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CULTURE AMBASSADOR

LIVI ZHENG

CHANGEMAKER

TAN FRANCE D I R ECTO R

JON M. CHU

VA N G UA R D

CRAZY RICH ASIANS

ACTO R I N F I L M

JOHN CHO

C U LT U R E - S O C I A L J U ST I C E

AMANDA NGUYEN

D I G I TA L I N F LU E N C E R

BREAK OUT IN TELEVISION CASSEY HO


MANNY JACINTO
AT H L E T E O N A N OT H E R L E V E L

NAOMI OSAKA

ACTO R I N T E L E V I S I O N

SANDRA OH

SAT U R DAY , D EC E M B E R 8 , 2 0 1 8

T H E B EV E R LY H I LTO N
98 7 6 W ILS HI RE B LV D .
B EV E R LY HI LLS, CA

W W W.U N F O R G E T TA B L EG A L A .CO M

B R E A KO U T I N F I L M

LANA CONDOR

C U LT U R E - L I F EST Y L E

BEN BALLER
Contents
D EC E M B E R 2 0 1 8 | VO L . 1 | I S S U E 3
PUBLISHER’S LETTER

LIVE-WORK “Let us celebrate our success this year.” Photo by Glenn Koenig/Los Angeles TImes

The Power Issue


As Asian Americans grow in influence and prestige in the
field of entertainment, so too does the Unforgettable Gala,
the celebration that honors them.

The photo above was taken about four years ago What Crown Prince Andrew Lee and LTM have they also shared the belief that there was still a
at the KORE Asian Media office in Gardena, Cali- done for KORE has given me a lot of confidence that long way to go in how we are represented on screens
fornia, by the L.A. Times. I have a somber expression what we are doing here is worthwhile. By investing big and small.
on my face because we were anticipating the clos- millions of dollars, LTM has shown that they believe This year we can truly say that Asian Americans
ing of our predecessor print magazines, KoreAm in our cause, uplifting myself and our staff to do have succeeded on so many levels. Let us celebrate
and Audrey. At times like that, you really wish you what we do. That’s more power than anything that our success this year. I can’t wait to hear what
had more power because you’re basically helpless. I can ever have on my own. all the speeches will sound like this time around.
It would’ve made a huge difference for me, emo- What started off 17 years ago as a modest Let us toast the Unforgettable honorees, who you
tionally, knowing what I know now—that we would gathering of entertainment people celebrating will get to know in the following pages, as well
somehow come out of this, stronger than ever. friendship has turned into something much big- as Netflix’s VP of Original Documentary and
When London Trust Media stepped in and pur- ger—the Unforgettable Gala, where we recognize Comedy Programming Lisa Nishimura and Lyrica
chased us, relieving me of so many sleepless nights, Asian American talent who continue to inspire Okano, one of the most exciting new superheroes
I realized then that the period of uncertainty was those striving to be the best. I noticed that our to hit the slanted screen. Cheers!
necessary to become what we are today. Sometimes, award recipients often said the same thing: As
power is given to you. Sometimes power comes to they gave thanks and acknowledged how far Asian
you through other people. Americans have come in media and entertainment, JAMES RYU, Publisher

D EC E M B E R 2 0 1 8 / KO R E M AGA Z I N E 9
CONTENDER

STAND UP “My responsibility is to live my life openly.” Photo by Luke Fontana

10 D EC E M B E R 2 0 1 8 / KO R E M AGA Z I N E
CONTENDER

Body Politic
Stand-up comedian, actor and writer Nik Dodani says being
proud to be brown and gay is a political act.
TEXT BY SALONI GAJJAR

Stand-up comedian Nik Dodani, 24, stars in Stephen Colbert: “It’s tough being Indian and gay show; he remembered how topical and culturally
CBS’s astute revival of the hit late-’80s/’90s sitcom because Indian culture is still pretty homophobic, relevant it was from when he watched reruns with
Murphy Brown. His character Pat Patel, the resident which is weird to me because Indian culture is also his mother. “The show is a nice opportunity to
social media expert on Murphy Brown’s morning pretty gay. Just last year Bollywood released 1,100 work on something that tackles the hard stuff, but
talk show, is tasked with teaching the crew about movies. Every single one of them, a musical.” with humor involved,” he said.
the modern reality of covering the news through a Dodani worked on Elizabeth Warren’s 2012 Sen- This humor comes in different forms, whether
social media lens. ate campaign and with RALLY, the issue-driven through not-so-subtle digs at a Fox News-esque
Although this show is his big break into network communications firm whose clients include the right-wing media outlet called the Wolf Network,
television, the Indian American actor is also in the American Civil Liberties Union and Time’s Up. where Murphy’s son works, or Pat forcing Murphy
Netflix comedy Atypical, recently renewed for a During the 2016 election, he teamed up with to join Twitter, inevitably leading to a war of words
third season. He will appear in the psychological progressive advocacy group MoveOn to organize with President Donald Trump, with whom she once
thriller film Escape Room, releasing in January 2019. Laughter Trumps Hate, a political comedy tour. went on a date.
His talent extends to the written word, too. He “It was a necessary but exhausting experience, I His alter ego on Murphy Brown may be a social
will adapt Rakesh Satyal’s 2009 book Blue Boy, a will admit,” he said. “But I want to do more such media whiz, but for Dodani, meaningful discus-
coming-of-age story centered on an Indian Ameri- creative stuff that relates to these issues. A part of sions are more powerful than tweets. “In the last
can queer boy, for the big screen. me really just wants to stay positive and play the two years, it’s become Trump’s Twitter, and I
“I think for me, my responsibility is to live my role of someone who is keeping it light and provid- choose not to engage with it. I think having actual
life openly, and allow that to speak for itself. In a ing humor and relief.” conversations in real life with friends, family,
lot of ways, just being an openly queer person of It’s a good thing then he’s a series regular on co-workers and people you meet day to day is way
color who is living and thriving is political now,” Murphy Brown because the Candice Bergen-led more effective for political discourse.” Dodani is
he said. reboot dives into current issues, including #MeToo, loud and clear, making an impact in his Twitter-
He joked in an appearance on The Late Show with DACA and fake news. It’s what drew Dodani to the free zone with his work, on and off-screen.

LIVE FREE OR TIE HARD “The show is a nice opportunity to work on


something that tackles the hard stuff with humor involved.”
Photo by David Giesbrecht/Warner Bros.

D EC E M B E R 2 0 1 8 / KO R E M AGA Z I N E 11
COLUMN

Shoots
&
Ladders

As the year wraps up,


more Asian Americans
get TV deals, make
movies and acquire
powerful industry jobs.
TEXT BY TAE HONG
ILLUSTRATION BY VIDHYA NAGARAJAN

Entertainment news to keep you in the know, went viral earlier this year? It’s birthed a new TBS a film based on Billion Dollar Whale: The Man Who
from the new KTown series on HBO to the on- reality show, tentatively titled Unqualified, which Fooled Wall Street, Hollywood and the World, the true
going corporate musical chairs at studios and will have the pair trying out odd jobs like rent-a-cop and bizarre tale of Malaysian con man and inter-
streaming platforms. and kindergarten substitute teacher. national fugitive Jho Low, who famously bought
And Cary Fukunaga, who’s directing the next his way into Leonardo DiCaprio’s inner circle and
TV Bond film, is working with David Lowery to make a allegedly helped finance The Wolf of Wall Street.
It feels like we’re entering a new age for Asian Amer- TV adaptation of the cult ’80s sci-fi movie Explorers
icans on television. Here are a few projects going for Paramount Television. No word yet on whether
into development: Jason Kim and Greta Lee, there’s a network attached. CORPORATE
who will also star, are working on a dark comedy There’s a lot of shifting at NBCUniversal. It saw
for HBO titled KTown, which will tell the story of FILM two executives—Momita SenGupta and Stacey
a Los Angeles Korean American woman named Has anyone had a better year than Henry Golding, Fung—leave for Netflix. SenGupta will act as the
Yumi who reconnects with her roots. Over at NBC, everyone’s favorite new leading man? In addition streaming giant’s vice president of physical produc-
Christina Kim, the writer and executive producer to a date being set for his holiday romance flick tion for original series, which includes live-action
of Blindspot, has received a script commitment from with Emilia Clarke, Last Christmas—that’s Nov. 15, kids series and majors/indie TV; Fung has come
the network to bring a Korean American drama 2019—he’s joined Toff Guys, Guy Ritchie’s new crime aboard as director of the international originals
to life; the show will focus on three half-Korean drama also starring Matthew McConaughey and team, with a focus on the Brazilian market.
women who are heiresses to an Asian food empire. Kate Beckinsale. Jeff Li, who was head of NBCUniversal’s Ven-
We’re also getting a new single-camera comedy for Dev Patel is making his directorial debut with tures, has also moved on. During his 12 years there,
ABC starring Hannah Simone, whose The Greatest Monkey Man, an action-revenge pic set in India. he helped launch new businesses for networks
American Hero pilot failed to get picked up last year. Patel, who also co-wrote, will play an ex-convict like USA, Syfy and Chiller TV. Now he fills the chief
Simone, who will also write and executive produce, who faces a world “enmeshed in corporate greed operating officer seat at Serial Box, a serialized
has based the show on her real-life nontraditional and eroding spiritual values.” Production kicks off e-book and audio story service.
Indian family. In the same vein, comedian Michael in spring next year. And Holly Tang, who was chief financial offi-
Yo is developing a multigenerational family comedy The latest Asian American book up for a film cer at Bravo and Oxygen, is now head of production
for Fox. The autobiographical project will star Yo adaptation is David Yoon’s Frankly in Love, which for NBCUniversal’s lifestyle network segment and
as one half of a young couple with a newborn baby has yet to hit bookstores. Ally Entertainment and CFO for Universal Kids.
whose lives are thrown into chaos when his black Paramount Players will produce. The young adult Skydance Media has a new head of theatrical
father and Asian mother enter the picture. novel, out next year, follows the story of a Korean and interactive business and legal affairs in Jun Oh,
Meanwhile, remember that epic rap battle American teen living in Southern California. who was at Global Road Entertainment, which filed
between Ken Jeong and Shaquille O’Neal that Crazy Rich Asians star Michelle Yeoh is producing for bankruptcy in September.

