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Hungry hungry Asians?

Featuring Awkwafina, rapper, producer, and actress in that one movie that's coming out, what was it again (PC: Kris Merc)

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Crazy boundary-pushing Asians

Asian American and Pacific Islander lawmakers in California hope a new law will make sure movies like Crazy Rich Asians aren’t such a rare event anymore.

Show us your Asians

This summer, California Governor Jerry Brown extended the state’s tax credit program for film and TV productions. Governor Brown included new provisions requiring productions to compile data on the diversity of their employees—including a breakdown of the influential above-the-line positions.

The bill doesn’t actually require applicants to meet any quotas, but it does force productions to be conscious of diversity. It’ll also help compile important data tracking just how well—or not—Hollywood is doing at representing the country.

The extension also encourages productions to establish initiatives that promote women and people of color, creating a career training program for Californians from underserved communities.

When representatives really represent

And the California Assembly’s API Caucus united as a bloc to rally for the diversity provisions. Assemblymember David Chiu says he was motivated after watching Chris Rock host the 2016 Oscar ceremony where he brought out three young Asian children and made a joke about their math skills. Coincidentally, Chiu was watching the show from the hospital, where his wife was giving birth to their son and thought about his son being the butt of such (tired, unoriginal) jokes.

Assemblymember Rob Bonta, however, says he got sick and tired of seeing AAPI roles filled by white actors. Bonta told The Hollywood Reporter, “We don't need another Ghost in the Shell or Aloha”. Amen to that.

Jessica Yi, editor, got to vote for TWO AAPI members of Congress in 2016
Watch Emma Stone explain how to pronounce "Ng" 👀

NOW PLAYING: Before we begin, I’d like to share a few observations from the early screening of Crazy Rich Asians:

  1. There were hella Asians in attendance (unsurprising)
  2. They all brought their own snacks (again, unsurprising)
  3. The movie theater staff chose this day to strictly enforce their “no outside food” policy (outrageous)
  4. Protests almost ensued (only slightly exaggerated, there were wails of “that is so much wasted food!!” echoing throughout the theater)
  5. Moment of silence for the tacos and giant bag of chips that sacrificed their lives for this movie.
Crazy Rich Asians: a movie worth throwing away your tacos for. 

Read the rest of the story >>

— Chery Sutjahjo, editor

It’s more than nails that need a makeover

Last Sunday, Brooklyn nail salon workers of Asian descent attacked three Black customers over an eyebrow—and it was nasty. Since then, footage of that fight has gone viral. Protests have erupted. Black activists have continued to speak against violence against Black people.

And it’s another egregious incident of anti-Blackness in the Asian American community.

Not an isolated incident

The New York Times acknowledged a history of tension between Asian and Black communities, including a 1984 boycott of Asian-owned businesses on West 125th Street in Manhattan, as well as the Rodney King riots in 1992. That tension continues today, with the opposition of affirmative action by new immigrant Asian Americans.

The New York Healthy Nail Salon Coalition, founded in 2014 to protect Latina and Asian immigrant women from wage theft and health hazards, concurred in a statement that the event was rooted in anti-Blackness. But that didn’t stop people from leaping to the defense of *checks notes* the Asian nail workers.

Wanna talk about bad working conditions?

We do too. But poor working conditions aren’t an excuse for beating people with broomsticks, and most definitely not an excuse to front a sudden appreciation for nail salon workers.

It’s worth asking ourselves when we choose to talk about unfair working conditions and unfair wages, and when we choose to discuss labor in context of people of color. And it’s also worth reading about the work the New York Healthy Nail Salon Coalition is doing to reduce toxic working conditions.

Because long hours and low wages are stressful and are difficult. But they shouldn’t be that way … or result in anti-Black violence.

