By Vivian Nguyen
Northwest Asian Weekly
The heat is rising in Seattle as summer finally makes an appearance in the city! And as temperatures are soaring high, so too are the profiles of many young Asian Americans. Read on to learn about some new fresh new faces on the scene (and maybe an offensive face as well, just for good measure).
Recent high school grad trumps everyone else in awesomeness
Think back to your senior year of high school. Remember yearbooks? Maybe you submitted a senior photo. You did it because it was the cool thing to do. Everyone did it. Or maybe it was a way to immortalize your memory — a way for your high school peers to remember just how awesome you were.
This is exactly what recent high school graduate Jessica Lee was thinking when she submitted her senior quote and photo to the yearbook committee at Garfield High School. (Yes, Lee is homebred, and a recent graduate of Garfield High School in Seattle!) Lee busted out her extensive knowledge of the periodic table and submitted this seemingly random senior quote to her school’s yearbook:
“Fluorine uranium carbon potassium bismuth technetium helium sulfur germanium thulium oxygen neon yttrium.”
It’s a list of chemical elements from the periodic table. It seems innocent enough, right? But before you write off her as a mega nerd, let’s break down all the elemental symbols listed here:
(F) fluorine (U) uranium (C) carbon (K) potassium (Bi) bismuth (Tc) technetium (He) helium (S) sulfur (Ge) germanium (Tm) thulium (O) oxygen (Ne) neon (Y) yttrium.
Put that all together and what does it spell? Yes, the popular lyrics from late rapper The Notorious B.I.G. I think this officially makes Lee the wittiest high school graduate in existence, and the fact that her stunt went viral only confirms this. I mean, who marries science with pop culture and timeless rap lyrics as a teen? It’s nerdy, but super clever. I only wish I were half as cool as her when I was her age.
On the offensive front: Slanted eyes
A controversial photo of reality star Kate Gosselin recently made the rounds on Twitter. Gosselin, who is white, is seen pulling her fingers back on her eyes to make them appear more slanted. To further the imitation, she also sports a black plastic wig.
This is not the first time in history that a celebrity has been caught publicly mocking Asian facial features; honestly, it probably won’t be the last either. But what makes this case particularly stupid is the fact that Gosselin has eight half-Korean children (her ex-husband, Jon Gosselin, is Korean American). While Gosselin and her husband had a very messy and difficult divorce — not like that would justify this mockery — how do you get off making fun of your own children?
Kate Gosselin slammed back against the allegations and claimed that the photo was taken out of context. She argued that the photo was shot while the couple was still together and while their reality show, “Jon & Kate Plus 8” was still airing.
During that time, Kate Gosselin said she and then-husband Jon were fooling around with an Asian dress up wig — a gift that a fan had sent to Kate Gosselin in order to help her “be more Asian” like the rest of her family.
She put on the wig and slanted her eyes for emphasis, which allegedly made her former husband smile as well.
Kate Gosselin then went on to say that, because she married someone Asian and has eight biracial children, she would be the last person ever to be considered racist.
While the explanation does provide more context for its existence, I’m not sure if I buy the whole story. Is it justified to mock a race just because someone of that same race condones it? Does being married to someone of a different race give a person a “Get Out of Racism Free” card?
For me, the answer to both of those questions is no and no. What do you think?
Debuts for new Asian American actors on the scene
June also saw the premiere of two long-anticipated films: “The Internship” and “The Bling Ring,” a comedy and a dramedy respectively.
In an attempt to glorify the unique and uber-modern Google work lifestyle, “The Internship” follows two tech illiterate, 40-something men (played by Vince Vaughn and Luke Wilson) as they take on internships at Google and team up with other, more tech savvy interns in an attempt to earn full-time jobs at the company. The two newcomers who costar with Vaughn and Wilson are Tiya Sircar and Tobit Raphael.
Indian American Sircar, who has had been in a variety of television guest roles as well as a supporting role in the comedy film “Friends with Benefits,” held her own against the veteran comedians. “The Internship” is the first film for Filipino American Raphael, who plays a fellow intern.
Indian American actor Aasif Mandvi also has a supporting role in the film. He may be best known for his appearances on the late night satirical news show, “The Daily Show.”
Newcomers also graced “The Bling Ring,” which chronicles the true-life story of a group of fame-obsessed, teenage bandits that robbed a string of celebrities in the L.A. area from 2008 to 2009. Although British actress Emma Watson is the biggest headlining celebrity in the film, unknown actress Katie Chang is arguably the main star in the film.
“The Bling Ring” is Chang’s first job in the industry. Chang had no idea of the big names attached to the project when she first sent in her audition (the film is directed by Academy Award-winning director Sofia Coppola).
For Chang, who is of Korean descent, this was a killer first job, especially since the actress has received accolades for her performance as the emotionally manipulative ringleader of the teenage robbers.
For all these young Asian American actors, these films may very well be their breakout roles. While it’s always great to cover the work of more popular Asian American actors, it’s not only refreshing, but heartening to report on so many fresh faces in the industry. I’m hoping their names continue to grace this column in the future.
Speaking of unknown Asian American faces, the creators behind the party-fueled web series “K-TOWN” recently dropped a new web show with a similar premise: “Roll Models,” which covers all the scandalous drama of Asian Americans involved in the import modeling, go-go dancing, and underground car scene in Orange County.
If you watched its sibling show “K-TOWN,” then you’ll probably recognize a few familiar faces in this new web show. You probably also know what you’re getting yourself into. (For the uninitiated, expect lots of Asian girls booty-popping in racy outfits with a healthy side of petty drama.) Catch the show’s new episodes weekly on the LOUD channel on YouTube. (end)
Vivian Nguyen can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.