A Quick Chat With LINSANITY Director Evan Jackson Leong

Story by Ada Tseng.

FIRST IMPRESSION OF JEREMY LIN:
There’ve been a few Asian American players that have come up [in the Bay Area], but none were as good as Jeremy Lin. And he’s not this 7-foot-6 center; he’s a point guard and a leader controlling the game, and you don’t see that all that often. And I remember watching him dunk — he’d do these amazing dunks! So even when we started filming his senior year at Harvard, I already knew it was a great story.

APPROACHING JEREMY ABOUT THE DOCUMENTARY:
He was very quiet and professional at first. We talked about God. What’s funny is — I have a mohawk, but I was wearing a cap to hide it, and at the end, he saw the mohawk peeking out from the back, and he was like “Whoa, you have a mohawk?” And I was like, “Yea, my girl told me to hide it just in case you were really conservative,” and he was like, “No man, that’s cool!” And then he sported a fauxhawk for a little bit after that.

JEREMY’S PERSONAL HOME VIDEOS:
Jeremy’s dad was like that guy from American Beauty, always recording everything. At first he gave us three hours of footage, and that was a lot, but then he gave us 30 hours of footage. [Laughs] We wanted to show a personal side of Jeremy that you don’t usually get to see in the media.

CURRENT PROJECT:
I’m working on a documentary on [YouTube makeup guru] Michelle Phan. They’re both underdogs, both Asian American, and both had strong obstacles to face. Asian Americans in general are often the underdog in the media, and it’s important to get [these stories] out there to inspire a new generation of Asian American kids.

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

LINSANITY : Not Even A Multimillion Dollar NBA Contract Or A Feature Film Can Change Jeremy Lin

Story by Ada Tseng.

In 2012, basketball star Jeremy Lin lived the ultimate underdog story. As the then-23-year-old rose from obscurity — one minute, he was worried his short-lived NBA career was over, the next minute, he was on the cover of Sports Illustrated with the headline “Against All Odds” — Lin became more than an international sports hero. He embodied the hardworking Asian American icon that had been discriminated against and underestimated his entire life and was finally getting his opportunity to show the world what he could really do.

While his February 2012 streak caught everyone (including Lin himself) off guard, no one could have been more excited than the film team led by director Evan Jackson Leong, who happened to be shooting a documentary about Lin at the time. Leong had started production on the film back when Lin was a senior at Harvard university. Lin remembers, “I figured, worst case, we’d have someone compile all this footage and make a cool story, and maybe I’ll be able to show it to my kids and my grandkids one day.”

As January 2012 rolled around, Leong was ready to wrap up Lin’s story, but the only thing he was missing was a good ending. Lin not only gave them their ending, he elevated the stakes of the film more than any of them could ever imagine. What was envisioned as a low-key series of webisodes about one of the few Asian Americans in the NBA suddenly included footage of sports journalists bombarding Kobe Bryant with questions about Lin, David Letterman donning a Jeremy Lin jersey on the Late Show, and even President Obama claiming he knew about Lin way back when he was playing at Harvard. Narrated by actor Daniel Dae Kim, Linsanity: The Jeremy Lin Story screened at the Sundance Festival, had a theatrical release in October, and will be out on DVD January 4.

After the whirlwind that was Linsanity whisked Lin from the New York Knicks to the Houston Rockets in July 2012, the attention started to die down. A year later, the 25-year-old has, for the most part, remained out of the headlines, but in Taiwan, the homeland of Lin’s parents, the obsession continues. Giant Linsanity billboards can be seen all over Taipei, and as Linsanity producer Bryan Yang says in a new NBA video about Jeremy Lin fandom in Taiwan: “Linsanity as a phenomenon has not subsided. It’s as if it were February 2012 still. … It’s the Beatles, except modern-day in Taiwan.”

Each summer, Lin travels to Taiwan to teach at a youth basketball camp, as well as to share his testimony of the past year. At 2013’s “Dream Big, Be Yourself” youth conference in Taipei, he confessed that he temporarily lost control of his identity with the unexpected onslaught of fame.

