Selfies, food, sceneries, pets, and other life tidbits. What do you know, our favourite Asian-American celebrities are just like the rest of us. Take a look at our weekly round-up for a behind-the-scenes glimpse into their fascinating lives. Continue reading “Aziz Ansari Covers Drake, Kimora Lee Reads Sherman Alexie, Eugene Lee Yang with Silver Hair: Asian-American Instagram”
Author: Lee Yang
How BuzzFeed’s Eugene Lee Yang Became One of the Most Recognizable Faces on the Internet
Look, we’re just going to say it: Eugene Lee Yang is freaking awesome. On a recent trip to BuzzFeed’s LA headquarters, Kollaboration got to spend an hour with the one and only Eugene. During that time, we were able to learn that this self-proclaimed workaholic is a) a serious filmmaker, b) a staunch supporter of all things Asian American, c) absolutely not a fan of racist jokes, d) unfiltered about his views toward issues of diversity, and e) intensely eloquent.
Born and raised in Texas, Eugene grew up in a community where he and his family were the only Asian faces among a sea of whites, Blacks, and Latinos. To see any Asians he had to go to the Korean church, 45 minutes away by car.
As a child, Eugene was sensitive and introspective, and often expressed himself through artistic outlets: from visual arts and illustration, to theater, choir, and dance. Pursuing film wasn’t on Eugene’s radar. “I kind of considered it as a rich white person thing because that’s all that was on screen,” he says. In seventh grade, a teacher recommended that he consider film as a serious profession. He took the advice, and even at a young age, had his sights set on the University of Southern California’s prestigious School of Cinematic Arts.
He graduated from USC with a production degree in 2008, and then spent 5 years mostly working freelance and making commercials and music videos. (Check out some of his other work on the website of his production company, The Menagerie.) In 2013, Eugene joined BuzzFeed Video after being referred by a colleague who believed in his talent for creating engaging short-form videos. And the rest, well, we’ll let him tell you himself. Here are 23 things Eugene had to say about his life, his insights on media, his work with BuzzFeed, and Asian American representation:
1. Getting in front of the camera was never a thing I actively volunteered for. It wasn’t because I was a good actor, or that I was funny on screen. It came down to a simple decision that we need more diversity on screen. And that’s all it takes, is to say, “There’s an Asian guy here, throw the Asian on camera.”
2. People think my ego has inflated so much more since I’ve been on screen, but it’s not true. It’s been completely compacted into this small, determined, straight-forward, objective-driven mission, which is to be part of something that is much larger than myself.
3. I never seriously considered myself as an actor. I wanted to impart change through my perspective, in my writing and my director’s voice.
4. I realized there was more impact with my face in the scene, than strictly being a director. Which was a hard pill to swallow for someone who was very serious about filmmaking for very long time. But now I get to control the voice of the piece, while being the face of the piece.
5. I’m not quite aware of this success people talk about until people recognize me on the street. I get that a lot. Some people just yell “Asian BuzzFeed guy!” and I turn around and distinctly yell back “Eugene!”
6. I was always the ugly kid. Always. So when people said they liked me, I was like “oh do you like…my brain?” Because I was always made to believe that I’m just like white people, only I looked different, which disqualified me for a lot of things, like being in the spotlight and in front of the camera.
7. These days, you don’t produce things to just creatively masturbate. You want to create something that people can share for a very long time. And that’s the challenge for any online video producer to understand, is that we are part of a much larger conversation.
8. Here’s the difference between traditional film and internet viral videos: The conversation sort of stops for filmmakers once the product is out. You devise a project as a statement, and it’s there for the public to digest and discuss. With an internet video, you instead conceive them to be part of an ongoing conversation. With my recent video about women’s ideal body types throughout history, for example, what we could do was create something that added a different perspective to the subject, so that people can respond and discuss the issue in an intelligent manner.
9. I have a lot of videos I haven’t released because I realized with where I am now, as this sort of media figure, what I potentially represent for young Asian Americans is much more important than me creating my own art that could possibly be very divisive.
10. I did a video: Awkward Moments Only Asians Understand. And I realized it did so well because the comedic tropes for the Asian community haven’t changed for over 30 years. It dawned on me that this was an issue for the Asian community at large. Being the invisible middle is like you’re open hunting season for jokes.
