Guide to Vacationing in Korea … With Three Generations Worth of Baggage

Story by Anna M. Park. 

In Korean culture, 60 is a big deal, just like the first birthday. Some people throw small galas at a local hotel ballroom. Some buy extravagant gifts. Some send parents on trips of a lifetime. The rationale for the celebration at 60 came from a time when surviving six decades (read: war-torn Korea) was a momentous achievement.

These days, not as much. Now 70 is the new 60, and if family tradition is any indication, so will every decade thereafter be. And as second-generation Korean Americans, often a “sandwich” generation raising kids while taking care of retired parents, there’s the responsibility of upholding Korean tradition and respecting your elders, while setting a good cultural example for the next generation.

So when my mother-in-law’s 70th came rolling around, we decided on a big family trip to the motherland — South Korea — a place half the family had never been. That meant seven people ranging in age from 7 to 70, only one of whom spoke fluent Korean, and another only somewhat familiar with modern Korean society. We weren’t sure where to start, but the goal was eight days, five cities, smack in the middle of spring break. Through trial and error, we learned a lot during this mother of all vacations, something that will prove useful next year for my parents’ 70th, when I’ll be doing this all over again.

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First, find a tour guide. Yes, you have to do a tour. My husband and I generally eschew tours, but for children and retirees, you need a guide. Trust me, it will save your sanity.

There are non-Korea-based English language tours, like SITA, that are pretty expensive. There are also Korea-based tour companies that are quite affordable, but the guides only speak Korean or you’re traveling on a megabus with 30 other people. My brother-in-law chanced upon Sally Tour (sallytour.co.kr) during a Google search. The founder, Sally Kim, had worked at one of Korea’s largest travel agencies, whose clients included FIFA and the LPGA, before opening her own shop in 2010. She specializes in customized group tours of seven to 10 people, with most of her clients coming from Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia. Having lived in Canada for a while, she’s fluent in English, and we communicated with her mainly through email. She was responsive, detailed and patient throughout our myriad tweaks to the itinerary and accommodations. All in all, she made the planning part of our trip a relative breeze.

Second, pack light. This we did not heed. And though we had a minibus completely at our disposal, we were responsible for dragging our own luggage on and off the minibus, the taxi, the train and the plane, and since we changed cities practically every day, well, let’s just say the two men on the trip got plenty of exercise.

Third, personalize the itinerary. The best thing about moving through an entire country in eight days with Sally Tour is you can tweak the itinerary according to your family’s particular needs. Kimchi-making class? Our grandmothers made kimchi in our garages. Pass. A bit too much Korean food? Ask the guide for a free night like we did. We found a surprisingly good Italian place in Busan (with decent wine!). Want a bit more time to shop or linger over the hotel breakfast buffet? Ask to push back the pick-up time. The guides are generally flexible, which we really appreciated, especially towards the end of the trip when the pace of the seemingly nonstop schedule started to really wear on nerves.

Lastly, be prepared. And by that, I mean mentally and emotionally. Your mantra should be: It’s not about you — it’s about them.

You’re going to have trying times. You’re going to disagree. You may even have an almost-bar fight over why you didn’t stand up to Mike Miller for your brother in the 11th grade. But for the sake of the kids and especially your parents, be an adult about it. This trip is a microcosmic reflection of your life — you are now the grown-up. You’ve got the power. Use it for good.

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

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.

AD lucky strike

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

Racecar Driver Verena Mei Just Won’t Slow Down

RACE CAR DRIVER VERENA MEI, WHO LED THE FIRST ALL-FEMALE TEAM TO EVER WIN A NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP IN THE HISTORY OF RALLY AMERICA, IS CURRENTLY COMPETING FOR HER SECOND TITLE. Story by Ada Tseng, photo by Pinky Yoshimoto, pinkyphotography.com.

 

Growing up in Hawaii, Verena Mei says her mother always told her that as long as she worked hard, she could accomplish anything.

Mei laughs. “But I know she wasn’t talking about racing.”

Raised in a family of engineers, Mei did not know anything about race car driving until she started modeling for Toyo Tires after graduating college. After attending races consistently for three years, she grew such a passion for motor sports that she was dying to see what it was like behind the wheel.

“I just knew that I could do it,” says Mei, who is ethnically Chinese. “I always had that attitude. I would see something and think, ‘I could do that!’ In my head, there was no doubt.”

In 2002, she was referred to a stunt driving school by Indy- Car legend Bobby Unser Jr., and only a month later, she earned her pro competition drag racing license, making her the fastest Asian American woman in the United States.

She then trained to be a race car driver at the Bob Bon- durant School of High Performance Driving, and it was there that she found her passion for drifting, a racing technique that began in Japan that involves the driver intentionally over-steer- ing and sliding around corners.

“Even back in 2000, they were calling me ‘Drift Girl,’” says Mei. “They’d say, ‘I could see the fire in your eyes.’ [Two- thousand-four] was the year that drifting came to the U.S. as a professional series, and it was the start of something huge.” The discipline crossed into the mainstream with Justin Lin’s Fast and Furious: Tokyo Drift, the 2006 film in which Mei has a cameo.

After competing in Formula Drift for five years and becoming the first female to win a championship in the Redline Time Attack auto racing series, Mei decided to pursue rally racing. Rallying takes place on real roads through all types of surfaces and weather conditions, and events can last for multiple days.

In 2012, Mei and her co-driver, Leanna Junnila, were the track’s only all-female driving team that was going for the na- tional championship in Rally America, which has been oper- ating since 2005.

“[Junnila] leads me, so I can drive with my ears instead of my eyes,” Mei explains. “We’re going so fast, the roads are so narrow, and you can’t see all the turns, so she gives me notes, and I have to visualize it in my head. It takes a huge amount of trust in each other.”

