Five Times Philippa Soo Stole the Show and Made Hamilton About Eliza

Making waves on Broadway after its July 2015 debut, the American musical Hamilton broke expectations for the old school musical. The story of Alexander Hamilton, “the ten dollar founding father,“ is told through hip-hop inspired sounds and a ground breakingly diverse cast filled with people of color. Lin-Manuel Miranda, who wrote the music, lyrics, and book, said that Hamilton is a story of America’s past, told by America now.

The popular musical recently made even more news after their 2016 Grammy performance, live from the Richard Rogers Theater in New York City. One of two musicals to perform at the music award show, the POC cast, energy, and talent of the opening song “Alexander Hamilton” grabbed America’s attention. Once again making headlines for its originality, the Hamilton performance and cast stood out that night, including the leading lady Philippa Soo.

Hamilton is Philippa Soo’s Broadway debut as Alexander’s wife Eliza. Soo, a Juliard alum, spoke to the Hollywood Reporter last November with fellow actress Lea Salonga about being Asian American on Broadway. Soo said that her father, a son of Chinese immigrants, and her mother were very supportive of her pursuing a career in musical theater.

Leslie Odom Jr., from left, Phillipa Soo, Lin-Manuel Miranda and Christopher Jackson appear at the curtain call following the opening night performance of "Hamilton" at the Richard Rodgers Theatre on Thursday, Aug. 6, 2015, in New York. (Photo by Charles Sykes/Invision/AP)
Leslie Odom Jr., from left, Phillipa Soo, Lin-Manuel Miranda and Christopher Jackson appear at the curtain call following the opening night performance of “Hamilton” at the Richard Rodgers Theatre on Thursday, Aug. 6, 2015, in New York. (Photo by Charles Sykes/Invision/AP)


“So I’m half-Chinese and half white, and it wasn’t until being part of this show — even though I’ve been in other mixed race casts — that I have been considered an actor of color,” she told the Hollywood Reporter. “Also, it hasn’t been until now that I received this beautiful letter from this young woman who thanked me for representing Chinese-American people in the theater. That’s never happened to me before! But it’s beautiful because I feel like as amazing as it is to acknowledge, it’s also amazing on the other side that people don’t even think twice about it [in Hamilton].”

Given the importance of Eliza’s character, the New Yorker wrote in an article featuring the women of the story, “And, by implicitly equating Eliza’s acts of narration with (Miranda’s) own, he’s acknowledging the women who built the country alongside the men. You’re left wondering whether the Hamilton of the title isn’t just Alexander, but Eliza, too.”

I haven’t seen Hamilton live— because getting a ticket now is impossible— but after listening to the soundtrack repeatedly, and while I love them all, here are my top five moments in the musical when Soo stole the show and made Hamilton about Eliza.

(Warning, this next section will contain spoilers, but then again, it’s also American history)

Hamilton Richard Rodgers Theatre Cast Lin-Manuel MirandaAlexander Hamilton Javier Muñoz Alexander Hamilton Alternate Carleigh Bettiol Andrew Chappelle  Ariana DeBose Alysha Deslorieux  Daveed DiggsMarquis De Lafayette Thomas Jefferson Renee Elise GoldsberryAngelica Schuyler Jonathan GroffKing George III Sydney James Harcourt Neil Haskell Sasha Hutchings Christopher Jackson	George Washington Thayne Jasperson	 Jasmine Cephas Jones	Peggy Schuyler Maria Reynolds Stephanie Klemons	 Emmy Raver-Lampman	 Morgan Marcell	 Leslie Odom, Jr.	Aaron Burr Okieriete Onaodowan	Hercules Mulligan James Madison Anthony Ramos	John Laurens Phillip Hamilton Jon Rua	 Austin Smith	 Phillipa Soo	Eliza Hamilton Seth Stewart	 Betsy Struxness	 Ephraim Sykes	 Voltaire Wade-Green	 Standby: Javier Muñoz (Alexander Hamilton) Production Credits: Thomas Kail (Director) Andy Blankenbuehler (Choreographer) David Korins (Scenic Design) Paul Tazewell (Costume Design) Howell Binkley (Lighting Design) Other Credits: Lyrics by: Lin-Manuel Miranda Music by: Lin-Manuel Miranda Book by Lin-Manuel Miranda
“Hamilton” Richard Rodgers Theatre- Phillipa Soo (Eliza Hamilton) and Lin-Manuel Miranda (Alexander Hamilton) – Photo by Joan Marcus

5) That Would Be Enough

Nearly a solo for Eliza, begging Alexander to stay home from the war to be with her and their unborn son, this number tells the story of the young Hamiltons’ marriage. They love each other so much, however Eliza wishes Alexander wasn’t so obsessed with his legacy. Soo’s voice, solid and pure, is beautiful throughout “That Would Be Enough” and successfully kept Alexander home from the war— for a little while.

