Kore Asian Media http://kore.am Kore Asian Media Fri, 22 Mar 2019 22:26:13 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.5.2 http://kore.am/wp-content/uploads/2016/06/cropped-favicon512-32x32.png Kore Asian Media http://kore.am 32 32 Food For Thought: ‘Two Red Bowls’ Blogger Cynthia McTernan Explores Pan Asian Cuisine in ‘A Common Table’ http://kore.am/food-for-thought-two-red-bowls-blogger-cynthia-mcternan-explores-pan-asian-cuisine-in-a-common-table-chinese-american-korean-american-recipes/ http://kore.am/food-for-thought-two-red-bowls-blogger-cynthia-mcternan-explores-pan-asian-cuisine-in-a-common-table-chinese-american-korean-american-recipes/#respond Fri, 22 Mar 2019 16:00:22 +0000 http://kore.am/?p=5063796 Often lost in the hand-wringing over Asian American “outmarriage” rates is that the fastest growing pairings are actually intra-Asian American: Chinese/Filipino, Korean/Thai, South Asian/Japanese, etc. This is especially true amongst U.S.-raised Asians who tend to encounter each other in their neighborhoods and schools. In my own life, not only am I a part of such a pairing—I’m second-generation Chinese American, my wife is fourth-generation Japanese American—but in our circle of friends, we know more pan-Asian couples than either interracial or same-Asian couples.

As our households blended, so did our food traditions. For an ever increasing number of children, having pancit for lunch and laksa for dinner wouldn’t seem unusual. For Cynthia Chen McTernan, who rose to prominence with her recipe blog, “Two Red Bowls,” this is precisely the environment her Chinese/Korean/Irish son is growing up in. She writes, “In my little guy, I see a mix of cultures that is both incredibly diverse and utterly American.” Her debut cookbook, “A Common Table,” deploys a title meant to capture the culinary influences that circulate in her home, including Chinese, Korean, Southern and Hawaiian cuisine.

To be clear, McTernan’s 80-plus recipes are far more personal than they are sociological. There’s no strong, common thread linking recipes together within “A Common Table” beyond the author’s life story. She draws inspiration from various memories, from childhood—My Great-Grandmother’s Lion’s Head Meatballs—to her own contemporary concoctions such as White Peach and Lychee Cake. Though her recipes are accessible enough for most home cooks, “A Common Table” isn’t a primer for pan-Asian cooking. For every recipe you might expect to find—Shanghainese Cucumber Salad or Pork Bulgogi—there are others that drop in from left field, like Chinese Cola Chicken Wings or a traditionally Italian preparation of Pappardelle with Lamb Ragù.

Compared to other cookbooks with a more formal organization, “A Common Table” works best when you’re just rifling through, seeing which recipes catch your eye. At least, that’s how I ended up trying out McTernan’s Spicy Braised Lamb With Radishes and Noodles, a noodle soup dish that turned out to be perfect for the cold and rainy weather that soaked Los Angeles last February. After a few hours braising in the oven, the dish yields soft, translucent radish bulbs and tender strands of lamb that fall off the shank, while spoonfuls of chili garlic paste mellow into a savory soup base with a soft, spicy edge, but is far from being a capsaicin bomb. For what it’s worth, when my immigrant parents tried it, they were slightly incredulous I made it: “I didn’t think American-born Chinese had much of a taste for authentic Chinese food,” my mom said. That felt like a backhanded compliment, but, OK mom, whatever.

Lamb with Radishes _ Noodles
“’In my little guy, I see a mix of cultures that is both incredibly diverse and utterly American.’”

I was similarly pleased by McTernan’s Char Siu Pork recipe, which I made with pork neck, my favorite cut of pork that no Western supermarket seems to ever carry (shout out to 99 Ranch for stocking it). It didn’t end up resembling the red, glistening strips you see in Cantonese deli windows, but the familiar flavors of five-spice and caramelized sugar still shone through. I also became an instant fan of the Friday Night Kimchi Fried Rice, which is not only the ultimate comfort dish (especially with a runny fried egg laid on top) but it’s also one of those rare dishes where ugliness feels like a virtue.

Though “A Common Table” includes a number of Asian fusion dishes—think Kimchi-Brined Spicy Chicken Biscuits and Collard Wontons—I was hoping to see more inter/pan-Asian creations that capture the kind of blended households that McTernan, myself and so many Asian Americans have started. Perhaps that’s a task awaiting the likes of McTernan’s son or my daughter, who’ll grow up thinking that gochujang, mirin, hoisin, black sesame, matcha and pandan go together as naturally as peanut butter and jelly.

For the past 50-plus years, Asian Americans have been amongst the most dynamic of all ethnic groups in the U.S., constantly transforming via immigration, intermarriage and relocation. As much as concepts like “authenticity” and “tradition” are associated with our food ways, our communities and our palates, they aren’t trapped in amber. Our common tables have long set out seats for people of myriad backgrounds. As our shared kitchens reshape themselves to accommodate those tastes, we’re on the cusp of a wave of new culinary movements awaiting development and discovery.

Oliver Wang is a professor of sociology at CSU-Long Beach and writes on music, food and culture.

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Review: Gluttony Is a Virtue in ‘Ramen Shop’ http://kore.am/review-gluttony-is-a-virtue-in-ramen-shop-japanese-movie-asian-movie-eric-khoo-takumi-saitoh/ http://kore.am/review-gluttony-is-a-virtue-in-ramen-shop-japanese-movie-asian-movie-eric-khoo-takumi-saitoh/#respond Fri, 22 Mar 2019 00:22:16 +0000 http://kore.am/?p=5063855 Sometimes something as simple as the smell of roasting garlic in the wind can launch a person back to a vivid childhood memory of their mom’s cooking. In “Ramen Shop,” director Eric Khoo makes the argument that our relationship with food goes beyond just the personal—it’s an edible record of history.

Directed by the auteur credited with the revival of the Singaporean film industry, “Ramen Shop” weaves together themes of history, family and food against the backdrop of a young man struggling to come to terms with his ramen sensei father’s sudden death. The film stars Takumi Saitoh (“13 Assassins”) as Masato. After discovering his mother’s secret diary in his father’s belongings, Masato travels to her home country of Singapore to learn more about the mother he never knew. Told in a series of flashbacks spliced between scenes of the present day, Masato uncovers the story of his mom and dad’s tender, but complicated food-centric romance, learns to cook the signature Singaporean soup, bak kuh teh, and meets his (at first) cold-hearted grandmother. In short, there hasn’t been this level of food p-rn since Ang Lee’s “Eat Man Drink Woman.” The film is set to make its U.S. debut on Friday, March 22.

Masato (Takumi Saitoh) embarks on a quest to reconnect with his Singaporean roots. 

“Ramen Shop” is not your typical Asian drama. Though the film has a distinct Japanese atmosphere, the majority of “Ramen Shop” takes place in Singapore and makes for an interesting mix of two distinct cultures. Though the film is at times saccharine, it delves into topics that wouldn’t normally be found in a typical Japanese movie. While in Singapore, Masato discovers a smorgasbord of delectable dishes like chili prawns and Hainanese chicken rice, but also learns about something much more unsavory: the Japanese occupation of Singapore. It’s refreshing to see a movie acknowledge a topic that’s so often swept under the rug in Japanese mainstream media.

Although his primary mission in coming to Singapore was to learn more about his estranged family, Masato also makes ample time to do what he loves the most: eat. The dishes that Masato cooks and eats his way through play just as big of a role as its actors do, kind of like how the desolate Texan landscape in “No Country For Old Men” is just as important as the dead, 100-yard stare that Javier Bardem uses to convey the villainous character of Anton Chigurh. By representing food as an emotional medium in “Ramen Shop,” Khoo is able to articulate the full range of feelings that Masato experiences as he comes to terms with his father’s death and his family’s complex history.

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Here Are the Top 5 Asian Fashion Influencers That Can Help You with Your Spring Look http://kore.am/here-are-the-top-five-asian-fashion-influencers-that-can-help-you-with-your-spring-look-asian-american-influencers-asian-american-youtubers/ http://kore.am/here-are-the-top-five-asian-fashion-influencers-that-can-help-you-with-your-spring-look-asian-american-influencers-asian-american-youtubers/#respond Thu, 21 Mar 2019 23:43:47 +0000 http://kore.am/?p=5063849 We’ve seen record-freezing temperatures in the U.S. these past few months, but fortunately, spring has officially sprung.

In anticipation of warm weather and blooming flowers, these Asian fashionistas are here with the latest spring trends. Time to get inspired and cop your next fit.

Here are the top five Asian fashion influencers you need to be following:

1.Aimee Song

Aimee Song has accomplished what many of us can only dream of: she’s created a lucrative business simply with her social media presence. Often spotted partying at Coachella and striking poses in Tokyo, Song travels the world of luxury to promote clothing brands. How’s that for a crazy rich Asian? Despite having risen to mega-influencer status, she  brings her fans into the exclusive world of fashion through her YouTube channel, Instagram and of course, her claim to fame, the fashion blog, Song of Style. With her advice, you’re sure to look fabulous this spring!

