Top 5 Reasons We Love Darren Criss

Darren Criss has only been in television’s spotlight for a handful of years, but he has already managed to gather an incredible amount of dedicated fans. On twitter alone, his account has an impressive 1.7 million followers. It doesn’t take much to see that Criss is beloved by many.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with the 27-year-old actor, we’ve compiled a list of the top 5 reasons we love Darren Criss. See if you end up falling in love with him after reading them all.

 


 

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1. He’s Harry Potter.

Well… not exactly, but he certainly does a great job of portraying a comedic Harry Potter on stage. In 2009, Darren Criss co-founded a Chicago-based musical theatre company called StarKid Productions. That same year, Criss played Harry Potter in the StarKid production “A Very Potter Musical” and began gathering attention for himself. The hilarious musical was put on YouTube and became a viral video. The musical was so popular that they created two more installments. Even before hitting television screens, Criss already showed us his humor, charm, talent and stage presence.

 


 


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2. He’s Blaine.

Darren Criss is most known for his character Blaine Anderson on the popular Fox musical comedy-drama series Glee. Following his success with StarKid Productions, he was casted as the charming gay high school student. The chemistry between Blaine and another character named Kurt Hummel gained a large fan support and their relationship was named, “one of the most beloved TV couples of the millennium” by  the New York Post. Additionally, they were named Favorite TV Couple at the 2010 AfterElton.com Visibility Awards, and Entertainment Weekly claims that the boys have been “leading the way” in representing the gay community on television.

 


 

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3. He’s talented.
As you can probably tell from his work, Darren Criss is an awfully talented fellow. He began playing the violin at the age of 5 and was classically trained for 15 years. Of course, he didn’t stop there. He also taught himself how to play the guitar, piano, mandolin, harmonica and drums. By the age of ten, he began joining theater groups and theater companies. By 15, Criss began composing songs. He made his television debut in 2009 on Eastwick, his Broadway debut in 2012 in “How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying” and his film debut later that year in Girl Most Likely.

 

 


 


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4. He’s Filipino-American.
And he’s extremely proud of his roots. His mother is a native of Cebu, Philippines and went to live in America in hopes of better circumstances for her children. Criss admits that while his childhood was not too immersed in the culture, he has been to the Philippines numerous times and has a “bizarre kinship” with the country. “As soon as I got off the plane, I was like, ‘Ah, this is me back in the Philippines.” I love this place. Whatever Filipino blood [I have in me] is very happy to be here.” he said in an interview.

 


 


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5. He has a big heart.
Possibly one of the biggest reasons Criss has such a large fanbase is because he seems to be a genuinely good person. Following the massive Typhoon that hit the Philippines, Criss launched a campaign to encourage donations. His statement said, “My mother was born & raised there, and as a result I have always been proud of my Filipino heritage, as well as lucky enough to feel the tremendous support of the Filipino community throughout my life as an artist.” Criss is an active supporter of The Trevor Project which focuses on suicide prevention efforts among lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning (LGBTQ) youth. His work with this organization gained him Variety’s Power of Youth Philanthropy award.

 


 

Bonus: He’s Hot.

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Get This Celeb Look: Jenna Ushkowitz at The American Music Awards

Korean American actress Jenna Ushkowitz is best known for her role as Tina Cohen-Chang on the hit teen musical comedy-drama television series, Glee. Aside from her on-screen romance with heart-throb Mike Chang (played by Henry Shum Jr.), her character is known for being introduced as a shy and insecure girl with a fake stutter.

Clearly, this is far from actress Jenna Ushkowitz who shines on any red carpet. Celebrity Hairstylist Helen Jeffers gives us the secret to Ushkowitz’s amazing hair during The American Music Awards. Follow along to get this Celeb Look.

 

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1. I began by blow drying Jenna’s hair.  I sectioned off the hair into three. The first section beginning at the bangs and ending at the base of the neck. The two other sections on each side from crown to below the ears. Each section was about half an inch deep and was sprayed with a generous application of Bumble and Bumble Tonic Lotion and Bumble and Bumble Thickening Hairspray from root to tip. I used the high heat setting on the hairdryer and a medium sized boar bristle round brush, paying particular attention to the roots to give them volume.

 

2. After blowdrying each section, I set and pinned it, till the entire head was done.

3. I removed the pins section by section, spraying each one with White Sands Liquid Texture Firm Hold Thermal Styling Spray and wrapping it from tip to root in a large barrel heated iron. This seals in the set and give texture and long lasting hold.

4. I loosened up the curls, running my fingers from root to tip and styled them around Jenna’s shoulders. I finished off the style with a generous application of White Sands Stuck Up Mega Hold Hairspray. This flake free product, repels moisture and gives the curls luster and shine.

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Kenneth Choi: Why Running Away Was The Best Decision of His Life

Story by Carol Park. 

For Kenneth Choi, becoming an actor was never about the glitz or glamour. Acting was just a way he could truly express himself.

