Destination: Manila, Philippines

Story by Kristine Ortiz.

Often considered by many tourists as a place to just “skip over,” Manila is slowly changing such impressions by emerging as the heart of Philippine development and by reflecting a strong Filipino spirit (Haiyan relief efforts were still going strong here). It’s a place where you can now find the traditional and the modern side by side, from the quaintest coffee shops to the most luxurious high-end boutiques (Hermès, Louis Vuitton and Prada to name a few), if you just know where to look. Though it may not be perfect, Manila is one of the most fascinating places in Asia today. Here are some of my favorite picks.


EAT

xocolat

Xocolat
Satisfy your sweet tooth at this cozy Quezon City cafe, which specializes in everything chocolate. Some personal favorites include the Xoco Latte, Churros and Chocolate, and the Chocolate Fries. With its charming, hand-painted decor and too-cool outdoor seating (popular with nearby university students), it’s the perfect place to spend a lazy afternoon. Details: Xocolat.com.ph.

Conti’s Bakeshop & Restaurant
Open since 1997, Conti’s has combined traditional, homestyle Pinoy cooking with a contemporary dining environment. Expect attentive service and mouthwatering meals. Be sure to get the mom-approved fresh lumpia (my mother is a fan), lechon kawali (fried pork belly) and a generous slice of their famous cakes. Details: Contis.ph.

 


PLAY

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Intramuros Walking Tour
Former theater actor Carlos Celdran guides both locals and tourists alike on this two-hour tour of the “Walled City.” Undeniably entertaining and brilliantly thought-provoking, Celdran provides new insight into Manila’s history. As an added bonus, there’s free halo-halo at the end of the tour! Details: Celdrantours.blogspot.com.

19 East
Wanna hear what OPM (Original Pilipino Music) is like? Then look no further than 19 East. This music bar is the top spot to catch some of the best acts in the Manila music scene today. Besides the great music, this bar has a mean food and drink menu. Details: 19east.com

 


SHOP

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TeamManila
Started in 2001, this modern lifestyle brand has become a local favorite by taking cues from the distinct imagery that makes up life and culture in Manila. Expect to find prints, shirts and mugs emblazoned with the images of national hero Jose Rizal, jeepneys, Philippine catchphrases and iconography. Details: Teammanilalifestyle.com

Sunnies by Charlie
The brainchild of It-girl Georgina Wilson, Sunnies by Charlie is a too-cool boutique that features a quintessential Manila must-have — sunglasses. With on-trend offerings (we spotted some great Karen Walker and Prada dupes) that are also affordable ($12 or less), it’s hard not to pick up a pair or two. Details: Sunniesbycharlie.com.


STAY

soft
Sofitel Manila

This luxury resort is a true oasis amidst Manila’s infamous hustle and bustle. Looking to really treat yourself? Consider booking the 1,800-square foot Opera Suite, which features an incredible panoramic view of Manila Bay. Looking to indulge? Their buffet, Spiral, is hands down one of the best in town. Details: Sofitelmanila.com.

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

About a Boy, About a Dog: An Uber Cute Photo Series

Story by Julie Ha.

There are dog lovers, and there are baby lovers. But both audiences can appreciate a series of oh-so-adorable pictures recently released by L.A.-based photographer Grace Chon.

The Korean American, who previously shot photos for KoreAm’s feature story on the most popular dog breeds among Koreans, is a commercial animal photographer, but since becoming a new mom 10 months ago, she’s added babies (human ones) to her repertoire.

“I’m a total crazy dog lady and first-time mom,” Chon confesses. Her 7-year-old dog Zoey and 10-month-old baby boy Jasper, of Korean and Chinese descent, inspired this photo series called “Zoey and Jasper.”

Chon said that both “inexplicably love the camera, and when they’re together, it’s adorable.” Well, just take a look.

The photographer has been snapping photos of her dogs Zoey and Maeby dressed in absurd outfits for years, but after she had Jasper, she realized that dogs look “amazing and ridiculous” wearing baby hats. “I took a photo of Zoey wearing Jasper’s hat, and my sister had the brilliant idea of sitting themside by side in a single shot,” said Chon, describing the origins of this photo series.

