Swimmer Ning Zetao Wins China’s Heart With Gold Medals and Humble Nature

This fine young lad is China’s latest athletic sweetheart. Ning Zetao made his country proud after winning gold in the 100-meter freestyle at the 2015 FINA World Aquatics Championships in Kazan, Russia earlier this month. He is the first Chinese swimmer to win the event, finishing with the best world record this year of 47.84 seconds. Ning beat out favored rivals, including Australia’s Cameron McEvoy, who came in second, just 0.11 seconds behind. McEvoy had been the fastest in the previous heats and semi-finals.

Click on the picture to watch the Men's 100-meter Freestyle Finals on YouTube.

Click on the picture to watch the Men’s 100-meter Freestyle Finals on YouTube.

Ning’s gold medal win marks a milestone achievement not only in the history of Chinese swimming but also in Asian swimming. Often known as a competition between “flying fish,” no Asian swimmer has ever made it to the finals or won medals in the 100-meter freestyle event at the 2015 FINA World Championships prior to Ning. He serves as an empowering role model in events that are often heavily dominated by Western swimmers.

“It is a dream of Asia, of China, to get gold medals in sprint distances,” says Ning. “I just want to tell everyone that I am Chinese and I too am able to place internationally in the short distance events.”

Photo courtesy of news.xinhuanet.com

Photo courtesy of news.xinhuanet.com

This is Ning’s first world title after winning four gold medals at the 2014 Asian Games, where Ning placed in the 50-meter freestyle, 100-meter freestyle, 4×100-meter freestyle relay and 4×100-meter medley relay. The 22-year-old has since gone viral on China’s two major social media sites: Sina Weibo and Tencent WeChat with millions of clicks and mentions. Not only do his fans and supporters admire his athleticism but also his muscular body, good looks and humble nature.


Photo courtesy of Sina Weibo

During interviews, Ning shares that before the race, he wasn’t thinking about winning a medal, much less gold. “I just wanted to perform my best,” Ning says. “Today, as a Chinese athlete, being able to compete with the world’s best in the finals was already an achievement. I wasn’t expecting today’s outcome.”

When asked about his strong record to date and the potential he has for the upcoming 2016 Olympics, he declines to share any aspirations. “It is so far in the future,” he says. “Right now I need to plan long term.”

Photo courtesy of shanghaiist.com/

Photo courtesy of shanghaiist.com

The accomplished swimmer is from central China’s Henan Province and was recruited into the Chinese Navy swim team when he was 14. Now a lieutenant, Ning is proud to represent China on the world stage, saluting his country’s flag during the medal ceremony. But behind the charming smile and medals around his neck, Ning’s success didn’t come easy. Ning started swimming at the age of 8 to help overcome a fear of water and to help improve his physical health. By age 11, he was already a member of Henan provincial swimming team. Over the years he suffered through several ailments, including chronic bone calcification on his right knee and a wrist injury. Three months before the 2015 FINA World Championships, Ning’s wrist was still not fully recovered.

Ning Zetao is named Best Male Athlete of the year at the 2014 CCTV Sports Awards. For those who think he should stay shirtless all the time, I must disagree. I think he looks great in suit. - Photo courtesy of Xinhua

Ning Zetao is named Best Male Athlete of the year at the 2014 CCTV Sports Awards. For those who think he should stay shirtless all the time, I must disagree. I think he looks great in suit. – Photo courtesy of Xinhua

In a feature interview with CCTV, Ning describes some of his lowest times. “There were a couple times when I was done,” says Ning. “I wanted to quit. I just couldn’t take it any more.” At one point he called his father, his role model and best friend, to vent his frustrations and how much he missed home. “My dad listened to what I had to say before calming me down,” says Ning. “He stabilized me emotionally and reminded me to not give up.”

His parents travelled overnight to visit him the next morning. They spent a couple days with him, talking, understanding and comforting him. “It’s hard. I’ve committed so many years to this career and I was going through a rough time,” says Ning. “It’s been a lonely path. Often times I just miss my family.”

But with the support of his friends and teammates, his family away from home, Ning made it. Endearingly nicknamed Baozi, a traditional Chinese meat bun, because of his chubby cheeks when he first joined the Navy swim team, Ning persevered through the challenges he faced. Even after receiving a one-year suspension from competing for failing a doping test in March 2011, Ning has trained tirelessly to come back strong. And his hard work definitely paid off.

Kathleen Kim Plays Madame Mao in the Opera ‘Nixon in China’


Story by Shinyung Oh

Photo by Taeuk Kang


The unexpected diva is a force to be reckoned with in opera houses and stages the world over.

