WHERE IN THE WORLD: Top 5 Must-Go Destinations

We spoke to five tastemakers about their most favorite place in the world to spend their vacation. Now, we’ve put all the responses together just in time for your summer vacation. Still trying to decide where to spend the next couple of months? Need some tips about where to stay, what to eat and what to do? Check out our list of Top 5 Must-Go Destinations.

 

with 1
1) Bagan, Burma

Chosen by bridal gown fashion designer, Trish Lee. Read the full story here.


with 2
2) Tokyo, Japan

Chosen by actress Josie Ho. Read the full story here. 

with 3
3) Florence, Italy

Chosen by online travel magazine writer, Geena “Super G” Dabadghav. Read the full story here.

with 4
4) Algonquin Park, Canada 

Chosen by So Young bags and accessories’ Catherine Choi. Read the full story here.

with 55) Ko Lanta, Thailand
Chosen by Audrey’s editor-in-chief. Read the full story here. 

 

 

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

Understanding the Asian Glow: FRIEND OR FOE?

 

Story by Teena Apeles.

Seeing red every happy hour? Or should we say, does everybody else see that unseemly crimson creep up on your face with that first sip? It’s not just you. About a third of East Asians, and even some Southeast Asians, suffer from the uncomfortable flushing that accompanies drinking. But beyond aesthetics, the Asian glow, which is caused by a genetic condition, comes with some serious consequences. Contributing writer Teena Apeles parses out fact from fiction.

 


WHEN YOU HEAR the phrase “Asian glow,” what comes to mind? The word “glow” to me mostly has positive connotations, like “pregnancy glow,” referring to an expectant mother’s complexion and overall appearance as being radiant. Or there’s “glow” as in bright, shining.

While I’d like to think of the Asian glow, also called the “Asian flush,” as something complimentary or something one would like to achieve, for anyone who experiences this flushing of the face after drinking alcohol — or knows someone who does — it’s anything but. Me with a bright red face … not something cute nor radiant and, depending on how much alcohol I consume, neither is the feeling when I’m experiencing it: I turn dark red, I feel feverish and dizzy, my whole body throbs and I get incredibly self-conscious of my appearance because it can look alarming. If you’re in the same alcohol-induced, red-face drinker camp as I am, you know this all too well and probably just brush it off as an annoyance — or find ways to prevent it, but more on that later.

Twenty-three-year-old Faith, who works as a beauty writer, recalls the first time she got the Asian glow during college, “when I had a shot of vodka at a fraternity house,” though it didn’t seem to alarm anyone, including herself. “No one really said anything, because it seemed like common knowledge that Asians got red when they had alcohol,” says the Chinese American. “I remember seeing my dad get red when he drank beer, so I guess I wasn’t too surprised. I was more annoyed about the side effects: My heart was pounding, and I got a huge headache.”

Jeannie, a Korean American in her early 30s, remembers experiencing the Asian glow when she first drank. “Actually, I maybe suspected it even before, because my dad had it, and I’d seen other older Korean people have it,” she says. “I’m not sure if I know the science — I heard that it’s because we miss an enzyme to process alcohol, but other people describe it more simplistically as an allergy.” Jeannie goes on to echo Faith’s and my complaints about the physical effects that follow: “You don’t really enjoy drinking once it starts giving you a pounding headache.”

At last year’s Audrey anniversary gala, where cocktails and high-end whiskey abounded, Chinese American TV personality and journalist Lisa Ling opened the event by joking that she liked attending events like this — with a predominantly Asian audience — because she knew she wouldn’t be the only who would be red by the end of the night. And, yes, while that line was met with a lot of laughter, studies suggest this condition should not be taken lightly by any means, especially if you drink often. But first, let’s get down to what causes it.

 


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THE SCIENCE BEHIND THE FLUSH
The symptoms that accompany the facial flushing, which Jeannie and Faith described, are what a significant percentage of East Asians (Chinese, Japanese or Korean) experience, due to a genetic condition that prevents their bodies from breaking down the alcohol. And Jeannie is correct that a particular enzyme is the culprit.

