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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

A post shared by Doctors & Engineers (@doctorsandengineers) on

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

10 Asian American NYC Chefs with Delicious Instagram Feeds

Ask a chef what their biggest obstacle is, and it won’t be customers waiting at the door, or the art of sous-vide, or their mixologist quitting on a Saturday night. It will be the daily grind of social media. As one chef put it to me in an off-handed comment, “I can’t wait to stop taking pictures and actually get back to cooking”.

Food is visual. We eat with our eyes as much as our taste buds. Instagram hashtags like #foodie, #nomnom and #instayum have taken off, and there is no end in sight. From styling, plating and portrait-mode, to engagement numbers, and backend analytics – the chef’s life has slowly but surely become a life in front of a screen. It’s no wonder that many chefs now have someone dedicated to the task – personal social media managers, entire departments, or even agencies (we know one in particular – wink, wink).

But for chefs that reside the outer-reaches of general market cuisines, social media is a blessing-in-disguise.

“Instagram came to give a voice to chefs and to the food they serve.”
– 2-Michelin Star, Dominique Crenn, Wired Magazine.

Sure, finding 101 ways to take a picture of your cheeseburger might sound like a bore. But for the oceans of chefs in NYC, heralding dishes unfamiliar to the American regional scope, social media has given them a open window.

For years, Asian food has made a home on Instagram – demystifying cuisines long thought of as “exotic”. To advocate these chefs who are determined to bring your eyes to their food, here are OUR favorite New York City Instagram Chefs and restaurants, both famous and underground, who are worth following – and are worth a visit IRL too.

1. Bricolage – Chefs Lien and Edward Lin – Vietnamese Gastropub

Michelin Guide 2018, Bricolage has everything – their own dried beef jerky, bespoke cocktails and mouth-watering pork belly. What they do right on Social, is a combination of color, warmth and pics of real-life people, such as the Lien family, children included, at the restaurant.

2. Baoburg – Chef Bao Bao – Thai South East Asian Fusion

Stepping into Baoburg in Greenpoint, BK is like stepping into a noodle shop in Thailand, complete with sunny back patio and plastic stools. Wonder Woman, Chef Bao Bao relies on natural light plus an awfully cute cat and parrot.

3. Junoon – Chef Akshay Bhardwaj – Indian

Make your reservations in advance for Michelin Guide 2018 Junoon’s upscale Indian fare. Shooting typical Indian food is HARD! Junoon social success is due to it’s unexpected presentations – not bowl after bowl of soggy tikka masala.

4. Flip Sigi – Chef Jordan Andino – modern Filipino-Mexican

Flip Sigi has a playful touch with it’s Filipino-Mexican fare. They are good at using tiling effects in their feeds (and it helps that Celebrity Chef Jordan Andino is easy on the eyes).

5. Mokbar – Chef Esther Choi – Korean Ramen Bar

Chef Esther Choi has been kicking a$$ and taking names with her two Mokbar locations in Manhattan and Brooklyn. Her social style is all about natural light, brilliant colors and some mouth-watering noodle action.

6. Little Alley – Chef Yuchun Cheung – Shanghainese

Get a taste of Shanghai-inspired comfort food, complete with crispy-bottom bao, ma po tofu, and savory soup dumplings. Little Alley’s feed is not only filled with those savory dishes we yearn for but also of Shanghai life and culture, making the experience both yummy and inspirational.

7. Raku – Udon-centric Japanese

These guys don’t play around with their Udon. Cold or hot, Raku serves up delicious, chewy Udon every time – and other stuff too. Minimalism is the name of their game. Clean lines, balanced usage of shapes and colors, all bring Zen to Raku’s feed.

8. Kopitiam – Chef Kyo Pang – Traditional Malaysian Coffee House

Filled with spices, fusion, and flare, Kopitiam’s mission is to preserve the fading recipes of a cuisine infused with global influence. Relatively new, their social is still finding their balance but often we are surprised with an unusual and gorgeous image of Malay food or life.

9. Ho Foods – Owner Richard Ho – Taiwanese Beef Noodle Shop

Taiwanese-cuisine has finally found some traction in NYC. The warm and comforting bowls of beef noodle soup at Ho Foods are responsible. It’s all about the noodles so if you don’t mind bowl after steaming bowl, then this is the feed to follow.

10. Taco Mahal – Chef Danikkah Josan – Indian Tacos

Can you have too many tacos? Trick question. There’s no such thing as “too many tacos”. Not when Indian-Latina chefs like Danikkah Josan are stuffing these incredible morsels with so much goodness. And it’s hard to make a taco look healthy, vibrant and full of life, but Taco Mahal succeeds.

But it’s not just about pretty pictures. What all these talented restaurants and chefs do consistently is 1) stay relevant 2) keep posting 3) learn from your audience 4) engage, engage, engage 5) use Instagram as a gateway into your world, not just a recorder of history.