“Diva” may be the last word that comes to mind when Kathleen Kim steps out with her face freshly scrubbed, hair now flowing loose and her 5-foot-1-inch frame adorned in a simple floral dress. Post-performance, she is almost unrecognizable. There is no hint of the angry, maniacal woman who had just stormed around the stage, waving a little red book. No more of the flaring nostrils, no sneers left on her face. Nothing in her demeanor betrays the fact that, for the past three hours, she had been seething, screaming and rant- ing, all in perfect pitch, on the stage as Madame Mao in the San Diego, California, production of John Adams’ opera, Nixon in China.

Instead, Kim slips into the post- opening night cast party and glides into a seat in the corner.

“Oh, no, people don’t recognize me,” she says softly, smiling impishly, almost as if she’s relieved.

Pass her on the street and she may well go unnoticed, taken for someone ordinary. But make no mistake: She is the last thing from ordinary.

Her singing has electrified opera houses and concert halls around the world. There has been no shortage of adjectives to extol her talent. The music establishment has described Kim as the “darling of the Met,” “a big hit” and “the jewel of the evening.” Her singing has been described as “fearsome brilliance,” “stratospheric,” “a marvel.”

The success of this Seoul native is no mere happenstance. At the age of 14, after seeing an advertisement, Kim signed herself up for an audition and appeared weekly as a part of the children’s chorus in a Sunday morning TV program. Then at age 17, she propelled herself to New York to attend the Manhattan School of Music. Then followed admission to the Ryan Opera Center of the Lyric Opera of Chicago, where a casting agent from the Metropolitan Opera made a beeline for her after watching her performance.

She has since graced the stage with the likes of José Carreras (yes, the José Carreras), Marcelo Alvarez and Myung Whun Chung. Just in the past 12 months alone, she has traveled to London, Seoul, Frankfurt, Rome, San Diego and Brussels in order to perform in Ariadne auf Naxos, Nixon in China, Un Ballo in Maschera and various concerts. Next on her agenda: L’enfant et les sortilèges in Geneva and Lausanne, concerts in Seoul, Ariadne auf Naxos in Palm Beach, and Die Entführung aus dem Serail in New York.

Ask her about this extraordinary life and she basically shrugs: “I guess this is the only thing I could do well. I never thought about doing anything else. In a way, I was lucky because I didn’t have to look for another path.”

But peek behind this nonchalance, and you’ll find unflinching focus and an unfettered devotion to the art.

Imagine going for weeks without talking. Or flying from Florida to Oslo without uttering a single word, not even to the steward or the guy checking your bags. This is exactly what Kim does in order to protect what is most valuable to her: her voice.

During a two-week stretch in Barcelona, Kim had to fill in for a second cast and perform back-to-back. To save her vocal cords, she says, “That time, I was mute. I didn’t talk at all. My lips were zipped.”

To her, these are minor necessities of the life she lives. “Singing is my life,” she explains. “My body is my instrument.”

It’s that simple.

And so it is that Kim quietly awaits her next performance, with her well of emotions ready to be unleashed, and her inner diva ready to conquer the stage once more.


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

Jeannie Lee is the Woman Behind Satine Boutiques

Story by Jean Ho

Photo by Frank Lee

Jeannie Lee wants to know how I get so much volume in my hair. Feeling a little intimidated, I sheepishly blurt out that my hair hasn’t been washed in two days and that I’d emptied about half a bottle of dry shampoo into the crown of my head that morning.

“It looks great!” she exclaims brightly. “So that’s the secret.” With a sigh, she adds, “I can’t ever do that — I do hot yoga, so I have to wash it every day.”

Lee is the inimitably stylish Korean American shop owner behind Satine, an independent boutique frequented by celebrity It-girls and countless other fashion-savvy denizens of Los Angeles since its opening in 2003. The day I meet her at the store on West Third Street (there is another Satine location, on Abbot Kinney in Venice), she wears her hair in a side part and low ponytail. Volume or no volume in her hair, Lee still manages to look effortlessly chic in head-to-toe dark denim: a Supreme baseball jersey tucked into a floor-length Chloé prairie skirt with a row of buttons down the front. A pair of white Stella McCartney platform creepers, silver stars adorning the toes, peek out from underneath the skirt. Lee lifts up the hem to show me her Nike ankle socks. “I’m not very athletic,” she says, laughing, “but I always wear the dry-fit socks, because my feet sweat.”

Back when Satine first opened, Lee was still working full-time as a real estate attorney. “There was a year when the boutique was open, and I was still practicing law, doing both jobs,” she says. “That was hard.” In 2005, Lee quit her law job when Satine began generating enough revenue for her to survive without another source of income.

“I had no retail experience,” Lee says. “I had people who helped me.” She credits one of her friends, the designer John Whitledge, with a piece of sage advice she still swears by when it comes to her business: “He said, ‘under-promise and over-deliver.’ Sounds so simple, but it’s so important. To your staff, your vendors, everybody.” Turning serious, she explains, “The most valuable thing you have is your reputation. If you over-promise because you want to tell someone what they want to hear, and you can’t follow up, then you lose your credibility. If you don’t have credi- bility, then you lose your reputation.”

