Macel Wilson: The First Asian American to Win Miss U.S.A. in 1962

In 1962, Macel Patricia Leilani Wilson from Honolulu, Hawaii was the first Asian American woman to win the title of Miss U.S.A. Wilson was not only the first Asian American, but the first non-Caucasian woman to wear the crown. She would go on to become a finalist in the 1962 Miss Universe competition.

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Macel’s news story is sandwiched in between “Freak Accident Kills Ex-Governor, Wife” and a photograph of Lodi Boat and Ski Club Miss Skipperette competition.

The July 13, 1963 issue of Lodi News-Sentinel, based in California, reports:

Macel Leilani Wilson of Hawaii, daughter of a plumber, won the Miss U.S.A. title Thursday night in a tense climax to the Miss America pageant. Miss Wilson, 19, captured the fancy of the eight judges with her flashing dark brown eyes and a lithe figure that would grace any come-to-Hawaii poster…

Miss Wilson, a receptionist, didn’t list a single previous beauty title on her contest application, measures 35-24-35 and stands at five feet, seven inches….

The deeply tanned Miss Hawaii, who succeeds Sharon Brown of Minden, La., as Miss U.S.A. told pageant officials that her ambition is to “go to college and get married.” She arrived in Miami for the contest wearing a sarong as her native costume, and did a brief hula-hula for photographers.

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Eventually, Wilson would get married to a Danish civil engineer and move to Copenhagen, Denmark to study filmmaking. She worked as a film editor for the Danish Broadcasting Corporation from the 1970s to 2000, with a break in the middle where she went to Tunisia to study Fine Arts. She reportedly had some art exhibitions in Denmark displaying her work after leaving the Danish Broadcasting Corporation.

In light of Nina Davuluri becoming the first Indian American to win the Miss America title last night, it’s fascinating to see what a difference of forty years makes. Davuluri, also 5’7″, is 24, has already graduated from the University of Michigan with a degree in Brain Behaviour and Cognitive Science, and has plans to become a doctor.

 

 

The Asian Americans Competing for Miss America, Including Two “Crystal Lees”

While Nina Davuluri claiming the Miss America 2014 title on Sunday night marked the first time an Indian American woman has won the coveted crown, merely focusing on Davuluri’s victory would be minimizing what a historic night it was for Asian American women overall.

When it came down to the final five, there were THREE Asian Americans in the running: Davuluri, Chinese American Miss California Crystal Lee and Chinese American hapa Miss Minnesota Rebecca Yeh.

Miss California’s Crystal Lee is a recent graduate of Stanford University (with not one, but two degrees: a bachelor’s in biology and a master’s in communication, which she earned in four years) who dreams of owning her own technology company in the future. She was runner-up to Nina Davuluri, and while the two of them squeezed each other’s hands, there was an instant realization that no matter who won, they’d both be making history. Crystal Lee is from San Francisco, her talent was ballet on pointe, and she earned some sympathy from viewers when her interview question involved her thoughts on Syria — something that even politicians are having a hard time explaining.

As fourth runner-up, Rebecca Yeh calls herself “a little bit of everything” and “a product of that great American melting pot.” Her dad is Chinese and her mom is German, Irish and Bohemian. Her talent was the violin, and her goal is to become a clinical pharmacist as well as a violin instructor. Her platform was “My Voice for Philip;” Philip is her older brother who was diagnosed with autism.

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In addition to those two, there was another 22-year-old Crystal Lee in the running: Miss Hawaii. This Crystal Lee was born to a father from Hong Kong and a mother from Ohio, but raised in Waipahu, Hawaii. She graduated from the University of Hawaii, where she studied French, and her goal is to become an advertising/promotions executive in the future. Her talent was contemporary dance, and her pageant platform involves educating others on the importance of donating blood — an issue that became important to her when her grandfather became dependent on blood donations after being diagnosed with cancer of the blood.

And this year’s Miss District of Columbia (Washington DC) is Bindhu Pamarthi, a young woman born to Indian immigrants who has been competing in pageants since she was 12. Now 23, Pamarthi is passionate about ending animal testing in the cosmetic industry and more. A graduate of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Pamarthi aspires to go to law school.

 

 

Top Five Reasons Miss America Nina Davuluri is AWESOME

For the second year in a row, the Miss America tiara went to New York. This year, 24-year-old Nina Davuluri took the title.

