Last year, when we debuted the first Haikus With Hotties calendar, a tongue-in-cheek celebration of hot Asian American men and their ability to write Japanese poetry, we led with these two photos:
So even though every single other person in the calendar - from Eugene Lee Yang and Randall Park to Godfrey Gao, Daniel Henney and Hari Kondabolu -- was fully clothed, we understood (and even thought it was funny) when some of the new hotties we approached for the 2017 calendar asked: "Do I have to take my shirt off?"
The answer was: Well, this time, we're calling it Haikus *On* Hotties, so YES, OBVIOUSLY.
Most people talk about Haikus With Hotties in terms of the Asian American men's physical hotness, and I'm guilty of that too. Can you really blame us for wanting to spread around shirtless photos of the Sudarsos, actor Gerrard Lobo (Master of None), celebrity trainer Kenta Seki (FitFusion), model Justin Kim (America's Next Top Model), actor Mike Bow (ISAtv), and actor Jake Choi (Front Cover) as a naughty Christmas elf to help provide some sort of visual balance to other Asian American male characters in the media that don't necessarily lead with their sex appeal?
But for people who look closer at our project, I hope they see that these well-earned muscles are only part of the hotties' overall appeal. My co-producer Mai Nguyen and I are really proud of every single one of our calendar picks, no matter what they're wearing (or not wearing), and ultimately, all hotties are people that we respect for the work that they do.
So please indulge me for a second while I highlight our non-shirtless hotties of 2017, who sometimes don't get as much attention in this cruel, shirtless-men-loving world.
Let's start with Mr. March, public radio host Sean Rameswaram, because there would be no calendar without Sean Rameswaram.
Haikus With Hotties started as a silly photo/poetry series we did when I used to work at the Asian American women's lifestyle publication, Audrey Magazine. I can't remember when I started joking that it should be a calendar. I just remember writing my editor Anna M. Park a fake press release. But one day I was stuck in traffic listening to Sideshow, an arts and culture podcast that Sean hosted at Studio 360, a collaboration between PRI and WNYC, and he did an episode called "Kickstarting the Tonya Harding and Nancy Kerrigan 1994 Museum."
Basically, these comedy writers in Brooklyn were so inspired by the ESPN documentary about Tonya Harding and Nancy Kerrigan that they made a Kickstarter with a video explaining how they had a long hallway in their apartment that they wanted to turn into the Tanya Harding and Nancy Kerrigan museum. And enough people thought it was funny that it not only got funded (they had a goal of $75, but they got $2000), but people started sending them their old Tanya Harding/Nancy Kerrigan memorabilia to add to their "museum." But it wasn't just them -- apparently there was a trend of these silly but successful Kickstarters -- funding a statue of Robocop, an inflatable Lionel Richie head, even a guy making a potato salad.
Something about hearing Sean say: "If your big idea is original enough, crazy enough or maybe quirky enough, it will kill on Kickstarter" made me think, hey, my idea might be crazy enough. As soon as the episode ended, I called Anna and asked if we could Kickstart a 2016 Haikus With Hotties calendar. I basically lifted the text of my fake press release and put it in the Kickstarter description. I figured it was a win-win. If we succeeded, great, but if we didn't, it's just as funny to tell people that we tried to Kickstart a Haikus With Hotties calendar and failed. But people liked it. It got funded in 3 days (thanks to a share by Phil on Angry Asian Man. So we made the calendar.
In addition to being a hot man calendar maker, I'm a journalist/podcaster who's part of the Potluck Podcast Collective, a newly-launched Asian American podcast collective, and even within our group, I'm not the only one who was given the courage to start podcasting because of Sean. Even just a couple years ago, you didn't hear voices like Sean's in public radio very often, where the work is well-reported but also just really, really fun. And now he's contributing to Radiolab's first-ever spin-off series More Perfect -- doing stories about the Supreme Court. But I'm waiting for him to start a new podcast where he's the host again.
February: Patrick Epino and Stephen Dypiangco
Readers of Angry Asian Man are probably familiar with the action comedy Awesome Asian Bad Guys that Phil executive produced, which celebrated Asian bad guys in '80s action movies that were badass but unfortunately always got killed prematurely. Patrick and Stephen are also the faces of the National Film Society and their YouTube videos are always worth binge-watching when you need a laugh or a lesson about movie-making. But for Valentine's Day 2017, they haiku about love.
July: Dan Matthews
Sharing a month with the shirtless Mike Bow, his partner at ISAtv, Dan Matthews is rapper otherwise known as DanakaDan, who gamely donned a muscle suit to do a spoof of those Carl's Jr. commercials with the hot models for the calendar. He's also done a lot to bring awareness to the Korean American adoptee experience with his documentaries AKA Dan and AKA Seoul. Check out the behind-the-scenes video of their photo shoot that was recently released on ISAtv!
September: Vishavjit Singh
Vishavjit Singh is a cartoonist, writer, performance artist and creator of Sikhtoons.com. He got his spark for cartooning in the post 9/11 tragedy when Americans with turbaned and bearded countenance became targets of hate crimes, and for the past few years, he has been traveling across the US with his Captain Sikh America alter-ego, armed with turban, beard, humor to disarm fear, anxiety and intolerance.
August: Joseph Vincent
Photographer Melly Lee is the one to thank for convincing this classy gentleman to take his pants (if not his shirt) off. Singer-songwriter Joseph Vincent has made a name for himself on YouTube with over subscribers and 100 million video views. He recently released his EP "Here's 2 You," which is now available on iTunes.
October: Sean Miura
Sean Miura is the producer/lead curator of Tuesday Night Cafe, the longest running Asian American open mike night in the US that takes place in Los Angeles' Little Tokyo neighborhood. You might recognize him from the moving Buzzfeed video where Japanese Americans revisit internment camps where their relatives were detained -- or appreciate him for hosting important community events like the recent "We Stand Together" vigil responding to the increase of hate crimes against Muslims and immigrant communities.
May: Jose Antonio Vargas
Yes, it's pretty cool to have a Pulitzer Prize winner in this year's hottie calendar, but what we really admire Jose for is the relentless work that he does to give voices to immigrants in America. He's the founder of Define American, and he regularly crosses over to conservative spaces like Fox News to both start conversations about immigration reform and to try and correct misconceptions about what it's really like to be an undocumented immigrant in America.
January: Ronnie Woo
Actually, Ronnie, even though he's clothed in his calendar photo, shouldn't technically be on this list, because he is often shirtless on his Instagram which you can find here. You're welcome. He's most known for his work as a TV chef and host of the LOGO show, Food to Get You Laid -- which, despite its salacious title, is actually a thoughtful exploration of how food affects our relationships (Woo has two Masters degrees, one in Marriage and Family Therapy). He's also a chef expert on the OWN network's Home Made Simple.
If you want to learn more about these talented folks (or order a calendar, proceeds go to Angry Asian Man!), go to www.haikuswithhotties.com.
Happy New Year, and here's to a 2017 filled with Asian American hotness!