Asian Women Don’t Get Breast Cancer?

Photo by Richard Cavosora, courtesy of Asian & Pacific Islander American Health Forum’s “A Book of Hope: Stories of Healing to Honor Asian American & Pacific Islander Cancer Survivors.”

We may be nearing the end of October, but that doesn’t mean breast cancer awareness stops here. The most commonly diagnosed cancer among Asian American women is something we have to be vigilant about year-round. Here’s a personal story about one woman fighting for awareness in the Asian American community:

“Asian women don’t get breast cancer.”

What if you heard these words from a medical professional? Susan Shinagawa did in 1991 after finding a lump in her breast during her monthly self-exam. Today, it’s those words that drive the work she does now. Shinagawa wants to make sure that no other woman of Asian descent will hear these words and that all women regularly get screened for breast cancer.

A decade ago, Shinagawa was working as a program administrator at an academic cancer center in San Diego, California. She says that, at the time, she knew very little about cancer even though she worked at the center. A friend of hers was giving breast self-examination (BSE) workshops and asked Shinagawa to attend. So she went to support her friend.

At the workshop, Shinagawa’s friend mentioned several risk factors for breast cancer that caught her attention. She had a couple of those risk factors and decided that she should start doing BSE. She began doing monthly BSE and recorded what she felt each month on a breast map.

“After several months of doing monthly self-exams, I felt something completely different in May 1991 than I’d ever felt,” Shinagawa says during our phone interview. “It was really obvious and just underneath my skin. I could even look straight down and see this lump sticking out.”


Shinagawa was preparing to take a leave of absence from work to join her naval pilot husband in Florida for a year. Before she left, she decided to get the lump checked out.

Her mammogram came out negative. However, says Shinagawa, at that time, 40 percent of all pre-menopausal women had false negative mammograms. The diagnostic radiologist decided to do a sonogram, which showed Shinagawa’s lump to be a solid mass, and not cystic. So Shinagawa went to see a surgical oncologist, who told her that she had fibrocystic breast disease, a.k.a. lumpy breasts. He told her that she had nothing to worry about, that she was too young to have breast cancer, she had no family history of it and besides, “Asian women don’t get breast cancer.”

“At that time, I really didn’t know anything about breast cancer or cancer statistics. So his comments really didn’t hit me,” says Shinagawa. “All I was thinking was, ‘I’m young and this is what I want to hear.’” But a little voice inside Shinagawa’s head kept telling her that something was going on.

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Hollywood’s “20 Hottest Asian Actresses” Are So Much More Than Hot

By Ethel Navales




Recently, Off Beat released a list titled “20 of Hollywood’s Hottest Asian Actresses.” They weren’t wrong– these ladies really are drop dead gorgeous, but there’s so much more to these talented women as well. How do we know this? Well, we’ve featured nearly every single one of the actresses in our print and online magazine. Check out why these girls are not only hot, but also talented and deeply inspiring.



1) Rila Fukushima
The model-turned-actress, Rila Fukushima, was featured in the Summer 2013 issue of Audrey Magazine after filming Marvel’s The Wolverine. “I love a good challenge,” Fukushima admitted. “And I look for roles that speak to me somehow.”

That challenge certainly came when she took on the role as Yukio, the ninja character in The Wolverine. “The role required intense training in a variety of martial arts styles and techniques, from sword fighting to bo staff,” said Fukushima. “I think the biggest challenge was the physicality of the role. Long days of martial arts and stunts were really hard. It was both incredibly rewarding and humbling to go through it. I definitely learned a lot of things about myself.” Beautiful and kickass? No wonder she made it onto the list.



2) Jamie Chung
Jamie Chung was none other than Audrey Magazine‘s Fall 2012 cover girl. During her interview, Chung admitted that the decision to go into acting was a scary one. “[Acting] has always been a secret desire of mine. When I first started, I was so afraid of failure that I didn’t tell anyone what I was doing,” Chung revealed. “But, once I decided, I dove right in.”

Now, the actress has no problem doing what she loves most. “I just wanna do the things I love and spend time with the people I care about and cut out the bullsh-t. Life is too short,” she said. A half-second later, she added, “And that goes for food, too. If I want a burger, I’m going to eat a burger.”