Did we miss a restaurant or a chef you think deserves mention? Comment. We’d love to see some more delicious pics.

 

Written by XiaoHwa S. Ng
Digital Strategist

For Asian Americans, the most anticipated weekend of the year finally arrived, and it was a triumph

Yup, you guessed it. It was the opening weekend of Crazy Rich Asians – the talk of the town, the watershed moment of Asians’ on-screen representation, the movie with the mission to achieve a thunderous success big enough to shake Hollywood.

And it has exceeded every expectation. The RomCom has wowed critics, gained a 92% fresh rating at Rotten Tomatoes, and has taken the top spot at the weekend box with a whopping $26.5 million – the highest grossing comedy debut of the year thus far and the highest opening for a RomCom in three years. Hundreds of thousands of Asian Americans have been eagerly and anxiously waiting and planning for this weekend. It is the moment of victory they have fought and dreamed for far too long.

 

From streaming to silver screen

Asian Americans’ journey to mainstream on-screen representation started decades ago, but the rising popularity of online video sharing platforms in the mid-2000 helped accelerate its progress. Often sidelined by Hollywood, Asian Americans have taken their stories to democratic platforms like YouTube where original content can shine. Fast forward to 2015. Realizing the mainstream appeal of Asian stories, ABC created Fresh Off the Boat, a comedy sitcom featuring an Asian immigrant family, which was a big leap from self-generated content to a professional production. What happened since has been histroic – Netflix launched Master of None starring Aziz Ansari and Ugly Delicious starring David Chang; Mindy Kaling and Awkwafina joined the dazzling cast of Oceans’ 8; Sandra Oh became the first Asian woman nominated for an Emmy in a lead actress category…and finally, the triumphant arrival of the all Asian cast major studio film on silver screen. Hollywood, are you finally feeling the heat?

 

From martial arts to desirable Asian men

Crazy Rich Asians challenges stereotypical depictions of Asians, which makes it feels real and modern.  The way news travels in an Asian family circle is depicted with near total accuracy – funny gifs and animated emojis crossing time zones on Instagram and WeChat, super active family chat groups that always include a few gossiping aunties. And, thank God (and the movie’s makers) for not forcing any martial arts scenes in the movie! Much to our delight, the movie actually brings a fresh breath of air by changing the clichéd Cinderella plot and shifting the balance of power to the middle class female lead rather than her ultra-rich boyfriend. Plus, against Hollywood’s troubled history of portraying Asian men, Crazy Rich Asians finally shows the world that there are plenty of gorgeous Asian men out there that everyone can swoon over.

 

From silence to #GoldOpen

What’s also groundbreaking is the way Asian Americans have rallied and supported the movie’s premier. Crazy Rich Asians bears the huge burden of proving its worth at the box office in order for Hollywood to recognize the value of Asian stories, and Asian Americans banded together to make sure that this would happen. A group of Silicon Valley Asian entrepreneurs came up with a social campaign idea called #GoldOpen, calling Asian Americans to host private screenings or buy out movie showtimes to help Crazy Rich Asians score a crazy rich opening weekend. Numerous Asian influencers – Instagram fashion guru Amiee Song, film makers Wongfu Brothers, roboticst Grant Imahara, entrepreneurs Boba Guys, WeChat blogger Much Ado, just to name a few – have enthusiastically promoted and contributed to the campaign. In fact we, an Asian American advertising agency, have also organized our own private screening event (and saw our State Farm Smart Living commercial in theater!) The ripple effect is enormous. Fandango says that advance online ticket sales are among the best results for a comedy release in 2018.

For brands, this social campaign is the most telling and convincing case, better than all research data, in illustrating the modern Asian American consumer profile – vocal, aspirational, social savvy, not crazy rich but certainly have a lot to spend, if you get them right.

 

OK, what’s next?

Crazy Rich Asians is no doubt a landmark success, and it is only the beginning. Asian Americans embody a vast array of cultural, linguistic and religious identities, and we should keep pushing the boundaries to tell fuller and deeper stories of them all, and eventually normalize Asians as complex and real characters on screen of all sizes.

For brands that want to win the hearts and minds of Asian Americans, the Crazy Rich Asians rules are loud and clear – keep your content authentic yet up-to-date, fun, social worthy, and oh please don’t stereotype.

We can’t wait to see it all happen.

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ADWEEK: See a Smart Home Go Rogue in New State Farm Campaign

ver the years, State Farm Insurance has emphasized that they are prepared to be there for you like the very best neighbor, whether your car breaks down or your “she-shed” is inexplicably engulfed in flames. With their newest campaign — and signature humor — the Asian-American audience is highlighted, with the 96-year-old insurance brand eager to come to the rescue, even if a menacing smart home goes off the rails.

