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American Girl to introduce new Korean-American and Native Hawaiian Dolls

A Korean-American aspiring filmmaker and a Native Hawaiian who helps with the war effort during World War II are among the new dolls American Girl is set to release this year.

American Girl announced the introduction of the new dolls along with the news that the company will be releasing its first male doll on Wednesday. A new African-American doll, Gabriela McBride, has been available in stores since January.

The new Korean-American American Girl is named Z. Yang.
A Korean American, Z. Yang is described as a creative aspiring filmmaker. American Girl

Since American Girl characters and stories help build self-confidence, inspire creativity, and give girls a broader understanding of the world—we now have even more for parents like you to love too,” the company said in a statement.

Z. Yang, the new Korean-American character, is described as a “an imaginative filmmaker” who uses her creative talents to connect with the people around her. “Her stories remind girls that everyone has a unique perspective to share—even if it’s not perfect,” the site reads. She is expected to be released this spring.

Yang is the company’s first Asian-American doll since Ivy Ling was retired by the company in 2014.

Set for a fall release is Nanea Mitchell, a Native Hawaiian girl growing up during World War II in what was then a U.S. territory. “Nanea’s stories teach girls that kokua—doing good deeds and giving selflessly—sometimes require sacrifice,” American Girl writes on its site.

Nanea Mitchell, the new Native Hawaiian American Girl doll.
Nanea Mitchell learns the importance of generosity and sacrifice throughout her stories. 

 

According to American Girl, the new dolls are a direct response to requests from parents and children for more diverse stories.

We do an enormous amount of research with girls and their parents,” Julie Parks, a spokesperson for American Girl, told TODAY.

The one thing we’ve heard loud and clear is a desire for more — specifically more characters and stories from today — with more experiences, more diversity, and more interests.”

8 Asian-American actors who deserve WAY more onscreen love…

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BRIT + CO (by Dene Chen):

The popularity of Star Trek Beyond has basically guaranteed mainstream fandom for a franchise that was once considered geeky and alternative — now, we can even wear our trekkie status on our nails! What’s also great is that the stars have used their larger platform to speak up about issues that are important to them, like Zoe Saldana’s struggle with an autoimmune disease.

For John Cho, who portrays Sulu, a universally beloved character, this has been a time to talk about diversity — or the lack thereof — in Hollywood. “I just didn’t see anyone on TV who looked like me, and then I saw George Takei being cool and piloting the spaceship on television,” Cho recently said on The View. “And I thought that, wow, there’s a beacon for me.”

While things are a little bit better now on TV concerning diversity (though if the bar was so low before, how can you go anywhere but up?), there are still many in Hollywood who tooootally should be getting more work. Lucy Liu and John Cho are well-known names now — here’s hoping that Hollywood gives the following Asian actors more face-time onscreen.

1. Constance Wu:

Entertainment Weekly & People Upfronts Party 2016 - Arrivals

She is hilarious on Fresh Off the Boat and has been very vocal about the white-washing that happens in Hollywood. Wu is talented and beautiful — this should be a no-brainer.

 

2. Steven Yuen:

AMC At Comic-Con 2016 - Day 2

Yuen is notable not only for playing a main character for The Walking Dead, but for being one of the few onscreen love interests in Hollywood played by an Asian male. This may sound ridiculous, but since Asian men are often desexualized in mainstream American media, Yuen’s portrayal of Glenn as a total badass who is considered hot AF is actually groundbreaking. It shouldn’t be though. But first, we need to see him in more stuff.

3. Jake Choi:

2016 Tribeca Film Festival After Party For Wolves At No.8 - 4/15/16

This Queens native has a versatility that is showcased on his IMDB page — a stint on Broad City, an arc on Younger and a role in Wolves, the basketball drama starring Carla Gugino and Michael Shannon which opened earlier this year. Fingers crossed we see more of him.

4. Rahul Kohli:

Comic-Con International 2016 - "iZombie" Press Line

Are we including South Asians on this list? Yes we are, because representation is important. Also, because Rahul Kohli from iZombie is a handsome human being who needs to be on TV more.

5. Anna Akana:

AOL Build Speaker Series - Anna Akana, "Miss 2059"

You might recognize her by her brief appearance at the end of Ant-Man, but many are more likely to know her from her YouTube fame. Akana is a real self-made star, and her witty and sometimes poignant videos have reached more than 1.5 million subscribers.

6. Priyanka Chopra:

2016 ABC Upfront

This woman is goals when it comes to her red carpet style and her classic updos. But Chopra was already a huge star in India before Quantico gave her fame stateside.