2. Jenn Im

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the bigger the hair, the closer to god 🙇🏻‍♀️ @eggieshop

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Jenn Im boasts a following of over two million on her YouTube channel, ClothesEncounters, and for good reason. Having grown up thrifting for unique looks, she has a few tips and tricks to pass on that’ll have you feeling expensive without breaking the bank. But she’s more than just a casual vlogger. In 2017, she launched EGGIE, a clothing brand featuring clothing she designed herself! Her currently featured outfits are retro and chic, a definite spring mood.

3. Chriselle Lim

Chriselle Lim hit the digital fashion scene after her friend Michelle Phan pushed her to start her own channel. Full disclosure: Lim has worked for KORE in the past as a stylist. Since then, the Korean American entrepreneur has single handedly built a digital fashion empire with a loyal social media following of over two million. What’s more, she’s recently released her very own spring collection at Nordstrom, Shopbop and Bloomingdales, which she shares in the video above. Whether you’re looking to up your outfit game for the office or go out and catch some sun, Chriselle Lim has you covered.

4. Susie Lau

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Singleminded Maniacal Look for that big writing deadline I need to quash today 🙏🏻🙏🏻🙏🏻 📸 @bizzy_thefashion

A post shared by Susie Lau (@susiebubble) on

Who said every fashion influencer needs to have over one million followers on Instagram? Susie Lau is not your typical digital fashion influencer. A brutally honest and creative voice in the fashion world, she often writes for high-profile publications like Vogue, Elle and The Guardian. What’s more, Susie Lau runs a popular fashion blog, Style Bubble. There she not only shares her personal style tips and observations, but also spotlights emerging designers who can further inspire your next spring outfit.

5. Peter Adrian

Us guys need some inspiration, too! Many of us remember Peter Adrian from when we’d endlessly scroll on Tumblr or Lookbook. He had the dashing good looks we either envied or swooned over (or both) and has an attractive sense of style to match. Today, the Chinese American influencer co-runs the popular blog “The Hobbyist” with his brother Yoshi Sudarso, where he showcases outfits any man could achieve with a simple trip to the mall.

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Glow Up: A New Drinking Game Celebrates the Notoriously Embarrassing Asian Flush http://kore.am/glow-up-a-new-drinking-game-celebrates-the-notoriously-embarrassing-asian-flush-asian-american-korean-american-game-maker/ http://kore.am/glow-up-a-new-drinking-game-celebrates-the-notoriously-embarrassing-asian-flush-asian-american-korean-american-game-maker/#respond Thu, 21 Mar 2019 16:00:42 +0000 http://kore.am/?p=5063792 Picture this: You’re bathed in the dim lights of the karaoke bar. Your friend is cry-singing along to “Tong Hua.” Suddenly, you feel it. Your face is hot and you’re struggling to breathe. That creeping, blotchy crimson blush of too many downed sojus is back again.

Everyone knows that Asians are no strangers to throwing down. But at least 36 percent of the East Asian population is plagued by Alcohol Flush Reaction, a.k.a. the Asian flush. Now there’s a game that celebrates all those things that make Asians unique, that sometimes embarrassing bloom of rosiness notwithstanding.

Inspired by Korean drinking games, AZN Flush is the self-proclaimed “wildest drinking card game this side of Koreatown,” created in 2018 by entrepreneur John Lim. After graduating from college in 2016, Lim just couldn’t seem to land that much-prized first full-time position. So, he decided to teach abroad in Korea and eventually picked up some work in digital marketing. He went on to co-found his own digital marketing firm, Ansel, which aims to support companies with a positive social or environmental goal. In addition to his noble professional pursuits, Lim is also a passionate card game enthusiast.

“I have seen so much support for Asian American communities over the past year,” Lim said. “Even just looking at Crazy Rich Asians and seeing how well people responded to that. [A card game] felt like a natural extension, and I wanted to try my hand at it.”

Each pack of AZN Flush is comprised of 110 cards and can be played with anywhere from two to 20 people. According to the AZN Flush website, “The rules are on the damn cards.” Each card contains an instruction, like: “If you were pre-med, take 4 sips,” or “Whoever has the most glorious Asian flush gets to pick one person to share their Tinder profile with the group.”

Most of the inspiration behind the game comes from Lim’s own experiences. Despite the fact that it’s a light-hearted drinking game, Lim sees AZN Flush as a way to use laughter to cure old, angst-filled wounds. “Some of this stuff you can joke about now, but at the moment it caused a lot of stress,” Lim said. “Like, ‘What am I going to study in college?’ Or even something as funny as getting spanked by slipper. These were things that were real issues for us [in our pasts], and I’m sure still affect us to a certain degree today. If you can laugh about whatever you’re going through, it makes it less powerful.”

As for the future, Lim is planning to release expansion packs. Hoping to include a more diverse audience, he decided to make a “White Rice” pack that can be played with … well, white friends. The other pack is a more salacious, NSFW version that’s been dubbed the “Hentai” pack.

Whatever poison you pick, AZN Flush is sure to get players laughing their asses off “with the finest luxury, handmade, cage-free memes” printed on cardstock. Hopefully it will be the only kind of flush causing shortness of breath the next time you’re swaying the night away at noraebang.

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LAAPFF Announces Opening Night Selection: ‘Yellow Rose’ http://kore.am/laapff-announces-opening-night-selection-yellow-rose-eva-noblezada-diane-paragas-los-angeles-asian-pacific-film-festival-filipina-director-filipina-actress-asian-american/ http://kore.am/laapff-announces-opening-night-selection-yellow-rose-eva-noblezada-diane-paragas-los-angeles-asian-pacific-film-festival-filipina-director-filipina-actress-asian-american/#respond Wed, 20 Mar 2019 22:09:10 +0000 http://kore.am/?p=5063840 The legendary Yellow Rose of Texas… is Asian? At least at the 35th annual Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival, she will be.

This year, LAAPFF will kick off opening night with the world premiere of “Yellow Rose.” The film follows the story of a young, headstrong Filipina who grew up in a small Texas town looking to make her mark in the state’s honkytonk scene while fighting the threat of deportation. This year’s LAAPFF will run from May 2-10 in theaters throughout the Los Angeles area and will feature over 100 films. The festival’s full line-up will be announced on Monday, April 1.

The film was written by first time feature film director Diane Paragas and stars Tony Award nominee Eva Noblezada as Rose and Tony Award-winning and Grammy-nominated actress Lea Salonga. ‘Yellow Rose’ also features Gustavo Gomez (“The Walking Dead”), Libby Villari (“Boyhood”) and Texas country music favorite, Dale Watson. With its unique take on East-meets-the-Wild-West, “Yellow Rose” seeks to challenge and redefine what it means to be American.

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Eva Noblezada with Dale Watson. 

“I am so humbled that our film has been chosen for this honor,” Paragas said. “‘Yellow Rose’ has taken over 15 years to make and couldn’t come at a more important time when anti-immigrant sentiment is at an all-time high. This is a story for everyone facing challenges in finding their voice, their dreams and, more importantly, their home.”

‘Yellow Rose’ will screen on Thursday, May 2 at 7 p.m. at the Japanese American Cultural & Community Center’s Aratani Theatre in Little Tokyo. Members of the cast and crew will be holding a Q&A after the screening. For more information about the film, festival or tickets, check out LAAPFF’s website here.

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Give Leaves a Chance: Aaron Choi Wants You to Take a Walk on the Wild Side http://kore.am/give-leaves-a-chance-aaron-choi-wants-you-to-take-a-walk-on-the-wild-side/ http://kore.am/give-leaves-a-chance-aaron-choi-wants-you-to-take-a-walk-on-the-wild-side/#respond Wed, 20 Mar 2019 16:00:52 +0000 http://kore.am/?p=5063785 When Aaron Choi first saw the little plot of land in San Diego County that would become his family’s farm, he realized he would have to arm up for battle. In front of him was a seemingly endless field of dusty-leafed, thin-stalked plants and something that looked like three-leaf clovers. Choi rolled up his sleeves and started pulling. After days of sweating in the scorching Californian sun, piles of dead plants all around him, he did the unimaginable: He put one in his mouth. Much to his surprise, he didn’t immediately keel over, foaming at the mouth. Plus, he didn’t hate it. He was in love.

“I picked some and put it in a bowl to show my parents, and my mom was like, ‘Oh, yeah, we eat that stuff all the time,’” Choi said. “She even told me the Korean word for it: myeongaju. And I was like, ‘What! Wait a minute. We eat this stuff?!’”

Choi suddenly realized he didn’t have a weed problem on his hands, but a harvest of lambsquarters (sometimes called the prince of wild greens) and wood sorrel (a tiny, pleasantly tart, three-leafed plant).

“I just thought, ‘Why are we waging war against something this delicious and nutritious?’” Choi said. “Companies like Monsanto spend billions of dollars trying to eradicate these things and just fail miserably at it. Why not just eat it?”

