Listen Up! Asian American Singer Z. Woods Talks Music And Identity

 

Take a cruise down an open street with your windows down, and turn up Z. Woods on your stereo. You’ll be slowly head-rocking to his smooth, silky vocals that float effortlessly over soulful beats and fluid piano riffs and melodies. You might even break a sweat listening to his passionate, sensual lyrics. And you’ll wonder which celestial planet sent such heavenly music to grace our earthly ears.

The man behind the music holds an air of mystery, too. Only known as Z. Woods, the singer (who identifies as Asian American) was born and raised in the city of Malmo, Sweden, and later made the move to Los Angeles by himself, leaving behind his life, family and friends to pursue music. Since then, the singer has collaborated with MC Jin, Paul Kim and David So, with Swedish Grammy award-winning hip-hop artist Stor and has worked with Korean Jungle Entertainment’s hip-hop group, M.I.B.

Woods just released his first original EP, “Songs About You“, on Aug. 19, and the impressive debut features five soulful tunes written, mixed and produced by the singer himself. Audrey got the chance to ask Woods a few questions about his background, his biggest influences, and his vision for music in the Asian American community.

 

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Q: What was it like growing up in Malmo, Sweden?
A: Growing up in a small country like Sweden was challenging at times as there were frequent occasions where I didn’t feel like I’d quite fit in. The Asian population in Sweden is extremely small compared to other nationalities/ethnicities, and so I had to always find a balancing point to navigate between the various cultures that I’d be exposed to. Life wasn’t necessarily difficult, but figuring out who you are as an individual proved to be much harder that I thought it was, looking back at it now retroactively.

 

Q: When and what was your first exposure to music?
A: I was essentially spoon-fed music from the day I was born. Although musical talent is not a common trait in my family, my sister was always a big fan of music and since she had to take care of me for the majority of the time, I would have to listen to whatever she forced me to listen to. That ranged everything from the latest Madonna and Michael Jackson records of the day to traditional Asian music or Asian pop music. I remember my sister constantly trying to record my attempts at singing along on her cassette player.

The quality and general spirit of musicality [in Sweden] has definitely influenced me, but also the situation of balancing cultures above made me seek comfort in music. Music, specifically R&B/Soul music, made me feel as if I was a part of something, as if I could relate to some of the stories I would hear. … My interest for music eventually became passion, passion became love and now my love for it has become an extension of my existence.

Q: What kind of music did you listen to growing up?
A: I listened to a lot of urban music. Anything hip-hop and R&B was (and still is) dominating my playlists. Some of my biggest influences from an artistic standpoint include Brandy, Musiq Soulchild, Marvin Gaye, Craig David, Joe and Donell Jones. As a producer/writer, some of my biggest influences are The Underdogs (a production team), Darkchild, Ryan Leslie and Kanye West.

 

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Q: Did you face any challenges in your experience as an Asian American singer?
A: The biggest challenges have been to get people to look beyond their stereotypes and not make any preconceived notions about the quality of my art prior to giving it a chance. I find that our — the Asian American community’s — output often gets quickly dismissed as irrelevant and uninfluential. More emphasis is put on our “weirdness” than our ability to excel and influence. We are and have been easily marginalized, but a change is coming and I intend to be a part of that change.

Q: Where do you draw inspiration from for your songs?
A: Inspiration comes to me from circumstances. It could either be personal situations or me drawing elements from situations that my friends/family share with me. Regardless of what it is, I emphasize on capturing the emotion behind it all. I believe at the foundation of every story, feeling, situation, etc. lies emotion. And being creatively involved in the entire creation of a song enables me to do just that. The words, melodies and music are all just elements to this vessel that seeks to speak to your spirit, the center of your emotions and to make you feel.

 

 

Q: What kind of message, through your music, do you want to give to your listeners and fans?
A: I want my audience to be able to find comfort in my music. I want it to be a soundtrack to their lives. If they need a mental break from whatever they might be dealing with, or if they seek to know that they are not alone in how they feel, etc., whatever it may be, I want my music to serve them and help them either get through what they’re going through or enhance any joyful moment. In short, I want my music to emotionally engage with people.