The West Third Street store is decorated in a way that invites browsing, with major designer labels (Isabel Marant, Alexander Wang, Rochas) sharing real estate on the racks alongside independent brands (I Am Are You, Sechung, Comes With Baggage); jewelry, shoes, handbags and more clothes are displayed throughout the space on shabby chic vintage furniture, like the fainting sofa sagging underneath stacks of Paige jeans in a variety of washes, or the 1950s television sideboard, painted Robin’s egg blue, a charming way to showcase a set of vintage leather backpacks.

“This store is a little more rock and roll than Venice,” Lee says. “In the Venice location, we have things that are quirkier and more girly. And of course we have to cater to Venice, which is a much more casual lifestyle because it’s the beach.” The Abbott Kinney location is 3 years old, and Lee says that in the first 18 months, she worked there every day, “opening and closing.”

“I believe that for brick-and-mortar retail, you have to physically be able to get to your store,” she says, and goes on to speak candidly about the Satine store in Japan, which shuttered in 2008 after only two years. “They were great partners, but to have a licensing deal with a company in another country, another continent, another language, another time zone? It was really difficult to control.” Lee says it’s the same reason she doesn’t feel ready to open up a location in New York City. “I need to be able to drive to the stores!” she says, laughing.

In that spirit, she’s opening up another Satine location next summer, in the Arts District in downtown Los Angeles. “It’s really going to feel like straight out of Tokyo. It’s going to have that vibe,” Lee says, excitedly. She believes that the customer base at Satine’s new location will include a large population of Asian Americans. “Asian couples, more than any other couples, shop together,” she says. “And the man, more times than not, enjoys shopping. Whereas non-Asians, the man’s like, ‘I’m going to sit in my man chair and drink a beer and watch sports.’”

Lee is also envisioning another new project, with fashion blogger Chriselle Lim. “She and I are working with a team to create an e-commerce site. It will include clothes from independent designers that are impossible to find anywhere else.”

On the rise of the Asian American blogger (like Audrey’s last cover model, Aimee Song of Song of Style) who are carving a niche for themselves in the fashion world, Lee says, “I think Asian women don’t have a lot of public role models in Western culture. There’s Lucy Liu, Maggie Q. There’s a few girls, but that’s it.” Lee asserts the importance of having more Asian American faces represented in fashion, as well as “media, film, TV. People are hungry for that — I think it’s changing, but there’s still a lack.”

I ask her what sparked her interest in fashion and she answers immediately: “My mother’s really stylish. Everything looked amazing on her.” She recalls waiting around while her mother shopped. “I would watch her and see what she would wear. A lot of pencil skirts, because this was the ’80s, St. John’s suits. She was so cool; she wore pantsuits and gold shoes. A little flashy and bold.”


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

Lea Salonga Pledges ‘Allegiance’ On Broadway

Story by Teena Apeles

Lea Salonga was just 20 when she graced the Broadway stage in 1991 with her Tony Award-winning debut as Kim in Miss Saigon. Of course, she had already been a bona fide star since the age of 7 in the Philippines, where millions embraced a voice so beautiful that it uplifted all who heard her. And once American audiences got a taste of that voice, they couldn’t get enough. Salonga landed the ultimate singing gig — as a Disney princess — twice, first as Jasmine in 1992’s Aladdin, then as Mulan in the eponymous 1998 film, and she wowed audiences in the Broadway productions of Les Misérables (starting in 1993 and periodically through 2001) and the Flower Drum Song in 2002.

Much has happened to the performer since: marriage, the birth of her daughter, numerous accolades, a Goodwill Ambassador appointment, sold-out concerts all over the world, including a 2014 tour with Il Divo and, more recently, serving as a judge on the megahit talent shows The Voice Philippines and The Voice Philippines Kids. But now the stage that brought her international fame beckons again: This fall, Salonga returns to Broadway to star in the musical Allegiance, after its successful 2012 run at the Old Globe Theatre in San Diego, California, and she can’t wait.

What makes Allegiance really special, the singer notes, is that it’s “absolutely from the ground up: an original musical inspired by somebody who is so beloved in the Asian American acting community.” It is a play “the community can truly own: One of the writers is Asian American, our composer-lyricist is Asian American, our director is Asian American — it is amazing that this show is taking place and that I get to be in it.”

Starring and inspired by the childhood of actor, activist and social media juggernaut George Takei (Star Trek, Heroes), Allegiance is a family story set against the backdrop of a very dark time in American history. “There are circumstances outside their control that threaten to pull them all apart,” says Salonga. Those circumstances include the bombing of Pearl Harbor by the Japanese that later prompted the internment of more than 100,000 Japanese Americans, including, in real life, Takei’s family.

