You may have heard of a popular yet under-the-radar beauty brand called NYX Cosmetics. High tech ingredients, the trendiest colors, affordable prices (think less than $5 for a liquid eyeliner) — what’s not to love? Well, let’s just say a mega giant beauty company called L’Oréal also fell head over heels for the line, purchasing NYX last summer for an undisclosed amount. (Women’s Wear Daily reported that it could have been up to $500 million.)
And the beneficiary of that major payday? NYX’s founder, Toni Ko.
For our interview, Ko invites me to her penthouse condo in downtown Los Angeles. Spacious with lots of natural light, her home has arguably the best views in the city. Ko has eclectic taste when it comes to home décor, the space filled with traditional Asian furnishings with a modern twist. Of course, there’s the requisite walk-in closet dedicated to just shoes, but what takes this place to another level is the in-house pastry café, where fresh pastries are baked just for her. Ko, along with her bichon frise, Bruce (he has his own Instagram, @SirBruceBarkalot), has lived in the penthouse for about seven years now and isn’t planning on going anywhere unless a) she becomes a billionaire (a goal of hers) or b) kids come into the picture (she just recently got married).
Makeup, it seems, has always been in Ko’s DNA. When Ko was 13, her family emigrated from South Korea to the U.S. and opened a beauty supply store. Though she wasn’t allowed to wear makeup in junior high, Ko says she would save all her lunch money to buy it and then hide it in her backpack so she could put it on at school and remove it before she got home. Even back then, Ko had keen business instincts. “I remember buying eyeliner at a local drugstore and it being very difficult to apply,” she says. “The red lipstick didn’t appear red, the blue eyeshadow wasn’t exactly blue. That’s when I realized there was a niche for an affordable yet high performing product.” It wasn’t until years later, however, when Ko was 25, that she would found NYX. In a humble 600-square-foot space, NYX sold only one product back then: eyeliner pencils. But within the first year of business, NYX generated over $2 million in sales.
Initially, Ko was inspired by brands like M.A.C and Urban Decay, which offered “professional makeup to the everyday consumer.” But as NYX grew, Ko found herself looking to her homeland for inspiration. “I would go trend shopping in Korea all the time,” she says, ticking off the trendiest neighborhoods of Seoul. “Technology is amazing there, and their products are so advanced.” She had discovered BB cream about 10 years ago, but as a smaller company, held off on introducing NYX’s own version until there was a demand for the product by American consumers.
As NYX grew, so did its social footprint. With 1.7 million followers on Instagram and an active channel on YouTube, NYX’s democratization of quality makeup was right in step with the mass outreach social media afforded it. “It really works for the beauty industry,” says Ko. “Before, if you didn’t run traditional advertising, you couldn’t reach your audience. But YouTube and Instagram has changed the game in terms of viewing tutorials in real time, seeing actual color on a real person and much more. People who didn’t know how to apply makeup now have the tools and accessibility to find makeup artists online and learn how to do every trick of the trade.”
While selling NYX — a company Ko nurtured into a worldwide best-seller, available in over 70 countries and sold at retail giants like Target and Ulta — to L’Oréal may be every entrepreneur’s dream come true, for Ko, it was like losing a best friend. “It hit me the next day,” she says. “Most people would celebrate and pop champagne after selling a company, but I felt deflated like a balloon. Up until I sold the company, I was so excited. I never considered working at NYX actual work — that’s how much I loved what I was doing. But I truly struggled [after the sale], getting used to the fact that NYX no longer belonged to me.”
On the upside, if she did get a nine-figure payoff, she’ll be set for life. And after years of always being conscious of her spending, Ko’s first splurge after the sale was not one, but five Hermès Birkin bags. (Yes, the ones with the rumored multiyear waiting lists that can go for $10,000+ a pop.)