Choi is the owner of Girl & Dug Farms, which has grown from that small plot into a 60-acre hydroponic, greenhouse-based farming operation. With his vertically grown, water-conscious set up, he produces a yield equivalent to a conventionally farmed 300-acre piece of land. The chefs of some of L.A.’s top restaurants, like Native, n/naka, Somni and Dialogue, are enchanted with his quality, specialty produce. While he thinks veggies like broccoli, beets and kale are all fine and dandy, Choi is more interested in the rare, uncommon and downright wacky vegetables. “Go through the whole gamut of any produce aisle in any supermarket and everything is great,” Choi said. “They’re flavorful, super good to eat; but it’s all the same thing, y’know?”

Girl & Dug Farms is a 60-acre hydroponic, greenhouse-based farming operation. 

Girl & Dug was generations in the making. Choi’s parents immigrated to the U.S. from a suburb of Seoul in 1987 and opened a popular fresh-cut flower shop specializing in funeral arrangements. In 2005, they decided to buy eight acres for flowers but ended up growing Korean cucumbers and sesame leaves instead. “Those two did so well with those vegetables that they never really looked back,” Choi said. “The closest thing we’ve come to [growing] fresh-cut flowers is edible flowers that we’ve been planting for restaurants.”

Choi didn’t get involved until about four years after his parents bought the farm. After graduating from UCLA with a B.S. in molecular biology, Choi envisioned himself going into academia to study theology, but felt a responsibility to come back home to help his family. Now, Choi grows and sells everything from kindergreens to tangy, sweet jade tomatoes to oca (a delicious but notoriously finicky tuber).

Though timid diners may feel intimidated by the prospect of feasting on unusual veggies at first, chefs like Jeremy Fox of Santa Monica’s Rustic Canyon work with Choi to turn his harvests into creative dishes that will appeal to even the most discerning of taste buds. Through the power of brilliantly crafted meals, Choi hopes that obscure produce will become more accessible to the casual eater.

“What I love is the discovery,” Choi said. “What one culture might call a staple, another might call a weed. We as a people are woefully ignorant of all the crazy wonderful things that are out there just because we don’t know what it is.” That is, until we take a bite.

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Inception: Artist Teek Mach Paints VR Visions to Bring People Together http://kore.am/inception-artist-teek-mach-paints-vr-visions-to-bring-people-together/ http://kore.am/inception-artist-teek-mach-paints-vr-visions-to-bring-people-together/#respond Tue, 19 Mar 2019 16:00:31 +0000 http://kore.am/?p=5063777 First, you walk down a long corridor, like one you might see in an art gallery. A young Asian woman wearing a psychedelic black-and-white check mini-dress greets you. You put on a VR headset and she does the same. You enter another virtual space, one with no walls or floors, just an infinite beyond, streaked with panels of color, sparkling with light and shimmering with ephemeral shapes. An eerie soundtrack sweeps beneath you as you continue to explore different chambers themed according to the memories and emotions of the artist. You are inside “Grisaille,” the VR art installation of Teek Mach, which was featured as a part of the New Frontiers gallery at the 2019 Sundance Film Festival.

When you take off the VR headset, you realize you are sitting in a physical room in the artist’s apartment in Silver Lake, Los Angeles. Wearing the same black-and-white mini-dress, Mach is perched on her sofa and talking animatedly about Russian filmmakers and digital painting in isolation. There are neon lights snaked around on the floor, subtly illuminating the corners with streaks of pink and green. Every time she says something with emphasis, the motion-sensor activated trash can in the kitchen lifts its lid as if startled.

“I think there’s this disconnection with technology, and it’s always spoken about negatively, like millennials are constantly picked on for spending too much time on their cell phones and becoming too dependent on social media,” says Mach. “Which is kind of funny because I don’t use social media much. But I find myself extremely engaged with technology in a different way.”

Before Mach was born, her parents were trying to escape South Vietnam for several years before they finally made it to the U.S. in 1985. Mach, the youngest of four daughters, was born in Hibbing, Minnesota in 1986 and the only one with a Vietnamese name. “My sisters names are Kelly, Ashley and Lisa,” says Mach. “They got to choose their names when they came over here. Kelly and Lisa from ‘Saved by the Bell,’ and Ashley Banks from ‘The Fresh Prince of Bel Air.’ That’s how important TV was to becoming American.”

“I remember falling in love with French impressionism, and just realizing, ‘Oh my god, there are people that do this. People draw.’” (Photo by Tam van Mach) 

Her parents were extremely strict and enforced traditional Asian values on the girls. After school, they studied hard and Mach spent a lot of time drawing. “It felt like the only place I had control,” Mach says. “If I had a blank piece of paper, I could make it anything I wanted. Because my parents were so strict, it makes you creative in how to get what you want. And I feel like I exercised a lot of that creativity. Just working around those boundaries.”

Her father got a job doing metal bonding for aircraft in Texas and the family moved. She attended public school in a suburb of Dallas and was selected to be a part of the Gifted and Talented Education program. She never received a formal art education in those early days, but her friends, teachers and other parents noticed that she was artistic. Her friend’s mother gave Mach her first art book on French impressionism. “I remember falling in love with French impressionism, and just realizing, ‘Oh my god, there are people that do this. People draw.’ It was just something that wasn’t encouraged in my household,” Mach says. “Art wasn’t nourished. I had always been so transfixed with the power that paintings have. I really believe in the power of paintings—that’s what made me feel connected as a kid. Because I felt extremely disconnected, you know. Growing up in Texas as an Asian American, I didn’t see a lot of people like me.”

Mach’s sense of isolation was compounded by the fact that she and her parents spoke different languages. “I was learning English and Vietnamese at the same time, and it pushed me to be a visual person because I didn’t always know how to translate one from the other,” Mach says. “There was so much I could express in English that I couldn’t say in Vietnamese. So it sort of created the barrier with my parents, the people I should be the closest to.”

Then one day, Mach’s parents came to her installation and peered into the visions of her mind without the hindrance of language or words. “When I took my parents into VR for the first time, I felt like we were speaking the same language for the first time,” Mach says. “To me VR is a language that we’re deciphering. It’s a language in 3D. If you can think of all the ways artists throughout history have expressed themselves just in two dimensions with a flat surface, there’s literally a third dimension that we can play with now.”  

A peek into Teek Mach’s VR art installation “Grisaille.” (Photo by Joel Douek)

Every single day of the nine-day film festival, for eleven hours a day, Mach performed “Grisaille,” which included not only the VR journey into the paintings of her mind, but also a second part, which involved her using a digital tool to sketch the viewer’s silhouette onto a projected screen on the wall, and then the silhouette is joined with others that she had drawn earlier.

“By drawing our silhouettes, it’s kind of marking our presence in the digital space,” Mach says. “Just like how cave dwellers trace their hands, I feel like we’re marking ourselves in the digital realm, by physically inserting our bodies into it. And ultimately, inside we’re all the same. We still experience the same things. We have feelings of isolation and the feeling that we’re not a part of something bigger, but we are ultimately at our core connected as a species.”

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A World Beyond Words: Minh Lê Bridges Language Barriers Through the Art of Magical Storytelling http://kore.am/a-world-beyond-words-minh-le-bridges-language-barriers-through-the-art-of-magical-storytelling-vietnamese-american-asian-american-author/ http://kore.am/a-world-beyond-words-minh-le-bridges-language-barriers-through-the-art-of-magical-storytelling-vietnamese-american-asian-american-author/#respond Mon, 18 Mar 2019 16:00:06 +0000 http://kore.am/?p=5063744 Flipping through the children’s book “Drawn Together,” there are scenes that feel all too familiar. A young boy and his grandfather share a silent meal together. One diner picks at a plate piled high with hot dogs and French fries while the other quietly sips a bowl of ramen topped with a soft-boiled egg. Though they sit shoulder to shoulder on a couch watching TV, there’s an uneasiness between them. For Asian American kids with immigrant parents or grandparents, uncomfortable silences are just everyday fare.

Author Minh Lê takes this premise and tells the story of how a young American boy and his Thai grandfather overcome language barriers and bond through a mutual love of art. Through the illustrations of Caldecott Award-winning artist Dan Santat, grandson and grandfather transform into a powerful wizard and a fierce warrior, respectively, and work together to conquer the distance between them. For its clever storytelling, “Drawn Together” has won a number of awards and accolades, including the Asian/Pacific American Librarians Association’s 2019 award for best picture book, for its ability to show that “despite generational and cultural obstacles, we can be drawn together.”

Though Lê didn’t intentionally make the book biographical, he and Santat both grew up with grandparents with whom they couldn’t speak. The scene where the boy and his grandfather sit together in silence is taken right out of Lê’s childhood. “My parents and my grandparents came over from Vietnam,” Lê said. “Vietnamese is actually my first language, but I lost it at about 4 years old. I wanted to capture this huge disconnect, but also all the love in the relationship.”

DRAWN TOGETHER spread two (1)
“I wanted to capture this huge disconnect, but also all the love in the relationship.” 

By day, Lê works as a federal childhood policy expert who helps low-income families access high-quality early childhood education, but authoring children’s books has always been his ultimate goal. “If you had asked me when I graduated from college what I wanted to do, my answer was to work in a small town library and write picture books,” Lê said. “The one thing in my core that I knew I had to go for was publishing children’s books.”

