Nezha: Why American brands need to pay attention to the animated movie that beat Avengers in China

(Spoilers ahead).

The answer is simple. By understanding Nezha, you can get an insight into Chinese Millennials and Gen Z, whether in China, the United States or elsewhere. Collectively, they are the single largest consumer group powering the engine that drives global consumption forward.

Nezha is an animated fantasy movie based loosely on the story of the eponymous hero – a well-known young rebel from Chinese mythology. Though the story is ancient, the movie is nothing but modern and imaginative – with elaborate visual effects, electrifying music, humorous dialogue and numerous references from pop culture.

Released in China this past July, Nezha has earned over $669 million in less than 40 days, becoming the 2nd highest-grossing film of all time in China – beating the Chinese box office record for The Lion King, Toy Story 4 and Marvel’s Avengers: Endgame. Critically, it has won the hearts of millions, receiving rave reviews and scoring a high 8.6 on Douban, the largest movie review website in China.

With an IMAX premier in a small number of theaters, Nezha finally hit the U.S. on August 29th. Movie tickets, as expected, were quickly sold out. Theaters were filled with the laughter, tears and applause of young Chinese Americans, both working professionals and students.

How did Nezha become such a phenomenal success, resonating with Chinese worldwide? There are the two likely reasons.

As a new interpretation of an old story, it captures the zeitgeist of China.

“I am the master of my own fate”, a line delivered by Nezha in the final battle of the movie, says it all.
In the past, the story of the holy child-god Nezha, has repeatedly appeared in Chinese movies, dramas and animation, but the 2019 version largely reinvents the narrative and adds more complexity and twists to the storyline and characters. Instead of a god, Nezha is born predestined to be a demon and constantly fights against prejudice and social exclusion. In addition, instead of killing his rival, the Dragon Prince, Nezha becomes friends with him and together the two young characters fight against their set destinies.

Yes, there’s a lot of fighting and overcoming obstacles in Nezha, and these plot-points precisely manifest the indomitable and optimistic spirit of young Chinese born in the 80s’ and 90s’; a generation raised during China’s economic rise, technological innovation and entrepreneurship boom – a generation granted unprecedented chances for upward mobility. Like Nezha, they have a sharp desire for personal actualization that reflects in their quest for success.

“In reality, many young people are breaking down outside limits and prejudices.” said director Jiaozi, in an interview explaining why Nezha is clicking with young Chinese.

Critics at The Los Angeles Times’s also added, “Residing just beneath all the visual razzle dazzle is a stirring message of empowerment.”

It is a coming-of-age story of a Chinese hero.

Not Spiderman, Simba nor Chihiro. Nezha’s story is a Chinese one, derived from The Investiture of the Gods, a 16th century Chinese novel that combines elements of history, folklore, mythology and fantasy.
Don’t get me wrong, animations from Hollywood and Japan are well-loved in China, but the young generation craves for more. Emboldened by their rising cultural confidence, they seek vivid revivals of Chinese cultural icons on the silver screen.

The movie industry answered the demand. Released in 2015, Monkey King: Hero Is Back is wildly regarded as the beginning of “the return of Chinese animation”. Now with Nezha’s startling success, Chinese anime creators are rolling out an ambitious plan – in the post credits of Nezha, a teaser of an upcoming animated movie features the story of Ziya Jiang, another fictional hero from The Investiture of the Gods. This sneak preview is creating enormous buzz for Chinese moviegoers and indicates the formation of what the fans called “The Universe of Chinese Mythology”.

So, why does this matter to American brands?

For brands that want to tap into China or the growing Chinese American market, understanding the target consumer mentality and demand is critical, and Nezha’s success gives us an interesting lens to witness the confidence and aspirations of this new generation.

The rise of entertainment originating from Asia is as impactful to today’s young Chinese as representation in Hollywood, and only content that is truly culturally authentic can create effective resonance and engagement. Face-swapping or stiff adaptations from general market campaigns simply don’t work. Brands need to keep up with the changing reality and craft insightful campaigns.

After all, no one would want to miss out a consumer segment that owns staggering buying power – with only a limited run across 66 IMAX theaters, Nezha’s opening weekend in the U.S. managed to rake in $1.19 million with a stellar per-theater average of $18,061, the highest among all films playing in the U.S. on five or more screens. All credit goes to Chinese Americans.

Brands, take note.

