ATG Presents 4th Annual Groundbreakers Speak at NAAAP National Convention


June 17, 2015 (DALLAS) – Back by popular demand, non-profit Against The Grain Productions will host their 4th Annual Groundbreakers Speak: A Conversation with Movers and Shakers – a diverse panel of remarkable Asian American industry leaders brought together to share their inspiring personal stories and paths to success. For the first time ever, this year’s event, which promotes leadership and mentorship, will be co-hosted with the National Association of Asian American professionals of DFW (NAAAP-DFW) at the NAAAP National Convention to be held in Dallas (another first) under the theme “Resilience: Power of the Asian Leader.”

To kick off the panel discussion, NAAAP National President Fabian De Rozario along with Against The Grain Advisor, Ernst & Young Southwest Region Advisory Services Leader and NAAAP 100 Winner Thear Sy Suzuki will provide introductory remarks.

The event will take place from 2:30 to 4:30 p.m. on Saturday, Aug. 8th, at the Hilton Anatole in Dallas.  General seating tickets are $25 and student tickets with valid ID are $15 and will be on sale starting in early July at

In addition, guests are welcome to attend NAAAP’s free, public Recruitment Expo/Job Fair on Friday, Aug. 7, from 1:30 to 5:00 p.m. or Saturday, Aug. 8, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.  Pre-registration for the Fair or for the three-day Convention can be found at

Introducing the 2015 Groundbreakers Speak panelists: 

Quan PhungQuan Phung – Quan Phung is President of Scripted Programming at Slingshot Global Media, an independent television studio backed by private equity and based in Santa Monica, California.  Established in 2014, Slingshot’s mission is to build a talent-friendly, forward-thinking 21st century studio that develops, produces, finances and distributes television series with a global focus and reach.

Prior to Slingshot, Quan spent close to two decades as a producer and an executive at companies such as Bluegrass Television, Twentieth Century Fox Television Studios, Fox Broadcasting Company (FOX) and the National Broadcasting Company (NBC).  He has been involved in the development and production of many acclaimed series including House, How I Met Your Mother, My Name is Earl and Arrested Development.  In 2002, this Vietnamese American was named one of Hollywood Reporter’s Top 35 Executives Under 35.

What does it mean to you to be a Groundbreaker?

“I hope that whatever paths I’ve taken will inspire others to pursue their own paths in life.  I think role modeling and mentoring are so important in our community, particularly in the 2nd generation.”

What do you hope to achieve by participating in this panel?

“I think storytelling is important as well.  I want to encourage people to use all the tools at their disposal in this technological age to share our stories — warts and all.  It will people together, and promote empathy and understanding instead of judgment and jealousy.”

What does it mean to you to “Go Against The Grain?”

“To me, ‘Going Against The Grain’ is always striving to be your authentic self.  It is continuing to evolve and recognizing your strengths and shortcomings.  It is not being afraid of failure and looking at those moments as opportunities to engage with the world, and get to know yourself better.  It is leading anything but a life of quiet desperation.”

Tiffany HendraTiffany Hendra – From the trailer park to Beverly Hills and now back to Texas, Tiffany Hendra teaches women from all walks of life how to style their lives. As a wife, TV host, beauty and style expert, lifestyle mentor and creator of the blog and web series, this talented beauty (who is 1/4 Japanese) is on a mission to guide women toward living their most fabulous, healthy and spiritually conscious life. Her vision is for women all over the world to overcome their past circumstances and stand confident in their power.

At 18 years-old, Hendra pursued an international modeling career, traveling the world, which Hendra claims was her higher education. Battling criticism in the often harsh world of modeling since age 16, Hendra finally found her niche when the term “ethnically ambiguous” hit the modeling and acting industry, giving her unique look its own place for agents and scouts to appreciate. As she matured, Hendra became more comfortable in her own skin and developed a deep-rooted pride in her heritage. Currently, she enjoys private coaching and offering TV hosting and media workshops across the Dallas-Ft. Worth area. For Hendra, she finds immense joy and great reward in sharing her experience and insight as an Asian American with others.