3) Claudia Kim
Claudia Kim, who plays Dr. Cho in Marvel’s Avengers: Age of Ultron, was just featured in our recent Summer 2015 issue. Kim also plays the fan-favorite warrior Khutulun in Netflix’s expensive epic series, Marco Polo. After all, who says only men can be warriors?

“To play the role of a female warrior was physically laboring and required a lot of research and training,” she said. “It’s different from playing an average male role that’s mainly based on fighting with brute strength. I needed to take good care of my body despite traveling so much and also make sure that I was focused throughout.”



4) Kimiko Glenn
Kimiko Glenn, who is most known for her role as Brook Soso on the Netflix original series Orange is the New Black, was featured in Audrey Magazine‘s Fall 2014 issue.

Glenn has openly spoken about her multi-ethnic background and how shows like OITNB aim to change mainstream television. “It was disheartening as a kid to grow up knowing that. In the real world, there is room to cast more openly, but it’s still a big issue and something that I deal with on a daily basis. This show is a great example of colorblind casting. They cast who’s best for the part. The women on the show are not the kind of people you normally see in Hollywood. I think OITNB is opening people’s minds about what they want to see.”



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5) Rinko Kikuchi
Summer 2013 not only marked the release of sci-fi action film Pacific Rim, it was also when Rinko Kikuchi was Audrey Magazine’s cover girl. In the film, Kikuchi plays Mako Mori, Raleigh Becket’s badass co-pilot. Despite Kikuchi’s fear of some of the more dangerous stunts, she handled the scene like a champ.

“I wore an armor suit where I was in a cockpit while driving the robot. It was similar to [riding] a rollercoaster; I was so scared,” she admitted. “It was the most physically demanding shoot, but we [along with co-star Charlie Hunnam, who plays former pilot Raleigh Becket] really felt like pilots during that particular scene.”



6) Fan BingBing
You may recognize Chinese actress Fan BingBing from X-Men: Days of Future Past. Her character, Blink,  is not only a skilled hand-to-hand fighter, but can not only teleport herself as well as large masses of people.  You probably also recognize Bingbing from the Cannes Red Carpet where she has been the talk of the red carpet fashion world time and time again.



Audrey Winter12-13 cover lo rez
7) Maggie Q
The talented Maggie Q was Audrey‘s cover girl in Winter 2012-2013. Most impressive of all, Maggie Q is able to understand that success is a journey. “When I first started acting, there were times where I absolutely didn’t know who I was, and because of that, the confidence didn’t follow,” she remembered. “You feel lost, and you’re always trying to find something that matters to you. But the older I get, the more I understand what my values are, who I am, what I believe in. And because of that, I’m able to have confidence.”

Now, it is this confidence that has led Maggie Q to a successful career. “My standards are very high,” says Maggie. “They’re high on set, they’re high for the writers, they’re high for myself. I told them from my first meeting that if I can’t do movie-quality action, then I’m not interested. I want to do something on TV that we haven’t seen before.”



8) Zhang Ziyi
It goes without saying that Zhang Ziyi has become iconic. Just take a look at her most memorable movie moments.




9) Priyanka Chopra
Despite how talented, beautiful, and intelligent our Winter 2013-2014 cover girl is, Priyanka Chopra admits to being a victim of bullying in high school. But rather than allowing these incidents to define her, she used them to grow. “I think it gave me the strength to take adversity head on,” said Chopra. “I also learned that your life and destiny is in your own hands. Take chances, push boundaries, jump, fall, fail, cry, and then brush it all off and start all over. You will face adversity at many points in your life, but you can’t let it become a roadblock.

“The incident [in high school] upset and hurt me tremendously,” she continued, “but ultimately made me stronger. Then being back home in India led me to participate and win the Miss India and Miss World crowns. I found what I loved to do, gave it everything I had and left the rest up to destiny. Nothing anyone says or does will ever change that.”




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10) Kristin Kreuk
Kristin Kreuk graced the cover of our Fall 2013 issue and won our hearts with her humble attitude and views of how looks do not define women. “She comes from a family that didn’t feed into how beautiful she is, and she was taught that your currency isn’t in your looks,” explained Sima Kumar, Kreuk’s long-time friend and stylist. “So when Kristin first started acting, and there was a need for her to look a certain way, I don’t think she even understood it. It seemed silly and stupid to her.”

