South Korea’s First Blasian Model

Han Hyun-Min is the first black model in South Korea. Hyun-Min, 16, is half Nigerian in an ethnically homogeneous country where mixed race people often experience blatant racism with difficulty getting jobs and finding spouses. Mixed race children are commonly bullied and called “tuigi”, a derogatory term meaning cross-bred animals. However, he is now appearing in top magazines.

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Blasian Makes Top 10 of Miss Universe

Ariana Mamiko Miyamoto (宮本・エリアナ・磨美子) was born in Nagasaki to a Japanese mother and an African American father (Bryant Stanfield). Her father met her mother while stationed in Sasebo with the United States Navy. Her parents married but divorced when Ariana was an infant.

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Ariana as a child with her mom
 

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Ariana as a teen with her dad and half-sibling
When Ariana was 13, she moved to Arkansas with her father to attend two years of high school in the United States. As a child in Japan, she was often called “kurombo”, the Japanese equivalent to the N-word. She says she felt normal for the first time in Arkansas, although she was still treated as a foreigner. In the U.S., she came to speak of herself as black, while in Japan, she still calls herself hāfu (biracial in Japanese). As Miss Japan, she presents herself as an ethnically mixed Japanese person.

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Miss Nagasaki 2015

 

Miss Japan 2015

In 2015, Ariana won Miss Nagasaki and went on to represent her prefecture in the Miss Universe Japan pageant. She was crowned Miss Universe Japan 2015 in March. She is the first hāfu to win the pageant. Upon her selection, she faced criticism for not appearing to be Japanese. There were comments that her face was too “gaijin”, literally “outside person”. Ariana is a Japanese citizen, born and raised in Japan and fluent in the Japanese language. She identified as Japanese and even holds a 5th degree mastery of Japanese calligraphy. Ariana wants to represent the new face of Japan. “International marriages are happening. There will be [more] biracial children. I want them to be as accepted in Japan as they would be in the U.S. I want society to get used to that idea.”

Ariana went on to compete in Miss Universe 2015 in December, where she made it to the Top 10. Having represented Japan globally, reigning as the first half black Miss Japan, she serves as a role model for multiracial Japanese people and challenges the idea what it means to be Japanese.

Selected Sources: 
* CBS News, Beauty queen brings light to Japan’s racial issues“, April 13, 2015.
New York Times, Biracial Beauty Queen Challenges Japan’s Self-Image“, May 29, 2015. 
NBC NewsThe First Multiracial Miss Universe Japan Has Been Crowned“, March 17, 2015.

First Blasian Contestant on AsNTM2

Marie Nakagawa with the flags of Senegal & Japan

Season 2 of Asia’s Next Top Model featured blasian contestant, Marie Nakagawa, of Japan.  Born to a Senegalese father and a Japanese mother, Marie has often been mistaken for a non-Japanese due to her mixed heritage.  Marie was often bullied by her peers during her childhood in Tokyo.  In her Intro video for AsNTM, Marie discusses the difficulties she experienced as a blasian child in Japan.

Filmed in Malaysia, Asia’s Next Top Model (cycle 2) premiered on January 8, 2014 on STAR World Asia and Fox Asia.  Sixteen women from across the Asia-Pacific region participated in the televised contest.  prior to her elimination.  She was in the bottom 3 in Episode 2 and was the first to be given a second chance.  She was the first call out, selected for best photo in Episode 4, Episode 7, and Episode 8.

Episode 4: The Girl That Embraces Change
Episode 7: The Girl Who is in the Spotlight
Episode 8: The Girl Who Makes a Splash

Marie posted the following on her Facebook page on January 22, 2014, discussing her desire to help Japan recognize the diversity of beauty.

“Japan really needs to realize that FASHION should be equal to any races and I’m hoping that Japanese fashion industry will be more open mind to those colored race as well. Trust me, I am giving my all to change Japan for all those young girls looking up to Japanese Fashion Industry Which They only Have Either white or light Skin tone Damn too skinny and cute Eyes Big Girls That says and Represent and Being told as the definition of World’s Standard BEAUTY” Which IS Totally not. Their only to BE Admire.
We Live in Japan, but we ALSO Live in the World.
non of US in the World IS Same. We all Have Different skin color, we all have different eye color hair colors and everything and WE ALL DIFFERENT that’s exactly why we should accept the beauty each other and we NEVER EVER have to set the definition of beauty by skin color or the size of the eyes or big teeth Small teeth skinny or Chubby or whatever the reason Stupid Which we should Never Compared to and by Judges.
DIFFERENT AND WE ALL BEAUTIFUL IN OUR OWN WAYS.”

