What do boxer briefs, Asian American community organizations and Miss San Francisco Chinatown 2006 all have in common? Well, nothing until we brought them all together at the very first Mr. Hyphen pageant held May 19th at the Oakland Asian Cultural Center in Oakland, CA. Our idea was to recognize the importance of arts and activist organizations in the Asian American community by honoring the man-power behind them. Little did we know that our little pageant would quickly turn into an audience-screaming, R. Kelly lip synching, T-shirt swinging extravaganza.
The full house of sign-toting supporters and oglers got to see the six contestants hailing from the Bay Area to L.A. to NYC strut their stuff, their talent and answer some heart-wrenching questions from celebrity judges—including Tiffany Mah, the reigning Miss San Francisco Chinatown 2006. Stand up comedian Ali Wong and TV-host Brian Tong kept the crowd entertained and the sarcastic comments flowing as the night’s lively MCs.
We brought in local designers J9 and Kimiko Fisika to dress the contestants in modern casual wear—but the boys also had a chance to show their originality in the risqué sleepwear category. The talent section showed that the contestants were as diverse as the organizations these guys represented with everything from dramatic monologues to electronic music sets in the mix.
The real emotions came out in the second half with the intense interview portion where the contestants were able to represent their organizations, which included the Gay and Pacific Islander Men of New York, the Filipino Community Center, the Vietnamese Artist Collective, the Chinatown Community Development Center, Project Ahimsa and the Asian American Theater Company.
In a climactic finish, Robin Sukhadia of Project Ahimsa—an organization dedicated to empowering youth through music—won the hearts of the audience with his musical talent, and articulate and sincere answers. Sukhadia was awarded a $500 check for his organization, a crown and a very sparkly rhinestone belt. Kevin Liao (Chintown Community Development Center) and Mario “Nomi” DeMira (Filipino Community Center) won 1st and 2nd runner up, respectively.
But this is only the beginning … stay tuned for information on how to enter Mr. Hyphen 2007.