Flashback Friday: The Truth About “Bromances”

Story by Paul Nakayama 

I recently returned from a trip to Vancouver where my writing partner and I celebrated New Year’s Eve. To quote our generation, it was epic. Now, judging from the photo (below), you might assume that we went there as lovers, or perhaps even newlyweds. But, no, dear readers, it is, in fact, a “bromance” of the highest caliber. For those of you who’ve never heard of a bromance, it’s defined as a very close, or homosocial, friendship between two straight men. You’ve all seen examples of a bromance through television shows like Scrubs and Friends or movies like I Love You, Man. There are even real world examples like Ben Affleck and Matt Damon or George Clooney and Brad Pitt. It’s a strong bond formed from common interests and long periods of time spent together. Hearing this, my editor was unsatisfied, or rather, still suspicious, and she demanded a better explanation. I took a look at the photo again, and I thought maybe it is in my best interest to provide a few insights into this new definition of brotherhood.

The concept of guy-love is lost on those who have never experienced it (so, men from older generations or women). It’s not weird or strange anymore to see men display their affections for their buds physically. I’ve seen grown, bearded men shove aside a fist bump request and instead firmly place their chest against another man’s chest. It’s strange and perhaps unnerving to them to see men platonically bond while throwing in the occasional hugs, butt-slaps and friendly wrestling. Whatever happened to the good ol’ days of stoic machismo, they wonder? Well, these days it’s cooler to be cool with man-love.

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I remember one time in high school I spent the night at my best friend’s house once. His dad, an old- fashioned type, raised an eyebrow when we went into the hot tub to relax. When it was time to turn in, his dad seemed nervous about something, as if the fate of his son’s future rested on the events of this particular evening. He kept hanging around the room, which was a drag because we wanted to close the door and talk about girls. Finally, after long periods of pacing and internal debating, he looked at us and pointed at the bed. He stuttered, “You know, I don’t think the bed is big enough to hold both of you.”

What do you do when your dad, like many others, mistakes guy-love for gay love? It’s not like we were planning to share the bed, but we did what anyone would do when faced with an awkward opportunity to teach someone about tolerance. We went with it and antagonized the poor man. Arms around each other and a big grin on our faces, we said, “We’ll make it work.”

I thought some more on why bromances are so common these days. When did it all start? I wondered if it was somehow a natural progression from the emergence of the metrosexual man. I thought that the heavy use of high-end conditioner and facial moisturizer made our hearts as soft as our hair and skin. In all seriousness, though, single men these days are simply less concerned with the notion of being identified as gay than their fathers and grandfathers. If anything, I’ve seen bromances take pride in their ability to ride the razor’s edge of platonic and sexual. Take me, for instance. Whenever I get drunk, I tend to lift my brothers into the air a la Patrick Swayze and Jennifer Grey in Dirty Dancing. I’m not trying to cop a feel (usually); there’s just no better way to show a brother you love him than by doing a ballet lift together.

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Bromances aren’t just an American thing. I’ve witnessed and experienced it on many of my travels, like Anthony Bourdain, but instead of food, I sampled male bonding. In Brazil, I befriended a group of the tallest, largest men I’ve ever met, and when I had trouble wading through the packed crowds, one of them actually lifted me up above the people and placed me in front of the bathroom. I said to him, “Obrigado, my gentle giant. Obrigado.” (True story.) In Hong Kong, I spent several nights drinking with guys that simply liked me because I could hold my liquor. Imagine that — bonding with strangers over such a superficial reason, and yet we were inseparable for days. In Singapore, I saw a club full of guys perform a synchronized interpretative dance to Madonna’s “Like a Prayer.” Actually, wait, that might’ve been a gay club; it was kind of confusing. Finally, in Korea, I saw men holding hands and kissing each other’s faces. Well, I wasn’t ready for the master class bromance, but you know, I just wanted to give you another example.

