DALLAS, TX – As Madonna said, “Music makes the people come together.” Non-profit ATG Against The Grain Productions presents more than just art and fashion at this year’s 5th annual Fashion for a Passion. There will be four exciting new musical talents set to take the stage and perform a variety of genres, all while supporting a cause that is dear to their hearts. The charity event will take place on Saturday, October 12th from 6:30 PM – 10:00 PM at the Dallas Contemporary and will feature music by Kollaboration Dallas finalists Mijee Park, J.O. and Y.O.!, Kassy Levels (Kollaboration Dallas Winner) and Kendyl Ito (one of this year’s ATG Artistic Scholarship winners), along with a fashion runway show, live auction, art exhibit and more.
“Although the event is named Fashion for a Passion, don’t be fooled. It’s really a three-ring circus,” said President/Founder Tammy Nguyen Lee. “We wanted to bring together a diversity of Asian American artists, and music is an important component. We’re excited to have participation from our community partner, Kollaboration Dallas, as well as have the opportunity to showcase our very own Artistic Scholarship winner.” Proceeds from the evening go to benefit ATG’s supported orphanages in Asia, outreach programs and scholarship fund.
Beauty, brains and talent is what people should think of when we mention Kendyl Ito, an 18-year-old from Sacramento, CA and one of the five ATG Artistic Scholarship Winners. She is currently a freshman studying musical theatre at Pace in New York City. When Kendyl came across ATG’s scholarship, she related to the organization from the ground up. Less than 5′ tall, petite Japanese American Kendyl is redefining color-blind casting, landing leading roles as Elle Woods in “Legally Blonde,” Sandy in “Grease,” Eve in “Children of Eden” and most recently Rosemary in “How To Succeed In Business.”
“Simply put, it is truly an honor to perform at ATG’s Fashion For A Passion event this year! It’s one thing to perform amongst an amazing group of talented artists, but to perform for a beautiful cause like this is truly heartwarming.” – Kendyl Ito
At only 17 years-old, Kassy Levels is not just an amazing vocalist (with a range of three octaves), but a very gifted songwriter and musician from McKinney, TX. She strives to bring back the authenticity of music, with inspirations such as Beyoncé, Justin Timberlake, Alicia Keys and Jessie J. Her vocals have often been compared to several of her inspirations but after hearing her sing, her distinct, well-controlled vocals sets her apart from the rest. Half Filipina and half African-American, she made her debut in 2009 in the Dallas music scene and quickly established a name for herself among North Texas natives. She released her first album, “Storyteller,” in 2011. With her musical blend of Pop/R&B accentuated with her vocals, she has captivated her audiences by blowing away listeners not expecting such power and confident stage presence from this young a performer. She was recently honored as this year’s Kollaboration Dallas winner and is in the process of recording her sophomore album. Follow her music vlog “Street Corner Spotlight” on www.youtube.com/kassylevels.
“As a musician, I can appreciate when people give me the opportunity to share my gift with other people. I love the fact that ATG is providing an outlet for Asian fashion designers to showcase their work, all while giving back to the community! Fashion and compassion, is my kind of combination! I know that there are people who will be inspired by the Fashion for a Passion event and what they stand for!” – Kassy Levels
J.O and Y.O.! form an amazing duo with their opposing styles and relentless energy. Josh is an indie pop artist who has been roaming the streets and venues of Dallas with his acoustic pop project, “The Josh Osgood Band.” Anthony Young aka Y.O.! (who is half Thai and half African American), is an up and coming hip hop artist who regularly performs at Dallas clubs such as Plush and Aqua Lounge. He also produces for VK studios and performs regularly on local radio stations. After meeting through rather auspicious means, the two decided to combine their flavors into something special.
“J.O and YO! are always down to support the young crowd, kids that aren’t as privileged as us. We always enjoy being apart of something greater than our selves, if it be through music, art, fashion so be it. If there’s a difference to be made, we’ll make it” – J.O. and Y.O.!
