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.

Why We Have High Hopes for I Feel Bad

 

The Asian summer – or the summer of 2018 as it was formerly known – might be over, but Asian representation on screen is far from showing any signs of slowing down. After the mega success of Crazy Rich Asians – now the highest grossing romantic comedy of the last decade – and the ever-growing appeal of Netflix’s To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before among teens and non-teens alike, looks like it’s time for Asian fall. As Crazy Rich Asians star and New York’s homegrown comic and DJ, Awkafina, becomes only the second Asian woman ever to host SNL (the first in 20 years), NBC is set to premiere Amy Poehler-backed I Feel Bad that revolves around the lives of a multi-generational Asian Indian family. Sarayu Blue, the Indian-origin actress you might have seen on The Big Bang Theory, Grey’s Anatomy and Veep, stars in the show as a second-generation Indian video game head designer trying not to “feel bad” as she manages her parents, husband, and three children.

Carrying forward the genre of family sitcoms, which in recent years has finally become more inclusive with Blackish (featuring an African-American family), One Day at a Time (Cuban-American) and our office fan-favorite Fresh Off The Boat (Chinese-American), I Feel Bad puts the inside jokes and family dynamics of an Asian Indian family on mainstream TV. While South Asian representation is at an all-time high with Mindy Kaling’s The Mindy Project and Champions, Priyanka Chopra’s Quantico and Aziz Ansari and Alan Yang’s Master of None, I Feel Bad showcases Desi families in the way that so far has only been seen in comedy sketches and online videos. Unlike Blackish or Fresh off the Boat, I Feel Bad’s family is not exclusively Asian Indian – Blue’s on-screen husband is played by Paul Adelstein, who is white. Yet, the show does an excellent job of portraying real life dynamics without straying into stereotypes and really hopes that you would notice how hard it’s worked to do that.

Sarayu Blue and Paul Adelstein star in I Feel Bad.

In a particularly telling scene with the grandparents, adorable cast members Madhur Jaffrey and Brian George spend a night with the kids and decide to dig into the sweet nostalgia of their youth. As George, the grandfather, starts his story with, “When I was in the village”, you think he is going to launch into a Master of None-style heartfelt story turned into a hardened lesson from his childhood, like so many characters of color on television in the recent past. But instead he and Madhur Jaffrey, as grandma, quickly assume a dance pose to reveal that the village in their story was in fact, Greenwich at the height of the disco era, much to their Gen-Z tween grandchildren’s disgust. What makes the show even more endearing is that the Asian Indian stories feel authentic and lived-in, seemingly written by Desi writers who have experienced them at some point in their own lives. The pilot, for example, revolves around Blue trying really hard to not turn into her mother, who would often reprimand her as a child by flinging a shoe in her direction — a hilarious but also somewhat disturbing reality for most people who have grown up in Desi households. In a later episode, one cabinet in their kitchen is dedicated to storing used plastic bags (often tucked away in another, much larger plastic bag in hopes of being recycled at some point) while other is just ‘spices’.

So far, the sitcom does a good job of showing that Emet and her family are like any other American household, just with their own set of quirks and mannerisms. But luckily for us, it does that without flattening the nuance of their Desi-ness or heritage. In fact, the show makes a concerted effort to not depict the characters as caricatures, especially from a mainstream point of view – we especially appreciate that despite being Indian, Emet is not some zen-Namaste brand of yogini. In fact, she has no interest in yoga at all. These subtleties in the writing, coming from comedic powerhouse Aseem Batra – best known for her work in Scrubs, give us hope for the rightful Desi representation on TV. We do have one question though. Where does one find Desi grandparents who kiss and slap each other’s butts when their children are in the house? Only on TV, of course!

Written by Yashica Dutt
Associate Creative Director

Who Are the Vintage Voices Behind Crazy Rich Asians’ Soundtrack?

(Photo: Business Wire)

WaterTower Music announced that on December 7th, 2018, they are releasing two very stylish vinyl versions of the Crazy Rich Asians Soundtrack: one in appropriate gold and one in emerald green. Noting that a majority of the soundtrack are revivals of classics, from Elvis Presley to Madonna, vinyl sounds like the perfect match.

We all know about the letter to Coldplay and Awkwafina’s rise to stardom. (If you don’t, please take a Google break.) But who are the voices behind the crooning covers of the vintage classics? We’ll take you through some of these stars who are the core inspiration for immortalizing the Crazy Rich Asians Soundtrack in vinyl.