“I talked a lot about the pressures of Linsanity and being caught up in who everyone else wanted me to be,” says Lin. “I addressed three main issues that draw people away from God — money, worldly success and human approval — and how I started to put my identity in basketball. I started to be consumed by the whole Linsanity thing.”

On what helps him keep his head on straight, he says, “I think it’s just constant reminders, going back to the Gospel message and understanding that it doesn’t matter how well I play or what I do on the court; at the end of the day, I’m still a sinner before God, and that’s all that really matters. I need His grace, His love, His forgiveness, and it’s about being diligent, spending time with God every single day and having that support network to keep you accountable.”

But that doesn’t mean Lin doesn’t have time to have fun. On his down time, he and his family and friends collaborate on comedy videos on his YouTube channel, which boasts videos with up to 4.7 million views and have featured everyone from popular YouTube stars KevJumba and Ryan Higa to basketball colleagues Steve Nash and James Harden.

“People can take three minutes and watch a funny video, and it’ll help them laugh and relax, but hopefully every video has a specific message behind it, too,” says Lin. For example, one of his latest videos, “You’ve Changed, Bro,” which spoofs the idea that Lin has let fame go to his head, ends with a passage from Romans 12:2a: “Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think.”

And on being considered a new Asian American sex symbol? The 6- foot-2-inch athlete, who has been quoted saying that his perfect girl would be “a faithful Christian” and have “a desire to serve other people [and] help with the underprivileged,” remains modest.

“I appreciate that people see me in that way, but it’s kind of something that I brush to the side,” he says. “I don’t think that’s ever been one of my goals or one of my focuses, but I’m still thankful that they see me in whatever light that they see me in.”

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

Need A New Look For The New Year? How To Turn Your Asian Hair BLOND

Story by Anna M. Park.

Model Soo Joo Park turned heads with her platinum locks on Chanel’s fall runway earlier this year. Since then, the Korean American 27-year-old has been in practically every major fashion magazine, has walked dozens of runways, and has been featured in advertising campaigns from Tom Ford to Chanel to Benetton. We seriously covet her look, so we asked Chinese American stylist Vicky Shen of Wicked Salon in San Francisco how to go blond.

“Being Asian American ourselves, we very much understand what works and what doesn’t on Asian hair,” says Shen. That said, if you want to go blond, aim for a platinum or creamy beige color. “In general, Asians have more yellow undertones, so having any yellow or orange in the hair really clashes with the skin tone. Try platinum, a soft buttery beige, or even a hint of peach, which will complement the skin.”

We don’t know if blondes really do have more fun, but it’s clear that if an Asian woman wants to go blond, she’ll have absolutely no fun in the salon. “It’s very difficult to achieve a platinum blond look on very dark hair,” says Shen. “It requires a lot of hair bleach, and a lot of time under the dryer. We would apply hair bleach mixed with either 30 volume or 40 volume peroxide, and apply the mixture from roots to ends; most likely the process will be repeated again. The hair color we are looking for at this stage is a very pale yellow, without a hint of orange. Then we would apply a purple-colored glaze to counter any yellow that is still left in the hair.”

It doesn’t end once you leave the salon. Purple shampoo and conditioner are very important to keep the yellow away, as well as a deep protein conditioner at least once a week to strengthen hair. And expect a root touch-up every four weeks, a glaze possibly every two weeks. This is a very high-maintenance look, says Shen, and if you go blond, “a fierce attitude is the key. You really need to rock it.”

Wanna go lighter but not ready for all that work? For a more realistic shade, first lighten hair to a light neutral brown, says Shen, and then add beige-y highlights on top.

 

THE TOOLS:

tool 1
1. Sensai Intensive Hair Mask.


tool 2
2. Arbonne Pure Vibrance Lustre Fortifying Shampoo.


tool 3
3. Mixed Chicks Hair Silk.


tool 4
4. Even your hairspray should have sunscreen to extend the life of your color. Philip Kingsley Weatherproof Hairspray.


tool 5
5. Shen likes the purple shampoo from Davinese. Also try Alterna Caviar Anti-Aging Brightening Blonde Shampoo.