(Read More on Ad Week)

Pixar’s Bao… Why Asian Americans Get It.

[Post Contains Spoilers]

Pixar’s #Bao, the short film that precedes #Incredibles2, is now the center of evolving discussions around cultural competence. There are polarized reactions from different cultural and racial groups. What was touching for some was confusing for perhaps many more.

As Asian Americans, we got it.

For 1st generation Asian immigrants, Bao reminds them of their parents – living far away in Asia and missing their children. For Chinese American Millennials, this emotion particularly intensifies because they are often their parents’ only child.

For 2nd generation American-born Asians, Bao can be a vivid retelling of a childhood memory, perhaps even a painfully effective guilt trigger.

But as a common result, Bao is visceral, and drives us to appreciate our once overly-protective and strict Asian parents, and the weight of their love.

Yes, the Bao is eaten in the end. It is a metaphor, and a brutally honest portrayal of the importance of food as a medium of affection in Asian culture.

Among all the online discussions about Bao, we see different opinions and debates, and it is good. Confusions are a good starting point that leads to open discussion and better understanding – the core spirit of cultural competence that is fiercely needed in today’s society.

Like or share this, if you agree with us. By the way, Bao, besides meaning “Dumpling”, also means “Dear Baby” in Mandarin.

Paying Premium: Aspiring, Affluent and Asian

An overview of the Spending Power of the new generation of Asian Americans.

Manhattan, New York: A middle-aged Chinese woman stands in front of a floor-to-ceiling glass window, looking at the lush Central Park view, and tells her broker to seal the deal on the apartment. She makes an offer of $6.5 million. She wants to send her daughter to Columbia or perhaps Harvard, so she needs to be in the center of the city. “How old is your daughter?” asks the broker. “Well, she is 2,” she answers.1
University of Illinois, Urbana–Champaign: A Chinese international student named Michael just moves to the US to attend college. The generous allowance provided by his parents is far above what he needs for normal campus expenditures, so Michael uses the excess cash and buys himself a Cadillac Escalade at $80,000.2 These real stories are just the tip of the iceberg, when it comes to describing the staggering spending power of Asian Americans. In multicultural marketing, the populous Hispanic and African American groups, by default, are many brands’ strategic focus. In terms of population, 56 million Hispanics & 44 million African Americans inevitably outweigh 18 million Asian Americans in the US.3 But if the benchmark shifts from population size to spending power per capita which is of significant importance to business, the prioritization will immediately see a dramatic shift towards Asian Americans, as their spending power per capita is nearly equivalent to that of Hispanics and African Americans combined.3 As a group, Asian Americans collectively have $825 billion4 to spend and this figure is growing at an unprecedented rate.

 

The Nouveau Riche

The remarkable economic power of Asian American consumers is largely attributed to the group’s high-speed demographic growth and rapidly evolving socioeconomic profile. Asian Americans are the fastest-growing (up 58% from 2000 to 2013) and most culturally diverse group in the US (primarily composed of 6 ethnicities – Chinese, Asian Indians, Filipinos, Vietnamese, Koreans and Japanese).5 The population increase is fueled significantly by recent arrivals. Amid a decade-long surge in Asian immigration, China and India have, as of 2014, replaced Mexico as the two largest sources of new immigrants to the US.6 Notably, unlike previous generations who fled to the US in the tumultuous ‘60s and ‘70s, recent Asian immigrants are coming from an ascending Asia. The majority grew up in urban middle class families and received solid educations before moving to the US for higher studies (mostly self-funded), job opportunities or family reunions. In the past few years, China and India have surpassed all other countries as the top two sources for the enrollment of international students at US colleges7 and as recipients of US visa programs for highly skilled workers.5 From smaller towns in the Midwest to metropolitan cities that line the coasts, Asian immigrants have become a uniquely vibrant source of income for local economies. But it’s not just the skilled. It’s also the rich. America remains inarguably the no.1 migration destination for wealthy Asians, particularly Chinese.8 In 2015, 84% of the investment-based US immigration program EB-5 visas, which require a minimum of $500,000, were issued to rich Mainland Chinese9, and there are plenty more on the wait list.

