Eddie Huang’s Chinese New Year menu was complemented by an endless amount of Hennessy’s Red Ram cocktail.
The Daily Meal:
Chinese New Year… If you’ve never celebrated before, here’s a look at one Chinese chef’s interpretation.
Last week, a few days in advance of the real start of the Year of the Goat, Baohaus chef Eddie Huang hosted a New Year’s celebration in partnership with Hennessy, a label which will be especially familiar to anyone who’s attended his or her share of Chinese weddings.
Huang’s menu for the evening, a six-course affair put together in the tiny kitchen of No. 7 Restaurant in Brooklyn, featured lion’s head chicken soup, Hainan lobster salad, chili miso-braised fish, and Szechuan roasted black garlic chicken. As an interlude, guests were treated to a traditional lion’s head dance typically reserved for boisterous Chinatown streets around New Year’s.
The evening’s sponsor made sure that every glass was full of Red Ram, a cocktail created especially for the evening. Eddie, who has partnered with Hennessy in the past, even created a Hennessy Privilege Milk Tea (paired with egg tarts from Taipan Bakery in Chinatown) that actually made this author appreciate milk tea (black tea sweetened with condensed milk).
When we sat down with Eddie to talk about his love for the holiday, he brought over a full plate of roasted chicken and recalled his early role in the kitchen.
“My mom worked, so she would call me on the way home, and I would get things ready so that when she got home, she could just cook. I was always my mom’s prep cook.”
Quickly, that role expanded to one of household handyman.
“My mom bought a pressure washer and had me pressure wash the house. She would see other people get services, like this guy pressure washing or this guy cleaning the pool, and she would be like, ‘What chemicals do you use? Where do you buy the machines?’ and she would be like, ‘Guess what? You’re now pressure washing the house and cleaning the pool.’”
There are lots of things you wouldn’t think kids can do until parents force them to, I offer.
“Mulan joined the army,” Eddie says in agreement.
On Fresh Off the Boat, the ABC sitcom inspired by Huang’s memoir of the same name, we’ve yet to see a young Eddie face these challenges. The chef has made it clear that the resemblance between the show and its source material continues to diverge. Will there be, for instance, an episode of the show that features this holiday — the most important one of the Chinese calendar?
“I don’t know if any of this will be on the sitcom because they never do any of the real s–t on that show, but on Vice we’re gonna do it. You’re on Vice right now.”
And, lastly, who in Huang’s family is known for being the most generous giver of the all-important red envelope?
On a cold, dark street in Tijuana, Mexico, I asked Eddie Huang a question that many people were sure to ask him in the months to come. “What did you expect?”
For the past week in December, Huang had been venting about his tortured ambivalence toward “Fresh Off the Boat,” the ABC sitcom based on the memoir he wrote about growing up as a child of Taiwanese immigrants in Orlando, Fla. He deployed his gift for pithy, wounding invective against the show’s producers and writers — before professing gratitude and love for the same people he just vilified. He described what he took to be the show’s falseness and insensitivity to nuance — before praising its first episode as the best sitcom pilot he had ever seen. He lamented the choice he had made to sell his life rights to a major network — before insisting that the premiere of “Fresh Off the Boat” on Feb. 4 would be a milestone, not just in the history of television but in the history of the United States.
He had a point. “Fresh Off the Boat” would be the first network sitcom to star an Asian-American family in 20 years and only the third attempt by any major network in the history of the medium. Huang chose to sign with ABC in deference to the residual power of network television to alter mass perceptions about race, and he had hoped to portray the Asian-immigrant experience without equivocation or compromise.
“What did I expect?” Huang responded. “I expected I could change things.” He told me that he thought his story was powerful enough for ABC to allow him to tell it his way. “I thought that people in network television had their own conscience about things.”
Huang, 32, was dressed in an acid-wash denim jacket and a black fur hat with its earflaps folded up, which lent his large, round baby face a not-at-all-coincidental resemblance to a certain East Asian dictator. (Huang likes to give himself nicknames — Kim Jong Trill, the Rotten Banana, the Human Panda, the Chinkstronaut — all of which, like the name of his show, repurpose and reclaim slurs and stereotypes.) He was sitting on the back fender of a Vice Media van, in which a five-man crew was preparing its equipment to shoot. We were waiting for two young female marijuana dealers whom Huang would be interviewing for “Huang’s World,” the gonzo food and travel show he hosts for Vice.
He had, he admitted, been extremely naïve about the realities of network television. By way of explanation, Huang reviewed for me the string of previous triumphs that induced him to overrate his ability to set his own terms in the world. “You have to remember how unlikely all of this was. With Baohaus, for instance,” he said, referring to the basement hole-in-the-wall Taiwanese sandwich shop that took Huang to the forefront of a new generation of hip young New York chefs, “I had never worked in a New York City restaurant. I came out of nowhere. And I did it!” After a brief dalliance with the Cooking Channel, Huang started the Vice show, which at the time was called “Fresh Off the Boat.” “When had there been a television host with an identity like mine — a hip-hop Asian kid? I was the first! And the show was a huge success!” In 2013, he published a memoir, the story that Huang had always wanted to tell, and it became a national best seller. “And so I said, We can do this one more time! But network television wasn’t what I thought it was.”
Huang feels that by adulterating the specificity of his childhood in the pursuit of universal appeal, the show was performing a kind of “reverse yellowface” — telling white American stories with Chinese faces. He doesn’t want to purchase mainstream accessibility at the expense of the distinctiveness of his lived experiences, though he is aware of how acutely Asian-Americans hunger for any kind of cultural recognition. “Culturally, we are in an ice age,” he said. “We don’t even have fire. We don’t even have the wheel. If this can be the first wheel, maybe others can make three more.”
Then, he added, “we can get an axle and build a rice rocket.”
The story Huang tells in his memoir is one of survival and struggle in a hostile environment — a prosperous neighborhood in Orlando. Though the picaresque book is written in Huang’s jaunty mash-up of hip-hop lingo and conspicuously learned references to American history and literature, it is also an extraordinarily raw account of an abused and bullied child who grows to inflict violence on others. The racism Huang encounters in Florida is not underhanded, implicit or subtle, as it often is for the many Asians from the professional classes living in and around the coastal cities where the American educated elite reside. It is open, overt and violent.