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“Zoey is an extremely shy rescue dog and hates new things—they make her shake in fear. But for some odd reason she loves clothes and absolutely loves posing for the camera,” adds Chon. “Jasper, being a photographer’s kid, loves the camera, too.”

For more of these precious photos, visit http://zoeyandjasper.tumblr.com/.

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This story was originally published in iamkoream.com.

Yuna Kim Sings (Yes, Sings) Popular ‘Frozen’ Song

Story by Julie Ha. 

Anyone still bitter about South Korean skater Yuna Kim not winning gold at the Sochi Olympics under a cloud of controversy?

Then, it might be worth viewing a neat new video of Kim singing and skating to a popular song from the hit film Frozen. The video is from a newly released commercial for Samsung Consumer Electronics’ new Smart Air Conditioner Q9000.

Can you guess which song from the movie? Hint: “The cold never bothered me, anyway…”

As Kim is heard singing “Let It Go,” the famous anthem from Frozen, Kim is seen performing on the ice and then later recording the popular song with a children’s choir. The video has already attracted 786,000 views on YouTube.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jEJ4OEf39iU

This isn’t the first time the 23-year-old skater has dabbled in singing. She is well-known in Korea for her singing talent and has even performed on Korean TV music programs. In this 2010 performance, she sang the Brown-Eyed Girls’ “I’m in Love” in front of an appreciative audience.

Kim was the first from her country to win an Olympic gold medal in the 2010 Winter Games and controversially won silver in the Olympics in Sochi, Russia, this past February, infamously losing to Russian skater Adelina Sotnikova. Kim is also a two-time World champion and three-time Grand Prix Final champion. She retired from competitive skating after the Sochi Olympics.

If you’re feeling nostalgic, take a look back at KoreAm‘s 2013 story about Kim, as she was making her comeback to competitive skating in the run-up to the 2014 Olympics.

 This story was originally published on iamkoream.com.

(image source)

Website Offering Platform for ‘Discreet Cheating’ Launches in SKorea

Story by Steve Han. 

The above Ashley Madison.com ad shows a drop-down menu that lets users
choose between ”a married man seeking a woman”and “a married woman seeking a man.”

An entrepreneur dubbed the “King of Infidelity” has taken his message of “life is short, have an affair” to South Korea, launching an online dating website meant to “help” married people seek extramarital partners.

Noel Biderman, CEO of Ashelymadison.com, an online matchmaking service for married people, launched the Korean edition of his website this month to “change the Korean society” while gaining profits for himself. He is tiptoeing the line between turning some married South Koreans into adulterers and advocating for what he calls social change, as he says Korea’s laws criminalizing adultery are archaic.

“I have looked through the Korean market and found that more and more people are marrying late, or not marrying at all,” Biderman told The Korea Herald. “At the same time, the rate of divorce, especially for those initiated by women, is climbing rapidly.

“I cannot talk anyone into cheating,” he added. “I am just providing them with a platform that they could (use to) have an affair discreetly … I believe that having an affair could prevent divorce.”

Exactly how Biderman hopes to use his venture to mend South Korea’s rising divorce rate isn’t clear, and he chooses not to visit Seoul because he fears the public may publicly egg him.

“I am dying to see Seoul personally, but the feedback was, ‘If you need a spanking, come to Korea,’” Biderman, a former sports agent, said.

Despite the criticism, Biderman is raking in millions of dollars by running the same website in 36 different countries, including the U.S. and Australia. Ashelymadison.com grossed about $125 million last year, according to the Herald report. It gleans its largest profits from male customers, who comprise about 80 percent of the site’s membership, the article said. Men must pay a “credit” in order to initiate a conversation; in Korea, that amount is 2,150 won ($2); women, however, don’t have to pay a fee.

Biderman said he finds the first three years of marriage the most ripe for cheating. “Those whose wives are pregnant, have kids and are less caring to husbands, those into their 40s and 50s, they are the major targets,” he said, “not to ignore the ‘Viagra generation.’”