He achieved that goal of reaching young readers with his 2016 debut “Let Me Finish.” But Lê wasn’t able to share his latest with the one person he wanted to the most: his grandfather. Much like the young boy of “Drawn Together,” Lê just didn’t have the words to talk about such a personal project with him. And then before its publication, Lê’s grandfather fell into a coma. When the initial illustrations for the book came in, he printed them all out and made a mock version to take to his grandfather. He never woke up to see it.

“My hope was to be able to hand the book to him when I was done,” Lê said. “But it means a lot to me that he has a place on the shelf now. Working on this project has made him feel very present in my life, even though he’s passed. In a strange way, it’s made me feel even closer to him.”

When Lê goes to readings and school visits, people often tell him about their own similar stories of miscommunication. For Lê, the praise has been a way to help him come to terms with his relationship with his grandfather. “My failure to communicate with my grandparents was this big burden that I carried by myself,” Lê said. “But then to have people approach me and say how it resonates with them and their experience … it’s like having my experience reflected onto other people. I felt a lot less alone.”

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Today is Reverse Valentine’s Day http://kore.am/today-is-reverse-valentines-day-japanese-white-day-asian-holiday/ http://kore.am/today-is-reverse-valentines-day-japanese-white-day-asian-holiday/#respond Thu, 14 Mar 2019 23:28:42 +0000 http://kore.am/?p=5063824 In most parts of the world, there is a general consensus when it comes to dating: women are never expected to make the first move. Texting first, asking for a guy’s number and sending over a drink are all on the “Do Not Do” list.

For women living in Japan, that’s not true.

On Feb. 14, Japanese women give out chocolates to the special men in their lives. And then one month later, on March 14, men are expected to reciprocate by giving a gift that’s white—white chocolates, marshmallows, cookies, or even more expensive fare like white lingerie or pearl-studded jewelry. Hence, the day is called White Day.

The tradition was started in 1978 by Ishimura Manseido, a confectionary company, who advertised marshmallows to men, encouraging them to thank the women who gave them presents a month earlier. In a country that places high value on social harmony, the practice is now deeply ingrained in Japanese culture. Consequently, retailers have continuously pushed their merchandise as ‘okaeshi,’ a gift given as thanks for having received one.

What’s more, rule of thumb dictates that all okaeshi be twice or three times the value of the original present. I’m not encouraging gold digging behavior, but in my opinion, that’s a pretty good deal. Who said chivalry was dead?

But let’s not forget, not all presents are equal. Here are the traditional White Day presents and their hidden meanings:

1. Marshmallows


While the tradition may have started from marshmallows, that doesn’t make it an ideal present. The fluffy treat now communicates the opposite: “I don’t like you.” Think of it as the present people give when they didn’t really try, but still bought out of obligation, like candy corn on Halloween.

2. Cookies


Cookies, especially homemade cookies, are a friendly return present. Given alone, it’s a subtle way of friendzoning someone, but in conjunction with other presents it’s a sweet addition to any White Day present. I mean who doesn’t like a good chocolate chip cookie?

3. Candy


A box of chocolates or a mason jar of candies, is a clear message of romantic interest. If only Americans were okay with a simple box of chocolates on Valentine’s Day.

4. Luxury Items


There’s no denying your romantic interest when giving a pair of white lingerie or earrings. It’s passionate, sexy and thoughtful, but don’t give it as a first-time present unless you’re trying to get a restraining order.

5. Creative Presents


Even a home baked cake can be just as romantic! Many Japanese men are opting to make their own sweets to show their appreciation and interest. How’s that for a house-husband?

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Interscope Geffen A&M Records Names Annie Lee as New Chief Financial Officer http://kore.am/interscope-geffen-am-records-names-annie-lee-as-new-chief-financial-officer-asian-american-cfo/ http://kore.am/interscope-geffen-am-records-names-annie-lee-as-new-chief-financial-officer-asian-american-cfo/#respond Thu, 14 Mar 2019 20:59:13 +0000 http://kore.am/?p=5063820 Today, Interscope Geffen A&M Records announced that Annie Lee has been appointed Chief Financial Officer.

Established in 1999, Interscope Geffen A&M is an umbrella unit owned by Universal Music that oversees three of the most powerful record labels in American music history: Interscope Records, Geffen Records and A&M Records. The labels have signed on some of the most influential artists in the game like Kendrick Lamar, Lady Gaga and Solange Knowles. Lee first joined Universal Music Group in 2005 as a senior financial analyst and eventually worked her way over to Interscope Records where she most recently served as Senior Vice President of Finance and Operations. Lee will supervise all of Interscope Geffen A&M’s key financial activities and report to CEO John Janick.

“I am thrilled and honored to become the CFO of Interscope Geffen A&M and would like to thank John [Janick] and Boyd [Muir] for the immense opportunity,” Lee said. “Since joining Interscope 13 years ago, I have had the privilege of working with exceptional colleagues and artists. I look forward to the forthcoming years to continue to build on our success under John’s leadership.”

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You Can Now Stream ‘Free Solo’ on Hulu http://kore.am/you-can-now-stream-free-solo-on-hulu-chinese-american-asian-american-director/ http://kore.am/you-can-now-stream-free-solo-on-hulu-chinese-american-asian-american-director/#respond Wed, 13 Mar 2019 23:21:17 +0000 http://kore.am/?p=5063817
The Academy Award-winning documentary “Free Solo” is now available on Hulu.

“Free Solo” follows the story of Alex Honnold as he attempts to conquer a free solo climb—meaning a rope-free expedition—of Yosemite National Park’s notoriously tricky El Capitan. As Honnold prepares for his death-defying feat, his training and focus are briefly derailed as he falls in love for the first time. Directed by husband and wife super team Jimmy Chin (director of “Meru”) and Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi (director of “Incorruptible”), the documentary captures Honnold’s physical and emotional journey as he accomplishes one of the most ambitious athletic feats of all time. Since its debut at the Telluride Film Festival in 2018, “Free Solo” has screened at more than thirty film festivals and went on to win a number of awards including a British Academy of Film and Television Arts Award for Best Documentary Feature.

“‘Free Solo’ is a true masterpiece that combines awe-inspiring camerawork with the kind of authentic storytelling that Hulu viewers love,” said Lisa Holme, VP of Content Acquisition at Hulu, in a press release. “We couldn’t be more excited to partner with our friends at National Geographic Documentary Films to add this extraordinary film to the growing slate of award-winning documentaries available on Hulu.”

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Legal Eagle: Ken Kirby Is Just As Ambitious As His Law Clerk Character on ‘Good Trouble’ http://kore.am/legal-eagle-ken-kirby-is-just-as-ambitious-as-his-law-clerk-character-on-good-trouble-chinese-canadian-asian-comic/ http://kore.am/legal-eagle-ken-kirby-is-just-as-ambitious-as-his-law-clerk-character-on-good-trouble-chinese-canadian-asian-comic/#respond Wed, 13 Mar 2019 16:00:43 +0000 http://kore.am/?p=5063737 When the entire drama class howled with laughter at Ken Kirby’s apron-wearing impersonation of chef Martin Yan from “Yan Can Cook,” Kirby knew he would make people laugh for a living. “When you get people to laugh, you start to chase it,” Kirby said. “You just want that feeling again and again.”

In 2010, more than a thousand people came to watch Kirby’s one-man show at the Vancouver Comedy Festival. “The truth is that I went around town selling the show and hustling to sell tickets,” said Kirby, “and people showed up!” Encouraged by that unexpected success, he drove south to Los Angeles to embark on an acting career. Since then, Kirby has landed spots in TV productions including Freeform’s “Famous in Love” and Fox’s “The Gifted.” He recently appeared in “Good Trouble,” a spin-off from the popular Freeform show “The Fosters,” as Benjamin, an ambitious Harvard-grad law clerk who would do anything to climb the professional ladder.

Born and raised in Vancouver to a British father and Chinese mother, Kirby grew up feeling the pressure to pursue a “safer career” and studied business in college. “Traditional Asian parents never really chill out,” Kirby said, laughing. “Whenever I would book a job, I would guess how many sentences I could get in before my mom would ask me how much I’d be making.” But his parents no longer need to worry—Kirby has booked multiple recurring roles for 2019, including ABC’s “Grand Hotel” and another season of “Good Trouble.”

But it wasn’t easy. Kirby described the show business system in Los Angeles as “almost built to break you down.” Once, Kirby had to navigate the sprawling, and the mind-numbingly traffic-congested, L.A. area for four auditions all in one day. “It would drive anyone crazy if you don’t have the right mindset,” said Kirby, explaining the lesson he learned from one of those auditions. The casting director noticed his frustration before he had to read a long medical monologue and asked him to come back the next day. Although Kirby still didn’t get the role, he was grateful for the second chance. “I sent her a thank you card and flowers because it was such a nice moment to slow down,” Kirby said. “You have to enjoy the journey.” Even while stuck in traffic.

In addition to acting, Kirby is writing his second feature with his writing partner. “If there is a tree, you just want to work every branch possible. You have to grow as many branches as you can,” Kirby said. “Before you know it, you are on top of the tree.”