“Between 30 to 40 percent of East Asians have a genetic variation in an enzyme called aldehyde dehydrogenase 2 (ALDH2),” explains Dr. Jessica Wu, a Los Angeles dermatologist and assistant clinical professor of dermatology at the USC School of Medicine. “This enzyme converts alcohol to another compound called acetaldehyde.” People who have a fully active ALDH2 enzyme can break down the acetaldehyde, but in ALDH2-deficient individuals, “this compound accumulates in the body and releases histamine. The combination of acetaldehyde and histamine produces the characteristic symptoms of alcohol intolerance: redness, flushing, shortness of breath, headaches, nausea and heart palpitations.”

The alcohol-induced symptoms in individuals can vary from mild to extreme, depending on whether a person inherited one or two of these variant genes. In the latter case, facial flushing can be quite severe, resulting in an almost purple flush and other symptoms. That sure takes the fun out of drinking, right? But people with this genetic variant condition still drink despite these symptoms. “My patients who are young women are especially embarrassed by this because drinking is often a part of socializing, dating and business entertaining,” says Wu.

About 92 percent of the world’s population can enjoy drinking just fine without turning red. Lucky them. But for ALDH2-deficient individuals, heavy drinking can have harsher consequences beyond facial flushing over time.

 

THE LINK BETWEEN THE ASIAN GLOW AND CANCER
Dr. Philip J. Brooks of the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism was doing research on the general topic of alcohol and cancer when, in 2007, he became acquainted with Dr. Akira Yokoyama and his “tremendous work” on the relationship between ALDH2-deficiency and esophageal cancer in the Japanese population. The two met at the International Agency for Research on Cancer. “I was struck by how strong the data was and how relatively too few people were aware of it, compared to some of the other effects of alcohol,” says Brooks.

Brooks and Yokoyama went on to write the article “The Alcohol Flushing Response: An Unrecognized Risk Factor for Esophageal Cancer from Alcohol Consumption,” published in PLOS Medicine on March 29, 2009, with colleagues Mary-Anne Enoch, David Goldman and Ting-Kai Li. If you missed out on this research hitting the news, despite it being featured in every major news outlet during that time, so did I, which is why it’s so important that you share it. Here’s your chance to separate the fact from fiction and, perhaps, spare loved ones in your life who drink a lot of headaches … or much worse.

Brooks and Yokoyama’s article states, “ALDH2-deficient individuals are at much higher risk of esophageal cancer (specifically squamous cell car- cinoma) from alcohol consumption than individuals with fully active ALDH2.” And this particular alcohol-related esophageal cancer is quite deadly: The five-year survival rate in the United States is only 15.6 percent and 31.6 percent in Japan. But what you should take from this, Brooks emphasizes, “is this cancer is preventable.”

And while it would seem that if you just have one copy of this variant gene your risk of developing esophageal cancer would be lower than if you have two copies, that’s not the case. “People who have two copies get so sick when they drink that they basically don’t drink,” he says. “Ironically, they are protected from being alcoholics, and they are actually at a lower risk of getting esophageal cancer because they just don’t drink. So it’s kind of a complicated genotype.”

 


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THE CURE FOR THE ASIAN GLOW
Let’s get one thing straight: There is no cure per se for alcohol-induced flushing if you are ALDH2 deficient, despite articles you see online. Sure, people have posted that there are ways to mask or minimize the onset of the flushing — a cursory search will even bring up some herbal remedy to take 21 days before having a drink to remove all symptoms. And some people say they have developed a higher tolerance to alcohol and experience less flushing over time, but these things are not in themselves a cure for the root of what causes it: your genetic condition.

For instance, in a 1988 article titled “Antihistamine Blockade of Alcohol-induced Flushing in Orientals” — yes, it used that term — published in the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs, the authors shared results of an alcohol study conducted on Asians. Half of the subjects received 50 milligrams of diphenhydramine and 300 milligrams of cimetidine before receiving low doses of alcohol; the other half, placebo tablets. The abstract states: “The antihistamine group showed a significant reduction in the skin flush. The antihistamine also neutralized the systolic hypotension induced by the administration of alcohol.”

