5 Lessons From Hot Asian Men For 2018

Guest Post by Ada Tseng, Professor of Hotness

(Clockwise from top left) Saagar Shaikh, Mike Bow, D'Lo, Sean Miura, Yoshi Sudarso, Jake Choi, Peter Sudarso, Chris Pang, Simu Liu, and Ilram Choi. Photo by Sthanlee B. Mirador/Sipa USA.

First, we exchanged Haikus With Hotties. Then we put Haikus On Hotties. It's our third year making hot Asian man calendars to celebrate our favorite talented creative Asian men in the media, and this year, fans wrote Haikus For Hotties, and each spread is designed into a magazine cover, as a nod to the fact that Asian American men (and women, for that matter) are now sometimes featured inside the magazine, but still rarely on the cover.

As always, the lineup for the 2018 Haikus For Hotties calendar is scorching. On the cover, we have Yoshi Sudarso (Buffalo Boys, Power Rangers Dino Charge), Peter Sudarso (Power Rangers Ninja Steel, Apartment210), and a special Anna Akana cameo, spoofing the controversial Scarlett Johansson, Keira Knightley and Tom Ford Vanity Fair cover from 2006. Inside we have: Chris Pang (Crazy Rich Asians, Marco Polo), Keone Madrid (The World of Dance), Daniel K. Isaac (Billions, According To My Mother), Simu Liu (Kim's Convenience), Sunkrish Bala, Dominic Rains and Asif Ali (Chee and T), Desmond Chiam (The Shannara Chronicles), D'Lo (Transparent, Disoriented Comedy), Kevin Wang (editor of GQ Taiwan), Saagar Shaikh (Unfair & Ugly, Bollywood Boys), Ilram Choi (stuntman, The Amazing Spider-Man), the J-Rod Twins (singers), and Lewis Tan (Into the Badlands, The Iron Fist). Plus a bonus Magic Mike poster from The Undateables (Geo Lee, Richi Wang, Pauler Lam, Andrew Tran, Patrick Packing, Yoshi Wright, and Chuck Maa), courtesy of SeventhGrade.

This year, to celebrate the launch, Haikus With Hotties hosted two hot Asian man panels in Los Angeles -- "Image of the Asian American Man" with DreamMaker DreamDoer DreamSupporter at JACCC and "Super Heroes, Super Villains, Super Rich and Super Hot" with Alhambra Source at Toy-Zilla.

Here's what we learned from the conversations:

5. Representation matters

Chris Pang: As a kid, I loved the Terminator. Terminator 2 was my favorite movie. I was like, "I want to be Arnie." But there's no way a skinny Asian kid is ever going to look like Arnie. Growing up, I didn't have a proper role model that looked like me that I could identify with, and I think that's a lot of the reason I'm doing what I'm doing.

Jake Choi (Front Cover, 2017 Haikus On Hotties Mr. December): When we talk about Asian American men, the focus is usually on cis-gender, heterosexual East Asian men. That's "Asian representation," usually. And that's not right -- you gotta talk about Southeast Asians and South Asians and trans/queer folks, and I want to see more of their stories. It can't just be about John Cho and Daniel Dae Kim, though don't get me wrong, they're great. But we have to use our platforms to push each other up, intersectionally.

D'Lo: As a queer non-conforming-gender person, my whole career I wanted to be an actor but I kept trying to make these meetings with these agents and they literally said, "We don't know what to do with you." And I would showcase and showcase and showcase, and in 2013, I told my partner, let's move back to LA. I knew Hollywood was shifting, with Transparent, Sense 8, Looking [shows D'Lo ended up acting in]. There was a lot of gayness, queerness, and all that good stuff. Still not people of color in those roles, but I would have never thought in a million years that I would ever be able to be onscreen. Ever. Not just for being brown, but for being a super queer, you know what I'm saying?

So I'm done complaining. I'm trying to create. I'm trying to get my brothers and sisters and siblings to create, because it's not going to change unless we change it.

4. It's time to rethink a culture that "emasculates" Asian men.

Simu Liu: I think a lot of us grew up with an inferiority complex. Whether you're approaching someone you're attracted to for the first time or in a social setting -- you just have it. It's so deeply ingrained in you, whether it's the media or yourself looking in the mirror realizing you can never give yourself the permission to have what that white dude has. That white dude confidence.

Jake Choi: That mediocre white dude confidence! [laughs] Hey look, emasculation of Asian men is real, I think we're conditioned to believe what we're shown or not shown. But the thing is -- we all have insecurities, but I think Asian men need to be careful to try not to be misogynistic and hyper-masculine in a toxic way to make up for the emasculation.

Peter Sudarso: I don't think femininity has anything to do with confidence as an Asian man. I'm super effeminate, but I'm also confident.

Sean Miura: To me, the solution is not, "Let's fight against one gendered stereotype." It's "Let's take the whole thing down."