7. Daniel Henney:

Hamilton Watch And LA Confidential Present The 2014 Hamilton Behind The Camera Awards - Inside

Another actor who is more appreciated outside the US, Henney will hopefully get more recognition now that he is a series regular of a Criminal Minds spin-off, Beyond Borders.

8. Sendhil Ramamurthy:

"Covert Affairs" Panel - Comic-Con 2011

Luckily for us, this Heroes alum has been working steadily since the series ended in 2010, chalking up arcs in Covert Affairs and Beauty and the Beast.

 

Entertainment Weekly: Get to know Awkwafina before she’s in Ocean’s 8

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Entertainment Weekly (by Nolan Feeney):

It’s not every day that the cast of an upcoming ensemble film—like the women-led Ocean’s 8 project—is as good as the one you dream-cast in your head. But EW confirmed Wednesday that Warner Bros. is finalizing a coterie of stars that includes Sandra Bullock, Cate Blanchett, Helena Bonham Carter, Rihanna, Anne Hathaway, Mindy Kaling, and Awkwafina a.k.a. rapper and comedian Nora Lum. That last name might not mean as much to the masses as, say, RiRi or Bellatrix Lestrange—at least not yet—but here’s why you should get excited anyway.

Her claim to fame is a hilarious viral video

Awkwafina made waves on the internet with 2012’s “My Vag,” a response to Mickey Avalon’s “My Dick” that she first wrote and recorded on GarageBand when she was 19.

You’ve definitely seen her before

She had a hilarious turn as one of the Kappa Nu sisters in this year’s Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising, but she’s popped up on screen in a few other places, like as a co-host of MTV’s Girl Code Live and as a subject of the Tribeca Film Festival documentary Bad Rap, about Asian-Americans in hip-hop.

She’s got a classic New York origin story

Awkwafina grew up in Queens, studied music at the famed LaGuardia High School for the performing arts, and later graduated with a journalism degree from SUNY Albany in 2011. At LaGuardia, she planted the seeds for what would become Awkwafina with her own mock news show. “I used to chop up C-Span soundbites or interviews with politicians like John Kerry or Bill Clinton into a radio-esque show hosted by Awkwafina and her producer, Mookie,” she told The Daily Dot in 2014. “I would pitch down my vocals to have male guests, and would send them to a small circle of friends after they were done.”

She specializes in LOL-worthy raps

Really funny—her 2014 debut, Yellow Ranger, saw her take on Brooklyn hipsters and gentrification with songs like the title track (“Shout out to Greenpoint, Kielbasa in the oven/Greenpoint, where all the bitches look like Lena Dunham”) and “NYC Bitche$” (“New York City bitch, that’s where I come from/not where I moved to on Mom and Dad’s trust fund”). Some of the tracks are fairly New York-centric—“Mayor Bloomberg (Giant Margarita)” was inspired by Michael Bloomberg’s “soda ban”—but that won’t stop non-residents from enjoying them.

Her latest jam features a legendary comedian

She and Margaret Cho, who’s no stranger to re-working that Mickey Avalon song herself, teamed up earlier this year for “Green Tea,” which pokes fun at Asian stereotypes. “I remember watching Margaret Cho with my grandmother on TV,” Awkafina told the blog Angry Asian Man, which premiered the video. “She was my hero, not only because she was funny, but because she showed me that it’s okay to be yourself, that it’s okay to be a brash yellow girl, and to be a strong and brave woman.”

USA Today: Constance Wu on Hollywood’s white savior problem: “Our heroes don’t look like Matt Damon”

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USA Today (by Jaleesa M. Jones):

Constance Wu has had it with Hollywood’s white savior complex.

The Fresh Off the Boat actress and two-time Television Critics Association Awards nominee posted a pointed letter to Twitter Friday, in which she criticized the whitewashing of Chinese history with the casting of Matt Damon in 2017’s action epic The Great Wall and called for Hollywood to change the narrative.

We have to stop perpetuating the racist myth that only a white man can save the world,” Wu wrote one day after the trailer debut for The Great Wall, which features Damon as its dragon-slaying lead. “It’s not based in actual fact. Our heroes don’t look like Matt Damon. They look like Malala. (Gandhi). Mandela. Your big sister when she stood up for you to those bullies that one time.”

Wu went on to challenge the argument that it’s hard to finance and profit from movies that aren’t toplined by white talent, and urged studios to consider the message tacitly communicated by scores of films that revolve around white heroes and struggling communities of color.

Money is the lamest excuse in the history of being human,” she wrote. “So is blaming the Chinese investors. (POC’s choices can based on unconscious bias too.) Remember it’s not about blaming individuals, which will only lead to soothing their lame ‘b-but I had good intentions! but…money!’ microaggressive excuses. Rather, it’s about pointing out the repeatedly implied racist notion that white people are superior to POC and that POC need salvation from our own color via white strength. When you consistently make movies like this, you ARE saying that.”