Though Kreuk continues to stray away from being an “object of desire,” she has discovered the empowerment that comes with dressing in whatever makes her happy. “What am I so afraid of? I love beautiful things, gorgeous textiles, colors and craftsmanship. I want to look good and feel good.”




11) Celina Jade
Celina Jade, who can act, sing and fight, was featured in our Summer 2013 issue. During her interview, she revealed a crossroads in life where she had to choose between her education and her career in entertainment.

“I decided to terminate my contract to continue my education because I realized I was not really becoming somebody I admired,” she said. Staying true to her words, Jade got a degree in management at the London School of Economics before pursuing her dreams of performing.  “It’s really nice for me, in my opinion, to have an education because by having an education, I don’t have to do anything I don’t want to do.”




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12) Grace Huang
In our Summer 2015 Issue. Grace Huang tells us all about her role in Lost for Words. According to Huang, the film can teach us all “to be brave and make a choice. In this day and age, there are so many choices we can make. You don’t have to go and study and then find someone and get married. I have friends who are single, and I’m single myself right now. Before, there were social norms where you felt you that you have to go with the flow. Now, there’s no flow to follow. This movie lets you know that it’s OK to be brave; make a choice and stick with it. Once you commit, that’s when your journey starts.”






13) Jessika Van
Taiwanese American actress Jessika Van was featured in Audrey’s Spring 2015 issue. In addition to speaking about her role in the romantic comedy Seoul Searching, Van also spoke about important life lessons she has picked up over the years.

“As a woman — or even as an Asian woman — I’m always asking for people’s opinions or guidance,” Van admitted. “That’s just how I grew up. But because of my upbringing, I didn’t have as much faith in my own voice or my own opinion. But going through that summer of filming, with everything I did on my own in Korea and everything I accomplished on my own, I’m starting to have a little more faith in myself. Finally, I am finding that I am enough. I know what’s right, and I should listen to myself.”



14) Mindy Kaling
Mindy Kaling was our Winter 2011-2012 cover girl where she explained where she got her confidence from: “As confident as I feel, it takes an almost comically confident person to be able to say that they were destined to be in movies and television. I don’t think I was destined, but I think I am of the personality type where the rejection or odds of something doesn’t scare me. Maybe it was because my mom moved to Africa at 20 by herself, but there’s a certain fearlessness that runs in my family for things where there’s absolutely no reason to believe that it should work out. I get that from my parents.”





15) Karen David
You would never have guessed it by just looking at her, but Karen David– who was featured in our Winter 2014-2015 issue– was bullied as a child. How did she overcome this and build up her confidence? Well that may have a thing or two to do with her inspiring parents.

“My parents have always been a huge source of inspiration — guiding me with wisdom and humility,” David revealed. “They immigrated [to Canada] with two daughters and $20. They took the leap of faith, and that has been a source of inspiration for me. They taught me to be quietly ambitious — meaning, don’t talk about it. Just let the actions speak.”


16) Arden Cho
Arden Cho, who was featured in Audrey‘s Spring 2014 issue, was able to relate to just about every girl when she spoke out about imperfections.

“It took 20 years for me to feel good about myself,” Cho admitted. “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.”



Who are the other girls who made it onto Off Beat‘s list? There’s Nepalese actress Amrita Acharia who is most known for her appearance on Game of Thrones, American actress and producer Mara Lane, and Doona Bae who stars in the new Netflix sci-fi drama, Sense8.

As for the final woman on this list, Constance Wu (most known for her popular role as Jessica Huang in the ABC comedy series Fresh Off the Boat). Check out our Latest issue to find out more about her. But trust us, she is just as inspiring and talented as every other woman on this list.




Fitness Friday: The Quickie Workout For Busy Bodies

By Jianne Lasatan


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 immediately 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

Courtesy of

Courtesy of

 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.

Courtesy of Pop Sugar Fitness.

Courtesy of Pop Sugar Fitness.


Feature image courtesy of Cassey Ho and Blogilates on YouTube.