What does it mean to you to be a Groundbreaker?

“To me, being a GROUNDBREAKER is equivalent to being a trailblazer. Someone who is willing to explore untapped opportunities and create opportunities in areas that are challenging and off the beaten the beaten path. They create an entire new path!”

What do you hope to achieve by participating in this panel?

“By participating in this panel, I hope to instigate change by stirring up the audience to go beyond, relinquish fears and grab a hold of their dreams. I want them to leave with their passion ignited like never before!”

What does it mean to you to “Go Against The Grain?”

“’Going Against The Grain’ to me is being courageous enough to fly solo like an eagle instead of staying on the ground pecking around with the chickens. It means taking a stand and using your voice even when others would rather you sit and be quiet. It’s blazing your own trail and marching to the beat of your own drum which is what my entire journey has been like.”

Larr gEE

Larry g(EE) – Dallas-based pop-soul singer-songwriter Larry g(EE)’s career has taken him all over the country and back here to Dallas for audiences to enjoy locally. Chosen to be one of Red Bull Sound Select’s emerging artists, a Chevy Music Showcase artist for North Texas and the “Best Funk/R&B Act” at the 2013 and 2014 Dallas Observer Music Awards, the Filipino American released his highly anticipated single “Days Like This,” the follow-up to his critically acclaimed EP “Weekends.”

g(EE)’s musical influences range anywhere from The Beatles and Michael Jackson, to artists like Beyonce, and Sam Smith.

He has been spotted with his five to fifteen-piece band gracing the stages of Jimmy Kimmel Live!, South by Southwest Music Festival, ACL Live, Vans Warped Tour, Summerfest, Center of the Universe Music Festival, MusicFest NW and opening for an array of national artists, including Sean “Diddy” Combs, Erykah Badu, David Guetta, The Alabama Shakes, J. Cole, Emeli Sande, Bootsy Collins, and ZZ Ward.

What does it mean to you to be a Groundbreaker?

“I think a Groundbreaker is someone who is doing something outside of the stereotype box we as Asian-American’s get put in. Everyone has ideas. Ideas are cheap. Talk is even cheaper. I’ts all about taking your ideas and putting them into action and succeeding.”

What do you hope to achieve by participating in this panel?

“To inspire up and coming artists who don’t know exactly how to get from step 1 to step 2. This is a great opportunity to share the many things I’ve learned growing up in this business. My hope would be to give them an honest perspective of going after your dreams.”

What does it mean to you to “Go Against The Grain?”

“Many of us in the Asian community are encouraged or expected to pursue to careers in medicine, law, or science (to name a few), careers that provide a form financial stability.  For me, to ‘Go Against The Grain’ is to do something outside the norm. Pursuing a creative endeavor, as someone who actually has a degree in Corporate Communications, 100% with no regrets is definitely taking a risk. I’ve been fortunate enough to have two amazing parents who have always supported my musical endeavors under the condition that I finish school.

My Father, who is a physician, flies planes, rides a Harley and built and ran his own recording studio (even produced some records too). He has always lived his life on his own terms and that’s something that’s always inspired me.”

Caren LockeCaren Lock – Caren K. Lock is the Regional Vice President and Associate General Counsel of TIAA-CREF, a full-service financial services company, where she is the primary interface for the company on all legislative, executive, administrative, and regulatory matters in the southwest region. She also directs all legislative lobbying and regulatory advocacy in her states. At TIAA-CREF, Lock is active in gender and racial diversity initiatives, having served as the Corporate Co-Chair of the Women’s Employee Resource Group.

Prior to joining TIAA-CREF, Lock was General Counsel with a consumer financial company in the Dallas/Fort Worth area. Before entering the corporate world, Caren also spent over a decade litigating complex business matters including copyright and trademark infringement, employment discrimination, shareholder and partnership disputes, aviation, and toxic tort.

