Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Blasian Makes Top 10 of Miss Universe


Ariana Mamiko Miyamoto (宮本・エリアナ・磨美子) was born in Nagasaki to a Japanese mother and an African American father (Bryant Stanfield). Her father met her mother while stationed in Sasebo with the United States Navy. Her parents married but divorced when Ariana was an infant. 


Ariana as a child with her mom
Ariana as a teen with her dad and half-sibling

In 2015, Ariana won Miss Nagasaki and went on to represent her prefecture in the Miss Universe Japan pageant. She was crowned Miss Universe Japan 2015 in March. She is the first hāfu to win the pageant. Upon her selection, she faced criticism for not appearing to be Japanese. There were comments that her face was too "gaijin", literally "outside person". Ariana is a Japanese citizen, born and raised in Japan and fluent in the Japanese language. She identified as Japanese and even holds a 5th degree mastery of Japanese calligraphy. Ariana wants to represent the new face of Japan. "International marriages are happening. There will be [more] biracial children. I want them to be as accepted in Japan as they would be in the U.S. I want society to get used to that idea."


Miss Nagasaki 2015 

Miss Japan 2015

When Ariana was 13, she moved to Arkansas with her father to attend two years of high school in the United States. As a child in Japan, she was often called "kurombo", the Japanese equivalent to the N-word. She says she felt normal for the first time in Arkansas, although she was still treated as a foreigner. In the U.S., she came to speak of herself as black, while in Japan, she still calls herself hāfu (biracial in Japanese). As Miss Japan, she presents herself as an ethnically mixed Japanese person.


Ariana went on to compete in Miss Universe 2015 in December, where she made it to the Top 10. Having represented Japan globally, reigning as the first half black Miss Japan, she serves as a role model for multiracial Japanese people and challenges the idea what it means to be Japanese.

Selected sources:
* New York Times, "Biracial Beauty Queen Challenges Japan's Self-Image," May 29, 2015.

Saturday, October 31, 2015

Blasian Wins WTA Rising Stars Invitational

Naomi Osaka is the WTA Rising Stars Invitational Champion. The WTA Rising Stars Invitational is a showcase event in Singapore that brings together four WTA Rising Stars age 23 and under through a fan vote to compete alongside the best of the best at the WTA Finals.


Born in Osaka, Japan to a Haitian father (Leonard Francois) and Japanese mother (Tamaki), Naomi was raised in the United States and speaks very little Japanese, but she has always played tennis under the Japanese flag. Her father registered Naomi with the Japanese Tennis Association, rather than the United States Tennis Association, due to her dual passport. Her diverse background and strong tennis skills could make Naomi the next big thing in tennis.

WTAtennis.com, "Osaka Wins WTA Rising Stars International", October 25, 2015.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Blasian Athletes Shine at 2015 SEA Games

The 28th Southeast Asian (SEA) Games were held in Singapore from June 5 to June 16. A standout in the 2015 SEA Games was the performance of Team Philippines and their Fil-Heritage athletes, commonly known as Fil-Ams. The SEA Games Chief of Mission Julian Camacho confirmed that the Filipino team had the most United States-based entries. The final medal count for the Philippines included five gold medals, with four attributed to Fil-American athletes.

Eric Shauwn Cray (June 9)

Eric Cray and Kayla Richardson, a pair of blasian Fil-Americans won gold in their respective 100-meter races, earning the unofficial titles of "fastest man and fastest woman in the region". Cray clocked in at 10.25 seconds, while Richardson finished at 11.76. Cray went on to set a new SEA Games record of 49.40 seconds on the way to gold in the 400-meter hurdles, breaking a twenty-year-old record. Richardson also secured a silver medal in the 200 meters at 23.71 seconds. These two blasian athletes earned three of Team Philippines's five gold medals.

Kayla Anise Richardson (June 9)

Following the SEA Games, Philippine Amateur Track and Field Association (PATAFA) president Philip Ella Juico faced criticism for the use of Fil-foreign players raised and trained overseas to mask the lack of programs for homegrown athletes. Juico took exception to the criticisms, saying Fil-Americans, are, in the end, still Filipinos.