“Allegiance is a very specific story about a specific Japanese American family from Salinas, California, who get rounded up by soldiers to live for five years behind barbed wire fences,” says Salonga, who plays Kei, the sister of Sam Kimura (played by Telly Leung), the character based on Takei. “And because of what happens within the family dynamics, you will find something to relate to, no matter how specific it is.” While this covers a harrowing time for that community, “it lends itself to some pretty amazing emotional moments, it lends itself to some really good songs, and I am lucky to sing them.”

Two songs were written with Salonga in mind. There is “‘Gaman,’ a Japanese word of Buddhist origin, which means holding your head high, being resilient even in the face of the most extreme circumstances and keeping your dignity,” she explains. “It is the one song in the entire show that has actually survived through every single reading, workshop, lab and production.” The second song is “Higher,” which was written, composed and initially performed at the Old Globe.

The role itself was meant for her; Salonga didn’t have to audition. “I really like her as a character, as a human being,” she says. In the story, Kei becomes the de facto caretaker of Sam after the loss of their mother, which causes friction between the two. “I like her because she keeps on growing. Once they are rounded up by the soldiers and thrown in the internment camp, this is when she starts to bloom. This is when she no longer has to take care of her family, this is when she falls in love [and] when she starts making decisions that affect so many other people including herself. And it is a test of her own character and her strength.”

When asked if much has changed in terms of opportunities for Asian actors on Broadway since she first started out, Salonga says that roles are still hard to come by 24 years later. “When Miss Saigon opened on Broadway, it was a pretty big deal, because I think it was the largest Asian cast. The King and I is on now, and [the large Asian cast] is a pretty big deal again. But the thing that is a point of frustration is that there still aren’t a whole lot of Asian actors who are hired on a regular basis to be in shows.”

Though she says the changes aren’t happening quickly enough, she does admit that change is happening, acknowledging that with the opening of Allegiance, there will be two shows on Broadway where the majority of the actors are of Asian descent.

And for those who are wondering what co-star George Takei is really like, Salonga confirms that “he is amazing, one of the funniest guys I ever met. And the man has a six-pack, which is jarring, as he is 78 years old.”

She speaks of how wonderful it is that the actor has emerged as a social media powerhouse over the last few years. “I think he got on social media in order to talk about Allegiance, and it turned into something even bigger. It turned into a platform for his activism.”

Salonga herself has almost 3 million followers on Twitter, and she understands the power of that: “It can be useful if I have an opinion that I want to express,” calling it a kind of double-edged sword. “My husband tells me, ‘You say something on social media, somebody will react. It is not just going to be left alone, and it is going to turn into something.’ So I have to be able to stand by every single tweet without apologizing for anything.”

This includes tweets supporting marriage equality, for which she received both derision and support. “You will get people who will totally slam you for something you have said, but in the same breath you will get people who support you for a cause that you are championing. And it is just one of those things where you just kind of have to roll with the punches.”

The same goes for her life, which she calls “a juggling act with many balls in the air,” now that she’s a mother. But “this is my work, and this is what I love to do.” Having a management company to keep everything straight has helped to not book her so much that she loses precious time with her family. So every potential commitment is weighed. “It has to be something pretty worthwhile in order for me to pack up and leave,” she says. “And a Broadway show where a very important story is going to be told that will really impact the Asian American theatrical community, I think, is a really important thing to do.”

Her throngs of fans, who anxiously await her return, concur, as they look forward to that curtain rising to hear her voice lift their spirits once again.

Allegiance starts its run on October 6 at the Longacre Theatre in New York.


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


In the print version of this story, we incorrectly credited the feature photo to Emily Clay. The photographer is Raymund Issac. We regret the error.

Strike Back Is One of the Most Fun Shows Will Yun Lee Has Ever Worked On


Story by Jianne Lasaten
Photo by Bjoern Kommerell


When one thinks of Will Yun Lee, the talented Korean American martial artist and actor with a long résumé full of ass-kicking villain parts, one probably doesn’t think “shy.” But the Arlington, Virginia, native, who grew up all over the U.S., says this constant relocating shaped his personality.

“I went to 23 different schools,” says Lee, 44, whose father opened and ran taekwondo schools all over the States. “I grew up everywhere — in Hawaii, New York, New Jersey, San Francisco. I always felt like a guest everywhere I went, and it made me naturally very quiet.”

It’s no surprise that taekwondo became a major part of Lee’s life growing up. “I used to run my dad’s martial arts schools, and it was a lot of performing,” says Lee. “I got to be someone else when I was performing. Once it was done, then I’d go back to my quiet self. So it was kind of an outlet.”