Q: What are your goals for the future?
A: I want to change the world! (Big statement, I know.) I want to make the world know that we, as an Asian American minority group, are MORE than capable and able to create art that is relevant, pertinent and does not cater to a certain demographic. I want the world to know that we are not weird, but that we are the same in that we have feelings and emotions too. I want the focus to be taken off “who” I am and instead be put on “what” it is I am doing. I want to be a part of that movement that will change this global perspective and allow more creative people (from all ethnic backgrounds) to have a voice.

 

Amen, brother. Now, play and repeat.

 

 

Heroic 9-Year-Old Girl Helps Father Escape From Burning House

 

I’ll be the first to admit that if I were to wake up to my house on fire, panic would probably be the very first emotion to take over. That was not the case however, for 9-year-old Galaxy Kong of Hayward, Calif., who woke up last Thursday morning to a house filled with smoke.

Immediately, all the fire safety skills she picked up from school kicked into action. She ran to her father, who was still deep asleep despite the raging fire. After waking him, she scoped the scene and noticed there was too much smoke blocking the way out.

She then instructed her father to open the window while she closed the door and placed towels under the door to prevent the smoke from entering the room. Firefighters say that this small but important trick that she learned during fire safety training at school is what helped save their lives.

 

 

With towels blocking the smoke, Galaxy had enough time to guide her father out the window before the smoke overpowered them. A nearby construction crew helped assist them out of the second story window and both left the scene uninjured.

The fire, which allegedly began in the kitchen, was extinguished within about 20 minutes after it was reported at about 7 a.m.

Although Galaxy looks small and cute as she’s wrapped in a blanket following the events of the fire, I think it’s safe to say we have a hero in our midst.

 


Dog And Owner “Wear Each Other’s Hair” … Because It’s Art

 

Most pet owners know there’s a thin line between loving your pet and loving your pet. Well Japanese artist Aki Inomata dangerously walks that line with her new project “I Wear the Dog’s Hair, and the Dog Wears My Hair.” Yes, the title is quite self-explanatory.

Inomata collected bundles of her own hair and wove it into a small coat for her dog. She then collected heaps of hair from her dog and created a trendy, tan coat for herself. Yes, they literally wear each other’s hair.

Although this merely seems like an extreme pet love, Inomata swears that her art project aims to show a conflicted owner’s feelings over “owning” another living creature.

“The concept of my works is to get people to perceive the modes of life of various living creatures by experiencing a kind of empathy towards them.” she said in a statement to DesignBoom.

If you’re interested in checking out this peculiar piece of art, the exhibit is currently running at the Hagisa Gallery in Tokyo.

 

 

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Photos courtesy of Huffington Post. 

Family Who Found Daughter 10 Years After Tsunami Also Finds Son

 

Earlier this month, we brought you the heartwarming story of Raudhatul Jannah, who was reunited with her family 10 years after a gigantic tsunami hit her Indonesian province. Now, it appears the family has yet another reason to rejoice. Soon after their reunion with Jannah, the family was able to locate Jannah’s missing older brother, Arif Pratama Rangkuti.

The Indian Ocean Tsunami, which occurred on December 26, 2004, killed an estimated total of 250,000 people and left 1.7 million residents homeless. The tsunami caused Jannah (who was only 4 years old at the time) and Arif (who was 7) to separate from their parents. After months of searching, the children were presumed dead.

Ten years later, Jannah’s uncle spotted a girl walking along the street and could not ignore the resemblance to his lost niece. After many questions, Jannah was confirmed as the missing daughter believed to be dead by her family. Best of all, she brought news that her brother may still be alive since they were briefly stranded on an island together.

 

 

News of this reunion gained much attention and the family hoped this would be enough to find their missing son as well. They were right. According to The Guardian, a couple contacted the family after seeing a picture of young Arif. Apparently, a homeless teenager had a strong resemblance to the child in the photo and when they showed the young man a picture of the family, he exclaimed, “That’s mother!”

After confirming his identity, the family picked him up earlier this week. Call it a miracle, but after 10 years of being apart, this family is finally complete again.

 

A Mother’s Creative Bento Boxes Teach Japan’s Geography And Look Adorable

 

We’ve seen everything from adorable Hello Kitty bento boxes to intricate panda bento boxes. And just when we thought we’ve seen it all, another creative food artist comes along and impresses us even more.