11. A lot of well-known Asian comedians, a lot of their routines play into the Asian stereotypes because it’s what the audience laughs at, because it’s always been okay to laugh at. You say “ching chong” and you get a huge laugh out of it. A mission of mine is to start yelling at people who laugh at those things. You just need someone to tell people that it’s still very harmful for young people to see these stereotypes.
12. It’s tired. It’s boring, and I get really unimpressed. A lot of times I go to a comedy show, I sit there and wait for the comedian to run out of ideas and look at me and make an Asian joke. I tell my friends still, constantly, to shut up when they make Asian jokes. No. Shut up. I don’t care. Don’t do that around me.
13. Now you get people who have this colorblind perspective, which is equally harmful. We can’t have people saying that we are all the same, because we’re not.
14. We tend to forget that our parents came here with nothing and worked hard for their success. Other people think we’re upwardly mobile, that we’re just like white people. And it’s like, no we’re not. Most of us are children of immigrants. We didn’t come here with bags of money.
15. The assumption that it’s just okay to make fun of a community that they think is doing fine is bulls–t.
16. When people say, “I was a slacker in high school, I smoked a lot of pot, so it makes me a cool Asian.” I’m just like, “I don’t care.” Sure, that’s great, you do you, but don’t think yourself as less Asian because of it. There are a s–t ton of Asians who smoke pot. You can’t be an Asian American and be proud of your non-Asian-ness.
17. People think that everything comes down to old rich white men. They’re not the common denominator anymore. The future is changing every single second, so you’re either going to ride that wave and be on top of the game, or still be scratching some white guy’s door in ten years and be behind the curve.
18. We need more people who push for not only equality but diversification within diversity. People bring up that we have supporting characters on television now, like, “It’s not just the sassy Black receptionist, but there’s like an Asian friend who works there, too.” But no. We need Asian male romantic leads. We need Asian girls who are comedy leads.
19. Right now is the first time in history where there is a rebuttal to a one-sided argument, and BuzzFeed is at the forefront of this wave, of young creatives being able to represent themselves in the way without fear of repercussion that could be violent.
20. I’m always shocked at how little we are represented on film and TV. It’s as if our stories are not controversial, or staggeringly painful enough for the older white audience to pat themselves on the back to say, “Oh, I learned something; I feel bad for what we did in history.” Even though we were on the railroads and in the internment camps. But we’re not white-looking enough to be the leads. That’s always been the issue.
21. It’s supply and demand. Most Asian Americans, like myself, as a child, did not see either supply or demand of Asians on television. Now casting directors are using the bulls–t excuse of there not being enough demand, because they’re making less demand for it, so then we don’t see opportunities for ourselves, and we don’t try. I would never have supplied myself as an actor if I didn’t join BuzzFeed.
22. The great thing about the proliferation of K-pop is that it puts Asian faces out there. Adjusted, but still Asian faces. If it’s even one small town girl who is now obsessed with supporting Asian culture, then more power to them!
23. We have the right to be angry about our representation in the media. It’s just not a reflection of how we live our daily lives. It’s not even a reflection of the general audience and how they live their daily lives. Teenagers these days have very diverse groups of friends. There’s a reason we all cried when Gina Rodriguez won that Golden Globe. It didn’t matter if we’re Latina. We get it. We’re just like, “Thank you! Finally, a more accurate reflection of diversity!”
Photo courtesy of Eugene Lee Yang
“Be Controversial, Not Racist,” says Rapper Awkwafina
Rapper Awkwafina, who will be headlining Kollaboration New York’s 9th Showcase, sat down with KNY’s Joyce Chen to give an exclusive interview about her origins as the “token Asian” growing up in Forest Hills, NY, and how she’s holding her own as a serious rapper – squirt gun, oversized glasses and all.
Continue reading ““Be Controversial, Not Racist,” says Rapper Awkwafina”
15 Asian-American Celebrities Without Eyebrows
Since it’s Thursday, let’s #TBT all the way back to 2011, when photoshops of celebrities without eyebrows were making the rounds on social media, particularly Reddit and Tumblr. The one thing I found mesmerizing about them was that on a lot of celebrities, you can barely tell that their eyebrows are missing; whereas for others, removing their eyebrows completely destroyed their beauty, turning them into what I imagine David Icke’s reptilian humanoids must look like. Well, during the process of photoshopping away eyebrows of Asian-American celebrities, I came to one conclusion: we Asians NEED our eyebrows!