Director of Star Wars Supports Diverse Casting in Upcoming Film

By Audrey Magazine



Every year, the San Diego Comic-Con brings together thousands of fans and comic enthusiasts. This year, one of the most anticipated panels of the convention was for the upcoming Star Wars: The Force Awakens.

During the audience Q&A session, two young Asian fans Corrine and Ryan asked director J.J. Abrams, a question many of us hope to hear more often: “We would like to know, do you plan on having any Asian characters join the cast in any of the upcoming Star Wars films?”

Photo courtesy of

Photo courtesy of

Ryan added, “What we really liked about your Star Trek films is the diversity of the cast.”

Abrams enthusiastically agreed by opening his reply with “Go Asians!” before going into more detail. Although Abrams will not be casting the upcoming Star Wars movies, he joked that if he could, he would cast them as only Asian. But on a more serious tone, he reassured fans that since he was part of the casting process for The Force Awakens, they will see Asians in film

Producer Kathleen Kennedy and director J.J. Abrams on the panel alongside screenwriter Lawarence Kasdan and actor John Boyega. – Photo courtesy of

“We wanted the movie to look the way the world looks… And I think it is important that people see themselves represented in film. I think it is not a small thing. So I completely understand and think our question is hugely important. And it was a big consideration,” said Abrams.

Kathleen Kennedy, producer of Star Wars: The Force Awakens and president of Lucasfilm also said, “There is every intention to carry on exactly what J.J. is talking about in all the Star Wars movies that we’re going to make.”

Abrams’ thoughtful response and Kennedy’s reassurance is receiving a lot of attention. The movie has already received praise for its diverse roster, which includes Academy Award-winner Lupita Nyong’o and actress Christina Chong in a minor role. Let’s hope this becomes a trend in Hollywood.

Star Wars: The Force Awakens’ is slated to be released on December 18, 2015.


Feature photo courtesy of





Feature Story: Protecting Our Youth

DEPT: Feature Story

STORY: Teena Apeles

In recognition of Domestic Violence Awareness Month in October, writer Teena Apeles explores a different side of this serious topic–young Asian Americans and dating violence.

When the news hit that 19-year-old performer Chris Brown was arrested for physically attacking his 21-year-old girlfriend and singer, Rihanna, dating violence came to the forefront of the public’s attention. The shock of the incident came in many forms: that such high-profile stars could be a victim and a perpetrator of such violence, that dating violence was a more serious epidemic than people thought, and the surprising responses of many teenage girls who faulted the victim. Just what is dating violence and how is it affecting Asian American youth today? Continue reading

Adorable Asian Babies in Halloween Costumes

By Ethel Navales

October is in the air. Shops are packed with pumpkin-flavored everything, the cold weather is creeping its way into our nights and stores are stocking up to prepare for the long-awaited holiday. So what does this mean for us? Fun-sized candy bars, fake spiderwebs and (much to our delight) halloween costumes galore.

Before, we brought you the Adorable Asian Baby Overload. With Halloween around the corner, we found it only appropriate to bring you the Halloween Costume Edition of Adorable Asian Babies. After all, what can possibly be cuter than an adorable Asian baby? An adorable Asian baby in a costume, of course! Here are some of our favorites. Feel free to show us any cuties that deserve to be on this list.


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The baby from Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry

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The happiest baby monkey you’ll ever find.

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The baby who just realized it’s a panda.

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The baby who’s clearly a strong hammer-wielding god.

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The lost baby penguin.


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The cutest ewok ever. EVER.

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The baby who can probably beat you up.

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The very-serious-about-his-cosplay Naruto baby.

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The tiny Totoro.

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The GIANT Totoro.

Baby Kiki and her Delivery Service

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Baby Chun Li..

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..And her twin sister.

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What could be cuter than this little Mario?

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A Mario and Luigi!


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A baby Cheeseburger that doesn’t seem to know what’s going on.

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A baby lobster that knows exactly what’s going on.

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And lots..

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.. of adorable..

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And last, but certainly not least is the baby who doesn’t care what holiday you think it is.

(Image source: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14)




Audrey College Tips: Surviving All-Nighters

By Winnie Galbadores

All-nighters: you can only avoid them for so long.