This story was originally published in iamkoream.com 

 

Audrey Women of Influence: ELAINE QUIJANO

Story by Shinyung Oh.

“Bridgegate” breaks on the morning of Wednesday, January 8, 2014. In New York’s CBS Broadcast Center, correspondent Elaine Quijano heads to the National Desk to seize the assignment. After talking to her producers, Quijano obtains a copy of the newly released emails regarding the shutdown of lanes in Fort Lee, N.J., allegedly ordered by Gov. Chris Christie’s staff as political retribution. First, she works on verifying their content. Then, she pores over the heavily redacted documents to try to decipher what is going on. At the same time, her team works on tracking down Fort Lee Mayor Mark Sokolich, the rumored target of the retribution, to schedule an interview. Quijano fires off a draft outline to her producers before dashing out at 2 p.m.

Quijano hops in a cab to head to Fort Lee on the heels of her team members who left earlier in their satellite van. Unexpectedly, they encounter a traffic accident on West Side Highway. Panic sets in. The mayor has limited availability. The show airs at 6:30 p.m. Quijano calls her senior producers to update them while her mind races to make alternative plans. Should she hop on the ferry? Track down the mayor elsewhere? For Quijano, missing the interview is not an option. This is no time to be meek. She has to get the story.

The cab makes its way through West Side Highway and Lincoln Tunnel before finally pulling up to Fort Lee. Quijano interviews Sokolich and heads over to the George Washington Bridge where she will do her live shot. There she hunkers down in the satellite van to pull her story together.

In the segment that airs later that evening on CBS Evening News with Scott Pelley, Quijano displays none of the panic that ensued shortly before. She gazes calmly into the camera, her shoulder-length hair pulled back with not a wisp out of place and white pearl earrings dangling placidly, as she reports the story that has the potential to bring down the rumored Republican presidential favorite for 2016. She’s home by 7:30 that evening to put her three kids to bed. It’s just another workday for Quijano.

Quijano, who is in her late 30s, lives a journalism student’s dream. Upon graduating from the University of Illinois, she worked at a couple of local stations before landing at CNN Newsource and then at CNN where she covered various beats, including the White House, the Pentagon and the Supreme Court. Now at CBS as a correspondent, Quijano reports for CBS Evening News and CBS This Morning. Ask whether she thinks of herself as a success, and she’ll brush it off. “Everyone defines success differently,” she says.

But by anyone’s standards, Quijano has climbed to the top of her field. She’s reported on stories as far reaching as 9/11, the election of George W. Bush, and the U.S. invasion of Iraq. On CBS Evening News alone, more than 6 million viewers watch her nightly as she reports on events like the inauguration of Pope Francis, the trial of “Whitey” Bulger, and the manhunt for the Boston Marathon bombing suspects. She works with some of the most renowned names in the field, including Scott Pelley, Charlie Rose and Bob Schieffer.

She talks as if she simply willed herself to reach these heights. “I’ve just been persistent,” she says about her career. “It requires absolute commitment. Your will has to be such that you endure.” But any ascent requires toil, and Quijano has had her share. Take this example. When Hurricane Sandy unleashed on the East Coast on Oct. 29, 2012, Quijano bundled herself in her down jacket and winter boots to meet the hurricane in Belmar, N.J. From 6 a.m. until noon, she stood in boots filled with frigid water, pants drenched, with sand pelting her as she clutched the exterior handrail of a nearby house to anchor herself. She worried about hypothermia and felt as if she was having an out-of-body experience. In the aired footage, the ocean bellows behind her and Quijano fights to keep her eyes open against the punishing rain and wind. But what you see is a reporter at work, steadily describing for her viewers the overwhelming force of Mother Nature and the imperative to evacuate.

At such moments, Quijano blocks out all else and sees only the mission at hand. “I live in the moment,” she says. “I concentrate on it 150 percent.”

Above all else, she is prepared. In her office, she has a closet where she keeps two bags, extra clothes and weather gear, like snow boots, hand and foot warmers and everything else she may need for wherever she is sent. On any given day, at any given moment, she may get launched on a story hundreds of miles away. “This is the worst,” she says, “to be unprepared.” She doesn’t even like wearing her suits to work, preferring to change once she gets to the office, for fear of getting a stain during her commute.

