Amazing Asians in the Arts

Amazing Asians in the Arts: Kelli Youngman

September 18, 2021

Kelli Youngman is a performer and life coach based in New York City. After getting her start in dance from a mommy-and-me class as a child, she grew up to attend Fordham University and The Ailey School. The many paths in front of her made her consider alternatives -- but within 6 months of deciding to commit to her dream of being on Broadway, Youngman booked her first Broadway show! Her credits include ANASTASIA and THE KING AND I (including the First National Tour) on Broadway, NEWSIES at Arena Stage, and THE FLAMINGO KID, as well as becoming a life coach for her company, Kelli Youngman Wellness! Her advice to young artists? “Trust yourself and what you have to offer to the world. You are valuable and needed just as you are.” Read on to learn more about Kelli and what makes her an Amazing Asian in the Arts! 
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Amazing Asians in the Arts: Alice Tuan

September 11, 2021

Alice Tuan is a playwright inspired by “human wisdom” based in Valencia, CA. She vividly remembers “the first moment [she] became a playwright at the age of 17 in the kitchen with her grandfather, but worked outside the realm of writing as an ESL teacher and Universal Studios tour guide before professionally committing to her craft with the Mentor Playwrights Project. Her works include Last of the Suns, produced by Ma-Yi Theater in NYC,  Ajax (por nobody) at SummerWorks in Toronto, Ikebana at East West Players in LA, and BATCH: A Bachelor/ette Party Spectacle in collaboration with New Paradise Laboratories. Tuan set a goal to write 40 plays, and is currently 8 original works in! She’s also “a playwright associate with East West Players, the longest running non-white theater” in America, which places special emphasis on Asian American stories and voices. Tuan’s advice for young artists is to discover and “follow [their] values” to create a path uniquely for them and their success. Read on to learn more about Alice Tuan and what makes her an Amazing Asian in the Arts! 
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Amazing Asians in the Arts: Ally Vega

September 04, 2021

Ally Vega is a choreographer, performer, and dance educator based in Los Angeles. She was largely inspired by her father’s career as a dance instructor, which inspired her to take a similar path to pursue dance professionally. Now, Vega is the founder and director of her dance collective, Ancestral Vision Movement, as well as a choreographer for Supportive White Parents. She even married her profession with her passion, anime, by becoming the first choreographer for the largest convention in North America, Anime Expo! Vega works with the Pilipino Workers Center in LA, an amazing nonprofit that “aims to secure the dignity and safety of the Pilipinx community… and build labor leaders in the domestic worker industry.” And on top of it all? Vega is ambidextrous! Her advice to young artists is to “give [themselves] permission to explore the things that make [them] curious.” Read on to learn more about Ally Vega and what makes her an Amazing Asian in the Arts! 
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Amazing Asians in the Arts: Nikita Chaudhry

August 28, 2021

Nikita Chaudhry is an actress, activist and educator based in LA. Her fine arts school setting provided her with the inspiration and desire to become a professional performer, which led to her education at NYU Tisch School of the Arts. Her credits span from television, film, and theatre (under directors like Lilly Singh)! She values collaboration with fellow creatives (particularly in such an isolating industry), and loves that art can resonate so deeply with audiences and make them feel seen. Chaudhry serves as a board member for South Asian Americans Leading Together (SAALT), a “nation­al move­ment strat­e­gy and advo­ca­cy orga­ni­za­tion com­mit­ted to racial jus­tice through struc­tur­al change.” She advises young artists to pave their own way, and to understand that everyone’s journey is different -- it’s up to the artist to “imagine and build a life, purpose, and work that [they] love.” Read on to learn more about Nikita Chaudhry and what makes her an Amazing Asian in the Arts! 
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Amazing Asians in the Arts: Erica Wong

August 21, 2021

Erica Wong was almost a civil engineer before dance called her to NYC! Now based in Union City, she got her start with a ballet company before a beauty pageant video submission booked her In Your Arms with renowned choreographer Christopher Gattelli. From that moment on, Wong knew theatre was her home. The King & I marked her Broadway debut, and since then, she’s worked on projects such as Jerome Robbins’ Broadway at The Muny and M. Butterfly, and now performs in Phantom of the Opera on Broadway! She is currently hosting an intermediate ballet barre on Zoom to aid a GoFundMe benefitting the AAPI Community Fund, and hopes to begin exploring film and television opportunities in the near future. Wong advises young artists to “always be open to learning -- not just about [their] craft, but about the world and beyond,” and to practice care of one’s “mind, body, soul, and finances.” Read on to learn more about Erica Wong and what makes her an Amazing Asian in the Arts! 

