Get to Know ‘The Interview”s Diana Bang

HERITAGE: Korean

AGE: “I’m of age.”

BORN & RAISED: Vancouver, Canada

CLAIM TO FAME: Diana Bang stars in the action-comedy film The Interview, starring James Franco as entertainment reporter Dave Skylark, and Seth Rogan as his producer, Aaron Rapoport. After finding out that North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un, played by Randall Park, is a huge fan of their show, the pair land an interview with the Supreme Leader. As they prepare for their journey to North Korea, the CIA intervenes and recruits the two to assassinate Kim. “Funny things are said. Hilarity ensues. Guffaws, chuckles, hee-haws,” says Bang, who plays the propaganda chief for Kim Jong-un and acts as Dave and Aaron’s tour guide in North Korea. As for her character? “She’s strong, kickass and loves her country.”


My go-to karaoke song: Any Little Mermaid song, but it’s a sad state of affairs if for some reason you’re listening to me sing.
The last time I cried: A few nights ago. I had a dream where I was super mad at someone while also needing to go to the bathroom really badly, but had to wait in line for over an hour.
What always makes me laugh: The unexpected.
My go-to comfort food: Cake. Cheese. Glico Curry. Soon tofu soup.
The last thing I ate: Poppyseed square. Serious deliciousness.
Current song on “repeat:” I’m a dunce when it comes to music. I kinda listen to whatever’s on the radio.
A guilty pleasure I don’t feel guilty about: Project Runway and the Food Network.
Current favorite place: In a forest on a mountain.
Drink of choice: Red wine. Fizzy water.
Current obsessions: Commuter cycling. It’s cheap, fast, easy and environmentally friendly. Plus, the helmet indent left on my forehead is highly fashionable.
Pet peeve: I don’t like it when my clothes or hair smell like food. Gotta be careful with the Korean barbecue restaurants.
Habit I need to break: Procrastination.
Hidden talent: I’m a mighty fine couch potato.
Talent I’d like to have: I wish I could sing and play the cello.
Word I most overuse: Sadly, I insert “like” into too many things I say.
Favorite hashtag: #cats.
Greatest fear: Being tickled to death by disembodied hands.
Motto: Be kind. Work hard. Have fun.
What’s cool about being Asian: Growing up in North America with an outsider’s perspective. THE FOOD. I’m on my way to ajumma-dom!
My job in another life: If I had the talent and skills, any one of the following: dancer, spy, musician, psychologist or scientist.

 

Photo by Danaea Li
Styling by Hey Jude Shop
Hair & Makeup by Aaron Wozlowski

This story was originally published in our Winter 2014-15 issue. Get your copy here. 

 

2NE1’s Album Ranks 6th on Rolling Stone’s Top 20 Pop Albums of 2014 List

 

America has been a tough market for K-pop acts over the past decade, even with the success of “Gangnam Style” back in 2012. Leave it to the ladies of 2NE1 to “crush” that precedent.

Last week, Rolling Stone named 2NE1’s Crush, the quartet’s first full album since 2011, No. 6 on their list of Top 20 Pop Albums of 2014. Crush beat out some stiff competition, including Ed Sheeran’s X, Pharrell’s GIRL and Sam Smith’s In the Lonely Hour.

2NE1 was the only Asian artist to be featured on the list after Crush quickly jumped up to No. 61 on the Billboard 200 list after its release and became the highest-selling K-pop album ever in the U.S.

“The album itself was no stiff,” Rolling Stone wrote. “In fact, it’s a canny downshift from the wigged-out ‘I Am the Best’ maximalist mash-ups of the past.”

 

 

In particular, Rolling Stone praised Crush for “Happy” and “Good to You” while singling out “MTBD,” CL’s solo track that sparked some controversy for its use of Quran quotes.

2NE1 has had a busy year in America. Since releasing the album back in February, they’ve made appearances on The Bachelor and America’s Next Top Model. 2NE1 and their fellow YG labelmate Big Bang have been consistently among the most recognized Korean artists by Western media for the last few years. G-dragon and CL, for example, recently collaborated with Skrillex and Diplo’s track “Dirty Vibe.”

–STORY BY JAMES S. KIM
This story was originally published on iamkoream.com

Skrillex Drops “Dirty Vibe” Music Video with Diplo, CL and G-Dragon

 

A growing anticipation was building over the weekend as G-Dragon and CL released preview images from the “Dirty Vibe” music video. Skrillex and Diplo have been teaming up lately under their alias, Jack Ü and more recently, they have been working in tandem with another powerhouse duo–G-Dragon and CL–to produce the song “Dirty Vibe.”

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This isn’t G-Dragon’s first time collaborating with American artists. His latest solo album Coup D’etat featured Missy Elliott, Sky Ferreira and Lydia Paek. For CL, this is the first of many collaborations set for her US debut as a solo artist under SB Projects management.

