The Aswang: The Scariest of Filipino Folklore Featured in ‘Grimm’

Among the numerous monsters in Filipino folklore, the aswang is undoubtedly the most known and most feared of them all.

A ghoulish shape shifter that feeds on the unborn, the aswang is said to be a combination of vampires and werewolves. Although the creature is known to be a shape-shifter, they are often depicted as female with bloodshot eyes due to entire nights spent feeding on human bodies.

The most known tale associated with the aswang is the story of the creature hiding on a rooftop or near a window of a pregnant woman as she sleeps. The creature then releases its long proboscis (or tongue) to suck the unborn child out of the mother’s womb.

Disturbing? You bet.

This may be why Jim Kouf, executive producer of the American TV drama series Grimm, says that the aswang is the scariest creature that the show has ever featured.

True to his word, when the aswang made its appearance on an episode last week, audiences were surprised to see a monster even darker than Filipino folklore imagined– a bald, pale creature with sharp claws and skull-shaped face.

Despite the new and horrifying mental image, Filipinos are rejoicing. It is not too often that Filipino folklore is featured in mainstream media. This is all thanks to Filipino actor Reggie Valdez who plays the role of Sergeant Wu on Grimm.

“The creators are so wonderfully collaborative. They actually came to me and said, ‘Do you know any of – do you know any Filipino folklore?’” Lee said in an interview with Broadway World.com.

“And as you know, we believe these things in the Philippines,” he said. “I’m so grateful that the creators of Grimm decided to use my actual heritage to introduce my character to the ‘creature world.’ I mean, how often do we have a Filipino story line on mainstream television? It was probably one of the most fulfilling times I’ve had within my career both because of the connection to the Philippines and the tremendous amount of emotion involved. I am grateful!”

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Wong Fu Shines Light on “Accidental Racism”

Last year in May, a video called “What kind of Asian are you?” made its way into viral fame. With over 6 million views, this video portrayed something that many of us have had to experience.

In the video, an Asian woman is approached by a White male who comments on her perfect English and asks where she’s from. After telling him that she’s from San Diego, he responds, “Oh no. Where are you from?”

Truth be told, we’ve all probably gone through this. Admittedly, many of us aren’t actually bothered when someone inquires about our culture, but there’s definitely reason to be peeved with statements about English being “so good” even if English is a person’s first language. Let’s not even get into some of the obviously insulting statements that many of us have received such as “It’s great that you’re not like other Asians. You’re so American.” Right. Because that doesn’t sound like an insult at all.

 

While it’s easy for us to roll our eyes at some of the insensitive statements thrown at Asians, we have to remember that Asians and other people of color are certainly capable of making ignorant statements as well.

Wong Fu Productions has decided to highlight this with their new short “Accidental Racism.” The short is able to remind us of two things: everyone can work on being more culturally aware and sometimes, though they may need to work on the way they phrase their statements, some people are just genuinely curious about a culture.

 

Asians in Fashion: Liu Shishi for Harper’s Bazaar Hong Kong

Liu Shishi, also known by her English name Cecilia Liu, is a popular Chinese actress and ballerina. Before the 27-year-old began her acting career, Shishi’s heart was taken by dance. She was trained in ballet at the Beijing Dance Academy. It wasn’t until 2005 that Shishi made her acting debut on the television drama series called The Moon and the Wind. 

After multiple roles described as the “gentle, kind, and understanding maiden,” Shishi took a different route with her acting career by taking on more mature roles.

In 2011, she starred in two successful dramas The Vigilantes In Masks and  Scarlet Heart which earned her the “Magnolia Award” for the most popular actress. She recently filmed a sequel to Scarlet Heart which is expected to air sometime this year.

Going along with her transition to more mature roles, Liu Shishi dazzles us with her sophisticated fashion shoot for Harper’s Bazaar Hong Kong. Clearly comfortable with her mature and sexy demeanor, Shishi commands attention with her photos.

Check them out below.

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You Won’t Believe This Youthful Woman is a Grandmother

There is a saying about Asian women that I’m sure we’ve all heard before: Asian women look so young.  Many of us walk into an R-rated movie in our mid-20’s and are prepared to get our IDs checked and we can’t even think about going to a bar without the bartender giving an us an “are you sure you’re old enough?” look. There was even a hilarious comic created to show the average Asian aging process.