While most women comment that it’s “cute” to see men bond so closely, I’ve also had plenty of girls poke fun (with a hint of “what-the-eff” in their voices) at my bromances. When that happens, my buddies and I shrug it off because we know that it’s just jealousy. Now before I get angry letters from you (which I wouldn’t mind actually since it’s at least some evidence that someone is reading this), I’ll explain the source of the jealousy. It’s not uncommon for men these days to be more emotionally available to their man-mates than their actual girlfriends. There’s less emotional risk and you still get the satisfaction of catharsis. There’s no regard for what comes in the future; there’s only the enjoyment of the now. In other words, men can enjoy the intimacy of a long-lasting relationship without the dreaded “so-where-are-we-headed” talk. You combine that level of hassle-free friendship with man-dates that involve common interests in video games, sports, music and entertainment, and it’s not ironic that even the most commitment-phobic guys have at some point in their lives said to another guy: “Dude, if you were a girl, I’d marry you.”

Now, with the context I’ve given, does the above photo of me leaping into another man’s arms make more sense? Still weird, you say? Yes, there was alcohol involved at the time this was taken, but that’s not an excuse. There’s no need to make excuses for something as beautiful as the friendship of two men. If anything, I will fight like a Black Friday shopper to defend my right to be cradled in the arms of my best friends. It’s a great thing that the taboos of the past are being cast off to create a world where men are OK with showing feelings, affection and love. Why not have a world where men can accept and hug instead of front and fight? I think it’s awesome. Well, except for those really aggressive huggers that linger. That’s just awkward.

This story was originally published in our Spring 2012 issue. Get your copy here

5 Lessons Learned From Online Dating

Story by O.D.D. (Online Dating Diary) Girl

When Audrey unleashed its new look last fall, it was also the beginning of this column. Around the office (and to some of my close friends), I became known as O.D.D. Girl. What I didn’t disclose one year ago was that I had had my heart broken and was wavering on the idea of going online to find love. Nonetheless, it didn’t take too much convincing for my editor to get me to chronicle my adventures as an Asian American woman trying online dating for the first time.

Of course, it wasn’t easy. For the first time in my life, I was forced to look at myself and come to terms with what I really wanted in a partner. I’ve had my share of short-lived flings and semi-relationships, but I’ve never been in a long-term exclusive relationship. But after months of exchanging online messages and even going on dates, I realized it was time for me to think about getting serious with someone — and to be more serious about myself as well.

Over this past year, I managed to convince some of my peers and friends to try online dating for the first time, too. As I was coaching some of them, I gleaned some lessons from my experience. In no particular order, here they are.

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1. Don’t let the creeps get to you.
I know that online dating sites have horrible reputations for the kind of men on them. They’re slimy, they’re looking for hookups, they have weird fetishes — I won’t go on and on, but I’m sure you all know what I’m trying to get at. Just remember, they’re there. They will always be there. But the site is not 100 percent full of horrible men. For example, if some guy is projecting his Asian fetish onto you, you can (1) reply back with a sassy remark (with dignity, of course) to let him know he’s a racist prick, and (2) block him. Don’t allow one bad egg to ruin your entire experience, just like you shouldn’t allow the douchebag you met at the bar to define the rest of your love life either.

2. Dating does not get any easier as time goes on.
Whenever I tell my editor about my dates (from both online and offline), she always looks over to another married person and says, “I’m so glad I’m not dating in this age.” I’m realizing that as I get older, I’m running into guys with a lot of baggage because they’ve also had hard dating experiences, just like me. It’s not like my early 20s when we all pretty much had clean slates. So accept it — you’re not always going to meet perfect guys with perfect backgrounds, but it doesn’t mean that they’re not nice people or haven’t learned from their dating past.

3. Don’t be afraid to tell your Asian parents you met someone on an online dating site.
Not too long ago, my mother asked me if I was a lesbian. I suppose she had every right to, since I hadn’t brought anyone home to meet her. I then told her that I was talking to someone online — and she didn’t try to disown me. Perhaps it helped that one of my older aunts married a guy she met online recently. Either way, don’t be ashamed to let your parents know how you met the guy — it’ll help open them up if they haven’t already.

4. Don’t just go for the guys who look good on paper.
I was really surprised to see how many Asian guys were on these online dating sites — and how many of them looked really good on their profiles. There were so many guys who were tall, handsome, working professionals (with an income of six figures!), did just about every activity in the book, were well traveled, and were quite charming in their messages. Does that make them Prince Charming in real life? Of course not! My point is, take a chance on the guys who may not seem so perfect on paper because I’ve learned that some guys were intentional in not creating the perfect profile — they wanted to see if they could attract the right kind of girl. I actually did that once, and I found a pretty good guy in real life.