Initially when the song was released on March 17, 2014 on Scrillex’s Soundcloud page, the song was widely received by its listeners (as seen in the comments).

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However, when Red Bull premiered the music video on December 12, 2014, the reactions ranged from utter disappointment to complete love for it.

Click image to watch music video:

Click image to watch music video

Click image to watch music video

Neither Skrillex nor Diplo appear in the video and the focus is mainly on G-Dragon and CL. According to an interview he did with Redbull, Skrillex met with CL and G-Dragon in Korea and asked them to collaborate on a track that he and Diplo had been working on. Skrillex also claimed to have put significant input on the video’s artistic direction, though Redbull was the main producer of the video itself.

Despite many, many negative reactions, there were also a handful of fans defending the video:

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According to SeoulBeats, “A common theme among the initial reactions to the song is that it does not showcase CL and G-Dragon’s respective skills, but it can also be argued that this is understandable because the song is essentially Skrillex’s, with the other artists simply featuring on the track.” What’s for certain is that the “Dirty Vibe” track strays away from the iconic YG sound that fans have been accustomed to, and we can only predict that there will be more experimenting from GD and CL.

So what do you think of the song and video? What do you make of G-Dragon mostly rapping in Korean and CL mostly rapping in English? Watch the video here and make sure to comment below.

 

–STORY BY ARIANNA CARAMAT AND AMANDA WALUJONO

 

Artist Reimagines Western Fairy Tales with a Korean Twist

 

Anna built a snowman and Elsa formed her ice castle in an unnamed Nordic country. But what if the story of Disney’s Frozen took place on the Korean peninsula?

Korean artist and illustrator Na Young Wu, who goes by the handle Obsidian (@obsidian00) on Twitter, recently unveiled a series of illustrations depicting Western fairy tales as if they had taken place in Korea. Elsa’s glittering dress, for example, would look more like a hanbok, like so:

 

Check out the rest of the artist’s Korean-Western fairy tales series below. You can click on the tweets to view each image separately. The Frog PrinceThe Little Mermaid and Snow White:

 

 

Alice in WonderlandLittle Red Riding Hood and Beauty and the Beast:

 

More Hans Christian Andersen: The Wild Swans and The Snow Queen with Chinese and Japanese influences, respectively.  

You can view more of the artist’s work on her Naver blog. Follow her on Twitter (@00obsidian00).

 

–STORY BY JAMES S. KIM
This story was originally featured on iamkoream.com

Unforgettable 2014 Celebs Share Their Holiday Plans

 

On December 5, the hustle and bustle of downtown Los Angeles nightlife was alive and well on the chilly winter night. On the outskirts of Koreatown stands the Legendary Park Plaza Hotel, the venue of Audrey Magazine and KoreAm Journal’s 13th annual Unforgettable awards gala.

When entering the hotel, guests were greeted with a giant, brightly-lit Christmas tree which was not only the perfect picturesque backdrop, but it also elicited a sense of holiday spirit. Curious as to what our guests had planned for Christmas, we asked a few to see what their responses would be:


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Actress Ming-Na Wen, the recipient of the “Actress of the Year” award for her role in ABC’s hit television show Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., stated, “We’re going to Hawaii, but I’m going to decorate the house. I love decorating the house.”

A performer that night, David Choi attended the event along side YouTubers Arden Cho, Anna Akana, and Philip Wang. When asked how he was going to be spending the holidays the singer/songwriter simply replied, “I’m just going to spend it with family, visit my aunt with all my cousins.”

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For his main role in the romantic comedy television series, SELFIE, John Cho was awarded “Actor of the Year” as well as Royal Salute’s “Mark of Respect Award.” Having just had his second child last year, he replied, “I’ll be around; the kids are too young to travel right now.”

Canadian-British actress Karen David, Princess Isabelle in ABC’s Gavalvant, is also going overseas, “For the holiday season, me and my hubby are going to Australia this year because my friend is getting married. I promised my parents that when we get back that we’re going to do a sort of post-Christmas celebration with them because it’s all about time with the family and having good food. And quite frankly, I miss my mother’s Chinese cooking, so I’m going home.”

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Star of Disney’s newest animated film Big Hero 6, Ryan Potter answered matter-of-factly, “I have a bunch of videos to put together for my portfolio for CalArts, so that’ll be it. I’ll just be shooting and editing throughout the holidays, but I’ll still see my family. We’ll have a honey baked ham, so ya.”

Actress and YouTube personality Anna Akana’s response was a change of pace: “I’m going to Italy in ten days! I’m really excited. Me and my boyfriend are going to for seven days over there and then we’ll come back to spend Christmas with my family.”