4) Stay Alive (Reprise)

I can’t listen to this short number without crying. The Hamiltons hold their dying son after he participates in a duel. Not on good terms, Alexander and Eliza are distraught and emotional, which adds and edge to this tense and depressing reprise. Lin-Manuel Miranda, Anthony Ramos (Philip Hamilton), and Soo sing this heartbreaking song together as listeners, I assume, sit quietly and cry to themselves. (Or is that just me?)

3) Helpless

Eliza’s first solo in Act I is an upbeat song about when she first sets eyes on Alexander Hamilton. Cute and bouncy, the “how the Hamiltons met” story is the perfect song to sing at the top of your lungs in the shower (or is that just me again). But more importantly, “Helpless” Soo shows off her full, highly impressive, singing ability. Arranged like a pop song, “Helpless” could easily be dismissed as fluff when compared to the heavier styles elsewhere in Act I, but Soo’s range and training as singer make it just as important.

2) Burn

Poor Eliza, but also— wow Philippa Soo. For context, Alexander Hamilton was involved in America’s first public political sex affair after he admitted to cheating on his wife (damn!) in the now infamous Reynolds Pamphlet (damn!). “Burn” is Eliza’s reaction, a sad ballad full of emotion that listeners can hear and see. As she sets Alexander’s letters on fire, Soo again shows off her full range and skills in this beautiful song, a heartbreaking ode to his poor wife.

1) Who Lives, Who Dies, Who Tells Your Story

In Hamilton’s final song, major characters of Act II come out and speak about Hamilton’s legacy in establishing America’s financial system and bringing the new country out of debt. A majority of the song however goes to Eliza who “put’s [herself] back in the narrative,” in another great solo. She tells what she’s done in her life after the loss of her son and husband, collecting Alexander’s writing and making sure his legacy lives on. As the final performer of Hamilton, Soo practically steals the show.

Phillipa Soo, Renee Elise Goldsberry and Jasmine Cephas Jones in Hamilton – Photo by Joan Marcus

Eliza Hamilton was by no means just a side character in the life of Alexander Hamilton, and Philippa Soo does an amazing job portraying that love, fear, betrayal, and forgiveness in her Broadway debut. Hamilton is a groundbreaking music for this generation and I highly suggest everyone gives it a listen.

Bonus duet: Take A Break

A bit of happiness for the Hamilton’s, “Take a Break” shows the young family at home on their son’s birthday. This song tells how focused he is to his career and legacy during the turmoil in Alexander’s political life, and that Eliza won’t have it. I love Eliza scolding Alexander for working through dinner, but then Soo goes on to sing a beautiful duet with Renée Elise Goldsberry that completely steals the song.


Cover photo by Joan Marcus, “Hamilton

What Audrey Magazine taught me about Asian American Life and Style

KoreAm Magazine started in 1990 by James Ryu, who printed the photos in his own dark room and hand-delivered the first edition to Los Angeles businesses. Twelve years later, Audrey launched focusing on lifestyle, news, and culture stories for Asian and Asian American women. Printing a physical magazine every quarter, Audrey featured strong and influential women on their covers and inside had interviews, told in-depth stories about topics of the day or women’s lifestyle. Now the LA Times reports that the Audrey and KoreAm team prepare to send out the final issue after British company London Trust Media bought them and laid off all staff members over the summer. Times reporter Victoria Kim said London Trust Company will keep online content and the wife of the Company, Stephanie Lee, will work with Ryu as the publishers in this new direction.

After a number of other ethnic-based publications have gone under in past years, it’s a shame to see Audrey and KoreAm follow suit.

When I began to think more about my own APA identity, I looked for publications about being Asian American, and found KoreAm. But I wanted to know specifically what it meant to be Chinese American, and KoreAm didn’t fit that description. Then I came across their sister magazine, Audrey, the Asian American lifestyle magazine for women. As an upcoming journalist and young Asian American woman, Audrey helped me when I took an active interest in identity, showing me what being Asian American looked like today.

Other than Disney’s Mulan, I couldn’t name too many Asian role models in my life or in the media around me. Once I found Audrey, I read article after article about travel, food, fashion, trends, and interviews with influential Asian Americans. I learned about BB creams, read advice on college life, and of course enjoyed the daily smoking hot Asian guy (SHAG). Audrey’s articles introduced me to new musicians like Run River North, up and coming YouTubers like Anna Akana, and the latest style trends I could never pull off.  Finding a magazine aimed at Asian American women helped me find familiar ground when I started working through my identity and place in the APA community.