5. Be absolutely honest with the guys you date (and yourself, too).
Don’t ever tell a guy the opposite of what you’re looking for because you want to go along with what he wants. It won’t do you any good. Instead, communicate well and let him know what you’re looking for from the get-go — it will save you trouble and time. Trust me.

So how have my dating adventures fared to date, given the first anniversary of this column? I don’t want to give away too much now, because I feel like I’ve gotten into something that’s just starting. However, I’ll leave you with this: I think I’ve found one guy who’s got a hold on me.

Until next time.

 

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

The Next Big Thing: Pom Klementieff in Spike Lee’s “Oldboy” Remake

Story by Ethel Navales 

Although American audiences may not recognize her yet, 27-year-old actress Pom Klementieff has already made quite a name for herself in France. Born in Canada to a Korean mother and French-Russian father, Klementieff lived in various locations, including Africa, before settling in France where her career took off. The actress has notable works under her name, but her supporting role in Spike Lee’s much-anticipated remake of the 2003 Korean cult film by Chan-wook Park, Oldboy, arguably takes the cake.

In Oldboy, Klementieff plays a woman named Haeng-Bok, and if you ask the actress if she’s anything like her, she will only respond, “My character and I have the same shoe size, 6.” Indeed, a quick Google search only confirms that the character remains an enigmatic figure. “The only thing I can tell you is that [Haeng-Bok] is never very far from the villain, and she is a mysterious character,” says Klementieff. One thing she does reveal is the martial arts training she endured to play the role. She trained for hours a day and proudly points out, “I loved it; I was kicking so much that I lost a toenail at the end of shooting.” In fact, she was given the nickname “The Pominator,” something that made her laugh so hard that she put it on her license plate.

But it wasn’t just martial arts that made this role a challenge; Klementieff had to delve into some personal demons during filming. “For the last scene I had to shoot, I had to do something strangely connected to my brother’s death in real life,” she says cryptically. “It was stressing me out during rehearsals, but I thought it would be fine. When we finally shot this scene, I burst into tears and yelled. Sometimes you can’t control your body — it just lets go, and it was very cathartic. The scene became an homage to him.”

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Despite the emotional and physical difficulties, or perhaps because of it, Klementieff says she’s decided to pursue her acting career in America. “The roles I’m auditioning for here in the U.S. are 20 times more interesting than those I had back in France! Asians are less represented in movies in France. It’s changing little by little, but here in L.A., there is a big Asian community.”

Get ready to see more of Klementieff. She just wrapped the independent film The Hackers with Cyril Morin, where she sported purple hair for “a love story between two computer hackers who get caught up in manipulation.” And once Oldboy hits theaters on November 27, we just may have a new starlet on our hands. As for the various actors and directors that she would like to work for in the future, Klementieff excitedly lists Martin Scorsese, Chan-wook Park, Christopher Nolan and many more. She jokes, “It makes me laugh each time I’m asked [who I would like to work with]. It paralyzes me, like when I’m asked ‘What do you want for Christmas?’”

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

PREMIERING TONIGHT: Ming-Na Wen on “Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.”

Story by Teena Apeles. 

Actress Ming-Na Wen has been fortunate to have played many strong female characters during her career: Dr. Chen in ER, Camile Wray in SGU Stargate Universe and, of course, the beloved Mulan. So you can bet that it would take a pretty amazing character to get this pro as giddy as a teenager. Enter Melinda May.

“When this opportunity came up, my skin was just tingling with excitement,” says Wen of her role in the highly anticipated series Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., premiering on ABC this fall. “I wanted to have a show that I could enjoy doing, working with people who I love, and that my kids can watch. And so I think I hit the jackpot here.”

What’s not to like about Agent Melinda May? She has a reputation for being an expert pilot and skilled fighter as a member of the international organization S.H.I.E.L.D., which protects “the ordinary from the extraordinary.” And as May, Wen flexes her muscles often … on bad guys. “We were working on some fight sequences this past week, and I am so into it right now; it makes me feel really powerful,” she says. “I am going to be in the best shape of my life because of this show.” Extra plus, she’s taking direction from Joss Whedon, the show’s creator, which, in her own words, had her “screaming for joy” because she is a huge fan.

A self-described “geek girl,” Wen says she’s been drawn to the sci-fi world as an escape since she was a kid. Growing up as the only Asian girl in a very white suburban neighborhood, she says she liked anything that was “other-worldly.” She admits, “I used to pray that E.T. or some extraterrestrial being would take me away, to some other world, and get me out of some of the environments that I was in, always feeling like the outsider.”