Written by
Selina Guo
Planning Director
Selinag@admerasia.com

References:
Maoyan, China’s box office ranking
Review: Chinese animation box-office sensation ‘Ne Zha’ brings empowering message to America, LA Times, 8/29/2019
Chinese Blockbuster ‘Ne Zha’ Nets Stellar $18,000-Per-Theater In U.S. Launch, Cartoonbrew, 9/2/2019
China Focus: Animated film “Ne Zha” becomes smash hit in China, Xinhuanet, 7/31/2019

Photo credit: Well Go USA

 

A Letter from our Co-Founder

Fellow film geeks:

I had a chance to see Awkwafina in The Farewell this weekend and it was just another (tear-jerking) reminder that Asian Americans are on a roll. Starting with last year’s Crazy Rich Asians on the big screen, the roster continues to grow: NBC’s A Little Late with Lilly Singh, the much-anticipated Mulan, and Marvel’s Shang-Chi, starring the first-ever Asian lead for the franchise.

The rise of Asian cultural movements is piquing the interest of people everywhere. We are often asked by clients and colleagues, “can an ad segmented for Asian Americans also play in general market?” The answer is an emphatic, “yes”. Whether it be cosplay, cricket, e-sports, foodies, nerd-life, or lux-life, we enjoy finding the subtle, yet impactful, ways humans find common ground. It is a nuanced balancing act – supplying the authenticity of our core heritage and culture while communicating in a universal voice.

 

Speaking of action movies, we’ve also been dabbling in the realm of superheroes. Our latest TVC campaign featured Asian American cosplayers in full warrior gear. I can’t help but admit I got a thrill out of being a part of a project that has Asian Americans representing heroic and strong characters – even when it’s rubber swords and replica helmets. Asians & Asian Americans are finally getting the roles and recognition they have long deserved. It’s about time.

And we’ve been rewarded with success. We’ve run our campaigns in theaters nationwide in front of Spider-man: Far from Home, on Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim, and on live-streaming platform, Twitch. The Asian American story CAN be anyone’s story.

Admerasia proclaims itself as an “&” agency. We do more than ad. We connect.

 

I’ve come to embrace the &. I started off life as a boy, as Chinese. I grew into an immigrant, an American. Sometimes it felt like I had to choose between my identities, that they were in conflict. But as I grew, instead of cutting things out of my life, I added to the list of the things that made me who I am. I &.

This & approach to life is how we operate here at Admerasia. Barriers, lanes, human constructs – we do not adhere to. We do not believe our stories are limited. We do not believe our voices stop at the borders of Chinatown or Jersey City. We do believe in &. It’s that foundational belief that carries our ads across continents, into your home.

I hope this tale of Awkwafina & Identity & Brand Craft has inspired you to put a little & into your day. Limits aren’t for us. We can be Asian & American & Asian American.

See you at the movies.

 

Jeff Lin
Co-Founder of Admerasia&
Soccer Enthusiast&
Wine Collector.

 

韩流来袭 引爆多元文化抬头

过去一个周末在纽约陪着八岁的丫头,走遍了城里最大的会展中心,见识到“韩流”在全球的快速蔓延,别误以为这个以韩国流行音乐为主题的大型活动,只与面孔及生活形态相近的亚洲人相关,会展开幕当天在门口排队进场的年轻人当中,可充分体现了纽约多元化的特质,除了见到七彩绚烂的头发颜色外,他们的肤色也涵括了你能想像到的各种族裔。

会展第二天晚上的韩星表演,主办单位CJ是南韩最大的影视娱乐公司,同时也是全球排名第二的电商。这个在1993年自三星集团分支而出,从食品制造开始,将韩国饮食、韩国文化及生活方式逐步引进全球市场的跨国企业,通过美国国庆周在纽约麦迪逊广场的现场演唱会,向全世界昭告“韩风”正式迈进西方社会。而从一张一千元美金的粉丝席,到所有盛装而来(打扮入时且发型、化妆及饰物皆追赶韩流标准)的多族裔观众看来,这场文化运动的确成功跨越了语言障碍,连我一句韩文不懂的孩子,都随着台上的热歌劲舞起身参与,且坚持看完完整演唱会才肯离去。

这让我不禁反思,这些以商业目的包装而成的音乐团体,为何能跨越语言及文化差异,赢得全球年轻粉丝的追捧,并成为最新热潮,其实正是个人主义崛起和从众文化结合后的完美发展。

在亚洲家庭成长的孩子,多半必须面对升学压力,而在生活上,从上学穿着的制服到课后满满的各式学习班,家长们一方面鼓励孩子出类拔萃,却又不希望他们鹤立鸡群,成为与其它孩子“不一样”的异类。而这些经过精心甄选组成的音乐团体,正好满足了这矛盾心态,个别成员或有其特色专长,但仍符合团体的整体形象及市场诉求,从全球年轻族群看来,音乐只是联系沟通的方式之一,更关键的是他们在这追风过程中能够与同侪分享的经验及感受。