Now does this mean you should start popping antihistamines before you drink so you don’t turn red? Most definitely not. According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine and National Institutes of Health, you should not drink alcohol when you are taking antihistamines, period.

Other remedies for the Asian glow you’ll see online or learn from Asian friends — as I have — are antacids, which contain histamine blockers that people have reported minimize flushing. “I actually can’t remember how I first heard about how to avoid it. I think it must have been from a friend or classmate, who recommended Pepcid AC,” says Faith. “I did some Googling and decided to try it out for myself and found that it worked, but that Zantac (which does the same thing but has a different active ingredient) worked better for me.” She takes one Zantac 45 minutes before she takes her first sip of alcohol to avoid the Asian flush and other symptoms.

While I haven’t tried antacids or antihistamines before drinking (the latter makes me feel a little loopy as it is), I must admit I’m curious to see what would happen. For once, can I not be the one bright red, unhealthy-looking face in group pictures?

Even if they do work, this is not a cure for my condition. Using anything to mask the facial flushing and continue drinking, Brooks feels, is particularly dangerous because it isn’t reducing the risk of esophageal cancer. “And to the extent it makes you think you can keep drinking more,” he adds, “it’s actually worse.”

The takeaway? If you’re an ALDH2-deficient individual, it is in your genetic makeup and can’t be changed. Therefore, there is only one sure way to avoid alcohol-induced flushing (and you know the answer): Don’t drink.

 

THE RED FLAG THAT SAVES LIVES

If something doesn’t make you feel good, consider it your body’s way of protecting you. It’s saying whatever you’re doing is simply not good for you. So here’s the silver lining on that Asian glow and its unpleasant related symptoms: These adverse reactions you experience when drinking alcohol make you less likely to abuse alcohol (this has been shown in research with groups of East Asians who have the condition) and, in turn, suffer from alcoholism and all the health risks associated with it, including esophageal cancer.

Of course, it’s difficult in social situations not to drink while the rest of the world seems to be partaking in what most consider a pleasurable pastime. But university students with this ALDH2 deficiency especially (yes, we’re talking to you, young women) should take note of the alcohol-related risks that come with heavy drinking over time.

Heavy drinking is simply bad for your health as it is. “Readers should be aware that the American Heart Association warns that drinking more than a glass of wine a day (for women) is associated with a higher risk of obesity, diabetes and heart disease,” says Wu. And if you do have alcohol intolerance, she suggests that you “drink sparingly and choose your drinking occasions wisely.” And if you care about your skin, here’s another reason to take her advice: “Repeated episodes of flushing can enlarge the facial veins, leading to permanent redness and/or ‘spider’ veins on the face.”

I’m well beyond university age, but the Asian glow still bothers me. I do wish I could happily enjoy a cocktail or beer with my friends or even my husband without consequence. But I’ll admit the condition does save me money most of the time — drinks are expensive in Los Angeles! (Except, of course, when I go out with friends and we split the bill evenly and I’m the one person who gets stuck paying extra money for their expensive glasses of wine. Goodness, if I can have that extra cash back from all those nights. …)

So what’s your verdict now that you know what causes your uncomfortable alcohol-induced flushing? Are you going to treat the Asian glow as a friend or a foe? I vote friend, because a good friend is someone who looks out for you. And to that I will toast — and wear my facial flush that follows proudly.

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

New Visions Award Contest Seeks to Add Diversity to Children’s Books

Story by Haein Jung.

Children’s book publisher Tu Books, an imprint of Lee and Low, has announced it is now accepting manuscripts for a middle grade or young adult fantasy, science fiction or mystery novel by a writer of color—one of which will be chosen as the winner of the New Vision Award. The winner will receive a standard publication contract, as well as a cash prize of $1,000. 

The contest is open to writers of color who are residents of the United States and who have not previously had a middle grade or young adult novel published. Manuscripts will be accepted now through October 31, 2014. An Honor Award winner will also receive a cash prize of $500.