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Amazing Asians in the Arts: May May Luong

August 14, 2021

May May Luong is a film producer based in fabulous Las Vegas! After leaving the tech company she worked for, Luong began honing her craft in Las Vegas by joining the Film Department at UNLV. Since getting her MFA in Writing for Dramatic Media, she’s accumulated some impressive credits, including filming the Stanley Cup tour for the VGK’s first season, controlling the Bellagio Fountains and the Mirage Volcano, and the film  Popovich and the Voice of the Fabled American West! Luong also works on advertisements and commercials, and teaches at Nevada State College and UNLV. She names writing, collaboration, and empathy as some of the most important skills in her arsenal, and advises young artists to “notice that everything around [them] is art,” and to press on as creators, no matter the obstacles ahead. Read on to learn more about May May Luong and what makes her an Amazing Asian in the Arts!
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Amazing Asians in the Arts: Christine Toy Johnson

August 07, 2021

Christine Toy Johnson is an actress, writer, and activist based in New York City. Her upbringing in NYC exposed her to the world of theatre, and inspired her to begin auditioning. With her equity card in hand after graduating from high school, Johnson went on to join Broadway’s The Music Man (recent revival) and the national tours of Come From Away and Flower Drum Song. In addition to her impressive resume, Johnson explored writing her own shows! Her original work includes No Wave (with Charles Randolph-Wright), The Secret Wisdom of Trees, Empress Mei Li Lotus Blossom, Barcelona (with Jason Ma), Till Soon Anne (with Bobby Cronin), and Paper Son. On top of all this, she “was recently elected treasurer of the Dramatists Guild” as the very first Asian American guild officer, serves as the “Chair of the Guild’s Diversity, Equity and Inclusion committee,” and co-founded the Asian American Performers Action Coalition (AAPAC)! Her advice to young artists? “Do the work and keep showing up!” Read on to learn more about Christine Toy Johnson and what makes her an Amazing Asian in the Arts!  

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Amazing Asians in the Arts: Courtney Liu

July 31, 2021

Courtney Liu is a dancer, teacher, and choreographer living between New York City and Durham, NC. She initially began her ballet career performing corps de ballet at age 14 years old with the Cincinnati Ballet. However, her college path almost led to her becoming a clinical or research psychologist! She’s performed in Broadway’s Phantom of the Opera (Ensemble, Meg Giry u/s), Kristen Sandler’s Gilded, Matthew Bourne’s Swan LakeQueen of the Night, and the Broadway Dance Lab. In addition to performing, Liu recently completed her MFA at Duke University! This summer Courtney is the Artist-In-Residence at Thistle, a NYC-based company. She is also teaching various summer intensives and on Zoom, performing/choreographing locally, and co-choreographing wedding dances with her fiance through their company, Save the First Dance. She advises young artists to seek out alternative sources of income to the Arts to help better provide for themselves, and states from personal experience that these “odd jobs” can be enjoyable! Courtney will be returning to New York this fall for reopening rehearsals for the Broadway company of Phantom of the Opera!  Read on to learn more about Courtney Liu and what makes her an Amazing Asian in the Arts! 
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Amazing Asians in the Arts: Melissa Tong

July 24, 2021

Melissa Tong is a musician, yoga/AcroYoga teacher, and co-creator of “B Neutral” based in NYC. After moving to the city, she pushed through temp jobs until an old friend connected her with her first NYC opportunity. She’s played for Broadway (Ain’t Too Proud), String Quartet (Five for Fighting), the Met Gala (with Rhianna!), and for artists like Sara Bareilles, Riley Etheridge Jr., and performed with an artist who opened for Leon Russell! In addition to her artistry, Tong serves as a Broadway Ambassador with Broadway for Arts Education, which is currently working with children from India and Haiti, as well as a Teaching Artist with Buffalo String Works (a program that works with refugee communities). She’s also involved in the Youth Pride Chorus and Urban Assembly Programs in New York City, and supports Hubbard Street Dance Chicago (where her sister is the Associate Artistic Director), which is currently producing a project entitled "Unboxed," which was included in a piece called “Final Bow for Yellow Face” to acknowledge Asian stereotypes within the dance industry. She advises young artists to “stick with it… be someone with whom you want to work… [and] do [art] for the love!” Read on to learn more about Melissa Tong and what makes her an Amazing Asian in the Arts! 
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Amazing Asians in the Arts: Kristy Choi

July 17, 2021

Kristy Choi is a filmmaker and writer based in Los Angeles. Initially a competitive pianist, Choi went on to fall in love with writing, and began to study screenplays to better her work. She picked up the fundamentals for filmmaking from the many projects she dedicated herself to, later going on to writing, directing, and producing her own film for the New Yorker (“Herselves”)! She finds collaboration with other professionals inspiring, particularly with non-binary, female, and POC creatives. Choi hopes to “write and direct [her] first narrative feature film” in the future, and to “further experiment with hybrid documentary techniques.” She advises young artists to practice self care and seek out a circle of fellow artists that will both encourage and celebrate their work, as well as adopting a growth mindset and a regular routine to practice their art. When she’s not working on a project, she enjoys hiking and karaoke, and lists whistling as a special skill! Read on to learn more about Kristy Choi and what makes her an Amazing Asian in the Arts!
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Amazing Asians in the Arts: Naiia Lajoie

