CAAMFest 36, May 10-24

The Almost Mr. Hyphens: Anthony Kim

October 27, 2011

Mr. Hyphen 2010 finalist Anthony Kim.

As
Hyphen magazine's sixth annual Mr. Hyphen is quickly approaching, we've
decided to regale you with tales of Mr. Hyphens past. Anthony
Kim -- a finalist for the title in 2010 -- reflects on his personal
experience as a contestant, his love of community action, and his reverence for Sailor
Moon.

The Mr. Hyphen judge had asked: "If you could be any superhero, who would you be and why?"

I
remember wrestling with the mic and looking out into the 500 expectant
faces in the audience. A slight pause and then, a big grin. “If I could
be any superhero, I would definitely be Sailor Moon!” Folks were already
laughing before I took my next breath. “I would be Sailor Moon, because
she’s a soldier of love and justice. And not only that, she always
works in collaboration with the other Sailor scouts!”

A
year later, I consider the entire experience running for Mr. Hyphen
2010 to be a love letter to the various communities that defined my life
and work during my 20-odd years on this earth. As the child of Korean
immigrants who was profoundly affected by the 1992 LA riots growing up, I
wanted to honor that history by representing the Korean Community
Center of the East Bay. As it stands, KCCEB is still the only
comprehensive social service agency representing the needs of the Korean
American community, in addition to other communities of color in the
Oakland cityscape. For me to shine a light on their daily, on the ground
labor and leadership was truly a blessing.

On
a personal note, I drew a lot of strength and inspiration from Pahole
Sookkasikon, who so beautifully represented Saving the Thai Temple and
Project Michelle en route to the crown the previous year. During one of
our many happy hours he mentioned, somewhat casually, that I should
consider running. I laughed it off. "Me? On a stage? In a beauty
pageant? Hell no!" But he looked at me quite seriously and gave
me a gentle reminder. "C'mon, Anthro," he chided. "You're not doing this
for you. You're doing it for your community. That's what it's all
about." I don't know if I was fully convinced, but I did carry his final
words with me all the way to the competition. What were they? "Dream
big, and dream forever. Remember to be brilliant."

And
so, somewhere in-between April and September, as I was shuttling from
San Diego to the Bay Area to Seoul and back to the Bay again, I must
have reconsidered. I'll admit, I turned in that application at the
eleventh hour, and not knowing that it would be up for public
consumption, I threw together a fuzzy, low-budget YouTube video that
looks like something Lonelygirl15 would have made. And the weeks
preceding and even the actual night went by so quickly, it's all kind of
a blur to me. I do know I spent much of the event running up and down
the stairs of the Brava Theater, going through, count 'em, five
wardrobe changes, and maybe taking just as many vodka shots while we
were waiting backstage. I don't know if it's possible to sum it all up,
but these three words do come to mind:

Serendipity. I
was able to connect and compete with a legion of amazing men --
Antonio, Kilusan, Kyle, and Ryan -- who really blew me away with their
smarts, their substance, and of course, their swag. Not only that, I was
introduced to a whole host of incredible people who do transformative
work for various nonprofits and community organizations from all over
the Bay Area.

Authenticity. I
don't know if a single night can completely redefine Asian American
masculinity (a tall order, right?), but I do know that it takes a lot of
guts to "be yourself" and rep a cause on a stage under bright
lights in front of hundreds of people. I think each one of us brought a
lot of personality, a lot of integrity, and a lot of heart out there.
True to form, I paid tribute to all those nights on the Magic Mic by
belting the hell out of Frank Sinatra's "My Way" for the talent
competition.

Possibility. In
the months that followed, I went back to the utterly unglamorous life
of being a grad student in San Diego. But I realized that while the
academic work I was doing down here wasn't changing the world, Mr.
Hyphen had changed me. It gave me so much more confidence and courage to
pursue my visions of change and justice and to always imagine
otherwise.

So,
I wish this year's crop of finalists all the very best. May your
journey from now until November 5 be as fruitful as it was for me and
that you serve your communities in a way that is true to their needs and
to yourselves.

--Anthony Yooshin Kim, 2010 Mr. Hyphen Finalist

Mr. Hyphen 2011 will take place on November 5 at the Brava!
Theater. For more information and to purchase your tickets, please
visit
www.hyphenmagazine.com/mrhyphen.

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