Congratulations to PRI’s Global Nation!

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Yay, the Kickstarter for the PRI’s Global Nation Reporting Fund funded at 102%!!! Happy to support and represent through the campaign video, as a Global Nation contributor.

“Just 13% of radio reporters are minorities, according to the Radio Television Digital News Association (RTDNA). At newspapers, 12% or reporters are minorities, according to the American Society of News Editors (ASNE).”

This campaign is to give PRI’s Global Nation the resources to bring in more journalists who are embedded in these immigrant communities to tell deeper, more nuanced stories. They pledged to showcase 50 new voices in public media, one a week for a year,

Next step: Journalist/writer friends, contact PRI’s Global Nation digital editor Angilee Shah (@angshah) with your ideas. Or if you’re not a writer but know great stories about immigrants in America that aren’t being told, let us know so we can help tell them!

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Honored to be profiled in OC Weekly’s 2016 People Issue!

ocweeklyprofileAda Tseng Covers the Asian-American Pop Culture You’ll Find Out About Next Year

by Taylor Weik

Today, Asian-Americans everywhere can rejoice when they turn on their televisions—they finally see people who look like them, such as Randall Park as an American Dream-chasing immigrant dad on Fresh Off the Boat or dreamboat Daniel Henney as an FBI agent on the recently premiered spin-off series Criminal Minds: Beyond Borders. But for arts-and-entertainment writer Ada Tseng, who wrote cover stories on both actors before their big breaks, a more diverse Hollywood couldn’t come soon enough.

“I’ve just been following these people’s careers because that’s always been the question: Is Hollywood finally going to get more diverse?” the Placentia resident says. “Now things are changing, and it’s exciting to see people I covered years ago finally getting the roles they deserve.”

The 33-year-old Tseng has been reporting and writing on Asian-Americans in the entertainment industry for more than a decade, long before social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter made it easier for people of color to spread awareness on social issues and raise their own voices. Shortly after graduating from college, in 2006 Tseng was named the managing editor of Asia Pacific Arts, an online ethnic arts publication started at UCLA.

“In the beginning, no one was really writing about diversity in Hollywood because it was a pretty rare deal, so it felt like we were a part of a secret club,” Tseng says with a laugh. “We thought all these small Asian films and directors and actors were cool, but no one else knew about them.”

Journalism was a profession she adopted hesitantly. Born to Taiwanese-immigrant parents in the Silicon Valley, Tseng felt pressured to pursue a more practical career, and to the delight of her engineer father, she first majored in computer science at UCLA. It wasn’t long before she realized she had a knack for writing, and after a couple of internships at pop-culture magazines, she knew where she wanted to be.

Now Tseng has racked up an impressive number of bylines in the likes of LA Weekly, KoreAm Journal, Audrey Magazine and NBC Asian America, covering everything from high-profile stars such as Lucy Liu to a surprisingly well-managed fan club honoring the K-pop girl group Girls’ Generation. She earned her MFA in writing and literature from Bennington College in 2011 and was named a Society of Features Journalism diversity fellow last year.

But to many, Tseng is known as the woman behind the infamous Haikus With Hotties series, a silly-but-clever idea that featured attractive Asian-American male stars and their handwritten haikus among the pages of Audrey Magazine; it gained so much popularity it was turned into a smokin’-hot calendar, à la Sports Illustrated. She has since taken her storytelling abilities further into the digital realm with her podcast Bullet Train, on which she examines trends in pop culture from the “hot mom” phenomenon in China to the popularity of Japanese dating games. And while she’s pleased to see the amount of diversity in the media today, Tseng doesn’t think her job will ever really be over.

“We have a handful more Asian-Americans being represented than we did back then, but that doesn’t mean that now we have a sitcom that we’re done,” Tseng says. “We’ve got a long way to go, and there are an unlimited amount of untold stories out there, so how can I not tell them?”

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Round-up of my Oscars coverage for PRI’s The World

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Listen to me on PRI’s The World here!