Lock currently serves on a number of local organizations, including the Board of the Dallas Women’s Foundation as a member of the Executive Committee and as the Chair of the Advocacy Committee; a member of The Dallas Assembly; the Center for Nonprofit Management, for which she has been a board member and currently serves on the Advisory Board; and a member of the Founders Board of the University of North Texas School of Law.

Previously, she served on the Boards of the Dallas Bar Association, as Chair of the Grievance Panel for seven years; the State of Texas Asian Pacific Interest Section and the Dallas Asian American Bar Association, where she served as President and a former Board member.

A Hong Kong-born Chinese American, Lock is a frequent speaker on racial and gender diversity, nonprofit regulatory issues, legal ethics and grievances, generational dynamics, and community and political advocacy. She regularly presents at continuing legal education courses for the local and Texas Bar organizations. In her spare time, she volunteers at the Cancer Support Community (formerly Gilda’s Clubhouse) teaching yoga to cancer survivors and their families. Lock lives in Allen with her husband Michael Bahar and their two sons.

What does it mean to you to be a Groundbreaker?

“I am honored to have the opportunity to give back to the community by sharing my journey and stories. Groundbreakers are leaders who have taken a stance on issues that are of personal and professional importance. They reach back and pull up because they have benefitted from others who have done the same for them. I feel it is our moral duty to build a pipeline of Asian American groundbreakers.”

What do you hope to achieve by participating in this panel?

“I hope to learn and apply the lessons shared by my fellow panelist as well as from the audience members. Conversely, by sharing my successes and failures, both of which makes me the sum of who I am, I hope that others find these humbling experiences valuable.”

What does it mean to you to “Go Against The Grain?”

“‘Going Against The Grain’ means standing by your convictions and principles even when they are not popular. As an immigrant, I learned early on to blend in and assimilate. However, as I have matured, I realize that sometimes it is ok to stand out from the crowd. It is through those experiences that I have learned true leadership skills.”

Ben SmitheeBen Smithee – From being nominated as one of the “Top 10 Youth Marketers” to the “10 Most Eligible Men of Dallas” or TV Co-Host of The Weekend Insider, Ben Smithee is known for making an impact. He started his first consultancy, SPYCH, in 2009 and grew it to become one of the most respected and innovative Marketing Insights and Strategic Consulting firms in the industry. His expertise in digital marketing and the Millennial consumer propelled Ben and the SPYCH team to consult some of the world’s biggest brands, such as Coca-Cola, Del Monte, General Mills, Sterling Jewelers, ACS, GEICO, McDonald’s, Kroger, Ebay, to name a few.

In 2014, Smithee exited SPYCH and moved to New York to parlay his industry expertise and help start RELEVENTS, a game-changing business events and education company. As Chief Strategy Officer, he is helping to create a platform for a new era of business exchange and experiential education.

Smithee, a Korean adoptee, has been a featured keynote speaker and sought-after consultant, spanning six continents and almost 20 countries. Regularly interviewed by leading publications and media on the topic of the future of marketing, the future consumer and entrepreneurship, Smithee possesses a passion for life, business and people that is insatiable and an energy that is infectious. Outside the office, Smithee enjoys golf and supporting organizations such as The Warren Center, which provides support to families with children who have developmental delays.

What do you hope to achieve by participating in this panel?

“Honestly, whether I am giving a presentation in front of thousands of people or a college classroom of 20, I just hope to inspire one person to live a better version of their life and follow that little spark in their heart to do more. Doing more can be starting a business, helping those in need, or just escaping a job they dread daily.”

What does it mean to you to “Go Against The Grain?”

“So many times in life we have people that want to place others in some proverbial box of stereotype, misnomer or other ignorant zone of judgement. Growing up adopted, being Asian with Caucasian parents, has given me such a great and valuable perspective on life and diversity. It’s something I appreciate every single day. Going Against the Grain is simply surpassing the limitations others put on you – so that you can fully achieve the life you’re meant to live. (Thanks Mom and Dad!!)”

