A few years ago, I convinced my editors at Audrey Magazine that it'd be funny to ask actor/model Godfrey Gao to exchange mediocre poetry with me about his hotness.
(Hey, hey. Eyes down here, OK? I know you're trying to figure out who that is in the photo above, and where you've seen his muscles before, but stay with me. There will be more pictures of that guy at the end of this post, I promise.)
Back to poetry. I had just been told that my upcoming interview with Godfrey would be conducted through email, and, as a serious journalist, I knew it'd be hard to experience the full extent of his hotness through email. So I was trying to think of a creative way to do the interview in which the answers I received from him through the written word would potentially be better than the verbal responses I'd get from him in person. Haiku seemed to be the most accessible form of poetry for two non-poets. I figured I could also get away with asking him ridiculous questions about his swooning fangirls, beauty regimen, and tips for modeling Louis Vuitton man purses -- inquiries that would be much less charming without the syllable constraints of 5-7-5.
He probably had no idea what he was getting himself into, but he answered in haiku, and the series Haikus With Hotties was born. For each issue after that, I just kept convincing other people that this was a good idea. Folks like Freddie Wong, Dante Basco, Randall Park, and Christopher Dinh. On one hand, these are creatives working in the entertainment industry who have been directly affected by mainstream Hollywood's lack of imagination when it comes to stereotypical portrayals of Asian American men. But on the other hand, they're also just funny people who very quickly made me realize that the fact that they don't take themselves too seriously is actually the hottest quality of all.
At the time, I didn't have a grand vision of what #HaikusWithHotties would become. But last summer, we successfully launched a Kickstarter to turn the series into a 2016 calendar, including a video where I introduced myself as a "Professor of Hotness" presenting my ground-breaking research. And we hopefully gave our supporters a reason to smile at the first of every month, when it was time to turn the calendar page and unveil their next hottie.
Cover: Shannon Kook; Hotties: Eugene Lee Yang, Godfrey Gao, Randall Park, Sudarsos, Chris Dinh, Yen Chen, Saksham Ghai, Dante Basco, Freddie Wong, Hari Kondabolu, Daniel and Mango Henney, and Viet Pham.
I think about the writers, celebrities, and activists in our community who are often called upon to be "experts" on Asian America, and as much as I don't envy them (and the impossibility of that task), I am really grateful to them.
I, on the other hand, have only really been interviewed by Asian American women journalists who want to talk to me about Daniel Henney.
So future interviewers, let me tell you about the first time I saw Daniel Henney (and how I came to believe in the power of hot Asian American men).
This Bean Pole commercial from 2005:
And then 35 seconds later, this other Bean Pole commercial from the same ad campaign:
I imagine previous generations may have had similar reactions when they first saw a James Shigeta, a Bruce Lee or a Russell Wong -- but for me, there was something about watching Gwyneth Paltrow (not only one of the biggest stars in the world but someone known for dating Brad Pitt, of all people) convincingly unable to control her blushing when Daniel Henney smiles at her. This kind of swooning over viscerally hot Asian men is very common on the other side of the globe, where they are often mobbed by fangirls at airports, but it's very rarely seen in American pop culture, where even in 2016, Asian men onscreen are often desexualized. Statistics show Asian American men are still consistently rated the least attractive by non-Asian women on dating websites like OKCupid.
I'm sure this angers many people, and rightfully so, but I just find it all very silly. What is this illogical, self-sabotaging compulsion to ignore or deny that this type of Asian hotness also exists in America?
I, for one, only know how to combat silliness with more silliness. So this year, we're doing a follow-up calendar for 2017. But instead of a haiku exchange WITH hotties, we're just gonna go ahead and put the haikus ON the hotties.
Or in haiku:
From the makers of
Haikus With Hotties now comes
Haikus On Hotties
To me, exploding people's outdated stereotypes with this kind of undeniable, stop-dead-in-your-tracks hotness is about more than just superficial pleasures (not to downplay the importance of superficial pleasures). It's also about expanding the spectrum of possibility. If there's space in Hollywood to explore the plights of your typical onscreen nerdy Asian male who can't get a date, but there's also space for a Daniel Henney (who, in addition to looking like that, has proved himself to be a pretty reliable actor over the years), then hopefully we're carving out more space for everyone in between.
So if you need more Asian American hotties in your lives, check out our just-launched Kickstarter, where you can get a teaser of our 2017 hotties, including Master of None's Gerrard Lobo, who penned a touching haiku filled with traditional nature imagery like moonlight, wood, and "brown town."
All proceeds from #HaikusOnHotties are going to support Angry Asian Man, which you already know is a really good cause because you are here reading his site right now. So pre-order today!
Your contributions also allow for improvised moments of Asian American artistic synergy, such as when a shirtless Gerrard Lobo and photographer An Rong Xu, after they were done taking the planned sexy lumberjack photo, happened to come across some spare gardening tools and plants in need of tending -- and intuitively understood what else needed to happen before they packed up for the day.
On behalf of the entire Haikus On Hotties team, you're welcome, and have a nice day!
Ada Tseng is a writer/editor who has contributed to XFINITY Asia, Public Radio International, NBC News Asian America, LA Weekly, Asia Pacific Arts and more! She hosts the podcasts Bullet Train and Saturday School, a "class" where she and co-host Brian Hu teach your unwilling children Asian American pop culture history, which launches this Saturday, September 10. Sometimes she convinces hotties to write haikus. Tell her who your favorites are @adatseng.