Ko is now channeling her energy into building a real estate portfolio, as well as three local charities that focus on schools and underprivileged children. In fact, she started her own nonprofit, the Toni Ko Foundation, which not only supports organizations that help children in need but also those that empower women to start their own businesses. “The only way for many women around the globe to be more liberated is to become financially independent,” says Ko, whose own mother immigrated to the U.S. with three young children. “I think it’s incredibly important to lead women in the right direction to achieve independence.”
Ko also plans on returning to beauty as soon as her 5-year non-compete clause with L’Oréal is up. “Trust me, I’m counting down the days, and time is flying by!”
In the meantime, Ko keeps a smile on her face (“The act alone makes you happy,” she says), striving to work hard and stay honest. “I wish to learn something new every day and surround myself with people that I can learn from,” she says. “I want to set my timetable every 10 years and look back at myself and say, ‘Hey, I really became a better person, and I’m proud of what I’ve accomplished so far.’”
STORY BY ESTHER CHO Photo courtesy of Toni Co This story was originally published in our Spring 2015 issue. Get your copy here.
Looking back on the American history classes I grew up with, there always seemed to be a biased viewpoint in order to protect the well-being of Uncle Sam. It was always important to remember how the great American land was discovered and who our Founding Fathers were. Sure, we got our tidbits about how Native American lands were taken away and how they were forced into reservations, we got a chapter on slavery and the underground railroad, and then an even briefer section about the Vietnam War. But what exactly do you remember about the Vietnam War through the viewpoint of American history books?
To be honest, I don’t remember learning much about the war itself. Instead, I remember learning what was happening back home on U.S. soil while violence ensued overseas. This consisted of hippies, protests for peace and “bringing our boys home.” Every now and then, the history book would discuss a new warfare tactic or weapon that was developed, but there was never the gritty truth and the other side’s perspective. Perhaps American history didn’t delve into great detail because, honestly, why would we want to teach our children about a war where we were defeated?
Often times when we mention the word Vietnam in the United States, we don’t mean Vietnam as a country.
Its relation to the United States is special: it has become a vault filled with tragic metaphors – it stands for American loss of innocence, tragedy, legacy of defeat, and failure. For the first time in our history, Americans were caught in the past, haunted by unanswerable questions, confronted with a tragic ending.
My uncle, who fought in the war as a pilot for the South Vietnamese Army, once observed that, “When Americans talk about Vietnam they really are talking about America.” “Americans don’t take defeat and bad memories very well,” he added.
Lam was just 11-years-old when he fled Vietnam with his family in the midst of war. They were forced to leave relatives and neighbors, a comfortable home, and any indication of their past in order to be safe and start a new life in America. In adulthood, Lam would frequently return to his country, but in a protective, almost tourist standpoint. It wasn’t until his PBS documentary, My Journey Home, that Lam opened up and discovered the true pain, suffering and loss of those that decided to stay behind during the war. Naturally, his discovery was met with grief and a newfound perspective and he wants to tell this story through his writing.
Courtesy of fineartamerica.com
Courtesy of hdwallpapers-3d.com.
In a more recent trip to Vietnam, Lam began to notice a shift in both his country and its people. The landmarks associated with the Vietnam war are now turned into tourist attractions where, ironically, Americans come to visit in order to make peace with their wartime past and remember lost comrades. More so, the younger Vietnamese generation who did not experience the war have no emotional connection to this time in their country’s history. Instead, as Lam describes it, the younger generation “dreams of a cosmopolitan future.” This means dreams of going to America and visiting typical American attractions, such as Hollywood and Disneyland. In the meantime, those that have lived through the Vietnam war are forever trapped in its history.
Although 40 years have passed since the war and there have been times of loss or disconnection, Lam, as well as many others, has finally made peace with Vietnam by refusing to live in anger or vengeance. Instead, they celebrate life instead of loss, and live on successfully and peacefully in this emerging new Vietnam.
Feature image courtesy of phdincreativewriting.wordpress.com
Years ago, I watched a promo for Shawn T and his new, intense program that claims to tone your body and burn fat in just 45 minutes a day; this was the start of the Insanity craze. Everyone from college students to middle-aged moms bought into the hype in an attempt to “get fit quick.” But did it actually work? Honestly…. yes!
