Hong Kong’s first Hooters is already causing controversy

HK-Hooters-Cover

FoodBeast/Next Shark (by Ryan General):

American restaurant chain Hooters, known for its skimpily dressed female servers is about to open its first restaurant in Hong Kong. A month before its launch, however, the sports bar that bills itself as “delightfully tacky yet unrefined” is already attracting controversy.

Set to occupy a prime location in Hong Kong’s Central district along Wyndham Street, Hooters Hong Kong will be just one of the 30 branches that Bangkok-based Destinations Resorts will be bringing to Asia on behalf of Hooters Asia.

While preparations are all well under way for the Hong Kong opening, Hooters Asia general manager Mike Warde is also fending off criticisms about the company’s image and hiring processes.

We’re a sports bar, a family-oriented, fun-loving, entertainment outlet. We have standards for our service and food,” Warde told South China Morning Post in an interview.

For Warde, the Hooters girls who he calls the chain’s “brand ambassadors” are not dressed provocatively but are simply wearing sportswear. He also denied that breast size is a factor in the company’s recruitment.

That’s a myth. That was 30 years ago,” he said while showing a photograph of Thai Hooters girls with small breasts. “The reason they don’t look flat chested is because they are wearing Wonderbras.”

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A friend of one Hong Kong applicant, however is refuting his claim. Scarlet (not her real name), an applicant herself, said her friend who applied didn’t pass because of her breast size.

Her boobs are smaller, so of course they won’t hire her,” she said.

The recruitment process has been going on for months and so far 12 Hong Kong women, one Japanese woman and two European women are being considered for the job.

Aside from normal food-serving tasks, Hooter girls are also expected to perform two-minute dance numbers at certain intervals.

They stop whatever they are doing, wherever they are, and dance every 45 minutes,” says Warde. “In Thailand guests pay them to do hula hoop and the money goes to charity. We have pom-poms and we take them to the rugby pitch to support teams.

To stay in shape, they are also required to attend three kickboxing classes per week.

We teach the girls to be a lot more respectful of themselves, have more confidence in themselves. They have a fit body and fit mind and we bring out their characters because we put them all over social media,” he added.

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They said, ‘This is the largest size’ – I think that was true. But it’s crazy that the largest size is extra small. My boobs were exploding and my ass was half showing out,” the 24-year-old said.

When I went for the uniform fitting they said I’m the only girl with boobs. They want to hire locals, but most local girls are really skinny.”

Scarlet also found the salary disappointing and realized she could earn more as a beauty therapist. The HK$15,000 ($1,932) per month offered for a five-and-a-half-day week is barely above standard.

They said I would get good tips, but in Hong Kong I don’t think the guys would pay a lot. There isn’t the tipping culture here,” Scarlet said.

Back in the U.S., the company has closed about a dozen stores in recent years, with observers saying the concept of “breastaurants” is outdated.

Warde believes that it will be a different story in Asia. “In Asia we are a new brand. And in America they’ve been closing the ones that haven’t been performing and reopening others. Over the last four years it’s growing, they are on the up again,”he said.

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In the next five years, the aggressive expansion plan of Hooters Asia will also see restaurants opening in Indonesia, Thailand, Macau, the Philippines, Cambodia, Laos, Singapore, Myanmar, Vietnam and Malaysia.

Star Wars used for revival of wayang kulit, Malaysia’s old shadow puppet art form

Al Jazeera America:

The 7th installment of Star Wars is released on Friday in the United States. In 38 years, the science fiction film has grown into a global multi-billion- dollar franchise. In some places it has even influenced aspects of pop culture.

Now in Malaysia, a group of people are using it to revive interest in an old art form.

Bon Jovi concerts in China cancelled due to support for Tibet and Dalai Lama

A string of Bon Jovi’s first-ever concerts in China have been cancelled, presumable after the Culture Ministry discovered a photo of Bon Jovi with the Dalai Lama

World Religion News:

It looks like Jon Bon Jovi won’t be singing “Livin’ on a Prayer” in Mandarin any time soon. The long-standing rock front man of the self-named band Bon Jovi would have been performing for the very first time in China at major concerts in Beijing and Shanghai if the Chinese government hadn’t forced those shows to be canceled, TIME reported. Currently on a major world tour with concert dates scheduled across Asia in Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan, and others, the dates scheduled in Bangkok and Shanghai were canceled by Chinese authorities, who have not given any explicit reasons to the band or to the organizers of the tour, AEG Live Asia.