Quijano says that she was first attracted to broadcast journalism in part because of the adrenaline rush. But she does not look like an adrenaline junkie. Instead, she talks like a second grade teacher, ever patient, always calm. Watch her interview the parents of Newtown victims as she listens with the intensity of a psychotherapist, her face intent with empathy. “My objective is to hear what they want to say,” she says about her interview subjects. “I try to be compassionate and respectful and try to listen a lot more than I talk.”

Interviewing Sandy Hook parents was particularly difficult. At the time, her daughter was 6, the same age as the young victims. “I found it too easy to stand in their shoes, to know how to convey the stories for those parents,” she says.

When she has a choice, she prefers a walk on the lighter side. “I like stories where the viewer is left with the feeling that the world is not such a bad place to be — people coming to the aid of others, people overcoming things,” she says. “These resonate with me.” Her recent favorites? A story on Kid President, a 10-year-old boy with brittle bone disease whose homemade videos went viral. “I always root for the underdog,” she says. Then there is the story of Diana Nyad who, after several failed attempts, finally swam from Cuba to Florida at the age of 64. This story appealed to Quijano because she takes to heart the message that failure is never final. “For many people who are struggling with whatever they have in their life, [Nyad] represents this goal — that you should do what you do. It’s a human story told within the parameters of a swim.”

When asked if she identifies with the underdog and what she had to overcome in her own history, she refuses to go there. “We’re not ones to navel gaze,” she says, referring to herself and her Filipino American family. “You do what you must.” For Quijano, failure is not an option, and it certainly does not have the last word. It barely registers on her mental barometer. She is too busy. She has stories to tell.

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

7000 Islands: A Food Portrait of the Philippines

Story by Kristine Ortiz. 

Australian-born Filipina Yasmin Newman used to visit the Philippines as a child, but it wasn’t until she became an adult that she discovered a true passion for Filipino food. Today, she presents the Filipino Kitchen Conversation program on Australia’s SBS radio, and her new coffee table book, 7000 Islands: A Food Portrait of the Philippines, is a lush collection of Filipino food, life and culture.

With stunning photos (she took them herself!) of not just native dishes but people and places that lend a richness to the recipes within, the book offers juicy cultural tidbits like the tradition of pasalubong (small souvenirs you bring home for friends and family), local fables and lore, and a bit of historical context for a full, well-rounded picture of Filipino life and cuisine. Our favorite part of the book is her take on local dining culture, excerpted here.

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How to Eat in the Philippines (excerpted from 7000 Islands)

Take in what’s on offer.
A lot of preparation has gone into this meal and a simple glance will often miss a delicious dish hiding in the banquet.

Pile your plate with anything (and everything) that takes your fancy.
A little bit of this, a little bit of that and definitely some of that over there. Don’t forget the rice.

Sit back and let the elements blend.
Multiple dishes offer more than just choice — Filipinos believe food tastes best once different flavours have combined on the plate.

Eat with gusto.
Don’t be shy! Use your hands to dip food into sauces. Feel free to move from a savoury to a sweet dish, then back to savoury — there are no rules here.

Always go back for more.
Lest your host think you’ve not eaten enough. One serving will not suffice.

Leave a little remainder on your plate.
Lest your host think you’re not full!

Let the gossiping, jokes and laughter begin.
Not much talk takes place at the start of a meal — Filipinos are too excited by the food. Once stomachs are sated, smiles can be seen around the table. Don’t rush off; here, family and friends hang out to chat for seemingly hours on end.

Details Hardcover, $39.95, available April, rizzoliusa.com.
Excerpted from 7000 Islands: A Food Portrait of the Philippines by Yasmin Newman, Hardie Grant, 2014. Food photography © Jana Liebenstein and location shots © Yasmin Newman; no images may be used, in print or electronically, without written consent from the publisher. 

