I Think I Am In Friend-Love With You

Story by Ada Tseng. 

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

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

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

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

Screen Shot 2014-03-18 at 2.51.21 PM

 

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

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

Always Go Swimming With Strangers

Story by James S. Kim. 

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

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

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

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

 

This story was originally published in iamkoream.com 

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

VOICES CARRY: Carissa Rae

Story by Ada Tseng. 

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

VOICES CARRY: Thao Nguyen

Story by Ada Tseng. 

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

LOVIN’ LILAC

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

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


THE TOOLS:

Screen Shot 2014-03-14 at 11.11.41 AM

 

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

Screen Shot 2014-03-14 at 11.15.13 AM
Purple Galaxy Eyeshadow

 

Screen Shot 2014-03-14 at 11.17.01 AM
Island Orchid Eyeshadow

 

Screen Shot 2014-03-14 at 11.19.41 AM
K-POP Luxury Gloss

 


 EYE TYPES:

Screen Shot 2014-03-14 at 11.23.25 AM

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

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

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


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

 

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


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

Story by Paul Nakayama. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

VOICES CARRY: Nadia Ali

Story by Ada Tseng. 

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


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

The Pakistani American songbird was first introduced to dance music by the likes of C+C Music Factory and Cece Peniston as a teenager frequenting New York City nightclubs. By 17, she had met producer Markus Moser, who’d be her collaborator in iiO, and in the years after, she’d debut as a solo artist with her 2009 album Embers, which included the Grammy-nominated single “Fantasy.”

Last year brought not only a new marriage but also a move from New York to Los Angeles (“There is inspiration everywhere in L.A.,” gushes Ali), and she’s currently working on a new album called Phoenix, set to be released this year.

First Musical Memory: I must have been about 3 years old. It had to do with watching Bollywood movies. They’re all musicals.

Musical Inspirations: What made me want to get into music was actually a cartoon called Jem and the Holograms. That’s what really made me want to be a singer. Then Madonna, of course.

Personal Inspirations: My husband. When I first met my husband, we remained friends for nearly a year before we dated. In that time, I had such a big crush on him, and I didn’t know if he was interested. And out of that came a lot of songs, like “Must Be The Love,” which I released with Arty and BT last year.

 Get your dance on with Nadia Ali’s “Rapture” video and more at AudreyMagazine.com/nadiaali

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

ARDEN CHO: Landing Her Role on ‘Teen Wolf’ Was Worth The Wait

Story by Ada Tseng.
Photos by Vince Trupsin, vincetrupsin.com

As a kid growing up in Texas — from Amarillo to San Antonio to Dallas — Arden Cho remembers going to sleep and praying she’d wake up with blond hair and blue eyes. “That’s just all I saw on TV 20 years ago,” remembers Cho. “I didn’t know that there were Zhang Ziyis, Kim Yunjins and all these sexy, hot Asian women out there!”

Nowadays, young Asian American girls look up to Cho as a role model, ever since she broke out in the YouTube world in 2010, acting opposite Ryan Higa in the online movie Agents of Secret Stuff, directed by Wong Fu Productions. Her co-star encouraged her to upload her own content to YouTube, and her two channels combined — one for her film/TV work and the other for her personal videos and music — now boast almost 200,000 subscribers and 18.5 million views.

For as long as Cho can remember, before she even dreamed of being an actress or singer, she has always wanted to work with youth. Her YouTube channels reflect this, with her series titled “Follow Your Heart,” where she interviews creative types about how they found the courage to pursue their dreams, and her vlogs “Ask Arden,” where she shares her thoughts on everything from dating to fashion to being comfortable with who you are.

Connecting with her young Asian American fans is especially important to Cho because, she says, she grew up shy and insecure and would have loved to have had an older sister to tell her that everything was going to be OK. Though she has more confidence today, the entertainment industry is notoriously superficial (she has been told that she’d have to get plastic surgery if she wanted to work in Korea), and the constant auditioning can wear any hard worker down. And despite booking a high-profile Clinique Asia campaign and many close calls, her only official “Hollywood” acting credits for a long time were one- episode roles in CSI:NY, Pretty Little Liars and Rizzoli & Isles. Even everyday YouTube fans weren’t always supportive (“YouTube is seriously tough,” she says. “People are brutal — they either love you or hate you”).

In 2013, Cho realized she may not have control over the acting opportunities she was given, but she had written a lot of her own original songs that she could record and release on her own, if she could only get the courage to do it. “I realized, ‘Man, I’m such a hypocrite,’ because I tell fans to follow their hearts, but here I was, terrified to put my music out there,” she says. “I was scared of being vulnerable.”

Releasing her first EP, My True Happy, was an act of freedom. “These are the stories of my life, my heartaches and my experiences,” says Cho. “It was like I put out my secret stories that I had never really shared with anybody.”

She was this close to giving up acting and instead touring around Asia with her music for a few months, when suddenly, she landed the role of Kira in the third season of MTV’s cult hit series Teen Wolf. Kira is not only the lead character Scott’s new love interest but, in the context of the show’s dark, supernatural realm, she’s the mysterious new girl at school who has some tricks up her sleeve.

“I got to do a lot of action and work with amazing stunt choreographers,” says Cho. “I had bruises over my whole body, and there were days that I was so sore that I couldn’t even walk, but it’s all totally worth it because the footage is so beautiful.”

Though she loves her current gig (there are rumors that show creator Jeff Davis is developing a Kira spin-off show specifically for her), Cho doesn’t take her success for granted. “Being an Asian actress, roles that are on the table often aren’t our first picks,” she says. “But when Teen Wolf came along, I really couldn’t have written a better part that I’d want to play. Sometimes it takes all these disappointments to make you appreciate something when it finally works out.”