正如30多年前,马当娜以其独树一帜的风格席卷全球音乐市场,许多连英文都说不了二句的年轻人,却能朗朗唱出马当娜的每一首招牌歌曲一般,如今的韩流,不过是文化超越地域界限的另一实例,唯一不同的是,随通讯技术的发达及亚洲 (尤其是中国)经济的崛起,预期我们将会见到更多亚洲品牌走上世界舞台,并成为文化主流。资深广告行销人,同时也是全美最大亚裔广告公司负责人Zan Ng就大胆预测,从行销角度看来,我们未来针对的将不再是亚裔市场、拉丁裔市场、或非裔美人市场,我们所见到的肤色将不足以定义市场区隔,因为多元化才将是主流市场。

特约撰稿人
PeiWen Shih
alanguagebank 联合创始人

From Spider-man to Cosplay: How the Superhero Industry is Learning from Spider-Man’s Filipino-American Sidekick

(Admerasia prides itself on giving its youngest team members a chance to be heard. Today, we’re featuring an original article by our summer intern, Sarina Santiago, 21, Boston University, Major Business Administration, Minor Communications.)

How the Superhero Industry is Learning from Spider-Man’s Filipino-American Sidekick

Batalon as Ned Leeds in Spider-Man: Homecoming Photo credit: Spider-Man: Homecoming

Just when you think you’ve mentally recovered from the epic Avengers: Endgame, it’s time to watch the anticipated Spider-Man: Far from Home. While we’re all familiar with the star of the film, Tom Holland, let’s draw our attention to his dorky, loveable sidekick, Ned Leeds, played by Jacob Batalon. Though he is known as a tech genius and “the guy in the chair”, Leeds is sparking conversation and rapidly gaining exposure for being the first Filipino-American in the Marvel Universe franchise.

Batalon, raised by Filipino parents in Hawaii, landed his first major acting role as Peter Parker’s best friend just before he graduated college. The original character, Ned Leeds, was inspired by the early comic book version who is described as a Caucasian reporter from the Daily Bugle. However, the film’s director, Jon Watts, didn’t want to replicate the character’s physical qualities and instead opted for a more diversified lineup. Replacing the white Ned Leeds with a Filipino-American, as well as casting actors and actresses like Zendaya and Tony Revolori, the new Spider-Man school setting reflects a more realistic version of a diverse high school student body found in Queens, New York.

Ned Leeds has quickly become a fan-favorite. His genuine, gleeful reaction to Peter Parker revealing his identity captures the moment perfectly because, let’s be honest, that’s how we would react if our best friend was Spider-Man. More importantly, the charming character appeals to the Asian-American audiences as Ned is a crucial asset to Spider-Man’s missions. Playing the sidekick as a Filipino-American actor paves the way to a more inclusive casting in the superhero industry.

Jacob Batalon (left) and Tom Holland (right), playing Peter Parker, in Spider-Man: Homecoming Photo credit: Spider-Man: Homecoming

In the superhero industry, Pan-Asian diversity has always been lacking. However, with recent castings of Jon Cho (Star Trek), Gemma Chan (Captain Marvel), and Benedict Wong (Doctor Strange) other Asian characters are joining the fray. In fact, Marvel is set to release a five-part comic book this summer featuring Asian and Asian-American superheroes called “Agents of Atlas”. The lineup of powerful heroes includes characters from Korean, Filipino, and Chinese backgrounds who, besides from saving the world, enjoy everyday activities like karaoke and eating dim sum.

The front cover of the first issue of “Agents of Atlas”. Photo credit: Marvel Comics

Moreover, production has been approved for the first Marvel superhero film featuring an Asian protagonist called Shang-Chi. The movie will follow a similar framework to Black Panther’s, with an emphasis on cultural cohesiveness in order to promote a proper image of Asian characters. Currently, the production process of Shang-Chi is moving slowly, with the main news that they have hired both Dave Callaham of The Expendables as the script writer and Destin Daniel Cretton of Captain Marvel as the director. Though it’s too early in the production process for casting, the internet has casted five Chinese actors that can potentially play the leading role.

Shang-Chi is a Chinese martial arts master who channels his abilities through his chi. Photo credit: Marvel Comics

It’s highly important for the superhero industry to evolve and adopt an inclusive cast. Superheroes become icons and are idolized by children growing up. How can a child relate to a character that doesn’t share the same culture as them?

