An Open Letter to Bruno Mars

January 6, 2011


Dear Bruno Mars, aka Peter Hernandez,

Congratulations on your stellar 2010 and what will likely be an auspicious beginning to 2011 as you anticipate a Grammy or two come February 13. The day before Valentine's Day. How like you.

And I have to mention: seven nominations? Way to be a classic Asian American overachiever. Okay, so your Sin City coke bust knocked your Model Minority status down a peg or two, but you more than made up for it by looking quite fetching even in the unforgiving fluorescent lighting of a police station mug shot.

For the record, I totally believed you when you told that cop, "I've never done drugs before!" Totes.

Now, when it comes to your musical contributions as an Asian American to an industry that could care less about Asian Americans (until they start bringing in "Like a G6" money), I think you are one of our lead trailblazers. First, you're getting shout outs from Oliver Wang and Dawen on their Best of 2010 music lists. Second, you're the best half-Filipino on the music charts right now, in my humble opinion. Up until last week I thought Enrique Iglesias's "I Like It" was sung by Katy Perry, and I have deduced that the Black Eyed Peas' "The Time (Dirty Bit)" is equivalent to a sonically induced aneurysm.

Okay, so hip hop purists begrudge you for helping B.o.B. turn pop (though in all fairness, that Paramore chick deserves blame too). But you co-wrote and produced Cee-lo's massive hit "F*ck You" which you know has secured a spot in the cultural zeitgeist when blond actresses with elitist lifestyle blogs decide to re-record it.

Most importantly, you picked up where Ne-yo (another chart-topping crooner of mixed Asian descent) left off in terms of writing music as a gentleman. Okay, so telling your gold-digging ex to f*ck off is less chivalrous than one would hope, but damn it if the song isn't pure pop perfection.

But I digress. For the most part, your lyrics tell the women of the world that we are amazing just the way we are. That an international parade of models and groupies got nothing on us. That you would essentially maim yourself with military grade explosives for us. Military grade!

Some might accuse you of pandering to women who subscribe to a socially constructed, unattainable romantic ideal, thrust upon us as a catalyst for mass consumption of goods and services. Well, duh. It's given you fame, fortune, adoration, and accolades. You capitalized on what would sell and you did it expertly and with panache. If that doesn't make you Asian, I don't know what does. Your Asian heritage is very important to me, in ways you may think of as overzealous or irrational. I'm just excited to refer to a popular, mainstream Asian American artist that isn't...Enrique Iglesias or from the Black Eyed Peas. If you don't understand it now, you will someday.

In conclusion, I want to wish you luck during your Grammy campaign and hope that the big night brings many garish gramophone statuettes your way. Let your parents put them on the mantel and fiercely shut down any "my kid is more successful than yours" battle that their friends may foolishly initiate. Looking forward to what this year brings and what lyrical self-esteem boosts you send my way.


Sylvie Kim


Sylvie Kim

contributing editor & blogger

Sylvie Kim is a contributing editor at Hyphen. She previously served as Hyphen's blog coeditor with erin Khue Ninh, film editor, and blog columnist.

She writes about gender, race, class and privilege in pop culture and media (fun fun fun!) at and at SF Weekly's The Exhibitionist blog. Her work has also appeared on Racialicious and Salon.



LULz and everything
Love this! Bruno Mars is a cutie but yea he definitely lost a bit of respect with the whole drugs things. He's so innocent ;p He is quite talented though
And god bless bruno mars for reminding us that, to make it in america, you would be smart to eradicate any semblance of ethnicity from your name. The more abiguous your pseudonym, the more likely america will be ready to accept you with open arms. Cuz heaven forbid if white america should find out that you're really (sorta) asian...ewww