“The award is a fantastic chance for new authors of color to break into the world of publishing for young readers,” read a statement released by Tu Books.

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The statement also noted that the award comes at a time when readers, and authors, are demanding greater diversity in children’s books. At this year’s BookCon, an all-white male panel dubbed the “luminaries of children’s literature” prompted an uproar and the #WeNeedDiverseBooksCampaign, an effort to push for more diversity among young adult fantasy fiction writers. Notably, Korean American author Ellen Oh, along with authors Aisha Saeed and Chelsea Pitcher, was very vocal in the diversity push, urging the public to take to social media to demand much needed change.

“At every conference I or my writer friends attend, there are kids asking why they can’t find books with characters who look like them, either on the cover or in the pages,” Oh, author of Prophecy (Part 1 in The Dragon King Chronicles, HarperTeen)wrote  in her blog. “The same thing happens at book signings, except there the kids are saying they’ve always wanted to get into writing, but don’t think they’ll be successful because they’re people of color.”

Tu Books established The New Visions Award in 2012 in an effort to offer never before published authors of color the opportunity to fund and start their writing careers.

“It is our hope that the New Visions Award will help new authors begin long and successful careers and bring new perspectives and voices to the science fiction, fantasy, and mystery genres,” said a statement by Tu Books.

For further details, including full eligibility and submission guidelines, please visit the New Visions Award page.

This story was originally published on iamkoream.com

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Hot Destinations To Put On Your Bucket List: Catherine Choi’s Algonquin Park, Canada

In Audrey‘s Summer 2014 issue, we asked five tastemakers to give us a glimpse into their must-go destinations around the world. Here, Catherine Choi, founder of family-oriented bags and accessories line SoYoung, shares her favorite place, Algonquin Park, Canada.

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Travel philosophy: If you think you might need it, bring it.

Why: At this time in my life, with three kids under 10, a full-time business and a husband who also runs a full-time business while studying for an MBA, we need peace over excitement. So while we love architecture, shopping and exploring cities, getting away somewhere where we can unwind and unplug is the hands-down choice.

Stay: I am not an outdoorsy type, but I make an exception for Bartlett Lodge in Algonquin Park. It’s just magical: from the solar-powered pontoon that takes you to the lodge to the luxury platform tents where you sleep. And no eating out of cans here — they offer five-course fine dining at their restaurant. We’re totally unplugged there.

Eat: Incredible desserts at the lodge’s fine dining restaurant. I recall feeling frustrated at having to choose only one.

Do: Jump off the dock into the cool, clear water, dry off, lie there like vegetables, repeat. Bring a pile of great reads, sit in a Muskoka chair and read to oblivion with no interruptions.

Bring: I take my SoYoung large cooler bag with me on every trip as I am a big snacker. My current go-to snacks are kombucha gingerade tea with Snapea Crisps.

Unforgettable: My husband and I decided to take a canoe out one evening. The water was so still and clear and there was silence all around us except for the sounds of nature. We stopped paddling at one point and watched the sky turn a beautiful orange-pink while the sun disappeared into the water. It was breathtaking and perfect.

 

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

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Catherine SoYoung Choi, founder of SoYoung, a Canadian line of urban, family-oriented bags and accessories, became an expert on children’s products through the tribulations experienced while carting around three young children and their associated paraphernalia. Choi holds a degree in commerce from McGill University and a master’s in things-to-bring-with-you-on-outings-with-children. 

Hot Destinations To Put On Your Bucket List: Josie Ho’s Tokyo, Japan

In Audrey‘s Summer 2014 issue, we asked five tastemakers to give us a glimpse into their must-go destinations around the world. Here, actress Josie Ho shares her favorite place, Tokyo, Japan.

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Stay: The Cerulean Hotel is very nice. Or if you have a friend to stay with, that’s even better.

Eat: Go to Maisen located in Harajuku and Aoyama. It’s a restaurant that specializes in deep fried pork cutlet sandwiches and rice. I cannot explain how great it is — you must try it.