But superheroes don’t just end in the comic book universe. Online gaming and cosplay is a major part of Asian-American culture yet is still lacking in a diverse representation. The new State Farm “Peaceful Resolutions” features cosplayers as Phoenix and Battlefire – two strong Asian-American warriors who face-off in a battle. Admerasia selected cosplayers to appeal to the Asian-American audience because cosplaying and cosplay conventions are major parts of the culture. It was also important to highlight strong, powerful characters that are able to put aside their differences to achieve their mission – in this case, the two cosplayers split a cab to drive to the convention center. This commercial is making a dual-debut on Spider-Man: Far from Home and Cartoon Network’s series, Adult Swim. Though there are major efforts in promoting diversity in the superhero industry, there is still a long way to go as Asian-Americans prove that they are more than “the guy in the chair”.

Written by:
Sarina Santiago
Creative Intern

Decoding the legacy of Penn Masala—The World’s First South Asian A Cappella Group

From performing for President Obama to making a cameo appearance in Pitch Perfect 2, Penn Masala has pretty much done it all. The first ever group to bring the sounds of the Indian subcontinent to a cappella, Penn Masala creates music that traverses traditional cultural boundaries.

Founded in 1996 by four University of Pennsylvania students, Penn Masala has ever since been at the forefront of South Asian-Western fusion. A fusion that captures the essence of growing up with Indian and Western cultural influences and seamlessly integrates Western pop and Eastern melodies. Members join the group when they enroll into UPenn and become proud Penn Masala alumni when they graduate; making way for newer members to join.

Here’s taking you on a melodious journey of through some of their most iconic moments, lauded works, and celebrated performances.

Evolution of Bollywood Music – Penn Masala

This viral sensation that encapsulates the evolution of Bollywood music from 1940 to 2014 skyrocketed Penn Masala’s already rising popularity in India. They went on to perform this very medley at the IIFA awards—one of Bollywood’s biggest yearly award functions.

Pitch Perfect 2 – Any Way You Want It feat. Penn Masala

The group that earned its reputation through the music of Bollywood, made it to the big screens of Hollywood with this feature in Pitch Perfect 2.

Agar Tum Saath Ho / Treat You Better

The first single in Penn Masala’s 10th studio album, Yuva, combines the brilliance of Shawn Mendes and A.R. Rahman to create this magical eargasm.

Performing at The White House for President Obama

#EnoughSaid

We hope you liked this list as much as we do. And if you do, you can head over to Penn Masala’s YouTube channel to check out their extensive body of work and give them a subscribe.

Written by Rohan Grover
Copywriter (English Division)

(Top Video)
Viva La Vida / Jashn-e-Bahara
This beautiful mash-up featuring Coldplay’s Grammy-winning Viva La Vida and AR Rahman’s IIFA winning Jashn-e-Bahara is one of Penn Masala’s most iconic mash-ups and the defining melody of their 2010 International Tour where the group performed in various cities in India, England, Canada, as well as throughout the United States.

Top 8 Asian Beauty Vloggers Continued!

Continuing on our list of the best Asian Beauty and Fashion experts to follow, here are our Top 8 Picks beyond Chinese-North Americans.

These gals (and guys) are rocking in-language and English vlogs across Asia and North-America. Japanese, Thai, Vietnamese, Korean, you name it.

#1 PONY Syndrome

PONY’s Korean in-language channel rose to fame starting with her 2016 Taylor Swift transformation video. That single video went viral and cracked 19M views. For the most part, her videos are easy to follow tutorials and beauty tips, with a few shocking transformations. Her 4.5M followers garner her over a million views per video.

#2 Asahi Sasaki

Proclaimed self-taught Sasaki does everything from day-to-day makeup to horror-makeup on her YouTube vlog sasakiasahi. An example of her variety is her visual masterpiece “1000 years of Japanese Beauty – Evolution of Women” that takes the viewer from different eras of Japanese beauty (2.9M views). As of late, her videos keep to product reviews and tutorials but they’re still a ton of fun.

#3 Yuuri Fukuse

Another Japanese makeup transformer is Yuuri Fukuse. Watching her take herself from pretty freckled girl-next-door to Pink-haired Glam Star is always a mesmerizing experience. She is unrecognizable at the end of most of her videos. Our favorite tutorials are her Disney transformations thought it’s been a while. Her following is a respectable 500+k on YouTube and 82K on Instagram.

#4 Miki Kawanishi

Ok, one more Japanese star. In one of her most popular videos, Miki takes us through her morning routine. Even though her YouTube following hasn’t broken 1M, this video got her 6.2M views! She explains all the details including contacts that expand your irises. Her upbeat attitude is a lot of fun to follow.