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Los Angeles Celebrates 100th Anniversary of March 1st Korean Independence Movement http://kore.am/los-angeles-celebrates-100th-anniversary-of-march-1st-korean-independence-movement-korean-american-asian-american-movement/ http://kore.am/los-angeles-celebrates-100th-anniversary-of-march-1st-korean-independence-movement-korean-american-asian-american-movement/#respond Wed, 13 Mar 2019 00:57:51 +0000 http://kore.am/?p=5063767 Korean American communities took part in a parade on March 9 along Wilshire Boulevard to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the March First Independence Movement against Japanese colonial rule.

The Korean American Federation of Los Angeles (KAFLA) hosted the parade in Los Angeles Koreatown to showcase a mixture of Korean traditional dance, music and arts in honor of the March First Independence Movement, which was a series of demonstrations advocating a free and independent national identity that began on March 1, 1919. Over a dozen Korean American organizations including the Korean American Democratic Committee (KADC) and Korean Veterans Association marched together flying Korean and American national flags. Laura Jeon, the president of KAFLA, said she was happy that so many people made it to the parade despite the chilly weather.

“We have been preparing for the parade for a month,” Jeon said. “The parade symbolizes freedom, justice and the unity of Korea and Korean Americans. The presence of the Imperial Family demonstrates it even more because they were the descendants of the king. The fact that so many people are here symbolizes the spirit of the March First Independence Movement.”

The parade started with a dance performance presented by Jean Ballet School, a Korean American dance institution. Choreographer Janelle Cruz, who is also a K-pop instructor at the dance institution, said it took a month to put the piece together.

The parade attracted political leaders as well, including California State Senator Anthony Portantino and the first Korean American Los Angeles city council member David Ryu. Miguel Santiago, the Democratic member of the California State Assembly representing District 53, also brought his family to the parade. While holding his daughter in his arms, Santiago said he was very excited to support the residents at in the 53rd district.

“The Korean community is very important to the 53rd district, we’ve got community leaders from all over California here,” Santiago said. “We are absolutely excited to be here to support our communities.”

The event not only brought out Koreatown’s community and political leaders, it also attracted people from other parts of Los Angeles. Paul Accachian from Pasadena was brought here by his Korean friends. The parade was the first Korean cultural event he ever attended, and he hopes that more cultural events like this can happen in the future.

“The parade helps us understand each other and each other’s backgrounds,” Accachian said. “It brings cultural relevance to what people bring to the United States.”

The parade concluded with Ralph Ahn, son of the famous Korean independent fighter, Dosan Ahnchangho, saluting the crowd from the stage.

“Thank you for being here, I am very happy to be here with you to honor our ancestors,” Ahn said. “We owe them so much.”

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Step Into the Mind of Toro y Moi In His Latest Music Video ‘50-50’ http://kore.am/step-into-the-mind-of-toro-y-moi-in-his-latest-music-video-50-50-asian-american-filipino-american-musician/ http://kore.am/step-into-the-mind-of-toro-y-moi-in-his-latest-music-video-50-50-asian-american-filipino-american-musician/#respond Tue, 12 Mar 2019 18:38:56 +0000 http://kore.am/?p=5063763

Chaz Bear aka Toro y Moi just dropped the music video for his song “50-50” from his 2019 album “Outer Peace.” As Bear wanders through a barren desert, a place that feels like it’s located somewhere in between a dream and a nightmare, he stumbles into a sudden rainstorm, finds a parachute and is haunted by a mysterious silver skull mask. His autotuned lyrics, electronic snare beats and hazy synths (which possibly signal a subtle artistic shift away from his usual electronic chillwave formula) match the video’s striking visuals. “50-50” was directed by Justin Morris and Colin Matsui, who previously worked on Bear’s “Omaha.” “50-50’s” music video follows the release of “Ordinary Pleasure” and a 23-minute long Dropbox project dubbed “Soul Trash.”

Catch Toro y Moi at one of his upcoming shows:

March 22 – New Orleans @ BUKU Music + Art Project
March 24 – Boise – Treefort Music Fest
April 19 – Brooklyn – Good Room – SOLD OUT
April 20 – Washington – U Street Music Hall – SOLD OUT
April 17 – Tequila, Mexico – Akamba Festival
April 25 – Mexico City, Mexico – Auditorio Blackberry
May 8-13 – Bakersfield – Lightning in a Bottle
May 22 – Lisbon, Portugal – Lisboa Ao Vivo
May 23 – Porto, Portugal – Hard Club
May 24-25 – Madrid, Spain – Tomavistas Festival
May 26 – London, UK – All Points East
May 31 – Hamburg, Germany – Mojo Club
June 1 – Hilvarenbeek, Netherlands – Best Kept Secret Festival
June 2 – Paris, France – We Love Green
June 15 – Berkeley – The Greek Theatre
June 16 – Los Angeles – Hollywood Bowl
July 26 – Niigata, Japan – Fuji Rock Festival ’19

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Pretty and Pink: Meet the Girls of BLACKPINK http://kore.am/pretty-and-pink-blackpink-k-pop-korean-pop-music-asian-girl-group/ http://kore.am/pretty-and-pink-blackpink-k-pop-korean-pop-music-asian-girl-group/#respond Tue, 12 Mar 2019 16:00:42 +0000 http://kore.am/?p=5063681 It’s a cold morning in February, and this audience willing to get out of bed before dawn are bundled up and breathless with anticipation. At five podiums stand a diverse group of K-pop fans: two Asian guys, two African American women and a white woman hopping with enthusiasm to win front-row tickets to see BLACKPINK perform on “Good Morning America.” As the blonde host lobs softball questions at these so-called superfans, they keep getting the answers wrong.

Finally, the easiest question of all is asked: “What is the name of the BLACKPINK fandom?” The African American woman dressed in pink is elated to get the answer right: “Blinks!” she shouts. Even though she is the only one who got an answer right, all five are allowed to run into the warm interior of the studio to witness the phenomenon that is BLACKPINK. Here, on one of the television shows that our country wakes up to everyday, everyone is a winner.

Like their male counterparts BTS, who performed on “Good Morning America” five months prior, the quartet of Jisoo, Jennie, Lisa and Rose are a part of the latest K-pop wave trying to invade the American mainstream. But with the increasing globalization of pop music—see “Despacito,” J Balvin, et. al—could they be the ones to finally break through and achieve what BoA, Rain, Girls’ Generation, Psy, et. al could not?

Their EP “Square Up” was the highest charting Korean release by a female act on the Billboard 200, a prestigious American barometer of pop song success. And in April they will be the first Korean girl group to take the stage at the Coachella Music Festival. “We heard ‘Coachella’ is one of the biggest festivals,” BLACKPINK wrote in an email interview. “We heard that amazing artists such as Ariana Grande, The 1975, Diplo, Khalid, Zedd and Childish Gambino will be there as well. As the first K-pop girl group to perform at Coachella, we will make sure to showcase the best performance for everyone.”

And perhaps the highest form of flattery: four little Thai girls named DEKSORKRAO recorded a brilliantly convincing parody of “DDU-DU DDU-DU” in what looks like a remote rural village in Thailand that went viral. Even Lisa noticed. So when Jennie coos, “BLACKPINK in your area,” she ain’t lying.

“We are thrilled to finally kick-off BLACKPINK in the states,” they said via email about their latest forays on to American soil. “We are honored that we are able to show all our ‘Blinks’ our unique performance. We are excited to connect with our fans overseas on a deeper level. With the help of YG and Interscope, we hope to become one of the best international groups.” Which BLACKPINK member said this in the polite correspondence remains a mystery.

Like most K-pop groups, the idols of BLACKPINK are closely guarded by YG, their record label/management/agency. “The New Yorker” described it like this: “K-pop stars are selected, frequently as children, for their good looks, and then aggressively minded and groomed for success by teams of producers and managers.” So, you’re not going to get the kind of fully embedded access that the young music journalist gets with the band Stillwater in the movie “Almost Famous.” Instead, you’re going to get an email interview, with the questions cherry-picked by their team and happy, diplomatic (and inscrutable) answers. And I thought the American music industry machine was impenetrable!

Though she was born in Korea, Jennie studied abroad in New Zealand for 5 years. 

Be that as it may, BLACKPINK has resonated with yet another generation of global K-pop fans, with a look, sound and enterprise that is now enjoying ten years since acts like BoA, Rain and TVXQ became international sensations outside of Korea. Consider “DDU-DU DDU-DU,” the song that the women performed on “Good Morning America.” The bass thunders and rattles like the trunk of the local drug dealer’s Cadillac. “Two hands full of fat checks / If you’re wondering about it—fact check,” warns Lisa, who flips from breathless double-time rapping to R&B-style singing with the fluidity of a fish swimming in a lake on a snowy mountain, like a Thai Left Eye.

The hip-hop influences are also strong on “Whistle,” which references the slamming bass drop and the sharp shrill accents from the 2005 Juelz Santana song “There It Go (The Whistle Song).” And of course there’s “Blow the Whistle” by Too $hort and “Whistle While You Twerk” by the Ying Yang Twins. My point is that BLACKPINK’s hip-hop references are, compared to previous generations of K-pop, increasingly sophisticated and esoteric.

