JANM Opens New Hello Kitty Exhibition

Los Angeles just got a little cuter with the opening of Japanese American National Museum’s newest exhibition, Hello! Exploring the Supercute World of Hello Kitty, organized with Sanrio in honor of Hello Kitty’s 40th anniversary.

The first large-scale Hello Kitty museum in the United States, Hello! takes fans –– both the kids and the kids-at-heart –– on a trip through the brand’s archives, featuring vintage memorabilia, collections from collaborations and artwork that depicts the character’s evolution from a Japanese cultural figure into a global phenomenon. Visitors have the chance to view special pieces like the plastic coin purse –– the first Hello Kitty item Sanrio sold back in 1975 –– as well as Hello Kitty kitchen appliances, skateboards and surfboards and even a pair of boxers with the face of everyone’s favorite kitty stamped all over.

Gary Baseman for JANM

Gary Baseman for JANM

Older generations have the chance to journey back to their childhood with the wall of display cases featuring every Hello Kitty backpack Sanrio has ever produced. Another wall is lined with Hello Kitty plushes released throughout the years, giving viewers a visual representation of the brand’s transformation.

“I think our art portion stands up to any art exhibition in LA right now,” Dr. Greg Kimura, President and CEO of JANM, said last night at the VIP party for the exhibition, which was MCed by Japanese American actress (and former Audrey cover girl!) Tamlyn Tomita.

Hello Kitty vintage plush, 1976

Hello Kitty vintage plush, 1976

The art gallery proudly boasts 40 mixed-media works created specially for the exhibit by well-known artists such as Audrey Kawasaki and Gary Baseman, as well as collaborating brands like tokidoki and Swarovski. The celebrity and fashion portion of the exhibit illustrates the far-reaching influence of Hello Kitty, featuring the dress of plush toys Lady Gaga once wore for a photoshoot celebrating the character’s 35th birthday.

JANM has also opened a pop-up store for the exhibition, where visitors can purchase exclusive Hello Kitty for JANM items like pins, bags and coin purses.

The exhibition will be on view through April 26, 2015. Tickets are $20 for adults, $10 for ages 6-17 and free for ages 5 and under. JANM members receive free admission.

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Steven Yeun Rocks Tie-Less Suits

He was just featured alongside costar Lauren Cohan in a romantic photo shoot for Los Angeles Magazine last month, and now, Steven Yeun suits up again for a feature on suits in this month’s issue of GQ.

Our favorite zombie-slayer dons a slick comb-over and dressy shirts and blazers for March’s style feature titled “Back from the Dead: The Air Tie,” as if we needed another reason to remember the man is one of People‘s Sexiest Men of 2013.

The photos provide a stark contrast from the dirty, tired, blood-stained Glenn Rhee we see running around every Sunday night on AMC’s The Walking Dead, but we love Steve either way.

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Japanese American National Museum Introduces New Tattoo Exhibition

L.A.’s own Japanese American National Museum in Little Tokyo opened its newest exhibition last week titled Perseverance: Japanese Tattoo Tradition in a Modern World, which explores the history of traditional Japanese tattoo art and its relevance in mainstream culture today.

Curated by Takahiro Kitamura and photographed and designed by Kip FulbeckPerseverance dives into the rich history of Japanese artistry by focusing on its roots in ukiyo-e prints. The exhibit also features the work of seven internationally acclaimed tattoo artists Horitaka, Horitomo, Chris Horishiki Brand, Miyazo, Shige, Junii and Yokohama Horiken, along with tattoo works by selected others.

Perseverance opened on March 8 and will run until September 14.

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Transgender Activist Cecilia Chung Named “Woman of the Year”

Cecilia Chung was honored Monday night by the California State Assembly as one of its Women of the Year for her work in fighting for transgender equality.

Chung, who is the senior advisor for the Transgender Law Center, a health commissioner at the San Francisco Department of Public Health and a member of the Presidential Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS, was chosen by Assemblyman Phil Ting (D-San Francisco) to receive the award.