As she got older, Wen became interested in Dungeons & Dragons through her science fiction class and, later, drama club, “where I found people who accepted me for who I was and understood me, and we had a lot in common. And that became my world.”

Star Wars, Star Trek and Aliens were among the movies she loved because in such worlds, says Wen, “there are outsiders and yet they have these amazing superpowers. And even though they don’t fit in, they become the heroes.”

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While Agent May doesn’t have superpowers, she is still part of an elite force that works within the government to facilitate and help out the superheroes. But as far as Wen’s daughter and son, ages 12 and 7, respectively, are concerned, she looks pretty super on screen. “After seeing the pilot, my son said, ‘Wow, I didn’t know you could fight like that!’ It is just so nice to be able to share with them why mommy disappears so much,” she says. “They get excited to think I can fly a plane and fight.”

Of course, they’re not the only fans thrilled with her role. After the summer release of the Melinda May trailer to promote the show, Wen was the talk of the Web — so much so that her Twitter following grew.

“I just love the fans so much, and when this was starting to trickle out, I started this fan group related to the show that I could talk to and party with,” she says of what she calls the M.O.B., short for “Most Optimum Badass.” As for how she came up with the name, Wen says, “Everyone kept calling me a badass. I think everyone wants to feel like a badass, so alright, I am going to form a group of badasses.”

So are her kids allowed to call her a “badass” at home? Wen laughs. “Well, it could be a donkey. …”

 

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

 

Is Facebook Causing Depression?

Story by Anna M. Park.

You come home from work. It was a fair to middling day. Your boss didn’t yell at you, you didn’t totally cheat on your diet, and Andrew still hasn’t called. You sit down with a glass of wine, open your laptop, and start scrolling through Facebook. Brian finally tried a cronut. Jessica’s baby is growing some hair. Wow, Kris is looking really good. Tran got into that grad school? Sylvia took another vacation? Grace is engaged?!

You slam shut the laptop. Now you’re depressed.

Join the club. According to a 2013 study conducted by two German universities, one in three people felt worse and more dissatisfied with their lives after visiting Facebook. Users felt envy, loneliness and isolation, with the most common cause of Facebook frustration stemming from others’ vacation photos. The second most common cause of envy was social interaction — feeling a “lack of attention” from having fewer birthday greetings, comments and “likes” compared to friends.

And it wasn’t just college students. The study found people in their mid-30s were most likely to envy family happiness, while women were more likely to envy physical attractiveness. After all, what is Facebook but an online brag book for all to see? A 20-something colleague recently summed it up when asked why she posted so much food porn on Facebook: “To make people jealous.”

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These findings aren’t new. Scientists coined the term “Facebook depression” after a 2011 study found that teens could be negatively affected by using the social networking site too much. Another study published in the journal Cyberpsychology, Behavior and Social Networking, by sociologists Hui-Tzu Grace Chou and Nicholas Edge, concluded that “those spending more time on Facebook each week agreed more that others were happier and had better lives.” Students who used Facebook longer also agreed less with the statement “Life is fair.” Moreover, the more Facebook “friends” a person had whom they did not know personally, the more they believed that others had better lives. And in Chou’s most recent study, she found that those with more Facebook friends cared less about their work performance, and those who frequently updated their Facebook profile liked their current job less and were more likely to think about changing jobs.

Granted, feeling unhappy is not the same thing as depression, but it could be said that Facebook may not be the best thing for an already susceptible population. After all, Asians are arguably the most wired people in the world, and we also bear the ignoble distinction of having the highest rates of depression. According to a 2011 report by the National Alliance on Mental Illness, Asian American teenage girls have the highest rate of depressive symptoms of any racial, ethnic or gender group. In fact, Asian American girls and women aged 15 to 24 die from suicide at a higher rate than any other racial or ethnic group, and suicide is the fifth leading cause of death among Asian Americans overall (only ninth for white Americans). It’s not just young women either; Asian American women over 65 have the highest suicide rate in that demographic. And while some studies find depressive symptoms in 35 percent of Chinese immigrants, among Southeast Asians, 71 percent meet the criteria for major affective disorders such as depression.