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

 

Phyllis Chen Proves Toy Piano Ain’t No Child’s Play

Story by Jimmy Lee. 

When you tell people you play the toy piano professionally, hearing snickers or getting a blank stare just comes with the territory. It’s something Phyllis Chen is not unfamiliar with.

“People used to turn their noses when they heard I played classical music as well,” says Chen. “But that’s OK. That’s not a major concern of mine.”

The more pressing matters on her mind include finishing her latest commission, a composition for string orchestra and toy piano, which she will debut in April in Austin, Texas.

Chen is just one of a few musicians demonstrating that the toy piano is not just a plaything for children. “When I touched it, it was like how I felt about the piano. I just loved the tactile experience of playing it and fell in love with the bell-like sound,” says Chen, who first came across the miniaturized instrument when she was 21 (it was being used as a prop in a puppet theater). Now she’s composing new pieces and releasing CDs highlighting the toy piano. “I knew that there wasn’t a lot of music out there for it, and it made me feel like I can create new repertoire for something that doesn’t have boundaries and the traditional thinking that is expected in classical music.”

There is, however, a lot of misconceptions about what Chen does. For one, she is not anything like Schroeder of the Peanuts comics and cartoons, playing Beethoven’s “Fur Elise” on her toy piano. And she’s not the child whom producers from The Tonight Show with Jay Leno assumed she was when they inquired about her appearing — they weren’t interested in adult toy pianists, apparently. And some people who venture into one of her concerts might walk in with wacky expectations, like the one time a few audience members told Chen they thought she was going to be a miniature pianist (as in a small person).

“It’s a profession filled with misunderstandings,” says Chen.

Another refrain she hears often is that people who hear toy piano automatically assume it’s music meant for kids. But what she’s playing is verging on the avant-garde, and could even be construed as too arty; it’s music not for the masses. One of the first pieces she performed publicly was written by John Cage, the master modern composer most notorious for “4”33’,” which is 4 minutes and 33 seconds of the orchestra sitting in silence.

So how does a classically trained pianist, who started playing at the age of 5 and has music degrees from Oberlin (undergrad) and Northwestern (master’s) and is nearing completion of her doctorate from Indiana University, end up behind a toy piano? For Chen, it started with tendinitis that affected her hands. The doctors told her to take a break from the piano. “In a way, it was a blessing in disguise. It gave me the actual chance to do my own thing,” says Chen.

Her hands, since childhood, have gravitated toward sonic-producing objects. She was the one who wanted to start the piano at age 5, not her immigrant Taiwanese parents, who moved Chen, born in Schenectady, N.Y., and her brother to the South when she was 1, after her father became a professor at Virginia Tech. “Now, thinking about it, I rented bassoons, oboes, clarinets and flutes — all these things when I was a kid. I just wanted to get my hands on them and play them,” recounts Chen. “It was again the tactile experience.”

She does still play the piano, often with the International Contemporary Ensemble that she co-founded. She has also tackled the violin and yet another keyboard instrument: “I was completely in love with the accordion, and I totally thought I would become an accordion player,” says Chen. She even joined a klezmer band, but bearing it on her shoulders was too much while dealing with her tendinitis. The toy piano, on the other hand, “was an easy instrument to play because of the light touch.”

Chen exhibited that touch at a concert last September at New York City’s Joe’s Pub, while seated on a short stool. Yet she still loomed large over two toy pianos, one in the shape of an upright and the other a baby grand. You not only hear the bell-like tinkling of the notes she plays, but also the movement of the keys as they’re being depressed. And it’s really noticeable when Chen’s fingers are flying across the few octaves that fit on the keyboards. Her instruments project a clangy sound that dissipates quickly. There are no rich, resonant tones that you’d expect from a concert Steinway. And Chen is perfectly fine with that.

“[Toy pianos are] really kind of like a voice. They all have their own weird quirks,” says Chen. “It’s funny, but I’ve met instrument makers who say, you should put this into maple wood, and I could tune it for you [to make it more like a real piano]. Well, then, it’s not a toy piano if it’s perfect, beautiful sounding.”