Unfortunately, this celebratory moment quickly turned sour when Twitter exploded with racist comments about the newly-crowned Miss America. So we should probably clarify a few things to these terribly mistaken individuals. For starters, they seem to be missing the biggest point of all — Nina Davuluri is awesome.

1) She is making history for Asian Americans, and she knows it.
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Born in New York to Indian parents, Davuluri is the first contestant of Indian descent to become Miss America.

“I’m so happy this organization has embraced diversity,” she said in her first press conference after being crowned Miss America. “I’m thankful there are children watching at home who can finally relate to a new Miss America.”

In fact, as Davuluri and Miss California, Crystal Lee, embraced each other right before the winner was announced, Davuluri told the host, “We’re both so proud. We’re making history right here, standing here as Asian Americans.”

 

2) She proud of her roots: she performed Bollywood.

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Although she missed her cue (sound was apparently poor for those on stage), Davuluri’s performance was one not to be missed. For her talent performance, Davuluri performed a classic Bollywood fusion with “Celebrating Diversity through Cultural Competency” as a platform. Although she has 15 years of training in Indian dance, Miss America traveled to Los Angeles to train with So You Think You Can Dance choreographer Nakul Dev Mahajan for the performance.

This is the first time Bollywood has been performed on the Miss America stage.

 

3) She doesn’t bash other Asian Americans.
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Coincidentally, Davuluri was asked about another Asian American woman, Julie Chen. The television personality was recently criticized for undergoing surgery to boost her career.

Rather than criticize her fellow Asian American, Davuluri commented that although surgery wasn’t her personal choice, we should not criticize others for it. She commented on the importance of diversity and being confident in who you are.

 

4) She’s “going places” in the future.
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Not only is this woman beautiful, she’s also quite intelligent. She graduated from the University of Michigan with a degree in brain behavior and cognitive science, and landed a spot on the Dean’s List, a Michigan Merit Award, and a National Honor Society Award.

With the $50,000 she earned from this pageant, Davuluri will apply to medical school and eventually hopes to be a cardiologist.

 

5) She dismisses the haters.
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Although racist haters tried to bring her down, Davuluri decided to rise above the ignorant comments. She did not allow them to ruin a well-deserved moment in the spotlight.

“I have to rise above that,” she said at a press conference. “I always viewed myself as first and foremost American.”

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Miss America Makes History with First Indian American Winner… But Not Without Racist Haters

On Sunday night, New York’s Nina Davuluri made pageant history by becoming the first woman of Indian descent to snag the prestigious title of Miss America.

But not long after the coveted crown was placed on her head, Davuluri, who performed a Bollywood fusion dance routine for the talent portion of the competition, quickly became the focus of discriminatory and racist comments on various social media platforms. The 24-year-old aspiring doctor was referred to, among other things, as “Miss 7-11,” “Miss Al-Qaeda,” and as a “terrorist.” Some expressed their disappointment that an “Arab” who had performed “Egypt dancing” won Miss America, just days after the 9/11 anniversary. Some even retorted that a Miss America winner “should have to be American.”

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In her first press conference as Miss America, Davuluri addressed the issue, quickly (and gracefully) putting aside the negativity.

“I’m so happy this organization has embraced diversity,” she said. “I’m thankful there are children watching at home who can finally relate to a new Miss America. … I have to rise above [the comments]. I always viewed myself as first and foremost American.”

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Going into the pageant, Davuluri’s platform issue was “Celebrating Diversity through Cultural Competency,” and sad instances such as these prove the platform’s continuing necessity and relevance in the U.S. Thankfully, in about an hour, the Twittersphere exploded with tweets in support of Davuluri, drowning out the small minority of ignoramuses.

 

Judith Hill is Preparing To Release Her Debut Pop, Funk & Soul Album

The Japanese-African American singer who won over TV audiences with her performances on NBC’s The Voice is preparing to release her debut pop, funk and soul album. Story by Ada Tseng.

“The first song I [ever] wrote was a gospel song called ‘God Has Made,’” remembers Judith Hill. The singer/songwriter was only 4 at the time, but she still has a recording of it. “It goes, ‘God has made / the birds and the bees,’” she sings, laughing. “It’s pretty bad singing, but I guess for a 4-year-old, it’s not that bad.”