The most prevalent theory about why the sudden cancellations occurred that has been circulating the Internet is relatively obvious considering, if it turns out to be true, Bon Jovi would just be part of a string of bands to be banned from performing shows in China because of their support for Tibet and the Dalai Lama. As was reported in the Financial Times, apparently the very powerful and influential Culture Ministry for China’s ruling Communist Party found an image of Bon Jovi performing in front of a giant video screen with His Holiness the Dalai Lama featured on it at a concert in 2010.

“The issue of Tibet is especially sensitive right now as the Communist Party marks the 50th anniversary of the founding of what it calls the Tibet Autonomous Region”, said TIME.

Approaching the ever controversial 50th anniversary of what many in the Western world view as a continuing travesty in which China began governing Tibet after the Battle of Chamdo in 1950, the same time when the current Dalai Lama was enthroned. After being forced into exile in India with the remnants of the Tibetan government, where they established the Central Tibetan Administration in exile.

Pro-Tibet stances are not new or unusual, and many of the world’s most famous stars and celebrities have made public their support for Tibet and the Dalai Lama. There have been several other bands and musicians who have found themselves banned from China for support of Tibet, like Bjork in 2008, to Maroon 5, who were supposed to play a concert in China this month, but were forced to cancel after one member of the band tweeted a “Happy Birthday” message to the Dalai Lama’s active Twitter account of nearly 12 million followers.

TIME reports that Bon Jovi’s Chinese concerts’ organizers were attempting to convince the Culture Ministry of the People’s Republic of China to reconsider the move to cancel the concerts, but it does not appear at this time that Bon Jovi’s status in China is likely to change.

‘The Daily Show’ adds Ronny Chieng as a correspondent


Australian comedian Ronny Chieng has joined on as a correspondent for The Daily Show with Trevor Noah.

Chieng, a standup comedian, joins new host Trevor Noah, who was named to the desk after Jon Stewart announced he was stepping down from Comedy Central‘s long-running late night satire news show.

Born in Malaysia and raised in Singapore and New Hampshire, Chieng embarked on a standup career after graduating with degrees in commerce and law from the University of Melbourne. He was recognized as one of the “Top 10 Rising Comedians in Australia” by several publications in 2012, and has opened for the likes of Dave Chappelle and Bill Burr. He made his U.S. television debut this year on The Late Late Show.

Comedy Central announcement:

RONNY CHIENG: Born in Johor Bahru, Malaysia, and raised in Manchester, NH and Singapore, stand-up comedian and actor Ronny Chieng has been a rising star on the comedy scene in Australia where he moved to attend the University of Melbourne. Embarking on a stand-up comedy career after graduating with a degree in commerce and a degree in law, Chieng’s career began to take off in 2012 when he was named one of the “Top 10 Rising Comedians in Australia” by The Age, the Herald Sun and The Sydney Morning Herald and received the “Best Newcomer” award at the Melbourne International Comedy Festival for his debut stand-up special, “The Ron Way.”

Since then, Chieng has continued his meteoric rise, performing sold-out tours in Australia and appearing at numerous international comedy festivals, including the Montreal Just for Laughs Festival, the Edinburgh Fringe Festival and the New Zealand International Comedy Festival. Last year, Chieng won the “Directors’ Choice” award at the Melbourne International Comedy Festival and “Best Show” at the Sydney Comedy Festival. He has appeared in and performed on numerous TV shows in his adopted home of Australia and has opened for both Dave Chappelle (2014) and Bill Burr (2015) during their nationwide stand-up tours in Australia. Earlier this year Chieng made his US television debut on “The Late Late Show.” Chieng is repped by Century Entertainment Australia and APA.

I’m so excited to welcome these new members of The Daily Show team,” Trevor Noah said in a statement. “Now I get to share my stress with other new people.”

The new season of The Daily Show with Trevor Noah premieres Monday, September 28 on Comedy Central.

Obébé Organic, the organic baby line co-founded by Ennie Lim

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 Audrey Magazine:

Born in Malaysia, Ennie Lim moved to Quebec, Canada, when she was 5 and was raised around French culture until she moved to Hong Kong at 24. After doing some modeling in Asia and then moving to California to work in tech startups, Lim was eventually inspired by her apparel executive mother to become a clothing entrepreneur herself. First, she created the women’s apparel brand Vie Désir (French for “Life Desire”), where she designed vegan leather jackets, and now, she and co-founder Kendra McPhee have created the 100 percent organic baby line Obébé Organic, based in San Francisco.