I tried Insanity as a sort of kick-off to a healthy and active lifestyle. I have to admit, it was extremely difficult in the beginning. After my very first Insanity workout at home, I felt so tired, I was nauseous and I plopped down on my couch and fell asleep– a major sign that I was very much out of shape. But after a month, I had results (along with healthier diet choices, of course). Although I didn’t get physically ripped with rock-hard abs like advertised on television, I felt stronger, I lost some weight and overall, I just felt better about myself.
Now, years later, it seems that Insanity kicked off more than my healthy and active lifestyle. Say goodbye to Yoga, Zumba and other popular workouts of the past, because H.I.I.T, or high intensity interval training, is the fitness world’s new trend!
Courtesy of tingfit.com.
Courtesy of fitnessrepublic.com
H.I.I.T essentially combines strength and cardio with very little recovery time to produce the ultimate quick, full body workout that burns fat and improves strength and stamina. The best part? There is no need for equipment! This is why it’s ideal for those with busy schedules. Workouts can be as short as ten minutes (perhaps even shorter) and can be done anywhere. There are even variations of interval workouts, which may include some weights or interval training while running on a treadmill.
So no more excuses that you don’t have time to work out and there’s no need to drive to a gym. Summer is just around the corner! Check out just some of the various H.I.I.T workouts below:
Courtesy of Pop Sugar Fitness.
Courtesy of Pop Sugar Fitness.
Feature image courtesy of Cassey Ho and Blogilates on YouTube.
I love my sisters…most of the time. We run into rough patches from time to time, but it’s all water under the bridge once we hug it out. Still, growing up as the oldest of four sister wasn’t always the easiest. One of the biggest things I needed to learn was sharing. Sharing my space, my things, and my parents’ attention. Even 2-year-old Julianna from ItsJudyLife knows the struggles of sharing. In her interview with the YouTube vlogger, seanTHiNKS, Julianna tells it like it is. With a cookie in hand and crumbs hanging off her lips, I can’t help but giggle at the cuteness of her brutal honesty.
There’s no avoiding the camera when you have vloggers for parents. Avid watchers of Julianna’s life know that she’s the oldest child of her parents, Judy (ItsJudyTime) and Benji (BenjiManTV). Many have seen the family’s growth from the beginning– way before Julianna’s birth and well before her parents tied the knot. Long-time subscribers can even recall when Judy was just starting out as a beauty blogger.
As the family continues growing, we hope to see more interviews of Julianna and her cute tantrums. Be sure to check out her first time in the hot seat with seanTHiNKS:
If you had the chance to create your own restaurant, what would your dream restaurant look like? What would make your restaurant stand out from the rest? Now, imagine asking these questions to a group of aspiring 5-year-old chefs. As expected, their responses were totally imaginative and completely adorable. From a restaurant completely built out of fish to a chef that will serenade you with every dish, these kids from New York’s P.S. 216 class have thought of it all. But who wouldn’t want a little chef singing “Cooking! It’s cooooking!” to them?
Cute responses aside, this video from Yahoo Food shines a light on a big issue that is prominent in many metropolitan areas: A lack of nutritional food. In New York City alone, over 3 million folks citywide live in communities where access to fresh fruits and vegetables is very limited. This issue especially hits hard amongst low-income families who don’t have the nutritional resources and are left to settle for cheap, processed foods. A terrible cycle that ultimately leads to struggles with obesity and all the health complications that come with it.
In response to the problem, the non-profit organization Edible Schoolyard NYC partnered with public schools in these low-income communities in order to educate the youth about nutrition. All of Edible Schoolyard’s lessons equip students with hands-on knowledge by building community gardens and creating kitchen classrooms. Any chef can see the value in Edible Schoolyard’s mission. The org has even gained the support of established New York chef and founder of the Momofoku restaurant group, David Chang.