So should we get offline altogether? Many have, or at least minimize their usage; the researchers behind the German study concluded that “users frequently perceive Facebook as a stressful environment, which may, in the long run, endanger platform sustainability.” But you don’t have to be entirely anti-social; just do it face-to-face. In her study, Chou also found that those who spent less time on Facebook and more time socializing with friends in real life were less likely to report that they were unhappy. So get out there and really like something.

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

The Truth About Mammograms: To X-Ray or Not To X-Ray?

Story by Anna M. Park. 

When the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force announced that women should not be getting mammograms until they reach 50, it ignited controversy within the medical community. For years, doctors have insisted on mammograms starting at 40, and the American Cancer Society and Susan G. Komen Foundation still recommend an annual mammogram starting at the age of 40, citing early detection key to saving lives. Just do a quick search and you’ll find stories of all sorts of young women in their 40s whose lives were saved from early detection. Nonetheless, most major health organizations have concluded that the modest survival benefits of mammography in women ages 40 to 49 outweigh the risks of false positives and further unnecessary procedures. So what’s a woman to do? Dr. Maggie DiNome, chief of General Surgery at Saint John’s Hospital in Santa Monica, Calif., who specializes in breast cancer surgery, answers our questions.

Q. My OB/gyn insists I get annual mammograms starting at 40, even though I have no family history. But the new U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommends mammograms starting at 50, and then every two years. What do I do?

Dr. Maggie DiNome: You would need to weigh the data to know what is right for you. The U.S. Task Force came out with their consensus statement based on their recommendations of what is most efficient for screening, meaning what has the biggest bang for the buck for the population as a whole. According to their review of the existing data, starting mammograms at age 40 only results in one life out of 1,000 being saved. That might not seem like much, but if you were that one patient, it means the world.

So what is the trade-off for starting mammograms at age 40? Well, the argument is that it leads to more false positives, which leads to more unnecessary biopsies and imaging. It may also be finding stages of “cancer” (i.e. DCIS, or ductal carcinoma in situ) that truly do not need treatment, although currently we treat everyone diagnosed with DCIS because we don’t yet know who can safely avoid treatment. As a breast surgeon, I see more than one might expect of breast cancers diagnosed by routine mammograms in women in their 40s, so it’s hard for me to say “stop.” I wouldn’t necessarily argue that biennial mammograms is a bad thing though, and maybe a compromise would be biennial mammograms beginning at age 40. In Europe, it is this way.

My recommendation to you would be to start mammograms at age 40, and plan to get them every year or every other year.

 

Q. Even if a woman holds off on regular mammograms until she’s 50, should she get a baseline mammogram in her 40s?

Dr. DiNome: That’s a difficult question to answer because, if you are starting your screening at age 50, that means you agree with the U.S. Task Force data that it is not efficient to begin screening at age 40. So a baseline at that age would not make sense. There is no doubt that starting annual screening at age 40 reduces death from breast cancer, but the argument is that it is too low of a number to be considered significant. The probability of dying from breast cancer after age 40 is 3 percent. If you screen biennially between ages 50-74, you can reduce that to 2.5 percent. If you start screening annually at age 40, then you reduce it to 2.4 percent, which hardly seems significant when you talk about numbers. It’s just difficult when you equate it with a life because in my mind any life is worth saving.

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Q. I got a mammogram and was told I have dense breasts, which I believe most Asian women have. Should we insist on an ultrasound?

Dr. DiNome: Almost every premenopausal female will have dense breasts because it’s a reflection of the hormonal stimulation on our breast tissue. After menopause, there is significantly less (unless they’re on hormone replacement therapy) and the breast tissue becomes more replaced by fat. The downsides of mammograms are that they are notoriously less sensitive in a woman with dense breasts, and that’s why we don’t recommend beginning screening in a woman under age 40. The ability of the mammogram to show anything helpful in that scenario is so low it’s not worth doing. For women over 40 who have dense breasts, a mammogram should still be performed because it is the only imaging modality that will pick up calcifications reliably, and this can be one of the earliest signs of breast cancer. A screening ultrasound does have some value as an adjunctive screening test to a mammogram, but not in place of. I do think it is worthwhile for women with dense breasts to advocate for a screening ultrasound, but it is not yet a test that is covered by insurance for routine screening.

Q. The risk of breast cancer for Asian American women seems to be rising (compared to women in Asia) — is there anything in particular we should be doing to protect ourselves?