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Known for her powerhouse vocals, The Voice winner, Tessanne Chin performed two amazing songs that fully displayed her talents. With the mention of the holidays, she sprung right into things, saying, “I’m so excited to see my family because we have been traveling so much this year. I actually get some special time with my husband, my sister, my daddy and my nephew. I can cook up some good food and just do nothing for at least a week or two. That sounds like bliss to me right now.”

In addition to John Cho and Ming-Na Wen, Arden Cho and Ki Hong Lee both received an award for “Breakout Star of the Year.” And this night wasn’t just about awards. There were a number of live performances that kept us on the edge of our seat. Urban dance group KINJAZ kicked off the night with captivating moves followed by a performance by Tessanne Chin, whose powerful vocals left the entire audience in disbelief. Choreographer/dancer Mike Song and beatbox champion KRNFX teamed up for an equally entertaining and humorous performance followed by another duet courtesy of David Choi and Arden Cho. The audience sang along with the sweet duo before G.NA dazzled them with K-pop. Following an opening act by Howard Chen, Yoon Mi Rae hit the stage and brought the audience to their feet. This was followed by an unforgettable encore performance with Tiger JK and Bizzy.

Living up to its name, this night was truly Unforgettable.

–STORY BY AMBER CHEN
All photos courtesy of White Rose Production.

“Big Hero 6″ Receives Golden Globe Nomination

 

Disney’s Big Hero 6 has been nominated for a Golden Globe in the category of Best Animated Feature Film.

Inspired by a Marvel comic book miniseries, Big Hero 6 follows a team of brainiacs led by 14-year-old prodigy Hiro Hamada and his huggable marshmallow-like robot, Baymax. Following a tragedy, Hiro enlists the help of his high-tech friends to hunt down a masked villain and to decipher a sinister plot that could destroy the city of San Fransokyo.

Two Korean American actors voiced supporting characters in the animated film: Daniel Henney as Hiro’s older brother, Tadashi Hamada, and Jamie Chung as the adrenaline junkie, GoGo Tomago.

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Other nominees for the best animated film includes The Lego MovieHow to Train Your Dragon 2The Book of Life and The Boxtrolls.

The 72nd Golden Globe Awards will be hosted by Tina Fey and Amy Poehler and will air live on NBC at 5 p.m (PST) on Sunday, Jan. 11. You can view all the nominees and categories here.

Photo courtesy of Disney

 

–STORY BY REERA YOO
This story was originally published on iamkoream.com

Winter Issue Extra: Michelle Phan on Feminism, Fame and Being the Boss

 

Need more of our Winter issue cover girl Michelle Phan? Here, an insight into the woman behind the Michelle Phan empire.

 

On whether she considers herself a feminist:

“The definition of being a feminist has changed so much. During the ’60s and ’70s, it was burning bras and everything. I’m like, no, I love bras. They keep my boobs up. I don’t care if they were invented by men. Who cares? It’s really hard to say that I’m a feminist because the definition is still very blurred. But I tell people I’m a humanist. I believe in humanity. I believe you need both male and female to create life. To create balance, you need structure and you also need softness.”

 

On being the boss:

“People have this idea that when you’re the boss, everything is easy, but actually no, everything is harder. You have to have accountability for all the people you bring on. It’s a huge responsibility. People who are working a 9-to-5 job, they go there, they do their job, they go home, and they can do whatever they want. But when you’re the boss, you bring work home. There’s always going to be a sacrifice. Nothing is going to be given to you for free.

“At first, it was so hard. I didn’t get any sleep. But if you really want to start expanding your business and you really want to grow, that means you need to scale. You have to hire on people to help you. Instead of working harder, it’s about working smarter.”

 

On becoming online-famous:

“I’ve seen people become obsessed with, like, trying to get the numbers, and it’s no longer fun for them. It’s almost like they’ve become a slave to chasing the fame game. Chase your passion, not your fame. Passion will be more rewarding than fame and it lasts much longer. Fame is almost like junk food. It tastes good, but have too much of it and it becomes very distracting. Passion is like eating a healthy, balanced meal. Yeah, you might not get the instant gratification, like fame. But why would you want that validation? If you really need that validation, for people to praise you and give you attention, then obviously there are holes in your life.”

 

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On oversharing:

“It’s nice to breastfeed your baby, but I don’t want to see the milk coming out of the nipple and clotting up and everything. This isn’t, like, National Geographic. But the definition of oversharing is subjective.”

 

On whether selfies are a tool of empowerment or an act of narcissism:

“Both. There’s narcissism in it — I’ll be the first to admit it. But it’s great because you should feel confident in the way you look. You should feel beautiful and want to show the world how beautiful you are. But if you’re posting a selfie every single minute, you’re brushing along the line of becoming obsessed with wanting validation, and I think that’s unhealthy. When I share a selfie, it’s almost like a hello. I don’t take a picture of myself to ask for praises. I take it to share it with my followers. A lot of people take pictures of themselves for validation. They say, ‘Ugh, I’m so ugly. I’m not wearing any makeup,’ but obviously, they look beautiful so they’re just fishing for compliments. For me, that can be destructive.”