1. Grace Chang – “Wo Yao Ni De Ai” and “Wo Yao Fei Shang Qing Tian”

Grace Chang, (a.k.a. Ge Lan) was born in 1934 during the Shanghai Golden Age of Jazz. Moving from her hometown in Nanjing, Grace grew up in Shanghai where the colonial-imported-music was all the rage. Soon after, she moved to Hong Kong with her family to pursue music as a career. She arrived on its shores as a teen excited to explore the bustling metropolis. It was 1948. Back in Shanghai, China was starting its crackdown on Western culture, and in a few more years, jazz would also be on the chopping block.

Once in Hong Kong, Grace quickly rose to fame. The starlet shone on the HK silver screen for a decade, her apple cheeks and fiery Jazz performances lighting up every scene. She worked consistently in film and music, from 1954 to 1964, when she took an early retirement for marriage and family. During her short-lived career she recorded in multiple languages, including Thai, in a Hong Kong-Thailand joint venture.

Probably the most popping and additive song on the soundtrack, Grace Chang’s “Wo Yao Ni De Ai” is a rendition of Louis Jordan’s “I Want You To Be My Baby”. It’s hard to shake after just one listen. Even the most elementary of Mandarin speakers (myself included) can shout out the lyrics with gusto.

“Wo Yao Fei Shang Qing Tian” was released on her 1961 Album, “Hong Kong’s Grace Chang”. Composed by Min Yao and Yi Wen, the song doesn’t appear to be a cover – unusual for a movement that relied heavily on Western influences.

2. Yao Lee – “Ren Sheng Jiu Shi Xi”

Yao Lee (a.k.a Yao Li) was born in China in 1922 and raised in Shanghai. Similar to Grace Chang, Yao Lee came of age during a spectacle time for jazz in Shanghai. At 13, Lee found herself on the radio and, a year later, recorded her first single. She was the voice behind the hit, “Rose, Rose, I Love You”, composed by Chen Gexin. The song was later covered by American Frankie Laine in 1951. Yes! That’s right! Yao Lee had it first! And it remains the only major pop music chart hit in the United States written by a Chinese composer. Lee’s Mandarin-version was even released in the US in the 50s. She was credited as “Miss Hue Lee”.

The silky voice of Yao Lee can transition from the sweet and high octaves in “Rose, Rose, I Love You” to low and sultry, like in “Ren Sheng Jiu Shi Xi”. She often teamed up with her famous brother, Yao Min, recording duets. Her work came to a halt when she married in 1947. But Shanghai’s golden age was on a timer. Like many of her colleagues, Lee fled China for Hong Kong in 1950.

Lee was able to restore her career in her new home, both on stage and on the silver screen. She stopped singing in 1967 when her brother passed away. She continued to support others in their pursuit of music by working with EMI Music Hong Kong.

3. Lilan Chen – “Ni Dong Bu Dong”

Lilan Chen was assuredly the most difficult of singers to track down on this list. Her wiki page is sparse and I had to get it translated by a co-worker. Born in Taiwan in 1951, Lilan gained the nickname “Queen of Blinking” because of her signature fluttering eyes. She was entering singing competitions while still in high school. In the late 60s, she also made her debut on TV shows and participated in the Taiwanese television program called Happy Birthday.

Lilan married in 1979, immigrated to the United States after marriage, and faded out of the entertainment industry.

“Ni Dong Bu Dong”, with its hip-shaking Cuban-inspired cha-cha-cha rhythm, has turned into a line-dancing favorite on YouTube. What is line dancing? Oh, you’re in for a treat.

Crazy Rich Asians didn’t just give us young millennials of 2018 representation on screen. It also brought back and paid homage to a lost generation of music and talent. The power of the arts can do that. It can bring life to the forgotten.

Written by XiaoHwa S. Ng
Digital Strategist

South Asian Influencers you should not be sleeping on

Up until a few years ago, all South Asians could claim for entertainment representation was The Simpsons’ Apu Nahasapeemapetilon – not a real last name, btw. While things are changing for the better, with more South Asian faces on film and screen, it’s online where the South Asian community, or Desi Twitter as we call it, can really find their voices. This is where South Asians get to bond over strict Desi parents, our collective love for biryani, and our collective rage over why everyone else can’t stop saying chai tea or naan bread when they essentially mean the same thing. We have our big beauty bloggers– Farah Dhukai and Nabela Noor, comedy YouTubers – Lilly Singh, Liza Koshy and JusReign, and insanely talented mash-up singers – VidyaVox. But the biggest influencers are the South Asians stars and actors that Desi twitter can’t seem to get enough of. Here’s a handy list of the biggest names who have us hanging on to their every word on social media.