Audrey showed me how much representation in the media could affect a young kid in the Midwest. Even though I always enjoyed writing, I never thought of looking for a magazine specifically for Asian Americans because I had assumed at first there wouldn’t be one. When I found Audrey and saw stories I cared about that spoke specifically to my concerns, I realized the importance of representation in all forms of media— even print. Audrey Magazine is in part of the reason I ended up blogging for Kollaboration three years later.

“KoreAm and its sister publication, women’s lifestyle magazine Audrey, will continue in some online format, but Ryu has yet to figure out what that is,” LA Times’ Kim reports. “Ryu, who will stay on as publisher, says it will likely be shareable videos and interviews rather than the long-form writing and in-depth profiles KoreAm was known for.”

I’m glad KoreAm and Audrey will continue online, I’d hate to see such an important publication for the APA community disappear completely. Magazines like these give often forgotten or ignored communities and people a chance to tell their stories and inspire people like them. Either by being the cover girl or the editor-in-chief, seeing names and people who share the same background or culture can influence how a person sees and thinks of themselves. Seeing an actor in a movie or on TV does wonders to the broad American mindset, as does hearing an APA artist on the radio. But having the Asian American voice in the written and online media keeps our voices relevant and heard, by the masses and the community who needs to hear it most.

I wish the best for Ryu on KoreAm and Audrey’s future. Looking forward to seeing how both will come back in the digital age. writer Lily Rugo enjoying the last print issue of Audrey Magazine


Cover image via Audrey Magazine

Lily Rugo’s Top 5 Asian American Entertainers of 2015

Our next year-end list comes from Kollab Blog Associate Editor, Lily Rugo. Lily is a 2nd year journalism student at Emerson College and a member of the Kollaboration Boston Team. As one of our youngest editors, she offers unique perspectives to the blog team. In addition to Kollaboration, she’s also been published in USA Today and the multiple Emerson publications.

In 2015, I felt that Asian Americans finally started to enter mainstream media, change the game, and take names. Fresh Off the Boat started this wave earlier this year, and I’m happy to see it spread out to new media, streaming video, books, TV and movies. This year more and more Asian American figures became everyday names and played roles that went beyond old stereotypes. Here are my top 5 rising Asian American names who helped Asian Americans break through in 2015.

5) Eugene Yang & Ashley Perez, BuzzFeed

As BuzzFeed begins to create more original videos and content, Yang and Perez have become some of the most recognizable faces for trendy videos, social causes, and more BuzzFeed content. Perez and Yang are silly, honest, and relatable and made waves in new media during 2015.

4) Mindy Kaling, Why Not Me? and The Mindy Project

Releasing her second book and bringing The Mindy Project to streaming service Hulu, Kaling had a pretty great 2015. As a fan, I usually think Kaling goes unrecognized for the work she does in the entertainment industry, but in 2015 that changed. Releasing Why Not Me? played a big part in that and it’s nice to see Kaling’s rise and talent getting noticed.

3) Aziz Ansari, Master of None

Mention Master of None, and the first question is “Have you watched it?”. One of the most popular shows of the year, Master of None made news with its cast, story lines, and how it resonated with millennials. I heard so many stories about how after the second episode, “Parents,” my friends were emotional and called home. Ansari made headlines for creating a show that was much needed, and shouldn’t have taken so long to get.

2) Steven Yeun, The Walking Dead

I don’t even watch The Walking Dead, yet I knew that something huge had gone down when fans thought Yeun’s Glenn Rhee died. From AngryAsianMan to the New York Times, the show’s plot twist made headlines and spoke to how important Yeun’s character was to the show and its audience.

1) Constance Wu & Randall Park, Fresh Off the Boat

Fresh Off the Boat’s debut earlier year created a lot of buzz and kicked off 2015 as the year for breakout Asian American talent. Despite some controversy and tweaks in the first season, I think the show’s second season really established its presence on TV. The kids of Fresh Off the BoatHudson Yang, Forrest Wheeler, and Ian Chen— all do great work on the show, but for me it’s Wu and Park who complete it. Now Park and Wu are up for Critics’ Choice Awards, working the late night circuit, and on the cover of magazines. Only on the up and up from here, I hope Fresh Off the Boat is around to stay.

2015 was a big year for Asian Americans, entering the mainstream online, on TV, in movies, and more. Hopefully this momentum won’t stop and only grows until names like these become part of the norm.


Conversations with Kollab: Chris Dinh talks New Media

New media, especially platforms like YouTube, WordPress, and Instagram, have redefined the entertainment industry and have allowed even the average person to create and distribute their art. Ten years ago, being a Blogger, YouTuber, Vine-famous, or even “big on Instagram” weren’t credible past-times, much less viable careers. Now in 2015, PewDiePie has earned $12 million dollars last year playing video games on YouTube, web-based sketch comedy group Smosh released a movie, and YouTube beauty guru Michelle Phan has her own book and cosmetic line.