“Up North and out West, you have a bit more focus on academics, and there are accelerated programs for high-achieving kids,” said Emery Huang, reflecting on the tumultuous upbringing he shared with his brother. “Down South, you’ve got football and drinking, and that’s it. If you weren’t fighting, you were a nerd and a victim.” In response to this bullying, the Huang brothers did not conform to the docile stereotypes of Asian-American youths, in large part because of the influence of their father, Louis. A hardened, street-smart man, Louis had been sent by his own father to the United States to get him away from the hoodlums he had been running with in Taipei. “We wouldn’t get in trouble with our dad if we got into a fight,” Emery said. “We would get in trouble if we didn’t win.”
Huang’s memoir records an unusual life trajectory: from tormented outsider, to angry adolescent who would twice be arrested on assault charges, to marijuana dealer, to high-end street-wear designer (under the “Hoodman” label, which eventually led to a lawsuit from Bergdorf Goodman), to corporate lawyer, to successful restaurateur. The book fixates on themes of pain and punishment. As a teenager, Huang was commanded by his father to kneel and bow to police officers after he was caught stealing from neighbors. Later, he would find himself surrounded by cops with guns drawn after he drove his car into a crowd of frat guys who were menacing him and several friends (after one of his own broke a window at their house).
At times, Huang comes across in his memoir as a dutiful son who admires and reveres his parents and feels the enormous weight of obligation to them — “I wasn’t mad at my dad,” he writes after being forced to remain kneeling on his asphalt driveway for several hours, “I deserved it” — and at others as an enraged teenager, rebelling against constant assaults on his self-esteem to which he was subjected in the home — he recalls “constantly being told I was a fan tong (rice bucket), fat-ass or waste of space.” He finds in hip-hop a language for his alienation, citing Tupac Shakur’s “Me Against the World” as the cathartic soundtrack of his youth. (“Our parents, Confucius, the model-minority [expletive] and kung-fu-style discipline are what set us off,” he wrote. “But Pac held us down.”)
In Los Angeles later in December, while driving with Huang in his canary yellow Porsche Boxster to his Malibu apartment, I asked him what his parents thought of his portrayal of the abuse they inflicted on him.
“My parents have never acknowledged that it was abuse — because in their culture and their country it wasn’t,” he said. Huang believes that the psychological and physical harm that was done to him was largely a matter of context. “I think the abuse had extra meaning that I gave to it, because I saw that it wasn’t happening to other kids.” For a time, every Friday afternoon, Huang said, social workers would take him out of class to inspect him for cuts and bruises. “And I knew that I was weird and different and was made to feel like I had done something wrong, like there was something wrong with us.”
The book proposal for “Fresh Off the Boat” was sent to publishers not long after an excerpt from Amy Chua’s memoir, “Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother,” appeared in The Wall Street Journal. The commercial prospects of Huang’s proposal were almost certainly enhanced by this coincidence: Chua’s book indirectly addressed the chief preoccupation of the American upper-middle class — getting their children into top-tier colleges — and therefore generated one of the infrequent moments in which Asian-Americans aroused the fascination of the wider American public. Chua made Asian-Americans matter just long enough for Huang’s proposal to sell as a counternarrative to hers.
The Journal excerpt, titled “Why Chinese Mothers Are Superior,” gave what Chua would later claim was a misleading impression of the overall arc of her book, which chronicled the crisis that ensued when her younger daughter revolted against “Chinese” parenting methods that might seem “unimaginable — even legally actionable” to Western parents. But the marketing campaign, of which the excerpt was a part, appealed to an underlying (and not entirely unjustified) concern among white American parents that they had grown too indulgent toward their children. Huang found the book repellent. “She Kumon-ized our existence,” he told me, referring to the popular Japanese after-school learning program. “This is something that 50- and 60-year-old Asians are still dealing with.”
When I spoke to Huang’s parents, they didn’t deny his claims, but they emphasized that there was a cultural and generational gap. They were young at the time, they said, and they had reverted to parenting practices they saw in Taiwan. “I wanted to make them tough,” his father said, “and I think that I did.” Emery, however, claims that his brother’s harsh depiction of their childhood in the book seemed “sugarcoated.”
Still, Huang is quick to say that he never thinks of his parents as bad people. “I do think about getting hit, though,” he said. “And I definitely am the way I am because of it. I am quick to react. I am quick to protect myself. I am very comfortable with people yelling at me. And I am very comfortable telling people exactly what I think. I am very comfortable getting personal.”
This mixture of love and loathing toward parents will be familiar to generations of immigrants of every color, but Asian-Americans feel this tension with an unusual acuteness, in part because Confucian tradition is so explicitly directed toward the breaking of individual autonomy in favor of the demands of the family. This tension is compounded by the fact that, as a result of the federal Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965, which eased national-origin quotas, Asians began arriving in the United States in large numbers just as the cultural upheaval of the 1960s was drastically loosening American manners and mores. Today the means that many Asian-Americans apply to achieve academic success (a narrow emphasis on rote memorization and test preparation) could not be more out of step with the attitudes and practices of the socially liberal elite that Asians aspire to join. The ensuing cultural dissonance generates an awkward silence around the topic of Asian-Americans — Asian-Americans don’t want to portray their parents as backward, and white liberals don’t want to be seen as looking down on people of other races and cultures whose parenting practices seem primitive. Huang hates this silence.
It is no paradox that Huang’s brazen attitude resembles nothing so much as that of his brash immigrant mother. As we arrived at his apartment in Malibu, Huang casually mentioned that his mother had on more than one occasion turned the wheel of her car sharply into oncoming traffic to terrorize her children into compliance. But Huang would later insist that he owes everything he has become to her. “Every morning, whether it was weekdays or weekends, she would get me up and start demanding: ‘What are you going to do with yourself today? What is the plan? What is the itinerary?’ ” Huang credits this with instilling in him the drive that made him relentless in his pursuit of success.
In fact, his mother’s haranguing inadvertently helped jump-start his writing career. In 2010, his attempt at a second restaurant, Xiao Ye, received a zero-star review in The New York Times. The restaurant’s menu included facetiously racist items, including an “Everything but the Dog Meat Plate” and “Princeton Review Bean Paste Noodles.” In the write-up, Sam Sifton lamented that “if Mr. Huang spent even a third of the time cooking that he does writing funny blog posts and wry Twitter updates, posting hip-hop videos and responding to Internet friends, rivals, critics and customers, Xiao Ye might be one of the more interesting restaurants to open in New York City in the last few months.” Huang’s blog went viral when he published an email his mother sent him after the review came out.
“Trust me, you much keep your bar license active just in case you need it,” his mother wrote. “You do not even understand your own strength or the whole scope of this business, and you are not even willing to listen. YOU MUST GET BURNT BEFORE YOU WILL HEAR YOUR MOM. Please calm down, analyze yourself, and be honest. You have a lot of potential, but you must make good choice and stick to it with the best choice. With all the staff, and your korean friend, no one was able to point out or warn you the mistakes, or problems you have???????????????????”