Its a week before your midterm and you’re relaxed. That’s definitely enough time to study right? But then you have that meeting tonight. You also promised dinner with your roommate the next night. Oh, and a new episode of your show is on- you can’t miss that. Before you know it, your midterm is the next day and you haven’t studied yet.  It’s crunch time and you’re dreading the night ahead of you, but at this point it’s necessary. Although this may be an experience most college students want to avoid, some may thrive and work greatly under pressure. While we don’t endorse sleepless nights, we’re certainly guilty of quite a few of them. Here are some tips to help you survive your first all-nighter:

1.  Take a nap: If you’ve already had a long morning, go ahead and take a two or three hour nap in the evening before you begin doing your work. This will give you energy for the long night ahead of you.

2.  If your assignment doesn’t need internet connection, don’t use it: Social media sites such as facebook and tumblr can be quite distracting. If your assignment does require internet connection, limit yourself to using those sites. There is a lovely application for macs called self control, which allows you to block a list of websites or programs you want for a certain period of time.

3.  Keep energized with healthy snacks: The continuous snacking and crunch of a bowl of nuts or dried fruits gives you a steady release of energy over time. If you’re looking for a quick energy source, fresh bananas and apples are the way to go. Both are packed with several vitamins, minerals, and good carbohydrates.

4.  Stay away from energy drinks: The quick energy high is always followed by a crash. If you must, drink soda or coffee. They’ll give you a perk without the crash. If you’re not a caffeine drinker, cold water will also help keep you up throughout the night.

5.  Study location is key: Not your bed, a comfy couch, or the floor that will potentially make you want to fall asleep. Work somewhere you will not be tempted to fall asleep and complete your work in a well lit place.

6.  Complete your more challenging assignments first: You’ll have more concentration and will most likely do more work at the beginning of your all-nighter.

7.  If possible, take a couple breaks: During your breaks, walk around and stretch or take a cold shower to help wake you up. If needed, take a 20 minute power nap to re-energize your body and mind.

8.  Work with a group: If you’re not the only one that needs to pull an all nighter, work with your friends. Surround yourself with those who will keep you accountable on working efficiently.



Different things work for each individual so be sure to try all of them out and even find new tips to keep you up. Most importantly, breathe and keep a positive state of mind throughout the night. Whether you’re in college or not, these tips will allow you to stay calm and focused.



What Happens When A Millenial Quits Social Media For a Month?

If you’re a Millennial, you’ve probably been told that you’re obsessed with social media. And even if you deny it, there’s some part of you that knows this is true. But really, how can we not become obsessed with social media in this day and age? We live in a time where it’s considered strange not to have a Facebook page, where instead of telling friends and family about our engagement, we simply get a manicure and post a picture of our new ring on Instagram.

Now don’t get me wrong. I’m not siding with your grumpy relative who says Millennials are spoiled and care more about taking pictures of food instead of eating it. Yes, social media is thoroughly etched into our lives, but who says that’s a bad thing? What about all the benefits of staying connected?

Of course, not everyone sees it that way. In fact, my very own grumpy relative pushed my buttons recently when he spent an entire hour at dinner criticizing our generation. (Keep in mind, this is the same guy who stubbornly refuses to switch to DVDs. He’s still bitter that VHS tapes are no longer being made.)

By the end of the meal, I was sure my eyeballs were going to pop out from all the eye rolling I was doing. He ended his speech by saying it would be impossible for me to give up social media for even a week.

Challenge accepted.

But I decided I’d do one better. Determined to prove my point, I chose to give up social media for an entire month. After all, absence makes the heart grow fonder, right?

Week One: As they say, old habits die hard. Countless times, I subconsciously opened Instagram only to remember with a sudden jolt that I had given up social media. I chose not to completely disable my social media platforms because I wanted to see how I would deal with the temptation just a click away, but by the end of the week, I deeply questioned this decision. And as much as I hate to say it, I definitely found myself feeling lonely. I know, I know. I shouldn’t have felt lonely since social media doesn’t actually involve physical human interaction anyway. But no matter how much I told myself that, I couldn’t shake the feeling. Maybe social media’s hold on me was worse than I thought.