Gauthami VemulaGauthami Vemula – Gauthami Vemula is the Founder and Managing Partner of Color Me Safe, LLC. After a decade of working in a number of influential capacities at Child Protective Services and becoming aware of its shortcomings, Vemula invested her knowledge and expertise in founding Color Me Safe with the intention of bridging a connection between the families of North Texas and the CPS System. Now, as a Child Welfare Consultant and activist, she passionately works towards raising awareness about child abuse/neglect and advocating for families going through child protection issues.

Actively involved in the community, Vemula serves on the boards of and hold positions in several North Texas organizations, including Hope’s Door, Empowering Women As Leaders, the Irma Rangel Young Women’s Leadership School, HEAL, Against The Grain Productions, Chinmaya Mission of DFW and Family Compass of Dallas (previously known as the Child Abuse Center of Dallas). In March, Vemula joined her two CoHosts in creating and developing S.I.T (Social Issues Time), a web series, which is to a provide a forum for women of different ages, ethnicities and backgrounds to come together and discuss issues relevant and significant in today’s multicultural society. In her spare time, Vemula shares her thoughts on being a first generation Indian American woman balancing two different cultures on her satirical blog She enjoys playing and teaching piano and studies voice under opera singer Ronana Gales. She also recently completed a children’s book and awaits publication. Vemula was awarded a Dallas Women’s Foundation 2014 Maura Helping Women Award and values her family for their encouragement and support as she pursues her littlest adventure to her greatest venture.

What does it mean to you to be a Groundbreaker?

“A ‘Groundbreaker’ is a pioneer and visionary. A visionary in the sense that they saw potential in an idea that was unheard of or/was discredited earlier. Someone who has achieved or started something for the first time and opened a new avenue, field or line of thought for others to follow. ”

What do you hope to achieve by participating in this panel?

“To join a network of visionaries for a day of learning, sharing, understanding and intellectual growth. I hope to achieve a better understanding of my own experiences by by looking at the works and lives of other groundbreakers.”

What does it mean to you to “Go Against The Grain?”

“To me, ‘Going Against The Grain’ means to defy convention to make room for innovation and progress, to forge one’s own path, to scale new heights and expand the horizon of what it means to be human.”

Phil YuPhil Yu – Known as the “Angry Asian Man” for his blog of the same name, Korean American Phil Yu’s commentary has been quoted or featured in the New York TimesNPR, The Los Angeles TimesCNN, The Washington PostGawker and other publications. Yu is a graduate of Northwestern University with a Bachelor of Science in Radio/TV/Film as well as the University of Southern California’s School of Cinematic Arts, where he earned an Master of Arts in Critical Studies and served as a Provost Fellow.

Yu previously worked at the Center for Asian American Media in San Francisco and also worked as a content producer for Yahoo! Movies, doing a number of segments for Fast & Furious 6 and other films. He currently serves as a board member for Los Angeles-based Visual Communications, the annual producers of the Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival. Yu appears in Evan Jackson Leong‘s documentary on Jeremy Lin Linsanity, which screened at the 2013 Sundance Film Festival. He is also an Executive Producer of the action/comedy web series from the National Film Society duo of Patrick Epino and Stephen Dypiangco entitled Awesome Asian Bad Guys.

Yu has received a number of awards for his work in media, including the 2012 Salute to Champions Award from the Japanese American Citizens League, the 2011 Asian Pacific Islander Heritage Award for Excellence in New Media from the California Asian Pacific Islander Legislative Caucus, the 2011 Public Image Award from Asian Americans Advancing Justice, and the 2011 Excellence in Media Award from OCA-Greater Los Angeles.

What does it mean to you to be a Groundbreaker?

“I think the key to being a groundbreaker is finding your voice and purpose. It’s not always easy because there are so many different existing voices and ideas competing for your attention. But once you embrace who you are, your voice, and what you were meant be, you’ll always break ground because you are uniquely you. An original.”