Bentos are home-packed meals common in Japanese cuisine. Traditionally, these boxes hold rice, fish or meat, and pickled or cooked vegetables. More recently, “kyaraben” (which translates to “character bento”) has picked up in popularity. Kyaraben are elaborately decorated bento boxes inspired by characters from anime, comics books, video games, animals, shows, etc. It is not uncommon to come across Japanese children comparing bento boxes at lunchtime to see who has the most impressive looking meal.

But one mother, who goes by the Twitter handle Sasariri, decided that she wanted her bento boxes to not only be cute but help educate her child as well. To do this, she very skillfully incorporated Japan’s prefectures as the theme for each bento box.

For each bento box, she used food items such as seaweed, egg and rice to accurately show the shape of one of Japan’s 47 prefectures, including Hokkaido, Kyoto and Tokyo. She even added the name of of each prefecture written in the roman alphabet to help her child learn even more.

Creative, yummy, cute and educational? Yes, please.

 

 

 

 

 

CHECK OUT MORE OF HER CREATIONS HERE.

 

Keep Cool In White: Jamie Chung’s Top 5 Summer Looks

 

The heat of summer is slowly waning for those living in actual seasons, but for us residing in Southern California, the sun is still shining (and beating down on us with sickeningly hot rays). So while East Coasters can begin to plan enviously adorable outfits for sweater weather, Los Angelenos can still, rest assured, wear crop tops and flirty skirts until December rolls around. So here are five summer looks in the crispest color on the rainbow, and actress Jamie Chung shows us how to rock it.

 


1. White, from head to toe.

 

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Jamie Chung’s style is always on point, and her look at the Marc Jacob’s Daisy Dream Fragrance event in New York City was no exception. Chung looked sweet and chic as ever in an all-white ensemble that simply radiated summer. Gracing Jamie’s slender body from head to toe, the outfit boasted a mix of patterns and styles that the Korean American actress pulled off effortlessly. While the high-waisted, criss cross-patterned pants billowed loosely around her legs, Chung showed off some skin — and some physique — with a pure white bustier. She completed the look a summer must-have, ban.do’s adorable Twist Scarf in Black + White Polka Dot, for a perfect, flirty vibe.

 

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2. A pale palette.

 

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Chung looks super chic with another white ensemble in this gorgeous pale dress that floats just below the knee. She drapes the dress with a light pink vest to give the outfit more structure.

 

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3. Mix and match.

 

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White seems to shine brighter on Jamie Chung, and it’s the best color to keep cool in the summer heat. Wear a simple white top to complement a great, eye-catching skirt, and don’t hesitate to mix styles that seem to clash. The purse’s fringe gives this look more texture and a completely trendy vibe.

 

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4. It’s all in the details.

 

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This outfit proves that a simple white tee and jeans can go a long way with the right details. The burst of turquoise and the red accents pop even more vibrantly against a plain palette of white and blue.

 

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5. Whiteout.

 

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This is another great example of letting those colors shine against an all-white ensemble. Just don’t sit on a dirty chair!

 

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[Photos courtesy of WhatTheChung.com]

 


 
 
 



 
 
 

Jun Ji Hyun’s Skin Secret? The Air Cushion, Korea’s Latest Beauty Innovation

 

When Korean cosmetic brand Dr. Jart+ debuted its BB cream to the U.S. market in 2011, it caused a sensation. Every cosmetic company rushed to put out its own version of BB cream and every alphabetic permutation thereof (CC and DD, anyone?). Now there are BB creams at every price point and in a much wider range of shades. But women in Korea are so beyond BB cream at this point; they’re obsessed with something even better.

Enter the Air Cushion. The first one, Color Control Cushion Compact Broad Spectrum SPF 50+, was introduced by venerable Korean brand AmorePacific last year, but had a limited following. This summer, however, with all eyes on Iope (the Korean cosmetic line was featured prominently in the hit K-drama My Love From the Stars), their Air Cushion XP just exploded.