12 D EC E M B E R 2 0 1 8 / KO R E M AGA Z I N E
SUPERNATURAL Claudia Kim plays Nagini in
Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald.
Photo by Jaap Buitendijk/Warner Bros.

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MASALA

Slither In
Tired of being pigeonholed as the ice queen
archetype back in Korea, Claudia Kim found
opportunities to shine in the U.S.
TEXT BY TAE HONG

Here’s a story-in-reverse you don’t hear often: to just be there and be some kind of weak supporter
Claudia Kim came to Hollywood because it was for men. I decided that I didn’t want to be viewed
willing to offer her more diverse roles than she could as this person who just speaks English and has that
get in her native South Korea. cold look. So I stopped, and I was waiting for some-
Unlike her contemporaries, from Doona thing new, and that’s when I started auditioning
Bae and Kim Yunjin to Lee Byung-hun or even for U.S. projects.”
Daniel Henney, Kim was never a household name She’ll tell you straight away that she’s Korean,
in Korea before crossing over—she had only a not Korean American, as some assume. The truth
handful of supporting K-drama roles under her is, identity’s been a source of inner conflict ever
name. And most of those parts were her playing the since she was a kid. When she’s stateside, she feels
ice queen archetype. too Asian; and when she’s in Korea, she doesn’t feel
Kim got tired of the limitations the industry quite entirely Korean.
there (where she goes by her Korean name Soo Playing Nagini has come with its own challenges,
Hyun) seemed to have for her. So, equipped with her some external—many, wary of stereotyping and
accent-free English acquired from the half-decade objectification, are critical of the snake being played
spent in the U.S. as a child, she began auditioning by an Asian woman. And then there’s the fact that
for American projects. Immediately she was told she’s a cursed woman fated to one day become the
that crossing over was impossible. pet for He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named. This new
Her naysayers have been proven wrong. With film shows little of the Nagini we’ve known so far
a quiet sincerity that shines through on screen, in the Harry Potter universe. Here, she knows her
she’s successfully booked roles in blockbusters humanity (or should that be witchery) is running
like Avengers: Age of Ultron and The Dark Tower, out, but isn’t willing to resign herself to that fact.
as well as the Netflix historical drama Marco Polo, “She’s such a beautiful and fragile person, and yet
spurring Korean headlines to ask, “Where did she has such power inside,” Kim said. “She just
Claudia Kim come from?” Her latest turn as Nag- hasn’t discovered it yet.”
ini in Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald is Perhaps, it’s just as true of Kim. It feels like she’s
one of her meatiest roles to date. just getting started. And now that the door, and a
“There’s such a limitation in Korean projects, bigger range of possibilities, is opening just a bit
especially for women in their 20s and 30s,” Kim said. wider for her, she’s more than ready to step right
“I refused to do certain roles that required women through—in both Korea and Hollywood.

D EC E M B E R 2 0 1 8 / KO R E M AGA Z I N E 17
MASALA

Chao
Hound
Minh Phan honors and elevates
a traditional Vietnamese dish at
Porridge + Puffs.
TEXT BY MARY GRACE COSTA

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MASALA

She Works
How the prolific Filipino American actor/writer Ginger Gonzaga
booked the Jim Carrey show Kidding.
TEXT BY BONNIE HE

A cheerful voice is on the other end of the phone. In Kidding, Gonzaga acts opposite Carrey, who one of her other creative pursuits. “I was secretly
Ginger Gonzaga is happy to talk, although it takes also stars as Jeff Pickles, a beloved children’s tele- shadowing Michel Gondry,” admitted Gonzaga,
a second to steer the conversation back toward her. vision host a la Mr. Rogers. Her character Vivian is who loved being around the visionary French direc-
She is genuinely fascinated with other people, like a terminal cancer patient who becomes Jeff’s love tor. “His brain works very different from my brain.
observant actors often are. interest while he’s progressing toward a mental With Michel Gondry, I’m like, ‘What?!’”
The multifaceted actress has developed a prolific breakdown. In Vivian’s five-episode arc, Gonzaga Gonzaga recently made her own directorial
portfolio in just a few short years, booking roles delivers a down-to-earth performance that is also debut with a short film titled Your Day, which she
across almost every cable channel and stream- tear-inducing. also wrote, produced and starred in, opposite Jason
ing platform. Her upcoming jobs include the fifth That she’s so captivating makes it hard to believe Ritter. Originally written as a pitch for a Room
season of Grace and Frankie and Paul Rudd’s new that acting wasn’t her first conscious creativ- 104 episode at the request of Mark Duplass, it was
Netflix series, Living with Yourself. She’ll also be ity choice. “I was lying to myself because I told deemed too dark for the series. As a short film, it
in the Duplass brothers’ anthology series Room 104 myself I didn’t want to be an actor,” she says. Writ- ended up being the perfect vehicle of empowerment
this year. ing, Gonzaga felt, seemed like a more plausible path and control for Gonzaga, who’s looking to do more
She booked Kidding “the old fashioned way,” by “because there were not a lot of ethnic actors” at the behind-the-camera work.
auditioning and ultimately having director and exec- time. She started her entertainment career study- She finds strength in her writing background.
utive producer Michel Gondry choose her tape. But ing with the improv comedy school The Ground- “Whenever I was [acting] on a show where I didn’t
it is also a reunion of sorts for her, having already lings, hoping to be a writer for Family Guy. But when feel funny or have control over my own character, I
worked with its creator, Dave Holstein, and exec- she interviewed to be a production assistant, she would try to write a lot more,” she says. When you
utive producer Jim Carrey on another Showtime failed.“Because I could not lift a water cooler bottle!” write for yourself, she says, “You can play whatever
series, I’m Dying Up Here. Being on the set of Kidding could also help with you want to play.”

TRUE GRIN “I was lying to myself because I told myself I didn’t want to be an actor.” Photo Courtesy of Erica Parise/Showtime.

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MASALA

Tales of
Extraordinary Madness
Jessica Gao is digivolving from Emmy Award-winning writer to creator
and showrunner of her own ABC series.
TEXT BY MARY GRACE COSTA
PHOTO BY GIOVANNI CARDENAS

It was inevitable that cartoon superfan Jessica 2014. The episode “Signaling Risk,” in which venture With those two milestones in the bag, Gao’s
Gao would transition from watching cartoons to capitalist Erlich Bachman hires a graffiti artist to hard at work on her next big project—an ABC
creating them. “It’s just the next step in your create a logo for the newly minted Pied Piper com- comedy starring an Asian family. The project
Pokemon evolution,” she said. pany, was Gao’s first at-bat writing for a show that doesn’t have a title yet, but it will center on Janet
A television writer and producer best known for wasn’t aimed at children. “You tend to get pigeon- Zhao, a first-generation Chinese American who is
her work on Adult Swim’s Rick and Morty, in par- holed in those genres,” Gao said. “If that’s where forced to square with her estranged relatives after
ticular the fan-favorite episode “Pickle Rick,” Gao you start, it’s very hard to break out of it. Silicon Val- she’s inherited her wealthy grandmother’s fortune.
knows how to bring a character’s vulnerability to ley allowed me to be seen as a ‘legitimate’ writer by The premise of the show is (unfortunately for Gao)
the forefront of any story, even if that character is other shows.” completely fictional, but many of its themes and
Rick, a brilliant, deranged scientist. Her ability to The second was writing “Pickle Rick,” which characters have been drawn from true experiences.
peel back the top layers of the notoriously irrev- earned the series the best animated program Emmy. “To me, the tightrope that Asian Americans have
erent show on Adult Swim has wowed fans and In the absurd and absurdly violent 23-minute epi- to walk is navigating between two cultures that
critics alike, won her an Emmy and led to a deal sode, Gao uses the show’s madness as a means are often at odds with each other,” Gao said.
with ABC to develop a family comedy. through which we find truth—in the episode, Rick “It’s hard to grow up American when your family is
As a latchkey kid, Gao spent much of her child- turns himself into a literal pickle to get out of a solidly Asian.”
hood watching cartoons and reading. She studied family therapy session. That, of course, backfires Gao hopes to zero in on that tricky tightrope of
art in college, but didn’t find work in her field when he loses the serum to turn himself back into values in her new series. She wants to ask Asian
after graduation. It wasn’t until she landed a writ- a human, forcing Pickle Rick to create an exo- Americans the tough questions: “How do you set
ing fellowship with Nickelodeon years later that skeleton out of rats and cockroaches to make him- healthy boundaries with your family when setting
she went back to art and reignited her passion self mobile, shoot and kill his way out of a heavily boundaries is seen as as disrespecting or rejecting
for storytelling. armed building and, ultimately, end up on the your family? Is there some magical middle ground
Gao’s had two key turning points in her career therapist’s couch anyway, surrounded by family, where everyone is satisfied? Or is one side always
since then. The first was when she got hired to write to confront the one thing he has no real control going to be unhappy?” Gao added, “The biggest
for HBO’s Silicon Valley for its premiere season in over: his own genius. conflict of the series is self-care versus family.”