It was while teaching martial arts that Lee saw Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story, starring Hawaiian-Chinese American actor Jason Scott Lee, and he was inspired. “It was the first time when I said, ‘I think I wanna do what he does.’ [Jason Scott Lee] was the first person I related to who was in my generation,” he remembers. After realizing he would always regret it if he didn’t try acting, Lee moved to Los Angeles with $1,000 in his pocket.

It didn’t take long for Lee to start landing roles, first in TV series like Witchblade and movies like the Bond flick Die Another Day. Then the work started coming more steadily, with roles in films like Total Recall, Red Dawn and The Wolverine, and television shows like fan-favorite vampire drama True Blood and Hawaii Five-O. And in between it all, Lee’s star had risen sufficiently to be named one of the Sexiest Men of the Year by People Magazine, most recently in 2013.

This past summer was a busy one for Lee, who appeared in the Melissa McCarthy vehicle Spy, as well as the Dwayne Johnson action flick San Andreas. He’s also starring in the fourth and final season of the Cinemax series Strike Back, which he calls “one of the most fun things I’ve done” — and not just because the show is virtually all action (“You feel the danger in every scene; you say a small prayer before some of the stunts”) but because of his co-star. “Michelle Yeoh is amazing,” says Lee. “She’s one of the most gracious, humble, funny people I’ve gotten to work with.” In the series, Lee plays Kwon, a brutal higher-up in the North Korean regime, whose weakness is, strangely enough, love, in the form of Kwon’s partner in crime, Mei, played by Yeoh.

“The story between Mei and Kwon is kind of like Bonnie and Clyde,” Lee says of the partnership that ends up defying the regime. “There’s this real love story that happens between her and me.”

Now that filming for Strike Back is over (the series finale is September 25), Lee looks forward to spending his time off with his family. (“If it wasn’t for FaceTime, it would completely destroy me,” says the married father of one). He’s got a few films in the works, and he just landed a lead role in USA’s upcoming thriller series Falling Water. But for Lee, the fighting for parts continues. “Auditioning is just like an ongoing American Idol that just never stops,” he says. “I’m not at a place in my career where things just fly my way. You’re in there battling. You’re in there fighting. You never get rid of the nerves. You never get rid of studying under pressure.

“I gotta get it in now before I get too old!”


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

Getting to Know Z Nation’s Pisay Pao

Story by Pauline Yang
Photo by Mare Von Borstel

“Who is better off: the living or the dead?”

For Z Nation, the Syfy zombie series returning for a second season on September 11, the seemingly morbid question once asked by its creator and writer, Karl Schaefer, of the cast may seem apt. But for one of the show’s stars, Cambodian American actress Pisay Pao, who plays the mysterious Cassandra, the question is a particularly poignant one.

That’s because Pao and her parents are lucky to be alive. Pao’s parents are survivors of a civil war in Cambodia, where the Khmer Rouge wiped out an estimated 2 million, a quarter of Cambodia’s population, in the 1970s. They fled their native land, and Pao was born in a refugee camp in Thailand.

After her family settled in Seattle, her parents instilled in Pao values that stem from their survival. These include hard work, determination and mental and emotional strength. “I try to bring these traits to Cassandra because she is definitely a survivor and, in some ways, a refugee,” says Pao. “She is very willful, and you need to have a certain mental strength about you to go through what Cassandra has experienced.” (Spoiler alert: Not the least of which include using her sexual wiles to lure male survivors for her cannibal survivor group.)

Pao drew from a similar determined spirit when she first decided to pursue acting. She had always known in her heart that she loved performing, but as the obedient daughter, Pao focused on her studies as her parents wished, pushing acting aside as a hobby. But she was in denial about her dissatisfaction. “I was really afraid,” says Pao. “Growing up, I never saw anyone on TV or film that looked specifically like me.”

It wasn’t until a trip to an old video store that Pao realized she just might have a chance in the entertainment industry. While browsing through the DVDs, Pao came upon The Motel, the award-winning film written and directed by Michael Kang and starring Sung Kang. Never having seen the movie, she read the synopsis about an Asian boy running a motel. That was when the lightbulb went off.

“I will never forget that moment,” says Pao. “I remember picking it up and thinking, ‘Oh my gosh, it’s happening! People are accepting Asian American stories and characters into the culture.’ I just felt like this is my time. I can’t wait around anymore. I need to make my move.”

Indeed, Pao is grateful for the role models who came before her. “Other Asian Americans paved the way for me and made me feel like it was OK to do this,” says Pao. “Those are the people I really have to thank, like Lucy Liu and Mindy Kaling.”

But in a competitive industry where thousands of aspiring actresses are both beautiful and talented, how does Pao stand out? That’s when she draws inspiration from her backstory, as that of a survivor, determined to make her mark in Hollywood. Although she doesn’t remember much of her experience in the refugee camp (her family moved to the U.S. when she was 2), “it’s still a huge part of who I am and how I move about in the world,” she says. “I’m still discovering all the time what my parents went through and what they did to survive.”