Mijee Park is a Korean American singer-songwriter based out of Richardson, Texas. With a mother who played piano and a father who played guitar, it only made sense for Mijee to pick up and learn from her parents. As a little girl, she sang and jammed out with her parents, started writing her own music and performing at her church choir. At 15, Mijee started working with producer Sang Ham at UG Productions, eventually performing alongside artists such as Joseph Vincent and Decipher. Outside of music, she is working on a nursing degree at the University of Texas at Austin.
“I feel so honored and blessed to be able to share my music through Fashion for a Passion. It’s awesome to know that there is honest support for local Asian American artists here in Dallas.”- Mijee Park
Tickets to Fashion for a Passion range from $50 to $100 and are on sale exclusively online at the FFAP Event Page.
ATG Against The Grain Productions, a Dallas-based 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, promotes Asian American cultural awareness through compelling media projects and raises funds for international orphanages. In addition to giving out annual scholarships to exemplary Asian American student leaders and those pursuing a degree in the arts, they also produced the feature documentary, Operation Babylift: The Lost Children of Vietnam,which has screened at over a dozen film festivals nationwide and received the Audience Choice Award for Best Feature Film at the Vietnamese International Film Festival and the Documentary Audience Choice Award from the Philadelphia Asian American Film Festival. For more information, visit www.AgainstTheGrainProductions.com or www.TheBabylift.com.
Intended college/university and major: New York University in New York City, NY, Tisch School of the Arts, majoring in TV and film production
What does Going Against The Grain mean to you? For me, to go Against The Grain is to embrace all the passions one has in life, regardless of stereotypes and cultural expectations. It means to embrace all the wonderful aspects of one’s Asian heritage and from it craft stories that holistically recreate the Asian American experience for everyone. For me, this phrase means to not succumb to stereotypes, to not strive to fit the mold of a test taking, subservient and silent student just because it is what society expects of someone. Instead, it means to be a unique individual who gives new meaning to their culture, to show the world the much too often overlooked creativity, innovation and artistic expressions that exists within the Asian population. To go Against The Grain is to know that your culture will love you no matter what you do, you must only be genuine and true to yourself, and others will embrace and respect you for your bravery, innovation and craft.
How do you go Against The Grain? I go Against The Grain by breaking the stereotypes of a Chinese student and expanding the definition of what it means to be an Asian American adolescent. I believe that I showed my class how multifaceted, artistic and idiosyncratic a bi-racial Chinese student could be. Though I was an extremely diligent student who took her academics very seriously, I was also an avid, outspoken and strong president of my school’s Drama Society, an editor for our arts and literary magazine and a member of the poetry club. I was usually the only person of Asian heritage at these meetings and groups, but they allowed me the valuable experience of letting people know that Asian Americans were indeed a gifted and artistically driven group of individuals, that perhaps some were just afraid to go Against The Grain.
Though I appeared only “White” in most people’s eyes, I prided myself on my Chinese features and heritage because I was so happy to be a part of two different cultures, therefore able to draw from two unique backgrounds to create a holistic, multi-layered and diverse personality. I, unlike many other bi-racial students, wanted to show my school that race should have no limitations; that I could be a good student and a goofy Drama geek, that I could be proud of my race, speak the language with pride, bring my mother’s delicious home-made dumplings to school for lunch and not let these actions define me, but instead show my classmates that I could be everything I wanted to be: a writer, an academic, an actress, a debater, an American and a proud member of the Chinese community. I go Against The Grain because I am proud child of my culture as well as a brave explorer of this ever-changing world, working to break stereotypes. I broaden the definitions of what it means to be Asian American and do not allow myself to be limited by my race. I am working to become a filmmaker so that I can show the world through thought-provoking stories just how diverse, multifaceted and relatable the Asian American experience is for people of all races, cultures and backgrounds.