 



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

Guy Talk With The Fung Brothers : The Asian Dating Scene

Story by Paul Nakayama. Photo by Daniel Nguyen Photography. 

Recently, an Asian guy friend of mine handed me a Scotch and proceeded to ask me for an introduction to a girl — any girl. I didn’t know what to say, so I downed the whiskey and got drunk. It wasn’t what he asked, but how he asked it. His level of despair prompted me to consult outside help. So I sat down with David and Andrew Fung, also known as the Fung Brothers, the popular YouTube entertainers with a unique perspective on all things Asian, to get some tips on how to help a single Asian brother out.


Q: You guys grew up in Kent, Wash. What was that like?
David Fung: Growing up, there weren’t that many Asians in our area. We always sort of felt like the “Others” in our school. A lot of Asians that grow up around Asians are comfortable, and they don’t think about being Asian. But where we were, there were a lot of tough questions that people posed to us. Our high school was really into sports, so we got involved in leadership roles in sports. That was good training to put ourselves out there, but it put us in an environment where we got made fun of. We were trying to be the cool kids, but sometimes we weren’t accepted.

Q: So what was dating like in high school?
Andrew Fung: It was pretty hard to date. I mean, just to put it in perspective, we were at a school where some guys wore cowboy hats to school.

Q: But once you got to college …
AF: Yeah, UDub [University of Washington] is like 30 to 40 percent Asian so we made the most of it. We could exercise our talents, and it was easier to be considered cool.

Q: By college, you were already performing comedy. Did that help the dating scene?
AF: A lot of girls liked it, but they also assumed we were players. That’s kind of the life of an Asian American entertainer. A lot of us aren’t players. We weren’t raised like that, but people think that’s what entertainers do.

Q: What about dating after college? You’re in L.A. now, after all.
AF: Dating after college is much harder. This is a message to guys: If you cannot date in college, you are going to have an even harder time after college. It’s like camp. If you can’t meet people at camp, then … yeah.

Q: [Laughing, maybe a little too awkwardly] So, what’s a good strategy for the Asian 40-year-old virgin? And I don’t mean me. Purely hypothetical, guys.
DF: We know guys like that — dudes that don’t meet a lot of girls. Bottom line: Get rid of the self-defeating attitude. We all deal with whatever factors leading to less confidence, like our culture, parents, whatever legitimate excuses that only work in a vacuum. At some point you gotta step up and take responsibility.

Q: We’ve all heard that Asian men have a disadvantage in dating. True, or is it more about the attitude we come in with?
DF: Me and Andrew played varsity basketball at a high school where people on our teams went to the NBA. Can you imagine two short, nerdy Asian kids being raised in a system where everyone’s got NBA dreams? But it never made me think that I shouldn’t try out for the team or play against these guys. You have to have the same mentality in other aspects of your life.
AF: I feel like as an Asian guy in America, if you stand up knowing what people think about you and say, “Yeah, I am like that and I’m proud,” people will respect you more, and you’ll probably get more women that way.
DF: Like if they think Asian guys are gross, you say, “Yeah, I am gross. I am a little gross. There!”
AF: And some women will be like, “Hey, that’s a strong man.” Women like confidence. Turn that negative into a positive. Gotta learn to play the cards you got.

Q: What about guys helping each other out? Being a good wingman and all.
DF: In the Asian scene, the wingman thing isn’t as sophisticated as it is with white or black guys.
AF: For sure. I heard this story about some Asian friends at a party, and it turned out they had all talked to the same girl and asked her the same exact questions and all asked her out for the same week. Ridiculous. No strategy or defining of roles. Asian guys are still figuring it out, and it makes sense ’cause none of our dads did any of that. With other races, someone will pass on some knowledge about how to talk to girls.
DF: Yeah, there’s no teamwork. In football, there are guys on the team whose only job is to block. With Asians, because we’re taught to “achieve, achieve, achieve,” everyone thinks he’s the quarterback. You can’t win with a team of just quarterbacks.

