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“I’m not who you think of when you imagine a winner,” said Ke Huy Quan as he held a gold knotted trophy in his hands. “I don’t fit the mold.” Instead, the image Quan described — “six feet tall with big muscles, good looking and a ladies man” — sounded more similar to the K-pop idol who introduced his category, NCT 127’s Johnny Suh.
Yet on Saturday night, the Oscar-winning Everything Everywhere All at Once star added one more win to his growing list at The Music Center in downtown Los Angeles, where Asian American and Pacific Islander collective Gold House hosted its Gold Gala.
Over 700 attendees came together to recognize Gold House’s 2023 A100 List, which is announced every AAPI Heritage Month to highlight the 100 Asian Pacific leaders who have most significantly impacted American culture and society in the last year. This year’s honorees included Quan, Eva Longoria, Sandra Oh, Iman Vellani, Netflix’s Bela Bajaria, YouTube CEO Neal Mohan, K-pop sensation NewJeans, transgender advocate Geena Rocero and Beef leads Ali Wong and Steven Yeun.
Oh received the SeeHer award, the highest recognition for artists who advocate for gender equality, portray characters with authenticity, defy stereotypes, and push boundaries in front of and behind the camera. Awkwafina was on hand to present, as Oh told the crowd, “I’ve actually spent my whole career trying to accomplish the name of this honor, not only for myself but for others.”
Attendees were encouraged to showcase their culture through their fashion for the night. For Raya and the Last Dragon’s Daniel Dae Kim, this meant donning a hanbok. “I didn’t have anything, but I did have this authentic Seoul 1988 Olympics pin from when I was a kid,” said Shortcomings director Randall Park, pointing to a red rectangle on his lapel.
The theme for the night, “Gold Bridge,” manifested in the connections built across generations, cultures and industries both on- and off-stage. On stage, the four leading women of upcoming raunchy comedy Joy Ride honored the four leading women of the acclaimed drama Joy Luck Club, which celebrates its 30th anniversary this year. Meanwhile, Longoria shouted out the numerous similarities between Asian and Latin American cultures in her acceptance of the Gold Ally Award (“The thing we probably have most in common is that most of us have parents who don’t understand what we actually do for a living”), and Broadway star Lea Salonga lost her composure over meeting Korean American singer Eric Nam.
Salonga wasn’t the only one feeling starstruck. “I haven’t met a lot of people, actually, because I filmed everything during the pandemic,” Ms. Marvel actor Vellani told The Hollywood Reporter prior to entering the event. “This is my first time being in a really big venue with this many Asian people, and it’s literally every single person I’ve looked up to growing up in the same place, so it’s going to be a lot of freaking out tonight.”
To add depth to enthusiastic meet-and-greets, Gold House CEO and co-founder Bing Chen launched a game of “give-get” that lasted the whole evening. Each person offered something to give to others and requested something to get in return, which resulted in singer and TikTok influencer Bella Poarch asking for snowboarding lessons from Olympic gold medalist Chloe Kim and Westworld co-creator Lisa Joy receiving a partner with whom to join the writer’s strike. (Several stars throughout the night expressed solidarity with the WGA, which started striking on May 2 after failing to reach a deal with the AMPTP.)
For more material takeaways, each attendee was presented with a commemorative quarter featuring Native Hawaiian composer, dancer, chanter and hula teacher Edith Kanakaʻole, purchased by Gold House and shared by the first Native Hawaiian to lead the White House initiative, Krystal Ka‘ai. Gift bags also included copies of the recently released book Amazing: Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders Who Inspire Us All, which Olympic ice dancers Alex and Maia Shibutani spent two years writing.
“We want to be able to share our community and educate people on all the incredible accomplishments and contributions that AAPI communities have made for a long, long time,” said Alex Shibutani. According to Maia, “The more people learn about how beautiful our communities are as a whole, that’s going to be really special.”
Rocero provided an opportunity to do so as she accepted her award for activism and journalism. “I want to harness what it means to be so proud as an AAPI person, particularly as a proud trans Filipina,” she said. “I want to live boldly, create things unexpected of us, and never ever again apologize for being who we are.”
Longoria also became a source for such learning that night when she mentioned Ralph Lazo, a Mexican American who was the only known non-spouse and non-Japanese American to voluntarily relocate to a World War II internment camp. “An ally is defined as someone who gives you moral support,” said Longoria. “I will be more than that. I’m going to be your steadfast colleague. I will be your collaborator. I will be your cheerleader.”
In the same vein, “What I love about our community is ultimately the support that we have for each other,” said The Cleaning Lady creator Monica Kwok. “And I think that’s unparalleled.”
Also unparalleled was Chen’s energy throughout the night as he navigated the crowd with the merciless teasing and boisterous support that is often associated with tight-knit families, making jokes that could, in his words, “get [him] in trouble for saying that.”
“Asians are wild,” said comedian and Joy Ride actor Sherry Cola. “Do not underestimate us, OK? We are wild.”
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