When they won the Rally America B-Spec National Championship in their first year of competition, they made history as the first all-female team to ever win a national title in the history of Rally America.

“She’s created so many milestones for women in racing,” says Julianna Barker, a representative for tokidoki, the Japanese- inspired pop culture brand created by Italian artist Simone Legno that sponsors Mei’s #335 True Car/Star Girl Racing rally team. In addition to a custom tokidoki helmet and a Porcino vinyl toy she keeps in her car for good luck, Legno has created a new cartoon character based on Mei called “Star Girl,” inspired by Mei’s passion for racing.

“I can totally relate to what tokidoki, [which means ‘some- times’ in Japanese] is all about,” says Mei. “Sometimes … dreams come true. And for me, I’m living the hugest dream. Throughout my whole racing career, I’ve always wanted to rally.”

Seeing that rallying is often considered the most dangerous motor sport, Mei knows that her worried mother waits for the day she stops racing. But her parents have their own way of supporting their record-breaking daughter.

“It’s funny, my dad will say ‘Be careful! Drive slow!” says Mei. She reacts in mock horror. “Drive slow?!”

Looks like Mei will not be slowing down any time soon.

 

WHAT WERE YOU DOING 10 YEARS AGO?
“I had just earned my pro drag racing license and was tirelessly (no pun intended) searching for sponsors, but no one took me seriously. It was only at the end of that year that I met Greg Fresquez from the Bondurant High Performance Driving School who believed in me and gave me a chance. It was a life changing moment. I took the opportunity and ran with it and never stopped.” — Verena Mei

 

This story was originally published in Audrey‘s Summer 2013 issue. Buy the issue here

At Coachella and Beyond, DJ Maya Jane Coles Can Move a Dance Floor

AFTER COACHELLA, MAYA JANE COLES GETS SET TO RELEASE HER DEBUT ALBUM, COMFORT, IN JULY. By Jimmy Lee, photo by Thomas Knights.

 

When Maya Jane Coles takes her spot in front of her laptop, a mixing board and two turntables at illustrious venues such as the 2013 Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival, her slight, just over 5-foot frame is hard to see behind all that equipment from across a dance floor. You can barely make out her asymmetrical haircut, with the left side of her head shaved close, floating above the top of the MacBook Pro.

But then she drops a house beat and a pre-recorded male voice offers up a brief introduction — “Give it up for Maya Jane Coles” — and immediately there’s no mistaking her presence, because the crowd is soon a dancing frenzy, like the night she deejayed at the downtown Los Angeles club, Exchange L.A., back in March. From just after midnight to well past 1 in the morning, bodies are in constant motion, and overseeing it all, with her head bobbing to the beat, as if nodding in approval of the hip-shaking as well as the lip-kissing between couples that the insistent rhythms seem to engender, is Coles.

Amid today’s landscape of globe-trotting DJs dispensing irresistible dance grooves, Coles is distinguishing herself with the ability to move a dance floor. But being a club DJ isn’t even her primary focus. “I definitely consider myself a writer and producer first and a DJ second, though I couldn’t live with either,” says Coles.

Born in London of British and Japanese ancestry, Coles grew up in a household hearing Jamaican dub and reggae, Brazilian bossanova, French classical and American jazz, courtesy of her music-loving parents. She learned how to play the guitar, drums, cello and saxophone, even though “I’m not great at music theory; I’m better playing instruments by ear,” she says. So Coles taught herself the bass and keyboards, as well as how to use music production software.

By the time she was 15, she was using that knowledge to produce hip-hop and trip-hop tracks. The electronic dance music that she would come to create resulted from a growing girl’s partying ways. “I would say I started making more electronic music after I started going clubbing in East London at around 17,” says Coles.

“I was just really inspired by the music and wanted to create my own take on it,” she adds. “Making music is my favorite thing to do in life; there is nothing I would rather do.”

Coles has remixed artists from Ella Fitzgerald and Florence & The Machine to Massive Attack and Little Dragon. “I just listen to the track and decide if I have a good idea for it that I think can take the track into a new space,” she says. “Where possible I try to be respectful of the original, too.”

She has also crafted recordings that forgo the pounding beats of a club track for songs with a more relaxed, seductive vibe. And she’s also applying those keyboard-, guitar- and bass-playing skills to her own original creations, which will be part of her debut album, Comfort, scheduled for a July 1 release.

“It has tracks on it that were started four years ago, to tracks that were literally done a week before mastering,” says Coles. “So it’s been a really long process until I got it to a place that I felt happy enough to draw a line and say, ‘Finished.’”

Comfort will also be released on her own label, called I/AM/ME. “I didn’t have to make concessions creatively,” says Coles. “I like the satisfaction of doing it all myself and knowing I had full control of the outcome. Making an idea in my head come to life or reshaping an idea into something new is the most exciting part of the process for me.”

 

This story was originally published in Audrey‘s Summer 2013 issue. Buy it here.

 

 

Party Like An Asian … IN VEGAS

Considering she’s been going there for almost a quarter of a century, it’s safe to say that Associate Editor Kanara Ty knows Vegas. Here, she shares her insider secrets to Sin City.

Go ahead and judge me, but I proudly call Las Vegas my second home — after all, I’ve been making memories there since I was a kid. For a lot of Asian immigrant families living in Southern California (like mine), going to Las Vegas was the easy choice for a family vacation: it wasn’t too far of a drive nor too costly. The adults spent countless hours at the slot machines or tables, while the kids would wander around the arcade or the Adventuredome at the Circus Circus Hotel and Casino. For meals, it was either gorging at a buffet, or hitting up local spots off the strip, at the Asian strip malls that began at the intersection of Valley View and Spring Mountain Road. Holidays like Chinese New Year and Christmas drew lots of families to catch Asian acts from abroad, like Hong Kong singers Andy Lau and Sammi Cheng, Taiwanese pop singer Lee-hom Wang, and more recently, Cantopop singer Sandy Lam and K-pop artist Kim Bum-soo.