Wu also questioned why projects starring entertainers of color aren’t given the benefit of the doubt — or the latitude to fail — that is afforded to projects starring white actors.

If white actors are forgiven for having a box office failure once in a while, why can’t a POC sometimes have one? And how COOL would it be if you were the movie that took the ‘risk’ to make a POC as your hero, and you sold the (expletive) out of it?! The whole community would be celebrating! If nothing else, you’d get some mad respect (which is WAY more valuable than money) so MAKE that choice.”

The actress punctuated the call to action by invoking the importance of representation, particularly for children whose dreams may expand or contract based on the images they see, which are still decidedly limited according to Hollywood’s announced 2016 slates.

If you know a kid, you should care too,” Wu argued. “Because we WERE those kids. Why do you think it was so nice to see a nerdy white kid have a girl fall in love with him? Because you WERE that nerdy white kid who felt unloved. And seeing pictures of it in Hollywood’s stories made it feel possible. That’s why it moved you, that’s why it was a great story. Hollywood is supposed to be about making great stories. So make them.”

Asian-American athletes to watch at the 2016 Rio Olympics

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This August, Team USA will be headed to the 2016 Rio Olympics with over 500 athletes across 42 Olympic sport disciplines. Of these athletes, over 30, competing in a variety of sports including swimming, fencing, table tennis, and volleyball, identify as Asian American. Below are 10 Asian-American athletes to watch during the Rio Olympics. Keep their names in mind, as there’s a good chance that some of them will be leaving Rio with new medals.

Alexander Massialas

Born to a Greek father and a Taiwanese mother, San Francisco native Alexander Massialas is poised to win a medal at the Rio Olympics this year. Currently ranked the number one male foil fencer in the world, Massialas was also the youngest male member of the 2012 U.S. Olympics team.

He comes from an accomplished fencing family — his father Greg was a three-time Olympic fencer and his younger sister Sabrina was the first U.S. fencer to ever win a Youth Olympic Games gold medal. Massialas is currently a student at Stanford University and majors in mechanical engineering. He can speak Mandarin and attended the Chinese American International School as a child.

Gerek Meinhardt

Like Massialas, Gerek Meindhart is also a Taiwanese-American fencer. The two are good friends since Meinhardt’s mother Jane was primary school classmates with Massialas’ mom Vivian, and it was Vivian’s suggestion to have Meinhardt join the fencing club. While both of Meinhardt’s parents were architects and not fencers, Massialas helped coach Meinhardt for competition.

In the past, Meinhardt also played basketball. His sister Katie played the sport at Boston University (BU) and still holds the BU record for most points in a game. Meinhardt recently received an MBA from Notre Dame and works as a Deloitte consultant when he isn’t competing in the games.

Lee Kiefer

Filipino-American fencer Lee Kiefer is currently ranked third in women’s foil and was the first athlete to ever win seven consecutive individual titles at the Pan American Championships. Fencing also runs in the family — she is the daughter of a former Duke University fencing captain and has a sister Alex and brother Axel who also compete.

Kiefer is currently a senior pre-med major at the University of Notre Dame. Her father Steve is a neurosurgeon, her mother Teresa is a psychiatrist, and her older sister Alex is a Harvard pre-med student.

Nathan Adrian

This three-time Olympic swimming gold medalist will be back in 2016. In this year’s Olympics, Adrian will compete in the 50 meter and 100 meter freestyle events. Adrian is in a good position to defend his Olympic gold medal in the 100m, as he finished first place in that event at the U.S. Olympic Trials. This Bremerton-born athlete is half-Chinese and was honored at the Robert Chinn Foundation‘s Asian Hall of Fame. Adrian majored in public health and graduated with honors from UC Berkeley in Spring 2012. After he retires from competitive swimming, Adrian has expressed interest in becoming a doctor.

Paige McPherson

Paige McPherson is an Olympic taekwondo competitor of Filipino and African-American descent. McPherson, who won a bronze medal in the women’s 67 kilogram taekwondo event in 2012, will return to compete in Rio. While McPherson grew up in Sturgis, South Dakota, she comes from what she likes to call a “rainbow family.” McPherson is one of five adopted kids in her family — she has a Korean brother, a St. Lucian little sister, and two Native American siblings. McPherson attended Miami-Dade College and continues to train primarily in Miami. After the 2015 Pan Am Games Team Trials, McPherson got the chance to meet her biological brother. Once the Rio Olympic Games come to a close, McPherson hopes to meet more members of her biological family.