Meanwhile, “Playing with Fire” takes on a decidedly more EDM turn, with Avicii-style keyboard riffs as the various members take turns belting out blazing hot vocals. It’s this versatility—the band’s multilingual and multicultural roots that truly make the band global. Both Jennie and Rose have roots in New Zealand, while Jisoo is the only homegrown Korean talent in the band. And though the Seoul native doesn’t speak English as well as her bandmates, it doesn’t really matter in a world in which Billboard charts can feature artists singing in Spanish or Korean, as well as English. Or, as Jon Caramanica of “The New York Times” proclaimed on his podcast: “English is no longer the lingua franca of global pop.” And so as K-pop evolves into a sophisticated, syncretized musical form, the ears of global listeners have likewise matured and evolved to receive these sounds.

Lead vocalist, Jisoo, is the “big sister” of BLACKPINK. 

Although it’s tough to gather factual information about the members because of how opaque the K-pop industry is, one could gather a few knowns about these idols. As Euny Hong writes in “The Birth of Korean Cool: How One Nation Is Conquering the World Through Pop Culture:” “You don’t need to know what the individual singers’ back stories might be—which ones grew up in trailer parks or started singing gospel in their church. … K-pop labels love stars, but not superstars: they don’t want to get into a situation in which one band member becomes indispensable.”

Educated abroad at the ACG Parnell College in New Zealand, Jennie Kim was the first girl from BLACKPINK to become acquainted with celebrity when she appeared on a MBC documentary, “English, Must Adapt to Survive.” In one old clip from the 2006 program, a 10-year-old Jennie can be seen struggling to chop onions from a distance in order to keep her eyes from tearing. Her bandmate Jisoo teased her about it on another MBC show, My Little Television, last May.

Rose Park was born in Auckland, New Zealand, and raised in Melbourne, Australia, where she studied at Canterbury College. At the “Good Morning America” appearance, she seemed the most at ease holding the microphone and answering questions in fluent English. As a kid, she sang, played the guitar, drew a lot and participated in cheerleading until she placed first at a YG audition. She trained for four years before becoming a member of BLACKPINK. “I’ve learned that being a professional means working out a good balance between working within the rules and being creative and adventurous at the same time,” said Rose. “I guess when you’ve learned how to be good at both, that’s when you can be called a professional. I’m still working on it!”

Like Jennie, Jisoo Kim was born in Seoul. But because she has been so reluctant to speak English in her public appearances in the U.S., it’s tough to get a sense of her personality. She hews closest to the picture-perfect female K-pop ideal. We do know that she’s the oldest member of the group, and will mother and tease the other members. She signed to YG in 2011 and trained with them for five years before the big reveal. When asked what’s the most important professional lesson she’s learned, she said, quite simply and generically: “To do my best and live the moment to its fullest.”

Maybe because Lisa is actually a Thai national she has captured the fascination of BLACKPINK’s global fans, raising questions about what it means to be “Korean.” She was born in Bangkok as Pranpriya Manoban, but eventually changed her name to Lalisa, which means “she who will receive praises” in Thai. People often think she’s mixed, but Marco Brueschweiler, a Swiss chef, is actually her stepfather, not biological. In 2010, she was discovered by YG at an audition in Thailand. During her training, she said she learned valuable lessons. “Whatever happens, have the ability to stay calm, not panic and stay positive and think thoroughly before taking any actions,” she said. One of the most well-known factoids about Lisa on the internet is that she can speak Thai, Japanese, English and Korean fluently and can learn choreography by just watching a routine once.

After they were signed to YG, they each toiled behind the scenes, polishing their act and appearing in other idols’ music videos. “Time has been flying ever since,” they said via email. “We debuted in August of 2016, so it’s been around nearly four years. We’ve been cherishing every single moment. We’ve also grown a lot individually, apart from all the achievements we’ve made as a group. Our passion for music has definitely grown since we were trainees. We hope to grow more in all different aspects.”

In 2013, Rosé collaborated on the song “Without You” with G-Dragon. 

As K-pop succeeds, so too does its carefully manufactured image of female beauty. From Africa to Iran to America’s heartland, screens of perfect Korean womanhood—the sum total of alabaster skin, Barbie doll body proportions and straight waist-length hair—are reproduced, perpetuated and shared exponentially. “We heard that ‘Ddu-Ddu Ddu-Du’ was the fastest K-pop video to reach 6 million views,” the email said. “We were so in shock we didn’t know what to do with ourselves. We also heard that our YouTube subscribers hit around 17.97 million. We couldn’t believe it when we were the K-pop group that had the most subscribers on YouTube. We are extremely thankful for the overwhelming love that we have received.”

While the men of K-pop appear increasingly androgynous, with abundantly expertly applied eye makeup and elaborate hair and fashion choices, the women continue to regress into hetero-normative innocence, or what Koreans celebrate as “eh-gi-yo”—cute, youthful, baby-like. Six billion girls and boys, men and women, absorbing the platonic Korean ideal of what is beautiful, what is desirable, what to aspire to.

Born in Thailand, Lisa’s presence in BLACKPINK signals a more international future for K-pop. 

Back on the set of “Good Morning America,” the cheering subsides as the synthesizer keens its sinuous refrain. Four perfect women appear on the purple-lit stage. They shimmy their tiny Barbie shoulders in unison. They march into position with their gangly foal legs. Jisoo postures in a prim blouse, buttoned to the top, but with parts of it strategically cut out. Lisa, the hip-hopper, swaggers and gesticulates in shredded jeans. Rose, the lead singer, swings her rose-blonde tresses so it brushes against the waist of her stretchy mini-dress. And Jennie, the upmarket leader of the group, sports a Chanel-style jacket with matching hot pants. Once they’re in position, they do a dab-like arm movement and shout all together: “BLACKPINK!”

When asked what is their message to their English-speaking fans, the mysterious group email reads: “Kicking off our world tour, we will be in your area from all parts of Asia, the States, Europe and even Australia. We are coming for you, Blinks—please be patient with us ♥ Love you all!”

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Star Gaysian: Joel Kim Booster on Being Unapologetically Gay and Asian http://kore.am/star-gaysian-joel-kim-booster-asian-american-comic-korean-american-comedian-stand-up-comedy/ http://kore.am/star-gaysian-joel-kim-booster-asian-american-comic-korean-american-comedian-stand-up-comedy/#respond Tue, 12 Mar 2019 16:00:37 +0000 http://kore.am/?p=5063692 Joel Kim Booster has come a long way from telling jokes to the back of an empty bar on the East Coast. “It took about five to six months, but I’m finally living here,” Booster said over the phone from Los Angeles. The 30-year-old comedian describes swapping the accessible New York subway system for the broken Los Angeles Metro. But efficient transportation is a small price to pay for sunny skies and a big break in Hollywood.

In his debut album, “Model Minority,” Booster unapologetically challenges Asian American stigmas and stereotypes. He tells jokes about Confederate monuments, racism in the gay community and the notion that Asian Americans are submissive and agreeable.

“I’ve always bristled at the model minority myth,” Booster said. “I hate this idea that we’re all goody, straight-laced, straight-A students who never do anything wrong, … that to overcome racism and do better we have to be this crutch for white people. It’s this reductive benevolent racism in and of itself. My comedy and lifestyle are a direct reproach of that. I am certainly not a straight-A student, and I am certainly not straight-edge.”

The Booster that walks on stage is outspoken, overly confident, promiscuous and shamelessly gay—everything that the Asian American model minority is not. He artfully weaves in bits both of self-praise and reminders of his flawed personality that are the result of a sheltered childhood and an unlucky love life. It’s a type of dry, self-deprecating humor that audiences can relate and identify with, making his subversion of racist stereotypes all the more fun and hilarious.

KimBooster_Track_Serious_credit Alex Schaefer
“I’ve always bristled at the model minority myth. I hate this idea that we’re all goody, straight-laced, straight-A students who never do anything wrong.”

However, Booster is not your conventional Asian American advocate. Born on the island of Jeju in South Korea in 1988, he was adopted by a strict, white, evangelical Christian couple. He was delivered “GrubHub-style” to Plainfield, Illinois, a predominantly white, cookie-cutter Chicago suburb, and was homeschooled until high school. His two older siblings are biologically related to his parents. As a result, he said he feels unable to relate to most textbook Asian American experiences.

“I may look Asian,” said Booster, “but internally, I wasn’t because I didn’t have the sort of experiences that unite other Asian Americans together, like being the children of immigrants, or being the first person to go to college. … It made it hard on certain levels to connect.”

That isn’t to say that he never made an effort to connect with the Asian community. After his parents agreed to enroll him in public school, he attempted to befriend a handful of Asian students, but quickly realized he was an outcast among them. Rice wasn’t a staple of his diet, Lunar New Year was just an ordinary day, and English was the only language he spoke at home. As far as his Asian peers were concerned, he was white.

Booster instead found himself connecting to the gay facet of his identity, something he was aware of since childhood, but chose to keep a secret. “I literally knew I was gay before I knew I was Asian,” Booster famously jokes. Consequently, he surrounded himself with girls, gay peers and theater kids.

In his senior year, Booster’s parents found his diary detailing the names of boys he hooked up with. Booster then found himself moving out of his parents’ home at 17 and ended up couch surfing until he was able to move in with a family friend.