The influx of new immigrants along with the rise of American-born Asians are continuously boosting Asian Americans’ professional competitiveness and earning power. Comprising only about 6% of the nation’s population5, Asian Americans are overrepresented among professional-managerial workers in the US, particularly in technology and engineering, making up a disproportionally large employee base in Silicon Valley’s tech giants (34% of Google’s staff and 41% of Facebook’s).10 Interestingly, Asian Indian immigrants, benefiting from their native English proficiency, have demonstrated great strengths in advancing to the Executive Level in today’s US corporations. Pepsi, Microsoft, Google, Adobe all have Asian Indian CEOs. As a group, Asian Indians have the highest median household income ($101,591) and represent the very first US ethnic segment4 to have a median income of more than $100,000. With higher disposable income and desire for a better quality of life, Asian Americans are twice more likely than the US average to pay for a premium for quality and brands.5 They are 3 times more likely to shop at high-end department stores like Saks Fifth Avenue5, and 31% more likely to buy organic food.4 They tend to spend 70% more on skincare products4, and are nearly 2 times more likely to spend $300 or over on a watch.5

 

In the Spotlight

The stable stream of recent arrivals has brought Asian Americans’ foreign-born rate up to 75%5, the highest among all US ethnicities, infusing and energizing a contemporary Asian bilingual and bicultural lifestyle. Influenced by the burgeoning economy of emerging Asian markets and empowered by the swift global exchange of digital technology and social media, recent Asian American immigrants and second generations, many of whom are raised with cultural sustainability, have stronger cultural confidence and exert growing influence on the US mainstream, especially on digital and social channels. Eddie Huang, Chinese American TV personality and Fresh off the Boat author, recently collaborated with MeUndies to create bold content that defies racial stereotypes and man body anxiety. Jason Wang, a Chinese American restaurateur and businessman, transformed his father’s small Flushing tea shop into the New York City culinary phenomenon Xian Famous Foods, which counts Anthony Bourdain among its returning customers. The witty performance of Asian Indian comedian and writer Hasan Minhaj at the 2017 White House Correspondents’ Dinner has gone viral and swept the country. There are also active key opinion leaders in culture and fashion like Ryan Higa and Amiee Song. With original content, they interact with millions of followers over social media on a daily basis and cast a deep influence on a wide range of audiences including the mainstream. For brands, these thriving innovators have forged new opportunities to engage with the affluent yet savvy Asian American consumers.

 

The Asians are Coming

In today’s ultra-connected world, where consumer segmentation has become increasingly complex and fluid, there is another massive opportunity for American brands – Asian international tourists. In the year of 2016, approximately 11 million Asian international tourists visited the US, and among the rankings of annual tourist growth, the top 5 are all Asian countries with China taking the lead as the only country seeing double-digit growth.11 Taking the popular destination New York City as an example, Chinese have surpassed Brazilians and Canadians and will overtake British by 2022 to become the largest tourist group to the city.12 Their overwhelmingly high spending, average $8,000 per person per trip13, surely is exciting news for the US tourism and hospitality industry. Moving from tourism to participating in the American real estate market, affluent Chinese have outpaced all other foreign home buyers with their dollar volume exceeding the total of the next four ranked countries combined14, and their average property price in 2015 was $831,800, compared to $499,600 for all other international buyers.15 So, could the timing be any better than right now to start talking to the Asian Americans? Now, back to the real-life stories we started with: The luxury condo bought by the anonymous Chinese woman at $6.5 million has now shot up in value to $8.9 million1, and Michael has already replaced his Cadillac with a $100,000 Maserati Quattroporte, at the end of his freshman year.2

References

  1. Melissa Locker, 2013, Chinese Mom Buys $6.5 Million New York City Apartment for 2-Year-Old, TIME. Com
  2. Mark Johansson, 2016, A lust for speed: young, rich Chinese Americans in rural America, BBC.com
  3. Nielsen, 2015, The Multicultural Edge: Rising Super Consumer report
  4. Nielsen, 2016, ASIAN-AMERICANS: Culturally Diverse And Expanding Their Footprint, the Asian American Consumer 2016 Report
  5. Nielsen, 2013, Significant, Sophisticated, And Savvy, the Asian American Consumer 2013 Report
  6. Jieqian Zhang, Paul Overberg and Andrew Van Dam, 2016, The New Face of American Immigration, WSJ.com
  7. Devon Haynie, 2014, Number of International College Students Continues to Climb, Usnews.com
  8. Scott Cendrowski, 2014, Why China’s rich are leaving, Forturn.com
  9. Abby Schultz, 2017, U.S. Investment Visa May Jump to $1.35 Million, Barrons.com
  10. Lakshmi Gandhi, 2014, New Numbers Reveal Asian Wage Gap in Tech, nbcnews.com
  11. Forecast of International Travelers to the United States by Top Origin Countries, 2016, U.S. Department of Commerce, International Trade Administration, National Travel and Tourism Office; Statistics Canada; Banco de Mexico.
  12. Patrick McGeehan, 2016, Chinese, Spending Freely, Become Ever-Larger Tourism Force in New York, NYTimes.com
  13. Alex Linder, 2016, Chinese tourists spent $74 million PER DAY in the United States last year, Shanghaiist.com
  14. Diana Olick, 2016, Foreign buyers flood US real estate, but buy cheaper homes, cnbc.com
  15. Paul Welitzkin, 2016, Chinese invest $110b in US real estate since 2010, Chinadaily.com

Written By: Selina Guo, Senior Strategist, Admerasia