And it’s that theme of survival that fuels Pao today, both in her role as Cassandra, who faces unprecedented challenges in season two (we won’t spoil that for you!), and as a human being. She hopes to one day be a strong advocate for women’s rights, especially in Southeast Asia. Her dream is to start some kind of school or program in Cambodia for the women there, the poorest of whom often end up in prostitution or human trafficking. “I don’t want them to feel powerless,” says Pao. “I don’t like to feel powerless myself.”

If her track record is any indication, she’ll tackle that project with the same determination and spirit she tackles everything else in life. And she won’t just survive — she’ll thrive.

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

Linda Dong Makes Comedic Videos That Young Girls Can Relate To

It started with a camcorder her dad bought her when she was 11 years old. Vietnamese Canadian actress Linda Dong, 22, who has garnered 590,000-plus subscribers and 78 million views on her YouTube channel, LeendaDProductions, since she started uploading videos in 2011, has been filming herself performing long before she started at- tracting viewers that extended past her close friends and family. Though as a child, she’d be singing to Celine Dion and recording on videotape, nowadays, she shoots, films and edits a combination of comedic vlogs, skits, short films and parody music videos that are relatable to young girls everywhere.

Her most popular videos are “If Your Period Was a Person,” “My Boyfriend’s Hot Best Girl Friend” and a cover of Frozen’s “Let It Go,” with the lyrics re-written as “F-ck It All,” a senti- ment college students can relate to when it’s cram time for final exams.

Growing up in Vancouver, Dong remembers being inspired by Asian American YouTube stars like Wong Fu Productions and KevJumba. “I had a huge crush on KevJumba,” she says, laughing, referencing his “Girls Are Like M&Ms” video as being particularly memorable when she was younger. Like many performers who find success on YouTube, she was tired of waiting for auditions, so she decided for write roles for herself.

She first created her YouTube channel when she was 19, and after only two months, she started gaining traction after one of her videos, “Sh-t Girls Say After Break Ups,” became a hit online. Though her family encouraged her to pursue a career in business after college, she asked them for four months to concentrate on building her YouTube channel. She was determined to prove to them that she could be successful. Just one month later, she was nominated for (and later won) an award for Best Student Video Channel at the 2013 Vancouver Social Media Awards.

Two years later, she’s become a pro. “Sometimes, I’ll write [the script] at 10 p.m., and we’ll shoot it the next day at 1 p.m.,” says Dong, who often makes videos with her friends. “It’s a lot quicker now than it used to be. I take notes on my phone, and I tell myself I need to put up a new video every week, because that’s what I [promise] my audiences. So often when I’m shooting this week’s video, I already have three other video ideas and know what I’m going to do for next week.”

Earlier this year, Dong took a trip out to Los Angeles (“The land of YouTubers,” she jokes), which she documented on her channel. “I went through a breakup, and it was one of those things where everything in Vancouver reminded me of him,” she says. “So I wanted to get out, and I thought, ‘What have I always wanted to do?’”

She had previously collaborated with the Fung Brothers on a video called “Asian Canadians vs. Asian Americans.” So during this trip, she made videos with Anna Akana and Philip Wang (“Are They Dating”), Wesley Chan (“Should I Say Hi?”), Peter Adrian Sudarso and Ludi Lin (“The Accent Challenge”) and The Fu (“I Want You To Know” Zedd cover, “Celebrity Impressions Challenge”), just to name a few. And she did a musical parody of Taylor Swift’s “Blank Space” titled “Dear Hot Guys at Runyon Canyon,” an ode to one of Los Angeles’ most popular hiking spots.

She credits Dan Matthews, the hiphop artist also known as DANakaDAN, for connecting her with other popular Asian American YouTube personalities. He had reached out to her years ago when she had first started her channel. “When I first came across her videos, I knew there was something special about her,” says Matthews, who admires Dong’s ability to be simultaneously relatable, funny, grounded, curious and humble. “There’s a real need for young, up-and-coming artists in our community, and Linda is arguably one of the fastest growing talents.”

This past June, the Asian American digital content platform ISATV, where Matthews works as the director of productions and development, launched a lineup of eight new shows, including “2 Girls, 1 Lab,” where Dong and co-host Gina Darling try weird Asian trends.

The first episode, a $10 Daiso challenge, focuses on the girls testing out discount Japanese inventions, including a lightup ear picker, a neck point roller, inflatable boobs and an inflatable swan wiener. The second episode has the girls testing the trend of marrying anime characters, and one of Dong’s favorite episodes to shoot involves the two of them trying bizarre Asian foods.