 

On being limitless:

“Society has built it so that we have to think like we’re in boxes. If you’re a scientist, you can only be a scientist. You can’t mix science with religion and spirituality. Or if you’re a nurse, you can’t also be a football player. I saw that, and I realized, no, I don’t want to be in a box. I want to be limitless. So my whole new philosophy on life is thinking infinitely. There’s no beginning or end. Everything is a cycle. Even the plants outside come from dead cells. They used to be humans or animals. The sun comes up and then comes down and then comes up again. Having that philosophy in my head gave me a lot of peace.”

 

Don’t forget to read the Winter 2014-15 cover story here.

 

Korean Actor Lee Byung-hun Stars as T-1000 in “Terminator Genisys”

The Terminator is back, and this time around, the villainous T-1000 cyborg will be portrayed by Hallyu actor Lee Byung-hun.

Terminator Genisys is the latest installment of the sci-fi action franchise and brings a new twist to the doomsday timeline. Both a sequel and reboot to the original 1984 Terminator film,Genisys recasts all of the main characters except for Arnold Schwarzenegger‘s titular killer robot. In the freshly released trailer, Lee is briefly featured as a deadly, shapeshifting liquid metal T-1000.

Watch the clip below:

Set in the year 2029, Genisys follows John Connor (Jason Clarke), leader of the resistance, as he continues to wage war against the killing machines created by Skynet, an artificial intelligence system. Mirroring the first movie, Connor sends his loyal soldier, Kyle Reese (Jai Courtney), back in time to save his mother, Sarah Connor (Emilia Clarke), from assassination and to ensure his own existence as the resistance draws closer to victory. However, Reese ends up landing in an alternate timeline, in which Sarah becomes orphaned at 9-years old and is raised by an older T-800 robot (Schwarzenegger), programmed to protect her.

Terminator Genisys is slated to release on July 1, 2015.

 

–STORY BY REERA YOO
This story was originally published on iamkoream.com

 

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Michelle Phan, YouTube’s “Beauty Bestie,” Empowers Women From the Outside In

 

Know this face? This is the face of a CEO, media exec, lifestyle guru, music producer, entrepreneur, author, multimedia artist, beauty expert and YouTube mega-star. And according to Michelle Phan — the head of a multifaceted empire, a digital pioneer who reaches 11 million people on a daily basis,a woman who epitomizes multi-hyphenate — she could be you or me.

 

Story by Michelle Woo

 

Inside a Dillard’s department store in Tampa, Florida, Michelle Phan walked to the beauty section crammed with gleaming displays of eyeshadows and cream concealers, approached the woman working behind the counter, and said she’d like to apply for a job. Home from college in the summer of 2007, she needed to earn some money to help her single mother who had been working 15-hour shifts at the family’s nail salon. Plus, she loved beauty products and thought she’d be good at teaching customers how to use them.

The woman looked at Phan’s application and told her she needed retail experience.

Phan pleaded for a chance. Trust me, I can sell makeup, she said.

The woman said they’d call if there was an opportunity for her. Phan waited. Two weeks went by, and she still hadn’t heard back.

Undeterred, she grabbed her makeup bag, perched her laptop on a table in her patio, and turned on the webcam. Then, she looked in the camera and filmed her first beauty tutorial.

 

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PHAN HAS JUST RETURNED FROM
VidCon, a mega-gathering of online video stars held in Southern California, where she spoke on a panel, signed autographs and posed for selfies in a sea of 18,000 mostly millennial-aged attendees.

“I call it YouTube petting zoo,” she says of the annual event. Wearing a simple striped shirtdress and ballet flats, she sits on an Ikea counter stool and types on her phone while her hairstylist, Octavio, fluffs her cascade of smooth, dark curls. “You’re mobbed and you’re chased. But it’s cute.”

The 27-year-old YouTube star is getting ready for a photo shoot in her Los Angeles studio, a Pinterest-perfect space sprinkled with chic décor items — a Tiffany-blue globe, speakers shaped like hot pink gems, lip gloss tubes in a glass vase and a ceramic mug adorned with the letter “M.” On a wall, mounted inside a glass frame is a gold-plated “play” button, a gift sent to her from YouTube execs when she hit 1 million subscribers. (She was the first to do so, but that was a couple years ago. She now has 7 million “subbies” and counting.)