Lia Neal

Olympic swimmer Lia Neal identifies as both African American and Chinese American. Neal celebrates all Chinese holidays, and went to a Chinese pre-school program — which is why she speaks Cantonese and has studied Mandarin for years. This Brooklyn native won a bronze medal at the London Games in the 4 by 100-meter freestyle relay with Missy Franklin, Jessica Hardy, and Allison Schmitt. This year, Neal came in fourth during the 4 by 100 freestyle Olympic trials, allowing her the fourth spot in the 4 by 100-meter freestyle relay team. Neal is currently a Stanford University student, and her classmate Simone Manuel also made it onto the Olympic swimming team. This makes it the first time two Black female swimmers will swim simultaneously on the U.S. Olympic team.

Jay Litherland

Jay Litherland is an Olympic swimmer majoring in business at the University of Georgia. He’s also a triplet – and has triple citizenship in the U.S., Japan, and New Zealand. He can speak Japanese and started swimming at the age of 8. At this year’s U.S. Olympic Team Trials, he managed to finish second in the 400 meter individual medley. Litherland won the second of two U.S. Olympic spots in the event, eking out the defending Olympic gold medalist, Ryan Lochte, by approximately a second. This will be the first time he will be attending the Olympics. He previously competed in the U.S. Olympic Trials in 2012.

Micah Christenson, Kawika Shoji, and Erik Shoji

These three athletes will be representing the U.S. Men’s National Volleyball Team at the Rio Olympics. Micah Christenson comes from a tall family – his father played basketball at the University of Hawaii-Hilo and his mother won three national volleyball championships at the same university. Anderson currently plays for Italian club team Cucine Lube Civitanova but won a gold medal with the USA team in the 2015 Men’s World Cup. Christenson graduated from the University of Southern California and will be a setter for the men’s national team. His full name is Micah Makanamaikalani Christenson, and his middle name means “gift from heaven.”

Erik and Kawika Shoji are brothers — and both will be at the Rio Olympics in the U.S. Men’s volleyball team. The Honolulu-born pair both attended Stanford University and played on the volleyball team when they were there. Their father Dave has coached women’s volleyball at the University of Hawaii for more than 40 years, while their mother Mary played basketball at the same university. Kawika is currently a member of Turkish club Arkas Izmir, while Erik Shoji plays for German club Berlin Recycling Volleys.

Announcing the Yuri Kochiyama Fellowship

Medium.com (by Anoop Prasad):

Advancing Justice — Asian Law Caucus is excited to announce a new fellowship for formerly incarcerated Asian Pacific Islanders. Too often, the movements against prisons and deportation are out of sync and ignore the intersectional experiences of people in both systems. Advocates often make decisions without inviting formerly incarcerated people into the conversation and without consulting people who are locked up. Through the Yuri Kochiyama Fellowship, we hope to begin changing that. By centering and building leadership among directly impacted people, we hope to support a movement led by incarcerated and formerly incarcerated people.

Over the next several months, the first two Yuri Kochiyama Fellows will be using their experiences to advocate for changes to America’s incarceration and deportation systems. As people who have spent years in prison and immigration detention, their voices and leadership are sorely needed in the movement.

We chose to name the fellowship after Yuri Kochiyama. She was a tireless political activist who dedicated her life to social justice and human rights for almost five decades. Yuri spent two years as a young adult in an internment camp for Japanese-Americans in Arkansas during World War II. Later in life, she worked with Malcolm X, the Harlem Parents Committee, the Black Panthers, the Young Lords and other groups. Throughout her life, she supported people in prison by exchanging letters, advocating for their release, and organizing support committees.

Our first two Fellows will carry on Yuri’s legacy by using their experiences in prison and immigration detention to advocate for those still locked up. Their first advocacy project will be in support of a ballot measure that limits the ability of District Attorneys to charge children as adults. The reforms will keep thousands of children from being sent to prison for decades and from facing deportation for those crimes.

Rajeshree Roy, a 2016 Yuri Kochiyama Fellow, was arrested at the age of fifteen for a robbery. Rather than receiving services as a survivor of childhood sexual abuse who was homeless, she was tried as an adult and sent to prison for fifteen years. She would later spend a year in immigration detention.

Aelam Khensamphanh, a 2016 Yuri Kochiyama Fellow, fled war in Laos and came to the United States as a refugee when he was eight-years-old. His family was resettled in Modesto, a poor community plagued with violence. Unable to speak English and without language services, he struggled in school as a child. Attempting to fit in, he joined a gang at fifteen. After a shootout with a rival gang, he was sent to prison for life at the age of seventeen. While in prison, Aelam worked with the Squires Program to intervene with at-risk youth. After serving twenty-two years in prison, he spent months in immigration detention before being released earlier this year.

Aelam and Rajeshree will be working to make sure that future generations of children will not go through the same cycle of trauma, incarceration, and deportation that they did.