Week Two: It’s quite amazing what a difference a day makes. By the end of the second week, I had a complete shift in mentality, and I was fully embracing my social media detox. My loneliness turned into that same blissful feeling of solitude you get when on vacation. Truthfully, I had forgotten what it was like not knowing what my friends were up to every single day, and I came to the conclusion that this was definitely a break I needed. Productivity was at an all-time high (you end up getting through a lot more chapters when you don’t put your book down every hour to check your phone), and it felt like I magically had more time during the day. Instead of sitting in front of a screen, I used that extra time to go out with family, wipe the dust off some old board games and for the first time in a long time, I actually took a nap.

Week Three: By the end of the third week, I was still very happy about my break up with social media, but I should’ve known it was too good to last. I met with some old college friends to celebrate a birthday, and it became clear that after just three weeks without social media, I had missed a lot. The conversation turned to a friend who recently became engaged, and I was instantly overwhelmed with guilt for not congratulating her the minute it happened. Even more shocking, I was asked by three different people whether my boyfriend and I had broken up. I thought hard about when was the last time I posted a picture with him in it. A month ago? And yet a mere month without a couple picture on Instagram was enough for everyone to question whether or not we were still together. By the end of the night, I was left feeling guilty, shocked and slightly annoyed.

Week Four: My final week without social media was definitely the most confusing one. When I was finally reunited with social media, I didn’t really know how to feel. On one hand, I no longer felt the need to spend an excessively long time in front of my computer screen, and I was glad to have broken the habit. I felt more positive about myself (which tends to happen to you when you stop comparing yourself to everyone’s Photoshop’d pictures), and I felt my in-person interactions with people were much more special. On the other hand, I had missed a lot. I didn’t get to congratulate two friends who had gotten engaged, I missed a friend’s going away party because I didn’t see the Facebook invite, and most devastating of all, I had completely forgotten that some of my family members in the Philippines only used Facebook chat to keep in touch with me. My heart sank after seeing that my grandma had tried to communicate with me multiple times during my absence and sadly gave up.

Conclusion: Admittedly, the break from social media definitely changed my habits. I’ve given up Twitter completely, I only use Facebook to stay in touch with family, and Instagram is the only social media platform I actively stay on. These changes may seem minor, but I feel less dependent on social media, and I have more time to myself.

So ultimately, is social media good or bad? Honestly, I can’t tell you. What I will say is that breaks every now and then are great to rediscover yourself.

Will I ever give up social media for a month again? Probably not. I’ve learned that it’s much better to embrace technological advancements than to stubbornly deny them.

Who knows? Maybe one day I’ll give into the things I’m stubborn about. I may eventually prefer a Kindle or Nook over the feel of actual books. Probably not, though.


This story was originally published in our Fall 2015 issue. Get your copy here.

It’s Her World – You’re Just Living In It

Paul Nakayama discovers what cohabitation really means — plucked eyebrows and all.

I’d never lived with a woman prior to getting married — you know, like 24-7 in the same tiny apartment for a period longer than a summer. It was never an intentional or conscious decision (and definitely not a deep-seated fear of commitment), but rather just circumstantial: Work, school, long distance or protective parents with access to firearms often provided enough of a reason so that living with a girlfriend just never made sense.

As a result, I’d grown accustomed to being a bachelor and having the freedom to dance naked in the living room or belt out George Michael songs in the shower. (Hey, having the freedom to do something and actually doing it are very separate things.) So when I got hitched almost a year ago, it wasn’t the big picture stuff, like a house or kids, that first occupied my mind.

No, I obsessed over the logistics of cohabitation after decades of going solo. What would change or need changing, I wondered. Little did I know that all that thinking and overthinking was for naught — because living with a woman? You become a tenant in her world, and you find yourself adjusting to her daily routine and idiosyncrasies.

At first, it was the little everyday details that made me nervous. For example, when my wife-to-be and I first started living together, I worried incessantly about the toilet, or more specifically, the fact that we only have one bathroom in our apartment. Would we be able to coordinate our schedules? Would the lingering smell of my biobreak wafting through the air make her regret her decision to marry me? Is love that fragile, I asked myself. But before long, you get used to each other and recognize that all humans defecate, even your beautiful wife, and if she does it, then hell, so can I.