Teen Wolf airs Mondays at 10 p.m. on MTV. 

 


 IN HER OWN WORDS

1. She’s a little bit country.
“I used to have a really hard Southern drawl. You can still kind of hear it sometimes, especially when I sing. I really love that country music tells stories; I hope that one day, I can record a full country album.”

2. She’s been on both sides of love.
“The song ‘Memory’ is about someone who walked out and left me with so much pain. [Whereas] ‘I’m the One to Blame’ is about how I screwed it up. Sometimes when you’re insecure in a relationship, you push people away because you’re scared, so that’s about me saying sorry. I’m not sure if [that guy] knows the song’s about him.”

3. She wants young girls to know that nobody is perfect.
“It took 20 years for me to feel good about myself. I didn’t wear shorts until a year and a half ago, and now I’m wearing miniskirts on Teen Wolf. Every girl looks in the mirror and wants to change things — I still do — but imperfection is what makes people beautiful.”

4. She has faith.
“As a believer, I want to live my life with purpose. People think if you’re Christian, you have to be a teacher, doctor or pastor, but I think I can be an actor and still be someone who lives out what God intended me to do.”

 

This story was originally published in our Spring 2013 issue. Get your copy here

VOICES CARRY: Teresa Lee

Story by Ada Tseng.

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


 

Teresa Lee first met her PaperDoll bandmate (and husband) Patrick Moloney at an open mic in New York’s Lower East Side. She was a Chinese-Thai-Taiwanese American singer-songwriter who played piano, he was a guitarist, and they joined together with Jack Koch and Will Haywood Smith to form the pop-rock group PaperDoll.

Two albums later (2008’s Ballad Nerd Pop, then 2012’s Sashimi Deluxe) as well as tours all over the world, from the U.S. to China (they were first invited to perform in Shanghai for the 2010 World Expo and have been rocking out around the country since), Lee finally decided to take a break at the end of last year to enjoy her last months of pregnancy with her and Moloney’s first baby. While the 28-year-old is counting down the days to new motherhood (“I know this sounds insane, but I swear the baby is tapping out very distinct rhythms in my belly,” says Lee), she continues to write music — country music, of all things — and can’t wait to take their child on tour with them one day.

First Song: The first song I wrote that I was proud of was called “I Just Lied.” It was on an EP I had out in 2004, and it was about being lost, but embracing what you’re feeling at the moment, even if it’s nothing. The lyrics were: I don’t need to know right now how to feel / It’s too soon to tell, wouldn’t know what to do anyhow. Someone told me, “My friend passed away, and this song helped me through it.” It was the first time I was really proud of my work, and it gave me a lot of confidence to move forward.

First Musical Inspirations: I used to say this as a joke, but now I think it’s true. Remember Tia Carrere’s character in Wayne’s World? The movie came out when I was like 7, and she was a kickass girl that vaguely looked like me, a singer who played bass, and I remember thinking, “Oh, that’s a possibility!” [Laughs] Also, Jem and the Holograms.

But if we’re talking about people who aren’t fictional: Emily Haines from Metric and Tori Amos. My friend’s older sister had [Amos’] album Little Earthquakes, and I remember thinking I didn’t know that music could be that good.

Personal Inspirations: My mom has been so fearless and encouraging of my music, in a way that I didn’t even realize was unique until I was an adult. I honestly didn’t know that Asian parents wanting you to take the safe route [and be a doctor, engineer or lawyer] was a stereotype until I went to college and read about it in books. She always wanted me and my brothers and sisters to do something that inspired us, and I can’t thank her enough for that.

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

VOICES CARRY: Chhom Nimol

Story by Ada Tseng. 

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


Chhom Nimol, 35, the lead singer of the Los Angeles band Dengue Fever, is part of a family of well-known musicians in Cambodia. Chhom’s brothers and sisters taught her how to sing while they were growing up in a refugee camp in Thailand, just across the border from Cambodia, during the Khmer Rouge regime.

Upon their safe return to Cambodia, Chhom made a name for herself by winning a national singing contest, and shortly after she moved to the U.S., her American bandmates Ethan and Zac Holtzman discovered her in a Long Beach nightclub. They were looking for a vocalist to sing in Khmer so they could record covers of Cambodian psychedelic rock. Chhom agreed to join their band in 2001; 13 years and seven albums later, Dengue Fever released their latest EP, Girl from the North, last December, and another new record is already in the works.

First Musical Memory: When I was 6 or 7, I remember going to a neighbor’s place, and we would listen to music on their radio. Mostly it was Khmer-Surin music, a mix of Thai country songs with Khmer lyrics that is popular near the border. I still love that music so much; it has good memories for me.

First Song: I was about 18 years old, on a singing trip to Australia. I really liked this Cambodian man so much, but he already had a girlfriend. I was young. My heart was broken, and I wrote my first song. The English translation of the title is “In This Life We Cannot Be Together.” It is a very sad song. I still remember all the words.

Turning Struggle into Art: When we first started the band in 2001, I had a problem with my visa to stay in America. Our car was stopped by the police after a show in San Diego, and they arrested me and put me in jail. I was so scared because my English was not so good, and I did not have money to pay. Plus, they only let me eat burritos in jail, and I did not know how to eat burritos. I was lucky that my sister, my band and my friends raised money to help me, but I had to stay in jail for 22 nights. That was a terrible time in my life. There is a song on our first album called “22 Nights.”

Check out Chhom Nimol’s distinctive sound at AudreyMagazine.com/denguefever.    

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