Now 29, Hill has been recording albums with her parents, both professional musicians, since she was a kid. Her mother, a Japanese American classical pianist, and her father, an African American bass player, met while playing in The Chester Thompson Band, a funk band in the ’70s. Rufus and Sly and the Family Stone were regulars in the Hill household.

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Judith Hill made a name for herself when she was chosen by Michael Jackson to be his duet partner for his “This Is It” comeback tour, originally scheduled for 2009. When Jackson passed away prematurely, Hill sang a memorable rendition of “Heal the World” at his televised memorial. In the next few years, Hill performed internationally, recorded a song with Japanese American singer Ai, composed songs for Spike Lee’s film Red Hook Summer, and sang back-up for Stevie Wonder — keeping busy, but not quite ready to step back into the mainstream spotlight.

When she decided to audition for NBC’s The Voice in 2013, Hill was aware of the stigma of entering a prime time TV singing competition.

“In the beginning, whenever I told people that I was going on The Voice, they were like ‘What are you doing?’” says Hill. “At first, I felt that way about reality shows too, but then I looked at it objectively. In this day and age, the music business has changed so much, and we, as artists, have to find different ways to get ourselves out there. And television is the strongest thing right now.”

Most importantly, Hill wanted to show the world her artistry. To prepare for her audition, a cover of Christina Aguilera’s “What a Girl Wants,” she jammed with her mom at the piano until she discovered how to make the song her own.

“The original melody is very percussive, and I basically took the lyric and created my own soulful melody,” says Hill. “Then I sang the chorus as everyone knows it, and I knew that was what was going to sell it. As a soul singer, I have to have the freedom to play, so that’s why I slowed it down and loosened up the phrases and melodies. Then that’s when my voice shines the most.”

This type of musicality ended up defining Hill’s signature style on the show, whether she was in her comfort zone covering Nina Simone’s jazzy “Feeling Good“ or completely transforming songs such as Will.i.Am’s up-tempo “#thatpower.”

While reality shows can come across as packaged, Hill was pleasantly surprised at how much freedom she was given to compose her covers each week. “I had almost 100 percent creative control,” she says. “That’s what made it so good. The music department really respected me, so I was able to bring in my arrangements and charts, give it to the band, and they played it exactly how I wanted them to play it.”

Hill, a lover of fashion, was also able to work with the wardrobe department to make sure the visuals of her performance had the same knockout quality as her vocals. Because of these supportive collaborations, even after her much-contested elimination after her Top 8 performance, Hill emerged from the show more confident as she moves forward with plans to release her debut solo album.

“The stylist from The Voice really helped me understand myself more,” says Hill. “There’s something I love about looking elegant but also edgy, and I think this describes my music, too. All my music is a very classic soul sound, but it’s also edgy with the funk, the dance music, and the ethnic sounds. There’s also something about coming onstage with a fierce, exotic and high-fashion look that helps empower me. It’s a part of who I am and what I love.”

This story was originally published in our Fall 2013 issue. Get your copy here

Three Things to Watch Now to Get Your Girl Power On: Steel Magnolias, Austenland, and Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.

I grew up in an age where the women in power believed in a 1970s sort of feminism: be hard-core, don’t let a man control you, fight back at every turn. Under their tutelage, I believed that was the only way to be a feminist. Thankfully, as I’ve gotten older, I’ve come to accept that feminism is not so … difficult. I embrace being an equal professionally, regardless of gender, while at the same time, embracing the joys of not having to be a man. In fact, sometimes being a girl just feels damn good.

Looking to get your girl power on? Be inspired with these recommendations on screen and stage that will appeal to the many sides of your complex female self.

Steel Magnolias

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Leave it to East West Players, the nation’s leading Asian American theater troupe, to take on an all-Asian cast production of the classic play (turned movie) “Steel Magnolias.” I’d never seen the play before, but I loved the movie … from what I could remember: pretty much Julia Roberts having a diabetic seizure as Sally Fields did what she does best (freak out) — that was the extent of it.

But what I saw at opening night this past Wednesday was so much more — the electric dynamic of six strong women, the Asian faces in a very Southern setting, the hilarious exchanges (Hiwa Bourne excelled as beauty parlor owner Truvy, played by Dolly Parton in the film, and Lovelle Liquigan’s Annelle was brilliant in all her awkward glory), and most of all, the intimacy of watching something on stage. Not only was it a reminder that truly good theater could never be replaced by film, it reaffirmed to me that a compelling story always works, regardless of race or ethnicity.