The word Obébé is what Lim calls “Franglais,” a mix of French (bébé means “baby”) and English, with an extra “O” for organic. A few of their original items include a kimono-style sweater and pant set, a cotton sleepsack, yarn mouse toys (inspired by the cartoon character that illustrator Valerie Willis drew on their packaging) and fairy tale-printed onesies — all packaged in a signature Obébé book box gift set.

Kendra and I attend a lot of baby showers,” Lim explains, of why they were drawn to baby clothes. “One day, I was re-packaging baby gifts for my friend’s baby shower in a book box — it just looks so much better than the standard packaging — and I thought it would be so great if the gifts came pre-packaged in a beautiful box that parents could keep. Even better, I wanted to find baby gifts that made a difference.

Not only is everything organic — eco-clothing is harder to find than you think and “more sustainable for the farmers, the environment and our business,” explains Lim — but for every signature set bought, Obébé Organic collaborates with the Bring Me a Book Foundation to donate a book to a child in need. “Sadly, many children lack access to quality books and don’t have an adult who reads to them,” she says. “We wanted to change that because early literacy is the key driver for language development and the foundation to every child’s success in school and life.”

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Learn more at Obebeorganic.com.

Catch Joan Chen in the Netflix series ‘Marco Polo’

 Audrey Magazine:

Netflix’s elaborate original series Marco Polo was met with some criticism from the Asian American community for being an outsider’s fetishization of the East. But actress Joan Chen urges skeptics to look at it differently. “It’s such a great opportunity for so many Asian actors,” she says.

Other than the lead, Lorenzo Richelmy as Marco Polo, almost the entire cast is Asian or Asian American, with Benedict Wong as Kublai Khan, Rick Yune as the leader of the Golden Horde, Zhu Zhu as the Blue Princess, Chin Han as the villainous chancellor, Olivia Cheng as a suffering concubine with some tricks up her sleeve, and Claudia Kim (who was just named the first Asian face of cosmetics brand Bobbi Brown and can be seen in Avengers: Age of Ultron this May) as the warrior Khutulun.

I see how excited these kids are to work on this grand production,” says Chen. “They have dialect coaches and personal trainers, and this series gives them a year to work on their craft and express their talents. I think of it as completely positive.”

Chen has been acting since she was teenager in China, where she became a household name and was dubbed the “Elizabeth Taylor of China” for her role in 1979’s Little Flower. She was “discovered” twice. Legend has it that Madame Mao discovered her at a school rifle range, impressed by her skilled marksmanship. She was soon chosen for the Actors’ Training Program by the Shanghai Film Studio. At 20, she decided to move to the United States to study filmmaking. Though she had no connections in Hollywood, she was discovered again by legendary producer Dino De Laurentiis, who honked at her in a parking lot. His line was: “Did you know that Lana Turner was discovered in a drug store?

I was like, ‘Who’s this dirty old man?’” she remembers. “I didn’t talk. I just kept walking.”

He managed to convince her to take his card, and her managers couldn’t believe she had met the Dino De Laurentiis. She soon landed her first Hollywood role in 1986’s Tai-Pan. In the last three decades, she’s been juggling films in both China and the U.S., from the Oscar-winning Bernardo Bertolucci film The Last Emperor to the American cult TV series Twin Peaks, to big Asian productions like Ang Lee’s Lust, Caution and smaller Asian American indies like Saving Face. She’s also a writer and director in her own right, directing the feature films Xiu Xiu: The Sent Down Girl and Autumn in New York.

In Marco Polo, Chen plays Empress Chabi, Kublai Khan’s first and favorite wife. Though the creators researched the history for their fantastical story, there wasn’t much historical information on Empress Chabi to go on. So they worked with Chen to develop a more complex character who drives the plot and would be more fulfilling for the veteran actress to play.

The grand production, overseen by The Weinstein Company and reported to be one of the most expensive TV shows ever made, was shot mostly in Malaysia. “The costumes are made of real silk and ornaments,” adds Chen. “They’re so heavy that you know they didn’t spare a cent to make every detail luxurious.”

She also loved going to work and seeing all the stunt tents, where actors and martial arts performers trained every day. Though Empress Chabi doesn’t have a lot of action, Chen was able to learn some archery for some of her scenes. This brought her back to her days at her high school rifle range.

Even though they’re two different sports, there are some principles that are the same,” says Chen. “The way you aim, the breathing techniques, the way you use your cheek and how you use your body. I took it up pretty fast. But obviously, I could take a lifetime to learn it.”