#5 Patrick Starr

How can we have an Asian beauty blogger list and not include mega-star(r) Patrick Starr?! Filipino-American Patrick has been making it BIG in beauty. Celebrities flock to co-star in his videos. Patrick not only makes beauty fun and approachable, but he takes it to the next level. Supporter and member of the LGBTQ community, Patrick reaches out to EVERYONE to embrace themselves. Now that’s real beauty!

#6 Promise Tamang

Not your average beauty blogger, Nepalese-American goes beyond day-to-day makeup and does full transformations. From Disney Princesses to turning her husband into the Grinch, Promise is about having fun. Her YouTube channel dope2111 has a fantastic 5.5M followers averaging easily over 1.5M views a video.

#7 Kim Thai

Ok, not interested in looking like Elsa from Frozen? Got it. Vietnamese-American Kim Nguyen is a little more down to earth. Her body-positive tutorials are super cute and informative. She does product reviews and step-by-step videos. Of course it wouldn’t be Kim if there’s not a touch of comedy and realness. Sometimes eye shadows fall out of their case. Sometimes brows are uneven. But that’s what makes us love her. She’s also a joy to follow on Instagram with over 400K followers.

#8  Pearypie Amata Chittasenee

Thai-American Amata goes bilingual (Thai/English or no-dialogue on her videos and IG, making her easy to follow for any viewer. She has recently gone the extra mile in her videos. So even though you’re gonna see some morning makeup routines, you’re also gonna see some fantastic fashion and travel.  Shiseido recently collaborated with Pearypie on The MASTER of ALL project, highlighting Amata’s rise to fame.

We could have kept going but the list is endless. We haven’t even touched upon South Asian Beauty! These men and women are transforming the beauty industry in their own unique ways – using their voices, skills and talents to influence tomorrow’s consumers. We’ll be watching as we are sure you will too.

Top 5 Chinese Beauty Vloggers You Should be Following

Influencers come and go, but when it comes to beauty, skin care, and fashion, people across the globe still rely on the advice from a trusted name.

Influencers who live under a flag of integrity and expertise harness the most loyal of followers; those who check in on a regular basis for the latest news. We’ve taken the lot and pulled some of our favorites, both long-time champs and brave newcomers. Check out our list and follow some of these fascinating, inspiring new voices in Asian beauty.

From K and J Beauty to South Asian Looks, we couldn’t fit it all into one list. We focused today on Chinese-heritage influencers. So be sure to follow up with our next round-up on Asian Beauty that explores other growing voices across the Asian diaspora.

#1 Rainie Tian

Chinese-born, Toronto-based Rainie has scored a respectable 349.5k YouTube followers. Her makeup-heavy videos are informative, her breakdowns and reviews straight-forward. She performs in-language Mandarin but her texts are bilingual – so whether or not you speak Chinese, you can still follow along to a certain extent. Her IG @raintainie, with 186k followers, needs no translation and is more fashion than makeup.

#2 Oh Emma

Canada is producing a lot of stars and Oh Emma is one of them. The proud mother of the CUTEST baby boy is fashion heavy on her IG @oops_ohemma with 199k followers while her YouTube with 321.6k followers is more geared towards her makeup and skin care topics in Mandarin. Her latest video published in Dec. 2018 reviews multiple Japanese makeup products – those that are more esoteric to American general market – making her videos extra interesting.

#3 Nana OuYang

Young (18 years old) and talented, the Taiwanese professional cellist and actress, has made a splash in China. Her IG account has a whopping 1.8M followers, she’s acted alongside mega stars like Jackie Chan. She’s been featured in Shiseido ads and Vogue China. But her Asian American relevancy is only just coming to fruition. Nana OuYang only joined the YouTube crowd in February 2018 with Nabi’s School Life but has already gathered 272.6k followers. Her videos that she unapologetically titles “Vlog [number]” range on topics, from music to cooking to her morning makeup routine.

#4 Maaaxter English

Unlike the predessors in this article, Maaaxter performs bilingually in both Chinese and English, from her home base in Los Angeles. Her main goal is to teach English to Chinese speakers through interesting and compelling themes. Her topics range from everyday conversations like buying your morning coffee to the intricacies of politics. When she talks about beauty and fashion, it’ll be a video like her 26 Luxury Brands Name Pronunciation which reeled in 287k views.

#5 Savislook

Based out of the US, the world-traveler Savislook is hard to pin down. From Milan to Tokyo, Savislook takes her fashion and beauty vlogs wherever she goes. In-language Mandarin, the young and hip Savi screams Crazy Rich Asian glamour and Parisian decadence in all the best ways. It’s no wonder her IG and YouTube channels have about 360k followers total.

Love our roundup? Be sure to check out our next round of Asian Influencers.