“Cecilia has an inspiring record of breaking down barriers,” said Ting. “Her bravery and brains have made our community a more compassionate and welcoming place. As we strive for even greater equality, we can simply look to her for a roadmap forward. Cecilia’s passion and commitment to equality know no bounds.”

According to assembly member Phil Ting’s official website, some of Chung’s honors include “the first Deputy Director of the Transgender Law Center, the first transgender woman and first Asian to be elected to lead the Board of Directors of San Francisco’s LGBT Pride Celebration, and the first person living openly with HIV to Chair the San Francisco Human Rights Commission which, under her leadership, documented widespread discrimination against transgender people and prompted the city to adopt many pioneering anti-discrimination ordinances and policies.”

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Activist Writes Letter to Now-Famous American Apparel Model

It should come as no surprise that American Apparel is once again the target of social criticism. The retailer is known for its controversial advertisements featuring naked models and even a sixty year-old model. Their most recent ad features a topless Asian-American woman –– a merchandiser named Maks, who has been working with American Apparel since 2010 –– wearing only a pair of high-waisted jeans, with the words “Made in Bangladesh” stamped across her chest.

The ad has produced mixed reviews via social media. Some publications have deemed it as “pretty cool,” and a visual way for American Apparel to point out that it treats all of its garment workers fairly, especially when compared to factories in Bangladesh.

“The labor issue is something we’ve spoken out about for a long time,”says creative director Iris Alonzo on the inspiration behind the ad. “In addition to physically unsafe conditions, Bangladesh has some of the lowest paid garment workers in the world. The recently increased monthly wage is still only $68 USD per month. American Apparel’s nearly 5,000 industrial workers in Los Angeles are earning from $10- $25 per hour. It is important for consumers to think about the people that we don’t see when looking at fashion photography.”

Yet for others, the ad represents another instance of the objectification of women of color, and, specifically, it gives more power to large corporations. L.A. activist Tanzila “Taz” Ahmed wrote an open letter to Maks via South Asian magazine “The Aerogram” yesterday as a fellow Bangladeshi to discuss the “fine line between self-expressive and being exotified and commodified.”

“The implication is that Bangladesh is bad, and American is good,” Ahmed writes in regards to the ad’s deeper message. “Burka-ed Muslim women are bad, and bare-breasted “former” Muslims with newly found American freedoms are good. Right?”

Ahmed cites the garment factories in Bangladesh as being built from the ground up on the backs of Bangladeshi women, and the same factories have collapsed or caught on fire in recent years, claiming these womens’ lives.

“Boycotting Bangladesh made products means we’re boycotting the Deshi-made women that helped get us here — our Ammas and Khalas and ChachisAmadher bhon, our sisters. We just want to make sure they are safe and can survive.”

Recap: Disastrous Vendor Evictions in Gangnam

Now Gangnam, Korea is becoming known for more than just a popular parody song in America. In February, over the course of two days, the Gangnam District Office and police hired a group of 50 city workers to forcefully evict street vendors. This resulted in physical altercations between workers and vendors, and the complete destruction of several street stands.

Running businesses on the streets of Gangnam has been illegal since 2011, without much enforcement. Now district chief Shin Yeon-hee says the area, which has been developing in recent years into a metropolis, needs to be “cleaned up” in order to make Gangnam more “global” and “foreigner friendly” for all of the incoming tourists.

 

Vendors couldn’t do much but watch as city workers not only harassed them, but took hammers to their stands, destroying all merchandise. Police officers stood nearby but didn’t interfere. There have been reports that a few brave vendors have ventured to set up new stands since then.

First Asian-American U.S. Marine Dies at 88

Major Kurt Chew-Een Lee, the first Asian-American U.S. Marine Corps officer, died on Monday in Washington, D.C. at the age of 88 from a heart attack.

During WWII, an eager Lee –– who is Chinese-American –– enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps to fight, but was instead based at the Marine Corps Recruit Depot in San Diego as a language instructor.

During the Korean War in 1950, Lee got his opportunity to fight and was commander of a machine gun platoon, where his heroic actions in a clash with Chinese forces on November 2 earned him numerous military honors, including the second highest military decoration, the Navy Cross.