Huang closed the restaurant after repeat visits from the State Liquor Authority, which might have been peeved by his “Four Loko Thursday” deal, when the high-alcohol, caffeinated beverage was sold at a steep discount. (Huang had also floated the idea of an all-you-can-drink deal.) But Sifton grasped something important in his observation that the blog posts and Twitter updates mattered more to the chef than the food did. Huang’s true ambitions always had more to do with writing than with feeding people. He told me he opened the restaurant “because no one wanted to listen to me.”
Huang’s cocky social-media personality kept getting him in trouble, but it only seemed to swell his fame. His inability to censor himself, combined with his talent for speaking frankly and intimately to a mass public, aligned him perfectly with the mood of social media. When the Cooking Channel signed Huang to host a show called “Cheap Bites” — the kind of opportunity that most dedicated chefs would hold on to for dear life — the deal fell apart after Huang lashed out at the network’s biggest stars on Twitter. Huang has no regrets about the dust-up. (“The show looked like trash.”) He was later named a TED fellow, a potential gateway into the world of highly compensated corporate speaking, but quickly got himself booted from the program when he skipped some of the events to appear on a podcast with the graffiti artist David Choe and the porn star Asa Akira. Choe declared it to be a meeting of the “worst Asians in the universe.” Huang would later denounce TED as a “cult.”
Huang’s utter lack of instinct for self-preservation has had the curious effect of preserving himself against any harm. While the established institutions he railed against had myriad vested interests to balance and secrets to hide, Huang has always taken the inherently sympathetic role of the only honest man, refusing to compromise with arbitrary or corrupt authority. This has made Huang a particularly good fit with Vice Media, whose food channel, Munchies, seeks to appeal to young hipsters turned off by bourgeois “foodie-ism” but interested in educating their palates. Tricked out in big sunglasses, high-top sneakers and flashy street wear, Huang’s on-screen persona often resembles an Asian Ali G — easy to mock, were it not a deliberate self-caricature. Much of the pleasure of Huang’s Vice show comes from watching him slyly emerge from his buffoonish character to make incisive comments revealing an agile, literary mind — and then lapse back into the role of the pot-addled numbskull.
I met Huang in Los Angeles during a time of high tension surrounding his show, a few weeks after he exploded in a Twitter tirade, accusing the network of neutering his book, and a week before shooting would wrap. The executive producers were, at this point, careful to emphasize that the show was not a biography of Eddie Huang and his family. It was a loose adaptation “inspired” by, rather than “based” on, Huang’s book. The series borrows the setting and the characters but applies them to a plot that was invented almost entirely by a professional writing staff, led by the showrunner Nahnatchka Khan. Though Huang lived the life depicted in the show, 20th Century Fox Television (which produces the show for ABC) retains creative control over it.
Melvin Mar, the producer at Fox who bought the rights to the book, told me that Huang’s arrangement with the studio is atypical. Usually, a production company will pay an author for a book it options and neither seek nor offer further participation. But Huang insisted on being brought on as a producer as a condition of the sale. So, Mar told me, “we decided we would all do this together, like a family.”
More than anything, the fraught dynamic that emerged between Mar and Huang resembles that of Huang’s actual family. The ambivalence Huang feels toward his parents tends to manifest itself in all his dealings with authority, Mar most emphatically not excepted. Huang sometimes describes Mar as a mentor, someone who has taught him about when to pursue confrontation and when to acknowledge the necessity for accommodation. But these sincere expressions of respect often segue quickly to contempt for the compromises endemic to the entertainment industry. “It’s a system that is kind of similar to the Asian upbringing,” Huang told me. By giving up so much autonomy for his career’s sake, Huang said, Mar “got a second set of parents in network television.”
Mar and Khan met at a symposium for Asian-Americans interested in the popular arts, where they dealt with a familiar crowd of activists demanding to know why Hollywood seemed so uninterested in casting people who looked like themselves. (Mar’s family is from China; Khan’s is from Iran.) “You go to these conferences, and there’s always people saying, ‘You should do more for Asian people,’ ” Mar said. “And my response is, ‘Yes, I agree with you.’ But it’s easier said than done. I have to bring actual projects that are viable and convince the executives that there’s a real business case for making it.”
The business case for making an Asian-American show is simple: Asian-Americans are the fastest-growing ethnic group in the country, they earn and spend more than the average American and they are overrepresented in the advertiser-coveted 18-to-34-year-old demographic. But if the case were really so strong, surely two decades would not have passed without some network making a bid for this audience. Perhaps the reason is that the so-called Asian-American demographic (some 18 million viewers) is actually made up of many different nationalities with no common culture or language.
Moreover, comedies about nonwhite people generally must navigate a trap-laden path between offending the group represented and neutering the comedy to avoid doing so. And they suffer from having to be approved and produced by people who are overwhelmingly white, and thus unfamiliar with the nuances of the stories they are telling, and also intensely wary of giving offense — but all this does is increase the likelihood that these shows will be dull, though still capable of offending their audience. This is exactly what happened to “All-American Girl,” the sitcom starring the comedian Margaret Cho and the last significant attempt to make an Asian-American TV show. The series was disowned by the Korean-American community that it tried to portray and was eventually rejected by the wider audience for being unfunny. It was canceled after just one season, two decades ago.
“Fresh Off the Boat” was meant to be different. Not only is the production staff diverse, but the source material helps indemnify the show against criticism of many of its outlandish elements, which are rooted in Huang’s actual life. For example, the ferociously uninhibited and heavily accented mother portrayed in the series might appear to be an offensive caricature if it were a generic “Tiger mom” conjured out of thin air.
In fact, Constance Wu, the actress who plays Jessica Huang on the show, told me that she underplays her character in relation to the actual woman. “I don’t actually think they would believe she was real,” Wu said. “That’s what reality television is for — to show you people who no one would actually believe were real.” To preserve the appearance of reality, the show has had to depart from it — while also claiming that same reality as its license to go as far as it does in presenting a raw slice of immigrant life.
When Mar asked Khan to sketch out her vision for the show, she described what would become the opening scene of the series: a tight focus on someone in hip-hop garb that pulls out to reveal . . . a short, chubby Asian boy. The apparent incongruity (more apparent than real) is at once a joke for the prime-time network audience and a wedge that protects the series from recapitulating “model minority” representations of Asian-Americans. It is also the sore point that offends Huang more than any other aspect of the show.