Phase One of living together came and went smoothly. And then came Phase Two — the bigger lifestyle changes. As an aspiring screenwriter, my day basically went like this: Wake up around 11 a.m., squeeze in video games some time before 10 p.m. and then write until 5 a.m. Rinse and repeat. Once I got married, I had to figure out how to adjust my sleeping schedule but still live somewhere in my creative sweet spot. Here’s how my day goes now: The wife usually wakes me up around 8 a.m. by asking me, “Are you awake?” all while vigorously shaking my body like it’s a martini. I’ll work my freelance job until dinner. Watch some TV or a movie with the wife until 10 p.m. Write until 1 a.m. Wait for the wife to fall asleep and then sneak out of bed to play video games until 2 a.m. I figure, hey, I’m an adult now, and this is how it works. And as it turns out, I’m way more productive as a human than a vampire.

Finally (as far as I can tell thus far), there’s Phase Three, which just sort of sneaks into your life. It’s all for the good, really, but you kind of feel like Rip Van Winkle waking up to find that your entire world has changed around you. Your wardrobe no longer just consists of graphic tees and really old denim (although you do wonder how a pink dress shirt found its way into the closet). Your furniture slowly went through a makeover, and the new stuff isn’t all black. Your eyebrows are mysteriously trimmed or plucked. If you get blackheads, then instantly fingers will find them and squeeze them to death. While you’re watching TV, you’ll wonder why your forehead feels moist, and when you look in the mirror, there’s a gelatinous beauty mask hugging your face like it’s your aunt.

You’ll find yourself doing laundry once a week and wearing the good underwear all the time. You can’t remember the last time you drunk-ate Jack-in-the-Box, and yet having a life partner, you’re not so concerned with your flab anymore, so you find yourself eating a lot more carbs and remembering that you really like it. There’s plenty more to list, but I think you get the picture.

Despite what you might be thinking at this point, here’s the thing: I dig living with my wife. These changes aren’t torture or upsetting, like I’d heard from some friends in the past (well, the eyebrow tweezing is, but there’s no stopping that). It’s not some war of attrition where I’ve just thrown my hands up in defeat and screamed, “Fine, change me already!” It’s been more like the first time I ate uni, where initially I turned my nose up, but after actually tasting it, I realized it was buttery good.

The best part is that, if you ask her how it was living with me, she’ll probably have a similar story of how I’ve influenced her (whiskies, geek culture, video games, Haruki Murakami novels and ramen — just to name a few on my own scorecard). And I think that’s really the point about living with someone you love, right? That, and it’s much more fun to watch her dance naked in the living room.


This story was originally published in our Fall 2015 issue. Get your copy here.

#GoodMuslimBadMuslim’s Taz Ahmed Shakes Up the Mainstream Narrative

Story by Jean Ho

Photo by Les Talusan


Sometimes the best ideas arise from outlandish jokes shared between friends — something so silly and farfetched that you’d never think other people would actually be interested in it, too. That’s how the South Asian American writer and political activist Tanzila Ahmed — who goes by the nickname “Taz” — came to create the wildly popular podcast #GoodMuslimBadMuslim, with collaborator and friend Zahra Noorbakhsh, an Iranian American comedian and writer.

“We were just joking around on Twitter, trying to make each other laugh,” says Ahmed. “Like, ‘next time on the Good Muslim Bad Muslim podcast, we’re going to talk about wearing bikinis with hijabs!’ Then people who were following us started asking, ‘Where can we listen?’” (Some of Ahmed’s other gems: “Does that mean we get 72 virgin men in heaven? Cuz that sounds like hell” and “Is it haram to wear a pork pie hat? Or only if driven to eat ur hat?”)

The ironic humor of those early tweets was an indicator of the tone that Ahmed and Noorbakhsh would bring to the podcast: equal parts irreverent and intelligent, offering honest, poignant and often hilarious discussions of Muslim American identity as it intersects with feminism, art and writing, family, political activism, dating and marriage and more. “It’s satire,” says Ahmed. “We’re using humor as a tool to push back, to shift the political paradigm we’re in.”