Catch East West Players’ production of “Steel Magnolias,” from now until October 6. Book your tickets here.

Austenland

I am not ashamed to say that I am a huge Jane Austen fan. Sure, some may wonder how a 19th century, practically “chick lit” British author appeals to a 21st century Asian American woman, but I tell you, when I first read Pride and Prejudice, I couldn’t believe how much the social mores and cultural norms of 1810s England sounded just like those of my religious Korean immigrant upbringing. (Read Persuasion and I dare any 30- to 40-something single Asian American woman not to feel the plight of poor Anne Elliot.) Needless to say, I’ve been hooked ever since.

So naturally, when I heard about Austenland, which premiered at Sundance, I had to go see what it was all about. Keri Russell (of Felicity fame) stars as the awkward Jane Hayes, a 30-something woman obsessed with the Colin Firth version of Mr. Darcy (from the BBC version of Pride and Prejudice). Her entire apartment is decorated — creepily — in Regency Era teapots and porcelain dolls, and the lord of the manor is a life-size cardboard cut-out of Firth. When she gets the chance of a lifetime to spend her vacation at Austenland, an English-themed resort where you get to live out your Jane Austen fantasy, complete with cute actors in costume, hilarity, as they say, ensues.

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Now, I’m not gonna deny that the film will appeal mostly to those familiar with Austen’s work. But the hilarious Jennifer Coolidge (perhaps best known for being the MILF in American Pie), playing the rich, ignorant American who goes to the resort solely because she thinks she’ll look great in those “wench dresses,” will make up for any inside jokes you may miss.

Oh, and did I mention that the soundtrack was done by Hong Kong-born Chinese hapa Emmy the Great?

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Emmy the Great.

Austenland is in select theaters now.

Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.

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It’s almost here … the Joss Whedon-helmed television series following Agent Phil Coulson and his agents of the Strategic Hazard Intervention Espionage Logistics Directorate, aka S.H.I.E.L.D. As we told you in our Fall 2013 issue interview with actress Ming-Na Wen, The Joy Luck Club star kicks ass as Melinda May, an expert pilot and martial artist. But she’s not the only Asian American doing us proud on the ABC series. Chinese American hapa Chloe Bennett stars as Skye, a mysterious computer hacker genius, while Thai American Maurissa Tancharoen is a producer on the show. All I can say is based on the reviews, this is one show you’re not going to want to miss.

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Chloe Bennet as Skye, right, in Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.

Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. premieres on ABC Tuesday Sept. 24. Get psyched with cool video extras, including one especially devoted to how Agent Coulson recruited Melinda May, here.

Get a K-pop Complexion: Audrey’s Guide to BB Cream

When Audrey first wrote about BB creams in 2008, it was the latest thing in Korea. The oddly named “blemish balm” originated in Germany as a post-treatment cream for laser surgery patients and was later co-opted by Korean women to create the ssaeng-uhl (bare-faced look) coveted by the nation’s most beautiful actresses. (Even Korean men have taken to wearing BB cream.) Considered a staple in every Korean woman’s beauty regimen, BB cream is now sweeping the U.S., but thankfully for us, the newest iterations have a greater range of shades, coverage and textures.

When Harvard Business School grad Grace Choi first tried BB cream, she liked the finish but had trouble finding a formula that matched her skin tone, especially for different seasons. “I’m more yellow during the winter and more olive/brown during the summer,” says the 29-year-old Korean American. “Asian BB brands offer a very limited number of shades which do not suit the vast majority of diverse American women,” she adds. But she also found that many BB creams currently in the U.S. market didn’t give the same coverage and finish that the Asian BB creams were famous for. So Choi put her medical science background to use and formulated her own brand of BB cream. With 10 different shades, seven work for Asian skin: the Yellow line finishes more golden, while the Olive line has a more brown/tan undertone.

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BB CREAM TIPS:

* Apply like you would a sunscreen. Put a dime size dollop on your fingers and spread evenly on face. The cream will sink in and adjust to your skintone.

* Apply with fingers, says Choi. “It’s much easier to control and spread than with a brush or sponge.”

* The right shade is important with BB cream. Use one that’s too light and it can look masky. Can’t find the exact shade or right texture in a BB cream? Because BB creams provide buildable coverage, you can mix and match for the perfect formulation. I like mixing a lighter textured cream in a more golden shade with a thicker one in a paler shade, like Estée Lauder with 3Lab, before blending on my face.