Though she knows that the show is romanticized and operatic, she hopes viewers of Marco Polo enjoy it for that very reason. “It’s a visual feast,” she says. “In the beginning, you have to set up all these characters and the historical background, but by episode 10, it’s really powerful. It’s cooking. It’s hot.”

All episodes of Marco Polo are currently available on Netflix, and the series has been renewed for a second season

This story was originally published in Audrey Magazine’s Spring 2015 issue. Get your copy here.

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83 year-old Chinese woman crowdfunds to meet siblings for first time

This family photo is the only picture Chen has ever had of her parents and siblings. She has never met her siblings in person.

NBC: 

Eighty-three-year old Cui Mei Chen poured herself into her couch and picked up the pile of worn letters covered in Chinese characters. One bore a date from the 1950s, another from 1962. In the scantly furnished apartment in San Francisco public housing, the letters stood out as one of the few decorations. Chen carefully fingered the paper as she’d done countless times before.

When I want to think about my parents or my family in Malaysia,” Chen said in Chinese with her daughter interpreting, “I seek the letters many times.” Now, she may get to meet her long-lost relatives that she’s been linked to through these letters.

Chen’s family has started a crowd-funding campaign to help her meet her siblings for the first time.

There are no pictures of Chen growing up in China, no school photos – nothing. The stack of letters, along with a black and white picture of her parents and her siblings mounted over her bed – are the only physical evidence she has of her family – a family she hardly knew.

Every morning she wakes up and every night she goes to bed looking at that picture,” said family friend Robert Hemphill, “and reminding her of her family who are so dear to her.”

Chen was two years old when Japan invaded her homeland of China. Her parents fled to Malaysia but fearing for her safety along the difficult journey, left her and sister behind with their grandmother. The sister eventually left to live with another family, while Chen remained with her ailing grandmother. She was 11 when her grandmother died, leaving Chen to fend for herself.

Immigration between China and Malaysia became nearly impossible after the war ended. Chen’s parents feared they would never see their daughters again and had five more children in Malaysia. The occasional letters from her parents became the only link to her family.

Chen went to work on a farm for a man who was cruel to her. She wore torn clothing and ate food normally left for the pigs.

Unbeknownst to her, the man stole the money her parents had sent her to attend school. She managed to tuck away just three years of schooling before she married at age 18.

The years rambled by and Chen still hadn’t seen her parents or siblings. In 1965, her mother finally paid a brief visit to China to see her daughter – but it was the last time Chen would see either of her parents who died in 1980. It also marked the end of any contact with her siblings.

Meanwhile, the country of Malaysia changed all the street names from Chinese… to Malaysian names,” Hemphill said. “And so the old letters she had with addresses written in Chinese never really applied. So she couldn’t really find her brothers and sisters anymore.”

Chen moved to San Francisco in 2001 after her husband died of injuries sustained at his job. She was reunited with her own children, and now had grandchildren to look after. But her own siblings were lost somewhere in the big world.

Her children scoured the internet for any signs of the Chen’s siblings and began contacting cultural groups looking for anyone with a link in Malaysia. Eventually someone put them in touch with someone else who knew someone who put them in contact with another group. Suddenly there were addresses, names – then phone calls and modern pictures sent over a smart phone.

In her heart always thinking about them,” said Chen’s daughter Xi Guan Lei.

Her children and Hemphill launched a crowd-funding campaign on GoFundMe to raise money to send Chen to Malaysia. This month, Chen will travel to Malaysia to finally meet her five siblings for the first time. The family is also raising funds so Chen’s children can accompany her. Her goal is to reach $10,000.

In America we have this term ‘bucket list’ of the things you want to do before you die,” said Hemphill. “I think she’s got one thing on her bucket list and this is it.”

On a recent day, Chen sifted through the pile of old letters, clutching each page as if it were a precious jewel – reading aloud the words of her departed parents. After a life fraught with hardship and loss – she leaned back and seemed to surrender the last eight decades.

I’m very happy to see my family in Malaysia,” Chen said. “I’m very happy.”

Epic Prank: Malaysian professional autosports/drifting champ Leona Chin pranks driving instructors

Auto Evolution: 

See the girl in the screenshot above? Her name is Leona Chin Lyweoi, she’s in her late 20s and, despite appearances, she’s been drifting since 2006. Hardly believable, more so when you take into consideration that Leona claimed top spot in Category 1 Ladies on multiple occasions.

The Malaysian professional motorsports athlete (and entrepreneur) is the type of woman that prefers the smell of burning rubber over getting her nails done at the beauty salon. Speaking of beauty, she hardly looks as a 28-year-old woman, especially when disguised as a high school student on her first driving lesson.