Since uploading that first video tutorial in 2007, Phan has become a beauty and lifestyle power brand. She’s one of the first vloggers to achieve offline fame — her videos have played on a gigantic screen in New York City’s Times Square — and her success shows no signs of fading in the way of other one-viral-hit wonders. (“I feel like the Mother Goose of YouTube,” she says, while texting advice to a friend on hiring employees.) She has her own media company (FAWN: For All Women Network), makeup line (em michelle phan, backed by L’Oréal), and subscription beauty box company (ipsy). And she’s just released her first book, Make Up: Your Life Guide To Beauty, Style and Success—Online and Off.

While she started with straightforward videos on how to apply makeup — which have ranged from the practical (“Brow Basics” and “5 Ways To Plump Your Lips”) to must-hit-the-share-button-now shocking (she’s transformed herself into icons such as Angelina Jolie, Lady Gaga, Game of Thrones’ Daenerys Targaryen and even Barbie, a clip that has logged more than 57 million views) — Phan has evolved over the years into a self-proclaimed “life guide.” Like a modern-day Emily Post, she tackles topics spanning from hostess gifts to “textiquette” to starting over after a breakup, sharing bits of wisdom on YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and her blog with her legions of fans who eagerly seek guidance on how to be all things Michelle.

It’s a life where every digital move is strategized, calculated and deliberated. At her kitchen counter, Phan’s team hovers around laptops and reviews the font on a promo flier for an upcoming live Twitter Q&A. During a conference call, they finalize the social media hashtags for her new book. Watching Phan in real life is sort of like being sucked into an infomercial. (I decided I needed to buy the teeth whitening device and detox vitamins she uses after she gushed about them. And no, neither company has paid her.) Yet she never comes across as mechanical. Instead, Phan is charming and exudes an everywoman realness, like an in-the-know friend. Naturally, her YouTube nickname is “Beauty Bestie.”

To Phan, branding is not about manufacturing fame, but about always presenting your best self, which she believes all young women should aim to do, Internet sensation or not. It’s also about embracing a DIY attitude at a time when financial certainty is scarce. “I was reading that we may not have Social Security money,” Phan says as a makeup artist brushes her eyelids with color. “It’s going to run out, so there’s not going to be any retirement money for you and me. So I told myself, I don’t want to depend on the system; I want to depend on myself. People my age paid so much money for college, and they’re in debt right now and can’t get a job because they have no job experience. How does that system even make sense?”

Phan wants to help lead a new movement, one that urges young men and women to build their own businesses, whether it’s making web videos or opening a food truck. “The Internet is changing the marketplace,” she says. “It’s no longer about conglomerates, but about sharing. It’s about asking, ‘What can I contribute to society? How can I make society better?’ People think, oh, well, you make makeup tutorials. It’s like, no, no, no. You don’t realize it’s not just makeup tutorials. It’s videos empowering women. When you have women feeling good about themselves, that can change the entire world.”

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PHAN WASN’T LIKE THE OTHER girls at school. She had little interest in hanging out at the mall or playing Truth or Dare at sleepovers. Instead, she often spent her days sitting in her bedroom with an encyclopedia set that her family picked up from a yard sale, reading it from A to Z. “I was obsessed with Egypt,” she says, her eyes widening. “I learned how to write my name in hieroglyphics and made my own mummy and sarcophagus using papier-mâché. I kept it in my closet. My mom would always tell me to throw that thing away.”

She reflects a lot on history and the concept of time. It’s something that shapes her, fuels her. “I’m not interested in Hollywood scandals,” says Phan. “They’re so trivial. All these people that you see in this town think they’re ‘it.’ It’s like, no, you’re not. You’re very temporary, and so am I. When you think about it, the invention of the car was about 100 years ago. Such significant changes can happen [in a short time]. Imagine if everyone came together to work for a common goal rather than just going off and becoming the king of the world on their own.”

Her own history, as she tells it, begins in Vietnam. Both of Phan’s parents fled the terror of war in the late 1970s. During his escape, her father spent three months on a boat carrying refugees to Hong Kong. Many passengers died, and he watched as bodies were tossed overboard. “The cold,” says Phan. “He’ll never forget how it felt. It went straight through his bones.” Years later, Phan was born in Boston. Her father gave her the Vietnamese name Tuyet Bang, the word for avalanche, to capture that “unstoppable force.”

When Phan and her brother were babies, her parents stuck a crib in the back of a $600 van and drove for four days from Boston to San Francisco. There, her father developed a gambling addiction and would often lose the money they needed for rent. In one year, the family was evicted 10 times. “My mother would hide money inside my teddy bears and jacket pockets,” Phan recalls. “She’d say, ‘Don’t tell Father.’ I had to learn these mind games growing up. It sucked.”