What it’s like to be the butt of the joke. One of the kids at the Oscars speaks out.

The precocious child star who was on stage as an “accountant” at the Oscars didn’t know she’d be the butt of an anti-Asian joke when she agreed to take the part. Neither did her mom

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However you feel about Chris Rock’s Asian joke, it takes guts to talk openly about race

One of the child actors who was the butt of a joke about Asians at the Oscars told us how it felt. And the Internet reacted.

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Ang Lee and George Takei signed the letter, but here’s who wrote it

25 Asian and Asian American members of the Academy protested tone-deaf jokes at the Oscars. And the Academy apologized.

Revisiting ‘Colma,’ the Micro-Budget Film That Became a ‘Cult Classic’

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“It’s not going to be for everyone” was a mantra that then-first time filmmakers Richard Wong and H.P. Mendoza often told their cast and crew back in 2005 while shooting their micro-budget movie, “Colma: The Musical.”

But that was before its 2006 release, and before it was screened at more than 40 film festivals, awarded three Special Jury Awards, nominated for the Someone to Watch Award at the Independent Spirit Awards, and chosen as a Critic’s Pick by the New York Times, which called it an “itty-bitty movie with a great big heart.”

Read the rest of my article from NBC Asian America here

Millions of Americans celebrate Lunar New Year, but this episode of ‘Fresh Off the Boat’ will be a network TV first

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Originally published on PRI’s Global Nation

At a preview of “Fresh Off the Boat’s” Chinese New Year episode, the show’s creator, Nahnatchka Khan, was asked if this is the first time the holiday would be portrayed on American TV shows.

Khan thought about it. “Maybe. Like, [unless there was] a murder during Chinese New Year,” she joked. There have been odd mentions here and there, but tonight’s episode (on ABC) certainly will be a milestone.

Though there have been movements to establish the new year as a national holiday — New York City added it to the public school calendar last year — it’s still rare to see it portrayed in Hollywood.

Which is surprising, considering there are more than 4 million Chinese, some 1.7 million Korean and 2.5 million Southeast Asian Americans in the US. And it’s a safe bet that many of them grew up hoping for generous cash gifts inside red envelopes every year during some version of the Lunar New Year.

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‘The Birth of Saké’: Documentary Lifts Curtain of 2,000-Year-Old Tradition

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Originally posted on NBC Asian America.

At a 2012 New York fundraiser for his short film series “I Am What I Eat,” director Erik Shirai met a young man named Yasuyuki Yoshida, who had been hired to pour saké at the event. There, Yoshida invited Shirai to his family’s brewery in the Ishikawa prefecture of northern Japan to see how world-class saké is made, not knowing that he’d eventually become one of the subjects of Shirai’s award-winning documentary“The Birth of Saké.”

“Japanese people always say, ‘Next time you’re in Japan, come out and we’ll take care of you,'” Shirai told NBC News. “It’s a formality, and no one usually takes them up on their offers, so he was pleasantly surprised when we actually came knocking on his door.”

Saké is a Japanese alcoholic beverage that is made by fermenting rice. There are many different types of saké, determined by brewing methods and the percentage of rice milling, but the Tedorigawa Yoshida Sake Brewery, run by Yoshida’s family, specializes in daiginjo, which is the highest grade of saké.

Continue reading

Is Shah Rukh Khan the gateway drug to Bollywood addiction?

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written for PRI’s Global Nation

 

Natasha Panda Desai remembers watching the 1993 Bollywood filmKing Uncle when she was six years old and falling for Shah Rukh Khan.

“I love him from his old-school mullet days,” she says, though she’s seen every one of his more than 80 films since then. “He played the lead actor’s younger brother, and there was a musical number where he and his girlfriend were riding on his bicycle. He was wearing a white shirt, brown leather jacket, and 1987 jeans that were way too high, and I was like, ‘I want to be that girl! He’s so handsome and dreamy!’”