Who is Mukesh Ambani? The Indian Billioinare who got Beyoncé to perform at his daughter’s wedding

Courtesy: Beyonce’s Instagram

There are a few celebrities in our celeb-obsessed world that create mass hysteria among their fans. And then there is Beyoncé. For over two decades now, Queen B has been ruling the hearts and minds of her fans and more recently breaking the Internet in ways that weren’t thought possible. But if you are someone who has been online before then we don’t need to give you a 101 on the superstar power of Beyoncé.  You probably already know about her beauteous pregnancy photo shoots that gathered millions of likes within minutes and her recent groundbreaking Coachella performance. Or her epic album drops and the elevator showdown between her sister Solange and husband and music mogul Jay-Z.  As marketers, you might even follow her every move because who else can give us better lessons in hype marketing and exclusivity than her?

Mukesh Ambani (center) with his wife Nita Ambani (right center) and daughter Isha (left center) with her husband Anand Piramal (right) and his parents (left)
Courtesy: Times of India

If so, then you might be left wondering recently that what one of the biggest music superstars on the planet was doing when she performed at a wedding in India? Well, then hold on to your seatbelts because we are about to introduce to you to one of Asia’s biggest billionaires you might have not heard of: Mukesh Ambani, the man who casually dropped $100 million for his daughter’s wedding. Mumbai-based Ambani, whose net worth at the moment is $44.3 billion is not only the richest man in India but as of 2018 in entire Asia, leaving behind Alibaba’s Jack Ma. Though you might have heard of Antilla, his palatial, 27-story residence in Mumbai, which is often compared to the Buckingham Palace in its grandness. While Jack Ma, started China’s extremely popular shopping platform, Alibaba, Ambani is the Chairman and Managing Director of Reliance Industries, India’s second-biggest company. Reliance Industries started when his father, the late Dhirubhai Ambani set it up as a textile and fabric manufacturing company. Over the years the company diversified into refinery and petrochemicals and then telecom and retail. Incidentally, Reliance Industries is the same company responsible for India’s recent Internet explosion by providing fast-speed Internet at throwaway prices. Which, as we pointed out here, is already changing the global pop-cultural landscape by introducing a heavy Indian influence. According to Bloomberg, this fast speed Internet connection, called Jio is also responsible for the recent surge in his wealth that pushed him to the top of the Billionaire List.

 

So when his 26-year old daughter, Isha Ambani, who was quickly dubbed as the ‘Indian billionaire heiress’ by the US media was to get married to Anand Piramal, the executive director of the Piramal Group, another of India’s top companies, it was expected to the extra-est Indian wedding ever. And it was. In an Indian wedding season that was decked with famous couples like Priyanka Chopra and Nick Joans, the Ambani-Parimal wedding upstaged everyone with its bigness, fatness, and Indianness. With a price tag of $100 million Harry-Megan Royal Wedding was $40 million in comparison), the bride’s trousseau alone cost $12 million. Apart from Beyoncé, who was present with her Mom Tina Knowles, minus Jay-Z, the celebrity guest list also included Hillary Clinton, John Kerry and Ariana Huffington. But beyond the international guests, the wedding seemed to have summoned the entirety of Bollywood, including superstar Shah Rukh Khan, and barely fresh off her own wedding, Priyanka Chopra along with husband Nick Jonas. Like most typical Indian weddings, the festivities lasted for a week but unlike most Indian weddings, it created a buzz that’s lasted much longer. So if you are still wondering, what does it take to have Beyoncé perform a private concert? It’s ultimately a big, fat, Indian wedding.

PS. Since we are all collectively upset over not getting an invite to that wedding, here’s a Beyoncé gif that hopefully makes up for it!

 

 

 

Words

Yashica Dutt, Associate Creative Director

Three South Asian Graphic Artists You Should Know About

Image: @hatecopy

If you’ve been reading our columns on the regular (we highly recommend you do) chances are you’ve figured our undying love for Desi Twitter. And why wouldn’t we love it? It’s where all our favorite Desi people converge. But it’s not only a community for the Desi around the world (we are a tight-knit bunch), but Desi twitter is also a platform for talented creative to showcase their work and even translate it into a business. Many of our favorite South Asian beauty bloggers got their start off YouTube and Instagram. But today we want to introduce you to our favorite graphic artists, who not only filter their art through a uniquely Desi lens but also aren’t afraid to poke fun at harmful prejudices within the community while they’re at it.