One person who has been on the frontlines of this evolution of storytelling is actor, writer, and filmmaker Chris Dinh. Most recognizable for his work with WongFu Productions, Dinh also has done a number of independent work with friend Viet Nguyen. Most recently Dinh and Nguyen released their crowd-funded movie, Crush the Skull, a full length feature based on their shorts series with the same name.


“I’m trying to find my thing too. The thing that makes me laugh. It tends to be in that dark comedy realm. Super dark and hopefully fun. It’s just meant to be a fun ride.” Chris Dinh


While Dinh visited Boston for a Crush the Skull screening at the Boston Asian American Film Festival, Kollaboration got to sit down and talk to him about what he thought of new media and the future of storytelling.

Chris Dinh as Ollie, Tim Chiou as Riley, Chris Riedell as Connor, and Katie Savoy as Blair in Crush the Skull

Kollab: How do you define new media?

Chris: If I had to define it, it’s anything that is… I almost want to say anything that is digital, but not only digital, but anything that has been created organically out of a need to just express a person’s interest or passions. It can not only be YouTube, but now there’s Vine and there’s Instagram and Snapchat. Anything that you can just pick up and do yourself and tell a story that can reach an audience.

Kollab: Why did you get into new media with YouTube and all that?

Chirs: I was working at a traditional production company, it wasn’t indie, but it still worked in the traditional ways. And it’s a very slow moving system and I just felt like we would spend all this time in development, but we were never shooting anything. Then I saw how quickly people were uploading YouTube videos, and I just felt like it was exciting. I wanted to be a part of it somehow, I didn’t know how, I just wanted to be a part of it.

Kollab: How did you end up a part of it?

Chris: So I got into it because there was a film festival in New York, this really cool group of Asian Americans started it, and they started this cool thing called the 72 Hour Shoot-Out. It’s a competition, they give you perimeters, you shoot and deliver a short film within 72 hours. That was one of the first short films that we did that was digital for me, and that was my first taste of the online world. Shortly after that I met the WongFu guys and it was the right place at the right time kind of stuff. They were doing what I wanted to do, so I just wanted to hang out with them and do whatever they wanted to do.

Kollab: Crush the Skull was made entirely with new media, you started with YouTube and then you went on to Kickstarter to make the film. Was there anything about that process that surprised you?

Chris: What’s surprising about that is how hard it is. Actually, I don’t know if it was surprising, because I knew it would be really hard. Because we had just done the WongFu campaign, and then I was going out there and doing another campaign right after that. It made me feel weird to keep asking for support, I felt bad about it. But timing wise, we had no other options, we had to. But we had some amazing people come through to support us. It was both tough, and inspiring. Because you’re like, ‘Oh mygosh, we’re not going to make it,’ and then people came through for us, and then we feel super inspired by that.

 “Something that maybe Asian American who have a really negative opinion of Asian american films. Like for some they just get turned off when they hear that term, and so maybe capturing some of them like, ‘Hey it could be fun! You should support it.’ The more you support it, the more fun films like this can exist.” Chris Dinh

Kollab: Being a part of independent films like Crush the Skull, you do so many different roles. Do you prefer it that way, or do you wish you had a larger crew?

Chris: I wish I had a larger crew who wore many hats. (But) it’s really fun for me. I grew up watching Charlie Chaplin, and I was so inspired to read and learn that he was the same way. They were kind of like the YouTubers of the day. They were doing everything, producing, writing, casting, composing, how cool was that? It’s so rewarding to be able to do.

Kollab: With all these platforms, the market is almost too saturated. Do you think it’s still worth it, or should they start through the traditional route?

Chris: I think that you should try everything. Maybe you tell your stories best through Vine, or YouTube, or a novel, or poetry. There’s so many ways to express yourself, it’s so cool to see what works for you. Yes there’s a lot of saturation, but there’s communities that are being created and I think that put it out there and find your community. But it’s definitely worth it to share your story.

Kollab: Because of your presence on YouTube and social media, it’s a very different connection to fans. How would you describe your relationship with fans?

Chris: I like how easy it is, and I hope that anyone who follows our stuff can just come up and say hi. Storytelling is supposed to be a way to connect with people, and it would be weird if it was like, ‘Yeah, I want to tell stories and connect with you, but I don’t want you to feel comfortable enough to come say hi.’  (At the BAFF panel on new media) when we were talking about creating our own space, people feel like they’re just consuming it, but it’s actually participating. It’s so important, not only making that content, but just the act of clicking on it and watching. That’s all a part of creating that space together for all of us to share our stories. For me, that’s how I see the relationship (with fans). We’re all in it together, and we’re creating the space together.

Kollab: Regardless of the platform, why is storytelling and creating a shared space so important?