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Despite all this, there are still some Asian woman who can impress us with their unbelievable youth. One example is this Japanese woman shown with her two daughters AND grandchildren. The 42-year-old grandmother is circled in the following picture because many people are unable to identify which woman is the oldest.

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Kazuko Inoue, who was crowned winner of the Kansai Bimajo beauty pageant last year, was married at 19 and had her first daughter the same year. Additionally, both of her daughters also married young which accounted for Inoue’s young age. Despite this, there is no denying that Inoue has maintained her youth magnificently.

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VOICES CARRY: Chhom Nimol

Story by Ada Tseng. 

In so many ways, music defines a generation or a culture, giving us the soundtrack to our multilayered, bicultural landscape. And the 10 women we highlight here not only lay it all on the line and bare their souls in their music but, each in their own way, do much to round out a picture of what it is to be an Asian woman in America. Our cover girl Yuna defies the modern definition of pop star with her inimitable voice juxtaposed with a girl-crush-worthy style of chic turbans and covered-up ensembles. We have the gossamer voiced Priscilla Ahn, whom we feel like we’ve grown with as her life journey (and music) goes from melancholy to bliss. Then there’s the flame-haired Hmong American hard rocker and an indefinable artist whose voice is featured in one of the hottest hits of the year. From sweet little ditties to feminist anthems, from odes written in the throes of love to songs that feel more like a cathartic purging, their music moves us, inspires us, rocks us. Take a glimpse into the meaning and memories behind the melodies. 


Chhom Nimol, 35, the lead singer of the Los Angeles band Dengue Fever, is part of a family of well-known musicians in Cambodia. Chhom’s brothers and sisters taught her how to sing while they were growing up in a refugee camp in Thailand, just across the border from Cambodia, during the Khmer Rouge regime.

Upon their safe return to Cambodia, Chhom made a name for herself by winning a national singing contest, and shortly after she moved to the U.S., her American bandmates Ethan and Zac Holtzman discovered her in a Long Beach nightclub. They were looking for a vocalist to sing in Khmer so they could record covers of Cambodian psychedelic rock. Chhom agreed to join their band in 2001; 13 years and seven albums later, Dengue Fever released their latest EP, Girl from the North, last December, and another new record is already in the works.

First Musical Memory: When I was 6 or 7, I remember going to a neighbor’s place, and we would listen to music on their radio. Mostly it was Khmer-Surin music, a mix of Thai country songs with Khmer lyrics that is popular near the border. I still love that music so much; it has good memories for me.

First Song: I was about 18 years old, on a singing trip to Australia. I really liked this Cambodian man so much, but he already had a girlfriend. I was young. My heart was broken, and I wrote my first song. The English translation of the title is “In This Life We Cannot Be Together.” It is a very sad song. I still remember all the words.

Turning Struggle into Art: When we first started the band in 2001, I had a problem with my visa to stay in America. Our car was stopped by the police after a show in San Diego, and they arrested me and put me in jail. I was so scared because my English was not so good, and I did not have money to pay. Plus, they only let me eat burritos in jail, and I did not know how to eat burritos. I was lucky that my sister, my band and my friends raised money to help me, but I had to stay in jail for 22 nights. That was a terrible time in my life. There is a song on our first album called “22 Nights.”

Check out Chhom Nimol’s distinctive sound at AudreyMagazine.com/denguefever.    

This story was originally published in our Spring 2014 issue. Get your copy here. 

Designer Handbag Rentals Available in Korea

Story by Y. Peter Kang.

A new service in South Korea allows women to flash the latest high-end handbag without forking over a lot of dough.

MBC reports that a luxury goods rental service has customers depositing their own upscale handbagwith a broker which then entitles them to pick out a handbag for a fee of about $20 to $30 per week. If the customer’s bag is rented by another customer, they get a percentage of the rental fees. If they don’t add a bag to the pool, they can still rent a bag for a higher fee of about $50.

Members are reportedly happy with the service.

“I think it’s a great thing, to be able to change up your bag for the price of a cup of coffee,” one customer told MBC. “It’s fresh and new.”

