blended appearance.
-Frame the lower lash base with Purple Galaxy Eyeshadow using the Perfect Liner Brush.

Deep set crease:
-Apply a light layer of Island Orchid into the natural crease of your eyes using the Contour Crease Brush. This brush is designed to fit into a larger crease line.
-For a pop of plum, press Island Orchid on the eyelids using the side of the Deluxe Blending Brush, perfect for a larger eyelid surface.
-Contour the crease line with Purple Galaxy, using the tip of the Angled Shadow Brush. Use only a touch as this shade is highly pigmented and a little goes a long way.
-Define the upper and lower lash base with Purple Galaxy using the Perfect Liner Brush.


Christina Choi has more than 17 years of makeup artistry experience, most recently as Designer of Makeup Artistry and National Artist at Bare Escentuals. She founded Christina Choi Cosmetics for the modern woman on-the-go — a multifunctional line complementing all skin tones, eye shapes and ethnicities, with an emphasis on products and brushes that work especially well for Asian features. 

 

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


Dating Culture Shock: The Good, Bad and Fetishism of Modern-Day Dating in Japan

Story by Paul Nakayama. 

After decades of the singles scene in America, columnist Paul Nakayama discovers the good, bad and fetishism of modern-day dating in his ancestral home of Japan. 

Why would I forsake the moderate temperatures of Los Angeles and spend six weeks in the freezing, ball-numbing winters of Japan? The same reason I’ve always tortured myself— a girl. Well, and ramen. Really, really good ramen. But mostly, it’s for a girl. And while I was there, I made a few observations about the dating scene in Japan. They aren’t about my personal experiences per se, because this is my column and not my diary — I mean, journal. Men don’t keep diaries … not that I keep a journal. Wow, jet lag is nature’s crystal meth.

I should start by explaining that I was in Fukuoka, which is in southwestern Japan. If Tokyo, where I usually party in Japan, is like New York, then Fukuoka is like Chicago. In Fukuoka, like Chicago, people tend to get married while they’re still in their 20s or early 30s. So many of my girlfriend’s friends were already married. Otherwise, the first words from the single ones to me were, “Do you know any single men?”

Despite the marital aspirations of most of the people I met in Fukuoka, there was a contradictory and disappointing social trend, one that I’ve seen often in Asia. Cheating is a common occurrence. I don’t know the official numbers, but I met a lot of married men with mistresses and a lot of girls that were dating married men. It’s no surprise that in 2013 AshleyMadison.com (the affair-friendly website) made Japan its first Asian market. You can’t see my face, but I’m frowning, like I’m tempted to drive around Japan in a pickup with a TV in the back streaming Before Midnight.

But to get back on a positive note and to get back to the single people that are in search of true love, how do they find one another in Japan? While online dating is on the rise, the predominant method is undeniably the goukon, or group blind date. Basically, it’s a system where a single man and woman who know each other invite approximately four friends to meet at a restaurant or gastropub. It’s safer and less stressful. And genius. Oh, how I wish this could’ve been a possibility in my earlier years. The money saved from failed first dates aside, I — I mean, my friends — would’ve been spared all the emotional scars of humiliation. You know, like those horrible moments of dance-walking up to a girl at a club where she vehemently shakes her head “no,” and then having to shuffle back to the bar in shame. At goukon events, it becomes pretty clear who’s interested in whom, and it’s already established that everyone there is looking for something serious, meaning attendees can’t use the “I’m not ready for a relationship” line.

As great as goukons are, they aren’t infallible. Everyone is a friend of a friend, so at least there’s a level of trust. But honestly, how many of you know the sexual proclivities of your friends? Whenever my friends start dropping details, I cover my ears and sing Katy Perry songs. I heard this great/awful story of one goukon match gone awry. Apparently, they dated for a few weeks, but the guy always came up with some excuse not to let her go to his apartment. She finally found out why: he was an underwear fetishist with huge stashes of ladies’ used underwear. He’d buy them from vending machines. (They actually exist! I was as shocked as you to learn that it’s not an urban legend.) He’d even wear them to work. I may be embellishing at this point, but he might have peed on her, too. You know, I take it back. Goukons are perfect. Someone please go out there, host a goukon event and send your favorite stories to the Audrey office.

Now, once you’re dating, Japan has a whole slew of interesting and unique cultural options. For example, many people still live with their parents (or their spouses) and lack privacy, so many couples go to “love hotels,” which is essentially an upscale, usually gimmicky, pay-by-the-hour motel. They usually come equipped with karaoke, which is what I like to combine with sex (I didn’t watch porn growing up; I watched music videos). Another interesting difference is in the holidays. Christmas is Japan’s Valentine’s Day. It’s the busiest night of the year for restaurants. Interestingly, on Valentine’s Day in Japan, girls give chocolates to boys. Then a month later, on White Day, boys reciprocate. I don’t quite understand it, but it is kind of sweet.

It was a fascinating experience to hear everyone’s dating stories during my time in Fukuoka. In my case, I’m a Japanese American dating a Japanese girl, so I suppose we can pick and choose the best of both dating cultures. I like the idea of having two major romantic holidays, so we agreed to that. It was also comforting to both of us that I have no interest in wearing her underwear nor does she in mine. There are no love hotels in the U.S., at least not of the same hygienic and entertaining quality as found in Japan, so any music we make in the bedroom will have to be of our own making. Katy Perry, anyone?

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