Harry Shum Jr.
(I’m sorry, Lucy!)
Kollaboration Los Angeles to Rock the Troubadour for 15th Anniversary
On Thursday, June 26, Kollaboration Los Angeles will be celebrating its 15th anniversary at the historic Troubadour in Hollywood. Over the past 14 years, Kollaboration has served as a platform for countless aspiring entertainers in the Asian-American community to showcase their talent to the world. This year will certainly be no different.
Demonstrating the diverse talents in the Asian-American community, this year’s group of finalists are muscians from a variety of genres.
R&B group The Primaries will captivate the audience with their unconventional soul, while singer-songwriter and American Idol semi-finalist Julianne Manalo will bring with her the experience of opening for Grammy Award-winner Macklemore. Fresh off their win in UCI’s Soulstice Talent Competition and the LA Regional Harmony Sweepstakes, #FOURTY4B will be serving up a sweet dish of a capella realness. Meanwhile, Julynn Kim will show the crowd why she was scouted by Universal, Warner Brothers, AND Sony Records; and pianist and humanitarian Phanith Sovann will showcase her musical talents and her inner strength, which she developed while living in a Thai refugee camp during the Cambodian genocide.
This year’s event will also feature guest performers Anderson .Paak, whose unique and avant-garde PBR&B sound has taken the music world by storm; and of course The Rhee Brothers, whose soothing blend of indie-rock and acoustic music will remind the audience of their deserving win at last year’s event .
Following the performances, the night will continue with the show’s official after-party where performers, celebrity guests, and attendees will mingle and party to the beats of DJ Kero One.
Tickets to Kollaboration LA are currently on sale at bit.ly/KollaborationLosAngeles2014 for the early-bird price of $10. Pre-sale price will increase to $15 soon and double to $20 at the door. Ticket includes entry to both the event itself and the after-party.
From Far East Movement to Run River North to David Choi—Kollaboration is proud and honored to have been a part of so many artists’ journey to success and stardom. Your support will help us continue with our mission of “empowerment through entertainment.” We hope to see you there!
4 Asian Horror Films Without Creepy, Long-Haired Ghost Girls
The 2000’s saw an influx of Asian horror films being introduced to the Western audience. This is thanks in large part to Hollywood remaking one Asian horror film after another to capitalize on the success of The Ring (a remake of the Japanese film Ringu). But like most things in Hollywood, success inspires imitation. Later remakes such as The Grudge and Dark Water successfully turned the creepy girl ghost with long black hair into an iconic figure, masking Asian horror’s more diverse offerings. In honour of Friday the 13th, I present to you four brilliantly bizarre and well-made Asian horror films that steer clear of the girl ghost trope.
Dumplings (Hong Kong, 2004)
Every so often, a horror movie comes along that is so good and so horrifying because it forces us to hold up a mirror against ourselves and think about the ailments that pervade our society. Its impact stays with us long after the film is over, and we’re left with genuine feelings of uneasiness, disgust, and terror. This is what Dumplings did to me.
Dumplings is the brainchild of acclaimed director Fruit Chan, who is well known for portraying the everyday struggles of Hong Kong people in his films. The story follows aging former TV actress Mrs. Li, whose quest to turn back the clock leads her to Aunt Mei—famous for her youth-rejuvenating dumplings. These are no ordinary dumplings; they contain a very special secret ingredient. Wanna take a guess? Hint: it’s not shark fin or abalone.
What the film lacks in gore, it more than makes up for it with its disturbing premise, thought-provoking dialogue, and beautiful cinematography. Not to mention the bone-chilling sound effects of Mrs. Li enjoying the dumplings. Watch out for the ending, though. It may just turn you off dumplings forever.
Tokyo Gore Police (Japan, 2008)
Forget what you think you know about Japanese horror movies, this ain’t no slow-paced story about ghost girls with long black hair. Nope! Whatever you’re expecting from a film with the title Tokyo Gore Police, multiply it by 100, and you might be close to matching the film’s insanity.
Tokyo Gore Police takes place in a dystopic future where Japan is infested by engineers, who are criminal mutants that can turn any of their wounded body parts into deadly weapons such as chainsaws, samurai swords, machine guns, and man-eating creatures. Hunting these mutants down is Ruka, an engineer-hunter on a mission to avenge her father’s murder. Ruka doesn’t smile or talk much. She’s a total BAMF who’s ruthless when it comes to cutting up mutants. Oh yeah, the only way to kill these mutants is to cut them up so bad that you can remove the small implant in them that makes them what they are.