MBC reported that peer-to-peer rental services were first popularized in the United States following the Great Recession of 2008. One notable example of a P2P rental service that has taken off is Airbnb, a site in which homeowners can rent out rooms to cost-conscious travelers.

This story was originally published in iamkoream.com.

Paris Fashion Week: Chinese Designer Masha Ma

Story by Ruby Veridiano.

You can certainly tell that Masha Ma once worked for Alexander Mcqueen.

Inheriting the drama in design from her former boss, Ma succeeds in crafting showmanship. Her latest collection for the Fall/Winter 2014 closed out Paris Fashion Week with vigor, presenting her signature mode of chic and futuristic aesthetics.

Inspired by the wondrous evening bloom of the cactus plant epiphyllum, her collection featured flowery textures that honored femininity with an avant-garde lens. Both poetic and apocalyptic in nature, Ma offers a version of the feminine that casts her as a warrior. For the Fall/Winter season Ma chooses navy, white, and black as her color palette, blooming in the form of knits, woven fabrics, and embroidered flowers. Flower lace face masks add to the drama, giving the effect of mystery. Layers were also a big part of this collection, along with the color white (Part of Ma’s signature style), which manifested as identical platform shoes and over the knee boots for all models.

Masha Ma is a Chinese designer. She graduated from Central St. Martins in 2008, the same year she released her namesake label. A recognized talent, she has won numerous awards and her presentations have been bought out by prestigious stores such as Spiga 2 in Milan and Harvey Nichols in Hong Kong. She is based between Shanghai and Paris.

Masha Ma FW2014 from Masha Ma on Vimeo.

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VOICES CARRY: Hollis Wong-Wear

Story by Ada Tseng.

In so many ways, music defines a generation or a culture, giving us the soundtrack to our multilayered, bicultural landscape. And the 10 women we highlight here not only lay it all on the line and bare their souls in their music but, each in their own way, do much to round out a picture of what it is to be an Asian woman in America. Our cover girl Yuna defies the modern definition of pop star with her inimitable voice juxtaposed with a girl-crush-worthy style of chic turbans and covered-up ensembles. We have the gossamer voiced Priscilla Ahn, whom we feel like we’ve grown with as her life journey (and music) goes from melancholy to bliss. Then there’s the flame-haired Hmong American hard rocker and an indefinable artist whose voice is featured in one of the hottest hits of the year. From sweet little ditties to feminist anthems, from odes written in the throes of love to songs that feel more like a cathartic purging, their music moves us, inspires us, rocks us. Take a glimpse into the meaning and memories behind the melodies.


That girl singing the hook from Macklemore & Ryan Lewis’ hit song “White Walls?” That would be Hollis Wong-Wear, a frequent collaborator with the Grammy-winning hip-hop duo — and the one who inspired Macklemore to write a song about his Cadillac. “I thought it was the perfect metaphor for his career at the time,” says the 26-year-old. “And he loves Cadillacs, so I said, ‘Write about what you love. Why not?’”

Wong-Wear is a musician in her own right. Though she’s performed in choirs and theaters from a young age, it wasn’t until she discovered poetry that she realized she wanted to create art. “I realized I had something to say,” she says. “It was the first time I was being validated for my personal narrative.”

Spoken-word poetry naturally led her to hip-hop — she was part of the two-women rap collective Canary Sing — and she loved the challenge of being a lyricist, MC and freestyler, especially as one of the few Asian American (she’s biracial Chinese) women rappers in the Seattle music scene. But just as she was making a name for herself in hip-hop, she went in another direction, starting a synth-pop group The Flavr Blue with bandmates Parker Joe and Lace Cadence.

“I’ve never felt like I fit into a box, so I’m always pushing myself to be daring and different,” says Wong-Wear. “In the seven years that I’ve been making music, I’ve done rap, R&B, dance/electronic music and super lounge-y soul. I’ve sung in a jazz quartet. I’m way more motivated to do something I’ve never done before than to perfect one particular type of music.”