Leona Chin, together with social experiments and pranks specialist MaxMan.TV, were approached by a Malaysian driving school that thought it would be funny to prank their newly employed instructors.

Without further beating around the bush, make-up artists transformed our drift queen into a “Fast & Furious nerd” with a big desire to get her driver’s license. Geeky glasses, pigtails, a love-hate relationship with the clutch pedal and unassuming driving instructors are on the following video’s menu.

However, the highly modified Nissan Silvia (S15) used to make this prank happen isn’t exactly an ordinary vehicle for training. She told a driving instructor that it’s her brother’s car, but little do this guy and the other instructors know that Leona is about to scare the hell out of them with her top-class hooning skills.

Singapore’s founding father Lee Kuan Yew dies at 91

Lee Kuan Yew gives the victory sign to his supporters in April 2011

BBC:

Lee Kuan Yew, the statesman who transformed Singapore from a small port city into a wealthy global hub, has died at the age of 91. The city-state’s prime minister for 31 years, he was widely respected as the architect of Singapore’s prosperity.

But he was criticized for his iron grip on power. Under him freedom of speech was tightly restricted and political opponents were targeted by the courts.

A state funeral will be held on 29 March, after a week of mourning. In an emotional televised address, his son Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong paid tribute to him.

He fought for our independence, built a nation where there was none, and made us proud to be Singaporeans. We won’t see another man like him.”

Mr Lee oversaw Singapore’s independence from Britain and separation from Malaysia. His death was announced early on Monday. He had been in hospital for several weeks with pneumonia and was on life support.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said he was “deeply saddened” by Mr Lee’s death. US President Barack Obama described him as a “giant of history”. The Chinese foreign ministry called him “a uniquely influential statesman in Asia”.

‘Lifetime of building’

In Singapore, a steady stream of people arrived at the hospital and the Istana, the prime minister’s office, to offer their condolences.

A charismatic figure, Mr Lee co-founded the People’s Action Party (PAP), which has governed Singapore since 1959, and was its first prime minister. The Cambridge-educated lawyer led Singapore through merger with, and then separation from, Malaysia.

Speaking after the split in 1965, he pledged to build a meritocratic, multi-racial nation. But tiny Singapore – with no natural resources – needed a new economic model.

We knew that if we were just like our neighbours, we would die,” Mr Lee told the New York Times in 2007.

We had to produce something which is different and better than what they have.”

A woman and her daughters cry as they mourn the passing of former Singaporean prime minister Lee Kuan Yew, at Singapore General Hospital on 23 March 2015

As the news broke, people began arriving at the hospital to pay their respects

People lay flowers, as they mourn the passing of former prime minister Lee Kuan Yew, outside the Istana in Singapore, on 23 March 2015

As the morning went on, mourners arrived at the Istana, the prime minister’s office, with flowers and cards

Singapore's first Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew speaks during a rally at Farrer park in Singapore on 15 August 1955

Mr Lee, seen here on 15 August 1955, was determined that Singapore would succeed

As the long wait for the inevitable continued, the floral tributes piled up right outside the city-state’s main hospital, often laid by tearful, older Singaporeans who truly see this sharp-tongued, tough-minded man as a father figure.

And while there were many affectionate comments from well-wishers, there was still some fear of this extraordinary leader, who has dominated Singapore for the whole of its independent existence, and once threatened to rise from the grave if he saw things happening that he did not like.

For all of its impressive successes, this is still a country with Lee Kuan Yew’s imprint visible everywhere. He was unapologetic about the repressive measures he used to impose order, and unapologetic about believing his prescriptions alone were the right ones. No-one is quite sure what direction Singapore will now take without him.

Mr Lee set about creating a highly educated work force fluent in English, and reached out to foreign investors to turn Singapore into a manufacturing hub. The city-state grew wealthy and later developed into a major financial centre.

But building a nation came with tight controls – and one of Mr Lee’s legacies was a clampdown on the press, tight restrictions that remain in place today.

Dissent – and political opponents – were ruthlessly quashed. Today, Mr Lee’s PAP remains firmly in control. There are currently six opposition lawmakers in parliament. Other measures, such as corporal punishment, a ban on chewing gum and the government’s foray into matchmaking for Singapore’s brightest – to create smarter babies – led to perceptions of excessive state interference.

But Mr Lee remained unmoved.

Whoever governs Singapore must have that iron in him. Or give it up,” he told a rally in 1980. “I’ve spent a whole lifetime building this and as long as I’m in charge, nobody is going to knock it down.”