To say that Tokyo Gore Police makes generous use of special effects is probably the understatement of the century. However, unlike films like Hostel or Saw, the gore here is used so abundantly that I found myself doing more laughing than cringing. This is a true wet dream for lovers of blood and gore.
The Wicked City (Hong Kong, 1992)
Perhaps the most imaginative movie on this list, The Wicked City is one of the first horror movies I watched. Massively underrated, it is a live-action adaptation of a Japanese anime based on a novel by Hideyuki Kikuchi, who’s most well-known for the classic anime Vampire Hunter D.
Bearing a few similarities to Tokyo Gore Police, The Wicked City also takes place in a distant future in which humans live alongside an alien species known as the reptoids. Masked as humans in appearance, these reptoids’ superhuman intelligence and powers have helped them gain control of most aspects of the human race. With the ultimate goal of enslaving all humans and taking over the earth, the reptoids are suspected of being the mastermind behind a new powerful street drug called “happiness,” used to subjugate humans. To stop these reptoids, a special police squad engages in suspenseful and action-packed battle sequences.
With its graphic displays of sex and violence, and wild demonic transformations that include a humanoid pinball sex machine and an elevator reimagined as the insides of a reptoid, The Wicked City blew my 9-year old mind when I first watched it. Though I had a hard time following the plot, repeated viewings of the film when I got older have solidified my belief that this is a fun and imaginative masterpiece that was ahead of its time.
A Tale of Two Sisters (South Korea, 2003)
As a fan of horror movies, something I’ve always disliked about the genre is that a lot of the films have weak plots, preferring to focus on style over substance. This is not the case with Kim Ji-woon’s highly original 2003 film, A Tale of Two Sisters.
Based on a traditional Korean folklore, the story follows two sisters named Su-Yeon and Su-Mi, who, upon returning home after a stay at a mental institution must deal with a disturbed stepmother, an overly easygoing father, and a house haunted by poltergeists. But things are not as they seem. Halfway through the film, the audience’s world is flipped upside down when the direction suddenly switches from a calm but disturbing family drama to something much darker and more sinister.
Loaded with metaphors and symbolisms, this narrative-driven psychological horror seamlessly blends the characters’ mental instability with supernatural elements to create a dark and moody atmosphere that I actually found to be more satisfying than the film’s main twist reveal. This film is for those who appreciate a beautifully complex and haunting story with very little gore or jump scares. The twist is just the icing.
Ageless Beauty Lucy Liu Stuns at the Huading Film Awards
Over the weekend, Lucy Liu hosted the Huading Film Awards at the Ricardo Montalban Theatre in Los Angeles. As China’s #1 film awards show, the Huading Awards chose to hold the international portion of the ceremony in Los Angeles this year—most likely so that celebrities don’t have to fly all the way to China to attend. Continue reading “Ageless Beauty Lucy Liu Stuns at the Huading Film Awards”
It’s an Asian Take-Over at the 2014 Met Gala
It’s May, which means two things: 1) it’s Asian American Heritage Month, and 2) it’s that time of the year for that one event where celebrities, designers, and really rich people pay upwards of $25,000 per ticket just to get in. Ladies and funky gentlemen, the Met Gala happened yesterday. Continue reading “It’s an Asian Take-Over at the 2014 Met Gala”
Fifth Annual Kollaboration Seattle Promises Passion, Talent, and Heart
The 2014 Kollaboration season will kick off with Kollaboration Seattle’s first ever spring show this upcoming Saturday, April 12 at the Meydenbauer Center Theatre in Bellevue, WA. Check out below for the scoop on the finalists who will be performing at this Saturday’s show! Continue reading “Fifth Annual Kollaboration Seattle Promises Passion, Talent, and Heart”
The Problem With Racial Humor and Representation
When it comes to the portrayal of Asian-Americans in the media, visibility is not always positive or enriching to our community. At the risk of sounding like a broken record: I, being a male of Asian descent, am tired of being portrayed as the forever social outsider who will never be part of the crowd. Society tells me that what I lack in testosterone, I supposedly make up in intelligence. Or something.
Continue reading “The Problem With Racial Humor and Representation”