ANIMANIAC “It’s hard to grow up American when your family is solidly Asian.”

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joseon.kr
MASALA

Love Like Blood


Hirokazu Kore-eda’s critically acclaimed film, Shoplifters, calls into question
nature versus nurture.
TEXT BY SERENA KIM

When I ask Kore-eda about the inspiration for


this blockbuster film, his answer works its way
through the translator and over to me, like a game
of telephone.
“When I look back, I think of when my daugh-
ter was born and that I was really, really busy with
work,” he says. “I hardly had any time to spend
with her at all. I started to wonder, is blood connec-
tion sufficient? And it became a really persistent
issue with me. I was trying to understand if it
was the amount of time that makes a family, or
if it’s blood that makes a family. And as a sort of
urgent need to resolve that, I worked through it
by writing the script and then making the film
Like Father, Like Son.”
In that 2014 film, an educated and well-heeled
nuclear family realizes that their 6-year-old son
was actually switched at birth with that of a work-
ing-class family. Heartache ensues. But long after
ONE DIRECTION Hirokazu Kore-eda on the set. the film wrapped, the question of blood versus
Photos courtesy of Magnolia Pictures. love continued to nag at him.
“In Japanese society, blood ties are absolutely
the most important thing,” explains Kore-eda.
Stationed in the luxe environs of the London Hotel her English answers. A man quietly turns the pages “They are emphasized, and I don’t think that will
in West Hollywood, California, Hirokazu Kore-eda’s of a newspaper at a nearby table. And a woman sits change. But for me it became important over time
deep in the throes of the press circuit for his new on the edge of the bed observing. to look at also what it is to explore a family that is
movie, Shoplifters. The vibe in his suite is so seri- His latest Japanese-language film portrays a not tied by blood.”
ous and businesslike, I feel like I stepped into Sofia ragtag family of sorts who commit petty crimes Hence, Shoplifters. In the beginning, a poorly
Coppola’s 2003 movie Lost in Translation. The for survival. Central to the plot is their discovery dressed “father” (Lily Franky) and a “son” (Jyo
beloved auteur sits on a sofa pondering questions of a neglected little girl whose appearance leads to Kairi) are going through their oft-rehearsed choreo-
that are translated to him. His translator, a white grave legal problems for the family. Shoplifters graphy of shoplifting essentials from a supermar-
woman with short white hair, communicates his won the prestigious Palme d’Or at the 2018 Cannes ket. As they wander home through freezing-cold
answers carefully, capturing the indirectness and Film Festival and was this year’s highest-grossing back streets, they notice a little girl (Sasaki Miyu)
excruciating politeness of the Japanese language in domestic film in Japan. playing on an apartment veranda, while hearing

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MASALA

TO CATCH A THIEF Lily Franky stars as a father figure in Shoplifters.

fighting inside the house. The girl seems despondent As the movie gracefully unfurls, the viewer a doubt, genes play a huge role in the way people
and neglected. Their hearts are moved, and they realizes that the relationships between the fam- turn out, but what role does love play? How many
allow her to follow them home, legal consequences ily members are absolutely nothing like what they of us forge bonds with people who aren’t from
be damned. seem. Instead of being connected by blood, these the same race or ethnicity but with whom we
The scene at their house is far different. A rough- individuals have found each other through cir- connect through common experiences and val-
talking “grandmother” crudely clips her toenails at cumstance. And together they eke out a meager yet ues? Perhaps Kore-eda’s white Japanese-speaking
the dinner table. There’s also an “older sister” type meaningful existence. translator can understand him infinitely better
who examines her face in the mirror and a “mother” After I saw the movie and talked to Kore-eda, I than I can, despite our shared Asiatic features.
who is shocked at the appearance of the 4-year-old couldn’t stop pondering the ways in which humans Perhaps, not. In this era of debate around immi-
girl who calls herself Yuri. The grandmother exam- define our tribes, whether it be through the kinship gration and otherness, considering these bonds is
ines the little girl and finds scars on her arms. of DNA or the shared values of culture. Without especially prescient.

D EC E M B E R 2 0 1 8 / KO R E M AGA Z I N E 27
GIRL CRUSH
“There’s a huge part of me
that still feels like, is this
really happening? Is this
my life?”

Elaine Kim Coat


Yori Collection Turtleneck
Lili Sidonio Sweater
Complex Girl Store Earrings

32 D EC E M B E R 2 0 1 8 / KO R E M AGA Z I N E
FE ATU RE

The Outsider
We asked Lyrica Okano how she became the
bisexual star of Marvel’s Runaways. Here’s what happened.
TEXT BY TAE HONG
PHOTOS BY NOLWEN CIFUENTES

Every morning, Lyrica Okano wakes up at 7 a.m. long after arriving, they had their daughter and
She cleans, cooks a meal and delivers a pep talk became a part of a tight-knit Japanese community
to her reflection in the mirror. “You can do this,” in the Upper West Side. Her mom and dad found
she’ll say. “It’s another day. Yesterday, we had stable jobs, as an I.T. tech and a Japanese teacher,
difficulties. But today I have a feeling we can do respectively. That’s how Okano grew up, going
better. If not, tomorrow is another day. You’re beau- to Saturday get-togethers with the other neigh-
tiful. You’re important. You’re kind. You deserve the borhood Japanese American kids and taking
world. Go for it.” karate lessons with her friends.
For Okano, this daily ritual serves a few purposes, As a kid, she was restless and had more energy
the first being to give her day a sense of routine, than her parents knew what to do with. To help get
which isn’t uncommon for world-class athletes. it out of her system, they enrolled her in a once-a-
Before embodying girl-crush queen Nico Minoru week gymnastics class when she was 4 years old.
in Hulu’s Marvel series Runaways, she had been Not long after that, a coach recognized her talent
so good at rhythmic gymnastics that she was a and recommended she start competing. Then
member of the U.S. national team and a contender when she turned 11, she quit school altogether to
to make the Olympics. train eight hours a day, seven days a week. “I gave
Another reason is that there’s always room for everything up,” Okano says. “My whole life revolved
self-improvement. Okano readily admits that her around gymnastics.” At 14, she made the national
weakness has always been self-expression and that team, a huge achievement—but she was lonely and
her strength has been perseverance, a quality she isolated.
shares with her on-screen persona. Nico discovers When it became too much to stand, she had to
her sorcerer parents are part of a criminal organi- quit the sport. “I realized I didn’t have any social
zation of supervillains, who become the enemies of skills,” she says. “I couldn’t look people in the eyes.
their children. And in this amped-up intergenera- I was always raised to please people and listen to
tional duel, these Runaways have all inherited their what other people tell me to do.”
parents’ superpowers. At the time, she struggled with the idea of belong-
Okano’s real parents, both musicians, emigrated ing. In school in Manhattan, she’d been bullied as
from Tokyo in the early ’90s, drawn to the Big the only Asian girl in her classes. She told her parents
Apple’s underground and punk music scene. Not she wanted to attend high school in Japan, where

Styling by Sondra Choi.


Hair/Makeup by Francie Tomalonis.
Photography assisted by Giovanni Cardenas.

D EC E M B E R 2 0 1 8 / KO R E M AGA Z I N E 33
FE ATU RE

Lyrica brings
authenticity
to Nico.
Sometimes
that’s steely
toughness.
Other times
that’s rawness
and vulnerability,
but without
ever a false note.
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Elaine Kim Turtleneck
Wow Couture Sweater
Alpha & Omega Dress
Complex Girl Store Earrings

D EC E M B E R 2 0 1 8 / KO R E M AGA Z I N E 35
WOMAN LIKE ME
“It’s just another love story.”

