This Will Melt Your Heart: The Struggle of Two Brothers Fighting for a Better Life

In 2011, the Boston Globe’s Billy Baker wrote a story on Johnny and George Huynh– two impoverished teenage brothers who spent every day dreaming of better circumstances.

Baker delved deep into the lives of these brothers and discovered that their abusive father committed suicide leaving their mother to spend her days locked up in her room, succumbing to her mental health issues.

The boys supported themselves and had to work to afford basic necessities. Despite these adversaries, the story highlights the boys’ unyielding passion for academics. Though they had to take the bus to get there, the boys attended a prestigious Boston high school and achieved top grades. This gave them a tiny ray of hope that things could change.

“I just want to fit in,’’ Johnny told Baker. “I’m tired of being known as that poor kid who is struggling.’’

The story goes on to describe the boys giving a emotional speech for the Catholic Charity which often helped them when they were in need.

The first half of their speech is jokey, a back-and-forth about who is taller, who is smarter, culminating with a story of the time their mother received a turkey from Catholic Charities. She didn’t know what to do with it so she stuffed it with noodles. The crowd laughs.

Things are going well; their delivery is better than in rehearsals. Then they get to the second half of the speech, the part about their father’s death.

First, George tells the story of that night when the police came to the door, carrying their father’s photo. Then Johnny picks up the story. “He was only 54,’’ he says. “He took his own life. And we didn’t have any money.’’

 

As he says the word “money,’’ Johnny cracks. He tries to push on, but the words won’t come out of his throat.

After bringing the audience to tears, Johnny concluded the speech by saying, “There are times when we all need to depend on the kindness of strangers.”

And then the story finishes and readers are left hoping that the two boys really do find a way to turn their lives around. Fast-forward a couple of years and it turns out that their story isn’t done after all. A few days ago, Baker began tweeting about the brothers. As it turns out, Baker was touched by the story and let the boys into his own life.

His tweets may very well melt your heart.

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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.  

She Did It! Tessanne Chin Wins Singing Competition “The Voice”

We’ve been mesmerized by Chinese-Jamaican songstress Tessanne Chin on this season of The Voice ever since her rockin’ rendition of Pink’s “Try” turned the chairs of all four judges. She surprised everyone by picking Maroon 5’s Adam Levine over fellow diva Christina Aguilera — and good thing she did. Because with Levine’s guidance — which included brilliant song choices ranging from No Doubt’s “Underneath It All,” which showcased Chin’s reggae roots, the soaring “Bridge Over Troubled Water,” a superb rendition of Whitney Houston’s “I Have Nothing,” and their brilliant duet of “Let It Be” (with a dash of reggae thrown in) — Chin has remained on top of the iTunes charts, keeping her in the competition week after week.

But beyond her superior singing chops, Chin won our hearts with her seriously sweet and humble demeanor, her adorable Chinese father and sister Tami cheering in the audience, as well as her cutie-pie husband, Michael Cuffe, and her badass faux-hawk.

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So we are beyond ecstatic that after a two-hour finale, the 28-year-old former backup singer for Jimmy Cliff was announced the winner of season 5 of The Voice, the number one singing competition on TV right now. We are huge fans and want her on our cover! Tessanne, call us?!?

Photos courtesy of NBC.

Why China’s “Hot Mom” Photo Competition Makes Some People Uncomfortable

A competition was recently held by Chinese social media site Sina Weibo. Their mission? To find China’s hottest mom.

While American Pie has made the idea of a MILF (you can look that term up if you don’t know it) a run-on joke since the 90’s, China seems to take this concept very seriously.

The competition was influenced by Coach’s Mother’s Day “Hot Mom” Campaign. Once again- no, we’re not kidding. In America, Coach has recently seen a slow decrease in sales. Apparently, Coach bags have been criticized for being “mom bags” and lacking personality. Coach’s China branch decided to use this to their advantage.

With the help of social media, the China branch ensured that their products gave a youthful feel. They worked in the idea of mom’s feeling even more youthful after purchasing a Coach bag. They then launched the “Hot Mom” campaign and sales have gone up nearly 40% this year.

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Inspired by this idea, Weibo launched the “Hot Mom” photo competition. The competition proved to be a success. Tons of moms took part in it to show off their beautiful and youthful looks.

While many people seemed pleased with the competition, others seemed uncomfortable with the whole ordeal.

MailOnline remarked “Some of the mothers look so similar to their daughters it is difficult to tell them apart and instead they look like sisters.” Shanghiist shared the same discomfort and agreed that it was often very difficult to tell who was the child and who was the mother.