Desai is a New York-based instructor for Doonya, a Bollywood-inspired dance fitness workout. From Tennessee, she spent parts of her childhood in India and London and remembers watching Hindi films with her Indian babysitter while her physician parents were working night shifts at the hospital.

While some Americans are primed for the return of Star Wars, for Desai, tonight is opening night for Dilwale (“The Brave-Hearted”). Though Dilwale is not technically a sequel, the title invokes Khan’s popular film Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge (“The Brave-Hearted Will Take The Bride,” also known as DDLJ), which celebrated its 20th anniversary this year to much fanfare. But to call it popular is, perhaps, underselling it. One theater in Mumbai showed the film for almost 20 years continuously. Bysome estimates, DDLJ box office earnings are $45 million. But $2 million came from outside India, from fans like Desai.

And 20 years later, enthusiasm for the 90s romance endures. Dilwale reunites Khan with DDLJ actress Kajol. The pair are often referred to as India’s most beloved onscreen couple, though Khan has successfully wooed almost every single Bollywood leading lady single.

Let’s just say, he’s got a lot of charm on screen. And his personal life just adds to the folklore. Born in a Muslim middle-class family in New Delhi, Khan met his Punjabi Hindu wife Gauri when they were teenagers. In a storyline that mirrors the intensity of the DDLJ story, he had to fight for her parents’ approval. Their long-standing marriage has become a symbol of Khan’s ability to bring different worlds together. If you look at the most successful Indian films based on revenue made internationally, Shah Rukh Khan stars in 11 of the top 25, according to a new book about his global appeal.

“He works hard to perfect his craft, but his craft involves more than just being an actor,” says Desai. “His craft is being a superstar. It’s his appeal to the masses that makes him legendary.”

When President Barack Obama visited India in January, he quoted a DDLJ line in broken Hindi to the surprise and delight of Indians around the world. It was a gesture to Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who, when visiting New York in 2014, ended his speech with the Star Wars line, “May the Force be with you.”

Coincidentally, Desai owns a T-shirt featuring the same DDLJ line. She ordered it while she was in college. When she got married — she’s now in her mid-20s — her fellow Doonya instructors gave her custom mugs that depicted one of DDLJ’s most iconic scenes. One mug features Khan, his arms outstretched, and the other features Kajol, just before she runs through a field of yellow flowers and into his tight embrace.

Brian Hu remembers seeing Khan onscreen for the first time at a film festival as a college movie critic. He was a fan of classic black-and-white Hollywood musicals and felt that Bollywood filled a void that was missing in contemporary American film.

“I remember feeling so emotionally overwhelmed by the end,” he says. “Shah Rukh Khan’s films really show how he can be star of every single genre in one movie. He’s a comedian, he’s a romantic hero, he’s an action star, he’s the center of a family drama, and he can switch back and forth and pull it all off.”

Ten years later, he now includes Bollywood films in the San Diego Asian Film Festival, where he is the artistic director, and often screens DDLJ when he teaches media classes at the University of San Diego.

Jeannie Baumann, who also teaches Doonya in Washington, DC, first came across Bollywood music at her Indian American friends’ weddings.

“People sometimes ask me, ‘Do you have to be South Asian to teach Doonya?’” Baumann says, which confuses her because she is Korean American. “The passion and love for the music is universal, and the more you learn, the more you appreciate it.”

To Baumann, it’s all about celebration. “Sometimes there’s so much tragedy, and Bollywood can provide an escapism with the color, music, and uplifting beats,” she says. “It’s about being in the moment, imagining you’re in a beautiful, dancing world where everyone ends up with their dream boy or girl and your parents are happy. And it’s so much fun.”

Want to go down the Shah Rukh Khan rabbit hole? Here are some good places to start.

“Mehndi Laga Ke Rakhna” from DDLJ (1995)

“Chaiyya Chaiyya” from Dil Se (1998)

“Maahi Ve” from Kal Ho Naa Ho (2003)

“Dhoom Taana” from Om Shanti Om  (2007)

“Janam Janam” from Dilwale (2015)