Of course, when I turned 21, Vegas was no longer just a place I could enjoy with family. It turned into a weekend hotspot for dabbling in acts of debauchery — eating, dancing, shopping and drinking at any given hour of the day. Sleeping, of course, was not an option. When I stepped into my first Vegas club in 2005, Tao was the first big “megaclub” on the strip. I’ll admit I was peeved at the generic Asian theme, but it was also the first of its kind — an Asian themed nightclub with restaurant — in Sin City. This ushered in a new era of entertainment in Vegas: no longer just a gambler’s paradise, it became a playground for nightlife revelers. Today, Tao is still one of the top- grossing clubs in Vegas, but options abound with current top billers XS (Encore) and Marquee (Cosmopolitan), and the recent openings of Hakkasan (MGM Grand) and Light (Mandalay Bay). Electronic dance music (EDM) has taken over the club scene, with household-name DJs like Tiesto, Kaskade, and Deadmau5 all signing exclusive contracts and holding residencies at various venues in the city.

But Las Vegas is more than just pretty lights and drinking till dawn. It’s increasingly becoming a bona fide vacation destination for Asians everywhere — and the city has taken note, catering its food and entertainment to Asian customers. Furthermore, an increasing number of Asian Americans are truly calling Las Vegas “home.” According to the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund (AALDEF), the Asian American growth rate in Nevada is the highest in the nation (at 116 percent), with Asian Americans making up 10 percent of the population in Clark County. Over the years, I’ve seen economic opportunities develop and more Asian-owned businesses pop up (the Vietnamese bánh mì store, Lee’s Sandwiches, even has a franchise out there!).

With so much more to do in Vegas than just gamble and drink, here are some of my favorite Asian-friendly spots to eat, drink and play — on and off the strip.

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DINING 
We may all have our individual reasons for traveling to Vegas, but there’s one thing we can all agree upon: the food. My parents are pretty closed-minded about what they eat, so that meant they wanted rice with all their meals. Turns out, some of the best food in Vegas isn’t at the latest celebrity chef-owned restaurant. Check out some of these delectable places in the Chinatown neighborhood of Las Vegas and beyond.

Pho Saigon 8
While Pho Kim Long is arguably the more popular place for pho off the strip, locals told me that this is a much better spot for pho. And they’re absolutely right: I’ve grown to love Pho Saigon 8 for the amazing beef broth. It’ll definitely help cure any hangovers you have the next day.

Ichiza
( japaneserestaurantinfo.com/ichiza/) If you’re a fan of Japanese tapas or izakayas, Ichiza makes the best hamburger steak I’ve had to date: it’s huge, juicy and has this great demiglace sauce that goes perfectly with the ground patty. It’s kind of a cool place, with specials written on paper on the walls (uni mochi, anyone?). Get their honey toast for dessert — you’ll end your meal on a very sweet note.

Buldogi’s Gourmet Hot Dogs
(buldogis.com) A play on the Korean marinated beef dish bulgogi, Buldogi’s menu features an extensive list of fancy hot dogs. I highly recommend the Angry Dog, which has spicy pork bulgogi, Asian slaw, jalapeños and spicy mayo.

Korean BBQ
Sura BBQ Buffet is all-you-can-eat (AYCE) Korean BBQ that’s open until 3 a.m. — need I say more? If you’re not in the mood for AYCE, try the popular chain Honey Pig, where you can get your pork belly fix at any given time of the day. If you’re lucky, you might even get the heart-shaped shot glasses for your soju.

Fukuburger Truck
(fukuburgertruck.com) If you’re without a car in Vegas, this Asian fusion burger truck might be a little troublesome to get to. I’m a fan of the #2 (Tamago Burger) and the #4 (Ki- noko Burger). Once you try it, you’re going to make sure you have a ride next time you’re in Vegas.

Monta Ramen
(montaramen.com) Even with all the awesome ramen places in Southern California, I still get cravings for Monta’s Tonkotsu broth from time to time. Who would have thought Vegas would have such great ramen?

Lotus of Siam
(saipinchutima.com) A little more expensive than some of the other options on this list, but well worth it. The award-winning restaurant definitely rivals some of the best Thai I’ve ever had in my life. Get the Drunken Noodles (with either seabass or soft shell crab), as well as the Nam Prik Ong, a northern style red chili dip, with raw veggies and fried pork skins.

Market Café
For as long as I can remember, I’ve been coming to this restaurant at the Califor- nia Hotel in downtown Las Vegas sim- ply for one thing: the oxtail soup. And I’m not the only one — it’s definitely a favorite among locals and Vegas regu- lars. Be warned: you can only get the oxtail soup after a certain hour (usually 10 or 11 p.m.). Another favorite off the menu: Zippy’s chili (normally just found in Hawaii).

 

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NOBU HOTEL AT CAESARS PALACE 
Nobu Matsuhisa has become more than just a master sushi chef. Renowned for providing a high-class experience at his restaurants, Matsuhisa is applying the same concept to the world of hospitality by joining forces with Caesars Palace to create the world’s first Nobu Hotel. Staying at Nobu is unparalleled to other hotel experiences in Vegas, simply because of the unique Nobu touch. With furniture heavily influenced by Japanese woodworker George Nakashima, the design of each room juxtaposes raw and natural elements in neutral tones with bold traditional and contemporary Japanese graphics. (Some of the artwork was curated by Matsuhisa himself.)

My favorite guest amenities in- clude being served Nobu’s signature tea upon arrival, 24-hour access to Nobu’s first ever in-room dining menu (Blue- berry and Yuzu Soba Pancakes!), and of course, a turndown service to die for: luxurious Fili D’oro Italian linens, a pillow menu, and Nobu’s own blend of linen mist. Details Nobucaesarspalace.com.