Hip-hop had been the emblem of Huang’s alienation from his own household and the violence he encountered at school. It provided a language through which to reject the role of the eager assimilator that his own culture seemed to urge onto him. It was, as Huang described it in his book, a means of survival — not some glib, touristic fascination, or even a way of being cool. Huang identified with the black kids at school because they, too, were enduring beatings in their households in a way that white kids weren’t. “It’s a funny position being an Asian in America,” Huang wrote. “You’re the dude who can cross the union line. Your community actually wants you to sell the [expletive] out and work in law, accounting or banking. But I realized then that I wasn’t going to cross the picket line.” (Though he was briefly a corporate lawyer.) “I was down with the rotten bananas who want nothing to do with that.”
Huang’s appropriation of the language of racialized resistance might seem intrinsically noncredible to many white, black and even Asian interlocutors, who — implicitly or explicitly — regard Asian-Americans as the minority group that gets ahead by working hard and eschewing the politics of racial grievance. Not Huang, who likes to analogize his relationship with Mar to that of the “field Chinaman” to the “house Chinaman.” (Mar called this comparison “heightened,” which was his diplomatic way of saying “fantastically overwrought.” If there is a class distinction between the two men, it’s this: Mar’s family worked in the bean-sprout business in Los Angeles’s Chinatown, while Huang’s father become a millionaire many times over in Orlando.)
Huang especially took issue with the second episode in the series, in which a youthful Eddie develops a protosexual fascination with a blond, large-breasted trophy wife who has just moved into the neighborhood. It includes a scene in which Eddie fantasizes himself into a rap video. He “makes it rain” and squirts Capri Sun onto models. Though test audiences found the scene to be innocuously funny, Huang considered the thrust of the episode outright offensive. In his estimation, it denigrates hip-hop culture by portraying it as a vector for adopting sexist attitudes — a perversion of what, for him, had been a vital emotional outlet. His analysis is credible but, as the writers and producers told him, way too abstruse for anyone in the audience to think about.
“It’s so interesting, what he’s going through,” Khan told me. “Most people never get the opportunity to experience what he’s experiencing. So now he’s rebelling and manifesting the angst, and that’s what makes him him, and that’s why he wrote the memoir in the first place. Part of me just wants to say, ‘Sit back and enjoy this.’ ”
When I told Huang that Khan wanted him to sit back and enjoy the ride, he had an immediate response: “That’s what pedophiles tell children.”
Even if Huang’s attraction to black culture is played for cheap laughs, to him it is an essential element of his person. It provides the missing half of the fully human entity that the Asian-American who consents to the model-minority myth has to relinquish. A model minority is a tractable, one-dimensional simulacrum of a person, stripped of complexity, nuance, danger and sexuality — a person devoid of dramatic interest. Huang is something else: a person at war with all the constraints that would fetter him to anything less than an identity capacious enough to contain all his contradictions and ambivalence.
At the hotel on our last day in Tijuana, Huang spent the morning managing his Manhattan restaurant, Baohaus, by Skype. Besides traveling 24 weeks of the year for Vice, writing a second memoir and working on the ABC series, Huang continues to manage his restaurant. He often finds himself in fights with one cook in particular, an older Cantonese-speaking veteran of Chinatown restaurants. Huang is as exacting a boss as he is an insubordinate employee, but he is often forced to suffer the rebelliousness of his staff. He and the cook argued about how to properly cut chicken. The cook wanted to slice the chicken, which he believed white people prefer. Huang wanted it done the proper way, diced. “He never really accepts what I tell him,” he said. “And as soon as I turn my back, he starts doing it his own way.”
“I’ve wanted to fire him so many times,” he said. “The problem is, you can’t teach American kids the speed this guy has or his ability to problem-solve on the fly.”
As he thought about it, Huang hit on a comparison between Hollywood executives and the typical Chinatown restaurant. Each, he said, think they know what people want and strive to give them exactly that. But it never occurs to either of them to sell people the authentic thing itself — Chinese food the way Chinese people make it for themselves or, in the case of Hollywood, stories that don’t rely on formulaic contrivance to be funny.
“I really feel that people don’t always know what’s good for them,” he said. “When you have a strong conviction, you have a duty not to tell people what they want. At least represent yourself and say: ‘Yo, this is what I’m into, and this is what I’m seeing in the world. Let me take your hand and guide you through it, so you can see through my eyes.’ ”
As you probably know, the groundbreaking ABC sitcom Fresh Off The Boat hits airwaves next week. Based on the bestselling memoir by Eddie Huang, the show stars the first Asian American family on the network television in over two decades. If you’re in New York, you’re invited to a special community viewing party.
Because this kind of a big deal. Watch the live two-episode premiere, along with a talkback with series star Hudson Yang and proud dad Jeff Yang, and special guests Erin Quill, Grek Pak, Richard Lui and more. It’s happening Wednesday, February 4, starting at 8:00pm at The Circle NYC.
Here are some more details about the event:
“FRESH OFF THE BOAT” LIVE COMMUNITY VIEWING PARTY AT THE CIRCLE NYC
Wednesday, February 4
at 8:00pm – 11:00pm in EST
THE CIRCLE NYC
135 W 41st St
New York, New York 10036
Gather together for the special two-episode preview of ABC’s groundbreaking new Asian American family comedy “Fresh Off the Boat,” inspired by Eddie Huang’s bestselling memoir!
EDIT: WE ARE LIKELY TO HIT CAPACITY! Space can accommodate 1000 max; COME EARLY as RSVPing here DOES NOT GUARANTEE ADMISSION
FREE EVENT (cash bar) — with Live Talkback featuring Jeff Yang, Hudson Yang, and special guests Erin Quill (original cast, AVENUE Q), Greg Pak (writer, BATMAN/SUPERMAN; STORM), Richard Lui (anchor, MSNBC) and more to come!
Special Thanks to Our Hosts Bobby Kwak and The Circle NYC!
This is going to be fun. But like it says, the venue is likely to reach capacity, and seating is first-come, first-serve, so make sure you get there early. For further information about the event, refer to the Facebook event.
The official Twitter account for ABC‘s upcoming spin-off comedy series Fresh Off the Boatis in some hot water after posting a controversial ad depicting various cultural hats. Chef Eddie Huang, whose memoir serves as the basis for the forthcoming comedy series, expressed his distaste for the ad, calling it “plain offensive and ridiculous.”
Receiving criticism from audiences for its stereotypical nature in particular for its “bamboo hat” reference, the Twitter ad has since been deleted as executive producer Jeff Yang confirms. While it is no secret that Huang has expressed his frustration on getting the television series on air, the chef praises ABC’s efforts in pioneering a story that has yet to be told on major networks.