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FE ATU RE

everyone looked like her. But reality was harsh: has thrust Okano’s Nico into the spotlight, as the
Okano’s elementary Japanese-language skills and de facto head of the group, and at the center of the
American mannerisms set her apart in Kyoto, too, show’s romance arc.
so that at the end of two years there she was just In Season 1, Nico seeks solace in a relationship
as lonely as ever. “I was an outsider. I didn’t know with fellow Runaway Alex, but eventually ends up
how to fit in,” she says. “That experience taught drawn to Karolina, another member of the group.
me that it’s not where I am, it’s who I am and how I Nico and Karolina are the first openly lesbian
see myself—that’s where I belong.” superheroes in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
Her friend Yuka Taga says Okano has always “The important thing is just to play [Nico] honestly,”
displayed an abnormal level of discipline. “Lyrica Okano says. “She’s just a girl who likes another
can’t half-ass anything, and she thinks that’s a girl. Also, she’s liked a boy before. It’s just another
problem. I was in public school, but she was already love story.”
becoming a professional,” Taga, who’s also an Nico’s arc also includes the death of her sister
actress, recalls. “Her parents said, ‘You’re not going before the events of this series, which leaves her
to school. You have to be the best at gymnastics.’ crushed and vulnerable. And it’s why she wears
And she really was.” the heavy makeup and dark clothing and prac-
Taga and Okano go way back, to when they were tices Wicca—to mask the pain. It’s a backstory
both in diapers. All they did as kids was play pre- that doesn’t exist in the original comics, and adds
tend, make up stories and act out picture books. a layer of tragedy to the role. In contrast to her
That’s translated into somewhat of a filmmaking tough demeanor, she’s one of the most emotionally
partnership—Okano’s first producing credit was fragile heroes in the Runaways.
for Taga’s first short film, Remembering Virginia, in “I was also never taught how to express,” Okano
which Okano also acted. Just before Okano booked says. “As a gymnast, you’re just supposed to do your
Runaways, they collaborated on another short about job and not complain. ... So as a teenager, I would
runaway teens. spend hours in front of the mirror doing makeup
A career in acting is a choice Okano says she made just to leave the house every day so that I could
for herself, and no one else. She’s stuck with it some have some kind of control in my life—I felt so much
10 years now. That’s meant a lot of auditions, and like I didn’t have any control emotionally.”
even more rejections, and the few odd waitressing In many ways, being Nico has allowed Okano to
and bartending jobs here and there. “I don’t think channel her innermost feelings. Josh Schwartz, one
about what-ifs. I was in a mindset where I was tell- of the show’s executive producers, calls Nico the
ing myself, if this doesn’t work out I don’t know “natural leader” of the Runaways. Her delivery of
what I’m going to do, so this has to work. I never the character, he says, is “complicated, fascinating
thought about quitting. I was just really like, ‘No, and heroic.”
keep going. You’ll get there,’” she says. “Lyrica brings authenticity to Nico,” Schwartz
Her hard work paid off big time two years ago, says. “Sometimes that’s steely toughness. Other
when she got the “we want you” call from Marvel, times that’s rawness and vulnerability, but without
which was looking for the right actress to play the ever a false note.”
magical staff-wielding goth heroine for its latest At the end of the first season, our heroes finally
TV series. “I blacked out, it was so bizarre,” she says did their namesake diligence and ran away. The
of that moment. Taga, who was in the room when second season, set to premiere in December, puts
the call came, remembers her friend in such shock the Runaways squarely in the middle of danger.
she had to sit down very slowly on her bed. And Nico’s got to juggle learning how to deal with
“Hearing from Marvel that you’re going to be a her newfound powers and a new relationship,
lead in their show playing a badass Japanese Ameri- all the while confronting the truth about her fam-
can role who is also bisexual—like, that doesn’t click. ily. If there’s anything we love, it’s watching that
It still doesn’t click,” Okano says. “I’m doing inter- mythic journey of a hero finding her way—and so it
views and I’m talking about it, but there is a huge is too with Okano, whose motto is “fall seven times,
part of me that still feels like, is this really happen- and get up eight.”
ing? Is this my life?” So she’ll say again into the mirror tomorrow,
Marvel told her she had a week and a half to move and the day after, and the day after that: You’re
to Los Angeles to shoot the pilot. The show was, of beautiful, you’re important, you’re kind, you deserve
course, picked up, and the debut of the Runaways the world. Go for it.

D EC E M B E R 2 0 1 8 / KO R E M AGA Z I N E 37
FE ATU RE

The Art of Facts


One of the most powerful Asian Americans in Hollywood,
Netflix executive Lisa Nishimura built her career on expanding
the real estate for documentaries and stand-up comedy specials.
TEXT BY SERENA KIM

38 D EC E M B E R 2 0 1 8 / KO R E M AGA Z I N E
STREAM OF CONSCIOUSNESS
“Thinking about a global
membership is really the driver.”
Photo courtesy of Netflix

D EC E M B E R 2 0 1 8 / KO R E M AGA Z I N E 39
FE ATU RE

D EC E M B E R 2 0 1 8 / KO R E M AGA Z I N E 41
FE ATU RE

VEEP “It’s about being


confident in your own voice
and your own point of view.”
Photo courtesy of Netflix

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TH E TRE ATM ENT

S.W.A.G.
TREATMENT BY ALEX TSE
ILLUSTRATION BY JOSH NOCOM

Many writers have a passion project hidden in


some desk drawer that they would love to have de-
veloped. In The Treatment, we shine a light on an
unproduced gem of an idea. In the past two issues,
we focused on narrative feature films. But this idea
was so timely, given the recent legal beef between
Bumble and Tinder and the impending launch of
the Facebook Dating app, we bended the rules and
chose to present a TV pilot by Alex Tse, the screen-
writer of SuperFly and co-writer of Watchmen.
Tse grew up in San Francisco and studied writ-
ing at Emerson College. He’s produced music vid-
eos for the Hieroglyphics, a Bay Area rap group,
and collaborated with Spike Lee on Sucker Free
City. He has deep experience in the screenwriting
game and is blessing us with the pilot treatment for
S.W.A.G. (Sex With Asian Guys).

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TH E TRE ATM ENT

Logline:
An awkward startup millionaire develops a dating app that works wonders
for everyone but him. While his buddies negotiate their own misadventures
in love, Damon tries to date the elusive girl of his dreams.

Characters:
Damon Han, mid 20s. The creator of the Match Made dating app, recently
acquired by Google. No matter how successful Damon is, his withholding
parents disapprove of his work, his living situation and all of his accom-
plishments. And despite Damon’s close friendship with three API bros from
the hood, he’s still lonely for the close companionship of a woman.

Aly Savitsky, early 20s. Pretty in an offbeat way and deeply knowledge-
able about music, Damon’s co-worker Aly seems like she could be the girl
of Damon’s dreams. But when she uses Damon’s app, she matches up with
Damon’s close friend Tony, and the two hit it off like gangbusters.

Colin Kim, mid 20s. A gifted graphic novelist, Colin is also talented at
shoplifting. He and his friends frequently egg the Google shuttle bus
that hogs up the public bus stops. He’s recently met a woman who is even
more lawless than he is. In the middle of their lovemaking, cops bust in
and arrest his girl, and Colin must figure out a way to bail her out.

Tony Kwong a.k.a. King Kwong, mid 20s. As a popular club deejay, he
has no problem scoring with the ladies. He torments and shames Damon
for never having dated a white woman. Although he just met a sweet and
sexy girl from his parents’ church, he recently matched up with Aly on
Damon’s dating app. But Tony doesn’t sweat it, since there are always more
where that came from.

Garrett Lum, early 20s. Less freewheeling than Damon’s other friends,
Garrett is preoccupied with his father’s cancer diagnosis, which threatens
the family’s dumpling business. Garrett must balance the pressures of his
serious live-in girlfriend with his father’s decision to shirk chemotherapy
in favor of holistic Chinese medicine.

Synopsis:
Based in a Chinese enclave of San Francisco, four red-blooded Asian
American men sex and seduce in ways rarely portrayed in mainstream
entertainment. With humorous references to the way young people date
now, S.W.A.G. is an irresistible commentary on love in the age of apps.

About this project:


I met with a friend named Quan Phung (TV producer with STX Entertain-
ment) years ago before this Asian moment was happening. He’s always
been a strong voice in promoting Asian stories. And he was talking
about shows like Girls and Looking. And he said, “I think it would be a great
idea to do a show like that with Asian dudes.” I was like, “You know what,
I think that’s a great idea.” So I don’t know, I just wrote it.

What I’ve learned as a writer in this business: There’s only one you on
this planet. What is normal to you tends to be unique for other people.
It grabs people’s attention. Whether or not they produce the project or
not, from a script standpoint, it makes people pay attention to you and
it translates to other jobs. These characters are just normal mother-
f*ckers to me. But many other people’s minds might get blown.