Natalie Bui, editor
The NY Healthy Nail Salon Coalition has done work

Awkwafina wants to rap for the right reasons and learn about index funds

6 months ago, we interviewed Awkwafina at her studio in Los Angeles, and we couldn’t help but feature her all over again with the coming of Crazy Rich Asians. We’ve reprinted an excerpt from our interview below, where I talked to Awkwafina about her music, her grandma, and, um, index funds. And as always, you can read the whole thing on Medium— Natalie Bui, editor


When did you know you were going to make music as a career?

When I was ten years old, I was going into junior high school. And one of the teachers came up to me and said, “in your new school — would you like to be a part of the band?” and I was all “Oh, dope, a marching band?” But I lived in Queens, so, like, we don’t march down Queens Boulevard. It was just a band.

So, I said yes, and you know, school band, it was just in a room. And I wanted to be drums but there was like 50 people doing drums. So I was just like “let me just play the trumpet!” So let me tell you, I KILLED the trumpet.

Do you still play it?

Not really anymore, unfortunately, because I have neighbors with babies and it’s very sad. But yeah so that’s — that’s how I knew. So for a long time, my dream was to be a concert trumpeter which is, like, really weird.

But then that led into me discovering, like, GarageBand on my first MacBook. And that’s when I started producing beats, and — I’ve always loved hip-hop, I’ve always had a very strong relationship with hip-hop, and I loved producing hip-hop beats.

But hip-hop beats are not beats without vocals. So instead of inviting people into my awkward, smelling room to do this side project that I’d been doing in the nights, I just started rapping on them.

You’ve brought up the point about being an Asian American female rapper and sometimes celebrities who are people of color feel the pressure to represent the whole community. How have you experienced that as a rapper?

Well, I don’t think anyone ever sets out to feel like they’re going to represent people. But by default, anything that I do that’s in the public sphere — that can be seen on a large scale — represents in some ways an Asian community.

And in the best way, it represents girls like me — awkward, nerdy, but not in that sense — just not normal, “feminine” girls. So it represents that community, but in a larger whole, if I do something really bad, you know, then that shouldn’t represent all Asian people. But the truth is that — you don’t realize it, but you do impact your community. With everything that you do. It helps people sometimes and other times it makes people kind of mad.

So I do know you have a couple of upcoming music projects coming out — tell us about your latest music video.

So it’s been a really long time. So I think my last music video was with Margaret Cho, maybe two years ago. That was “Green Tea.”

It’s been a minute and I think my time off was attributed to filming movies, and also wanting to take the time to find an authentic space in the industry. I think that in more recent years, we’ve seen hip-hop change. And in a way, people are abusing it, I think, and not really recognizing it for its roots and respecting it. And I didn’t want to be grouped in with those people because I have deep respect for hip-hop and its foundations.

I think the music that I’m making now — what’s great about it is that it’s authentic to me. And it’s something that I feel like the people that bought my first album would enjoy.

But also, I don’t know. So I just need validation at this point.

Given that a lot of the conversations I feel like you have to have are around your “Asian-ness,” around this political context around your music— if we didn’t have to talk about it, what would you like to explore or talk about in your interviews?

I don’t know. Like, oh my god, that’s such a good question. I don’t know. I mean, I guess Bitcoin. I don’t understand how that works. Maybe like — if I put 20 thousand dollars into a Roth IRA. Or, no no no — an index fund. Will I ever lose that 20? Because that’s a question that no one will answer.

No one knows though, right?

But then — but, but — see, that’s the thing! No one knows! So if no one knows — why, why, why would I do that? I — if you don’t know, if I don’t know —

Why would you do that?

Why would I do that? Why would I do that?

Switching it back —

Thank you. (laughs) “What does it feel like to be an Asian political woman?”

What do you find yourself still struggling with in the music industry?

Well, I think that — I’ve met a lot of Asian rappers that complain and complain and Rekstizzy said this in a documentary I did, Bad Rap. And he says this quote, he says, “All the musicians that are killing it never complain.” Right? So all the musicians that are killing it — they’re successful, they never talk about how hard it is. You know what I mean?

