By Ninette Cheng
Northwest Asian Weekly
What do David Choi, Ben Chung of Jabawockeez, and Quest Crew have in common? Before they rose to fame, all three started with Kollaboration’s annual talent show.
According to its website, “Kollaboration is an Asian and Pacific Islander (API) organization and movement that was founded in 2000 by Executive Director Paul ‘PK’ Kim.” The organization and movement began in Los Angeles. It has now spread to 10 cities throughout Canada and the United States. This year marks the first year the show has come to Seattle.
“PK had the show running in L.A.,” said Kevin Park, the director of Kollaboration Seattle. “People started to take notice of the movement. Individuals such as myself asked, ‘Can I bring this to my city?’ Every city has their own unique way. Essentially [we’re] making it our own [yet] staying with our mission statement [of ‘empowerment through entertainment’] and movement.”
Park felt that Seattle desperately needed a show like this.
“I’ve attended several, and I thought to myself, it’s about time that we showcase the Asian American talent in the Pacific Northwest.”
Park found a group of nine other students, advocates, and community members to help produce the show with him.
Kollaboration student board member, videographer, and publicist Aaron Chang has been waiting for Kollaboration to come to Seattle.
“He told me about it around two years ago, and I just told him ‘Kevin, when you’re ready for it, let me help you. I’m really passionate [about Asians in entertainment].’ ” Chang said.
“The ultimate goal is to really show [the world] that Asian Americans aren’t just the stereotypical bookworms,” Park said. “We’re still underrepresented in the media today, especially in entertainment, whether it is film, music, and dance. We still have a lot of opportunities.”
Mitchell Fung is the managing partner for Visionshock, a Seattle Asian American nightlife company, and an active member of the Seattle Asian American community. He does not completely agree with Park’s thoughts on the struggle of Asian Americans in the entertainment industry. Though he concedes that there are continuing challenges, he says that Asian Americans have progressed quite a bit.
“When Wong Fu Productions came to the UW last year, they told us that they went to a studio and [the studio] said that an Asian couldn’t play the lead role,” Fung said.
“But in terms of dance and music, Asians are popular with the help of Quest Crew and Kabba Modern,” he said.
Both of the groups that Fung mentioned were on Kollaboration before appearing on MTV’s “America’s Best Dance Crew.”
Chang said he has noticed how YouTube, Twitter, other forms of social media, and viral marketing have been helping Asian American entertainers.
“[People] support all these YouTube stars,” he said.
“If someone is picked to be a part of Kollaboration, they’re marketed in 10 cities,” Park said.
“We went down to the L.A. show,” Chang said. “We saw more than 5,000 Asian Americans in attendance just to see Asian Americans perform. That, for me, was a really powerful image.”
“I would love to see that in Seattle because we have a long way to go before we are like California,” he continued. “In California, the Asian American identity is very high. They know who they are and they’re proud of it. Seattle has a long way to go, in my opinion.”
Chang is hopeful that Kollaboration can play a role in Seattle’s Asian Americans finding their identity.
Since holding its auditions on May 15, Kollaboration is getting ready to host its first Seattle show in October. It will be the last show in the 10-city lineup.
The audition brought in a variety of performers, from singers to musicians to dancers, from all music genres to a more traditional Chinese yo-yo performance.
In addition, there will be a variety of guest performers who are well-known entertainers in Seattle.
“We just want the lineup to be really good,” Chang said.
Miguel Pearson, a member of Kollaboration’s student board, said this is Kim’s last year overseeing the Kollaboration shows. Kim will be emceeing.
“We’re pretty much expecting that every other show’s staff and their friends will come out to our show,” Pearson said. “It’s kind of like one big final goodbye.”
“[We need to] prove to the other cities that we’re here to stay, Seattle is talented, and that we’re going to change the nation,” Chang said.
Chang and Fung both feel that being accepted as entertainers in the Asian American community can be hard.
“Regardless [of whether] you have something unique to [bring to] the table, if the crowd just doesn’t feel you, you won’t succeed,” Fung said. “It’s a lot harder for Asians.”
“Asian Americans tend not to support each other in the entertainment industry,” Chang said. “This is for the community, for the movement. We need supporters. I’ve seen a lot of Asian American artists not make it because of the lack of support. The Asian American community tends to just hate on them. … I think it has to do with the culture and the Confucian ideologies,” he said. “We’re very humble. We try to stay in the background and just be the model minority.”
“What I’m urging is to please support your local Asian American talent because that’s what we need in order to make our impact on mainstream media,” Chang continued.
“These next 10 years, by 2020, is going to be it,” he said. “Asian Americans are going to blow up.” ♦
For more information, visit www.kollaborationseattle.org.
Ninette Cheng can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.