“Coming out was sort of the catalyst to moving out,” said Booster. “I was repressed for a long time, and I didn’t have an outlet to talk about it or a support system at home to help deal with a lot of the emotional issues I was going through. … We had a really toxic relationship in my early childhood as I hit puberty. But it wasn’t just them; I don’t want to paint them as villains in that situation because they weren’t. It just ended up being the best for the both of us that I leave and take some space.”

After studying theater at Millikin University, he moved to Chicago and took on a variety of jobs to get by, all the while developing his performance capabilities. It wasn’t until 2013 that he dove head first into comedy. With a self-assigned deadline of four years to make it as a comedian, he left Chicago for New York City, performing at every open mic he could get into.

“For eight or nine years I waited hours to go up at open mics to do less than two minutes of material,” Booster said. “It’s about pushing through, for no money, no fame, no glory, and no one paying attention to it for years and years until someone finally does.”


For Booster, that moment came in 2015 when he was invited to perform at the Bridgetown Comedy Festival in Portland, Oregon. There he met his manager, Zack Freedman, who set the ball in motion for the career he has today. In addition to releasing “Minority Model” in November 2017, he’s appeared on “The Late Late Show with James Corden,” a half-hour special on Comedy Central, “CONAN” twice and participated in numerous comedy festivals throughout the country. His success has made him an icon among Asian American and LGBT communities alike.

Today his experiences have not only been the source of his standup material, but it has also greatly informed his identity as an Asian American. Booster often finds himself asking, “What are the shared experiences we have as Asian people that are not necessarily tied to a specific cultural heritage?” For Booster, the answer lies in the intersectionality of the gay Asian identity.

“Gay Asian men do have a shared experience that oftentimes is not tied to a specific ethnic background,” said Booster. “There’s a certain language and identity that has created a subculture within the larger queer culture. Example, I just got off a f-cking [gay] cruise ship and every Asian person I met on that ship was like family. It was a just look in the middle of the dance floor, and we knew what we were trying to say.”

Yet, it is within those same communities that he’s found his loudest critics. On one hand, the Asian and gay community have been excited to see themselves represented in mainstream media, Booster said. But, on the other, some have criticized him for playing into feminine Asian male and gay stereotypes. Booster said he even receives flack from gay Asian men denouncing his decision to date and be friends with white people. “I’m sort of damned if I do and damned if I don’t.”

Kim Booster_Gray Shirt_Serious_credit Alex Schaefer
“I just got off a f-cking [gay] cruise ship and every Asian person I met on that ship was like family. It was a just look in the middle of the dance floor, and we knew what we were trying to say.”

But that isn’t going to stop the comedian from pushing the envelope and continuing to write jokes that reflect his perspectives of Asian America. “A lot of my work is a response to shame,” said Booster. “It is me taking hold of my life and my decisions and saying, ‘I’m not ashamed of this. I’m not ashamed of the way I party. I’m not ashamed of the way I have sex, I’m not ashamed of the way I carry myself throughout the world, and I’m going to talk about it in a funny way.’”

Booster has a lot planned for himself. He has his eyes set on earning an hour special on Netflix and is anticipating the spring release of his guest-star appearance on Hulu’s Shrill, with Aidy Bryant; he’s constantly moving the goalpost. Nonetheless, he often needs to remind himself of what’s important.

“For so long, I just wanted to be able to pay my bills doing this,” said Booster, “and I can do that now. Sometimes I have to take a step back, take a breath, and be like, ‘Joel, this is what matters. You’re in L.A. doing what you love.’” Suffice it to say, he has no intention of returning to New York.

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The Color Purple: A Chat with Tiffany Chu From the Sundance Film Festival http://kore.am/the-color-purple-ms-purple-taiwanese-american-asian-american-actress/ http://kore.am/the-color-purple-ms-purple-taiwanese-american-asian-american-actress/#respond Tue, 12 Mar 2019 16:00:07 +0000 http://kore.am/?p=5063704 Tiffany Chu is freezing her butt off outside of Harvest, a hoppin’ breakfast-and-lunch spot in downtown Park City, Utah, crawling with Jon Hamm-types and industry people. This is her first Sundance Film Festival, and she’s been doing interviews all weekend, thanks to the premiere of her first-ever leading role in a film, “Ms. Purple,” directed by Justin Chon. But in this 20-degree weather, she’s only wearing a brown leather jacket—no hat, no scarf and just a pair of mittens. It’s too loud inside for the interview, so she’s agreed to talk outside.

“It’s really exciting because everything at Sundance happens on Main Street,” Chu says looking around, clutching someone else’s coffee cup to warm up her hands. “All the stores are taken over by sponsors, then they’re turned into lounges. It’s really cool how everyone’s just out and about watching films.”

When her debut film screened, audience members wept, applauded and dolloped Chon with praise during the Q&A. Chu plays the lead character, Kasie, with powerful quietude and tenacity. In the film, she’s the daughter of a terminally ill, comatose father, who lies unmoving with bed sores festering on his back. As a little girl, Kasie had dreams of studying music in conservatory, but her plans are dashed when she is left alone to support her father. Her mother abandoned them long ago, when Kasie was a little girl. And her older brother, Carey, bailed when he was 15, after a nasty fight with their dad.

Kasie earns her living as a karaoke hostess, or a “doumi,” a scantily clad paid companion who caters to men in noraebangs, or private karaoke rooms common in Koreatown. Despite how slight and taciturn Kasie is, she’s hardly weak. She is a powerhouse who refuses to give up her dad to hospice care, choosing to sponge down his lifeless body herself. She guides and defends her fellow hostesses through the slimy doumi world. She stands up to her scumbag boyfriend who wants to lock her down like some kind of trophy wife and humiliates her when she declines. She cajoles her brother Carey (played by Teddy Lee), a hapless PC bang junkie, to come home and do his part for their father. She’s the quiet storm driving the movie.

It was important to Chon that Chu know what it was like to be a doumi firsthand. “I actually experienced being a karaoke hostess for a night because—well, this is not my process, but—the director really pushed me, Teddy [Lee] and [co-star] Octavio [Pizzano] to be as close to our characters as possible,” she says, leaning closer to the outdoor space heater. “[Chon] encouraged me to try it out. So, I experienced it for a night. It was not pleasant.”

“I actually experienced being a karaoke hostess for a night… It was not pleasant.”

In the movie, the doumis endure the degradation of being selected for their looks, are vulnerable to sexual and physical assault, and are plied with drugs and alcohol. But Chu’s real life couldn’t be further from that of Kasie’s. As an 8-month-old baby, she emigrated with her family from Taiwan to the San Jose, California, area, where she studied hard and strived for success.

“During middle school and high school, I had after-school activities every single day,” Chu says. “I did club activities, I was in Key Club, Invisible Children, speech and debate. I would also take extracurriculars like badminton, piano, erhu. That’s all I did after school.”

Chu was a shy kid, but pushed herself to overcome her shyness because she loved to perform and be on stage. “Like in eighth grade summer school, my parents made me take a private lesson from a Harvard teacher who did speech and debate,” says the go-getter. “There was no speech and debate club at my high school, so I actually created it, and I taught the class, too.”

Unlike Kasie, who wanted to study piano, Chu wanted to be in movies. She majored in film and media studies at UC Irvine. After she got a year of freshman partying out of her system, she buckled down and got serious. She says, “I just did my homework and went to L.A. to help out with whatever production I could, just because I wanted to learn everything about film. And by the time I got to my upper division classes, I had already learned what was taught.”

Chu happened to see a posting about an audition for the leading part in “Ms. Purple.” “Alex [Chi], the producer, had posted on a Facebook group saying they were looking for an actress, somebody who could do some photos, so they brought me in for an audition,” Chu says. “That’s how I met Justin [Chon].”

Another Justin, Justin Lee, who is Chu’s boyfriend and is often recognized for his role as Annyong Bluth in “Arrested Development,” approaches her and puts his woolly gray coat on Chu’s slender cold shoulders. She flashes him a warm smile.

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Bruce Lee Inspired TV series ‘Warrior’ to Kick Into Action This April http://kore.am/bruce-lee-inspired-tv-series-warrior-to-kick-into-action-this-friday-asian-kung-fu-martial-arts/ http://kore.am/bruce-lee-inspired-tv-series-warrior-to-kick-into-action-this-friday-asian-kung-fu-martial-arts/#respond Mon, 11 Mar 2019 23:59:19 +0000 http://kore.am/?p=5063741 Bruce Lee’s never-produced vision is finally coming to life this April.

Based on the writings of the late martial arts legend, “Warrior” will debut April 5 at 10 p.m. on Cinemax. The gritty, action-packed drama is set in San Francisco’s Chinatown during the Tong Wars—a series of violent gang conflicts that occurred during the late 1800s over disputes in territory, contraband and prostitution. The series is executive produced by Jonathan Tropper (“Banshee”), Justin Lin (“Fast & Furious 6”) and Lee’s daughter, Shannon Lee.