“Just say the line,” said Melvin, our executive producer.
“Did you read the book 1?” I asked. “If you can find any crumb of a complete thought in the book that remotely infers ‘America is great,’ I’ll read the line.”
“Eddie, we need it for the episode. It’s a big moment! You have a black kid and a Chinese kid breaking bread over a Jewish hip-hop concert. Where else could this happen? America IS great!”
“Of course you picked a Beastie Boys concert. That’s what you people do — you make Asian sitcoms for white people praising Ill Communicationbecause we’re both acceptable, unthreatening gateways to black culture. These kids couldn’t break bread at a Gravediggaz show?”
“It’s not your story anymore. Get over it. The kids ARE NOT going to a Gravediggaz show! This is a HISTORIC network-television show inspired by your life, and it’s going to get Americans excited about us. 2It’s never going to be the book; it’s never going to be Baohaus. 3It’s Panda Express,4and you know what? Orange chicken gets America really excited about Chinese people in airports.”
“Then what did you buy my book for? Just make A Chink’s Life … With Free Wonton Soup or Soda: A reverse-yellowface show with universal white stories played out by Chinamen.”
“You have no idea what you’re talking about. This show is on the AMERICAN BROADCASTING CHANNEL. It’s the holy grail! Network television! Just say the line, man …”
“How about a compromise? What about ‘Ain’t America great?’ or ‘America’s not half-bad!’”
I’d known Asian-Americans like Melvin my entire life. Those Booker T. Washington 5–Professor X–Uncle Chans, willing to cast down their buckets, take off Cerebro, and forget that successful people of color are in many ways “chosen” and “allowed” to exist while the others get left behind. They spout off about the American Dream or Only in America as if they’re about to rob the next great fighter from Brownsville. 6I empathize with Melvin, but Uncle Chans are basically born-again-Christian felons who will praise anything as long as they don’t get sent back to Rikers. I’d rather be Tunechi, “Left Rikers in a Phantom, that’s my nigga.”7
From the Chinese Exclusion Act to Yick Wo v. Hopkins to your favorite talking head’s favorite “ching chong” jokes, America never ran out of the shadows to defend the honor of their obedient Chinamen. Despite being the “man’s” preferred lapdog of color, everything Asian-American immigrants have was fought for. We still wake up spotting the man 10 points, walking with our heads down, apologizing for our FOB-y aunts and uncles as if aspiring to wash your shirt or do your taxes were really such an insidiously foreign idea. In a way, I accept that I have to be 10 points better; what I won’t accept are Melvins.
“Run the tape.” I said to the editor recording the session. The red light went on.
“America ain’t three fifths bad.” #Compromise
Huang (in Basquiat crown) with his family in 1985. (Photo: Courtesy of Eddie Huang)
I used to try to understand my existence underneath the Bamboo Ceiling, 8but with no way out through the master’s house, I laced up my Timb boots, initiated Chinkstronaut mode, and escaped the gravitational pull of society. Since 2009, I’ve opened Baohaus, produced and hosted Huang’s Worldfor Vice, and, in January 2013, Spiegel and Grau published my memoir, Fresh Off the Boat. It told my life story as a Taiwanese-Chinese-American creating his own America replete with bound feet, bowl cuts, sports sex, and soup dumps. I even got love in the Times. Dwight Garner said it was “a surprisingly sophisticated memoir about race and assimilation in America. It’s an angry book, as much James Baldwin and Jay-Z as Amy Tan. That it’s also bawdy and frequently hilarious nearly, if not entirely, seals the deal.” Life was good.
I also became a TED fellow. But after two days, I got kicked out of Chris Anderson’s Carefully Curated Conference for Intellectual Limp Biscuit. That’s when I met Melvin Mar, who came through and kind of rescued me …
“I love the book. I want to make it a show, buddy!” said Melvin. “LikeMalcolm in the Middle or Everybody Hates Chris, with a 12-year-old Eddie and retro ’90s setting in Orlando.”
“Everybody hates those shows.”
“Malcolm in the Middle was great!”
“Okay, I liked Malcolm in the Middle. But Malcolm’s dad turned into a meth dealer on AMC. I don’t want my dad portrayed that way.”
“What are you talking about? Everyone loves Heisenberg.”
“My dad has better hair,” I said. “But I need more than that. I needMarried With Chinese People. I want Ed O’Neill to go yellowface with a perm, faux-gator shoes, and blue-lens Cartier frames. If you can make that happen, you can have the book.” #TheGodAlBundy
After several conversations with my agent about industry standards and Ed O’Neill’s availability and unwillingness to go yellowface, we came to an agreement on a term sheet with the studio, which simultaneously attached Nahnatchka Khan (who was behind Don’t Trust the B— in Apt. 23) as the writer and got a put-pilot commitment from ABC. I was in Chengdu when Melvin broke the news.
“What’d I tell you, man? I’m gonna make you a star.”
“I’m already a star, Melvin, my basketball team made the second-division finals in the Fastbreak NYC playoffs this year, and I hit two 3s.”
“Your life story is going to be on network television! Get excited!”
“I would be excited, but you attached a Persian writer, and I’m kinda worried it’s going to be The Shahs of Cul-de-Sac Holando.”
“Relax, Natch 9is a unicorn! She’s a Persian writer who understands the American experience of getting shit on, fighting back, and wrote Don’t Trust the B— in Apt. 23.”
The sitcom version of his family.
“I get it. She has her own America complete with songs of saffron ice-cream dreams deferred, and we can show solidarity in Raekwon’s ice-cream truck,10 but it’s not the same. I’m rotten fucking banana,11 and this can’t be Soft-Ass Glutinous Asians in Apartment 23! This shit’s gotta go hard. We haven’t had an eat-rocks Asian male role model since Data 12. And why isn’t there a Taiwanese or Chinese person who can write this? I’m sure there’s some angry Korean dude in Hollywood who grew up eating Spam, watching his dad punch his mom in the face, who knows how to use Final Draft!”
I didn’t understand how network television, the one-size fits-all antithesis to Fresh Off the Boat, was going to house the voice of a futuristic chinkstronaut. I began to regret ever selling the book, because Fresh Off the Boat was a very specific narrative about SPECIFIC moments in my life, such as kneeling in a driveway holding buckets of rice overhead or seeing pink nipples for the first time. The network’s approach was to tell a universal, ambiguous, cornstarch story about Asian-Americans resembling moo goo gai pan written by a Persian-American who cut her teeth on race relations writing for Seth MacFarlane. But who is that show written for?