Do: Definitely explore the small streets in Harajuku. Walking around and seeing what you can find in the corners and crevices of the small streets is a fun adventure. If you like shopping, there are so many precious things to discover.

Unforgettable: The amount of crêpes on the streets of Harajuku is just simply incredible. There are so many options to choose from!

 

 

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

josiehoNamed on Forbes’ list of the 20 Most Intriguing Billionaire Heiresses, Josie Ho, daughter of Macau casino magnate Stanley Ho, is not only a trendsetter in Asia, she’s a prolific actress and musician. Ho stars in the Hong Kong film 3D Naked Ambition, already released in Asia and hoping to come to the States later this year. She’s currently working on the Derek Kwok-helmed film Badminton, as well as her eighth album, Josie and the Uni Boys

Hot Destinations To Put On Your Bucket List: Trish Lee’s Bagan, Burma

In Audrey‘s Summer 2014 issue, we asked five tastemakers to give us a glimpse into their must-go destinations around the world. Here, bridal gown fashion designer Trish Lee shares her favorite place, Bagan, Burma.

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Travel philosophy: Why not?

Why Bagan: Only in the last couple of years has Myanmar, formerly Burma, opened up its borders to travelers, and the breadth of its beauty is still untouched by Western civilization. Bagan, the capital city of the ancient Burmese kingdom, is a vast plain dotted with 4,000 of the original 10,000 pagodas that were built between the 11th and 13th centuries.

 

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Stay: Kaytumadi Dynasty Hotel. The bungalow style hotel offers rooms that are a bit “rustic,” but you’ll really appreciate the kind staff, the privacy of the bungalows and the proximity to the ancient pagodas. Have breakfast in the garden where the ratio of staff to guest is one to one.

Eat: If Burma had a national dish, it would be mohinga. Rich in umami, mohinga is vermicelli rice noodles in a bouillabaisse made thick with white, flaky fish and a purée of lemongrass, garlic, ginger, onions and local spices. Any time of day it’s the perfect meal and widely available at most street vendor stalls.

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Do: Rent a bicycle. It’s probably a 1980s fixie, but no matter. Wake up at 5 a.m. and bike to Lawkaoushaung Temple to watch the breathtaking sunrise, away from the tour groups and crowds. After sunrise is the perfect time to visit Old Bagan and give alms in the form of a food donation to the Theravada Buddhist monks, who do not eat after noon.

Unforgettable: As I was riding my bicycle on a dirt road, a lanky young boy started riding next to me. When I stopped at the next pagoda, we started chatting. Though the 11-year-old had never been to school, he effortlessly conversed with me in English. I ended up spending the whole day with him. He took me to the tiny village he lived in, called Goh Lone (Nine Stones) by the Irrawaddy River. He could speak several sentences in over a dozen languages and showed me his collection of foreign currency that travelers had given him. His curiosity for life was palpable. When he introduced me to his family, the whole village, which consisted of about five homes, came running over to greet me. His aunt insisted I have some tea and roasted corn with their family in their one-room home built on stilts. I’ve never forgotten their generosity and warm smiles. Before I left, I asked my young companion what I could give him. He asked sheepishly for my lip balm … to give to his aunt.

 

 

trishleeTrish Lee designs bridal gowns for her eponymous line, Trish Lee San Francisco. Born and raised in San Francisco, the Burmese-Chinese American often helped her mother make dresses when she was young. “One of my fondest memories growing up in San Francisco is selecting fabric in the now very hip Mission District,” says Lee. “Back then, let’s just say it was quite a ‘colorful’ place for an 8-year-old girl, but I adored every second of it.”

 

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

Travel Fit: Stay Trim While on the Go

Just because you’re on vacation doesn’t mean you have to give up your exercise routine. New York City-based yoga instructor Sunina Young provides tips on how to stay trim while on the go.


Fit Tip #1: Stretch Post-Flight

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Whether you’re on a business trip or on vacation, stress can creep into your body in the form of muscle tension and mind fatigue. De-stress from jet lag with an easy spine lengthening and side opening movement. Sitting cross-legged, inhale, lift the arms up, grab a hold of your right wrist, lift the rib cage in and up to lengthen, then exhale and bend to the left. Saturate the body’s right side with breath. Take five full breaths, then switch sides. Repeat to release all muscle tension. Time commitment is approximately two minutes.