Nowadays, in addition to her work on The Flavr Blue, she’s excited about who “Hollis” can be as a solo artist. But don’t expect her to make an album of hip-hop/R&B songs just because she’s riding high on her high-profile Macklemore collaboration. Wong- Wear won’t be satisfied unless she surprises everyone — even herself. “I want to channel that rawness, honesty and emotional heft that I had when I first started out in poetry,” she says, “and carry it through to where I am now, so that I’m always evolving musically.”

First Musical Memory: Raffi’s “Baby Beluga.” Live in concert, the VHS tape. I watched that video every day for years.

First Song: I wrote a song on the piano when I was 17, and it’s about being trapped in the suburbs. Now that I think about it, it was the suburban California version of [Lorde’s] “Royals.” [Laughs] Not as polished, but very dark.

Inspiration: My mom emigrated from Hong Kong to the U.S. by herself, and she was an entrepreneur who started a Cantonese restaurant. So I think I inherited the hustle of being an immigrant from her, and I apply it to my own life and career. Her drive and relentless energy inspires me, and that’s why, for example, it’s important for me to manage the band that I’m in, to be at the helm of my own music. My goal is not to be a singer; my goal is to be an artist and businesswoman.

See Hollis Wong-Wear in Macklemore’s “White Walls” video and more at AudreyMagazine.com/holliswongwear.    

 

This story was originally published in our Spring 2014 issue. Get your copy here

Vanessa Leu’s Compassionate Collection Shines Bright at the “Other Paris Fashion Week”

Story by Ruby Veridiano.

In the midst of the flurry of back-to-back shows at Paris Fashion Week, a hidden gem was glistening right in the center of the city. Inside the Carousel du Louvre, the “other fashion week” was transpiring. Tranoi, a trade show in Paris boasting over 450 brands, invited buyers from all over the world to have a look at some of the brightest designers on the rise.

Among those rising stars was Vanessa Leu, a California-based Taiwanese jewelry designer whose talent has catapulted her work in the spotlight. As one of the top brands featured at Tranoi, Leu was granted the center stage in the Louvre, being placed at the very front of the exhibit’s foyer.

Rightfully so, as Leu’s stunning creations are unique, edgy, and artistic while remaining subtly chic. The “Future Ring” reflects the elegance and edge of a modern woman, using black diamonds and druzy, and set on a two-finger ring piece. The “Wish Cuff”, featuring a quartz with healing powers, is set on a bracelet of thick metal, contrasting the strength and softness of a woman’s spirit.

I believe that the reason why Leu’s jewels shine so bright is beyond the aesthetic and craftsmanship of her design. The gems she carefully chooses are made to act as beautiful talismans to “protect and inspire beauty in the wearer”, channeling the gems’ healing and transformative energies. While other jewelry makers may tend to sacrifice the ethics behind the creation of their products, Leu, a spiritual seeker, is committed to building a compassionate collection that uses conflict-free diamonds and recycled precious metals all made under fair labor practices and the highest ethical standards.

Leu’s jewels have appeared everywhere from Katy Perry’s earlobes on the cover of GQ magazine to Brooke Burke’s neckline on the American hit show “Dancing with the Stars”. Not to mention, her jewelry has lent some extra shine to countless starlets on the red carpet.

Leu’s philosophy, combined with the beauty of her work, leaves no surprise as to why she has won countless awards and is recognized by Women’s Wear Daily as “One to Watch”.

Vanessa Leu was once a writer and journalist in her native Taiwan. In her younger days, she provided aid to Taiwanese aborigines. She is based in Los Angeles, California.

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Recap: Disastrous Vendor Evictions in Gangnam

Now Gangnam, Korea is becoming known for more than just a popular parody song in America. In February, over the course of two days, the Gangnam District Office and police hired a group of 50 city workers to forcefully evict street vendors. This resulted in physical altercations between workers and vendors, and the complete destruction of several street stands.

Running businesses on the streets of Gangnam has been illegal since 2011, without much enforcement. Now district chief Shin Yeon-hee says the area, which has been developing in recent years into a metropolis, needs to be “cleaned up” in order to make Gangnam more “global” and “foreigner friendly” for all of the incoming tourists.

 

Vendors couldn’t do much but watch as city workers not only harassed them, but took hammers to their stands, destroying all merchandise. Police officers stood nearby but didn’t interfere. There have been reports that a few brave vendors have ventured to set up new stands since then.