We all know that universal demographic doesn’t exist; even at the level of the person, the network’s ideal viewer doesn’t exist, much less know what it wants. This universal market of Jos. A. Bank customers watches cornstarch television and eats at Panda Express because that’s all they’re being offered. I didn’t need the show to be Baohaus or Din Tai Fung; I would have settled for Chipotle. Yet, for some reason, no one wants to improve the quality of offerings until someone forces them to. A Jedi has to say, “I want to be incrementally better than the Seth MacFarlanes and McDonald’s of the world!” for anything to change. Isn’t that the genius of Shake Shack, South Park, and In-N-Out Burger? What happened to being an incrementally aspirational society? Wasn’t America the City on the Hill? In Hollywood, it felt like, we were the town in a valley run by western Michigan.
“Listen, buddy, the show is never going to be the book. What you are hoping is that people watch the show, buy the book, then say, ‘You know, that show is funny, but the book is better,’” said Melvin.
“But it doesn’t have to be that way! Game of Thrones is based on books, and it’s fucking heat rocks.”
“I hate to break this up, but the books are better,” whispered my manager Rafael.
“You get what I’m saying. It’s still a good show.”
“Eddie, the point of a network show is for people to come home from work, laugh for 22 minutes on the couch, watch your TV family solve the A-plot and B-plot, and end up on a similar couch as one big, happy, AMERICAN family.”
“That show is a lie, Melvin!”
My instincts told me to call a former space traveler. Someone who’d shunned gravity and returned, only to retreat once again: Margaret Cho. I had never met or even talked to Margaret, but I remember her jokes about penises being like snowflakes and still refer to my dick as a six-inch meatball sub. When she wasn’t helping me contextualize my penis in the pantheon of fast-casual sandwiches, she helped me navigate being Asian in America: a spirit guide leading me through San Francisco bookstores, fragrance departments, and Korean dinners. All-American Girl13was America’s first Asian — specifically, Korean-American — sitcom, but it got canceled after one season. Asians like myself ate our hopes and dreams by the grain burnt at the bottom of a seasonal stone bowl, vowing to one day return.
“They have no idea what they’re doing, but they’ll have opinions about everything you’re doing,” she warned.
“It’s as bad as everyone says, huh?”
“It’s worse. When I did it, I was just happy to be there, and every time they told me I was too Asian, not Asian enough, too fat, too skinny, I listened. You have to fight them at every step.”
“Why does anyone even sign up for this Hollywood High School bullshit? It’s not like there aren’t other ways to tell stories.”
“Because you CAN do it. You’ve been irreverent everywhere you’ve gone, just don’t change now. You go to Hollywood and you go be the same person you’ve been the whole time. I believe in you, and to be honest, we need this.”
Over the next year, I went to production meetings, sat on set at times, gave alts, and checked for authenticity, but I couldn’t stomach the culture of scripted sitcoms. In our first production meeting, there were about 50 to 60 people gathered in a classroomlike studio setting, with Jake Kasdan, Natch, Lynn Shelton, Melvin, and myself going scene by scene through the script.
Eventually, we got to the macaroni-and-cheese scene. Throughout the book tour, it was my favorite scene to read because it exemplified how foreign white culture was to me. I remember the first time I saw macaroni and cheese, as a guest in my friend Jeff’s home, thinking it was pig intestines cut into half-moons hanging out in an orange sauce. Jeff found it incredulous that I didn’t know what macaroni and cheese was, but it was formative; he got a taste of macaroni and cheese from my eyes, discovering how it felt to be gazed on and seen as exotic instead of being the one gazing. The script took the moment and exploited it for humor as opposed to making it a teaching moment, so I spoke up.
“The setup for the joke in this scene is nonexistent. People need to understand how weird it is for Young Eddie to see macaroni and cheese for the first time.”
“The visual does it for you. Look at the mac ’n’ cheese, it’s disgusting!” said Jake, who put the prop on the table.
“Yeah, it looks like shitty mac ’n’ cheese, then the joke becomes that it’s bad mac ’n’ cheese. The point is that it’s foreign, not bad.”
Melvin got tense; Natch spoke up.
“I know what Eddie’s saying. We’ll address it. There could be more setup.” Within seconds, I got a text from Melvin. “Welcome to pilot season, kid.” Eventually, they just cut the entire scene.
Throughout the process, I kept speaking to Melvin and Natch about context and perspective so that viewers truly understood how diverse Asian America is. My father loved America. He wanted to come, listen to rock ’n’ roll, grow long hair, and cop dome from Jewish women at Penn State. My mom had no choice. She was brought to the country, never really fit in, but never felt less for it. She’s a strong, confident woman who many times felt that America made no sense. What the hell are chicken tenders? Why did people waste napkins at the restaurant? Why do their kids bruise fruit at the store? Frankly, she thought she was better than America because she came from a culture with 5,000 years of experience. I needed that contrast in the show supported by the specific musings and perspectives of Asian-Americans who actually lived this life. We couldn’t represent everyone who lived this life, but for the individuals we did represent, I felt a duty to be accurate.
A few weeks after we taped, Melvin kept blowing up my phone.
“We tested the show, and there may or may not be a handful of butt-hurt white people …”
“Maybe. But listen, white people keep you on the air. They have to feel included. If people understand our perspective, they won’t be offended. So I pitched them an idea. We gotta hold the viewer’s hand through this because they’ve never been inside an Asian-American home before.”
“I know you love Wonder Years …”
“I told them that we should do voice-over on the show. It’ll help the audience get into the mind of Young Eddie.”
“YOU GOTTA LET ME GET MY KEVIN ARNOLD ON!”
“Who is pitching this dickhead, you or me?”
“You’re gonna get your Kevin Arnold on, buddy.”
And for a few months, it went well. The lines were more or less in some acceptable “network Eddie” compromise voice, and when I had issues, they adapted. But everything fell apart afterthat November voice-over session.
“Listen, I tried to put myself in your shoes after voice-over yesterday,” Melvin said.
“I can’t ask you to say ‘America is great.’”
“Thanks, man. You get it, right?”
“Yeah, I do. Like you said, it goes against the essence of the book.”
“We’re asking too much of you. I watch you on set, read your emails, and it’s killing you to watch us make this show … Maybe we should have someone else do voice-over?”
I let it marinate for a second.
“You there, buddy?”
“What do you think?”
At first, I saw his point. “I mean, I’m sure you can find someone who will actually read what you put in front of him.”
“We don’t need to put you through this. We can go harder next time.”