To continue his support, Chang let the same group of adorable, aspiring chefs grill him with questions in hopes to provide some advice to the mini chefs. See how it plays out below:
Netflix’s elaborate original series Marco Polo was met with some criticism from the Asian American community for being an outsider’s fetishization of the East. But actress Joan Chen urges skeptics to look at it differently. “It’s such a great opportunity for so many Asian actors,” she says. Other than the lead, Lorenzo Richelmy as Marco Polo, almost the entire cast is Asian or Asian American, with Benedict Wong as Kublai Khan, Rick Yune as the leader of the Golden Horde, Zhu Zhu as the Blue Princess, Chin Han as the villainous chancellor, Olivia Cheng as a suffering concubine with some tricks up her sleeve, and Claudia Kim (who was just named the first Asian face of cosmetics brand Bobbi Brown and can be seen in Avengers: Age of Ultron this May) as the warrior Khutulun. “I see how excited these kids are to work on this grand production,” says Chen. “They have dialect coaches and personal trainers, and this series gives them a year to work on their craft and express their talents. I think of it as completely positive.”
Chen has been acting since she was teenager in China, where she became a household name and was dubbed the “Elizabeth Taylor of China” for her role in 1979’s Little Flower. She was “discovered” twice. Legend has it that Madame Mao discovered her at a school rifle range, impressed by her skilled marksmanship. She was soon chosen for the Actors’ Training Program by the Shanghai Film Studio. At 20, she decided to move to the United States to study filmmaking. Though she had no connections in Hollywood, she was discovered again by legendary producer Dino De Laurentiis, who honked at her in a parking lot. His line was: “Did you know that Lana Turner was discovered in a drug store?”
“I was like, ‘Who’s this dirty old man?’” she remembers. “I didn’t talk. I just kept walking.”
He managed to convince her to take his card, and her managers couldn’t believe she had met the Dino De Laurentiis. She soon landed her first Hollywood role in 1986’s Tai-Pan. In the last three decades, she’s been juggling films in both China and the U.S., from the Oscar-winning Bernardo Bertolucci film The Last Emperor to the American cult TV series Twin Peaks, to big Asian productions like Ang Lee’s Lust, Caution and smaller Asian American indies like Saving Face. She’s also a writer and director in her own right, directing the feature films Xiu Xiu: The Sent Down Girl and Autumn in New York.
In Marco Polo, Chen plays Empress Chabi, Kublai Khan’s first and favorite wife. Though the creators researched the history for their fantastical story, there wasn’t much historical information on Empress Chabi to go on. So they worked with Chen to develop a more complex character who drives the plot and would be more fulfilling for the veteran actress to play.
The grand production, overseen by The Weinstein Company and reported to be one of the most expensive TV shows ever made, was shot mostly in Malaysia. “The costumes are made of real silk and ornaments,” adds Chen. “They’re so heavy that you know they didn’t spare a cent to make every detail luxurious.”
She also loved going to work and seeing all the stunt tents, where actors and martial arts performers trained every day. Though Empress Chabi doesn’t have a lot of action, Chen was able to learn some archery for some of her scenes. This brought her back to her days at her high school rifle range.
“Even though they’re two different sports, there are some principles that are the same,” says Chen. “The way you aim, the breathing techniques, the way you use your cheek and how you use your body. I took it up pretty fast. But obviously, I could take a lifetime to learn it.”
Though she knows that the show is romanticized and operatic, she hopes viewers of Marco Polo enjoy it for that very reason. “It’s a visual feast,” she says. “In the beginning, you have to set up all these characters and the historical background, but by episode 10, it’s really powerful. It’s cooking. It’s hot.”
All episodes of Marco Polo are currently available on Netflix, and the series has been renewed for a second season
Photo courtesy of Netflix This story was originally published in our Spring 2015 issue. Get your copy here.
In 2013, we said hello to 16-year-old Kamala Khan. More commonly known as Ms. Marvel, Kamala Khan was Marvel’s very first Pakistani-American Muslim superhero. And if you were happy with just one Pakistani superhero, we have some good news. Three more are on the way!