For example, the podcast features a short segment called “Creeping Sharia.” The term has been popularized by the right-wing conservative media to fuel anti-Muslim sentiment, suggesting that fundamentalist Islamist law is somehow spreading into Western culture and threatening American liberties. In their segment, Ahmed and Noorbakhsh discuss current pop culture news items, such as the parody Tinder profile of Osama Bin Laden, or the paparazzi photo of Lindsay Lohan carrying a copy of the Quran, that prove “Creeping Sharia” is indeed happening. By reclaiming the term and ironically highlighting these stories, the podcast hosts reveal the Islamaphobia perpetuated by popular media today, and they do so in a way that’s neither contrived nor self-righteous. “It’s our way of disrupting the mainstream narrative,” says Ahmed.

Other segments include “Awkward Ask a Muslim” (stories of uncomfortable encounters, racist microaggressions and other generally strange social situations that occur in the everyday life of a Muslim American woman), “Fatwas” (declaring death sentences upon patriarchy, the Confederate flag and spiders) and the “Good Muslim Award” (a discussion of Muslims doing good, in the opinion of the hosts, such as the young Muslim American girls in Minneapolis who designed a set of basketball uniforms that are religiously and culturally appropriate yet allows them to fully participate on the court).

It’s perhaps these types of girls who Ahmed considers her core audience when producing the podcast. “I want to find the South Asian young people, the Muslim young girls,” she says. Noorbakhsh adds, “I think about the women who tweet us and write us and need these conversations.”

Though she’s new to the podcasting medium, Ahmed has long been a writer who engages in public and meaningful discussions of Muslim American identity and culture. She’s a contributor to the anthology Love InshAllah: The Secret Love Lives of American Muslim Women, and she writes a monthly column called “Radical Love,” on dating, relationships, love and spirituality.

“I’ve been writing since I was little,” says Ahmed, though she adds that she only began to think of herself as a writer after she was published by Wiretap, an independent, progressive online magazine that trains young journalists. Ahmed was also a writer for Sepia Mutiny, a blog for South Asian American news and culture, until the site shuttered in 2012. At Sepia Mutiny, she wrote about “punk music and piercings and how this interacts with being South Asian.” She also wrote about voting and her political activism.

When she was just 25, Ahmed founded South Asian American Voting Youth (SAAVY), a national organization that works to get young South Asian Americans (ages 18 to 24) involved in the electoral process. “I quit my job, moved back home with my parents and started this organization out of the kitchen,” she says.

Having previously worked in voting rights and organizing, Ahmed says she simply took the skills she’d learned and transferred the tactics to specifically target the South Asian youth community: “Creating stickers that say ‘I’m South Asian and I vote.’ Bhangra voting parties. Talking about racial profiling, especially after 9/11. When we were making calls, we’d look up all the South Asian last names.”

Since then, Ahmed has expanded to organizing in the broader Asian American and Pacific Islander communities. Last November, she worked on a campaign in Los Angeles that engaged 17 different languages in order to provide education to Asian American voters on the electoral process. “We got volunteers who speak the different languages, and we made calls,” she says. “We know that people who got calls from us had a 65 percent more likelihood of going to the polls. It makes a difference.”

As if writing and political organizing weren’t enough to keep her busy, Ahmed is also a visual artist. She began painting after her mother passed away four years ago. “When she died, we found all these stamps,” says Ahmed. “She used to collect stamps when she was little. And then there were all these letters she had from my nani — my nani would mail her letters from Bangladesh. I wanted to save it or turn it into art.”

Ahmed used these artifacts and incorporated them into her canvases, which featured images of “trains, planes, bridges, kites and birds — all symbolic of my mother’s constant feeling of displacement from ‘home’ and struggles with longing, distance and belonging.”

Though she began to paint and collage only as a way to process the grief of losing her mother — when writing prose felt impossible — Ahmed has since been recognized for her visual art projects. Her painting “Borderless” was featured in the Smithsonian’s “Beyond Bollywood” exhibit in 2014, and earlier this year, Ahmed was invited to Ferguson, Missouri, as part of a team of Asian American artists, to meet with the community youth organizers who founded Hands Up United after the murder of Michael Brown.

Whether it’s producing and hosting a podcast or writing and artistic endeavors, Ahmed insists on creative projects that take on her particular politics, as a radical Muslim South Asian American woman. “I think we have to be culture-shifters,” she says, “and not just culture-makers.”


This story was originally published in our Fall 2015 issue. Get your copy here.