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.”

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Blasian to Star in Nick At Nite Pilot

Nick At Nite has announced a new show called Instant Mom.  The show will star Tia Mowry and is about a 25-year-old party girl who marries an older man with kids and becomes an “instant mom”.  Sydney Park has been cast as the eldest child and only daughter, Gabrielle (Gabby).
Syd & mom, Kelly

Sydney was born in Philadelphia, PA on October 31, 1997 to a Korean American father and African American mother.  At the age of six, using the moniker “Syd the Kid”, she became the youngest person ever to perform stand up comedy at the world famous Hollywood Improv.  She has also displayed her comedic talents on “America’s Got Talent” and “The Tonight Show with Jay Leno”.  As an actress, she has appeared in “That’s So Raven” and “CSI: NY”.  In 2011, she starred in her one-girl show “Young, Gifted, Half Black” at the Upright Citizen’s Brigade at the age of 13.

Instant Mom will premiere on Sunday, September 29, 2013.  Check it out at Nick Mom TV.  

UPDATED
Monday, September 2, 2013

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“.

The Newest Blasian Reality TV Star…

Dina Ruiz Eastwood!

Dina Eastwood began starring in a reality television series on the E! network about her life called Mrs. Eastwood & Company in May of 2012.  The show focuses on the lives of Dina, wife of actor/director Clint Eastwood, and their daughters, Francesca and Morgan.  Mrs. Eastwood manages the six-person a cappella group Overtone, who also live with the Eastwoods in their Carmel-by-the-Sea, California mansion.  The season finale aired on July 23rd.

Television news anchor Dina Ruiz* was assigned an interview with Clint Eastwood in 1993.  Three years later, the couple married in a surprise private ceremony planned by the groom.  Following the birth of the couple’s daughter, Morgan, in 1996, Dina left her anchor spot at KSBW-TV.

While in South Africa with her husband for the filming of Invictus, Dina discovered Overtone.  The group sang the soundtrack for the 2009 film.  Dina was so impressed by their talent and potential that she relocated the entire sextet to California and has been managing them ever since.

In the Spring 2007 issue of Carmel Magazine, Dina spoke about growing up multiracial. –
” I was the darkest kid at my elementary school.  I used to get called ‘nigger’ in grade school.  I had a real problem with my looks until I was about 20.  Now everyone is mixed.  It’s no big deal.  My dad is black and Japanese.  And my mom’s Irish, German and English.”

LEFT: Dina’s dad, Michael
RIGHT: Dina’s mom, Mary Lou

* Although Dina’s family name is Hispanic, she is not Hispanic at all.  Dina’s father was adopted by a Portuguese American / Puerto Rican family named Ruiz.

Selected Sources:
* E! Online, “Mrs. Eastwood & Company“.
* Dina Eastwood, Twitter.
* Carmel Magazine, The Simple Things: Dina Eastwood Prefers Substance Over Style“, Spring 2007.

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

The First Blasian on TV

Alisa Gyse is a bit of a hero to me. She was Kinu Owens on the 90’s television series, A Different World. In eight episodes between 1990 and 1993, Gyse was the Japanese-African American love interest of Dwayne Wayne. As a Korean-African American, seeing someone of Afro-Asian ethnicity on TV was amazing. She was the first half-black and half-Asian character I had ever seen. It was thrilling to see someone similar to myself portrayed in such a popular vehicle.

A Different World, Episode: “Everything Must Change” (1990)

Kinu’s blend of Asian and black features and identity pervaded her presence on the show. It went beyond her physical characteristics and made its way into the way she dressed, talked, and even cooked. She had a Japanese name, spoke the Japanese language, and prepared Japanese meals. Yet, she was still an African American character on an African American show. I could relate.

In 1990, Gyse backed up Sammy Cahn ― legendary lyricist, songwriter, and musician ― in a live performance piece. In an interview promoting the show, Gyse noted that she had been to Japan three times. She said, “When I was going to Japan, I wondered what my relatives would think of me.” “I’m half Japanese and half black, and the Japanese can be a very purist society. I wondered if they’d be old and traditional. They were the most wonderful, hospitable people. I got closer to them in a shorter amount of time than to some of my relatives I’ve known for years.”

Gyse also acknowledged her luck in earning her first acting role in A Different World. “They were looking for someone who is black and Japanese!” she said.

Soloist in Sammy Cahn’s “Words & Music” (1990)

Of her experience in Cahn’s show, Gyse said, “I think Americans are ready and willing to be entertained by any race. Here I am, the only black person in the Sammy Cahn show, singing songs that are not from my heritage, but I love the songs, and I’m sure people enjoy my performance, and it has nothing to do with my being black or Japanese – or purple!

If you’d like to see clips of Gyse as Kinu on “A Different World”, check out these links.

Whitley vs. Kinu (Part 1): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aUAwIpFFu6w

Whitley vs. Kinu (Part 2): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NbQGyyoKxFc

Selected Sources:
* Chicago Tribune, On with the Show“, December 3, 1990.
* Internet Movie Database, “Alisa Gyse-Dickens”.