Lisa Ling and Daniel Dae Kim were the keynote speakers, and comedic actor Eugene Cordero was the gala’s first Filipino host.
Sean Astin and Jeff Cohen of the classic 1985 film “The Goonies” presented their fellow castmate Ke Huy Quan the Actor in Film Award for his work in A24’s “Everything Everywhere All at Once” (“EEAAO”). While Quan has racked up numerous award nominations and wins this year, he said to be honored by the Asian community was a heartfelt distinction.
“This is a really special night for me. In sharing the stage with my community. Thank you, Shawn, Jeff, for being here. I love you guys. Goonies never die!” Quan declared in his acceptance speech.
“I want to thank all of you and our entire AAPI community. You have shown me through your own success, that there was a way back for me. And you have given me courage when I needed it, to dream again. And for that I thank you from the bottom of my heart. Thank you so much.”
Quan’s “EEAAO” co-star Stephanie Hsu received the Breakout in Film Award. Hsu got choked up during her acceptance speech as she remembered her first “acting” gig in second grade, a lemonade ad school project. She remembered thinking it was fun and that she was good at it, but that she should do something practical with her life.
“I think it’s because I know it’s because this world and the world of storytelling felt so far away. If you don’t see it, you just can’t possibly imagine that it’s ever going to be you or your friends or even people who look like you” Hsu said.
“I feel like I’ve never allowed myself to really love doing this because I’ve been so scared that it would never be possible. And I feel like this year has given me so much permission to truly love what I do. And I hope to make you all proud and to keep going.”
Bretman Rock paid homage to Michelle Phan, who presented Rock with the Digital Influencer Award alongside Bella Poarch, in his acceptance speech. “It really wasn’t until Michelle Phan — all I ever really saw in the beauty industry was really pioneered by an Asian woman. But I also saw Ryan Higa making videos, and I wanted to be on Wong Fu Productions so bad, and I was on Jubilee, and it’s really so weird getting this award after Jason. All of that just to say, how grateful I am, my generation having so many options when it comes to expressing ourselves… our possibilities are endless.”
Two-time Olympic gold medalist Chloe Kim told attendees to believe in themselves during her acceptance speech for the Pechanga Athlete on Another Level honor.
“There’s somebody out there that looks up to you. Somebody feels inspired because of you. Somebody feels represented because of you. So please continue doing this incredible work for our next generation.”
Director Lee Isaac Chung presented “Minari” star Steven Yeun with the Lexus Legacy honor, and previous Writer Award recipient Adele Lim and author Jenny Han presented the final award of the evening, the Vanguard honor, to the cast and crew of “Pachinko.” Minha Kim won the Breakout in TV award, and Jeremy Lin was honored with the Community Impact Award for his charity work through his Jeremy Lin Foundation.
Black Eyed Peas member Apl.de.Ap served as the opening performer, joined by fellow Filipino vocalist J. Rey Soul and Malaya Filipino American Dance Arts. Closing out the gala was a live performance from the members of the boyband 4*Town from “Turning Red.”
It was a night about legacy and entrusting a brighter future to newcomers.
James Ryu, the gala’s founder and publisher of award-winning magazines KoreAm Journal, Audrey Magazine, Kore Asian Media and Character Media, is living that sentiment.
“It started in the backyard with my friend Patrick 20 years ago. We were able to have a great party, but moving forward 20 years, I never could have envisioned this. It’s just incredible,” Ryu told NextShark before the red carpet began.
“Over the course of 20 years, I’ve gotten to know more sponsors. The hardest part is getting sponsors and advertisers. We struggled with that for many, many years. It is something I want to improve, getting studios and media to invest in today’s community.”
Today’s community of Asian-led media has grown a lot since the first gala, something Ryu welcomes with open arms.
“We make up more than 50 percent of our world’s population, so we should have more media representation. I don’t see any competition. I always embrace,” Ryu said.
As for the next 20 years? Ryu said: “I’m passing the baton to my daughter, Audrey to handle this stuff. What I want to see is continuing to grow to a point where hopefully by then the API community has their own mainstream network.”
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