“Warrior” stars Andrew Koji (“Fast and Furious 6”) as Ah Sahm, a mysterious kung fu aficionado who travels to San Francisco from China to find his missing sister, Mai Ling (Dianne Doan). After overpowering a troupe of confrontational immigration officers, Sahm is inducted into one of Chinatown’s most powerful organized crime families. As he climbs the gang’s social ladder and earns the affections of a brothel’s madame, Ah Toy (Olivia Cheng), Sahm befriends the boss’s son, Young Jun (Jason Tobin), as the gang faces the possibility of an all-out opium war. On top of everything else, the Chinese population is being targeted by disgruntled Irish laborers, led by Dylan Leary (Dean Jagger) who feel that their jobs are being taken away by Chinese immigrants.

Featuring ten kung-fu-packed episodes and action scenes galore powered by the original ideas of Bruce Lee, the series serves as an exploration of what happens when Eastern ideas of honor meet the chaos of the Wild West. Check out the trailer below:

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Broader Than Broadway: Stephanie Hsu Is Taking Musical Theater by Storm http://kore.am/broader-than-broadway-stephanie-hsu-is-taking-musical-theater-by-storm-taiwanese-american-asian-american-actress/ http://kore.am/broader-than-broadway-stephanie-hsu-is-taking-musical-theater-by-storm-taiwanese-american-asian-american-actress/#respond Mon, 11 Mar 2019 18:14:27 +0000 http://kore.am/?p=5063725 Stephanie Hsu had finally made it to Broadway. Years of toiling through casting calls and auditions and parts in Off-Broadway theaters had finally landed her a role on the Great White Way, in one of the most anticipated productions of our time: “The SpongeBob Musical.” That’s right, when it opened in 2017, Hsu played alongside Mr. SquarePants himself, as Karen the Computer.

Having found success in New York, Hsu thought it might be the time to make the move to Los Angeles for more work in film and television. But then she got an opportunity she couldn’t refuse: the musical “Be More Chill,” in which she starred when it played Off-Broadway, was moving addresses.

“Now we’re going to Broadway!” said Hsu. “So, you know, it seems like New York isn’t quite ready to let me out of her sight yet, and I am totally OK with that!”

Hsu’s journey into musical theater was unintentional. Her background is in comedy, and prior to her Broadway break, she was trying to forge a career on the small and big screens. In 2013 she appeared on “MTV’s Girl Code” (which also featured Awkwafina), as well as “The Path” on Hulu. She’s also done a handful of commercials (you might have seen her sweaty armpits under a restroom hand dryer for Secret deodorant).

As a young girl, Hsu never thought she would become an actress. She grew up in Los Angeles with a single mother from Taiwan who was adamant that her daughter could never go into the arts because no one on stage or screen looked like her. Yet throughout her youth, there were signs that she was meant to be a performer. In lieu of essays, she turned in video projects during middle school. In high school she gave acting a try and accomplished the rare feat of landing a spot in the senior play, as a freshman. In her senior year she was voted class clown. When it was time to pick a college, she was fully committed: She attended New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts.

In her first year of acting school, Lucy Liu spoke at one of her classes. It was an emotional moment for Hsu. “I started to cry just because I realized that one of the only people I had to use as an example to show that a life in the performing arts as an Asian American was possible was right in front of me,” she said.

Stephanie Hsu 1_The photo credit is Jenny Anderson (1)
“[When] you’re in high school, normative feels a lot easier, but actually there’s so much to celebrate in all of our idiosyncrasies.”

Now Hsu could be an inspiration for that young would-be Asian American theater geek coming to Broadway to see “Be More Chill,” which opened in March at the Lyceum Theater. It’s based on a young adult novel about a high schooler named Jeremy who takes a pill to become popular. Hsu reprises the role of Christine, Jeremy’s love interest. It’s a character she imbues with weirdness. “[When] you’re in high school, normative feels a lot easier, but actually there’s so much to celebrate in all of our idiosyncrasies,” she said with a laugh. “I hope, with the role of Christine, that is something that people can walk away with in their pockets or in their weird little hearts.”

For Hsu, it is an honor to be able to “carry the torch” and create space for Asian Americans in theater. She noted that, while Asian American representation in TV and film has boomed, it hasn’t been the case for Broadway. “The most Asians you ever see on stage are in ‘Miss Saigon’ or things of that nature,” she said. “It’s still a great opportunity, but the stories that we’re telling are not new and updated.”

Hsu believes Broadway is one of the most important art forms because local, community and high school theaters end up performing these shows, as well. For that reason, Hsu said, it’s important that the stories being told are for everyone and challenging audiences to create the kind of worlds they want to live in.

“There is a kid in middle America who may not feel safe to be truly who he is, or come out as gay,” Hsu said. “But then they get to do ‘Be More Chill’ in their high school, and everything inside it is about being true to who you are. It’s intentionally wild and weird and wacky and totally queer positive. So maybe in telling that story or getting to do that show, he is given access and permission to step into himself even more.”

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5 Reasons Why We Stan Mama Mai http://kore.am/5-reasons-why-we-stan-mama-mai-vietnamese-american-asian-american-icon-talk-show-host/ http://kore.am/5-reasons-why-we-stan-mama-mai-vietnamese-american-asian-american-icon-talk-show-host/#respond Sat, 09 Mar 2019 00:15:09 +0000 http://kore.am/?p=5063715 Behind every successful person is a hardworking mom.

Jeannie Mai, a confident, bubbly talk show host, is one of the most popular personalities on daytime television. You may know her as the stylist from “How Do I Look?” or as the fabulously dressed E! red carpet host. She began her career as a makeup artist dressing the faces of celebrities like Christina Aguilera and Alicia Keys, and went on to become a star herself. With a television career spanning 16 years, Mai has hosted a variety of high profile shows and events. Her highest profile gig as of late has been as an outspoken co-host on the Emmy Award winning daytime talk show “The Real,” where she unapologetically shares her experiences as a Vietnamese American. What’s more, she works with NightLight International, a nonprofit organization dedicated to fighting human trafficking both in America and abroad. One of the few authentic voices in Hollywood, she gives the opinions and advice we never knew we were craving in mainstream entertainment. She’s unarguably a powerful role model and voice for Asian America.

But who do we have to think for this golden ray of sunshine?

Olivia TuTram Mai, popularly known as Mama Mai, is Jeannie’s hilarious, eccentric mother. She made her debut on the “The Real” in 2014. The internet went crazy for her with a video of her appearance amassing nearly 2 million views on YouTube.

Many people may think that Asian moms are serious, conservative and not all that funny. Not Mamma Mai.


Here are 5 reasons we all stan Jeannie’s mom:

1. She’s hilarious!

Mama Mai always manages to leave us with tears and cramps from laughing too hard. You just have to watch it for yourself.

2. Her style

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Last night Mama Mai go casual dinner with the friend. The pork egg roll it very good! 👍

A post shared by Mama Mai (@themamamai) on

Let’s be honest with ourselves, not many of us would wear this outfit. But somehow, through the grace of God, Mama Mai has managed to make it look chic and fabulous, reminding us that to be a fashionista, you need to push the boundaries. Okay, Mama Mai! We see you!

 …and she’s hip?


No, but really, check her out at Coachella 2018.

I don’t know about you, but my mom would never be seen dancing at a music festival, not that she even knows what Coachella is.

3. For always keeping it 100


Mama Mai always tell is it how it is, and we love that. You already know you’re in for a piece of entertaining wisdom when she shows up on your screen.

4. Her love for life


As Jeannie once said, “Asian no raisin!” Mama Mai knows how to live it up! If only all of our moms were like that.

5. For reminding us to appreciate our parents

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Today it January 4, my ONE AND ONLY DAUGHTER BIRTHDAY!!!! When I carry her, I can feel she different. I can feel she strong. Every day I see you Jeannie grow up healthy, and so smart. You not shy. When you young I know you will be special girl when you grow up. Because you always made Daddy and I proud of you. The day you born I watching the TV show and I get the idea for your name. My 1st daughter-You make my wish come true: I DREAM OF JEANNIE, I Dream of the little girl like YOU. That’s why I give you that name. When you young you come home from school cry so much because the kid in school they tease they say “Jeannie the Weinie!!! Jeannie the Wienie!!!” Remember what I tell you? I say to you I will go in there and kick the kid ass. Not because they make fun, but because the stupid kid, they say wrong: it JEANNIE the WINNER. You are a winner, con, you win everyday in your life when you have the good thing in your heart to make you smile. You win when you have the love to make other people smile with you. I teach you to celebrate your life, every day even the Monday. You alive, so that mean you make every day a special occasion. That is how you WIN. Jeannie the Winner, everyone who understand this idea for your life, you are a WINNER too.🙏🙏🙏🙏 Happy Birthday my daughter, my con, Jeannie the Winner. ❤❤❤

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Many second-generation Asian American children can attest to the sacrifices their parents have made for them. A 16-year-old Mama Mai woke up at 3 a.m. to flee communism in Saigon, Vietnam. After being rescued by the U.S. Navy, she was given $200 to chase the American dream and the rest is history.

“Big dream is just wait and wish for my two son to have a great career,” Mama Mai said in an interview with her daughter in 2015. “Find the right woman they love, get married like their sister, so I don’t have to worry. About my favorite daughter, I don’t have to worry her anymore, she happy enjoy life… That is already my big dream.”

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