D EC E M B E R 2 0 1 8 / KO R E M AGA Z I N E 45
TREND

The Next Episode


With stories of struggle and strife, Asian American gangster rappers are
coming out of the woodwork and finding traction in diverse audiences.
TEXT BY SERENA KIM

Yet again, Alex Pham found himself in juvie, this In a recent interview on L.A.’s Power 106 radio
time a nine-month bid for a gun charge. The 16-year- station, J Cruz got right to the point of contention:
old was no stranger to the system—this was his fifth “The N-word is said a lot, my G—are people com-
time incarcerated. But something was different fortable around you or do you ever get backlash
about this juvenile camp. A Good Samaritan named for that?”
Harry Grammer was running a rap-centric class “It’s a lot of people outside of Cali, but that’s
called F.L.O.W. (Fluent Love of Words), designed why I’m working with Vice now,” responded Pham,
to teach poetry and beats to boost self-confidence pointing to Lee Adams, from the New York-
in young inmates. Pham’s friends had heard him based media company, who’s following him for a
banging out beats on the lunch tables and free- documentary called Minority Reports. “I’ma show
styling and encouraged him to check out a session the world that this is how I grew up. I can’t change
of F.L.O.W. it. If I didn’t do music, this is how I talk. This is
“Bless the mic,” Grammer told Pham that day how I am—prison and all that. So I grew up in
almost a decade ago. that community with the Insane and the 20s Crips.
“Freestyling is my favorite thing. But I was ner- They understand.”
vous,” Pham recalled. “They put the mic on. They During his childhood, Pham’s father was also
played the beat. And I was getting looks from all in prison, while his mother was basically out of the
these gangsters, these Mexicans, these Bloods. picture, but when she was around she was abu-
Then I put the earphones on, I closed my eyes, and I sive to him. So he was raised by his grandparents,
started freestyling. When I finished and opened my who ran a gambling house out of their home.
eyes, they all started shouting, ‘Ahhhh!’ Like going As a boy, he fell in love with hip-hop by watch-
crazy and sh*t, like, ‘You could rap! You could rap!’” ing BET and MTV for hours and memorizing the
Now 25, Pham raps professionally under the lyrics to Snoop Dogg, Daz, Kurupt and other Long
moniker $tupid Young. With his sing-songy Long Beach legends. And when he got older, he joined
Beach flow and on-camera charisma, the Cambo- the same Cambodian gang as his dad, Asian Boyz.
dian American gangster rapper rhymes about Though he references his culture in his music,
Cambodia Town and the pain of losing fellow gang his songs resonate outside of the Asian American
members. He wears a gold medallion around his community. He’s ubiquitous on YouTube, collabo-
neck emblazoned with a photo of his friend Dirt, rating with just about anyone and everyone while
whose violent death inspired much of $tupid Young’s building his own massive following. His song with
most recent album, One of One. The lyrics for “I African American rapper Mozzy, “Mando,” garnered
Remember” include: over 17 million views on YouTube with no marketing
“Dirt got shot a gang of times by the 40/ Then we lost or promotion.
two more at the liquor store/ Sometimes I ask why they $tupid Young is on the leading edge of a bubbling
had to get that liquor for/ Then I ask God why you take underground of gangster rappers of Asian descent.
my n*ggas for?” And though $tupid is a huge fan of Rich Brian,

46 D EC E M B E R 2 0 1 8 / KO R E M AGA Z I N E
TREND

AT ETERNITY’S GATE $tupid Young’s fallen


brothers Dirt and Pop Off are immortalized on
his gold chain. Photo by Giovanni Cardenas.

D EC E M B E R 2 0 1 8 / KO R E M AGA Z I N E 47
TREND

YOUNG GUN “Freestyling is my favorite thing,” says $tupid Young in his home. Photo by Giovanni Cardenas.

Pham and other rappers like him don’t fit into the they don’t need major labels like Death Row or a rival gang, the Ghost Shadows. And at the pinna-
critically acclaimed 88rising aesthetic of ironic Ruthless to reach their audiences. With Instagram, cle of MC Jin’s success in the early 2000s, a cadre
hipster iconography and disaffected middle-class Soundcloud, YouTube and other social channels, of Asian American gangster rappers clung to Jin in
alienation. The stories these gangster rappers tell makers and consumers of streetwise hip-hop can hopes of finding their own success. Yu was home
are also a far cry from the model-minority stereo- find each other without a middle man or a major fresh from prison, packing a gun and looking for
type that is so often associated with Asian faces. label to broker the connection. a reason—any reason—to fight. He arrived at Yello,
There have been Asians in hip-hop since its If $tupid Young is Asian America’s Snoop Dogg, a club in New York’s Chinatown, feeling “erratic,”
golden era of the mid/late ’80s and early ’90s. Cue then China Mac would have to be our Notorious as he revealed in a comprehensive interview with
history slideshow: Christopher “Fresh Kid Ice” B.I.G. With his complex wordplay, verbal dexter- Vlad TV in 2014.
Wong Won (R.I.P.) was a founding member of the ity and vivid storytelling skills, China Mac, whose “I took myself to a point where I’m going to lay
legendary 2 Live Crew from Miami. The Mountain government name is Raymond Yu, represents a New somebody down that night,” he told journalist and
Brothers made some significant noise with their York state of mind. Like $tupid, China Mac is a sec- host DJ Vlad. “It wasn’t for Jin, it wasn’t for the
jazzy brand of boom bap in the ’90s. And you ond-generation gangster. His father was a member other dude. My mind was there already. Son said
simply can’t have a conversation about Asians in of New York Chinatown’s Flying Dragons. he pulled out the knife. So I turned around and
hip-hop without the looming presence of MC Jin, In the deeply introspective “Who I Am,” China pulled out the hammer immediately. And I had
the first Asian American to sign to a major label Mac reveals the turning point from naive little boy the hammer in the back of his head. Right at the
when he joined Ruff Ryders in 2002. Though MC to disillusioned thug. top of his spine and I pulled the trigger. I had the
Jin wasn’t a gangster rapper per se, he came up at a “I was six when the feds came knocking on the door/ .40 cal. And I pulled the trigger. Thank God, the
time when “hardness” and “realness” was con- Me and my momma home/ They came searching for sh*t jammed.”
sidered an essential ingredient in constructing a the ‘ro/ I didn’t know what was going on/ Found out Yu injured rapper Christopher Louie and walked
credible rap career. Now, with the self-deprecating pops got caught slipping/ Somebody gave them word out the front door of Yello. After a year of living off
dorkiness of Lil Dicky, Rich Brian and, honestly, that bird’s in mom’s kitchen/ They came through “nuts and grass” and the kindness of his support-
Kanye West, reality rap has been subsumed by deep/ Woke my momma out of sleep/ I followed her ers, Yu got busted in Seattle with a fake passport at
self-aware rap. down the stairs though my body weak/ I was staring the Canadian border and went down for an 11-year
In many ways, this new generation of Asian out the door at the sirens in the street/ Who I thought prison term at Riker’s Island.
American rappers are actually a throwback to the was a hero transformed into a thief.” During his various stints in prison, his face was
golden age of gangster rap. But this time around As an act of rebellion against his father, Yu joined sliced and his neck was stabbed—experiences that

48 D EC E M B E R 2 0 1 8 / KO R E M AGA Z I N E
TREND

So I turned around and pulled out the hammer


immediately. And I had the hammer in the back of
his head. Right at the top of his spine and I pulled
the trigger. I had the .40 cal. And I pulled the
trigger. Thank God, the sh*t jammed.

have fueled his music. “We make songs about what


we know, the experiences that we’ve been through.
I talk about the pain that I’ve been through—that’s
what people connect to the most. It comes from a
space that is real—real emotions, real experiences,”
he said.
When China Mac got out of jail, MC Jin sent him
a letter. “He just basically wanted to see where I
was at with the whole situation, and I told him that
he doesn’t have to worry about anything,” China
Mac told KORE over the phone from Brooklyn. “I
served my time already, and as long as he doesn’t
have problem, I don’t want a problem. It wasn’t
like he was in the street; he was just somebody
I lashed out at. So I didn’t feel like he owed any
type of street thing; I didn’t hold that against him.
It’s like me robbing a convenience store and the
convenience store pressing charges on me. If I
robbed a convenience store, that’s my fault. That’s
the same way I felt about Jin.” MC Jin could not be
reached for comment.
Another artist who cited MC Jin as the proto-
Asian rapper who started this particular move-
ment hails from the Deep South. With his almond-
shaped eyes and high cheekbones, Ace B (born
Altonio Jackson) looks Asian, but was raised in a
black household. He doesn’t know his father, but
was told that he was half-Cuban and half some
kind of Asian. And even though Ace B was raised
in the notorious Calliope Projects of New Orleans
where his mom was also raised, he had a hard time
finding acceptance in the black community. Still,
he embraced street life, learning how to tattoo to
stay alive.
In his music videos, he rhymes in a thick Southern
drawl about fast cars, loose women and drug-run-
ning over the deeply thumping, rolling bass drums
that characterize No Limit-style production.
“You could live for nothing/ Or you could die for
something/ I’m a hustler, boy, everything I touch be
made of money/ Ride through my city with double
cups in my cup holder/ A dirty pistol brand new rental
I’m movin’ soda.”
“They hated me at first,” Ace B said over the phone
from New Orleans. “They were like, ‘Who is this
Asian kid saying he out the hood, tatted up and got BEAST FROM THE EAST NYC’s China Mac was sentenced to 11 years for attempted murder. Photo by Mike Carlo

D EC E M B E R 2 0 1 8 / KO R E M AGA Z I N E 49
TREND

a fake gun in the video? He’s not like that!’ I never


let that get to me. I just said, ‘You don’t know me. I’m
talking my stories. Believe it or not.’”
It helped Ace B’s cause when hometown hero
Master P vouched for him, signed him to No Limit
Records and cast him in his various hood movies.
“P came around and understood me; he said, ‘He
out my project.’ They wanted my background,
and P said, ‘He’s black! He’s mixed with black!
He ain’t just what you thought he was.’ So now
it’s easier for another person. I went through
it already for the next person, for the next gener-
ation.” His biggest fans are his tens of thousands
of female admirers on Instagram gushing about
his exotic looks with comments like, “Plz tell me
why and how TF u r sooooo mf F-I-N-E,” and “You is
so handsome.”
Beyond Ace B, China Mac and $tupid Young,
there are scores of Asian American rappers to be
discovered by the mainstream. Consider P-Lo,
who is not a gangster rapper, but who makes
melodic, trunk-rattling Bay Area rap like his affil-
iates IAMSU and Mozzy. Southeast Asian rappers
like the foul-mouthed Yaya Flow and Queen Honey
C tell their own stories of grit and survival from
a female perspective. Then there’s Fee, Young Jae,
Mbnel—the list goes on and on.
Back at $tupid Young’s house, his childhood
friends, including one of Dirt’s brothers, are help-
ing his very pregnant girlfriend unload groceries
from the car while he rolls the weed into a tight
joint. Nowadays, he stays in downtown Los Angeles
instead of Long Beach. “I like it,” he said, looking
around at his new living room. “It’s cool. I don’t
gotta watch my back.”
And that’s important because Pham and his girl-
friend are expecting their first son in November.
When asked what his hopes are for his child, he
said, “My hopes and dreams for my son is that
he be better than me. My dad said that his hopes
and dreams for me was to be better than him.
And I told him, I am.” He paused before continu-
ing, “When I dropped my first video on YouTube,
I was still a kid and heavy into gangbanging
deep. I wanna take the music seriously now. There’s
a lot of talent out there that got a story to tell.”