11-year-olds Saadi, Amna and Kamil star in Pakistan’s very first full-length feature animated film, 3 Bahadur. The title, which translates to “three brave,” is quite a fitting description for our young heroes. When the three children suddenly acquire superpowers, they decide to rid their city of all the evil that plagues it.
The film was created by Pakistan’s first Oscar winner, Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy. In addition to her Academy Award (which she won for her documentary Saving Face), Obaid-Chinoy also has an Emmy, a Livingston Award and was named one of Time Magazine’s 100 most influential people in 2012.
“Almost 3 years ago, I had an intense desire to create an animated feature in Pakistan which would appeal to Pakistani children everywhere,” Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy told NBC News. “As a nation, we have stopped producing quality content for our children. All of our content is imported and thus our youth grows up with mentors and heroes that are far removed from what they see around them in real life.”
Obaid-Chinoy had made it clear that she hopes to inspire the youth of Pakistan. In fact, the official website, which features exclusive content and releases weekly comic strips, allows children to submit stories which showcase their own “bahadury.” These inspiring tales will be considered for publication on the official website.
“3 Bahadur is not just a movie. It is a movement,” Obaid-Chinoy explained. “The message we’re sending with this film is that ‘We shall overcome.’ Like these three kids (film main characters), we can face the challenges that come our way. You don’t need to be a superhero. You are a superhero.”
3 Bahadur is set to release on May 22, 2015 across Pakistan.
When it comes to ice cream cravings, sometimes the taste of plain ol’ vanilla or chocolate doesn’t cut it. At the same time, you don’t want to consume a lot of sugars and artificial flavors when having a pint of your favorite guilty pleasure. Luckily, we came across A Brown Table, a food blog that leaves you feeling much less guilty after eating dessert and doesn’t skip out on the flavors.
Nik Sharma, the brains (and the hands) behind A Brown Table, started his blog back in 2011 as an exploration of his first passion, cooking. Taking the flavors from his Indian heritage and merging it with his experience in the United States created a tasty cross cultural experience in every bite. “I feel like I’m on the fence, halfway between both [cultures]. I want to tell people that there’s a lot more than curries and naan to Indian food.” Sharma explained in his interview with Yahoo Food.
Not only does Sharma fuse these two world of flavors, he assures us that his desserts are healthier than most. “When it comes to desserts, I try to cut back on the amount of carbohydrates and fats without compromising on taste,” Sharma states on his blog. “I’m not a big fan of artificial sweeteners or additives in the food that I eat and I like to know where my food and ingredients come from.”
Check out our favorite flavor-packed ice creams from A Brown Table that are all perfect for the summer time (or any time, really):
Cherry Darjeeling Tea Lemon Sorbet
Okay, so this one is technically sorbet… but it’s still delicious!
“Cherries make a happy sticky red mess whether you’re eating or working with them in the kitchen. The juicier they are, the bigger the mess they make… But don’t let the mess scare you off, this sorbet will make you very happy this summer. I added a good dose of dark Indian tea leaves, the Darjeeling kind and infused the woody tea flavors into the sugar syrup before mixing it in with the fresh lemon juice and cherries.”
Black Peppercorn, Cardamom and Raspberry Sauce Ice Cream
“Cardamom is probably one of the most prominent spices you will find Indian desserts. Indians love infusing it in almost everything from masalas (spice mixes) to warm and cold desserts. In this particular ice cream, it lends a cool fragrant flavor. I also infused a few black peppercorns into the milk and added a little extra ground black pepper (the extra amount is completely optional) to balance the coolness without making the ice cream spicy hot.”
“I love fresh figs, they are fat and juicy and sweet like nectar when ripe. Every fig season, I make it a point to eat some on a weekly basis whenever possible. We had a couple of hot days this past week and I found another excuse to make some ice cream. I decided to use cardamom for the base because the spice has a wonderful cooling fragrant taste. Also, cardamom is to Indian cooking what vanilla is to Western cuisine when it comes to desserts, though I should add that Indian cuisine also uses this great spice to season meats and vegetables in dishes.”
