Aristotle Garcia charmed a packed house at the Oakland Community Center on Oct. 4 to be crowned Mr. Hyphen 2008. In the process, he won $1 ,000 for the charity he represents: the Filipino American Arts and Exposition, a grassroots, nonprofit organization that contributes to the artistic and cultural pride of the Filipino American community - and an indelible place in Asian American male history.
Including Garcia, six outstanding candidates competed for the crown: Scott Chan, Leadership Education for Asian Pacifies; Mike Liu, Spring Buds/California Dragon Boat Association; Maurice Seaty, Southeast Asian Student Coalition; Eric Tarn, Asian American Donor Program; and Rockson Yan, API Legal Outreach Youth Program.
It was an adrenaline-driven evening, requiring each of the contestants to display every facet of his creativity and intelligence. At times, the cheering from enthusiastic fans was deafening, and it is certainly evident now, three years from the inception of the event: Mr. Hyphen is a title that is highly coveted and valued by the community.
Emcee Samantha Chanse elevated the electrifying event with her witty delivery and charm. The event was judged by Vincent Pan from Chinese for Affirmative Action, Louisa Liu (Miss Asian America 2008) and myself, representing Project Ahimsa.
The primary criteria for winning the entire contest hinged upon each contestant'sw ability to connect his inspiring activism and talent to his personality. In the end, Aristotle's performance in the talent segment, his poise during the fashion and sleepwear segments, and his eloquence answering questions earned him the crown. Runner-up Maurice Seaty was a close second. Both candidates were highly effective in conveying their commitment to the causes they represent.
Everyone involved in the event proved that Asian American men today are making a huge difference in the community, and elevating the stature of Asian American men in the eyes of the mainstream in the process.
Robin Sukhadia was the first Mr. Hyphen.