Q: As brothers, you probably have a better system than most. Hand signals, bird calls, a Venn diagram.
DF: It’s all about being on the same page. Everyone has to know the game plan. But to be clear, I don’t wanna misconstrue what we’re talking about here.
AF: Right, it’s not about getting laid. It’s more about meeting people successfully and making sure everyone can have a good time.
DF: And not have everyone immediately placed in the friend zone. A good wingman will make sure that everyone’s got a drink in their hand and is talking. And never interrupt a conversation with anything other than more drinks, not even compliments, because unless you know how to do it without coming off douchey, you’ll be blocking the quarterback.

For more of David and Andrew’s tips, visit FungBrothers.com.

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

Calling All Last-Minute Shoppers: Audrey’s 2013 Christmas Gift Guide

Story by Anna M. Park.
FOR YOUR BESTIE
for-the-love-of-shoes
From the sublime to the fanciful to straight-up laugh-out-loud (in a good way), the coffee table book, For the Love of Shoes, featuring what can only be called works of art from the usual suspects (Louboutin, Choo, Blahnik) as well as Asian designers Aoi Kotsuhiroi, Kermit Tesoro, Noritaka Tatehana and YSL head shoe designer Chau Har Lee, is a no-brainer for any shoe lover (read: all women).

 


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Talk about going glam! Made for the girl who loves to stand out, Car-Lashes primps her ride with flexible plastic lashes and crystal trim that are made to fit almost any car headlight. So cute!


ciate-holiday-nail-set-2

Sephora-Makeup-Academy-Palette

 

You can never go wrong with anything from Sephora. Ciaté gives you a taste of their unique caviar manicure (along with 22 other polishes and sequins) with their Mini Mani Month Set, while Sephora Collection’s own Makeup Academy Palette lets you be the pro with 130 waterproof eye shadows, cream eyeliners, lip colors, cream and powder blushes, concealers, and lip and eye primers, all in a handy, 6-by-7-inch carry-all case.


 

FOR THE MAN IN YOUR LIFE

uomo

Cologne may be cliché, but Ermenegildo Zegna’s uomo, with its exclusive Zegna Bergamot citrus and the floral Violettyne Captive, is so good, you may want to steal a spritz on occasion.


 

FOR THE YOUNG’UNS 
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You can never go wrong with tech accessories. David & Young has some of the most unique phone cases, with built-in mirrors, hand straps, even sliding mechanisms for the camera.


 

FOR ANYONE

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Champagne is always a safe bet. Champagne in its own stay-cool container designed by award-winning French designer Benjamin Graindorge makes you guest of the year. Perrier-Jouët Grand Brut Champagne InBloom Fresh Box.


lette

 

Everyone loves sweet treats, but a box of 24 macarons from ‘Lette, with flavors like rose, mint, almond and violet cassis (perfumed with the slightest hint of floral), delivered to your door — now that’s indulgent.


 

FEEL-GOOD GIVING

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Help support the Somaly Mam Foundation with chic silk krama scarves woven by survivors of sex trafficking. According to the foundation, the repetitive nature of weaving fabric “provides women with a sense of comfort and security in structure and routine, engendering a feeling of pride and accomplishment.” Not only does 100 percent of the proceeds go to the foundation, each sale helps exploited women pave a life of independence and personal empowerment. Now that’s a real gift.

 

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

Frances Chung: Living The Cinderella Dream, Literally

Story by Taylor Weik. Photos by Erik Tomasson. 

To anyone else, a 9:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. workday at the office might be a full load. But Frances Chung, a principal dancer with the San Francisco Ballet, didn’t spend the day in an office. This morning she came into the studio early to change, then spent an hour and a half warming up and working on her technique. The rest of the day was spent in grueling rehearsals with her company in preparation for their tour to New York next week. Any other person would be passed out in bed by now. But Chung’s cheerful voice gives away nothing over the phone.