Dr. DiNome: I think this has a lot to do with adopting a western diet. Population studies have demonstrated that if you followed immigrants from Asia to America, that over two generations the risk of cancer increases significantly. Right now, the risk of breast cancer in Asia is five times less than the risk in America. My recommendation would be to adopt a more whole food, plant-based diet and to minimize the amount of animal protein, which we eat way too much of in the U.S. My husband and I went vegan a few years ago for the health effects. I have a strong family history of cancer (not the least of which is my father who died from colon cancer at age 39) and I now have 3 1⁄2-year-old twin girls. Because my husband and I had kids later in life, we feel it’s our responsibility to do whatever we can to ensure that we will be around for them as long as possible. So we did a lot of research and we both independently concluded (my husband before me, mind you) that a vegan diet has the most evidence-based data for a cancer protective diet.


Dr. Maggie DiNome is the current chief of General Surgery at Saint John’s Hospital in Santa Monica, Calif. She is a board certified general surgeon, who focuses her clinical expertise on cancer surgery and advanced laparoscopic techniques. As a fellow of the Society for Surgical Oncology and a member of the American Society of Breast Surgeons, Dr. DiNome is particularly dedicated to caring for patients with breast and colorectal cancer. 

 

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

Struggles of Modern-Day Cambodia According to Filmmaker Kalyanee Mam

Story by Kanara Ty

The Cambodian American experience has often been defined by one event — the Cambodian genocide that took place from the mid- to late-’70s, led by the Khmer Rouge. However, in recent years, there has been a cultural movement amongst 1.5- and second-generation Cambodian Americans to reconcile the past and move forward — namely, through the medium of filmmaking.

Human rights lawyer-turned-filmmaker Kalyanee Mam is one of them.

“We have been so stuck on this  narrative about the Khmer Rouge,” says Mam. “It’s because it’s so exotic to people. It’s easy to sell violence, it’s easy to sell bloodshed. I think we need to take our- selves away from our past and look for- ward to the future. Our future will not be anything unless we do something about our present.”

Mam is taking up that task in her feature directorial debut, A River Changes Course, due for theatrical release in October. The award-winning documentary (it won the Grand Jury Prize for World Cinema Documentary at this year’s Sundance Film Festival) follows three individuals — Sari Math, Khieu Mok, and Sav Samourn — whose lives are impacted by some modern-day problems in Cambodia, including deforestation and overfishing due to large land and fishing concessions. While the film takes on a heavy topic, the images of Cambodia presented in the film portray a beautiful country that leave you with a heartfelt and lasting impression. The film may be activist, but the last thing on Mam’s mind is violence.

“I don’t believe in violent ways of changing things,” says Mam. “I believe in slow movements in helping raise people’s consciousness. After [audiences] watched the film, it was on their minds for weeks. The images stayed with them. The images that dig into the subconscious — those are the images that last and continue to inspire people.”

Human rights is something Mam became passionate about after her first trip to Cambodia during the summer of 1998, where she worked as a research intern at the Documentation Center of Cambodia. “The first time I went back, I completely fell in love with the country. It was like a summer romance. It was such a beautiful experience. I grew to understand the country and people more,” says the 36-year-old. “Now it’s no longer a romance. Or a young love. It’s a more mature love. I understand its weaknesses. I understand the corruption. I understand the complexities. I accept Cambodia for everything that it is.”

Initially, Mam chose law school as the vehicle to fight for human rights, but she found it frustrating. “I thought the law would aid me with the mechanisms and tools to assist people who had undergone human rights violations,” she says. “But I felt the law was not broad enough. It was so defined and so specific. There were all these boundaries, rules and regulations. People’s lives are not so restricted. People’s lives are much more complicated.”

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After graduating from UCLA School of Law, Mam worked as a legal consultant for the Mozambique Ministry of Labor, as well as the Iraq Ministry of Justice. But she soon realized that she wanted to do more than just provide legal counsel for human rights victims.

“After I left Iraq, I felt like I left a part of me behind,” she says. “I was still concerned with my friends who were still there. Everyone was trying to escape the country. I was helping them legally, such as seeking asylum. I knew that wasn’t enough.” So Mam decided to make a documentary. She had been interview- ing her friend and her colleague on the down low while she was in Iraq so she had all these transcripts. She eventually turned those interviews into an award-winning documentary short, Between Earth and Sky, which focused on three Iraqi artists.

