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Where Are the Asians?

Updated on February 15, 2012

Irfan Khan, Michelle Yeoh, Ken Watanabe. Do these names ring a bell? Let's try again. John Cho, Kal Penn, Maggie Q. What do these people have in common? Still no answer? They are Asian actors. Irfan Khan has done numerous Hollywood movies including the breakout hit Slumdog Millionaire. He played a cop who questioned Jamal Malikin prison. Michelle Yeoh was first introduced to American audiences in Tomorrow Never Dies opposite Pierce Brosnan. Ken Watanabe has acted alongside Tom Cruise. He was nominated for an Oscar for his portrayal as a warrior. He played the Japanese businessman in Inception. John Cho and Kal Penn are Harold and Kumar while Maggie Q is seen weekly on the television series Nikita. If I ask somebody to name an Asian actor, only two personalities come to mind, Jackie Chan and Jet Li. Unfortunately, they are not Asian Americans. Most Asian celebrities are a dark horse in Hollywood. They have been around for as long as I can remember. Have you known an Asian actor who can open a movie and demand a 20 million dollar paycheck? Have you seen an Asian actor on the cover of Vogue, Vanity Fair, and In Style? I don't know why Asians never got the maximum exposure in film, television, and radio. The African Americans dominate the Billboard charts, but you can hardly hear an Asian on the airwaves. This goes to show that racial discrimination still exists in Hollywood. When you're an Asian, you don't get to play the lead. It's either you do Kung Fu or be a villain. Media is still dominated by whites. In the show Hawaii Five-O, it doesn't portray a realistic feature of the 50th state. Ninety-percent of the people in Hawaii are not whites. But the show had two American male leads while the two Korean actors are subordinates. The movie The Last Airbender, which was directed by an Indian M Night Shyamalan, the cast are predominantly Asians, but the film version had a predominantly Caucasian cast. Why is this so? Why can't Hollywood open its doors to Asians the way they do for Latinos and African Americans. Halle Berry mentioned in her acceptance speech at the Oscars that the doors are finally opened for minority actors. I wish I can say that's true. I was hoping that with the critical and commercial success of Slumdog Millionaire, more Asians will be given lead roles. Sadly, four years after the movie got Oscars, no Asian actor was considered an "It Boy" or an "It Girl". When you flip through the pages of fashion magazines, no Asian supermodel has endorsed a high-end perfume or brand of cosmetics. Aren't the readers tired of seeing the faces of Giselle Bundchen and Adriana Lima? Who is to blame for a dearth in Asian talents? The line between racial discrimination and racial equality is clearly visible. Asian Americans are the fastest rising ethnic groups in the country. When you go to a hospital, you see Filipino nurses and Indian doctors. In a university, there is a surge in the population of Asian students and they are excelling in their own chosen field. Most Indian students win in Spelling Bees and Chinese students perform well in Math and Science. The way an Asian is being portrayed in the media should be changed. I'm tired of seeing Asian actors playing second fiddle to Caucasian actors. Directors, writers, and most especially producers should keep diversity in mind. There is a plethora of opportunities for Asians to showcase their talents in mass media. Asians are a diamond in the rough. It's high time to see fresh faces who are waiting for their moment in the sun. There is a silver lining in every dark cloud. Vera Wang and Monique Lhuillier are most favored by brides to design their wedding gowns . GOP's promising leaders Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal and South Carolina's Nicki Haley are making waves in their respective states. Dr. Sanjay Gupta is CNN's health correspondent. NBA's up and coming superstar Jeremy Lin is helping the Knicks propel to the playoffs. Because of Lin's rising popularity, many basketball aficionados are joining the "Linsanity" bandwagon. No Asian celebrity has garnered so much attention than Jeremy Lin. He is a Harvard educated athlete of Taiwanese descent and is about to take the basketball league by storm. But many Asians are still waiting for their turn to shine. Whether it is in film, television, fashion, or politics, this ethnic group needs proper exposure. They have been in the limelight for so long. Asians are here to stay and to conquer the world.


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    • avan989 profile image

      avan989 6 years ago from maryland

      The last airbender isn't a Japanese anime. It was made in the US. It just look like an anime. It true most Asian in the US gets unnoticed but most asian super star usually stay in their own country. Asian has a huge film market and I have watch some really good movie.