That’s when I realized what was reallygoing on. It wasn’t that I hated the show. It genuinely entertained me, but it had to do more. A Midsummer Night’sDream satisfies groundlings and intellectuals alike. Tragedy is easy and comedy’s hard, but we weren’t even trying! My story had become an entertaining but domesticated vehicle to sell dominant culture with Kidz Bop, pot shots, and the emasculated Asian male. I got upset when they dressed Randall 14like a Fung Wah bus driver or Hudson 15like an And-1 yard sale or Constance 16like the Crocodile Hunter with kitty-cat heels. We couldn’t go out like this! If America is ever going to treat its cold sores, its culture will have to force conversations examining freedom, equality, and ASIANS IN GATOR SHOES.
“Naw, fuck that! You’re trying to steal my story. We may never get another chance!”
“Eddie, calm down, man! No one is taking your story from you. They’re not ready for the book. The show is a bridge; it’ll get them there, but it’s still your story!”
“Nah, son. People ARE ready!”
I hung up on Melvin, parked my car, and hit the interwebs via Twitter. “Producers of #FreshOfftheBoat want me to say ‘America is great’ or they’ll replace me. What’s a chink to do?”
Three weeks later, the EPA had announced it was no longer consulting scientists, Ferguson had announced there would be no indictments, and I sat in my massage chair numb to America, getting the gluten kneaded out of my back fat. Everything I saw, from Republicans suing Obama over immigration reform to the script for our second episode, where ODB is appropriated to teach Young Eddie how to make it rain, made absolutelyno sense. 17But in my post-Thanksgiving slumber, I turned on the Michigan–Ohio State game. Since Desmond Howard did the Heisman, I’ve been a Wolverines fan. They’ve been hot trash recently, but I still hold out hope … BECAUSE YOU NEVER KNOW WHEN A PROMO FOR YOUR LIFE STORY IS GOING TO RUN ON ABC DURING THE GAME WHEN YOU ARE TAKING BONG RIPS.
All of a sudden, I screamed, “THERE IT GO!” The Fresh Off the Boat logo flashed across the screen, my TV mom, Constance Wu, going buck-wild in a Taiwanese market, Young Eddie, searching for Lunchables, and Randall Park with the jade pendant, flossin’ just like my pops. THERE WERE REAL ACTORS ON TV TALKING ABOUT THE PITFALLS OF WHITE FOOD!
My friend Rocky was staying at the crib and missed the commercial, so I played it back.
“Ninja, we made it.”
“YOU made it.”
“Nah, son, WE MADE IT.”
“I ain’t never seen anything like this. I don’t know what to say. I knew it was coming, but … son … YOU GOT ASIANS ON TV!”
But I still wasn’t convinced. Everything I ever knew rang in my head: “It’s not enough … You can’t just get on base. We got to come home.” Quickly, I pulled up the pilot episode on my laptop and played it for Rocky. The standard shots were there, the kitchen scenes, banter, banter, banter, but through all the fucking duck sauce and wonton strips, Melvin and Natch did it … They fucking did it. In the black-box TV format, there we were. Andafter about 19 minutes of shiny suit-bubble goose bounce, there was real talk.
“Get to the back of the line, chink!” said Edgar, the only other person of color at school. It was the most formative moment of my childhood; the first time someone ever called me a chink, held in a two-shot. Two kids of color forced to battle each other at the bottom of America’s totem pole on ABC.
After 18 months of back and forth, I had crossed a threshold and become the audience. I wasn’t the auteur, the writer, the actor, or the source material. I was the viewer, and I finally understood it. This show isn’t about me, nor is it about Asian America. The network won’t take that gamble right now. You can’t flash an ad during THE GAME with some chubby Chinese kid running across the screen talking shit about spaceships and Uncle Chans in 2014 because America has no reference. The only way they could even mention some of the stories in the book was by building a Trojan horse and feeding the pathogenic stereotypes that still define us to a lot of American cyclope. Randall was neutered, Constance was exoticized, and Young Eddie was urbanized so that the viewers got their mise-en-place. People watching these channels have never seen us, and the network’s approach to pacifying them is to say we’re all the same. Sell them pasteurized network television with East Asian faces until they wake up intolerant of their own lactose, and hit ’em with the soy. Baking soya, I got baking soya!
It doesn’t sound like much, but it is. Those three minutes are the holy trinity Melvin, Randall, Constance, Hudson, Forrest, Ian, and I sacrificed everything for. Our parents worked in restaurants, laundromats, and one-hour photo shops thinking it was impossible to have a voice in this country, so they never said a word. We are culturally destitute in America, and this is our ground zero. Network television never offered the epic tale highlighting Asian America’s coming of age; they offered to put orange chicken on TV for 22 minutes a week instead of Salisbury steak … and I’ll eat it; I’ll even thank them, because if you’re high enough, orange chicken ain’t so bad.
But for all the bullshit I heard at studios about universal stories and the cultural pus it perpetuates, I felt some truth in it for those three minutes. It takes a lot of chutzpah to launch a network comedy with a pilot addressing the word chink, yet it works because it’s the safest bet the studio could have made. The feeling of being different is universal because difference makes us universally human in our individual relationships with society. We’re all fucking weirdos. The social contract is here because we have a collective desire to be individuals and preserve our rights to pursue singular happiness with or without cilantro. But we’ve been fixated way too long on universality and the matrix’s pursuit of monoculture. It’s time to embrace difference and speak about it with singularity, idiosyncracy, and infinite density. No more drone strikes, no more Nielsen boxes, no more “we are the world” … if it’s walkin’ dead with a red dot, take the shot.
Chinkstronauts, ride out …
*This is an extended version of an article appears in the January 12, 2015 issue of New York Magazine.
Designer, illustrator and self-professed Bun Queen, Sophia Chang has created an impressive portfolio in her short tenure. The Queens-based artist often look to hip-hop and pop culture in her caricatures, presenting simple yet compelling renderings that have garnered collaborations with the likes of Staple Design, Baohaus and Undefeated.
For her latest project, PUMA tapped Sophia to produce a collection dubbed “Brooklynite” — a bold repertoire that blends together PUMA’s technical designs with Sophia’s New York-inspired illustrations. Continuing with such motifs, Sophia moved onto footwear, designing an updated collection to the PUMA Trinomic Disc. In this segment, we catch up with the young artist to learn about how she interpolates her illustration skills onto footwear design, her views on women in sneakers, and UNDO-Ordinary Magazine — a platform she co-created that celebrates fashion and fitness.
How different is footwear design from your experience with strictly illustrating?