For the ambitious: Take a moment to close your eyes and mentally say a fit-focused affirmation as you stretch, like “I always find time for self-care.”


Fit Tip #2: Be a Morning Person

Rise and shine! Wake up a little earlier than normal — just 15 minutes should do the trick. In your commitment to stay fit, starting early is important, especially since you most likely have a set day-to-day itinerary for your trip. Make no excuses and keep the mornings your time to work out to ensure that you set the tone for the day.

For the ambitious: Wake up an additional 30 minutes earlier to meditate so you can start your day with a clear and fit-focused mind. Yogis recommend daily meditation for 30 minutes in the morning for a balanced life no matter where you are.


Fit Tip #3: But First, Water
Drinking water within 10 minutes of waking up in the morning not only speeds up your metabolism it hydrates and detoxifies the body, clearing out internal impurities and making the skin glow.

For the ambitious: Add lemon to your water for a multitude of benefits, including clear skin, a natural energy boost, vitamins C and B-complex, potassium, fiber, iron and magnesium.


Fit Tip #4: Work Your Core

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As soon as you wake up, do leg lifts from the comfort of your bed — no equipment, no excuses! Lying down, interlace hands behind your head, deep inhale, exhale, lift the chest up as you flex the feet and lift your legs 20 degrees. Inhale, then keep the chest lifted and core engaged as you lift the legs up energetically to a 90-degree angle. Exhale lower for six breaths, inhale lift for five breaths. Try 12 slow reps. Time commitment is approximately four minutes.

For the ambitious: Add bicycle crunches, scissor kicks and bridges.


Fit Tip #5: Full Body Toning

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Start in child’s pose by standing on the knees wider than the shoulders. Bend down so the rib cage fits perfectly between the thighs, and reach your arms out in front of you, forehead to the ground. Breathe in for five counts, breathe out for six counts.

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Flow into plank pose: Tuck the toes, slowly shift forward while lifting the knees off the ground. Engage the core, tuck the tailbone, puff up through the upper back, keeping the entire spine in neutral alignment. Breathe in for five counts, breathe out for six counts. Transition to fallen triangle pose by bringing the right knee in towards your chest and then kicking the right foot out to the left side and placing the outer edge of that foot to the ground. Lift the hips high, shift the weight to the right side, engage the core, and reach the left hand up to the sky as you open up the left side of the body. Breathe in for five counts, out for six counts. Step the foot back to plank position. Repeat the positions in order, left and right, four reps per side. Time commitment is nine minutes.

For the ambitious: Add a chaturanga push-up after plank pose.


Fit Tip #6: Do Cardio Anywhere

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Pack your sneakers — you can jog, run, sprint anywhere! Get your heart rate up any chance you get. It’s the most efficient way to lose weight or maintain a healthy weight. Other forms of cardio include jumping jacks, plank mountain climbers, jump squats and burpees.

For the ambitious: Plan a full day committed to fitness by going hiking, biking or swimming.


This story originally appeared in Audrey’s Summer 2014 issue. Get it here.

A hot yoga instructor in New York, Sunina Young grew up in a Korean American household in Bayside, N.Y., with parents (her father was a taekwondo grandmaster) who always encouraged her to follow her heart. She obtained a master’s in communications and worked in fashion and beauty PR. It was during those years that she developed a love for yoga. After realizing that, despite a “picture perfect life,” she was unfulfilled, she left her job to pursue yoga. She wants to share with the world, both in her classes and on her blog, how to experience a dy- namic sense of self-love through movement. Check out her yoga and beauty blog at sunina.com and youtube.com/suninatv

Spotlight on Heart Defensor

FULL NAME Heart Defensor
HERITAGE Filipina American
AGE 25
BORN & RAISED Philippines, now based in L.A.
CLAIM TO FAME The pink-lovin’ YouTube personality, known for her openness and hair to-die-for, has gone beyond describing her fashion hauls and giving hair and makeup tutorials to doing a weekly YouTube show with Seventeen Magazine called Fashion Remix!


