Playing the Field

SAM magazine debuts in black lace and Saran Wrap.

September 1, 2005

The big-block “SAM” jumped at me from the bookstore's magazine rack. The alluring Asian woman on the cover also caught my eye. At first I thought “SAM” stood for “Single Asian Male,” but I looked closer, and the subtitle said, “Successful Alpha Male.”

Finally, there's a magazine for me (other than Hyphen, of course).

SAM is kind of like Maxim or FHM, only all the models are Asian and the photo spreads are tackier. With the demise of Yolk, it fills the void for a general interest men's magazine featuring Asian women.

SAM started as a web magazine three years ago, targeting Asian American males between 18 and 35. Editor Samuel Choae (now I know where the SAM comes from) writes on the site that the magazine is “about beautiful women and entertaining articles” that are “funny, inspirational and informative.”

Good, because I did buy SAM for the articles.

The cover photo of the pilot printed issue, released in March, features “the world's sexiest pool player,” Jeanette Lee, clad in a black lace top and black leather pants. Other headlines blare: “Exclusive! Interview with a millionaire: Learn how he did it!,” “Former Miss Vietnam and future doctor,” “Supermodel foxes!” and “How to pick up women 24 hours a day.”

“It fills an important niche,” says Darrell Hamamoto, a UC Davis Asian American Studies professor who lectures about media, noting that there are several magazines for Asian American women. “But it's going to be mostly white people who read it because they're going to have lots of pictures of Asian women. (SAM) is aiming for a certain ethnic demographic but will get mostly whites.”

In the Q&A with Lee, we find out that she's never played strip pool. “Normally, I am playing at a public pool hall so the clothes are not coming off.” Wow, that's deep. In the photos, she's dressed in sexy outfits and using a pool cue in ways that I don't think the Women's Professional Billiard Association would approve.

“Pets of SAM” started well, with a model holding a cute little bunny rabbit. But the article should be called “Dead Pets of SAM” because the pictures feature “those dim animals” that “you plowed down while racing through the streets.” It's a photo spread of a decapitated cat, mangled birds, a squished squirrel and a dead raccoon. OK, I did buy SAM for the articles.

Quarterly publication of the print edition of SAM begins in September, according to SAM Vice President Gin Kim, who promises better quality in future issues. I found the pilot issue overly reliant on Q&As and advice columns where no real writing is needed.

Then there are the women, such as Anthu Vu, model and tennis player, and Super Fox Page model Dr. Jane Kim. “One of the things you'll notice about our models is that most of them are college graduates at prestigious universities,” Gin Kim says, countering criticism of men's magazines. “If you're going to say we're sexist because we show our models in a sexy light, that discounts the other ways we're portraying them.”

Well, sure, we learn in a pullquote that Vu aspires to be a professor of anthropology. But apparently nothing says “I want to be a professor” more than being Saran Wrapped naked.

While I might be one of the few who would buy SAM for the articles, most readers are probably not going to be looking for SAT scores next to bare midriffs. Kim should concentrate on fulfilling his promise and offer something more multidimensional than roadkill and questions like “are you a screamer or moaner?” for SAM to become a Successful Asian Magazine. —Harry Mok

Magazine Section: 
Magazine Issue: 

Harry Mok

Editor in chief

Editor in Chief Harry Mok wrote about growing up on a Chinese vegetable farm for the second issue of Hyphen and has been a volunteer editor since 2004. As a board member of the San Francisco and New York chapters of the Asian American Journalists Association, Harry has recruited and organized events for student members. He holds a master’s degree in journalism from the University of California, Berkeley, where he was also a graduate student instructor in the Asian American Studies Department.