 

NIGHTLIFE
Perhaps the most exciting nightclub opening of 2013 is Hakkasan Nightclub and Restaurant at the MGM Grand. The Las Vegas location of the high-end Chinese restaurant (there’s also one in London, New York, San Francisco and Mumbai) will feature a nightclub with high-profile acts like Tiesto, Deadmau5, Calvin Harris, and Steve Aoki. Hakkasan will go face-to-face with another rival — the Cirque-de-Soleil-themed Light Nightclub at Mandalay Bay, with its impressive roster of headlining DJs: Skrillex, Zedd, and Axwell and Sebastian Ingrosso of Swedish House Mafia.

For those who aren’t into the EDM scene, nightclubs like Moon Nightclub (at Palms Hotel and Casino) and Tao Nightclub feature DJs who spin hip-hop and top 40.

 

DAYPARTIES
You don’t have to stop partying when the sun comes up. With summer now in full swing, there are pool parties a plenty up and down the strip. Daylight at Mandalay Bay is currently shaping up to be the hot new dayparty in town, rivaling Marquee’s Summer Lovin’ night/dayparties with Kaskade, and Encore Beach Club’s Daystar Sundays.

 

DETOX
Before you head back home, take some time to detox at the Qua Baths and Spa at Caesars Palace for any of their signature treatments. Tip: Get there early enough to score one of the heated chairs in the Roman bath area. For those looking for a cheaper (and unique) alternative, check out Imperial Health Spa, which has various sauna rooms with red clay, jade or salt to help with detoxification.

Story by Kanara Ty, illustration by David Teas. Originally published in the Summer 2013 issue of Audrey Magazineclick here to buy it!

 

After 10 Years of The Awful Truth: A Teachable Moment

COLUMNIST PAUL NAKAYAMA RUMINATES OVER HIS INABILITY TO FIND THE ONE WITHIN THE PAST DECADE AND COMES UP WITH A FEW PRACTICAL LOVE LESSONS.

 

It’s hard to believe, but this is my 10th year writing The Awful Truth. I joked around with my editor that I was probably the most veteran employee at the company.

“So,” she asked, “in a decade, what have you learned about relationships or love?”

I opened my mouth to answer and instead, changed the subject to sports. If I were going to be clueless in a conversation, it would at least be regarding something I didn’t care about. When I started working on this column, I was an idealistic 28-year-old. I thought I’d definitely be married with kids in a 10-year span. But one minute, I’m watching marathons of 24, and in the next, I’m effing 38.

So, I thought about it. Why didn’t it work out with some of the great loves of my life, or why haven’t I found The One? (And by The One, I don’t mean Keanu Reeves, though at this point it’s better than nothing.) I stared at a blank page on my laptop in hopes of writing out a clever answer. My head started to hurt, so instead I watched five seasons of Mad Men. You probably think that I’m single because I’m addicted to television. You’re not wrong, but there’s more to it.

Half procrastinating, half ruminating, I started organizing a bunch of names into columns as an exercise. Column A: Girls I liked. Column B: Girls who liked me. Column C: Girls from A and B that actually dated me. And in doing this, the answer revealed itself before me — like with dating, I was overthinking things.

I remember my friend telling me about how this girl had sent him a one-page letter from summer camp. Prepubescent boner on full alert, he promptly replied with a five-page gesture, full of wit and passion. She wrote back with another one-pager, saying mostly that camp sucks. This is pretty much the analogy for how I chased girls whom I thought I saw a chance with, seeing signs when there were none. In modern terms, it’s the same as texting a girl, getting a nebulous response a day later, and thinking, “She texted back … there’s a chance!”

Making a small thing seem like a big thing was my thing. I’d break up with girls that offended me in minor ways because I would think, “If she’s capable of that, what else is she gonna do to me?” For example, I called it off with this one girl because she made me eat a spoonful of mayo in front of my friends to prove my love for her. I did it to save her face, but oh, did I loathe her for that. Come to think of it, she made me eat the Devil’s seed, and I’m glad I dumped her.

As I get older, I realize I’ve become a little superstitious. I believe in jinxing myself. I’ve seen enough great opportunities go sour because I couldn’t wait to tell my friends about some girl and how we made a connection. You know, boasts that would end with “Well, I wouldn’t call her my girlfriend … yet.” And sure enough I never did. To me, luck is now a big part of whether it works out with someone. Even if she’s the right girl, it’s just good luck or bad luck as to whether you met her at the right time. So if luck is a factor, least I can do is shut the hell up and not jinx myself.

Another thing I used to do wrong was fall for girls for all the wrong reasons. Just because she can sing her ass off and give me goose bumps does not mean we’re meant to be. Otherwise I’d be in love with Mariah Carey, and she’s insane. Or just because she thinks video games are art and shares my opinion that “Bioshock” is a masterpiece of modern storytelling does not make her Mrs. Right, though technically it makes her right. Sadly, it wasn’t from self-realization, but rather Chloë Grace Moretz’s 12-year-old character in 500 Days of Summer that taught me that nugget of wisdom.

In writing this piece, I had a High Fidelity moment. I considered talking to all of my exes to suss out where things fell apart — you know, what the common thread of my failed relationships might be. But they’re all nice girls — too nice to call me a dick to my face — so I sat and thought on it. As you’ve already guessed, the common thread is me. If there’s any hope for this trend to end, it’s got to start with that. So, finally, the following is a list of things that have caused problems in the past that I will take to heart.