MailOnline also commented that motherhood was already stressful enough. Jezebel highly agreed and said, “As if beauty culture didn’t already put enough pressure on us to never start looking old, working tirelessly to turn us all into a diverse chorus of consumer Queen Grimhildes.”

As the growing pressure to be beautiful gets even heavier in Asia, is it right to pin these  expectations onto mothers as well? Be a good mother, wife, and now maintain your youth until your own daughter reaches adulthood. Are we asking for too much?

Or is this simply a way to keep mothers healthy and active? Maybe this is a way to congratulate the mothers who worked hard to stay healthy? Tell us what you think.

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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

A Closer Look at The VIRAL ASIAN STORIES of 2013

While it is true that Asian Americans don’t receive enough time to shine on mainstream media, we are far from silent. In fact, there were quite a number of Asian stories that went viral this year.

Comedy duo, The Fung Brothers decided to highlight 25 Viral Asian stories of 2013. If you watch this video and don’t quite know what they’re talking about, have no fear! As it turns out, we’ve written about many of these viral stories. Watch the video then click the links below for a more in-depth look at the Viral Asian stories of 2013.

 

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Kenichi Ebina won America’s Got Talent.
Japanese Dancer Kenichi Ebina Wins America’s Got Talent (READ HERE)
“Months ago, Kenichi Ebina’s audition performance for America’s Got Talent went viral. Ebina stunned the judges and viewers nationwide with his “dance-ish” performance that included the robot, some gasp-worthy matrix moves, and entertaining martial arts…”

 

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K-pop got popular.
KCON 2013 | Proof That Kpop Is Not Just For Koreans (READ HERE)
“The stage was covered with Caucasians, Latinos, African Americans, and various other non-Asian folk. Not only did East Asians show their presence, but Southeast Asians and South Asians did as well. Fans who clearly stated they were not Korean were singing every single word of their favorite songs and impressively showcasing the intricate dance moves to these songs. Yes, these fans took time out of their lives to memorize lyrics to Korean songs without actually knowing Korean. Now that’s dedication…”


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Asiana Airlines Crash

Flight 214 Crash Presents Opportunities for Racism (READ HERE)
Racist Halloween Costume Alert: Tragic Flight Crash Turned Into A Joke (READ HERE)
“With such a tragedy on our hands, you would think it wouldn’t be much to ask for some sensitivity with this issue, but more and more we find people using this opportunity to simply show racism and insensitivity…”


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Linsanity
 came out in theaters.
Linsanity Coming To A Theater Near You (READ HERE)
“Although many of us may have gone linsane back in 2012 when third-string guard, end of the bench player, Jeremy Lin became a new sensation, many fans and even sports professionals did not know much about him. Director Evan Jackson Leong and his crew began documenting Lin’s journey in basketball way before all the hype of Linsanity pushed him to stardom…”

 

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Julie Chen tells the world about her surgery.

Julie Chen Admits To Having Plastic Surgery To Look Less Asian (READ HERE)
Julie Chen Feels Hurt By Asian American Community (READ HERE)
“Chen explains that with her career on the line, she couldn’t see another solution. The decision became so weighty that she opened up to her parents about whether or not this surgery would be a denial of their culture. This led to a family divide where some members believed that Chen should be disowned…”



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Man sues wife for being ugly/ Family photo was fake.
Horrible Reaction To ‘Man Sues Wife For Ugly Children’ Hoax (READ HERE)
“According to multiple sources, a Chinese man named Jian Feng was “horrified” when his beautiful wife gave birth to an ugly child. He suspected his wife of an affair because he could not see how the two of them could create the child. After tests proved that it was in fact their child, the husband discovered that his wife had undergone surgery before they met…”


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Indian woman won Miss America.
Miss America Makes History with First Indian American Winner… But Not Without Racist Haters (READ HERE)
Top Five Reasons Nina Davuluri is Awesome (READ HERE)
“But not long after the coveted crown was placed on her head, Davuluri, who performed a Bollywood fusion dance routine for the talent portion of the competition, quickly became the focus of discriminatory and racist comments on various social media platforms. The 24-year-old aspiring doctor was referred to, among other things, as “Miss 7-11,” “Miss Al-Qaeda,” and as a “terrorist.” Some expressed their disappointment that an “Arab” who had performed “Egypt dancing” won Miss America, just days after the 9/11 anniversary. Some even retorted that a Miss America winner “should have to be American.””

 

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City urges nearby Sriracha factory to shut down.
Sriracha Factory Odor Causes Burning Eyes And Headaches (READ HERE)
“Residents have filed several complaints about burning eyes and constant headaches due to the intense and painful odor emitted by the factory. One family in the area stated that they were forced to move a birthday party indoors due to the strong odor…”

 

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Alison Gold loves Chinese food.