Chris: I hope I don’t sound crazy, but someone once said that when language was created, it was when we created time travel. I always found that really fascinating because I think storytelling is very much a part of being human. You share a story because you want someone to share in that experience with you, and sometimes it’s just about sharing in that experience. Sometimes it’s I want you to know more about me, or I want to know more about you so we can become closer. We try to tell these stories so you can step into my shoes for a little bit so you can know what life is like for me or what life is like for you. I think it’s all about understanding each other a little better and stories are a great way to spread empathy.

“Empathy is how we’re going to find and settle these big huge conflicts in the world today. When we always see these other groups as “the other,” we’ll never be able to find peace or resolution. I think that’s what story is all about, in all these forms. It’s all about sharing stories so that we can relate to each other and share in these experiences.” Chris Dinh

Kollab: Now that all these new platforms are available, what do you hope to see for the future of media?

Chris: This is where I’m going to start sounding crazy. I think the future is going to be really crazy. We’re going to be able to get to a point— and it sounds like it’s really super futuristic, but it’s not because we’re super close— I’m going to be able to wear a virtual reality helmet and almost live the experience of my parents. Someone will be able to program that world so I can see what it was like growing up in Vietnam, or stepping onto the boat for the first time to escape. Language is a beautiful thing, but one day when we can totally step inside someone’s stories, literally step in through technology, then I’m going to appreciate my parent’s stories in a totally different way. I think that’s subconsciously what we’re trying to achieve in storytelling and technology. Until you can really experience it, I think that’s the future. That’s crazy talk, but at the core, that’s what story is.

Kollab: Any last general advice or words of encouragement?

Chris: For any storyteller out there who wants to start telling stories, on whatever platform that they choose, my advice would be to take it as seriously as, let’s say a doctor takes med school. All the people who are doing it at the highest levels consider any of the various ways to tell stories see it as a profession and as serious as medicine or law, or business. It’s going to be as difficult as any of those other fields, so treat it accordingly. That’ll help you have a long future in it. We see a lot of the fun outcomes, but what you don’t se is that they take it very seriously. It’s a pretty difficult journey, so be ready for that.


Cover image courtesy of Angry Asian Man

Boston Asian American Film Festival 2015: A Recap

A month ago, Kollab Blogger Lily Rugo attended the Boston Asian American Film Festival. Here is her recap on the films she watched and her recommendations!

The Boston Asian American Film Festival (BAAFF) wrapped up another successful year of bringing guests and films from all over the world for the seventh year!

The festival was held Oct. 22-25 and showcased a variety of feature length films and shorts. The feature films included Seoul Searching, Miss India America, Help Us Find Sunil Tripathi, The Killing Fields of Dr. Haing S. Ngor, and My Life in China. Their Shorts series each had a theme that related back to home, and each screening was usually followed by a Q&A with either the director, an actor, writer, or producer.


I really enjoyed the films I saw. For the full 2015 line up, visit For a quick look into what I enjoyed most, here’s my recap:

Shorts: Redefining HomeEast of Hollywood; D. Asian; My Hot Mom Gandhi; My Sister Swallowed the Zoo; Next Like; Distance Between

Picture from short “East of Hollywood” (

Overall, these shorts were fun and established the festival’s theme of home well. One film continued the video trend of categorizing people with clever analogies, in this case likening girls to social media sites like “the Twitter girl” versus “the Facebook girl.” One was a bit too artistic for me to fully appreciate, showing a series of photos and videos flashing by while a daughter talked to her mother over the phone. I thought “Distance Between” was the most heartfelt in this series, a new take on a dad passing on words of wisdom to his son.

The highlight was “East of Hollywood,” a 30-minute short film satirizing the struggles Asian American actors face in the entertainment industry. Based on lead actor and co-writer/director Michael Tow’s true experiences, the film exaggerates the stereotypes and tropes Asians face, or in this case, must lean in to as they try to break the bamboo ceiling in Hollywood .  “East of Hollywood” is a local project that had its premiere at BAAFF and will hopefully be continued on in a longer film.

Shorts: Queer at HomeDol (First Birthday); Paper Wrap Fire; Ordinary Family; FU377; Coming Home; Draft Day; Brokeback That Ass Up

Picture from short film “Dol” (


I found these more enlightening and in-depth than the Redefining Home series. I appreciated the stop motion of “FU377” and comedic drama in “Ordinary Family.” Most of them ended without a neat little bow, as I expect was the point, and loved the honesty of each short. My favorite was “Draft Day” about the Thai military draft required of all males when they turn 21. The short follows two transgender girls throughout their drafting process and explores how Thailand has adapted to the transgender community.