Be honest with how I feel. Not be jealous, or if I am, not be Real House- wives-y about it. Learn to enjoy her interests every now and then, unless she’s into S&M. Don’t dance unless there are strobe lights or it’s dark. Never dress up as Pocahontas ever again. Forcing a schedule on love seems to almost always ruin it, but taking it for granted is a slow death. Don’t be mean to girls who enjoy mayo; they’re people, too.

This story was originally published in the Summer ’13 issue of Audrey Magazine. Buy your copy here

 

 

“Arrow”‘s Celina Jade Is a Straight-up Triple Threat

SHE CAN SING, SHE CAN FIGHT, AND SHE’S REALLY SMART, TOO. THE HONG KONG-BASED TRIPLE THREAT MAY BE HOLLYWOODS’S NEXT ACTION STAR. By Ethel Navales, photo by Ken Yeung.

 

It only took a week for Celina Jade’s career to take an abrupt turn. A few days after sending in her audition tape for The CW’s Arrow, the action-adventure television series based on the DC comic book character Green Arrow, Jade was on a plane from Hong Kong to Vancouver. She had landed the role of Shado, a skilled martial artist and archer on a mission to rescue her father. “I had no idea how Shado’s character was going to develop. I had no idea she was going to be more than a one-episode gig,” says Jade of the iconic comic book character introduced midway through the first season of the show. “It was a total mystery, and I went into my first ever U.S. television series shooting in a tank top in freezing cold, rainy weather, lying in wet grass.”

Apparently, wet grass is the least of Jade’s worries. She de- scribes being punched in the face and dropped onto a concrete bridge, and then laughs, saying bruises are a part of the job. “I’ve been doing martial arts ever since I was a young kid,” says Jade, who was raised in Hong Kong by her Chinese mother and American kung fu star father, Roy Horan. “My father never had a son, so he taught my sister and me how to fight.”

But it wasn’t martial arts that first lured Jade into the entertainment industry. At the age of 14, she landed a record deal after winning an Asia-wide singing competition. She later moved on to songwriting, inspired to have more of a say in what she sang. But in the midst of her rising fame, she suddenly found herself at a crossroads.

At the peak of her singing career, Jade’s studio asked her to quit school in order to focus on singing. “I decided to terminate my contract to continue my education because I realized I was not really becoming somebody I admired,” she says. Staying true to her word, Jade got a degree in management at the London School of Economics before pursuing her dreams of performing.  “It’s really nice for me, in my opinion, to have an education because by having an education, I don’t have to do anything I don’t want to do,” she says. “I can maintain a sort of integrity within the entertainment industry and, worst case scenario, I can always get a normal job.”

But upon returning to the industry, Jade discovered that things didn’t always go as smoothly as one would like. Times had changed and all those offers of fame were nowhere to be found. “I was at the low of my career,” she says. “I remember my bank account was nearing nothing because I hadn’t had a job in a while. I hadn’t met the right person to sign up with. I didn’t know if I wanted to sing or act, and I was really losing confidence because there’s a lot of luck involved in what we do.” She prayed for a sign — something to tell her that she was doing the right thing. As it turned out, she didn’t get a sign — she got three.

In the span of one week, a number of little things added up: a successful performance at a wedding solved Jade’s financial crisis; she was recognized from one of her films by a very enthusiastic fan; and, after opening up to a friend about possibly leaving the industry, her friend told her, “No, Celina, you can’t. We really hope that you succeed because it’s the dream that we never had the chance to pursue.” Taking her cue from these signs, Jade decided to give acting another chance.

And it’s a good thing she did. Today, when Jade is not in Vancouver filming (Arrow was just renewed for a second season), she’s in Hong Kong rehearsing for an upcoming rock and roll musical, Good Morning Hong Kong. Although Jade’s schedule seems overwhelming at times, she emphasizes that the key is to not overthink it. “The happiest a person can be is just to live in the moment and live it fully,” she says. “I don’t think about it — whatever comes, I’ll tackle it and ride it.”

This story was originally published in the Summer 2013 issue of Audrey Magazine. Get it here.

Matthew Moy in “2 Broke Girls”: Should We Still Be Offended By This Character?

Actor Matthew Moy’s Han Lee in the hit CBS comedy 2 Broke Girls encapsulates many of the stereotypes Asian American males are most sensitive about — from his thick, foreign accent to his role as the perpetually emasculated punch line. Now that the show will return for a third season, will the criticism be addressed, or are we being too sensitive? Story by Ada Tseng.

 

As I’m waiting for Matthew Moy to arrive at Hollywood’s The Republic of Pie for our interview, I can’t help but eavesdrop on two young women (one Caucasian and one Asian) gabbing on the sofa next to me.

“I don’t know why, but I’m just not attracted to Asian guys,” the Caucasian girl says. She insists she’s not trying to be racist. In fact, she, of all people, definitely understands racism, because her ancestors were German Nazis in World War II (they still have some of the old uniforms), and her family’s all embarrassed about it now, but what’re you gonna do? Crazy, right?

As I’m processing the unexpected turn this conversation has taken, in walks Matthew Moy, all 5-foot-1-inch of him, all smiles. You can make a lot of assumptions about Moy, the Chinese American actor who’s been criticized for perpetuating the emasculated Asian male stereotype in one of CBS’ most successful sitcoms, but you can’t deny that he has a knack for comic timing.

In 2011, Moy, an actor previously known for his recurring role on Scrubs, successfully booked a television role that would catapult him into mainstream fame. 2 Broke Girls co-creator Michael Patrick King, the writer/producer best known for creating the Sex and the City franchise, partnered with comedian Whitney Cummings on the script. Kat Dennings and Beth Behrs were cast as, respectively, Max, a sardonic working-class brunette, and Caroline, a blonde heiress recently stripped of her riches, who are waitressing in a diner in Brooklyn, while trying to start up their own cupcake business.