D'Lo: When you realize that people trying to "emasculate" you are trying to make you look like the "second-class citizen," aka women, they're saying the person that I love, that I came from, is less than me. Then you have to say, "I really need to just challenge my masculinity on every level." As men of color, I think we feel like we have something to prove in this very white patriarchal world, and I think when we show what beautiful masculinity can look like, we really change the world. When we embrace all of it, stop fighting, and just say "This is how I am," then we show how we can gain confidence from ourselves instead of trying to be something else.

3. Support indie projects from your community with $$$$, not just free likes and shares.

Saagar Shaikh: I think it's really cool that there are more Asians and brown people [in the media] every year. There are all sorts of people of color coming together and making their own projects now. The problem is: money is a big factor in making your own projects, and I don't know about you all... but brown people are cheap as hell...

Peter: Us too, us too.

Saagar: We can't get anything crowd-funded. We try, and people share share share, but they don't give any money. Money is a problem. The work can be made, but it can only go so far without the funds. So support your people. If they want to make something, just throw $5, $10 at them, and it'll be made.

D'Lo: I was just thinking about a time I hosted at the South Asian Queer Organization. We had a raffle with all these gifts, you had to bid, and I had to be like, "Don't be an Auntie! This is not about a discount! This is about you bidding to support an organization." [laughs] And I had to say it, because these motherfuckers would be like, "Ooh, I can get all this for just $5??"

2. Shirtless selfies help, but not necessary to achieve hotness.

Peter Sudarso: For me, posting shirtless photos, it's not about "Look at my hot body." I'm proud of my [fitness] progress, because I just got abs two years ago!

Yoshi Sudarso: I can attest to this. He's never had abs.

Peter: I've been breakdancing for 8 years. Never had abs!

Kenta Seki (celebrity trainer, cover man of 2017 Haikus On Hotties calendar): [checks] It's all abs on your Instagram. [laughs] Mine is worse though.

Desmond Chiam: [laughs] But he's got an excuse. He's a fitness guy.

Peter: There are a lot people who comment that they're usually "not into Asian guys." They say, "Oh, it's actually a hot Asian guy!" Which sucks. It sucks that it has to be like that. But it's also like, "Great. At least one person thinks we're more viable."

Kenta: We've been talking about us getting represented in the media and in Hollywood. But another big topic is whether we're deemed as attractive or sexually wanted [in life]. Asian men are the most discriminated against if you look at the OK Cupid stats. We're the least wanted across all demographics, so I think the more that we can show that we can be attractive in different ways, shirtless or not...

Desmond: Maybe wearing a sweater.

Yoshi: Can we talk about how Chris posted his first shirtless photo?

Peter: Let's give him an applause!

Chris Pang: This does not deserve applause. Yoshi pressured me to do it. [Genuinely stressed out about shirtless selfies.] But me and Des have full-on intellectualized this. Because it does get attention. Like Kenta says, it does do everything we're striving to achieve and it helps you along that path... [sigh] But I just don't want to do it.

Yoshi: I say, do it if you are OK with it and you're happy with it. Cause it's whatever to me. I don't really think about it.

Chris: We know.

Yoshi: [laughs] It's like, Yea. [shrugs] I work out.

1. Be proud to be Asian

Yoshi Sudarso: We grew up in Indonesia, and then we care here [to America] and realized people were different. And we didn't really think much of it, until we got bullied. And I was confused why I was being bullied, and I thought, maybe it's because I don't speak the language, and then I realized, "Oh it's because I'm Asian"... So we actually told our Mom that we wanted to stop speaking Indonesian, stop using our language, because we wanted to stop being bullied, thinking "We just want to speak English. We want to speak it perfectly and blend in perfectly."

And this year, I got a job [playing a cowboy in Buffalo Boys], because I speak Indonesian. [laughs]

Simu Liu: It's hard growing up in a family where you don't speak the same language and you don't grow up in the same culture so you have different values, and I think that disconnect really contributed to a lot of our initial want to reject all the things of our parents' culture and generation. But the moment I started to unpack and start a dialogue with my parents and get to know them better, I realized just how much they sacrificed for us.... They knew that it wasn't going to be easy for them or for us. They knew they were going to raise their kids in a place that was totally foreign... but they were like, my giving them a better life is more valuable. And then I became super curious about their story. So if you haven't yet, I highly recommend getting to know your parents and connecting with them on that level, because that made me realize that being Asian is beautiful.

Yoshi: And then we became actors and our parents were like, ughhh...

Simu: [laughs] That's a whole other thing...

For more hotness, start your new year off right with your own 2018 Haikus For Hotties calendar, available at haikuswithhotties.com. Southern California residents can purchase them in Share and Do Good stores in Long Beach and Fullerton.

And click here to hear the entire "Image of the Asian American Man" conversation, moderated by Sean Miura of Tuesday Night Cafe. It ends with Simu Liu serenading Saagar Shaikh for his birthday.

Have a Happy New Year!

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