"We have 10 million Filipinos around the world. We are sharing our human resources with the international community. When they are there, they inter-marry with locals and beget Filipino children who are half Filipino, half foreign. If we can use half foreign Filipinos for scientists, teachers, or engineers, why not use them for sports?", said Juico. "Why all of a sudden discriminating and frowning on this?, the former Philippine Sports Commission chairman added.

Juico said the only difference is that Fil-foreign athletes are based outside the Philippines by force of circumstances, and should not be stripped of their privilege to represent the country in international competitions. "Of course, we prefer homegrown talents but it's not their fault that they were born there."

Despite the criticism, Juico said they intend to recruit more Fil-Americans to beef up the athletics team. Juico spoke on this matter in a previous interview, stating, "If there are Fil-foreign (athletes), (athletes) with Filipino blood, why not? It's a global society now, it's a global community...if other countries can use this internationally-shared resource, why not us?"

Eric Cray - dubbed the "Usain Bolt of Southeast Asia" - responded to critics regarding the policy of searching overseas for talent with Filipino ties stating, "I just feel that if you have Filipino blood and you cherish the traditions of the Philippines, you know it's a great honor for me to be able to represent and I am just happy that they allow me to."

Selected Sources:
* Sports Interactive Network Philippines, "What's wrong with having Fil-foreign athletes, says Juico in face of SEA Games criticism", June 19, 2015.
* ABS-CBN News Channel, "New PATAFA head welcomes Fil-foreign athletes, coaches", August 7, 2014.

Friday, March 13, 2015

Two Blasian "Asias" Strive for Fame


A new show about a Blasian in search of fame aired on Lifetime in the summer of 2014. Raising Asia is a docuseries that debuted on July 29. Season 1 included 13 episodes that aired through September 9. The show follows the daily life of Asia Monet Ray, a nine year old dancer, and her family. Asia's father, Shawn Ray (African American) is a former professional bodybuilder who was inducted into the IFBB Hall of Fame of professional bodybuilding in January 2007. Her mother, Kristie (Alvarado) Ray, is of Filipino and Mexican descent and was a fitness model and bodybuilder. Raising Asia is a spin-off of Dance Moms. Dance Moms, currently in its fifth season, follows the Abby Lee Dance Company's Junior Elite Competition Team of 9-13 year old girls. Asia was discovered via YouTube and was selected to appear on the reality show, Abby Lee’s Ultimate Dance Competition, and placed third in the competition. She went on to appear in season 3 of Dance Moms, which led to her getting her own show.


Asia Monet Ray is not the first blasian Asia on reality TV.  Back in 2007, Asia Nitollano appeared on The CW's The Pussycat Dolls Present: The Search for the Next Doll. The nine episode series followed nine finalists auditioning to join The Pussycat Dolls. The Pussycat Dolls were an American pop girl group and dance ensemble founded as a burlesque troupe. The contestants lived together during the series and were groomed by the group's founder, Robin Antin. The girls were judged on their vocal and dancing ability. During the season finale of the show, Asia Nitollano was chosen to become the newest member of the group and performed with The Pussycat Dolls. Here's a clip from Asia's performance with The Pussycat Dolls. Asia is the daughter of Joe Bataan (born Bataan Nitollano), a Latin soul musician born to a Filipino father and an African American mother. “My father was Filipino, my mother was African American, and my culture was Puerto Rican,” Joe has said. Asia's mother is Puerto Rican. Asia only performed live with The Pussycat Dolls only twice. Soon after her selection as the 7th Pussycat Doll, Asia decided to pursue a solo career and is working on her solo album, although she is unsigned. She is also a professional dancer, formerly of the New York Knicks City Dancers. Since the airing of the show, The Pussycat Dolls have disbanded.  


Sunday, January 4, 2015

Titi Branch, Blasian Co-Founder of Miss Jessie's, Dead at 45



The blasian community is mourning the loss of one of its hair care inspirations.  Titi Cree Branch, one of the co-founders of the natural hair care line, Miss Jessie's, died on December 4, 2014.  Born June 10, 1969, Titi died in what online media publication NV Magazine is calling an apparent suicide due to asphyxia.  She was 45 years old.  Titi is survived by her parents, sister, and nephew. 
 