My go-to karaoke song: “I Will Survive” by Gloria Gaynor and “Independent Women” by Destiny’s Child.

Last time I cried: When I picked up the March 2014 issue of Seventeen Magazine and saw my spread talking about me and my very own show with Seventeen.

What always makes me laugh: My boyfriend Arnold. We have way too many inside jokes.

My go-to comfort food: Too many to mention!

Last thing I ate: Does caramel frap with extra whipped cream from Starbucks count?

Currently on “repeat”: There’s two! “Love Is an Open Door” by Kristen Bell and Santino Fontana (from the movie Frozen) and “Half a Heart” by One Direction.

A guilty pleasure I don’t feel guilty about: Watching Desperate Housewives every night before bed.

Current favorite place: My home. I’m a homebody!

Favorite drink: Water, green tea and Starbucks caramel frap.

Current obsessions: Cute notebooks, loose sweaters and big bags!

Habit I need to break: Eating and drinking sweets.

Hidden talent: It’s not a hidden talent since I do it all the time on my channels, but I LOVE TO SING!

Talent I’d like to have: To be an amazing dancer like Beyoncé and Ciara!

Word or phrase I most over-use: I definitely say “definitely” all the time!

Most treasured possession: Secret! :)

Favorite hashtag: #ThatsHeart because I love seeing my viewers tag me on their pics, which I often repost.

What’s cool about being Asian: Asian genes. ;) We never age, muahahaha!

My job in another life: I’d probably be a registered nurse, which I would suck at because I don’t like seeing blood LOL.

 

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

Run River North Releases Their Debut Album

Story by Taylor Weik. 

“The album art is actually inspired by ancient Korean art,” drummer John Chong is saying, gesturing to the cover of the seven-inch vinyl — a large white square smeared with blue, gray and purple brush strokes detailing mountains and trees, clean and dirty at the same time — when all of a sudden, rock music begins blasting from the next room over, and the windows and doors start vibrating with the beat. It’s 5 p.m. at the Troubadour, just two hours before the indie folk-rock band Run River North takes the stage to promote their newly released, self-titled debut album.

“If you go to LACMA, you can find a lot of Korean landscapes with clouds, mountains and a lot of black,” Chong continues as if nothing has transpired, yelling over the music. The other five band members — Alex Hwang, Joe Chun, Daniel Chae, Sally Kang and Jennifer Rim — titter at his attempt to be heard in the small bar that now pulsates with rock. “We’re performing a sold-out show at the Troubadour,” says lead vocalist and songwriter Hwang. “Again.”

The last time Run River North performed at the Troubadour — the West Hollywood, Calif., club with a long, colorful history, famous for kicking out a very drunk John Lennon, and whose stage has been graced by everyone from Fleetwood Mac to Guns N’ Roses — it was 2012 and they were operating under the moniker Monsters Calling Home. The San Fernando Valley-based group changed its name when fellow indie band Of Monsters and Men rose to fame with its hit song “Little Talks.”

“We’re now Run River North, which can mean many things,” says Kang, who plays keyboards. “It describes the different ranges of our music — from being laid-back and letting our harmonies shine through, like in ‘Growing Up,’ which represents the steady flow of a river, to being as crazy and loud and thrashing as some of our other tracks that are a little more rock-ish, which portrays a rushing river.”

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Run River North captured the attention of YouTubers (and auto execs) in 2012 with their music video for their upbeat single “Fight to Keep,” filmed entirely in their cars while driving through parking lots and across streets. Honda executives took note of the video — which has garnered more than 200,000 views on YouTube — and booked them as musical guests on Jimmy Kimmel Live. “Fight to Keep” is arguably their most popular song and is included in the new album — the one Chong was describing at the Troubadour — but the members have other favorites.