That led to work on the Academy Award-winning documentary Inside Job, which examined the global financial crisis of 2008, where Mam worked as cinematographer, associate producer, and researcher. And now with A River Changes Course, Mam is embarking on a campaign to screen the film in every single village in Cambodia, with the help from the Documentation Center of Cambodia.

“If every single person in Cambodia sees this film and sees what’s happening to [the subjects], then [they’ll realize] it’s happening to every person in Cambodia. That knowledge [would be] overwhelming,” says Mam. “It’s the first step towards raising consciousness of Cambodians living in Cambodia, and also it empowers them to do something about their situation. If everyone feels empowered to do something, you can imagine the ripple effect from that.”

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

HappyPlayTime: A Masturbation App for Women

Story by Kanara Ty

Masturbation is not an easy topic to talk about because of its taboo-ness. But when designer/web developer Tina Gong introduced her mobile app, HappyPlayTime, to the world, the art of self-pleasure just got a little easier to discuss — and in the cutest way possible.

The Chinese American uses an animated cartoon character named Happy (yes, she’s a vagina) to help female users get in touch with their genitalia (and yes, including the G-spot). All in all, her purpose is to help remove the social stigma of masturbation and help females become more comfortable with and adept at it.

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The app launches this fall, and it’s already picked up a lot of buzz. Sign up on the website and be one of the first users to test it.

Details Happyplaytime.com

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

Traveling Under Pressure: Tips from Tranquil Tuesday’s Charlene Wang

Story by Anna M. Park

Charlene Wang knows what it’s like to be on the road. Based in Beijing, the Boston-born Chinese American travels to the U.S. at least three times a year, in addition to traveling around China to remote tea suppliers three to four times a year, for her luxe tea company, Tranquil Tuesdays. Before she founded Tranquil Tuesdays in 2010, Wang was a diplomat with the U.S. Foreign Service. Her posts included Bangladesh as a human rights officer, Beijing reporting on China- Japan relations, and the United Nations Security Council. She also headed a fraud prevention unit working on visa and immigration fraud.

 

But it’s not all glitz and glory, says Wang. “Diplomats also end up doing a lot less glamorous work, supporting the visits of U.S. government leaders like the secretary of state or the president. For example, I was in charge of coordinating First Lady Laura Bush’s visit to the Forbidden City in Beijing with the Chinese government, and one time I even woke up at 4 a.m. to monitor the handling of Secretary Condoleezza Rice’s luggage!”

 

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A pro at tight schedules and traveling under pressure, Wang gives us her tricks to staying fresh on the road.

 

    • Beating Jet Lag: I generally try to sleep as much as possible on the plane and then try to stay awake until at least 8 or 9 p.m., without any caffeine, wherever I land before I sleep again. Sometimes I purposely tire myself out leading up to the flight (staying up late packing, taking care of last minute errands) to ensure sleeping.

 

    • Hotel Sweet Home: For me, music is the number one thing I need in a new or unfamiliar environment to feel comfy, so if I have my own tunes pumping I feel great. The second thing for me is smell. I always travel with either a travel candle or some essential oils (my favorites are lemongrass or ylang ylang). Just put a few drops of your essential oil on a light bulb that has been on for a little while, and the heat from that will scent the room.

 

    • Beauty Secrets: Before boarding the plane, I love going to the duty-free, trying different perfumes and smelling great. Additionally, if I didn’t bring my own eye cream, night cream or hand cream, I try and test different products to moisturize up for the flight.

 

  • Light Packer: I’m a firm believer that the lighter you travel, the better, and the only real essentials are your passport and a credit card. When I can, I do like to bring a foot massage roller, essential oils, good tea (I always travel with my own tea), and this great travel tea brewing set so I can make proper loose leaf tea gong fu style anywhere.

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Charlene is all about moisturizing for the flight. “Flying really dries you out,” she says. Try these to keep skin supple.

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1. Sulwhasoo Concentrated Ginseng Renewing Eye Cream.
2. 3Lab WW Eye Cream.
3. Take advantage of long flights with a nighttime treatment as you sleep. Estée Lauder Advanced Night Repair Synchronized Recovery Complex II.
4. Sensai Cellular Performance Lifting Radiance Cream. 

 

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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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