With the toy piano, there are no unwritten rules to be bound by. Rather, the toy piano is pushing Chen to be a better artist. “I don’t feel as musically stuck anymore, or stifled by the classical tradition,” she says. “Now I could finally give myself the permission to do whatever I want and take responsibility for it.”

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

FAKY: A Multiethnic J-Pop Group On The Rise

Story by Taylor Weik.

Japan has produced a number of girl bands over the years. You have Perfume, the vocal trio who formed in 2000 out of the talent academy Actors School Hiroshima. Then there’s AKB48, the 88-member group that has sold more than 21 mil- lion CDs worldwide. But no J-pop band has ever been compared to other international vocal groups, like Britain’s Little Mix or America’s Fifth Harmony. FAKY has been likened to both, and they have only been in existence for about a year.

It was last April at Avex Academy, a Japanese school for performing artists, that the five-member girl group formed. Tina, Lil’ Fang and Anna (at 21, the oldest and so-called leader of the group) had known each other through dance classes; Mikako was a part of the same program in a different region in Japan; and Diane was the winner of Avex Audition MAX 2013. Their name is “a combination of ‘fantastic’ and ‘Tokyo,’” says Tina, the youngest at 16. “Even though it sounds like ‘fake,’ we like to think we’re the most real group here in Japan.” Since FAKY’s formation, they have already released two music videos for their iTunes chart-topping singles “Better Without You” and “Girl Digger” (they sing in English and Japanese), and are currently putting the final touches on their debut album, due out in April.

Tina says she represents the reason why they consider themselves to be so “real” — the teenager is biracial Japanese American, born in Atlanta, Ga., where she lived for four years be- fore moving to Japan. There are two other bilingual members of the group: Diane, who is also biracial Japanese American, and Anna, who is Japanese but born in New Zealand. Though Lil’ Fang and Mikako were born and raised in Japan, they’re both learning English to help establish FAKY as a global sensation.

“What sets us apart from other J-pop groups is our independence,” says Tina, acknowledging the comparisons to various international groups. “We don’t wear the same clothes like others do. Each of us has a different personality and we’re multiethnic. We’re not identical robots!” Indeed, each member boasts varying vocal inspirations: Anna is a Britney Spears fan, Tina and Lil’ Fang prefer the strong vocals of Christina Aguilera and Beyoncé, Diane leans more Lady Gaga, and Mikako is heavily influenced by J-pop bands.

Their fans are surprisingly diverse as well. FAKY takes special pride in the fact that their fanbase is largest in Turkey, and they hope to be able to visit the country one day on a world tour.

Right now, the girls are concentrating on voice and dance lessons, flying out to Los Angeles last October for training and to establish themselves overseas in the U.S. FAKY’s biggest goal as a girl group is to become role models for young girls, the demographic they most appeal to. “We want to encourage girls to be independent and not feel pressured by society,” says Tina. “As multiethnic girls, sometimes it’s hard for Diane and me to live in Japan. There are moments we feel like outsiders there, and even when we come to America, where I was born, we still feel like we don’t belong. We’ve grown to have strong cores, and we want to help others do the same.”

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

Audrey Column: SLUT SHAMING AND THE 30-YEAR-OLD (NON) VIRGIN

What happens when you tell your mom you’re not the virgin she assumed you were? As O.D.D. (Online Dating Diary) Girl found out, hilarity does not ensue. 

“You’re a slut who has wasted both her degrees. You’ve ruined your life.”

Those were the very words my mother uttered to me one night in my car after I revealed to her I wasn’t a virgin. Just minutes before, she had asked me about the guy I had been dating for a couple of months — specifically, why I was staying overnight at his place when I could just sleep in my own bed.

Like many traditional Asian mothers, my mom had chosen to believe that her daughter had remained a virgin for all three decades of her life. Most of my friends were puzzled as to why I chose to disclose that detail about my life to my mom, but in that instant, I didn’t want my mom to think that she still had a hold over my virginity — my body was not hers to keep the chastity belt on.