The collaboration proved successful. When 2 Broke Girls debuted, the premiere was watched by 19.2 million viewers, making it the highest rating for a fall premiere of a comedy series since fall 2001. It won the People’s Choice Award for Favorite New TV Comedy and was nominated for three Emmys.

But the supporting characters rubbed many viewers the wrong way — the perverted Ukranian cook Oleg, the pot-smoking African American cashier Earl, and especially Korean American immigrant Han, the diner’s boss who appeared to be a walking joke.

Phil Yu, who runs the popular Asian American blog Angry Asian Man, was one of the first to catch wind of the potential caricature. On February 24, 2011, he posted the pilot’s script, which included Max mocking Han’s inability to pronounce R’s, calling him “Rice,” and pointing out his “camel toe” from his pants being hiked up too high in the front. In comparison, the controversial version that made it on air seemed mild if unoriginal: a joke about a samurai sword, another about nicknaming himself Bryce Lee.

Asian Americans activists are often preaching to the minority choir when Hollywood does us wrong, but this time around, the mainstream media joined in on the criticism. The Hollywood Reporter’s headline was “The Sorry State Of ‘2 Broke Girls’: Racism and Lame Sex Jokes.” The New Yorker bemoaned the ensemble cast “conceived in terms so racist it is less offensive than baffling.”

At the time, Moy responded to press with the equivalent of a shoulder shrug, while Korean American TV writers traded jabs publicly: Danny Chun, writer of The Office, tweeted “Pretty subtle of 2 Broke Girls to have their Asian stereotype not wearing a coolie hat. Shows they respect their audience,” while 2 Broke Girls’ Sonny Lee responded, “Chillax. I’m an Asian writer on the show and find it stereotypical for fellow Asians to pull the Asian stereotype card.”

Partway through the first season, it was leaked that 2 Broke Girls was looking to cast “a hot Asian guy” who hooks up with Caroline, a move many assumed to be a direct reaction to the criticism. But for most critics, the one episode role in which the Asian American guy was a one-night stand was too little, too late. “I feel like a lot of people wanted it to be a big deal,” says actor Tim Chiou, who was cast for the part. “And honestly, I don’t think it was revolutionary, but at the same time, it was just cool to see something different.”

The collective anxiety all culminated in a January 2012 press conference, where co-creator King got snippy with reporters demanding a response to the racial stereotypes, and his un-finessed defensiveness (“But I’m gay! I’m putting in gay stereotypes every week. … I find it comic to take everyone down!”) only fueled the fire. Leading up to the second season, King wrote a guest column in Entertainment Weekly that explained that, while they liked to shock people with their humor, they relied on the studio audience to help them judge what’s funny versus what’s too far.

Nowadays, with 2 Broke Girls having finished two seasons and renewed for a third, Moy is more direct when it comes to defending his body of work.

“People were just stressing themselves out,” he says. “A lot of people were really judgmental at first, and it’s understandable. But we have years to let them know who this character is. We’re only a 21-minute show. Be patient, and all the layers will come out.

Screen Shot 2013-08-06 at 11.03.02 AM

Once Moy was cast, the writers catered the Han character to him. They gave Han a ferret named Alvin, a nod to Moy, who used to work at a pet hospital and owns two chinchillas. In addition, the writers had a field day with Moy’s small stature.

“A lot of hate comes because of the way I look,” says Moy. “But I can’t help that. They want me to look like Daniel Dae Kim, John Cho and Sung Kang. I don’t look like those guys. They want someone with perfect bone structure. I have perfect bone structure, underneath my fat.”

“It’s funny because you see Asian jokes all the time on other shows,” says Chiou. “But for Han, all these facets of being small, cheap and awkward are all magically wrapped up into one guy. It just so happens that Matt is able to get a whole series of jokes from all angles because of who he is and this character he created.”

“All I have to say is that I’m trying my best, so if people want to hate on that, they can,” he continues. “But I try my best to make them laugh.”

The auditions for 2 Broke Girls took place the middle of the 2011 pilot season, and the casting directors saw Asian American male actors in all shapes and sizes to find their Han Lee, described as “33, Korean Born, Lovable, Thin Man; Thick Accent.”

Justin Chon (Twilight, 21 and Over) and James Kyson Lee (Heroes) were amongst the actors in the room, but in the final round, it came down to Moy and Eddie Shin, a Korean American actor who has been on shows such as Gilmore Girls, That ’80s Show, and BBC3’s award-winning Phoo Action.

Even though he didn’t end up getting the role, Shin remembers having a lot of discussions with family and friends when he found himself advancing to the final rounds of casting.

“Any time in my auditioning experience that a character comes in and has a thick accent, it’s potential red flag territory,” Shin explains. “But all I had to work with are five [audition] pages in the first episode of a series by a show creator with a very successful track record. And as an actor, you want to work, but on the other hand, you don’t want to be crying all the way to the bank. So that was the dilemma.”

Moy, who had trained in voiceover acting prior to pursuing on-camera work, came into his audition with strong acting choices. Not ethnically Korean himself, he based his Korean accent on Korean women restaurant owners he knew in Los Angeles. “I could have just done a [generic] Korean accent,” he explains, “but then there’s no character behind it. So I had to choose somebody I knew from my personal life, and the older Korean ladies were very much like the character [of Han], because they’re very positive, and they take care of people.”

“My take was different, more grounded,” Shin remembers. “Because as much as I hate to admit it, sometimes I see nerdy portrayals of Asians, and it’s like, ‘Dude, I have friends just like that.’ And this character reminded me of people of my parents’ generation that I had known my whole life. So I tried to create a real portrayal of that, which may have been less funny.”

Moy can’t tell if most of the hate is coming from the Asian American community, but there’s one thing he will say. “I’ve never gotten any hate mail from short people,” he jokes. “I’ve gotten nothing but support from the short community. We’re united.”