50 D EC E M B E R 2 0 1 8 / KO R E M AGA Z I N E
TREND

They hated me at
first. They were
like, “Who is this
Asian kid saying
he out the hood,
tatted up and got
a fake gun in the
video. I never let
that get to me.
You don’t know
me. I’m talking
my stories.
Believe it or not.

RHYME AND REASON Rapper, actor, model and tat-


too artist Ace B (left) reps New Orleans. Though not
a gangster rapper, P-Lo (right) plays an important
part in the AZN hip-hop sound.
Ace B photo by Terence Doakes of One Shot Filmz.
P-Lo photo by Mancy Grant.

D EC E M B E R 2 0 1 8 / KO R E M AGA Z I N E 51
UNFORG
HONORS
KORE Magazine toasts the Asian
have lit up the entertainment

For the past 17 years, we’ve been first to recognize and acknowledge talent such
celebrating achievement in the Asian American as Daniel Dae Kim, John Cho, Randall Park,
community at the Unforgettable Gala, turning Awkwafina, Margaret Cho and Grace Park.
the Beverly Hilton into a huge holiday party Many of them got their very first press coverage
with all of our closest friends and colleagues. in our pages and proudly held their first trophies
This annual black-tie event has often been the on our stage.

52 D EC E M B E R 2 0 1 8 / KO R E M AGA Z I N E
ETTABLE

American creatives who


space this year.

In order to select this year’s esteemed honorees, of their achievements demonstrate, 2018 has
we consulted with our official selection com- certainly been one Unforgettable year for Asian
mittee, which is comprised of accomplished and Americans in entertainment.
diverse professionals from the film and television
industries. We tallied their votes to determine the TEXT BY GIOVANNI CARDENAS, WESLEY CHAI,
TAE HONG AND SERENA KIM
following individuals. As the breadth and scope ILLUSTRATIONS BY GLED ABENOJAR

D EC E M B E R 2 0 1 8 / KO R E M AGA Z I N E 53
COVER STORY

Vanguard
Crazy Rich Asians
The Vanguard Award recognizes achievements
that shape the cultural landscape through creative
excellence. Crazy Rich Asians was more than a suc-
cessful box office film—it was a groundbreaking and
historical movement that will resonate far beyond
2018, and set precedent for future Asian American
works to flourish. Just as important, it showed Hol-
lywood that it need not impose ceilings on actors
of Asian descent.
Before Crazy Rich Asians, the last studio film
with an all-Asian cast was The Joy Luck Club, in 1993.
Before the film could be made, Kevin Kwan and
the movie’s director, Jon M. Chu, had to decide how
it should be distributed. Warner Bros. had outbid
other studios a week before Netflix came in with
an enormous offer, which included greenlighting
all of Kwan’s trilogy of books, total artistic freedom
and a minimum seven-figure payday for each share-
holder. Instead, the two decided to roll the dice on
the box office, knowing the significance of opening
an Asian American film in a traditional cinematic
space. The end result? A gorgeous romantic comedy
that sealed the deal on Asian August.

“If those pyrotechnic bursts seem to be gilding the lily, it’s only
because Warner Bros.’ spared-no-expense adaptation of Kevin Kwan’s
status-obsessed best-seller already feels like a grand, two-hour fireworks
show, one in which gorgeous Asian stars parade around in dazzling, brightly
colored couture, driving luxury cars to and from locations that suggest a
cross between Versailles and Donald Trump’s bathroom (no, really, those
are the design influences).”
- From Peter Debruge’s review in Variety.

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COVER STORY

Director
Jon M. Chu
The Director Award recognizes outstanding
achievement in filmmaking. The director marshalls
an army of creatives to tell an enduring story that
transports, inspires and titillates. Chu cinematically
rendered Crazy Rich Asians, Kevin Kwan’s modern
romance novel about an intraracial yet intercultural
love affair, into Asian America’s fan-fared entrance
into mainstream entertainment. The film generated
an unprecedented level of attention to a historically
underrepresented niche of actors, earning more
than $173 million dollars in the United States alone.
Currently, Chu is directing and producing an
untitled streaming series for Apple, inspired by
11-year-old investigative reporter Hilde Lysiak, and
working alongside Lin-Manuel Miranda for a film
adaptation of his Tony Award-winning musical In the
Heights for Warner Bros.
Chu’s storytelling has earned him a spot on this
year’s Hollywood Reporter’s Power 100 list and Vari-
ety’s New Hollywood Leaders. After growing up in
Palo Alto, California, with Taiwanese parents, he
studied at the University of Southern California’s
prestigious School of Cinematic Arts and directed
Step Up 2: The Streets, G.I. Joe: Retaliation and Justin
Bieber: Never Say Never.

“I convinced my dad to
get me this little mixer
from Sharper Image, and it
was $200 and could take
all VHS players and sync
them together with the
stereo. So I made a video
and showed it to them, and
they cried while watching
it. I knew then, ‘Oh, I want
to do this.’”
- From an interview with the Center for Asian Amer-
ican Media.

D EC E M B E R 2 0 1 8 / KO R E M AGA Z I N E 55
COVER STORY

Actor
In Television
Sandra Oh
The Actor In Television Award recognizes out-
standing work in this ever-evolving storytelling
medium. Sandra Oh brings power, vulnerability
and empathy to her critically acclaimed leading role
in Killing Eve, in which she chases down a psychotic
assassin. As Eve, Oh portrays the kind of com-
plex heroine Asian Americans have long wished to
depict on-screen. As one of the most recognizable
faces in television, Oh is a champion of diversity;
the versatility of her choices as an actor has helped
broaden the range for Asian American talent.
Her Emmy nomination this year (her sixth over-
all) was historic—Oh became the first Asian actress
to be nominated for Best Actress in a Drama. She
grew up in Ottawa, Canada, and studied drama at
the National Theatre School of Canada. After rising
to prominence for her roles in films like Double Hap-
piness and Under the Tuscan Sun, as well as HBO’s
Arliss, she joined the main cast of the hit ABC med-
ical series Grey’s Anatomy in 2005. For her role as
Cristina Yang, she won a Golden Globe for Best Sup-
porting Actress in 2006.

“If you are true to yourself


as an artist, you will do
good work. If you do good
work, if you do truthful
work, you will represent a
culture well because you
will be seen, hopefully, as
an artist that’s worthwhile
and someone who we want
to see telling our stories.”
- From an interview in the Summer 2014 issue
of Audrey.

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COVER STORY

Actor In Film
John Cho
The Actor In Film Award celebrates standout
work in cinema. In Searching, a tense and emotional
thriller that uses social technology to frame a story
about a broken family, John Cho delivers a raw and
magnetic performance as David, a widower search-
ing for his missing daughter. Through him, we see a
father as real as any in our lives.
Already a household name within the Asian
American community, Cho has refused to rest on
his laurels, continuing to deliver inspired perfor-
mances on TV and on the big screen. His most
notable works include the Harold and Kumar and
Star Trek franchises, leading the ABC comedy Selfie
and, most recently, a critically acclaimed turn in the
indie pic Columbus.

“I used to be—still am—


reluctant to be a part
of the narrative that my
films were changing
perspectives on Asian
Americans. It feels noble.
And I don’t feel noble. I’m
trying to do things that
tickle the artistic bone.”
- From an interview in the September 2018 issue
of KORE.

D EC E M B E R 2 0 1 8 / KO R E M AGA Z I N E 57
COVER STORY

58 D EC E M B E R 2 0 1 8 / KO R E M AGA Z I N E
COVER STORY

Breakout
In Film
Lana Condor
The Breakout In Film Award honors a great
actor who can tell stories and move audiences with
effortless ease. Lana Condor receives this award
for her outstanding performance as the shy all-
American teen Lara Jean Covey in To All the Boys
I’ve Loved Before. As Lara, she is in turns innocent,
feisty, heartbroken and powerful. The Netflix
rom-com didn’t focus solely on her Asian American
cultural identity, and instead chose to show Lara as
a relatable teenager juggling complicated relation-
ships. Condor rose to the occasion with flair and
an open heart. The resulting film was so watch-
able and touching that we couldn’t help but watch
it again and again.
Condor was born in Vietnam, and at the age of
2 months, she was adopted by American parents.
That experience fueled her lifelong goal to sup-
port children in orphanages in Asia. To All the
Boys director Susan Johnson collaborated with
Condor’s adoptive father and sent a scholarship
to four girls from Condor’s village of origin. We
can’t wait to catch her next year in the TV series
Deadly Class.