“It’s been a long day,” she says casually.

A rigorous schedule is nothing new to Chung. Born in Vancouver to Chinese parents, Chung and her older sister were enrolled in piano and ballet classes at their local community center at the age of 5 “because, you know, our parents are the typical Asian parents,” she says. While her sister preferred the piano, Chung excelled in ballet. At 16, while competing in Switzerland, she won a scholarship that would allow her to spend the summer dancing in Boston. There, her talent was undeniable. She was immediately offered a full-time position as a ballerina with the Boston Ballet, but she turned it down so that she could finish high school.

During her senior year, Chung auditioned for 10 different ballet companies across the United States before she got the acceptance call from the San Francisco Ballet. She graduated high school and, at 17, left home for the first time. She’s been with the company for the last 12 years.

“I’m now going into my 13th season,” she says slowly, as if digesting the news. She knows it’s been a long time. “I’m definitely a West Coast girl. I don’t plan on going anywhere, anytime soon.”

And how could she? After joining in 2001, Chung danced for four years before being promoted to soloist in 2005, then another four years until she achieved her dream of becoming a principal dancer in 2009. She’s danced a variety of roles over the years, including the Sugar Plum Fairy in Nutcracker, the Enchanted Princess in The Sleeping Beauty and the Queen of the Dryads in Don Quixote, the latter of which she had wanted to play since she was a young girl. She also recently played the title role of Cinderella, something she describes as being “every girl’s dream.”

 

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“I’m at the peak of my career now; I just turned 30,” says Chung. “I don’t know when I will stop. I’m just going to go until my body can’t handle it anymore.”

Chung’s job isn’t one for the weak of heart, mind or body. San Francisco Ballet dancers work 42 weeks of the year, and then many, like Chung, use the little time they have off to dance in side projects. One of her favorite “vacations” has been traveling to Germany with some of her fellow dancers, which has inspired her to one day form her own project and bring dancers to perform in her hometown of Vancouver.

Another inevitable side effect of dancing? Injuries both physical and mental. Chung has sprained both of her ankles many times and has suffered from knee, hip and back pains. Sometimes she struggles with self-esteem, and has to remind herself that her identity is not based on who she is as a dancer. She has her bad days.

But every bad day is worth the many more good days she has performing with the San Francisco Ballet. She enjoys the freedom dancing brings her, and because the same ballets have been danced many times by hundreds of other dancers, Chung also enjoys the challenge of adding her own style to make the role her own.

But more than anything, she values the opportunities she’s had to meet people. “When I think back — wait, that makes me sound old,” she laughs. “All of my favorite memories are the ones I’ve shared with people. I love working with other dancers, and dancing with different choreographers is a new experience every time.”

Chung knows she’s not going to be dancing forever. She will age, and eventually she’ll be too tired to perform the same movements with ease. Where will she be in 10, 15, 20 years from now?

“Hopefully I will have graduated college, at least,” she jokes.

But for now, Chung is exactly where she wants to be. She’s not a planner. She takes her life day by day, waking up early and perfecting her pointe work and pirouettes until the sun sets. When she’s not dancing, she likes to cook and read up on home design and may even catch up on some movies. And what does she watch to unwind? “Flashdance,” she says. “What can I say?”

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ABOUT FRANCES CHUNG
Woman’s Best Friend: She has a 5-pound Chihuahua mutt named Iggy.
Fast Food Indulgence: In-N-Out double double with grilled onions.
Multitasking Abilities: She is currently taking college courses while dancing at the San Francisco Ballet.

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

Dara Shen: Competing In A Combat Sport Where Asian American Women Are Rare

Story by Ada Tseng. Photo by Susan Hale Thomas.

Dara Shen is trying to explain what it feels like to get punched in the face. “Have you ever sneezed really hard?” she asks. “That’s what it feels like. I remember the first few times I got hit, my face was sore afterward, but your neck gets used to it. If you’re strong in your neck, you’re not going to be bobbing all over the place, and that’s what causes a knockout: when your chin turns too much in one direction and cuts off the blood to your brain.”