Maria Qamar @hatecopy – With the level of fame and recognition this 26-year old Canadian-Pakistani artist has achieved, it’s hard to believe that she started showing her art only a little over four years ago. Known for her Roy Lichtenstein inspired ‘Desi-pop’ style, her art often features dramatically drawn South Asian women with full red lips, dangling chandelier earrings and a huge bindi taking on a prickly South Asian aunty. Her recent book, Trust No Aunty deals in more detail with the topic of South Asian aunties who make sure that everyone’s business is their business. While her website carries merch based on her art, Qamar has also lent her artistic style to several brands, including Saavn, one of the biggest streaming services for Hindi, Bollywood and regional South Asian music. One of the most visible South Asian graphic artists of the moment, it’s no surprise that Qamar’s found fans in Mindy Kaling (she even featured her art in The Mindy Project), Hasan Minaj, Kal Penn, and Lena Dunham.
IG: 150K

View this post on Instagram

My other all time fav. What else would they go down for? 😂 #it #parody

A post shared by Saher (@thepakistanimarthastewart) on

Saher Sohail @The PakistaniMarthaStewart – Growing up desi in America can be challenging, especially for those of us who did that before #desipride materialized online. Saher Sohail, a Pakistani-American artist based in Virginia uses that dichotomy as an inspiration for her art. Her illustration based Instagram account highlights the life of a Pakistani-American girl, where Sohail navigates her identity through pop-culture inspired desi memes and features links to her extremely popular Etsy page. In Sohail’s world, Winifred Sanderson from Hocus Pocus does kaala jadoo (Desi black magic) while Drake wears a skullcap and deals with ‘Zee TV (popular Indian channel) and Chill’. Even as Sohail’s humor orbits around the desification of Instagram meme culture, her unique perspective and recognizable style make sure she stands out in a crowd.
IG: 97.4K

Nidhi Chanani @nidhiart — Nidhi started out in non-profits before she launched Every Day Art, an online art store that features her musings on everyday life. While Pashmina, Chanani’s award-winning graphic novel that centers on the life of a first-generation Indian American girl, is fairly recent, this SF based artist has been making waves for much longer. In 2012, the White House honored Nidhi Chanani as a Champion of Change for her groundbreaking Asian American illustrations. Currently, she has two more graphic novels in the works including a Disney commissioned feature based on Aladdin. But no matter the genre or topic, Chanani admits that her ‘Indian-ness’ comes through her work, either as a motif, setting or characters. Additionally, her work has been featured on The Nib, Paramount Pictures, and Disney.
IG: 16.5K

 

Words// Yashica Dutt
Associate Creative Director

Breaking Stereotypes: 8 Asian Americans in Careers Outside the “Norm”

Writer Jennifer Lee, of the Guardian, said in a 2014 op-ed, “We need more Asian American kids growing up to be artists, not doctors”. That sentiment was expressed while battling a long-held stereotype (both among main-stream America and Asian Americans) that little Asian babies grow up into doctors, lawyers, science, and tech employees… and that there is little room for anything else.

That, of course, is a grossly inaccurate stereotype. Now, in 2018, we are seeing Asian Americans break into a variety of fields in entertainment, sports, literature and more. That’s not “new news” – we’ve been in these fields for generations. Just new to the majority of America with preconceived notions of Asian life.

So now that (some of) us have finally realized Asians can be actors, writers, chefs, politicians and rappers – what are a few industries and careers we’re still finding ZERO recognition and representation? The fields that, not only white America would be surprised we work in, but other Asian Americans as well?

We listed some great people doing some great things out there. Because, just like the rest of the world, no two Asians are alike.

1. Farming

When we picture the American farming industry, we picture blond-hair, blue-eyed men in overalls, sowing their fields. But the farming industry for Asian Americans goes back generations. Each community has their own origin story. Some are products of Japanese-American imprisonment during WWII who found little choice but to enter the farming industry to avoid concentration camps. Some are more recent, immigrants from rural Asia who found kinship in California fields. And some others are stories of love for the land.

Ken Lee left engineering in 1992 to grow food. Ken’s Top Notch Produce (above) has been growing ever since – both literally and figuratively.

But whatever the origin may be, Asian Americans are running some pretty awesome farms with some amazing health initiatives.

2. Environmental Community Outreach

And speaking of farming, there are some amazing Asian American focused groups that are striving to bring organic and healthy foods to the tables of those in need. Asian Pacific Islander Forward Movement (APIFM), a non-profit organization in CA, does just that, while working closely with local farmers.

3. Sci-Fi and Erotica 

Yes, literature does have its Asian American stars. From Amy Tan and Celeste Ng to Jhumpa Lahiri and Khaled Hosseini, for decades, Asian American writers have constructed beautiful worlds around Asian culture and experience. But what of the little sections beyond “Fiction”? Would it surprise you that Asian Americans have taken Sci-Fi by storm? Writers like Marie Lu of the YA Legend series and Nebula/Hugo award winner Ken Liu have diverted from the usual path. Or even more so, what about Erotica writers? That’s right – EROTICA! Writers like Suleikha Snyder and Solace Ames like to steam up your reading glasses.