Crush the Skull

Picture from feature film “Crush the Skull”

Dear Chris Dinh: You lied to me. I asked if your movie would be gory and here we are. I had seen both the online shorts, “Crush the Skull” and “Crush the Skull II,” and I was excited to see the film they made—even though I spent most of the movie hiding behind my jacket. Crush the Skull, the feature length film, has a different plot than the online shorts, but it’s keeps to the same genre of dark comedy and campy violence. The story follows a group of burglars as they break into a secluded house thinking it will be easy and their last job. Little do they expect for it actually be their last as it turns out the owner is home—and a deranged serial killer. I enjoyed the references to the original shorts and the usage of the same actors, jokes, and situations– not to mention the classic line “crush the skull” that has to end up somewhere. I’m not a big horror movie person—I even screamed at one point during the movie—but I would suggest Crush the Skull for a fun night with friends.

Shorts: Home in AmericaCloseness; Leadway; Giap’s Last Day at the Ironing Board Factory; Finding Cleveland; Fall Seven Times, Get Up Eight: The Japanese War Brides; El Chino

Home in America was the heaviest of the Shorts series. I even cried a bit. All of the shorts related back to home and connection to roots and family. Each of them made me think either about my own family or contemplate the situations the subjects of the shorts were going through.

One of my favorites, Fall Seven Times, Get Up Eight: The Japanese War Brides, told three amazing stories about women who married American soldiers at the end of World War II. The director’s plan on developing the documentary into a longer piece, and more information on how to support the project can be found on their website. But the biggest takeaway for me was how recent the Vietnam War was in my lifetime. Learning about it in history class makes it seem so long ago, but these shorts made me realize that past events still hold a strong impact on today’s families. If you have the time, I recommend all of these shorts.

Off the Menu

Probably one of my favorites in the festival, it was like a good meal: filling, nothing too fancy, and heartwarming. The director, Grace Lee, started with joking about why Asians take so many photos of food then developed the idea into a documentary. For the most part Off the Menu doesn’t focus on food as product, but the ways it brings people together and represents larger aspects in life like community and heritage. Lee explores the rise of sushi as a trend, how a chef at a new restaurant in New York City incorporates its family, Hawaiian traditions, and the community langar meal served at a Sikh temple in Wisconsin. It’s a simple movie, but I loved it and thought Lee did a great job finding different aspects of food in people’s lives across America.

Miss India America

Picture from feature film "Miss India America" (
Picture from feature film “Miss India America” (

Another favorite of mine, I thought the director and writer did a really good job with this film. Miss India America follows recent high school graduate and winner of everything Lily Prasad as she sets her mind to win Miss India National. Of course the journey is one big learning experience for Lily, but it doesn’t rely on too many tropes of the coming-of-age story. My favorite part about Miss India America is that I wasn’t rooting for the main character to win (she does enough of that herself), but that I’m rooting for her to change.

Also, New Girl actress Hannah Simone has a supporting role when she could have easily been the lead—and I’m glad she wasn’t. The lead actress Tiya Sicar did very well, and looked like the average girl who enters a beauty pageant, not a pageant queen playing the average girl. I highly recommend Miss India America. Follow this link for the movie’s website. If you try Googling it, you might just find yourself on Miss India’s real website.

Congratulations to the staff at the Boston Asian American Film Festival on another successful year. I really enjoyed all the films I got to see and learned a lot from the following Q&A sessions. Best of luck next year!


Cover image courtesy of Boston Asian American Film Festival


Meet the Kollaboration Star 2015 Finalists: Boston’s JDep

Singing an original song, singer-songwriter John Dep, better known as JDep, wowed the Kollaboration Boston judges this past April and won the title of the night. He will join 5 other Kollaboration Champions at the upcoming Kollaboration Star showcase, taking place Saturday, November 14, 2015. to compete for the national title! Kollab Blogger Lily Rugo caught up with JDep after the show.

“Man, let me tell you, I went (to Kollaboration Boston) with no expectations.” JDep said about his win. “I just wanted to go there and sing my heart out, meet new people, see new faces, and experience that whole Kollaboration Boston thing. Little did I know I would actually win first place. It was a shock to me.”


He described the other five finalists that night as “dope. Dope dope dope.” Everyone was cool and friendly so they all got along well, and they all had so much talent. All he had to say was that is was crazy.

“There was this one yo-yo dude,” he remembered, talking about Kollaboration Boston V winner Derek Hsu. “I told him I’d trade my voice for your yo-yo skills. He was freaking amazing.”

He’d heard about Kollaboration Boston through a friend who told him that Kollaboration helps showcase Asian American artists, and he thought it would be “a good look for me and our people to showcase that talent.”

A native of Lynn, Massachusetts, JDep said he’s always been singing but didn’t start loving it until eighth grade where he sang with a few of his friends who would “rap and make beats and stuff.” Then he had his first solo performance in a Christmas assembly with his class when he was randomly picked.