Screen Shot 2013-08-06 at 11.03.35 AM“I think he has a really tough job,” Chiou says. “First of all, you have to understand how to highlight the joke. And even though it’s being made at his expense, he has to be a part of the joke, because that’s how he develops a relationship with the other characters. And then eventually you get the sense that they’re making the joke out of love, which is something that happens in all sitcoms.”

“If I made the acting choice for him to take it personally every time they make fun of him, that hurts [the audience],” says Moy. “They’d feel his pain. But he’s not in pain because he loves all those people in the diner, and [insults are] just the way they show each other they love each other.

“I always expected that people would react strongly to our show,” Moy continues. “We don’t just push comedy to the edge — we take two steps off the edge and then we pull it one step back. But I definitely wasn’t prepared for all that attention.”

Shin was less surprised by the backlash. “There’s an enormous sensitivity to every Asian American portrayal because the American media so drastically underrepresents us,” he says. “And when we are represented, it tends to be for very specific functions, so part of that sensitivity is rightfully there. But I’ve also learned that I can’t live my career for someone else. At the end of the day, I have to trust my voice. Why should Matthew care about opinions of people he’s never met in his life when it comes to his career? It’s hard enough being an actor in Hollywood, and to add that factor into your decision-making is ludicrous.”

“The role could have easily gone to a lesser actor that could have created more of a caricature,” says Chiou. “But Matt’s really talented. Before, the writers were breaking up the lines [to convey the broken English], and Matt was able to say, ‘Look, I can do [the accent] without you having to write down the beats. Just write him as a real guy, and I can do the rest.’ And little by little, the writers are giving him more stuff to do.”

It’s April 3, and 2 Broke Girls is taping the second-to-last episode of the second season, and despite what the Internet haters say, on the Warner Bros. studio in Burbank, Calif., Matthew Moy has become kind of a rock star. Sure, his adorkable character is dressed like he’s off to Little League, and he’s about to get hit in the groin with a baseball for a laugh, but the fans cheer wildly for him as soon as he comes on set.

His accent has been slightly lightened, and he delivers zings much more than he used to in the first season, but let’s be real, the small jokes at his expense are just as rampant as ever.

“My character has a little more bite now,” says Moy. “But Han is still a nice guy. And maybe he gets picked on the most because he can take it the most. I’ve been picked on a lot in my life, by both Asian Americans and non-Asian Americans. I can take it.”

An episode earlier, Shin made a guest appearance as Tom, a Law & Order producer who wants to shoot a scene in their diner. The role was written non-Asian, but once they cast Shin, the writers found an Asian angle to their story. One of the rewrites that was pitched on the spot during the live taping involved Han trying to strike up a brotherhood with Tom by speaking to him in Korean, and Tom responding, “Dude, I’m from Pasadena.”

Shin laughs at the memory. “I had to sit there and write out the Korean phonetically, and Matt’s like, ‘What do you mean I have to learn Korean in 30 seconds as a set up for your joke?!!”

The bit ended up making it into the episode, but there were other jokes that didn’t make it.

“There were times where Michael Patrick King would come over with Sonny Lee and say, ‘We’re thinking of pitching this joke. Is it in any way offensive?’” says Shin. “And there were some that were like, ‘Even if it gets a laugh, it’s not worth it because you’re going to get crucified, man!’

“But it’s complicated,” Shin explains. “Talk to anyone involved in comedy, and they’re the most censor-free people in the world. Once you’re hypersensitive about dissecting everything, it kills the whole world of comedy. I certainly don’t believe that the show’s humor is malicious. But Michael Patrick King is a very openly gay man with a certain comedic sensibility that can be very biting and edgy. And when he pitches a joke, it’s hilarious. But someone else could do a word-for-word delivery of the same joke, and you might be like, ‘Now it sounds a little weird.’”

But if the audience laughs, there’s a good chance it’ll make it on the air. While the racial jokes are still hit or miss, Han is now often the unexpected hero of the story. In one episode, he saves the girls when they’re held up at gunpoint in the diner. In another, he gives a generous cash Christmas gift to save the girls’ cupcake business from going under. Even in the episode in which Shin guest stars, what seems like Han’s stereotypical stinginess is revealed to be a ploy to make sure Max and Caroline aren’t being taken advantage of by the Law & Order producers.

“I don’t think there’s anything wrong with expecting more from the TV that you watch,” says Chiou. “And it’s valid for us to voice our opinions whenever we see things that we perceive to be racist, insensitive or awkward. But we also have to celebrate these little victories.”

“Never in my life has something made sense to me as much as acting,” says Moy. “I didn’t even think that I could be on TV, but once I took the time to learn [the craft], I realized it’s not an impossible dream. I just had to work hard toward it, and it became realistic.”

After the show taping, Moy comes over to the stands to thank me for coming. Six Asian American college girls from the audience quickly gather behind me, excited that he’s approaching.

“Are those your friends?” he asks, genuinely caught off guard by his group of Asian fangirls. I shake my head.

“You’re so cute!” one of them says.

Moy smiles shyly, as if he’s not sure how to respond, waves at them, and then quickly rushes back to join his on-set family.

WHAT WERE YOU DOING 10 YEARS AGO?
“Ten years ago I had just learned how to drive a car. I was a hit with my carless roommates! Grocery store trips were luxurious.” — Matthew Moy

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

Summer 2013 | Online Dating Diary (O.D.D): Back To The Real World

DEPT: The Market
AUTHOR: O.D.D. Girl
ISSUE: Summer 2013

“AFTER DEALING WITH THE BIGGEST ONLINE FROG TO DATE, O.D.D. GIRL DECIDES TO TAKE A BREAK FROM THE ONLINE DATING WORLD.”

