Almost 400 eager folks packed the Brava! Theater last Saturday night to ogle and root for five Mr. Hyphen contestants and the nonprofits they represented: Jeremy "Kilusan" Bautista (United Playaz), Kyle Chu (Center for Asian American Media), Anthony Kim (Korean Community Center of the East Bay), Antonio Moya (Mabuhay Health Center) and Ryan Takemiya (National Asian Pacific American Womens' Forum).
After returning host (and "package purveyor") D'Lo hyped up the crowd, he introduced the contestants, clad in matching warmup gear. Mr. Hyphen hopefuls then hit the ground running by flexing their skills in the talent competition, which included a PowerPoint presentation on API identity and dreams, a soulful rendition of Sinatra's "My Way," and a drag performance to Queen's "Don't Stop Me Now."
Contestants then fielded questions from the panel of judges (facilitated by D'Lo impersonating his mother): International Gay & Lesbian Human Rights Commission Chair Dipti Ghosh; Mayor of Campbell, CA, Evan Low; and filmmaker Alice Wu of Saving Face. Candidates told us which superheroes they would be (Sailor Moon and Spiderman got their props), what they would cook to impress a date (spam musubi and adobo were in the mix), and described a defining moment in their lives as Asian American men.
The heat got cranked up a few notches with a fashion show outfitted by local designers Cecilia Aragon and Estrella Tadeo. After werkin' it in couture menswear, the contestants stripped the crowd into a frenzy with a special "sleepwear" segment. Hello, boxer briefs and rocketship onesies!
Mr. Hyphen 2009, Pahole Sookkasikon, then took the stage as he recalled his experience as king for a year, his involvement with the Thai American Scholarship Fund and Helping Janet, and his recent work on the APIA Love Letter Project.
The moment of truth arrived for Pahole to pass on his title. The judges awarded First Runner-Up to Kilusan Bautista, for his moving spoken word and b-boy journey through a hip-hop influenced-youth in the Mission, as well as a powerful account of his personal hero Al Robles.
Kyle Chu took the crown and sash, winning over the judges with his smarts, shimmyshake + tenor sax skills, and dedication to the API community. In addition to the glory and adulation that comes with being Mr. Hyphen, Kyle won the $1,000 prize, which he donated to the Center for Asian American Media to support his passion for the arts and belief that media is the most viable method to dispel stereotypes. "I'm feeling so many things: I'm awestruck, I'm so shocked, I had a lot of fun," Kyle enthused after being named Mr. Hyphen 2010. "The most important thing is to be yourself, and truly yourself."
And be sure to check out Kyle's interview on NPR's Tell Me More show.