Then it got weird when she demanded that he ask her for permission for me to sleep over. It was as if she needed to hand over my body to him to hold and protect, like one of those traditional Asian marriages, where the groom offers a dowry to the bride’s family, except the dowry was him offering my mom some peace of mind that he would take care of me.

It’s no surprise that my parents never had the talk about the birds and the bees with me (thanks, school and cheesy romance novels). My mom knows that I know about sex because I was the one who talked to my younger brother about practicing safe sex with his girlfriend. But this was the first time that I shared private details about my sex life with my mom. Of course, sharing those details backfired on me (I shouldn’t have been surprised), but I was surprised that she actually slut shamed me. Because I wasn’t a virgin anymore, I became a failure in her eyes.

Slut shaming in society really only extends to women. The word “slut” is so easily tossed around these days. I’ll hear conversations between guys about how a girl “was a slut” because she turned one guy down, but was dating another guy. If a woman chose to have a one-night stand, she’s labeled a slut, and yet men aren’t susceptible to this label because somehow men are lauded for being sexual conquerors. Even worse, women slut shame each other for all sorts of reasons — or even for no good reason at all.

Of course, for my mother, me not being a virgin was not really about me. It was about keeping “face” and honor for a family name within a community — and that’s even more crucial because my community is small. My mom repeatedly talked about how his parents could know our family, and that it would have dire consequences (what they were, she was quite vague) for our future. We’re not royalty, and we don’t have some secret family fortune tied to me being a virgin, so I wasn’t sure what she was getting at. But what made it worse is that the males in my family are freely able to do what they want when it comes to sex.

I’ll admit, it’s hard to change the traditional views of many Asian parents out there. But I’m more concerned about the lack of safe spaces for Asian American girls who grow up in a slut- shaming culture. This idea of what and who is a slut gets passed around from individual to individual, whether it’s from our parents or passing male commentary. We internalize it, and what if, as we get older, we still end up calling our daughters sluts for doing what our sons do? It’s a big issue for women in general, but I think it’s incredibly important for women of color, as we pass on our values and ideals about sexuality and our bodies within our own communities.

So I will say this — I don’t regret telling my mom anything. I think it opens up opportunities for more conversations about topics that may have remained behind closed doors. While I feel my mom’s views haven’t changed overnight, I can say that she doesn’t really think I’m a useless slut who has wasted her degrees anymore.

The other day, I told my mom I was taking an exotic dance class. She wasn’t sure what that was so I bluntly told her, “It’s a stripper dance class, mom. We’re learning stripper dance moves.”

I thought she was going to jump on her slut-shaming tirade, but her response? “That’s nice. Have fun.”

I guess we’re making some progress then. Until next time … — O.D.D. Girl

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

‘America’s Next Top Model’ Filming in Korea

Story by Cassandra Kwok. 

Supermodel Tyra Banks and the newest contestants of reality TV show America’s Next Top Modelwere spotted roaming the streets of Seoul, causing a “frenzy” among local media, according to the Hollywood Reporter.

Local residents have been reporting on the group’s whereabouts on social media, after host Banks and her crew arrived in Seoul on March 21. The group reportedly visited various city landmarks and popular tourist attractions, including City Hall and Gwanghwamun at Gyeongbok Palace, while filming the 21st iteration of the modeling competition, which will be coed this season.

Various entertainment sites reported that 17-year-old Korean model, Lee Jin-yi, could possibly be a competitor this season. Lee is the daughter of actress Hwang Shin-hye. In addition, K-pop group BtoB will appear on the show as dance judges.

The reality TV show is known for traveling to extravagant locations with the latest trend-setting fashion. Filming of the show will continue for next two weeks under tight security.

Residents of Seoul will be seeing much more than just models wandering their streets as South Korea has been taking center stage for several international productions this year.

In just a few weeks, the filming of Avengers 2: Age of Ultron will be shutting down the streets of Seoul as reports have stated closures of many major roads and specified locations.

Earlier this year, ABC’s reality show The Bachelor filmed several episodes of its season in Korea, with contestants participating in a K-pop performance with idol girl group, 2NE1.

America’s Next Top Model will air on the CW in August.

This story was originally published on iamkoream.com.