“I was always kind of an emotional, expressive kid, and I always felt I was different and weird,” says Choi. “[Acting] is something that kind of breeds [expressiveness]. I get to express myself, and it’s just the most rewarding thing when you have this dream as a little kid and you finally get it.”

Another dream? Landing a starring role in a much-hyped new series. After mostly small parts in a long list of TV shows and films, including Captain America: The First Avenger, Red Dawn, Sons of Anarchy and Glee, Choi is set to star alongside Blair Underwood in NBC’s remake of the 1967 crime drama Ironside, premiering October 2. Choi portrays the cool and pragmatic Captain Ed Rollins, working alongside a group of detectives solving difficult crimes. Underwood plays the title character, who is relegated to a wheelchair after being shot.

“What attracted me [to the series] is there’s this sort of family element that’s threaded throughout the construct of this crime drama,” says Choi. “There’s a paternal relationship between Ed and the detectives. As the show progresses, you’ll see not only how the characters evolve, but how these individuals come together as a team and grow.”

Despite his recent success (Choi is also set to appear in the highly-anticipated Martin Scorsese film The Wolf of Wall Street, due out November 15), Choi’s rise to fame wasn’t easy. When he began his career more than a decade ago, he was broke, jobless and essentially estranged from his family.

“I had a very traditional upbringing, very traditional parents,” says Choi, who was raised in Chicago. “I asked my father once directly [about acting] when I was young, and he looked at me and he said, ‘I can’t believe my son would say something so stupid.’ Those were his exact words.”

Discouraged, Choi set aside his aspirations and went to college to study business. But it was during those years of freedom that he finally realized he had to pursue acting, no matter the cost. So he quit college, cut ties with his family, and moved to Los Angeles. He ended up sleeping on the floor of his friend’s 325-square-foot studio and living on a shoestring budget. And yet, “I don’t think I’ve ever been as happy as that first year,” says Choi, “even now that I have a moderate amount of success. It was just the best year of my life.”

His newfound freedom gave Choi the chance to work on his craft and audition for parts. He landed roles on television shows like The West Wing and Reba. During this time, he avoided his family, but after five years, Choi could no longer stay away. One day, he decided to go home to Chicago.

The first thing Choi’s father did when he saw his son was open his arms — they hugged for five minutes. For two hours, Choi talked to his father about everything. “All this stuff came out and he just sat there and listened, and at the end of it, it was the most amazing thing,” Choi recalls. “He just said, ‘I grew up a certain way, my dad treated me a certain way, and that’s what I learned. That’s the way I learned to take care of you. All I wanted was to try and do my best. That was my best, and obviously some of it wasn’t good enough, but I always loved you.’”

Today, Choi and his father are close. Choi doesn’t regret the time he spent away from his family or quitting school. He believes it was the best thing he could have done not only for his career but also for his relationship with his father. “Find whatever makes you happy and go after it with everything,” says Choi. “Don’t let anything stand in your way.”

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

Flashback Friday | Top 10 Asian American High School Girls Next Door

 

High school: such a pivotal time in young women’s lives for college/career decisions, familial tension, first loves, first rejections, no-holds-barred attitude and unexpected self-discoveries.

And when high school years are depicted on American film and television, extracurricular activities may involve solving murder mysteries (Pretty Little Liars), and unrequited love is sometimes best told through song (T.V. Carpio’s cover of “I Want to Hold Your Hand” in Across the Universe).

One could argue that Tamlyn Tomita’s Kumiko was the ultimate Asian American high school “girl-next-door” crush, even if, back in 1986, the Karate Kid had to travel all the way to Japan to be in the right neighborhood. But in the past 25 years, there have many memorable Asian American girls  – as well as British Asians, Asian-Scots and Asian Canadians that we snuck onto the list — that we can look up to (or reminisce with) in these classic tales of high school.

 

Below are our Top 10 Asian American High School Girls Next Door:

 

10.  Tina Cohen-Chang (Jenna Ushkowitz); Glee

Jenna Ushkowitz has been playing Tina on Glee since the first season debuted in 2009. After dating Artie, she connected with “the other Asian,” Mike Chang (Harry Shum Jr.), making them arguably the most prominent Asian American couple on television. As part of the glee club, Jenna has had many notable performances, covering songs such as “True Colors,” “My Funny Valentine,” and “Gangnam Style.”

 

9. Cho Chang (Katie Leung); Harry Potter

3,000 girls auditioned for the role of Cho Chang, and the Scottish Katie Leung made her debut in 2005′s Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. As Harry Potter’s first love interest, she also gives him his first kiss. Though Harry and Cho’s romance is short-lived, bookended by Cedric’s death and Cho’s jealousy of Hermione, Leung continued to reprise her role until the final installment.