“Casting directors will


often say that they are
open to any ethnicity,
but they’re not. They’re
covering their asses and
meeting their quota,
so they can say they
read everyone. Then
you get to the casting
room and everyone is
blonde and blue-eyed.”
- From an interview with The Cut in August 2018.

D EC E M B E R 2 0 1 8 / KO R E M AGA Z I N E 59
COVER STORY

Changemaker Culture - Social Justice


Tan France Amanda Nguyen
The Changemaker Award recognizes widespread positive impact on popular The Culture-Social Justice Award recognizes the impact of an individual who
culture. In Queer Eye, Tan France shows the world more than his expertise for is committed to improving society by standing up for the rights of others.
fashion—while breaking down stereotypes as a gay Muslim immigrant, he’s also Amanda Nguyen, a prominent advocate and activist, is the founder and CEO
an advocate for self-love, mental health and positivity. His message has reached of Rise, a nonprofit organization that accomplished penning and passing the
millions around the world. landmark Sexual Assault Survivors’ Rights Act in 2016.
France, who is of Pakistani descent, was born and raised in the U.K. He’s Estimated to affect almost 25 million people in the U.S., her bill of rights
overseen operations for Zara, acted as managing director at Selfridges and as restructures the way rape cases are handled, making it more accessible than
company director for Shade Clothing. Since then, France has co-founded and ever for victims to seek legal help. Nineteen other bills protecting sexual violence
designed the women’s clothing label Kingdom & State. As a member of Queer survivors have since been modeled after Nguyen’s federal law, which Congress
Eye’s Fab Five, France has used his role as a stylist to break down barriers passed unanimously.
between people of different backgrounds, encouraging his makeover subjects Nguyen was nominated for the 2019 Nobel Peace Prize for her “unprece-
to embrace their individual styles. dented efforts in bringing equal protection under the law and basic human rights
to all survivors of sexual assault, regardless of geography.”
“Yes, I know I’m gayer; yes, I know I’ve She has also been listed in Forbes’ 30 Under 30, as one of the Top 100 Lead-

got a different skin color. Yes, I know


ing Global Thinkers by Foreign Policy, a Young Woman of the Year by Marie
Claire, and The Tempest’s No. 1 Woman of Color Trailblazer. In 2016, Nguyen
I’m a certain religion. Yes, I know I’m an was appointed by President Barack Obama to the State Department as
his deputy White House liaison.
immigrant. But look at all the similarities
“I could accept injustice or rewrite the
we have.”
law. I chose rewriting the law.”
- From an interview with Conde Nast Traveler.
- From an interview with The Guardian.

60 D EC E M B E R 2 0 1 8 / KO R E M AGA Z I N E
COVER STORY

Culture - Lifestyle Culture Ambassador


Ben Baller Livi Zheng
The Culture-Lifestyle Award celebrates the influence that an individual can The Culture Ambassador Award recognizes tireless individuals who use
have on the way we dress, the way we walk and the things we covet. Celebrity their talents to boost and promote their culture to the wider world. Indonesian
jeweler Ben Baller has been pivotal to the look and feel of American youth filmmaker Livi Zheng has used her precocious cinematic ability to introduce
culture. From being name-checked in rap songs (“Ferg is the name/ Ben Baller traditional Balinese gamelan music to the world, through the documentary
did the chain,” rapped A$AP Ferg in 2017) to being referenced in commercial Bali: Beats of Paradise. She believes it’s underappreciated both musically and
art direction, Baller defines an aesthetic. culturally—her work aims to both preserve and give new life to gamelan.
It all began when Baller first fell in love with hip-hop through break- Bali: Beats of Paradise follows a collaborative project between an Indone-
dancing, getting his older brother to drive him to distant breakdancing sian composer (I. Nyoman Wenten) and an American Grammy Award-winning
competitions. He was also a gifted athlete. His nickname “Baller” comes vocalist (Judith Hill), as they blend gamelan with classic funk elements to
from being one of the first Asian Americans at the University of California, create a song called “Queen of the Hill,” for which Zheng also directed a music
Berkeley, and San Francisco State University to play NCAA football and video. A look at gamelan’s essential traditions, as well as Wenten’s love for
basketball. As a DJ, he met Dr. Dre and began working at Priority Records and the music, is interwoven into the story of their collaboration.
moved on to Aftermath. Later, he sold off his sneaker collection to fund his Zheng is an alumnae of USC’s School of Cinematic Arts. Her 2014 debut
own jewelry business. His rise toward becoming the most-followed jeweler martial arts film, Brush With Danger, gained her widespread recognition; she
on social media was chronicled on his own reality show on Fuse TV. herself is a decorated competitive martial artist and former stunt woman.
Currently, Zheng travels the world as a guest speaker on topics spanning film,
“A lot of connections that I made early on culture and international business, and serves as head juror at the international

made me who I am today.”


film festival Southeast Asia Prix Jeunesse.

“When I traveled to Bali to make this film,


the most important thing was to capture
- From the podcast The Business of HYPE With jeffstaple.

the culture and traditions of everyday life,


including Balinese ceremonies. Whether
filled with joy or sorrow, each one is
always accompanied by the traditional
sounds of gamelan.”

D EC E M B E R 2 0 1 8 / KO R E M AGA Z I N E 61
COVER STORY

Athlete On Digital
Another Level Influencer
Naomi Osaka Cassey Ho
Presented by Pechanga Resort & Casino, the Athlete On Another Level The Digital Influencer Award honors the ability of one resourceful individ-
Award recognizes Naomi Osaka’s dedication to and excellence in her sport. As ual who has mastered the art of social media to impact culture and commerce.
the winner of the 2018 U.S. Open, Osaka has inspired future generations. Cassey Ho is the personality, founder and entrepreneur behind Blogilates, a
When she’s on the court whipping her 100-miles-per-hour forehands and fitness empire that is currently YouTube’s No. 1 female fitness channel.
making powerful serves with laser-like intensity, we are witnessing a histo- Blogilates’ videos, which offer easy fitness tips for working toward self-im-
ry-making athlete. provement with a healthy body image, have more than 600 million views and
Osaka, 20, was born in Japan to a Japanese mom and a Haitian dad, but 4.3 million subscribers. From the success of her channel, Ho’s brand has
moved to Long Island, New York, when she was 3. At 13, she relocated to Japan proliferated into other ventures: a best-selling book, a popular DVD, the active-
so she could play under the Japanese flag. This year, she became the first Japa- wear line POPFLEX and a national partnership with 24 Hour Fitness.
nese woman to make it to the finals of any Grand Slam ever, and is the youngest Ho, who is Vietnamese and Chinese, grew up in San Francisco. While attend-
woman in the world’s top 20. At the U.S. Open final, she beat her idol Serena ing Whittier College, Ho was a featured designer at San Francisco Fashion Week’s
Williams in a controversial victory that showcased Osaka’s astonishing athleti- “Emerging Stars” show.
cism and her gracious humility.
“You are so much more than your
“I think you should think that it’s not
physical shell. You are your brain, your
really the outcome, it’s the process.
heart, your passions—your potential that
You just gotta keep going and fighting
you have to give to this world.”
for everything, and one day you’ll get
- From an interview with KORE.
to where you want.”
- From a video interview with Teen Vogue.

62 D EC E M B E R 2 0 1 8 / KO R E M AGA Z I N E
food
for
thought
Available at . com @Laneige.USA @Laneige_US
REVIEW | MUSIC

After his many accomplishments over the last


half-decade, there has been no shortage of expecta-
tions for what would be Kris Wu’s next steps. And
since departing from the South Korean/Chinese
musical powerhouse EXO over a lack of creative
freedom, the release of several tantalizing singles
has only worked to further tease an eager fanbase.
Perhaps Wu was doomed from the start to never
meet the lofty expectations held for him, but the
lethargic and overplayed ideas listeners are pre-
sented with on his first solo foray, titled Antares,
are disappointing nevertheless.
While Wu explained that the album’s mysteri-
ous name means “heart of a dragon,” Antares fails
to explore anything beyond skin-deep. And the fact
that Antares is also the name of the company that
created Auto-Tune is a portent of the recurring
crutch that afflicts this album throughout. Even
though Wu is a competent vocalist, his voice lacks
strong character, and the delivery is washed out by
the heavy-handed use of the ubiquitous audio-pro-
cessing effect, notably on “November Rain” and
“Deserve,” which features Travis Scott. Lyrically,
it’s a similar story, with any potential crushed by a
lack of originality, most noticeably on the title track,
which is little more than banal hip-hop cliches inter-
woven with relationship angst.
There are several sonic highlights, namely “Tian
Di” and “Freedom,” for which tight mixing and sharp
production from Dun Deal and FKi 1st, respectively,
contribute to two of Wu’s most powerful perfor-
mances. But these are few and far between.
Listeners are presented with a measured dose
of guest spots on three tracks, all of which have

Dragon Heart Aches


been previously released as singles. Scott and Rich
the Kid’s cameos contribute to a decidedly clini-
cal atmosphere, and a glaring lack of synergy with
the latter, as Rich continues to adopt his signature
Former EXO member Kris Wu breaks free of the boy-band machine and flow, despite the laid-back beat requiring something
more subdued. Scott’s appearance, in reality, is little
Auto-tunes his liberation.
more than some ad-libs and the odd line peppered
TEXT BY ALEX PAYNE between Wu’s inane verses. A little redemption does
come when R&B veteran Jhene Aiko lends her tre-
mendous voice to the chorus of “Freedom.”
It’s hard not to draw parallels between Wu with
one of his Western contemporaries, Liam Payne,
formerly of One Direction, when looking at their
career trajectories and music. Both appeared to have
transcended their manufactured boy-band origins
in search of creative freedom, but ultimately neither
debut has reached those expectations. Antares could
have been a fresh, introspective escape from one of
the most commercialized groups in the world, but
ultimately ends up being little more than a tentative
stab at soulless, trap-flavored R&B. This may be his
first solo debut, but Wu’s own voice is more absent
Photo by Yero Brown than ever before.