Titi

The daughters of an African American father and a Japanese American mother, Titi and Miko Branch launched Miss Jessie's in 2004 with a mission to meet the needs of women with textured hair.  Miss Jessie's products are on the shelves of Target, CVS, Duane Reade, and Walgreens.  The salon and the curly hair care products were named for their paternal grandmother, Jessie Branch


Miko shared a moving video tribute to celebrate and honor the life of Titi.  The video includes family photos of the sisters as Stevie Wonder’s “As” plays in the background.


To learn more about the Branch sisters and Miss Jessie's, check out Miko Branch's book, Miss Jessie's: Creating a Successful Business from Scratch -- Naturally.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Blasian Photoshopped Across the Globe

The "Before & After" project was release by Esther Honig in June of 2014.  In this original project, Honig asked the world to define beauty by sending an un-retouched photo of her head and shoulders to 25 countries with the simple instruction - "Make me beautiful."  The results were a peek into the idea of beauty through different cultures.  Fellow journalist Priscilla Yuki Wilson followed up on Honig's project, replicating it with her own photo,  While Honig is of European descent, Wilson is biracial with a Japanese mother and an African American father.  Wilson received edited photos from 18 countries.  The alterations varied from lightening her skin to emphasising different aspects of her features.

Original Photo by Che Landon.

Below is the description of "Before & After Part Two" from Priscilla Yuki Wilson's personal website.

The question of "what are you?" regularly influences how I experience the world.  It serves as a reminder that I am living in a  culture that's still adjusting to my kind of face.  Growing up my Japanese mother would often tell me to wear sunblock and to stay out of the sun to avoid getting "top dark".  Being that my father is black, this paradox always troubled me because I was clearly a product of a radical racial union.  In these subtle ways I was taught that my natural self did not comply with conventional standards set forth by society, saying fairer skin is better, straighter hair is more attractive, and that skinny tastes good.  For that reason I decided to carry out a reproduction of the project Before & After because I wanted to see how a face like mine would be transformed on the digital surgical table. 
As in the original project I approached each photoshop aficionado with the request to "make me beautiful."  Similarly I utilised the international freelancing platform, which has allowed me to contract nearly 30 individuals from more than 25 countries. 
In contrast to Honig's results, where her face became a canvas to express more than a dozen contrasting beauty standards, I found that my face actually challenged the application of photoshop in this instance.  As a biracial woman there is no standard of beauty or mild that can easily fit my face.

This photoshop experiment, like Honig's, revealed the different views of beauty around the world, verifying that a universal concept of beauty does not exist.

View all of Wilson's altered photos on her website.  For more information about the original "Before & After" project, go to Esther Honig's personal website.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Blasian Finalist for Miss Universe Singapore

Miss Universe Singapore is an annual contest held in Singapore to select the country's representative to the Miss Universe pageant.  The 12 finalists of Miss Universe Singapore 2014 were unveiled on August 2.  The pageant was held on August 22 and was broadcast on cable channel, Fashion TV.


This year's contest included Ijechi Nazirah Nwaozuzu, a Singaporean of African and Malaysian heritage.  Born to a Nigerian father and a Malay mother, the 21-year-old is currently studying law at the National University of Singapore.  Raised in Bukit Panjang, she also claims Chinese, Indian, and Portuguese heritage.

Regarding her unique circumstances, she states, "My sister and I were raised to be Singaporean in identity and values, but global in our outlook and perspective."  One of the more challenging issues for her as a child was being identified as "Other" in the school register.  She felt it was harder to fit in, as she did not belong to any of the major racial groups.  While Singapore is multicultural, ethnic Asians predominate.  Seventy-five percent of the population is Chinese, with significant minorities of Malays, Indians, and Eurasians.  "Part of why I joined this competition is to show the world that we're cosmopolitan.  We always talk about Singapore being multiracial, but I don't think we show enough of that on the international stage," said Ijechi. 



















Ijechi competed well, finishing second runner-up and also selected for the Best Legs award.  Now, she can refocus on her studies.  She is interested in international law, human rights, women's rights, and family law.  As she says, "the most important thing now is to survive law school and graduate."

BONUS:  Cecelia Chng - makeup stylist to blasians Kimora Lee Simmons and Naomi Campbell - served as the makeup artist for Miss Universe Singapore 2014!

Selected Sources:
* Yahoo Entertainment, "Exotic mix of Miss Universe Singapore 2014 finalists unveiled", August 3, 2014.