Daniel Dae Kim, Grace Park, Awkwafina Call for Asian-American Leaders in Hollywood

Courtesy of Aldo Carrera
Daniel Dae Kim and Grace Park at the Unforgettable Gala

“I didn’t have a guide or a role model who looked like me and shared my struggle, and as a result, I felt lost,” said '13 Reasons Why' actor Ross Butler. "Thank you for making me feel like I finally have a place where I belong.”

“It’s amazing that a few of you white people are here as a minority for once!” joked Maggie Q while being honored at the Unforgettable Gala, celebrating Asian American trailblazers in the entertainment industry. The 16th annual event — held Saturday night at the Beverly Hilton — also feted Daniel Dae Kim, Grace Park, Leonardo Nam, Justin Chon, Ross Butler, Awkwafina and Chloe Kim, among others.

Kim and Park shared thinly veiled comments about exiting the CBS series Hawaii Five-0 earlier this year after their salary equality demands were not met. “Let’s not simply fight for inclusion, let’s set our bar higher,” said Kim, who is now an executive producer on ABC's The Good Doctor. “If you’re a leader, you never have to beg for a place at the table because you’re hosting the dinner.” Likewise, Park said, “It’s beyond race, gender, religion, age or class; it’s about humans flourishing. That is what we should be going after.”

Throughout the evening, honorees shared their experiences of being Asian-American. 13 Reasons Why actor Butler spoke about growing up mixed-race and having a “daily identity crisis,” because “I didn’t have a guide or a role model who looked like me and shared my struggle, and as a result, I felt lost,” he recalled. “Thank you for being examples for the next generation, so maybe they could feel a little less lonely. … Thank you for making me feel like I finally have a place where I belong.”

Others made speeches that focused forward, as Awkwafina echoed for the next generation, “Asian people need to be seen, but they also need to be seen as authentically themselves. I have the voice of a pro wrestler and the body of Pikachu, and I stand before you as a message that dreams can come true.” Shouted Nam, “Together we fucking stand, mate!”

Lisa Ling, Apolo Ohno, Jimmy O. Yang, Harry Shum Jr., Ally Maki, Jennifer Yuh Nelson, Lisa Joy and Ptolemy Slocum, among others, were also in attendance. Hosted by Jeannie Mai, the evening included performances by Judith Hill, Epik High, Kinjaz and the East West Players.

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