Lee later fought in the Vietnam War, where he earned a Purple Heart. Only a few weeks ago he was the honorary grand marshal of San Francisco’s Chinese New Year Parade. Lee is not only the first Asian-American, but the first non-white man to enlist in the Marine Corps.

Why You Should Follow Jackie Chan on Facebook

Some celebrity Facebook pages are fan-made; others are run by their managers or agents. But international martial arts choreographer, director and actor Jackie Chan is one of the celebrities who frequently updates his Facebook page himself (though every once in a while one of his people will take over).

Sometimes he’ll advertise for a movie of his or a special event he’s hosting, but most of the time, Jackie likes to upload photos taken over the span of his career –– and his personal captions are nothing short of hilarious.

As if you need another reason to follow this legendary renaissance man –– not only is Jackie a trained martial artist and actor, he also directs, produces and writes his own movies –– here are a few of our favorite photos with captions he’s posted:

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“Call me maybe.”

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“#YOLO”

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“When I read I put on my thinking cap!”

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“I have always had a great sense of style!”

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“My younger years. No more mesh shirts for me!!”

Asian Designers at the 86th Academy Awards

While we’re ecstatic for Robert Lopez, the first Filipino American to win an Oscar for composing Frozen‘s “Let it Go,” the Academy Awards was once again slim when it came to Asian nominees.

But there were plenty of Asian-designed gowns gracing the red carpet at the 86th annual Academy Awards at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles.86th Annual Academy Awards - ArrivalsEmma Watson, who joined Joseph Gordon-Levitt in presenting the award for best achievement in visual effects, dazzled in a metallic gray and black Vera Wang dress.86th Annual Academy Awards - ArrivalsA very pregnant Kerry Washington, star of the hit show Scandal, sports her baby bump in a simple lavender Jason Wu number.

oscars384 year-old June Squibb, one of the best supporting actress nominees for her role as Kate Grant in Nebraska (she lost to 12 Years a Slave actress Lupita Nyong’o) wears an emerald green, form-fitting Tadashi Shoji dress.oscars4Idina Menzel, who showed off her powerhouse vocals last night in a performance of “Let it Go” –– the hit song from Frozen that ended up winning best original song –– wears a sweeping Vera Wang dress.

“Alpha Girls” Creates Visibility

Guests gathered at the Greystone Manor in West Hollywood last Wednesday night, Feb. 26, for the launch party of a new reality show featuring successful Asian American women called “Alpha Girls.”

Produced by Mnet America, “Alpha Girls” is a weekly web series following the lives of four Asian American women, each of whom have risen to the tops of their careers. Cast members include fashion model Soo Joo Park, graphic artist Mina Kwon, fashion designer Lanie Alabanza-Barcena and DJ and producer Jennifer Lee, aka TOKiMONSTA.

Guests sipped on cocktails and munched on h’orderves while watching the premiere of the reality show, which runs 23 minutes long and focuses on both the exciting opportunities and personal drama in the Alpha Girls’ everyday lives. In the first episode, Alabanza-Barcena struggles to balance getting her line ready and planning a friend’s bachelorette party, TOKiMONSTA flies to Korea to perform for the first time, Kwon flies to America in search of inspiration and Soo Joo tries to overcome an ankle injury in time for New York Fashion Week. The premiere season also includes cameos from celebrities like Skrillex, Pharrell and Swizz Beats.

“At first I was kind of scared of strangers interfering in my life,” Alabanza-Barcena, the founder and creative director of urban streetwear brand Hellz Bellz, said on her experience of being filmed for the reality series. “But I think this is important. Girls can watch our show and learn to speak their minds, and be motivated to be their own boss.”

Mnet America producers Daniel DPD Park and Danny Park created “Alpha Girls” to promote Asian American visibility in the media, as well as to show American audiences that Asian Americans are capable of succeeding in careers that have nothing to do with being a doctor or scientist. “Alpha Girls” airs Wednesdays at 8 p.m. on youtube.com/MnetAmerica.