They eventually moved to Tampa, and after a short time there, Phan’s father, who had been struggling in the flooring business, announced he was going back to Boston to look for work. He never returned. Phan says she always had it in her head that she’d find him again, and when she finally did as an adult, he told her that the moment he walked out, he knew she would be OK in life. She still loves him, she says. “He was a risk taker, kind of like me. He was just very lost.” When asked what her father’s best attribute as a parent was, she says, “He left us alone.”

High school started out miserably. As one of the few Asian Americans in her Florida town, she was taunted by kids who’d yell “ching-chong” and “do Jackie Chan moves” when she walked through the halls. “I was an emotional punching bag,” she recalls. She tried to cope the way many other young girls do — by changing the way she looked. To fit in with the Latina girls, she would lie in the sun until her skin was golden bronze, slather her hair with baby oil and wear “giant earrings with my name on them.” When she decided to try out the “hood look,” she asked her black friends to braid cornrows in her hair. “Part of it was insecurity,” Phan says of her experimental makeovers. “I didn’t think being me was good enough. But part of me liked it. I was this very emo kid. Wearing these masks empowered me to show different sides of myself. I could change my book cover.”

 


 

AS MALCOLM GLADWELL HERALDS in Outliers, his best-selling book on success, timing is critical. (His prime example is that several tech revolutionaries were born around 1955 and were about 20 years old at the dawn of the Computer Age — Bill Gates, Steve Jobs and Paul Allen, among others.) For viral YouTube videos, it was 2007 that heralded a new era. It was the year the world was introduced to the hit clips “Charlie Bit My Finger,” “Chocolate Rain,” “Leave Britney Alone!” and the bait-and-switch meme known as “Rickrolling.”

Two thousand seven was also the year that a 20-year-old Phan uploaded her first makeup tutorial video. She had grown up with computers, selling candy with her brother at school to scrape together enough money to buy a bubble-shaped Apple iMac G3. At 15, she would read blogs and share her drawings of anime characters on the social network Asian Avenue, where she was known as “Asian Goddess.” She then joined the popular blogging platform Xanga, chose the username RiceBunny and wrote entries on topics ranging from how to make a ninja mask to how to curl your hair. Thousands of people read and commented on her page daily. “My ambition was to be popular online because I wasn’t popular in real life,” Phan writes in her book.

Using money that her uncle gave her family after visiting once and seeing that they had been living out of boxes in a single bedroom, Phan enrolled at the Ringling College of Art + Design in Sarasota, Florida. That year, the college announced it would give each freshman student a MacBook Pro.

It was with that MacBook Pro, just seven years ago, that Phan decided to make a video titled “Natural Looking Makeup Tutorial,” filming it in the patio of the home where she was renting a room. In the clip, edited with iMovie, Phan applies makeup for seven minutes, dabbing concealer under her eyes with her ring finger, filling in her eyebrows with eyeshadow and lining her eyelids with liquid eyeliner. She chose not to speak on camera, a stylistic decision that would become one of her trademarks. “I figured if someone is watching this, she’s probably not going to want someone who’s, like, ‘Alright, guys, now take your eyeliner and line your eyes!” she says, imitating a perky Valley Girl. “I wanted something softer, something very therapeutic and spa-like.”

Instead of talking into the camera, she records a separate vocal track, her lulling voice narrating each step over soft music. The result is so hypnotic that even those with zero interest in mascara can’t help but hit replay. She wanted to channel the late Bob Ross, star of the oddly captivating PBS show The Joy of Painting. “You know,” Phan says, “the one with the ’fro who was always like ‘happy clouds’ and ‘happy grass’ and was probably, like, baked out of his mind.” As for the tutorial, she says, “No one did it the way I did.”

Almost instantly, people started watching and then telling their friends. They would comment that she was beautiful and her voice was so calming and, hey, can you teach us how to do a smoky eye next? By the end of the week, the video had received more than 40,000 views.

Phan started posting more tutorials, and during breaks between classes, while the other students would wander outside to have a cigarette and gossip, she would open her YouTube page and hit “refresh,” watching the number of pageviews rise. Her teachers would tell her to stop getting distracted by this little hobby, but she knew it was becoming something more.

Before the days of savvy job seekers stamping their Klout scores on their résumés, when the term “followers” would more likely bring to mind images of a religious flock, Phan says she was already thinking about ways to build an online audience. She felt that it would help her somehow, even if it wasn’t quite clear how. “I saw what was happening,” she says. “I saw people graduating and not getting jobs. I just wanted to have my own little safety net that I built myself. I wanted to have some sort of advantage. I knew about the power of networking and the power of getting on people’s radar.”

Hank Green, co-creator of VidCon and the Vlogbrothers (a wildly popular YouTube show that he hosts with his brother, John Green, author of The Fault In Our Stars), explains, “Michelle wasn’t just one of the first beauty creators on YouTube — she was one of the first creators on YouTube. By mixing useful tutorials and tips with a positive and affirming outlook on life, she helped to define an entire genre of video that has become hugely influential.”