Offensive “Chinese Food” Video Made by Producers of Rebecca Black’s “Friday” Goes Viral (READ HERE)
“The guys who brought us Rebecca Black’s “Friday” are back and have unleashed a song that may very well beat their first viral phenomenon. Alison Gold is the face of this new troll video “Chinese Food” where she sings about her love for, you guessed it, Chinese food…”

 

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Typhoon Haiyan hits the Philippines.

7 Things You Should Know About Typhoon Haiyan, The World’s Strongest Typhoon Hits The Philippines (READ HERE) 
Heartbreaking Images: The Aftermath of Typhoon Haiyan (READ HERE)
“There are still bodies littering the sides of the roads that have not been collected. People are sheltering under whatever they can find. There’s a real sense of frustration among people because they don’t have enough food, they don’t have enough water.”

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(Photo courtesy of The Fung Bros.)

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

The Daily SHAG | EXO For Ivy Club Photoshoot [VIDEO INCLUDED]

Recently, 17-year-old singer/songwriter Lorde was cyberbullied for her “nerdy Asian boyfriend,” James Lowe. Lowe was met with every negative Asian male stereotype in the book.

Situations like this is precisely the reason Audrey created the Daily SHAG (Smoking Hot Asian Guy) to prove that, contrary to popular belief, Asian men in all shapes and sizes can be desirable.

Who better to portray this than K-pop’s current dreamboats, EXO? The 12 member boy band, which consist of Korean and Chinese members, clearly bring an array of looks, personalities and body types. They easily prove that Asian men are perfectly capable of being hot.

Ivy Club has already used EXO to advertise many of their looks and thankfully, they decided to use EXO’s boyish charm for their Winter 2013-2014 line.

The boys are accompanied by actress Seo Yea Ji while they make school uniforms look more attractive than we could have ever imagined.

Click below for some Daily SHAG pictures you’re sure to enjoy. As an added bonus, we’ve included the behind-the-scenes footage of this swoon-worthy photoshoot. And if you still find yourself lost and unable to distinguish the members, have no fear. Check out The Ultimate Guide to EXO.

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Zhang Ziyi Wins Best Actress at 56th Asia-Pacific Film Festival (And Looks Stunning)

On December 16th, the 56th Asia-Pacific Film Festival Award Ceremony was held in Macau at The Venetian.

Wong Kar-wai’s much anticipated film The Grandmaster proved that it was worth the anticipation by taking home two awards that night: Best Cinematography and Best Actress.

Zhang Ziyi, one of the top actresses in China’s film industry and best known for her roles in the Oscar-winning films Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and Memoirs of a Geisha, was well-deserving of Best Actress Award. She was also awarded Best Actress at the recent Golden Horse Awards for the same role in The Grandmaster.

Zhang Ziyi plays the strong-willed Gong Er who learned Kung Fu in secret when women were not allowed to. Zhang Ziyi admits that she simply could not say no to Wong Kar-wai, but certainly did not expect the film to take three years to shoot.

Clearly, that decision was worth it. The actress did more than stun audiences with her acting, she also took everyone’s breath away with her red-carpet look to accept the award. Zhang wore a stunning Armani Privé Spring 2013 red latex bustier mermaid gown coded in strands of sequins.

Check out more of her stunning look below.

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Comic Tackles Misconceptions About Feminism

These days, we get the striking feeling that feminism has become a misunderstood concept.

Time and time again, I’ve come across individuals who associate feminism as the hatred of men. Thats it. Apparently there is no actual and logical reason behind why women are feminists aside from the desire for bra-burnings, anger, and the shared hatred of all males.

Even worse, “feminism” has gained some negative connotations. Suddenly, women who are feminists are viewed as bad girlfriends and bad wives. As a result, even women who feel strongly for their rights as an individual do not want to be associated with the description “feminist.”

These misunderstandings are exactly why 20-year-old Katarzyna Babis designed a comic to show why feminism exists.

“I would like to take away the bad rep of the word ‘feminism,’ broaden the awareness of the actual agenda of this movement, and of the need for discussion about the way in which women are treated in our society,” Babis told HuffPost.

Her comic portrays the double standards that women often face and the judgements they receive no matter what lifestyle choice they make.

“[I wanted to start a] discussion about the problem with the way women are perceived by the society, about huge and often contradictory expectations that are put on their shoulders,” said Babis. “In this reality, a woman’s body doesn’t belong to her –- it is either a public property, intended only to be admired, or a source of sin, shame and guilt.”

As Asian American women, we are no strangers to expectations and judgements. Dressing a certain way or even choosing a certain career path can trigger a number of judgements from our very own family. This is exactly the thing that Babis portrays in her comic below.

 

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