“I was a bit nervous at the time because I never performed in front of anyone before,” he remembered, “So I thought ‘why not? I’ll just give it a try.’ and it went pretty well. The response from the people that I got that day inspired me to keep on making music. That’s when I started falling in love with music.”

JDep has a YouTube channel, though it’s not recently updated and most of the videos are covers which he doesn’t usually perform. Instead, he draws inspiration from the artists like Michael Jackson, Al Green, Sam Cooke, and Jhené Aiko, and writes all of his own songs.

“I get to speak what I feel and get to write my emotions down. If I’m feeling some type of way, I’ll write about that.” he said. “It’s like a healing process for me. My type of therapy is music, that’s why I do it.”

JDep’s parents also play a part in encouraging and inspiring his music, and “anything that I’ve down growing up, they’ve always had my back.” A few years ago, his brother also encouraged his career by telling him to audition for the X-Factor and Jdep went all the way to meet the judges. He met a lot of very talented people, spoke to the judges, and got some advice on the music industry from another competitor.

“I learned a lot from that whole experience and the fact that I didn’t make it didn’t matter to me,” JDep said. “I just wanted to see what it was like to be out there in front of a huge audience and see the response that I got that day— it was a dope experience.”


After winning Kollaboration Boston, JDep has another— slightly different— opportunity to compete against other artists, win over voters, and impress some celebrity judges. As the cities around the country end the 2015 showcase season, each of the winners rely on online polls to be one of six finalists and get the chance to fly to Los Angeles and compete this November at Kollaboration Star.

“It’s just like another foot through the door,” JDep said if he got to go to Star. “It’s another foot closer to fulfilling my dream. I’m a musician, an aspiring musician, and not everybody gets the chance to go to Los Angeles and perform like that everyday. If I did get the chance to do that, I would be so grateful.”

Until then JDep has a full-time job and spends most of his free time in his friend’s studio, by now nearly a second home. They’ll listen to music, work on new material, and discuss how to network their new mixtape. He’ll also perform around Boston as opportunities come up, and is currently working on a project.


Watch JDep perform for the chance to win $10,000 at Kollaboration Star, taking place 11/14/15! Tickets are on sale now at

For some inspiration and laughs, Why Not Mindy Kaling? – A Kollab Book Review

It’s not much of a secret I am a big fan of Mindy Kaling as a role model and leading woman in comedy, and when she announced her second book Why Not Me? I knew I had to read it.

Kaling, star of The Mindy Project, also wrote Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns) in 2011 about her life, career, and lessons learned. Why Not Me? continues on that same theme, but includes more stories about how she worked to where she is, deserves to be there, and will stay content there until she moves on to bigger things.

“If you believe in yourself and work hard, you have a fighting shot at having your dreams come true.” – Mindy Kaling, Why Not Me?

The book’s broken down into four sections, starting off with “For the Ladies,” the obligatory chapter on beauty secrets, a story about Kaling’s brief time in a sorority, and some of the friendships made in Los Angeles. The other three sections delve into her career and life, updated since her first book to include less of The Office and more about The Mindy Project. My favorite chapters in the book talk about how she got The Mindy Project, the ways that beauty standard impacts her, and the titular chapter “Why Not Me?” where she talks about self-confidence. Kaling is honest and vulnerable, but never self-deprecating to the point where it sounds like her success is a mystery or undeserved.

Her overall feeling of content and confidence mixes with a sassy, big sister tone as she recounts tales of her past and career milestones. Kaling never sounds like she’s retelling specific stories for the glamour or name-dropping, coming across as more “I’m telling this story for a reason and to inspire, but this is pretty glamorous with all these names in it, right?”

“But my secret is this: even though I wish I could be thin, and that I could have the ease of lifestyle that I associate with being thin, I don’t wish for it with all of my heart. Because my heart is reserved for way more important things.” – Mindy Kaling, Why Not Me?

I highly suggest Why Not Me? to both fans who want to support Kaling and those who aren’t familiar with her. I wouldn’t call Why Not Me? a literary or social justice masterpiece, or particularly thought-provoking. But I feel Mindy Kaling is very under-appreciated in a business that strives to showcase its diversity. Why Not Me? is Kaling’s answer to that, asking why she doesn’t get the same recognition for doing much of what other actresses and comedienne’s already do. Because when people do think of great current role models, why not add Mindy Kaling to the list?


Featured photo courtesy of Mindy Kaling’s Twitter

Keeping it Local: Hanging Out at the East Meets West Bookstore Block Party

With the chronic lack of diversity in mainstream entertainment, it’s easy to look to the few prominent figures in the industry and throw our support behind known names like Ken Jeong, George Takei, Lucy Liu, and the Far East Movement. The downside is as a result, sometimes up-and-coming local artists get forgotten. That’s why it’s important that events like the block party thrown fundraiser by the East Meets West Bookstore exists to help empower artists. 