So it’s like, my struggles with hip-hop — I don’t think that they have to do with that I’m a woman, or that I’m Asian, or that I’m not, like, super hot. Like, I don’t think they have to do with that. I think music is just so erratic as a genre, and what I’m trying to rap about, and the message in my rap, just doesn’t appeal to the zeitgeist. And, kind of going back, that’s something that I’ve kind of learned to understand and be satisfied with.

And I don’t like it when people oftentimes want me to be, for a lack of a better word, they want me to be “urban.” Right? They think that I’m an Asian rapper — and these are business people — so therefore, put me in cornrows and let me go rap.

You know, I’ve auditioned for movies that I’ve walked out on because they’ve asked more “urban.” I feel like — I want people to understand who I am. You know what I mean? And that I’m not that and I would never do that. I almost walked out of a development deal because I didn’t want to do that.

Awkwafina is a rapper, actress and producer. Her new single, “Pockiez,” came out this June. Awkwafina last appeared in Ocean’s 8, and she’s starring in Crazy Rich Asians, in wide release next week.

Read the whole interview on Medium

This weekend ... 📅

  • READ AND SOMEDAY WATCH Min Jin Lee's Pachinko, to be adapted as a television series for Apple Video, or whatever Apple's going to call its new streaming service. Pachinko joins an upcoming morning show drama starring Jennifer Aniston and Reese Witherspoon at Apple, and will be written and produced by Soo Hugh. Min Jin Lee will executive produce.

  • LEARN TO DANCE if you live in South Philly, from Cambodian American Girls Empowering. Founded by Lanica Angpak three years ago, CAGE helps Cambodian American girls remember their Cambodian heritage, through traditional Cambodian dance. Plus, it's open to the public.

  • GET SOME TRIVIA with OZY's reports on why so many Pacific Islanders are members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. In fact, Hawaiian was the first non-European language that the Book of Mormon was translated into, and Samoan immigrants to Hawaii built the first Mormon temple dedicated outside of the mainland. That said, it's a liiiiittle imperialist, which the article glosses over. Go figure.

  • CELEBRATE AND ALSO NOT I GUESS one of our inspirations, Reappropriate's Jenn Fang, whose article on the history of yellowface graces the holy pages of Teen Vogue this week. It ain't just Mickey Rooney, and that's, uh, kind of unfortunate. Good thing things are changing a little, bit by bit.

  • BOWL YOURSELF OVER with E. Alex Jung's latest feature, with Crazy Rich Asians' Henry Golding. Jung and Golding chat about everything from his Discovery Channel series to his days as a travel host. And also, yeah, Golding is a hot basket of buttered bread.

This week's stories are curated by Andrew Hsieh, editor-in-chief, who recently discovered the un-joys of sleeping at midnight instead of, say, 3 A.M. Got a tip, or just want to share? E-mail us at news@slant.email.

The Slant is brought to you by:

Brian Hsieh, Kevin Lin, Billy Huang, Delwin Lau, AJ Grey, Marina Cheung, Michelle Pal, Mandy Diec, Lloyd Lee, Patrick Trinh, Emily Chi, Naomi Iwata, Gloria Lin, Matt Young, Cat Xia, Crystal Shei, Sooyun Choi, Yi Cao, Meher Kohli, Ryan Ikeda, Jerome Finuliar, Abby Wang, Curtis Leung, Tracey Mantilla, Mika Kennedy, James Boo, Chris Moe, Eve Asher, Diane Lee, Angela Yang, Katherine Chin, Paul Kerr, Talisa Chang and Claire Tran, who deserve a baker's dozen of a baker's dozen of donuts. Not even just the holes, y'all. DONUTS.

Join them in supporting The Slant on Patreon.

“Now I'm a full-grown adult and Bloody Mary still haunts me. I'm smart enough to know it's not real. But the fear... the fear is so rooted deep that it doesn't make anyu logical sense. Anytime I'm in a dark bathroom with a mirror (even my own) I start thinking: 'Bloody Mary, Bloody--'. This fear doesn't control me. It encourages me to use lights.”

— Emi Lenox, writer and cartoonist, from her comic Emitown

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