The little “hobby” also started bringing her a little money. Through her YouTube channel, Phan started earning 20 cents a day, and then $20 a day, and then $200 a week. Soon, she quit her part-time job as a waitress at a sushi joint. The restaurant owner shook his head and told her she could come back once she woke up to reality. But she insisted that he give her job to someone else. “If you give yourself a safety net, you give yourself that doubt,” Phan says. “But if you remove that safety net, you don’t even have an ounce of failure in your head. Because you can’t. It’s all-out or nothing. Success or bust.”

Phan was entering her final year of college and was supposed to choose a topic for her thesis. She had narrowed it down to either a project inspired by the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse in the Bible’s Book of Revelation, or a makeup line. Then one day, she got a message from Kerry Diamond, then the head of public relations at French cosmetics powerhouse Lancôme. Execs wanted to fly her to New York for a meeting. When she got there, they told her their deal. The company had been making big-budget beauty videos with supermodels and professional makeup artists, and no one was watching them. “It was like crickets,” Diamond says. “We would get maybe five views a day, and that was from me and my team.” Curious as to what people were watching, Diamond started clicking on the “related videos” on YouTube and kept noticing Phan. “There was something very different and very special about her that I don’t think anyone could put their finger on,” Diamond says. “She had a certain je ne sais quoi. It was kind of magic.”

In a bold move, the company made Phan their official video makeup artist and online spokesperson. The gig involved flying all over the world — Paris, Hong Kong and Beijing — for magazine photo shoots and other events. At that point, Phan had to make a decision. “I said, you know what? I’m gonna do this Lancôme thing for a year, and if it doesn’t work out, I’ll go back and finish my final year of school.”

She’s never been back.

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“NO ONE IS PERFECT AT EVERYTHING,” Phan says, speaking into the camera and holding an amethyst stone in her hand. “We’re all made to be perfectly imperfect, kind of like this crystal. See, it’s not perfectly cut like a flawless diamond, but it’s beautiful in its own unique way. There won’t be another crystal like this one, and just like you, it has many, many facets.”

The video, “How To Build Self Confidence,” released this past summer, is filled with Phan’s personal tips on how to find your best qualities and pass on your gifts to others. Like the many other videos on her YouTube channel, Michelle Phan, it oozes with G-rated, Disney Channel-esque charm. Over the years, the production values of her videos have gotten snazzier (she now has a camera guy, a lighting person and a production manager), but the basic formula remains the same — at their heart, it’s simply Phan talking to her viewers, sharing stories and wisdom. She shakes her head when new vloggers become obsessed with buying the latest video gear and software. “When I was little, my mom couldn’t afford a Halloween costume, so she drew an upside down triangle on my nose with lipstick and whiskers on my face with black eyeliner and we found a homemade lion costume at a thrift store, and I was a beast. That’s my philosophy in life. You already have everything. You have your hands and your mind, the most powerful tools that you’ll ever need.”

Phan, who calls herself a “multi-media artist,” holds on to that do-it-yourself mentality, and says she’s involved with every aspect of her brand. Living in a sort of online fishbowl, she’s also hyper-aware of her every move and how it might be viewed, and she shields her persona with fervor. “Because I’m a public figure, I have be mindful of what I say,” she says. “So I can’t just post a picture of me super drunk and being like, ‘YOLO!’ [‘you only live once’— the ‘carpe diem’ for the Twitter generation]. Branding-wise, that doesn’t work with my image.” Nudity, she says, is also “off-limits” and “something I only want my lover to see.”

She advises young girls to think of themselves as their own brand, and before they post anything online, they should ask themselves if they’d want their grandmother, future kids or future boss to see it. When she looks at her old Xanga posts, she cringes. “I think, oh my god, I was so annoying. I was this 19-year-old girl writing in all caps. Super obnoxious.

“I’m at a point in my life where I’m no longer a girl,” Phan adds. “I’m a woman. And because I’m a woman, I have more freedom. And because I have freedom, I have to be careful about the decisions I make. When you’re young, you think you’re invincible, but then things happen in your life, and you’re like, actually, I’m not invincible. I’m actually very fragile as a person. So you become more careful with what you do.” As for online attackers (and she has her share of them — multiple Michelle Phan hate-sites exist in cyberspace), Phan sees them as “terrible potholes.” The best way to handle them, she believes, is to ignore them or send them love. “I’ll say things like, ‘Hey, I’m praying for you.’ If they have to punch my online persona so that they can feel better, well, at least I helped them feel better. You just have to think of it that way.”