Two New Blasian Reality Show Stars Debut Today!

A new reality TV show featuring two blasians premieres Monday, September 3 at 11 PM ET/PT on Oxygen.  The ethnically diverse cast of Oxygen’s Girlfriend Confidential: LAincludes Eva Marcille (Puerto Rican / African American), Nikki Chu (Jamaican / Chinese / Canadian), Denyce Lawton (Korean / African American), and Kelly Marie Dunn (Korean adoptee).  The new series follows these beautiful and successful friends, as they help one another navigate the tumultuous waters of love and celebrity life against the backdrop of the Hollywood entertainment industry.

Eva, Nikki, Denyce, & Kelly

Nikki Chu is a high-profile design diva.  She is a dynamic interior and product designer and practices her love for art with her own company, Nikki Chu Design.  She is considered the virtual “it girl” of style.  The name “Nikki Chu” is synonymous with all that is fabulous.  Nikki Chu is a brand in which luxury has no limits and her style is in a class of its own.  Her flare for interior design has been showcased on E! Entertainment, HGTV, VH1, and the Fine Living Channel.  Born and raised in Toronto, Canada, Nikki is of Jamaican Chinese heritage.

 Nikki with her mother and father. 

Actress Denyce Lawton is best known for starring in the series, Tyler Perry’s House of Payne.  She has been the face of many advertising campaigns and has a number of television and film credits.  Born in Seoul, South Korea, Lawton is the middle child of three children, with an older half sister, who is full Korean, and a younger brother, who is also Korean-African American.  Her parents met when her father was stationed in Seoul with the US Army.  As a child, she lived a military life, traveling around the world.  She has lived in Germany, Kansas, Japan, North Carolina, New Jersey, and Washington, DC.

 
Denyce with her mother and father.
Denyce’s “Made in Korea” tattoo
Selected Sources:
* HalfKorean.com: An online community for mixed-race Koreans, “Interview – Denyce Lawton“.

Blasian Reality TV Stars

Lou Jing – who gained fame as a reality show contestant in China – got me thinking about Blasians on reality TV.  There haven’t been that many.  While Asians are rare, half Asians are few and far between.  Half-African American, half Asian reality stars are even more infrequent.  There have been three blasian reality stars – Melissa Howard, Lisa Wu, and Kimora Lee.

Melissa on Real World (2000) and with her daughter (2011).

Melissa Howard (Filipino-African American) became the first blasian reality star in 2000 on MTV’s Real World: New Orleans.  She went on to appear in other reality TV shows, including Real World / Road Rules Challenge and Battle of the Network Reality Stars.  Now Melissa Beck, she is married to Glassjaw guitarist, Justin Beck, and has a daughter, Shalom Mazie.

Melissa’s parents – Maurice “Shorty” & Narcisa “Mercy” – at the MTV Studios
Lisa Wu appeared in the first two seasons (2008-2009) of The Real Housewives of Atlanta.  Her mother is of Afro-Caribbean descent, and her father is Chinese.
                               Lisa Wu’s parents

Previously married to R&B singer Keith Sweat, she was married to NFL linebacker Ed Hartwell, while on the show.  They divorced in 2011.

Lisa Wu and her sons Jordan, Justin, & EJ

Kimora Lee – better known as a model and former wife of Russell Simmons – has starred in the reality television series, Kimora: Life in the Fab Lane, since 2007.  The most famous blasian reality star, she details her daily life with her three children and her husband, model/actor Djimon Hounsou.

Kimora and her mother, Kyoko Perkins

With a Korean-born Japanese mother and an African American father, Kimora was often a target of bullying and teasing as a child because of her height (5’10” by age 10) and her mixed heritage.  Her mom enrolled her in modeling classes when she was 11 years old, and Kimora was discovered at the age of 13.

Kimora married mogul, Russell Simmons, in 1998.  They officially separated in 2006.  She has been with Djimon Hounsou, a Benin-born Oscar-nominated actor, since 2007.

Kimora and her children, Kenzo, Ming, & Aoki

While there are many who view reality TV as a less-esteemed genre of television, it can be an excellent platform to share varying perspectives and provides exposure to different types of people and ethnicities.  Reality television is a unique opportunity to potentially see and connect with people who have similar stories.

Selected Sources:
* Melissa Beck, http://melissabeck.tumblr.com/
* The Real Housewives of Atlanta, “Lisa Wu Hartwell”, http://www.bravotv.com/the-real-housewives-of-atlanta/bio/lisa-wu-hartwell
* Kimora: Life in the Fab Lane, “Kimora Lee Simmons”, http://www.mystyle.com/mystyle/shows/kimora/castbios/index.jsp