A Taiwanese American boxer who’s hungry for her first U.S. national championship (she already has multiple silvers and bronzes, but her only gold is from when she fought abroad in Taiwan), 27-year-old Shen is no stranger to black eyes. But she’s managed to avoid major injuries thus far, other than a concussion she got when she fought at the Olympic Trials back in 2011.

Despite her (almost) clean slate, Shen concedes that boxing is a dangerous sport and her loved ones have the right to worry when she’s in the ring. It’s no wonder that her parents can’t bear to watch her fight. They’d rather just hear about the results afterward, and they yearn for the day they can throw her a retirement party.

“Being punched in the face is part of the game,” says Shen. “For me, it’s not painful anymore. It’s more of a mental thing: how you deal with it is what makes you who you are as a fighter.”

Born in San Francisco, Shen moved to Utah when she was 11 (raised Mormon, she describes her formative years as being one of the only Asians in a sea of blond hair and blue eyes), before moving to Virginia for high school. Though Shen participated in many sports growing up, it wasn’t until she was a 20-year-old university student at Virginia Tech (going through a bad break-up that left her with much pentup frustration) that she discovered a boxing club at her school.

“I just did it for fun and to get in shape,” remembers Shen, “but I’m very competitive by nature, so once I found out there was a whole world of competition, I fell in love with the sport. I went to my first nationals in 2010.”

At 5-foot-9-inches and 165 pounds (“My coach calls me ‘Asian Amazon’”), Shen fights in the middleweight division, the highest of three weight classes that were allowed in the first-ever women’s Olympic boxing event held at the London Summer Olympics in 2012. Boxing has long been considered a male-dominated sport — it had been the last-standing all-male sport in the Games for years — and even nowadays, though she competes against other women, Shen does most of her training with her male teammates. (“It’s a treat to get to spar with another girl,” she says.)

All through 2011, Shen competed in numerous qualifying tournaments, fighting to earn a coveted spot at the Olympic Trials, but she kept missing by a hair. The U.S. National Championships qualified the top four; Shen was fifth. The National Golden Gloves took the first-place champion; she came in third. The National PAL qualified the top three; she was four. Once her U.S. opportunities wore thin, she decided to try her luck in Taiwan with her dual citizenship. There, she earned gold at the Taiwan Olympic trials, represented Taiwan in the Women’s World Championships (another qualifier for the Olympics), and there, again, she missed qualifying by one spot.

Eventually, she was able to compete at the U.S. Olympic Trials after there was a last-minute dropout, and she became an alternate for the London Olympics. But looking ahead to the 2016 Games, she wants more. In 2014, she will get another chance to qualify, and her past failures only fire up her passion and hunger to win.

“I lost so much when I first started competing,” Shen remembers. “I lost my first seven fights, so as an amateur boxer, being down 0-7, you have to question, ‘Is this for me?’ But I never saw quitting as an option. This is what I want to do. I’ve seen what my sport has to offer at the most elite level, and I know what it takes to be there.”

While there are numerous respected Asian women boxers abroad, including Ana Julaton of the Philippines and Mary Kom of India, Shen says she has only seen three other Asian American women in her seven years of boxing in the United States — and this includes both athletes and officials.

“I know when I go to competitions, when people don’t know me, they think, ‘She probably can’t fight. She’s a girl. She’s pretty. She’s Asian. Asians don’t box,’” says Shen. “You get looks from people, and they don’t need to say anything, you already know what they’re thinking. But being Asian in this sport has made me stand out. If you were to go to the tournament and ask for the Asian girl, there’s only one. It’s just me!”

Though she lives for boxing, Shen acknowledges that the sport is struggling, especially with the rise of UFC and mixed martial arts, and despite all the physical risks involved, boxing doesn’t necessarily pay. There are only a couple American women with major sponsorships, and the rest of the fighters have to make a living outside of the sport. Based in Alexandria, Va., Shen herself works a regular 9-to-5 job in project management for construction and real estate development, before heading to the gym each day for
her training workouts.