Phan’s rise to mega-fame has placed her in vulnerable territory. This summer, she was sued by electronic dance music company Ultra Records, which accused her of illegally using songs of its artists in her videos, including a track by Grammy-nominated DJ Kaskade. (Kaskade actually supported Phan, tweeting, “Copyright law is a dinosaur, ill-suited for the landscape of today’s media.”) Phan has countersued, claiming she did receive permission to use the songs. Her team declined comment on the lawsuit and instead directed me to the news of Phan’s latest venture — she’s launching a new music label with Cutting Edge Group called Shift Music Group.

The online artist never envisioned herself as a business founder and CEO, but now that she’s in that position, she’s urging others to get out of the corporate system, too, if that’s what they really want. This year, Phan inked a development deal with Endemol Beyond USA, the digital arm of global TV production firm Endemol. Her role is to build a female-focused lifestyle network, mentoring new talent and developing programming ideas with them. She believes that today’s digital revolution is shaking the structure of society in a fundamental way — and that’s a progressive step. “Things are getting worse right now, politically speaking, all over the world,” she says. “When you look at how just 1 percent of America’s population makes this amount of money while the rest is suffering, that shows you there needs to be a change. People complain about millennials being lazy because of computers. OK, then remove computers from school and just have dictionaries and encyclopedias, but is that really gonna better them? Yeah, they may not have to physically open things or do the manual work, but that gives them more room and time, and I think that with the right environment, you can really inspire them to become super programmers and brilliant people for the future.”

They can start by simply sharing what they know, whether it’s makeup or home décor or funny jokes, says Phan. Chances are, they’ll connect with someone. Once, at a meet-and-greet, a young man came up to Phan and told her that he started watching her tutorials after his mother was diagnosed with cancer. She had lost her hair from chemotherapy and was so weak that she couldn’t even lift her hands. Knowing that she always loved putting on makeup, the son decided to raid her cosmetics bag and do it for her, to connect with her and make her feel beautiful up until her final days.

“It’s not a superficial thing,” Phan says of makeup. “Beauty is your face. It’s what people look at when they’re speaking to you — your eyes, your mouth. It’s your persona. I have this bond with my viewers because I’m showing them how to find their own beauty, on the outside and within.”

After the photo shoot, Phan slips back into her shirtdress and flats, a breezy, no-frills ensemble that she says she would “wear every day if I could.” For a woman who made a reported $5 million in 2013 (her team declined to confirm her financials), she lives with extraordinary simplicity. When not working, she’s hanging out with her boyfriend, model Dominique Capraro, or watching documentaries like Sirius Disclosure. She sleeps on a futon sofa and uses the same bag from years ago. “I don’t have attachments to things,” she says. “I don’t want to own things because ultimately what happens is that the things start owning you.” She adds that having the philosophy that life is not a ladder but “a circle” has given her great peace. “I’m no longer chasing this idea of being successful and having money. Now it’s like, what can I do with this money? This money doesn’t buy me happiness. It buys me the freedom to build something even bigger that can help the whole world.”

At the end of the interview, I ask Phan if we can take a selfie together. After all, she’s the reigning queen of the art — her video “How To Take The Perfect Selfie” has been viewed 2.8 million times.

She gleefully agrees, holding my phone while extending her arm out in front of us.

“Always hold the camera up and look up,” she says. She elongates her neck and turns her face toward the natural light. Then she looks into the camera with confidence and smiles.

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Story Michelle Woo
Photos Jack Blizzard
Stylist Reichelle Palo
Makeup Jayme Kavanaugh
Hair Octavio Molina

This story was originally published in our Winter 2014-15 issue. Get your copy here

 


Brian Tee Cast As Hamada “Jurassic World”

 

On Tuesday, Universal Pictures released the trailer for Jurassic World, the fourth installment of Steven Spielberg’s Jurassic Park series, and if you blink, you may miss seeing Brian Tee in action.

Starring Guardians of the Galaxy‘s Chris Pratt, the sci-fi action-adventure film takes place 22 years after the events of Jurassic Park and is set in a “fully functional” dinosaur theme park that was originally envisioned by John Hammond. As tourist attendance rates begin to dip, the park’s researchers decide to create a new attraction, a genetically-modified hybrid dinosaur. However, things quickly backfire when the bloodthirsty hybrid escapes from the labs and runs amok in the packed park.

 

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A few months ago, pages from the Jurassic World script were leaked online and introduced Brian Tee’s character, a 52 year-old “greying Japanese badass” named Katashi Hamada. In the excerpt, Hamada warns the other characters about the danger of feeding the new hybrid dinosaur live animals–hinting that once the creature tastes living flesh, it will never seek alternative food sources.

“Trust me. You don’t want this animal to taste things that move and bleed,” Hamada says, ending his badass monologue.

Jurassic World is slated to be released on June 12, 2015.

 

–STORY BY REERA YOO
This story was originally published on iamkoream.com