Looking forward, Dong wants to create more travel vlogs for her fans and showcase her passion for style on her channel. “I’ve been attending fashion shows since I was 16,” she says, “though I haven’t really shown it in my videos.” To that end, she’s currently working on a T-shirt line, just one of her many projects that she hopes will be “inspiring for artists and creators.”

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


Dr. Ken’s Family Comes to ABC This October

Give a warm welcome to the second network show this year featuring an Asian American family.

Less than a year ago, it was hard to say whether Fresh Off the Boat — the first network how to star an Asian American family in over 20 years — could gain a wide enough audience to stay on the air, let alone get picked up for a second season. But this fall, there will be not one, but two Asian American families on primetime TV.

Dr. Ken is a new ABC multicamera sitcom starring Korean American actor Ken Jeong that is loosely based on the actor and comedian’s career as a physician before he found success in Hollywood playing outrageous characters in The Hangover trilogy and NBC’s cult hit Community. The show revolves around his character’s professional and personal lives, and the humor comes from his no-nonsense approach to work (he straight-up tells one of his patients that his problem is he’s too fat) as well as to family (where tough love is a bit more difficult to execute).

As Albert Tsai, who plays Jeong’s TV son, Dave, explains: “Ken is a know-it-all, which is funny at work, but apparently it doesn’t work with his kids at home.”

It also doesn’t work with his TV wife, a psychiatrist named Allison, played by Japanese American actress Suzy Nakamura. “I love that she talks to him as if she can’t hurt his feelings,” says Nakamura, who viewers may recognize from her roles in The West Wing, Go On and Modern Family. “She stands up to him in a way that is simultaneously loving and challenging. And not only do you need that as a character to play off Ken but also in relationships in general. You need people who love you to tell you the truth.”

Jeong has been developing Dr. Ken with a team of writers and producers for the last two years. “I was looking to attempt my own vehicle, which is the ultimate, the brass ring,” he says. “But I’ve learned that entertainment is not a science. It’s the opposite of medicine. It’s not exact, and in my experience, you don’t plan for anything. It just happens.”

It was only this past January that ABC approved the script for the pilot; the pilot was filmed in April, and it was picked up to series in May. The show premieres October 2.

Nakamura remembers taking part in a reading for Dr. Ken years ago, before she knew whether the pilot would be made, let alone that she would land the part of his wife. “I was really happy for Ken,” she says, when she heard ABC was interested in creating a show around Jeong. “I could totally see him leading a show.”

“It’s a dream come true,” says Jeong, who also serves as Dr. Ken’s executive producer. Though he’s had glimpses of the behind-the-scenes process of a network show, having this couple that loves each other and the children, but also has fun together.”



Jeong, Tsai and Foley shot an episode of Hot in Cleveland together last year, and Tsai, who many remember from his scene-stealing role on ABC’s Trophy Wife, was impressive enough that he didn’t even have to audition for the role. The Taiwanese American 11-year-old describes his character Dave as “a smart and energetic boy who has some interesting hobbies.” In the pilot episode, Dr. Ken tries his hardest to dissuade his son from performing mime at the school talent show, for fear that he will become the laughing stock of his class, but Dave does not listen. “When he wants something done, he won’t let anything get in the way,” says Tsai. “He’ll just go for it.”

That said, the one Dr. Ken is most worried about is his in- dependent teenage daughter Molly, played by Yu. He even goes as far as to secretly install a tracker in his daughter’s phone, to the horror of both Molly and his wife.

Yu, who was a competitive ice skater before she became an actress, enjoys playing a young woman who’s trying to figure out who she is. “Growing up, I personally wasn’t confident enough to put my foot down and assert myself to my parents, but that’s why Molly is so fun to play,” says the Chinese American actress. “I totally relate to that [father-daughter] dynamic.” She laughs. “It’s like, ‘Dad, I love you, but stop embarrassing me!’”

Though the shows are very different, Jeong considers Fresh Off the Boat a game- changer for Asian Americans. “If it weren’t for Fresh Off the Boat, there’d be no Dr. Ken,” says Jeong. “And if it weren’t for shows like All-American Girl and Sullivan & Son, there’d be no Dr. Ken.”

“I remember when All-American Girl was on TV,” says Nakamura, of Margaret Cho’s 1994 show that was met with some disappointment from the Asian American community and only lasted for one season. “I really did look forward to seeing people that looked like me and my family on TV — though they didn’t talk like me, because they commented a lot about being Asian, which I never do. But I know All-American Girl would’ve been a completely different show if Margaret Cho was given some creative input. She took a hit for everyone who followed her.

“But now, Ken is a producer on the show, so he has a voice in content,” she continues, “so I see Dr. Ken as a work and family show, through the lens of an Asian American family, as opposed to an ‘Asian American show.'”

“I don’t think any Asian American goes into entertainment wanting to be a spokesperson for the community,” says Jeong. “You go into entertainment because you want to act. But the fact that ABC will have two Asian American family sitcoms this season is amazing. What they’ve done is normalize Asian American culture.”