“It can be depressing if you read into it too much, so I try to do what I can to stay focused on my own goals and not let that part drag me down,” she says. “And that’s what I love so much about boxing — that it teaches you so much about life. If you pay attention to what everyone else is doing, you’re not going to be able to do what you need to do, the best way you can do it. That’s boxing, and that’s life!”

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

J.R. Celski Proves He Has What It Takes To Win Olympic Gold

Story by Ethel Navales. 

As two girls walk by, one spots him and taps her friend excitedly on the shoulder before pointing in his direction. Too shy to approach him, they settle for sneaking peeks at him, whispering to one another and giggling. This, J.R. Celski explains, has become an odd but normal encounter for him. Of course, the big fuss over him is all for good reason. After all, in addition to his boyishly good looks, this Filipino-Polish American Olympic speed skater already has 16 championship medals under his belt, all by the age of 23. And if things go well at the Olympic Games in Sochi this coming February, he’ll have four more to add to his collection.

Celski began his competitive career at the age of 4, and by 12, he wanted to compete in the Olympics. This was not your average pre-teen goal, but thankfully his parents went along with it. Having grown up in the state of Washington, “I actually needed to move away if I was going to get any better at skating,” says Celski. “[My parents] have always been supportive my whole life with all my endeavors. They also knew that I loved to speed skate, so when I told them that I wanted to move to California to pursue my career, they made every effort to help me out through that process.”

Clearly, they made the right decision. Celski’s career took off when he won five medals, including two gold, at the 2009 World Short Track Speed Skating Championships. He was then catapulted into fame a year later when he won bronze medals at the 2010 Olympic Winter Games.

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Celski was genuinely surprised to discover that he had gained a large fan base overnight. “It was kind of a shock to me when it first started happening right after the Olympics,” he says. “I was walking around and people would say, ‘Hey, is that J.R.?’ And [I would say,] ‘No, but I’ve heard that name a lot. Who is that guy?’ It was kind of hard at first, but I got used to it, and I realized that people looked up to me.”

Celski notes that among this loyal group of fans is a rather large Filipino following. He’s a proud Filipino, and he takes every opportunity to show it, whether it’s appearances at Los Angeles’ annual Festival of Philippine Arts & Culture or the tattoo of the sun of the Philippine flag emblazoned across his chest (something that has delighted many of his fans).

Despite the fame, which has earned him nearly 24,000 “likes” on his official Facebook page and more than 18,000 Twitter followers, Celski consistently emphasizes that he’s just “a regular guy.” And like a “regular guy,” Celski had to juggle high school, speed skating practice and a social life simultaneously. He admits that he had to learn the hard way when it came to balancing everything on his schedule. “I struggled with [time management] quite a bit when I first got into this sport because my practice schedule was pretty intense,” he says. “Sometimes I would go to bed too late, and I would wake up tired in the morning and I wouldn’t have a good performance at practice. My coach would be mad, and I would be mad at myself.”

As his training grew more intense, Celski had other difficulties to manage. During the last Winter Olympics, he suffered a major injury during a crash in the semi-finals, leaving him wondering if he would ever walk again. The blade on his right skate slashed into his left leg, requiring stitches and months of rehabilitation. “This was five months before the Olympics, and that kind of just put a stop in my journey,” he says. “I really had to decide right then and there that I was gonna either stop and give up or push forward and jump over that obstacle that was put in front of me. I think that was the biggest challenge that I’ve ever had.”

It was around that time that Celski began working on a documentary following up-and-coming, Seattle-based hip hop artists like Macklemore and Ryan Lewis. His much-anticipated documentary, The Otherside, made its debut at the Seattle International Film Festival last May. “I think I kind of wanted to get a jump-start into that career,” says Celski. “I’ve always been into film and music and advertising and stuff like that, so I just wanted to do a passion project.” When asked if he thinks filmmaking will be part of his future, Celski doesn’t hesitate to respond: “Yes. I definitely think so.”