“My favorite song right now is ‘Beetle’ because we added an extra four-minute jam section for the show,” says Hwang. “Also I get to play the electric guitar, which I don’t usually get to do.” Rim, the violinist, favors “Lying Beast,” a softer, more lyrical tune inspired by a Korean folk song “to add a bit of our heritage.”

Their heritage is reflected in more than just the melodies. All six of Run River North’s members are Korean American, and more than a few of their songs function as stories of their experiences as children of Korean immigrants. “Monsters Calling Home,” which Hwang penned, pays homage to their parents and the sacrifices they made to leave behind their homeland for the “American Dream.” They’re walking heavy to the beat of a broken drum, Hwang croons in the song while Rim plucks violin strings in the background. Digging for worth in a land under a foreign sun.

Though their identities as Asian Americans play a significant role in their music, Hwang and the others members make sure to produce content that everyone can relate to and enjoy. “Our mental process when making music isn’t ‘this is what Asian music should sound like,’ but ‘this is what good music sounds like’ — it just so happens to be that we’re Asian American,” says Hwang. “We try not to be so intentional about our Asian-ness, but let the quality of the music speak. The way we look to people should come second to the way we sound.”

While Run River North has a loyal fan following, their biggest fan may be Korean American actor Steven Yeun. Not only did he tweet his support and encourage his followers to buy their debut album (Hwang and Yeun have been friends since before Yeun landed the role of Glenn Rhee on AMC’s The Walking Dead), Run River North takes a portable Glenn Rhee doll with them on their adventures, Instagramming photos of him wherever they go, whether it be on stage at SXSW or at a sleepy Nashville diner on their way to their next show, accompanied with the popular hashtag #glennontourwithrrn. “You have to tote the fine line between self-promotion and braggery, especially when it comes to social media,” says Hwang. “Glenn is that buffer for us so we can stay humble while sharing fun snapshots from our lives.”

Some of these snapshots are playing a role in documenting the rise of Run River North from a local “baby band,” as Chun calls them, to a more widely recognized name. After their album release show in March, they spent the entire month of April on tour with the Goo Goo Dolls, driving all over the Midwest and East Coast, before focusing more on the West Coast in June. Even so, when asked to share a favorite memory from their past year, what sits with Chong isn’t performing with celebrities or singing on the radio.

“When we were up in Seattle recording our album, there was one night when we went to Costco and just bought a bunch of food to prepare a feast,” he says. “It was a long day, and at the end we sat and ate together like a family. It was one of the best feelings. We aren’t a nuclear family, but we’re a family nevertheless, and we remind one another where we come from and belong in this crazy world.

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

New Reality Show to Feature Lives of ‘Ultra Rich Asian Women’

Story by Ruth Kim. 

When we said we needed more Asian representation on screen, this wasn’t exactly what we had in mind. A new Vancouver reality show will spotlight the “luxurious lifestyles of ultra rich Asian girls.” The name of the series: HBIC TV, which stands for Hot Bitch In Charge. Cringe.

hbic tv 1

Although details on the show are sparse at the moment, HBIC TV has announced that a casting call and audition will be held on June 26. The producers, Kevin K. Li and Desmond Chen, say that most of the show will be in Chinese and will feature young women who have inherited large fortunes, according to CTV News Vancouver.

On the show’s official Facebook page, there’s a brief description of the types of girls producers are looking for:

Are you the next #HBIC of Vancouver? Got a Centurion Black Amex Card?

Hermes, Lanvin, Dior, Louboutin, Chanel, Lambos and Ferraris are all a part of the daily lives of our HBICtv Divas.

“If you’re into the high fashion, the couture, the fancy cars, and the foie gras dinners, and popping the champagnes on the weekend like it’s every day,” Li said. “You know, Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous, but in Vancouver with this demographic.”

A short preview video for the show features a group of rich, Asian women buying necklaces worth $150,000 and gabbing about each other’s plastic surgery results.

While the show has already been met with groans from the Asian American community, there will likely be an audience that tunes in to all of the drama. Think we’ll have our next Asian Kardashian?

Top photo via HBICtv Facebook, other photo and video via VanCity Buzz
This story was originally published on iamkoream.com.