Last night’s cold November rain did not stop an exuberant crowd of more than 400 stylish attendees from attending the 6th Annual Mr. Hyphen Competition at Brava! Theatre. Choosing from a strong line-up of five candidates, this year’s judges helped shuttle in the coronation of Mr. Hyphen 2011, Terry Park.
“I don’t know what to say! Just remember we are all unicorns!” said an elated Park, after being handed the crown from Kyle Chu, Mr. Hyphen 2010. The unicorns being a reference to his moving “Make Air, Not War” air guitar performance about being true to oneself -- in which he wore a headband with a single horn over a Slash-style wig.
He may have won over the crowd by declaring pink fleece pajama bottoms sexy, but with the $1,000 he won for the Asian Prisoner Support Committee, Park hopes to bring awareness about the growing number of Asians and Pacific Islanders in the US being imprisoned, detained, and deported. A gleeful Eddy Zheng, who was incarcerated for over 20 years and is now active with the Asian Prisoner Support Committee, jumped onstage to hug Park after he won the title.
D’Lo, queer Tamil Sri Lankan American comedian and artist of many hats, mastered these ceremonies for his third season in a row. His unflagging “dope ass” banter included -- surprise! -- shape-shifting into “D'Lo's mom” and conducting the second half of the show in full sari regalia.
Among the highlights of the evening was an array of strut-your-stuff talent from all the Mr. Hyphen hopefuls, from Nate Cedilla’s poetry reading (not that kind -- think double entendres ... lots of them), to Eugene Canotal cutting dance moves in front of a full-length mirror (Fame!). A spitfire rap performance by Colin Ehara had the crowd chanting “Spray the World with Paper Bullets,” while Rattana Yeang, who took the title as Runner Up, got roars of approval from the audience for his singing debut (“This is the first time that I’m singing in public!”) -- which included a Powerpoint presentation sing-along.
The crowd was treated to two interlude dance performances by the smashing Amber Divina and WildCard. Mark “Zhangster” Zhang’s comedy routine took the show for a more controversial turn. Local designers Estrella Tadeo, Retrofit Republic, and Bok Choy Apparel helped clothe (and semi-clothe, for that matter) the candidates. The ever-popular sleepwear portion whipped the crowd into a froth with the candidates in various states of undress. Yeang bravely strutted the stage in just a sarong, which he later said was one of the things his father brought with him to the US after fleeing Cambodia.
And audience members' campaigning for their favorites was more intense than ever this year, with handmade posters of Ehara in the style of the Shepard Fairey's iconic Obama poster plastered around the theater.
Amidst the hootin’ and hollerin’ and the whimsical overtones of the event, the overall message of the Mr. Hyphen competition itself is a strong message of empowerment, felt throughout the night as five outstanding Asian American men took the stage to show their commitment to their respective nonprofit organizations.
“Mr. Hyphen is all about redefining what it means to be an Asian American male,” said one of the night’s judges, Miss GAPA 2011 Lychee Minelli, in a showstopping sequined mini-dress and sky-high pink glitter heels. “I feel in order to really do that you have to have energy, you have to have commitment and you have to be dedicated to your cause.”
And they all did that. As D’Lo said, summing up a truly self-less battle for the crown: “No ego, just all love.”