Until then, Celski is focused on the Olympics in Sochi. Although the official U.S. Olympic team will not be announced until January, Celski is ranked number one in short track speed skating in the U.S., making him a shoe-in for the Olympic team. “I want to skate to my full potential,” he says. “I’ve been skating my whole life, and I haven’t really, in my mind, reached that level yet. I’m working hard every day, and I don’t try to put a specific goal in front of me because I feel like that just puts a limit on my abilities. If I happen to win medals, hopefully gold, then that would be an awesome thing. But I’m just reaching for the highest level I can go as an athlete.”

Oh, and to answer the question you’ve probably been wondering since you began reading this — yes, he has a girlfriend.

 


SIX THINGS ABOUT J.R. CELSKI:
1) Favorite food: Sushi.
2) Guilty pleasure: I eat ice cream quite often. Probably more than I should. I like to indulge quite a bit.
3) Wish I could do: A double back flip off the ground.
4) My job in another life: Curling. Nah, I’m just kidding. I don’t know, really. I’d probably be going to school for marketing and advertising.
5) Favorite thing about me: I like that I’ve kind of understood what it takes to be a great athlete.
6) Least favorite thing about me: I don’t like that I wear skin suits.

 

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

Audrey’s Top Restaurant Pick: Hakkasan

Story by Anna M. Park.

Dining at Hakkasan Beverly Hills, the newest location of the esteemed Michelin-star Cantonese restaurant that opened in London in 2001, is not so much dinner as it is an event. Walk past the crowd of paparazzi, there every night, into a labyrinthine interior cloaked in sexy, moody lighting and electronic dance music. For almost every offering, two servers are required, whether it’s the Smoky Negroni cocktail with its post-pour infusion of woodsy smoke from a decanter, or the Hakka Steamed Dim Sum Platter (one dumpling with squid ink) and its variety of tasty sauces.

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On a menu helmed by the Michelin-star chef Ho Chee Boon, the Crispy Duck Salad is a must-try and a good introduction to that lesser known bird. For true duck lovers, the Black Truffle Roasted Duck is almost an embarrassment of riches with its sizable slivers of black truffle atop perfectly crisped duck skin, a thin layer of fatty goodness, and then tender, juicy meat. If you’re not a fan of poultry, try the Grilled Seabass with Chinese Honey, a succulent alternative, or the Roasted Silver Cod with Champagne, a favorite among the wait staff. Skip the noodles altogether — everything is so rich and juicy and fatty (and the portions are hardy), you don’t need any carbs; just a veggie side dish should do. In fact, a couple of Shiso Gimlets and Black Sesame Crémeux with Yuzu Ice Cream for dessert offers a much needed palate cleanser to offset all that decadence.

Details Hakkasan.com/beverlyhills/

 

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

Audrey’s Must Read SEX-tistics

Story by Kanara Ty & Ethel Navales.

Sex is often a taboo topic among Asians. As a result, you have some Asian women who view sex as dirty, some who have no knowledge of sex (and no knowledge of proper means of protection), and some who do engage in sex and are judged harshly for it.

This may account for the married couple in the city of Wuhan, China  who made headlines in 2011 for spending three years believing that lying next to each other would result in pregnancy. Although both individuals were college graduates, it’s safe to assume that neither had any form of sex education.

While many big cities in China have more modern attitudes towards sex, rural areas still refuse to teach sex education. In fact, some Chinese parents encourage abstinence and use sex as a scare tactic. One woman claimed her mother told her sex was like being shot with a gun. It’s no wonder the subject became taboo and many Chinese young adults learned to either fear the act or consider sex shameful.

Although this attitude towards sex changes quite a bit for Asian Americans, there is no denying that the topic itself is rather taboo for many Asians. Seeing as sex is a normal part of life, we’ve decided it would be more healthy for everyone to talk about it.

For starters, we’ve brought you some statistics to show that sex is in fact a common and perfectly normal activity. Check out Audrey’s SEX-tistics below.

 

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