Because in the end, Dr. Ken taps into something that appeals to everyone. Tsai sums it up best: “Most people don’t like visiting doctor’s offices. But I can assure you that Dr. Ken is the only doctor you’ll want to visit, because laughter is the only prescription.”

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

Cheap Dates That Don’t Suck

Story by Jackie Lam of Cheapsters

So you’ve just updated your OkCupid or Tinder profile with fresh photos and an almost-too-clever bio, and you’re ready for exciting adventures that await you in datingland. But maybe you’re a little (or very) broke or saving your pennies to pay off debt or to go back to school. No need to despair. If you’re keeping a close eye on your budget, here are some simple ways to save on dates without skimping on the fun.

Turn a Date into a Game

If you’re really into someone, you can have a great time doing pretty much anything. After all, it’s all about chemistry and having fun being with each other, right? So put your heads together to brainstorm some silly date ideas that don’t cost much money. Maybe a clever scavenger hunt at a nearby IKEA followed by a simple dinner at the cafe, or a night cavorting around Target for a ridiculously fun game of I Spy or Spotted at Target (be nice, now). Another idea is to blindfold your date while driving around town and have them give you directives (i.e., after three stop lights, turn left; go four blocks, then make a right). After 15 minutes or so, stop the car, get out and explore your surroundings.

Use Existing Memberships

If you’re a member of an art museum or signed up for a VIP yearly pass at a local botanical garden, take full advantage of benefits and discounts that are included. Depending on the time of year, there are special events that members have exclusive access to. It’s super easy to let memberships fall to the wayside for months without using them, but using one for a date with your bae gives you a great way to make use of benefits you’ve already paid for.

Go on a Photo Exploration

Are you both shutterbugs? Venture to a place you’ve never been before for a photo exploration, and come up with funny hashtags to put up on Instagram. It doesn’t have to be something spectacular like Mount Everest; you can do a photo exploration of local dives in your ‘hood, or if you’re a foodie, go on a mission for the best taco happy hours.

Scour Daily Deal Sites

Ever want to try an escape room? Or how about indoor trampolining? Groupon has great deals for outings for two, and you can also check out offers and free events on Gilt City. Not only are daily deal sites great for saving cash but there are some outings that help you get out of your comfort zone. Just buyer beware: Heed caution when scouring deal sites to make sure you don’t go overboard. Don’t let those slashed prices lure you into spending more than you intended.

Split the Bill

Dying to dine out? Suss things out with your date beforehand to figure out what setup works best for the both of you when out on the town. Whether you decide to go Dutch for every date or take turns footing the bill, splitting the bill doesn’t have to be a spectacle. If you prefer to be discreet, you can use a digital wallet such as Venmo, Dwolla or Apple Pay to share expenses.

Opt for a Night In

By no means does spending a romantic evening in mean watching episodes of Orange Is the New Black and eating crusty leftovers. If you’ve recently taken sushi-rolling or cocktail classes, put those new skills to use during your special night in. You’ll save money and your date can serve as a guinea pig, so it’s a total win-win situation.

There’s really no reason that having a tight budget should put a damper on sizzling emotions. With a little bit of creativity and using what you already have, you won’t feel hindered while navigating the oftentimes complex project that is modern dating.


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

Haikus With Hotties: Yoshi and Peter Adrian Sudarso


How often is it that two brothers are so equally hot that — even though individually, they reach a heart-pumpingly dangerous temperature that threatens to scorch your eyeballs — together, they achieve a state of thermal equilibrium that magically allows you to see past the model good looks and discover the most down-to-earth, fun-loving jokesters you’ll ever meet? I don’t know, but when you find this endangered species of hotness — as we did with actor-stuntman Yoshi Sudarso, who played Koda in Power Rangers Dino Charge (above left), and actor Peter Adrian Sudarso, who together film everything from backflip tutorials to mockumentaries to comedic videos involving whipped cream on their YouTube channel, Apartment 210 — you politely ask them if they will emerge out of the ocean, Daniel Craig-style, wearing kiddie floaties. And collaborate on some haikus.


Sudarso haikus
Who counts syllables, and is
shirtlessness required?

Yoshi and Peter:
Who said anything
About counting syllables?
We’re no good at math!!

Life-saving floaties:
The new essential fashion
men’s accessory?

Yoshi and Peter:
To be dead honest
We have no real good answer
They were cute and fun!

Does good emoting
come from the heart, the soul or
those hot pink swim trunks?

Yoshi and Peter:
It comes from long hours
Spent on selfies on our phones
But the trunks did help!

SUDARSO-154950 cp
Photos courtesy of Craig Stubing, unwrittenfilms.com
This story was originally published in our Fall 2015 issue. Get your copy here.