Essay highlights: “Art has always been my solace. It has appeased my hunger for the incredible, the provoking, the new and the dangerous, and purged me of evil emotions and thoughts through a powerful catharsis. I believe that art can make a difference, not just in an individual’s perceptions but but the sentiments and outlook of a society as a whole. Thought I wan to experiment with many different styles in my films, I know for certain that I want to focus on telling true stories: narratives that develop empathy, expand the range and intensity of human emotion, and bridge gaps of understanding between people of different perspectives and backgrounds.”
Age: 18 yrs old; GPA: 3.9; Ethnicity: Taiwanese-Chinese; Hometown: Virginia Beach, VA
Intended college/university and major: Parsons School of Design in New York City, NY, majoring in communication design
What does Going Against The Grain mean to you? Going Against The Grain means facing challenges, taking on challenges that test one’s basic morals, traditional standards and even relationships between friends and family. The greatest challenges that we face are also our greatest teachers.
How do you go Against The Grain? Growing up with traditional-minded immigrant parents, the last thing any parent would want to hear from their child is, “I want to be an artist.” However, it is the arts that transformed me into a self-made man. In the beginning, I didn’t have the privilege of absolute support from friends and family as I was set to pursue the arts as a child. I had to prove myself. I had to overcome challenges and negative opposition from all corners, because the art world is not the friendliest of places either. As an artist, you are exposing your vulnerability through your creations, showing your core to the eyes of an audience that may not even understand you, but the magic happens when you find the support and appreciation every artist craves. 2011 marked my first big break through, placing 1st in Wacom’s International Art Contest. In 2012, I was among the Top Ten Young Artists Nationally Published in Celebrating Art. That same year, I debuted my first fashion collection at Virginia Fashion Week, was invited to Teen Vogue Fashion University and also won “Best in Show” at the Neptune Festival Art Show following with a Gold Key presented by the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts Scholastics. None of these accomplishments would have existed without my insatiable passion within, driving me to exceed all my limits.
Essay highlights: “As a distinguished leader within my school and community, I not only strive to push myself to reach my maximum potential, but I also challenge my peers so that we can all grow in support of each other. What truly distinguishes me as an individual is my exceptional level of innovation. I am determined to not only solve problems, but how I can make things better for the future. Through my dedication, innovation, and undeniable passion, I strive to make a name for myself and positively impact the world.”
Intended college/university and major: University of Oregon in Eugene, OR, majoring in visual/fine art
What does Going Against The Grain mean to you? To me, going Against The Grain is bravery. It is doing something even when I am aware that I will get stared at, laughed at, yelled at or judged. It is doing this something anyways, because I know it is the right thing for me.
How do you go Against The Grain? In both my life and my dreams, I have been forced to decide between two actions: doing what I want and what I believe is right, or “doing what everyone else is doing.” I Against The Grain to uphold my personal moral standards, even if that means breaking off friendships. When my best friend got into drugs, I made the hard decision of cutting ties with her. Though it was extremely difficult, I did not want to be a part of a lifestyle that messed with your mind and body. Going Against the Grain also applies to my dream of being an artist. Whenever I say I want to be an artist, I am met with raised eyebrows and condescending “oh, that’s interesting” looks. But despite the unconventional path, I have chosen it anyways, because I know it is what I love and what will make my life happy and fulfilled.
Essay highlights: “I believe this catalyst of change is most effectively expressed by the arts. Literature, dance or painting are all forms of self-expression that reflect the ideas most personal to the creator. Yet they have a curious tendency of finding their way into our own thoughts. Art alone reveals the important truths of humanity. I do not think my piece is quite like the rallying, picketing, shouting works of Ai Weiwei, but I hope I have at least spurred the mind of a viewer. To me, a successful art piece is not when a viewer stops for a moment and says: ‘That’s pretty.’ A successful artwork is when she stops, looks and absorbs quietly, and walks away filled with new thoughts in new territories. And maybe, just maybe, she will rev the engine of change.”