8. Margaret Yang (Sarah Tanaka); Rushmore

Rushmore fans remember Margaret Yang as the sweet, bespectacled student at Grover Cleveland High School who has a crush on Jason Schwartzman’s Max Fischer. Unfortunately, the 10th grade extracurricular activities junkie is too busy chasing after the new teacher (Olivia Williams) to pay any attention to her. Yet, Margaret Yang is the one that ultimately gets to call Max out on his bullshit — “You’re a real jerk to me, you know that?” — eliciting a well-earned apology that made Noise to Signal‘s 10 Most Affecting Wes Anderson Moments.

7. Annabelle Manalo (Joy Bisco); The Debut

In 2000′s The Debut, Joy Bisco plays Annabelle Manalo, the best friend of Rose Mercado (Bernadette Balagtas), who is having her 18th birthday party (aka her “debut”). Rose’s brother Ben, played by Dante Basco, is the high school senior who clashes with his father and struggles to reconcile his Filipino American identity. Annabelle, a beautiful dancer with a dangerous thug boyfriend, easily charms Ben by putting him at ease on the dance floor (“If you’re Filipino, you can cha cha. It is in the blood.”), and, as an unexpected confidante, she makes a lasting impression on Ben and viewers alike.

6. Emily Fields (Shay Mitchell); Pretty Little Liars

The sporty Emily Fields, played by half Filipina, half Irish/Scottish actress Shay Mitchell, is one of the four leads in the murder mystery ABC Family series Pretty Little Liars, which debuted in 2010 and is currently in its third season. In the first season of the show, Emily comes out of the closet to both her friends and later to her parents (played by Hapa actors Eric Steinberg and Nia Peeples). Since then, the series has explored her difficult relationship with her mother and subsequent tragedies in the girls’ mysterious lives.

Click here to watch the Pretty Little Liars coming out scene.

 

5. Knives Chau (Ellen Wong); Scott Pilgrim vs. the World

Scorned by her first love Scott Pilgrim, Knives Chau is a 17-year-old girl learning about heartbreak (and boys who aren’t the best at communication) for the first time. Played by Ellen Wong, Knives is not just an ex determined to win her boyfriend back, but a fireball of passionate energy that bursts out of the screen even we discover she has all these hidden ninja moves up her sleeve.

4. Gabriella Montez (Vanessa Hudgens): High School Musical

In the popular High School Musical franchise, Gabriella Montez — played by the Chinese-Filipino-Spanish-Irish-Native American actress-singer-dancer Vanessa Hudgens – was ultimate high school dream girl to the ultimate high school dream boy, Troy Bolton, played by Zac Efron. The dream only intensified when the fictional relationship spilled over into reality: the High School Musical movies were released from 2006-2008, while the two lead actors were real-life lovebirds until 2010. While the first two movies were made-for-television, the stakes were upped when High School Musical 3: Senior Year was brought to the big screen.

 

 

3.  Jesminder “Jess” Bhamra (Parminder Nagra); Bend it Like Beckham

The 2002 film that picked up Golden Globe and British Academy Award nominations features Parminder Nagra as Jess, a tomboy in London who idolizes David Beckham and wants to play football (soccer), even though her Indian immigrant parents will not allow it. This ultimate underdog story, directed by Gurinder Chadha, not only kickstarted Nagra’s career (as she would later play Dr. Neela Rasgotra on the hit show ER for six years), but it also showcased early performances by Keira Knightley, Jonathan Rhys Meyers, and Archie Panjabi.

 

 

2. Lana Lang (Kristen Kreuk): Smallville

Though Smallville ran for 10 seasons, during which the relationship between Clark Kent and Lana Lang would reach greater highs and lows, involving a time travel crystal and eventual break-up, we will focus on the high school years — Seasons 1-4 — for the purposes of this list. The half Dutch, half Chinese Kristen Kreuk played Lana Lang, Clark Kent’s literal girl next door. Clark Kent (as Superman) saves her again and again, without her knowledge, but as their feelings for each other deepen, his secretive behavior continues to be a source of distrust. Smallville‘s ultimate high school moment has to be when Lifehouse comes to sing at their prom, and Clark asks Lana to dance. In that pure, fleeting moment, all other potential love interests understand that there’s no coming in between them.

1. Lane Kim (Keiko Agena): Gilmore Girls

And my personal favorite has got to be Lane Kim, Rory Gilmore’s best friend in Gilmore Girls, which ran from 2000-2007. The character of Lane was loosely based on Helen Pai, a Korean American producer on the show who was raised as a Seventh Day Adventist. Because Lane’s super strict mother (played by Emily Kuroda) disapproves of everything loud, and non-Christian, and non-mother-approved (which is most things), the aspiring drummer has secrecy perfected to a tee — hiding her rock CD collection under the floor boards of her room and concocting elaborate stories so she can date without her mother finding out. And, as an actress, Keiko Agena perfected delivering Amy Sherman-Palladino’s cleverly complex lines at super speed, a fun requisite for being on Gilmore Girls in the first place.

Click here to watch the scene where Lane reveals her scheme to get her mom to like her new secret boyfriend, Dave.

 

Tell us who your favorite Asian American high school girl next doors are!