Category: Events

DFW Style Daily: Against The Grain’s ‘Fashion For A Passion’ Marks Fifth Successful Year

Against The Grain Productions’ annual Fashion For A Passion show is truly one of my favorite Dallas events. And it’s not just because of the clothes.
From left: ATG Vice President Nikki Duong Koenig, Vera Wang of Viviona, ATG President and Founder Tammy Nguyen Lee, and a FFAP guest.
Last Saturday, October 12th, marked the fifth year for this popular charity show, held once again at the Dallas ContemporaryAgainst The Grain (ATG) is a non-profit organization dedicated to educational and outreach programs within the Asian American community, as well as raising funds for orphanages in Asia. Fashion For A Passion is its most popular event, bringing together designers, musicians, food, and artists for a memorable evening. Click here for my coverage of Fashion For A Passion 2012.

This year, ATG rounded up an impressive roster of eight local Asian American designers. They included Hanh Dang of Lucy DangTexas Next Top Designer 2013 and winner of Belk’s Southern Designer Showcase, as well as Jerry Matthews of DFW Style Daily favorite, Nine Muses. In addition to showcasing looks from their lines on the runway, each designer donated at least two garments to be auctioned live during the show.

Leather and lace dress by Lucy Dang

Khanh Nguyen of Nhã Khanh watches as her donations are auctioned for the cause.

True, the clothes were simply incredible. But the aspect of this community event that is even more important to remember is that ATG is 100% non-profit. The nearly $100,000 they have raised to date through this effort has been utilized in its entirety to further its cause. No one, from the production team to the models to ATG’s board members, is paid. Each donates his or her time and talents, and the result is one hell of a production.

Viviona Swimwear, accessorized with Cykochik Custom Handbags
A three-piece fall ensemble by Kim Pham

Designer Becky Hollands (left) poses with an auction winner.
Bustier, jacket and skirt by Danh Ta

Two looks by Cac Demode Designs
Four distinctly stunning dresses by Nine Muses

Over the years, I’ve come to know most everyone involved in Fashion For A Passion. Tammy Nguyen Lee, ATG President and Founder, is one of the kindest, most hardworking individuals you could ever hope to meet. Beautiful actress and model LeeAnne Locken has emceed the event for past four years, bringing her signature brand of excitement and fun. The designers, again donating their time and beloved creations, continue to impress and inspire. These are my friends, and I’m proud of them. I love this event because of what it stands for. It isn’t about segregating our community, but about bringing us together so that we can be proud of our neighbors and share in their successes.


All photos, credit Heather Lettieri for DFW Style Daily.

Exhibiting Artists Reveal New Depths to Fifth Annual Fashion for a Passion


DALLAS, TX – Dallas-based non-profit ATG Against The Grain Productions puts on more than just a fashion show every year; the innovative organization’s overall purpose and goal is to support and promote Asian American artists, and this event has become a platform to share fashion, music and the latest emerging art. The anticipated Fashion for a Passion No. 5 will be held at the Dallas Contemporary on Saturday, October 12th from 6:30 PM – 10:00 PM, and this year there will be an eclectic mix of eight Exhibiting Artists who represent different genres and styles. Guests will not only get to view but even bid to own one of a kind pieces from this granted group of rising stars, including ATG Artistic Scholarship Winners DJ Wang, Grace Kwon, Xiaoye Jiang and  Catherine ‘Kit” Zauhar, alongside local artists Jody Pham, Trung Vuong of Loyal K.N.G, Kathy Tran and Cameron Lee Phan. From photography to painting and even the newest addition of short films, several types of art media created by Asian American artists will be on display for guests to enjoy. Proceeds of the event go to benefit ATG’s supported orphanages in Asia, artistic and leadership scholarship funds and outreach programs.

“What ATG is trying to do is not only encourage art appreciation but also to build a community of artists and bring together those who love it and are passionate about it  to support one another,” said ATG President/Founder Tammy Nguyen Lee. “Whether it’s on a canvas or on a TV screen, ATG wants to share the talent and unique message that these artists have and hopefully bring some inspiration to others.”