Red Beet, Rose Water, Honey, Goat Cheese and Goat Milk Ice Cream
“I started off by oven roasting my red beets before I puréed and stirred them into goat milk. The roasting helps to enhance the natural sweetness of the beets by cooking the sugars inside and give them a light caramel flavor. The ice cream base is sweetened with a little honey and brown sugar and then flavored with a light dash of rose water. The natural tanginess of the goat cheese helps to balance the flavors.”
Orange Blossom, Clove Ice Cream with Candied Blood Orange Freckles
“Orange blossom water is one of the lightest and freshest floral scents to work with. It’s very popular in Middle Eastern and Mediterranean cooking and it contributes a delicate sweet flavor to this ice cream. The candied orange chips provide the tangy citrus flavor to the ice cream in concentrated little bursts with every spoon you eat. I’ve also infused the ice cream base with a faint hint of cloves, orange blossom honey and a bit of honeycomb to heighten the flavors.”
After sharing with you a bit about Vancouver Fashion Week’s founder Jamal Abdourahman last week, we picked out a few emerging and independent Asian designers featured during Vancouver Fashion Week’s most recent fall 2015 event. From gothic influences to feminine day dresses, there’s something to inspire and impress any fashion enthusiast. Get to know a little about each designer below and keep an eye out for them as they continue to build their lines for the coming seasons.
1. Crystal Commerce, Xiyuan Fashion
Opening the show with the beauty of China’s traditional attire definitely kept the attention alive while models moved down the runway in a graceful mix of contemporary and cultural ties. Clothes were cut for the modern day woman, but not overpowered by its international and historical influences.
Image Courtesy Of Vancouver Fashion Week
Image Courtesy Of VFW
2. Theresa Chen
Thinking back on her time spent in Europe, designer Theresa Chen created clean, tailored pieces with elegant shapes. She refers to her line as “simplicity chic” as she continues to produce clothes that fashion bloggers are picking up on very quickly and falling in love with. Take a peek at some of her fall collection, and you’ll see why we expect to hear her name come up more often in the near future.
Image Courtesy Of VFW
Image Courtesy Of VFW
Designer Maark Abeenir’s (Mark Abenir) line Averynthe is like a cool, romantic dream with a dash of gothic flair. Flowing gowns featured geometric patterns and bold cuts that aren’t for the shy fashionistas out there. If you aren’t afraid of showing a little skin check out Abeenir’s daring designs.
Image Courtesy Of VFW
Image Courtesy Of VFW
4. Quynntessential Couture
Designer Quynn’s vision is a combination of vintage and romance. Her love for “all things beautiful” reflects in her feminine designs perfect for those early fall lunch dates. Quynn hand-selects all fabrics and custom-makes every piece, while taking an animal advocacy stance and donating a percentage of her proceeds to animal shelters.
Image Courtesy Of VFW
Image Courtesy Of VFW
5. Grandi’s Atelier
Grandi’s Atelier isn’t about fast fashion, it’s about creating beautifully tailored custom garments for individuals. Designer Grandy takes her analytical nature and translates it into creating quality pieces fitted perfectly to the wearer. Even on the runway, her fall 2015 collection looked cut for each individual model versus a mass production meant to fit a general body type.
Image Courtesy Of VFW
Image Courtesy Of VFW
6. JY Kim
JY Kim tackles both menswear and womenswear together on the runway. Keeping to a dark, wintry palette, designs varied between fitted shirts and jackets and flowing skirts. A minimal theme was kept throughout the entire collection, creating simple silhouettes that would be easy to work into your fall street styles.
Image Courtesy Of VFW
Image Courtesy Of VFW
To view the full show galleries from these designers and more from Vancouver Fashion Week click here.
Audrey Magazine is an award-winning national publication that covers the Asian experience from the perspective of Asian American women. Audrey covers the latest talent and trends in entertainment, fashion, beauty and lifestyle.