Priyanka Chopra: Before she took over Hollywood, becoming the first South Asian actor to headline a major network drama with Quantico, Priyanka Chopra was (and still is) a Bollywood superstar. She worked in over 60 blockbuster movies, cut music albums, became the most followed Indian on Twitter and then moved to the US to produce a show casting herself as its lead. Since then, Chopra has been busy starring in the Baywatch reboot alongside Zac Effron and Dwayne ‘Rock’ Johnson and has major upcoming projects with two Chrises (Hemsworth and Pratt). Even before her stop-the-presses engagement with Nick Jonas, which caused a social media meltdown in both India and the US, PeeCee as her fans know her, caught constant media attention with her well-informed perspectives on being a brown woman in America.

IG: 27.8m Twitter: 23.2m

Mindy Kaling: There are a few reasons that a list filled with South Asian faces on American TV and film can now exist and one of them is Mindy Kaling. The OG South Asian woman on TV, Kaling wrote, starred in and later produced the beloved comedy, The Office. Her recurring role as the narcissistic Kelly Kapoor, a far cry from the muted wallpaper of South Asian women depicted on TV (if we saw them at all), remains a huge fan favorite even years after the show has ended. Soon after, she produced and starred in the groundbreaking The Mindy Project, playing a quirky rom-com loving, Ob-Gyn — another first for a South Asian woman on TV. She has since produced and starred in NBC’s Champions and has a major role in the upcoming Ocean’s 13 along with Rihanna and Anne Hathaway. We also love this new mom’s Instagram for her adorable baby food recipes, workout fails and red carpet fashion, where she regularly interacts with fans and supports up and coming South Asian talent.

IG: 3.4m Twitter: 11.9m

Kal Penn: There was a time in the late 90s and early 2000s when South Asian actors routinely played sidekicks or comic relief to the lead (mostly white) actor. And Kal Penn played almost all of them. It changed somewhat only in 2004 when he starred in Harold and Kumar, one of the biggest Asian comedy franchises, with Jon Cho. While Penn has since continued acting with popular roles in series like House and How I Met Your Mother, he was also the Associate Director for Public Engagement at the White House during the Obama administration. Even after moving on from that role, Penn has consistently used social media to speak for human rights and the unfair and racist typecasting of South Asians in Hollywood. In 2017, when a racist troll told him that he didn’t “belong in this country,” he used that comment to raise over $160K for refugees in Syria. He is soon coming out with his own book of essays.

Twitter: 599K IG: 137K

Jameela Jamil: This British-South Asian radio and television presenter was known for speaking her mind and standing up for women even before her stint as Tahani-Al-Jamil in the hit sitcom, The Good Place. Contrary to her role as the out-of –touch British heiress on TV, in real life Jamil has been dubbed as the social media vigilante women need. After struggling with anorexia as a teen, and recovering from a spine-crushing accident, Jamil is an outspoken advocate for body positivity. She has consistently called out the Kardashian sisters for promoting weight loss supplements and even started “I Weigh”, a user generated Instagram account where people describe how and why they ‘weigh’ more than their bodies or appearances.

IG: 365K Twitter: 325K

Tan France: Born to Pakistani parents in England, Tan France is one of the Fab Five from the breakout hit of the season, Queer Eye. As the stylist on the show, where five gay men help a participant make over different areas of their life, France is known for his empathetic and body positive makeovers. While relatively new in the American spotlight, France is already working with SNL’s Pete Davidson and writing a forthcoming memoir. On the show, he often talks about growing up gay in a Pakistani household in England and how that helped shape his identity. His Instagram is a refreshing mix of real life moments and style-inspo, which he also uses to engage with fans and the rest of the Queer Eye cast.

IG: 2m Twitter: 306K

When it comes to social media, it’s not always about the biggest numbers. While each of these celebrities has a huge following, what makes their social media shine is constant engagement. Apart from promoting their upcoming projects, they come across as real people who constantly speak to their followers. And that, in our opinion, is what turns a celebrity with a social media into a valuable influencer

Written by Yashica Dutt
Associate Creative Director