Age: 18 yrs old; GPA: 4.17; Ethnicity: Japanese American; Hometown: Sacramento, CA
Intended college/university and major: Pace University in New York City, NY, majoring in musical theatre
What does Going Against The Grain mean to you? The literal definition of going Against The Grain means to do something opposite of what is usually expected. To me, going Against The Grain means to do something different than the norm and to make yourself unique and original. It means having confidence in yourself to do what may be unpopular, uncommon, and unexpected. It means taking risks, exploring the unfamiliar, and placing yourself in situations where you may be vulnerable.
How do you go Against The Grain? When I was searching for scholarships and discovered your organization, I immediately connected with the name… Against The Grain. I felt it described me perfectly in the music theater world. It is not uncommon for me to be one of few Asians at a music theater audition. It is even more rare to be considered for a lead part not originally meant for someone who looks like me – petite and Asian. I have had the privilege of being cast as Elle Woods in “Legally Blonde,” Sandy in “Grease,” Eve in “Children of Eden” and most recently Rosemary in “How To Succeed In Business”. It has not always been easy. I knew I had to sing, act and dance much better than others considered that already “looked the part” and more importantly convince the audience. Instead of letting this defeat me, it motivated me to work harder for those coveted roles. Nothing has been more rewarding than to hear from a director that they made the right casting decision. Though these roles were unfamiliar and risky for me, I took that as a challenge to go that extra mile to impress audiences with my talents and ignore my looks and appearances.
I have gained a lot of experience wearing a variety of wigs that have helped make me “look the part.” However, I look forward to the day when I won’t have to wear one and the way I look is just fine. I look forward to being a part of this change when being Asian in the performing arts will no longer go Against The Grain.
Essay highlights: “Though my “petiteness” and heritage pose a challenge in the theatre world, as I create a personal valley among the other actors, it motivates me to work twice as hard so directors can focus on my talent rather than my appearances. I look forward to a day when someone Asian or of color no longer “doesn’t look the part.” When one doesn’t have to consider not pursuing something they are passionate about because of the way they look, which is what I almost did. I am so grateful to the director who encouraged me to pursue the performing arts where I may have opportunity to make positive changes in people’s attitudes and perceptions. I also know my accomplishments may pave the way for others and it will be a way I can give back to the community that has been so supportive of me. One of the things I like most about theatre is it always tells a story and a perfect place to break barriers. Musical theatre has had a huge influence in my life and has made me into the woman I am today. It’s more than just a safe haven where I can express myself. Theatre is my passion. Theatre is my life. Theatre is my home. I can hardly wait for the next chapter of my life to begin and to discover what contributions I will make.”
Intended college/university and major: New York University in New York City, NY, double majoring in photography and sociology
What does Going Against The Grain mean to you? To me, going Against The Grain means deviation from the norm. It is easy to do what everyone else is doing, but it is harder and more worthwhile to follow your passions.
How do you go Against The Grain? I go Against The Grain with my identity and my drive. Being an adopted Chinese Jew in Minneapolis, Minnesota is definitely not the norm. I let my differences, and the experiences those differences have given me, influence my life and my work. I believe in myself and the work I can do. I got accepted into the program I wanted for this coming fall and have spread my work to screenings and exhibitions all over the country, even reaching as far as China. I hope to continue going Against The Grain and sharing myself with others so that they, too, can go against their own grain.
Essay highlights: “Art provides culture, stimulation, innovation, beauty and calls attention to various topics as a tool for communication. It is a language that enhances cultural appreciation and awareness. We can use it to analyze, question, criticize, promote and explore. Art teaches me humility. Every once in a while, I begin to think that I have somewhat of a “handle” on this world…until I encounter a work of art that leaves me in awe, with the realization that I not only didn’t have the right answers, but not even the right questions. It teaches me that there is so much more to experience. I believe this type of thinking and learning is something everyone can grow from.”