70 D EC E M B E R 2 0 1 8 / KO R E M AGA Z I N E
JOHN CHO SANDR A OH M A N N Y JAC I N TO

L A N A CO N D O R CRAZY RICH ASIANS JON M. CHU

N AO M I O S A K A TA N F R A N C E A M A N DA N G U Y E N

CASSEY HO BEN BALLER LIVI ZHENG


REVIEW | SHOW

EDGY “Mother Russia in my cup/


And my glasses fogging up.”
Photo by Micaiah Carter.

How Los Angeles Hearts Yaeji


House music phenom Yaeji made a meteoric return to L.A. in October,
jumping off a 13-city North American tour in support of her self-released single,
“One More.”
TEXT BY JOHN LEE

By all accounts, the unassuming 25-year-old Bahamadia-like rapturous verse­—in Korean: Yaeji breaks into an adorable ajussi strut, akin to
Korean American from Queens, New York, left the celebratory dance floor groove of your favorite
the Yuma tent smoldering at this year’s Coachella 매주하는 생각 fresh-off-the-pihaengi Korean uncle. Sheit is Yaeji!
festival, with what has become Yaeji’s signature What if it’s just me Yaeji brings each song of her live act to a dis-
low-burn blend of wide-spectrum house beats, cin- 영화 한편 끝나듯이 tinct end, breaking the mix between tracks, which
ematic scoring, self-composed hip-hop-inflected As real as it can be lends itself to a more sedentary audience vibe.
lyrics performed live and interlaced seamlessly 갑갑했던 기억들은 Not to say the rug-cutting was curtailed, espe-
with murky, deeply personal Korean-language hooks. Where I can’t just see cially to extended mixes of “Drink I’m Sippin’ On”
I know—sheit is Kraeji! 창문없는 방에 and “After That,” in which deep basslines breathe
Fans buzzed from Coachella and those already When I am set free rhythmically under layers of seismic rumble,
faithful to Yaeji’s self-titled debut EP and EP2, slowed and throwed liquid drops, and the pew-pew
released by Godmode in 2017, quickly sold out two And with the bridge and refrain-back in English— finger-gun whimsy of video game soundtracks.
dates at the LA’s Regent Theater, where it is packed the A/C falls apart: Even as she scales to a career high point with
with a crowd of well-mannered scenesters, both this tour, Yaeji still identifies with EDM’s outliers.
young and enthusiastic (in their drinks and alpha- ‘Mother Russia in my cup On tour she brings the vibe of her cultivated scene:
dance posture), and dotted by more weathered And my glasses foggin’ up Yaeji is known for opening her home to DIY-hosted
heads clearly still in pursuit of new emotional states Oh yeah, hey dog, hey what’s up nights, where she studiously holds her own with
emerging from the house music rinse. Oh yeah, hey dog, hey what’s up compact discs and mixer one moment, and the next,
On this Oct. 18 night, Yaeji opens her live show When the sweaty walls are bangin’ she’s inviting the house to feast from a pot of curry.
with what could easily be the closer. “Raingurl” I don’t f-ck with family planning To close, Yaeji walks it out with the Regent audi-
powers up, mid-mix, with a walking bassline that Make it rain girl, make it rain ence, back to whence we came, with a reworked mix
billows like puffing smoke, wafting atmospheric of “Raingurl,” leaving an impression of a looping
MIDI files in a backing track to her low-key, As the crowd sings along to her trademark heater, continuum now programmed in L.A. hearts.

72 D EC E M B E R 2 0 1 8 / KO R E M AGA Z I N E
20171107 엘에이 광고.pdf 4 2018-11-06 오후 2:41:55

CM

MY

CY

CMY

K
SOCIETY

Velvet Rope
Celebs join forces in the music video shoot for Steve Aoki X BTS’ “Waste It on Me”
TEXT BY TAE HONG
PHOTOS BY JEFF SANICO

1 2 3
Steve Aoki’s third collaboration with BTS cul-
minated in a music video shoot inside a nightclub
in L.A.’s Koreatown, in late October. The video is
directed by Linkin Park’s Joe Hahn. “This is a state-
ment. I’m taking the stride from Crazy Rich Asians
and saying, ‘We’ve gotta keep going with this Asian
empowerment,’” Aoki says. “There’s a testament
right now to how Latin music and non-English-
based musical genres are No. 1. K-pop is also doing
that. What’s happening now is an amazing time for
the non-dominant cultures to take force.”

1. The Gifted star Jamie Chung flew into Los Angeles


in the middle of shooting in Atlanta, and flew back
as soon as the music video shoot wrapped. Aoki says,
“We were like, we gotta get all the Asians together
on this one. I’m thankful [Asian American stars
4 5 6
like] Jamie came because this is a cultural moment
beyond music.”
2. “I have no clue where this bouncy ball came from,”
admits Jimmy O. Yang, who’s had a crazy good year,
from returning on HBO’s Silicon Valley to starring
in Crazy Rich Asians and writing his book How to
American: An Immigrant’s Guide to Disappointing
Your Parents.
3. Left to right: Ross Butler, Ken Jeong, Devon Aoki.
“You know what, usually when [Steve] asks me to do
things, I say no,” Devon says of her brother. “I’m a
busy girl! I don’t have time to go to all these parties!
But this project, he said, ‘I don’t want you to miss
this, Dev.’ It seemed like a perfect moment to do
something together. I get to play opposite Ross But-
ler—he’s a cutie! As a married mother of three, this is
a good distraction for one day out of 365, right?”
4. “It was a great transition to go from ‘Mic Drop,’
which was half-English and half-Korean, to a full 7

English song,” Steve Aoki says. “BTS is so easy to


work with. I’ve never had that kind of consistency
and flow. There are other artists that have great flow,
but it’s something special with BTS.”
5. Oh, that navy velvet suit! Westworld star Leonardo
Nam showed up sleek despite being straight off a
plane from Boston.
6. YouTube lifestyle personality Tiffany Ma dropped
by in a dress from her clothing line Liv and Jess,
which she launched a couple years ago, to support
Steve Aoki.
7. Clockwise, from left: Hahn, Reverie’s Jessica Lu,
celebrity jeweler Ben Baller, actress/model Devon
Aoki, Yang, Butler, Jeong, Chung, Just Jared founder
Jared Eng, Aoki and Ma.

74 D EC E M B E R 2 0 1 8 / KO R E M AGA Z I N E
SOCIETY

Lofty Heights
This month in L.A., Andrew Lee was crowned prince, execs
and actors were honored and Toro y Moi rocked the Novo.

TEXT BY GIOVANNI CARDENAS

1
CORONATION CEREMONY
1. The Imperial Family of Korea named Andrew
Lee as the new crown prince, during a ceremony
at Crustacean Beverly Hills. King Yi Seok is the
only remaining heir living in Korea to the Joseon
dynasty throne, which ruled the country for over
five centuries. Los Angeles city and council officials
presented Yi and Lee with a proclamation during
the ceremony. Crown Prince Andrew Lee and
His Imperial Highness King Yi Seok, L.A. County
Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas and L.A. City
Councilman Marqueece Harris-Dawson posed
together with the proclamation. Photo by Nolwen
Cifuentes

TORO Y MOI
2. Artist Toro y Moi (a.k.a. Chaz Bundick) steps out
on the Novo stage in Los Angeles for “Mirage,” from
his latest album, Boo Boo.
3. The 32-year-old South Carolina native exudes a
sense of mystery. Both photos by Giovanni Cardenas

U.S.-CHINA ENTERTAINMENT AND GALA


2 3
4. Hollywood and Chinese entertainment industry
leaders discussed business collaborations and the
latest market trends at the Asia Society Southern
California’s U.S.-China Entertainment Summit.
The event also honored those who built bridges
between the U.S. and China. 4. Actor Jimmy O.
Yang, actor and honoree Michelle Yeoh and actor
Nico Santos reunited after recently starring in
Crazy Rich Asians. 5. Chairman and CEO of War-
ner Bros Entertainment Kevin Tsujihara, the only
non-white studio head in Hollywood, is honored
for his vision and leadership. Both photos by Ryan
Miller/Capture Imaging

4 5

76 D EC E M B E R 2 0 1 8 / KO R E M AGA Z I N E
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