Here, we review the best BB creams out there (even one for men!).

Sheer Coverage

Sulwhasoo Snowise Brightening BB Base

Maybelline Dream Fresh BB Skin Perfector (great for young skin, BB novices)

DermaE Evenly Radiant BB Creme

Dr. Jart+ Water Fuse BB Beauty Balm

Dr. Lewinn by Kinerase Instant Perfecting BB Cream

Vichy ProEven Mineral BB Cream

Estée Lauder Day Wear BB Anti-Oxidant Beauty Benefit Creme

AmorePacific Moisture Bound Tinted Treatment Moisturizer 

Urban Decay Naked Skin Beauty Balm

AmorePacific Color Control Cushion Compact

 

Sheer to Medium Coverage

Etude House Precious Mineral BB Cream Bright Fit

Amarté Natural Finish BB Cream (an editor favorite!)

Shiseido Perfect Hydrating BB Cream (another editor favorite)

Cailyn Precious Blend BB Cream (broad range of 6 shades)

Garnier BB Cream Miracle Skin Perfector 

Christina Choi Cosmetics BB Cream (great shades for medium Asian to dark skin tones)

DHC BB Cream Foundation

Comodynes Urban Cosmetics BB Color (darker shades available)

 

Medium to Full Coverage

Grace Choi Porcelain Skin BB Cream (the widest range of shades, especially for Asian skin, in either matte or dewy formulations)

Dr. Jart Black Label Detox BB Beauty Balm 

Dr. Jart+ Renewalist BB Beauty Balm

3Lab Perfect BB Cream (super anti-aging skincare ingredients)

Jane Iredale Glow Time Full Coverage Mineral BB Cream (tons of shades available)

Too Faced Air-Buffed BB Creme (an editor favorite!)

 

FOR MEN! (Yes, we haven’t forgotten you!)

Miracle Skin Transformer MEN SPF20

Tried any of the BB creams on this list? Tell us what you think!

Want us to test a BB cream for you? Let us know!

MUST WATCH: Talented Filipino YouTube Sensations on “The Ellen DeGeneres Show”

Months ago, a video of a pair of young and talented musicians went viral. The only problem? No one could identify them. For a while, different YouTube sources were placing various labels on the mysterious duo. One source titled the video “Asian kid,” while others took a stab at guessing their race. Finally, it was confirmed that the pair are from the Philippines, but all other information about them remained a mystery.

That’s when Ellen Degeneres set her sights on finding the talented boys and sent out a public invitation.

Months later, the teenagers were identified as Aldrich Lloyd Talonding and James Walter Bucong. The two musicians accepted Ellen’s invitation and found themselves in Burbank, Calif., to perform in front of an excited audience.

During the interview, it was revealed that Talonding’s father passed away in June due to non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Because of this, their cover of Luther Vandross’ song, “Dance with My Father,” became even more meaningful.

The boys talked about handling YouTube stardom and girls, and even went home with a handful of goodies (a guitar and a piano!) and a check for $10,000. Watch their breathtaking performance below:

Too Harsh? Korean Parents Introduce “The Study Cube”

A tiny study room about the size of a large portable toilet is becoming a sought after piece of furniture among Korean parents who wish to help their children stay focused while hitting the books.

Last year, South Korea’s environmentally-friendly furniture manufacturer Emok unveiled the Study Cube, a wooden box just big enough to seat one person in front of a built-in desk. The box comes with a bookshelf, whiteboard, LED light, outlet and ventilation grill. There’s even a massage bar under the desk that also serves as a footrest.

“Students can avoid distractions of staying at libraries with the Study Cube,” Emok CEO Choi Ki-ju said. “It will also help them focus on their studies more.”

The Study Cube retails for about $2,200.

Story by Steve Han. This article was originally published in KoreAm Journal.

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Image of the Day: “The Walking Dead”‘s Steven Yeun Fanboys Over Daryl Dixon

We certainly love all the fanboying going on on The Walking Dead. Steven Yeun is apparently a big fan of TWD character, Daryl Dixon (played by co-star Norman Reedus), posing with his figurine in this photo. Yeun has been quoted as saying his character, Glenn Rhee, is everyone’s second favorite character on the hit show, right after Dixon. And how does he feel about that? “I’ll take second place if it’s next to Norman Reedus,” he says. No worries, Steven — you’re number one in our book!

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