 

In my last column, I made a vow that I would be honest with myself, specifically about what I wanted: more of a relationship and less casual dating. I would stop going along with what the guy wanted, which always seemed to end up with me being a doormat or a best friend. With that in mind, I decided to vocalize what I was looking for (and not looking for) when the next guy came around.

Then along came Brandon (not his real name).

I met Brandon online and went on a couple of dates with him. From the beginning, I was brutally honest: 1) He wasn’t going to sleep with me right off the bat, and 2) I wasn’t going to take on the role of his therapist. With that in place, it was fun getting to know him through texts and drinks, exchanging stories about growing up in our respective hometowns, and work adventures. Then out of nowhere, he laid a stink bomb on me: He was suicidal, possibly a borderline personality, with a lot of baggage, and would make the worst boyfriend ever. He started to unpack every dark secret he’d ever harbored while I just sat there looking dumbfounded the entire time. I thought maybe we could just be friends, but he began to act possessively and it got to the point where I almost had to dial 911 while at work. Thankfully, we drifted apart before it escalated any further.

There was one thing about Brandon that stuck with me: He had asked me why I chose to continue dating online when there simply weren’t any quality men online. I realized that I had hit a slump and needed to take a break from online dating. I had grown too comfortable with how convenient it was. And as soon as I got offline, I discovered I wasn’t the same person I was nine months ago when I had started actively using an online dating profile.

In fact, one of the most important things I learned from online dating was the power of withholding information. In addition to my concealed face, I kept a bare-bones profile on the dating site — and it attracted a lot more men than I would’ve imagined. There are plenty of dating articles that tell us how men love the chase — this idea of acquiring information is just a part of that. Now, when I meet new guys, I’m social, but I don’t give out too much personal information.

Regardless, going back to the “real world” wasn’t very different. In fact, I started recognizing some of the guys who had messaged me on the dating site at actual events. While initially it was alarming to be in such close proximity to them (even though they didn’t realize it was me), I relished in the realization that some of their personalities were very different from their online profiles. Of course, all this means is that online dating has become very normal. It hasn’t replaced meeting people in real life, but it may impact our dating patterns.

I tell you, though — I wasn’t offline for very long. After three weeks, I went back to the dating site. Since Brandon, I’ll admit I’ve become numb. I’m starting to develop an attitude where I don’t care how my dating escapades turn out. A girlfriend pointed out that because I had only been in love once in my life, right after college, the online dating experience probably made me even more jaded. Which made me think about my dating style: Should I continue with the serial dating and risk becoming more jaded? Or is it better to date a lot less, but risk not developing a love life?

Until next time. — O.D.D. Girl

Summer 2013 | Pop-arrazi: Rila Fukushima

DEPT: Pop-arrazi
AUTHOR: Anna M. Park
ISSUE: Summer 2013
PHOTO: Sasaki Tomokazu

 

“THE MODEL-TURNED-ACTRESS DISHES ON WORKING WITH HUGH JACKMAN IN THE WOLVERINE.”

 

On the last day of production of the highly anticipated film from Marvel Studios, The Wolverine, director James Mangold tweeted some black and white photos he took of “three people I adore”: Hugh Jackman, who plays the title character; the Japanese model Tao Okamoto, who plays Logan’s love interest Mariko; and the elfin beauty Rila Fukushima.

Herself a former model who first gained international attention when she appeared in the D&G spring/summer 2004 campaign, Fukushima hasn’t just won over one of Hollywood’s top directors. She’s just signed with ICM Partners, one of the world’s largest talent agencies. “There are so many roles I’d like to try,” says the Tokyo-born actress, now based in Los Angeles. “I love a good challenge, and I look for roles that speak to me somehow.”

In her big screen debut, out in theaters July 26, Fukushima found plenty of challenges in Yukio, the ninja character who first appeared in the original 1982 comic book, tasked by Wolverine’s nemesis to find the mutant. “The role required intense training in a variety of martial arts styles and tech- niques, from sword fighting to bo staff,” says Fukushima, who is fluent in English. “I think the biggest challenge was the physicality of the role. Long days of martial arts and stunts were really hard. It was both incredibly rewarding and humbling to go through it. I definitely learned a lot of things about myself.”

After all, Fukushima isn’t your typical martial arts actress. Raised in Tokyo, she graduated college with a degree in English literature. While working at an advertising agency, she met an agent who encouraged her to give modeling a try. “I am not sure exactly what my first job modeling was; it was so long ago,” says Fukushima, who has been modeling for at least a decade. “But I remember that it was for one of the magazines that I would regularly buy. So one day, I got to pick up an issue, and I saw myself in it. It was such a sur- real experience, seeing the pages I had worked on in a magazine that only a few months before I was just a reader of. It took a while to get used to that feeling.”

Since then, Fukushima’s appeared in everything from Elle to V Magazine to Vogue Japan, and has done campaigns for Vera Wang, Gap, Calvin Klein CK One and Kenneth Cole Reaction. And as a model, she had occasion to work with now-co-star Okamoto. “It was a lot of fun to get to work with Tao,” says Fukushima. “She is a very talented ac- tress, and I had an amazing time work- ing through the script and spending time together with her while shooting the film.”

It seems there was a lot of bonding on set, from director to co-stars to crew. (The film features a number of Japanese actors, including Hiroyuki Sanada, as well as Asian American actors Will Yun Lee and Brian Tee.) “We had a great time every day,” Fukushima recalls. But there was one moment she particularly relished.

“One of my best memories was seeing Hugh with his shirt off for the first time,” she says. “I’m not sure if my reaction will make it into the film, but I must have looked really surprised. It was like looking at a Greek god.”

WHAT WERE YOU DOING 10 YEARS AGO?
“In 2003, I was still living and working in Tokyo. The summer was probably really hot and muggy, as it always is in Tokyo, and I was just a few months away from getting to go to New York.” -Rila Fukushima