What do you hope to achieve by participating in this panel?

“I can only share what I know and the path that brought me to this place. I think it’s always helpful to take a look back and ask yourself, ‘How did I get here?’ Not in a bewildered sort of way — though that happens too — but looking at the ideas, actions and people that were the key points in my journey. It’s often something you can only understand in retrospect. My hope for the panel is simply to share my story, and hope people can get something out of it.”

What does it mean to you to “Go Against The Grain?”

“Going ‘Against The Grain’ means staying true to yourself and your vision. There will be a lot of people telling you who you’re supposed to be, how you’re supposed to behave, and what you’re supposed to believe. You will be pushed towards a prescribed path, because of your name, where you born, what you look like, et cetera forever. Forget all that.  Pursue the most authentic version of yourself, not the identity that others try to push on you.  At the very least, you’ll be lot happier.”

Tammy Nguyen LeeTammy Nguyen Lee (moderator) – Tammy Nguyen Lee is a passionate producer, filmmaker and actor who founded ATG with her family as a result of her own experience as an American actor and filmmaker, fueled by the determination to give other Asian Americans a creative outlet, while raising awareness for Asian American issues and aid for worthy causes.

Nguyen Lee graduated with a B.A. in Cinema from Southern Methodist University and earned a M.F.A. from the elite UCLA Producer’s Program. She produced/directed her first feature documentary, Operation Babylift: The Lost Children of Vietnam, an independent passion project that took nearly 5 years to produce and won the Audience Choice Award at the 2009 Vietnamese International Film Festival and Philadelphia Asian Film Festival. She has worked extensively in film/television production and has overseen the development and marketing of a heavy slate of non-fiction television series and documentary programs for major cable networks. She was honored with SMU’s prestigious Distinguished Alumni Emerging Leader Award in 2010 and NAAAP-DFW’s Leaders of Excellence Award in 2012.

Now, Tammy’s focus is on her family, growing ATG and continuing to work as an actor, film/television producer and development consultant. She is married and has two beautiful daughters, Gabriella and Austen.

“Being a groundbreaker requires passion, courage, commitment, innovation, faith and knowledge. You have to take the time to learn and understand the rules of the game, and then break them…or make up an entirely new game. The ability to be a groundbreaker is in all of us, and I hope this event inspires more Asian Americans to believe in themselves and educates them with the tools they need to take action.”

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 and underprivileged children. In addition to hosting outreach events, it also awards an annual scholarship to exemplary Asian American student artists and leaders. ATG 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 or

WHAT: ATG Against The Grain Productions hosts 4th Annual “2015 Groundbreakers Speak: A Conversation of Movers and Shakers” panel
WHO: Quan Phung – Television Producer, President of Slingshot Global Media; Tiffany Hendra – Actress, TV Host, Fashion/Lifestyle Expert; Larry g(EE) – Singer/Songwriter, Caren Locke – Attorney, Regional Vice President and Associate General Counsel at TIAA-CREF; Ben Smithee – Marketing Executive, Chief Strategy Officer and Master Curator at RELEVENTS; Gauthami Vemula – Children’s Advocate, Founder of Color Me Safe; Phil Yu – Blogger, Founder of of; Welcome remarks by Thear Sy Suzuki – Ernst & Young Southwest Region Advisory Services Leader and NAAAP 100 Winner; Moderated by Tammy Nguyen Lee – ATG President/Founder, Film/TV Producer, Actor and Philanthropist
WHERE: Hilton Anatole, 2201 N Stemmons Fwy, Dallas, TX 75207
WHEN: Saturday, August 8th, 2014 from 2:30 PM – 4:30 PM; free entrance to public Recruitment Expo/Job Fair starting at 2 PM during the NAAAP National Convention
  #ATGProds  #GroundbreakersSpeak2015  #beCAUSE
Share and Enjoy:
  • Print
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Google Bookmarks