July 10, 2021

Naiia Lajoie is a Filipina/Syrian/French Canadian triple threat performer originally from Montreal, Canada. Now based in Los Angeles, she is an award-winning actor, member of SAG-AFTRA and ACTRA, and also works as a stuntwoman specializing in underwater stunts. You can find her work across multiple streaming services: Netflix's "Drug Lords", Silencer; Amazon Prime Video's "My Crazy Ex", The Gingerweed Man; Vudu's "Blue Mountain State''; and Flixwest's Widow. Naiia is also an award-winning columnist. She writes a column called "Glass Half-Fil" for the Filipino-centric Manila Up! Magazine, as well as a column titled "My So-Cal'd Life" for its lifestyle sister magazine EXQUISITE International. She is the Magazine Editor for both publications and is a member of the LA Press Club. Read on to learn more about Naiia Lajoie and what makes her an Amazing Asian in the Arts! 
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Amazing Asians in the Arts: Nissa Tzun

July 03, 2021

Nissa Tzun is a bilingual artist and advocate across multiple arts disciplines based in Las Vegas. Tzun’s artistry spans her entire life, but first truly fell into place as a special needs teacher in Brooklyn experiencing the “marginalization and oppression of Black and Brown [students].” This fueled her to seek outlets for her antiracist campaigns in New York. Her work has continued to include co-founding the Forced Trajectory Project (a PR and media advocacy organization for survivors and victims of police violence), producing at Residuum Docuseries (a series about police violence in Las Vegas), and co-establishing the New York City chapter of Families United 4 Justice (an organization made up of families and survivors impacted by police violence), later bringing another chapter to Las Vegas. In addition to her activism, Tzun is pursuing her Masters in Social Work and Masters in Journalism & Media Studies at UNLV! She urges young artists to discover their “why,” and is a firm believer in “being rooted in your purpose.. [to] help young people understand where their artistry can fit into society.” Read on to learn more about Nissa Tzun and what makes her an Amazing Asian in the Arts! 
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Amazing Asians in the Arts: Stephanie Mieko Cohen

June 26, 2021

Stephanie Mieko Cohen is an actress and singer based in New York City! She made her Broadway debut as Young Cosette in Les Miserables, a role she also performed on the national tour! Stephanie also enjoys workshopping new works, having performed in the premiere of the musical Solana by Michael Heitzman and Ilene Reid! Having struggled with Trichotillomania since the age of twelve, Stephanie started an Instagram account called @Stephcoandherhats highlighting her journey and dedicated to mental health awareness. Read on to learn more about Stephanie and what makes her an Amazing Asian in the Arts!
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Amazing Asians in the Arts: Michaela Ternasky-Holland

June 19, 2021

Michaela Ternasky-Holland is a compassionate storyteller, creative strategist, collaborative consultant and engaging public speaker based in New York City. After graduating from UC Irvine, she moved to Los Angeles to pursue a career in the film and journalism industry. It was here she realized a more immersive and interactive journalism career is what she desired, and her true exploration of virtual reality began. She was hired by TIME as a LIFE VR intern, which moved her to New York, and ever since she has been pursuing a dance/performance career and working as a creator and producer in emerging technology. One of her favorite works, FACE TO FACE, tells a riveting story through set design, 360° video technology, 3D printing, and escape room methodology during an hour long, three act experience. The project was funded by the Arts Council of England to premiere at Sheffield International Documentary Festival in 2018. Read on to learn more about Michaela and what makes her an Amazing Asian in the Arts!
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Amazing Asians in the Arts: Elaine N

June 12, 2021

Elaine N is an actress, host and model based in Los Angeles. The accomplished multilingual entertainer was first spotted by a studio executive, and ever since has taken on numerous roles and projects in the arts.  From television to film, her work includes performances on shows for TruTV, Oxygen Network and Discovery Life, and her incredible voiceover talent has been featured in commercials, video games, public service announcements, educational videos and more. Along with the passion, devotion and appreciation she carries for her craft, Elaine N also makes time to give back. She currently sits on the board for Girls IN Focus, an organization with a mission to connect girls and non-binary youth globally with film programs so they emerge as industry leaders. She encourages young artists just starting their career to not settle for average and, “if you don’t succeed wake up the next day and keep going.” Read on to learn more about Elaine N and what makes her an Amazing Asian in the Arts!
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