4. Rock

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Honored to celebrate the #JapaneseAmerican community and the heritage of our awesome bassist Scott Okamoto at the 2017 #NiseiWeek Japanese Festival in the #JACCC Plaza in #LittleTokyo on Sunday, August 20th! A note from Scott on the importance of this historic festival to him: "I grew up going to Nissei Week in Los Angeles with my family. Along with the Obon Festivals, it was one of the rare public displays of our heritage. Despite losing most of our culture and heritage in the aftermath of the incarceration camps of World War II, Obon festivals and Nissei Week somehow survived and thrived. I am so glad they did because I spent the rest of the year trying to assimilate to the, then, white culture of the San Gabriel Valley. Nissei Week and the Obon festivals were my only connection to my #Japanese heritage, and I eventually built on those experiences as I developed my identity through the years. I started playing bass with my friends in Doctors & Engineers about 18 months ago, and at the time, the idea of a Japanese-American joining a South Asian band seemed novel. I’ve taken every opportunity to learn more about my friends and their cultures, often marveling at the similarities and differences with my own. This year we’ve learned that Japanese and Indian histories have ties that date back 1200 years (as far as I know). Japanese curry comes direct from India. Buddhism comes from India, and Indian priests helped to dedicate the famous shrine in Nara in the year 800. More recently, a group of women in the Ginza district of Tokyo have created a sub-culture where they wear colorful saris. All this to say that I am thrilled to play with Doctors & Engineers at this year’s Nissei Week Festival. We are apparently continuing a rich tradition of collaborations between two parts of the world. I can’t wait to rock in front of everyone, including much of my family. I’ll bring earplugs for them." -Scott PC: @joshuakphoto for @kollaborationla

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America, for the most part, has accepted that Asian Americans can deviate from classical violinists and become hip hop or pop stars. (Thank you K-Pop and Awkwafina). But even though we’ve been in Indie Rock since Indie Rock began, people are still shocked to see an Asian American behind a guitar or a set of drums. Japanese Breakfast, Mitski, Thao & The Get Down Stay Down (all female driven bands), and punk-rock groups like Doctors & Engineers and The Kominas, are fighting the misconception that Asians can’t rock.

5. Home & Interior Design

Asian Americans (especially women) have still found hurdles and barriers when entering the design industry, including home and interiors. Nao Tamura, Syrette Lew of Moving Mountains, Mimi Jung of Early Work, and Shamir Shah Design have been striving to make your houses a home (and a piece of art).

6. Psychology

Drum circle by Filipino Mental Health Initiative – San Francisco

Posted by Asian American Psychological Association on Sunday, January 28, 2018

If you haven’t heard, there’s a stigma against psychology and behavioral studies in traditional Asian communities. That stigma, in turn, has ignored an alarming rate of mental illness, depression and suicide. All racial communities have these issues, but in Asian American communities, those issues are more likely to be ignored. According to the American Psychological Association, Asians are 3-times less likely to reach out for help compared to their white counterparts. It’s a sad thing but luckily those walls built by conservative privacy are starting to crumble and groups like the Asian American Psychology Association (AAPA), The Asian American Federation and NYC’s Hamilton-Madison House are there to help.

7. Baking

We know Asians can cook. But did you know we also can bake? And I don’t mean chiffon cakes with cantaloupe and kiwi on top. I mean what we think of as quintessentially American and European Baking. Dianna Daoheung has received TWO James Beard Nominations. Her bagels at Black Seed have quickly become NYC-famous. Uri Scheft has been knocking challah, and his other central-Asian fusion baked goods, out of the park in NYC. Breadbelly and La Chinoiserie, two bakery-cafes in the Bay Area, will make you everything from Kaya toast and cheesy brioche to black sesame croissants and multi-tiered unicorn cakes. Yum!

8. Firefighters

 

Like most public service positions that require life-threatening situations, firefighters have found it hard to recruit Asian Americans. The FDNY reported in 2017 that only 1.3% of firefighters are Asian American. But folks like Sarinya Srisakul (featured above), New York’s first female Asian American firefighter, were ready for the task. Brooklyn Firefighter Chi Ho Li though he would do engineering when he was young, but was attracted to “being there for the people of his city”. These guys and gals don’t have links or IG accounts to follow. Just know they’re out there for you.

We are confident in saying that this is just a pebble off of the mountain of Asian Americans pushing boundaries and challenging tropes. Who are some of your favorites? We’d love to hear about them.