 

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The Air Cushion solved the problem of having to reapply sunscreen every two to three hours for effectiveness — I mean, who wants to smear on a thick lotion over your foundation or powder in the middle of the day? According to Iope brand manager Song Jin-ah, parent company AmorePacific’s scientists had been researching for a solution to this reapplication problem for years. They were inspired by a “parking stamp” and created a compact with a sponge-like material. Press on the sponge with a special ruby cell puff, which holds 1.6 times more water than a synthetic latex puff, and simply “stamp” (don’t smear or rub) on the liquid sunscreen onto your face, on top of your makeup. Since it’s tinted, the product blends in even if you already have foundation or powder on. And a bonus: the Air Cushion imparts a perfectly mul gwang (“water sheen complexion” — that chok chok wet look Korean stars favor) look with one application.

And don’t think that just because the Air Cushion is a liquid that it’s less effective or protective than a heavy lotion. According to Song, existing sunscreens were either a “water-in-oil type,” which helped them last and resist sweat and water, but felt heavy and sticky, or “oil-in water type,” which are “much lighter, but have less durability.” What AmorePacific and Iope did was create a “freshwater-in-oil-type” sunscreen for both durability and a lighter feel. 

 

 

All I know is that when our Korean art director raved about it, I had to run out and get one to try it out for myself. It truly is a skin saver — no more worrying about midday or commute-home sun exposure! (It even works brilliantly on top of powder foundation — who wouldathunk?) And with dermatologists insisting that the one thing every single person must do for their skin is wear sunscreen every single day, 365 days a year, the Air Cushion could not have come at a better time.

Though Iope Air Cushion is only currently available at Korean cosmetic boutiques in Koreatown or through smaller sites on Amazon, you can get AmorePacific (they are Iope’s parent company, after all) Cushion Compact at Sephora ($60). For a less expensive alternative, Korean line Laneige, which just debuted in the States this spring, has their own BB Cushion ($34), available at Target.

 

 

Adorable Japanese Children Share Thoughts on Love, War and Happiness

 

If I were to ask seasoned, middle-aged individuals about their thoughts on war and love, my guess is that a handful would give me a response sprinkled with political opinions and even more would spew out jaded responses based on “the one that got away.”

But what about asking innocent children to dig into their brain and tell us what they feel about these deep issues? Their answers would be drastically different right?

Ryugin, an Okinawa-based bank, decided to go ahead and find out what sort of ideas were bouncing around in a child’s head. In a commercial titled “Children and Philosophy,” bright-eyed Japanese children give their adorable perspective on things.

The commercial, which is an advertisement for education loans that can benefit a child’s future, will have you smiling over their innocence.

 

 

 

China’s Bizarre “Face-Kini” Makes It To French High Fashion

 

Back in 2012, a Chinese beach accessory known as the “face-kini” began attracting worldwide attention.

The term face-kini gained online popularity years ago when Time Magazine showed off a picture of some Chinese beach-goers who wore the bizarre mask. Now, it seems the craze is back, but not in the way you’d expect. Recently, French magazine CR Fashion Book had their models sporting (you guessed it) face-kinis.

 

 

Despite the undeniable popularity of the face-kini, the beach accessory was never actually worn for the sake of fashion in China. The full head mask, often paired with a long-sleeved body suit, was a hit in China because of its ability to protect its user from the sun. The accessory helped with Asia’s questionable obsession with pale skin.

“I’m afraid of getting dark,” a face-kini wearer explained to The New York Times. “A woman should always have fair skin. Otherwise people will think you’re a peasant.”

 

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While China used the mask as a way to retain paleness, CR Fashion Book, which was created by former editor-in-chief of French Vogue Carine Roitfed, saw the masks as an opportunity for fashion.

Check out the French fashion photos below and tell us what you think!

 

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Touching Thai Commercial: This Boy’s Secret Causes Bullies to Stop In Their Tracks

 

Every time I hear about a new Thai commercial going viral, I prepare myself with some tissues. Better safe than sorry, right? After watching an emotional video about financial burden, a heartwarming video about the power of good deeds and a touching video about motherhood, one can’t be too careful about these tear-inducing commercials.

And I was right. This new life insurance commercial certainly does a good job of pulling at heartstrings. In the video, a young man is constantly ridiculed by his peers for his poor guitar playing.

All of this comes to a stop, however, once the bullies discover the true reason behind the boy’s guitar playing. What could possibly stop the bullies in their tracks? Watch the video below and find out.

In less than a few weeks, this video has gained over 3.5 million views. Let us know if it pulls at your heartstrings as well.