East Meets West Bookstore was founded in 1999 by Professors Wen Kong and his wife Jin Au Kong to be a safe space for the Chinese immigrant community in Cambridge. In 2004, the bookstore was taken over and expanded by their son David Sun Kong. With help from community organizers, Kong revived the bookstore to be a space for the local AAPI community. According to their website, “East Meets West served as a hub of art and activism and the home of Boston Progress Arts Collective, which organized what is now the longest running APIA open mic on the east coast, East Meets Words.”

A week and a half ago on September 26, 2015, East Meets West hosted a block party fundraiser, bringing in artists from all around the country to talk and perform throughout the day. The invited artists included local Boston area groups like the all-women Japanese taiko drumming group the Genki Spark, international beatboxing champion Gene Shinozaki, and Kollaboration Boston finalist band Juice from Boston College. Bigger names from outside the area were also in attendance like Tony Award winning spoken word artist Beau Sia, hip-hip group Magnetic North and Taiyo Na, and alternative rapper DANakaDAN. A small brewery, Aeronaut, hosted the day events and the evening concert took place a few doors down at Brooklyn Boulders, a rock climbing gym.


Brooklyn Boulders was probably the most original concert venue I’ve ever been in. With a small stage, towering rock walls on every side, and bright and triply projections on the towering rock walls— it made for a great venue where the audience could get close to the stage and connect with the artists during their performances.

There was an accepting and welcoming atmosphere at the block party that carried on throughout the day. The afternoon East Meets Words open mic featured entirely local performers who were just as supported by the audience as the bigger names. All of the guest performers and speakers were also close friends and supporters of the bookstore. Beau Sia, Magnetic North and Taiyo Na, and DANakaDAN all remembered performing at the bookstore during its early days and were happy to be there to help East Meets West with its fundraiser.


While happy to support a good cause, I was also glad to be able to discover new artists to follow after seeing them perform such amazing sets at the East Meets West block party. , including New York’s The Beatbox House, drummer Madame Gandhi, and Gene Shinozaki. Concerts and fundraisers like the block party help give local artists a chance to get their names out there, and a platform like East Meets West Bookstore is vital to keeping the small art scene in Boston alive and empowered. Because then one day when all these small artists make it, you’ll have a few stories to tell about how you knew them when.


All photos credited to David Sun Kong at EMW Bookstore

Top 5 Upcoming, Returning Asians Playing Asian Roles

Moving on from the Aloha and Allison Ng (aka Emma Stone) flop, audiences can now look forward to the upcoming white-washed cast of The Martian directed by Ridley Scott. Though Asian American talent getting overlooked for non-white roles is nothing new, these recent incidents show once again that AAPI talent still isn’t the obvious go-to– even for Asian roles.

However, not all hope is lost. Despite whatever mistakes Hollywood makes, television seems to be faring slightly better. Next season, audiences can look forward to seeing quite a few new AAPI faces on the TV screen, including some returning favorites. Here are five upcoming (and returning) AAPI actors that I’m looking forward to the most. Continue reading “Top 5 Upcoming, Returning Asians Playing Asian Roles”

9 Things We Learned from Gowe’s Reddit AMA

Seattle hip hop artist Gordon Tsai, better known as Gowe, recently held a Reddit Ask Me Anything (AMA) for his fans on April 13.

Most of the fan questions revolved around his music, but a few focused on Gowe’s unique upbringing as a Korean adoptee raised by a Chinese-American family. It wasn’t until Gowe was 18 years-old that he found out he was adopted, and it was through his music that he was able to express his experiences and feelings.

In the AMA, Gowe explained many aspects and inspirations to his music, life and his latest album Music Beautiful. Here are the top 9 things readers learned from Gowe’s AMA.

1) His stage name Gifted on West East represents his love of east and west coast hip-hop as well as his gratitude for his gift of talent



2) He still identifies with Chinese culture but enjoys discovering his Korean roots and is fascinated by the Asian American experience


3) Discovering he was adopted after 18 years was a real shock


4) He is currently searching for his birth mother, status pending


5) His goal is to use his music to encourage his listeners to think deeper and be agents of positive change


6) He follows some awesome people from the APA music community (and you should too)


7) Gowe is inspired by life


8) Music Beautiful songs helped Gowe work through some dark times


9) He’s a proud UW Husky and Kollaboration alum


Thanks for sharing Gowe, and for the Kollaboration shoutout. Look forward to bright things in your future.

You can find Gowe’s music, including his new album Music Beautiful, at as well as Amazon and iTunes.