My college studies were grounded in illustration. I spent my free time mentoring and studying under some of the greats in the design industry. Since my graduation in 2010 I have expanded my practice to many different creative fields including graphic design, web design and art curation. Since I’m familiar with creating on different platforms, working with footwear was just a blank canvas to me (also I’m a huge fan of sneakers so my heart was in it too!). I was given the opportunity to translate my understanding of art and design (simple things like color palette and space distribution), and mix it with my personal interests in fashion. Cultural influences came into play as well. Being a native New Yorker I wanted to embody the flavor of the city in an apparel collection that would speak to a global market.
“TO SUCCEED IN THE DESIGN MARKET, YOU NEED MORE THAN JUST TALENT. YOU NEED HUSTLE. YOU NEED A NICHE MARKET THAT YOU CAN WORK IN.”
Has growing up in New York provided you with any advantages creatively?
I’m so blessed to be able to live and work in this creative hub. Of course growing up in this urban city has definitely influenced me early on. For my personal history, the cultural influences of hip-hop music, style and creative arts has definitely been a part of my entire life.
When I was studying in school and identifying myself amongst my peers, it was clear the talent to draw was there. But to succeed in the design market, you need more than just talent. You need hustle. You need a niche market that you can work in. I realized that my passion projects really helped lead me to my clients. When I say passion projects I mean non-commissioned work that I wanted to do just for fun. I love digging into New York culture and pop culture for my personal artistic inspiration.
Females in streetwear have been gaining a lot of traction recently, why do you think this is?
I believe it’s gaining traction because the internet allows for greater transparency. In a male-dominated market like streetwear, there is little room for women with talent to shine. Well, compared to women with a nice set of tits and ass. The internet as a communication tool allows women to show off their own accolades with little constraints.
“I WANT TO TAKE ADVANTAGE OF MY TIME OUT OF SCHOOL TO REALLY TEST THE WATERS. STRUGGLE, FAIL, TRY, MAKE ATTEMPTS, SUCCEED (MAYBE) AND SEE HOW FAR I CAN TAKE MYSELF.”
You’ve worked before for creative companies/agencies and as a freelancer. Do you feel more creative now that you’re working for yourself?
Absolutely. It’s like how they say college isn’t for everyone. A full-time job with a system might not be for every person. I’m still young, and I still have a lot to accomplish. I want to take advantage of my time out of school to really test the waters. Struggle, fail, try, make attempts, succeed (maybe) and see how far I can take myself. When I am ready, I will definitely enter back into the full-time market. But for now, I’m just trying to see what I’ve got.
How do you ensure that you’re being pushed and challenged when you work for yourself?
I surround myself with people who push and challenge me. I’ve been blessed to be in a beautiful city, one of the hardest cities to work in as a creative. I’ve got a great community of people who support me and a lovely web community of people who criticize me. Even the living standards in NY is a good enough push. Trying to pay the bills and still cop the latest kicks!
You recently collaborated with PUMA on the “Brooklynite” collection and the Disc Blaze Lite line. How much of the project centers around sports/functionality versus lifestyle?
The collection itself is carried under the PUMA lifestyle collection. None of the designs really have anything to do with sport performance. However personally I live an active lifestyle and I am deeply influenced by sportswear fabrics. Select pieces of the collection echo designs found in technicalactivewear. The Trinomic Disc sneakers include materials such as neoprene, mesh and reflective stripes. These fabrics are often found in sportswear and in the event years, due to fashion trends, have made appearances in the fashion market. As a New Yorker who is constantly on the move from meetings, to the gym, to dinner with friends, it’s important for my outfit to be flexible for all occasions.
“NO CLIENT, NO COMMISSION – WE CREATED OUR OWN PATH, OUR OWN DIRECTION. THANKS TO WITHOUT WALLS TO SPONSORED OUR BOOK, WE WERE ABLE TO PRINT OUR MAGAZINES.”
You have participated the UNDO-Ordinary Magazine project, tell us how it got started and what’s your main focus on the layout design and visual direction of magazine?
The UNDO-Ordinary Magazine was created because the marketed needed it. The founders ofUNDO-Ordinary are Robin Arzon and NaiVasha, who built a global running movement centered around fitness and fashion. They’re both good friends and huge inspirations for me. We decided to team up and create a print magazine based on their ethos. The vision was clear. It’s a lifestyle we all live. Art, fashion, health, charity, living without walls. We all brought our strengths to the table to compose the book. I have experience in print design, Nai is an amazing visionary, and Robin is one of the best copy writers I know. We joined forces like Voltron and created because we wanted to. We reached out to our community of artists, photographers, stylists and writers to join us in our journey. No client, no commission – we created our own path, our own direction. Thanks to Without Walls to sponsored our book, we were able to print our magazines. We are proud to announce that the book is available globally in various boutiques. And yes, there’s more issues on the way.
What do you think of the trend of women styled in cool sneaker designs?
I don’t think it’s new at all. I’ve been mixing female fashion with sneakers my entire life. I was never much of a “shoes” girl. It’s only during these recent years that I’ve noticed there are other out there thanks to the internet. It’s amazing that we can all connect because of our interests and hobbies. It’s still a bit of a shock to me but I love seeing it and I find it very encouraging especially when women are posting my PUMA sneakers!
A few years ago we did a successful “A Day with Sophia Chang” editorial. Three years on, how has your daily life changed?
Wow! Where to begin? Nowadays I pretty much have the same schedule. I’ve always been very organized and schedule days for meetings and certain days for just working at home. In the recent years I’ve been traveling a lot more for work which has been a huge blessing. I’m happy that my client base is expanding and turning global.
Possible to share any cool projects coming up from your side?
I’ll leave it as a surprise. Stay tuned via my Instagram @esymai.
Warm weather, good company, and good food are the key ingredients of a great spring. For some, there’s nothing quite like having a a bao – the traditional Chinese bun treats – as a light snack in warm weather. Celebrating this, Eddie Huang teamed up with his homie James Arizumi at Nike SB to cook up a light edition of the hallmark Dunk High Pro.
Dubbed the “Chairman Bao” in honor of Baohaus‘ (Huang’s New York restaurant) signature cuisine, the sneaker wraps nods to the bun, Baohaus’ emblematic neon sign, and the bao’s blend of meats and vegetables into one mouthwatering pair. The shoe is executed with lush beige unfinished suede around the upper, paired with a white tongue panel and laces. A distinctive ice blue sole rests below, with the color reiterated on the tongue tab.
Indulge in the photos, then look for these to drop as a general release on April 1 at Nike SB accounts.