There are more ways than one to show how much you love to exhibit your passion through art, and Jody Pham truly exhibits a wide array of creative skill — from providing illustrations for Stripmall Architecture’s last album, creating bag designs for a collaboration with Cykochik Custom Handbags, to illustrating the winning canvas-wrapped cooler for Red Bull’s Canvas Cooler competition this summer. Before donating her pieces to Fashion for a Passion, Jody has previously donated original works for various fundraisers and charity events like Artists Healing Japan in Dallas and Anatomy for Life in the U.K.

“I am thrilled to be an exhibiting visual artist for Fashion for a Passion! I am especially excited to be a part of an event that not only works to help those in need through creative expression, but also brings both the talents and unique struggles of the Asian community to the forefront.”

Most people make their life choices and decisions to better comfort themselves when it comes down to it, but Trung Vuong made his choices by living a lifestyle that commonly beat all odds. A dropout pre-med student, he chose to pursue his passions in the artistic fields through developing his own T-shirt brand, Loyal K.N.G. Throughout the past 4 years since the brand’s inception, Trung, along with his teams of passionate artists and leaders, have grown Loyal K.N.G. into a full-fledged lifestyle brand that sells jackets, button-downs, hats and more.

“It’s an honor to be apart of such a positive cultural community event, and to be able to showcase our artwork at Fashion for a Passion really invigorates our resolve to keep creating and contributing our artwork to the world.”

Beaumont, Texas native Kathy Tran carries around a sketchbook, knows how to handle various professional cameras and some nights may be seen sporting a pair of boxing gloves. Because Kathy likes to do so much, she doesn’t consider herself just a photographer, designer or sketcher – but instead, a creative individual. Kathy is currently studying at Brookhaven College, working on an Associate of Arts degree and plans to transfer to Southern Methodist University to study Creative Writing, all while donating her time to this year’s show.

“It means a great deal to be a part of this event, because it hits home for me in every aspect with the arts, fashion, my culture and the charity connection to the orphanages, because I myself have recently been adopted. I’m living in two worlds of culture and class as a Vietnamese American artist, and Fashion for a Passion ties my worlds together.”

Currently based in North Texas, Cameron Lee Phan is a Vietnamese American photographer whose work focuses on fashion and portraiture. He develops more for his work each year and continues to grow in the field and path that he follows.

“Being a part of the 5th annual Fashion for a Passion is an honor! It means breaking down limitations and paving the road for innovation!”

Five seems to be the magic number for ATG this year, as the organization recently awarded a record five artistic scholarships to graduating high school seniors, all of whom are participating in Fashion for a Passion No. 5.  One of the biggest benefits of winning the scholarship as an artist is to be able to be connected immediately to a community of fellow artists and art patrons who can help bolster, mentor and launch these budding careers. Included are 18 year-old Grace Kwon, a Tigard, Oregon native who is majoring in Visual and Fine Arts and 17-year-old Xiaoye Jiang, an adopted Chinese Jew who grew up in Minnesota who is attending New York University double majoring in Photography and Sociology.

Dih Jiun “DJ” Wang just began his freshman year at The Parsons School of Design in New York City, majoring in Communication Design. DJ is Taiwanese from Virginia Beach, VA who has a wide-range of artistic talents, from fashion design to the visual arts.

“Being a part of the 5th annual Fashion for a Passion means being a part of something greater than myself. Something phenomenal. Something inspiring,”

For the first time, ATG is incorporating film into its line-up of exhibited art. “It’s so ironic that we never had film in our previous FFAP,” said President/Founder Tammy Nguyen Lee. “Considering film is my first creative passion, it only made sense to bring it into spotlight now. We’re thrilled to show the work of one of our scholarship winners and partner with The Asian Film Festival of Dallas to bring you some of the coolest ‘visual wallpaper’ to enjoy.”

“I’m really excited to be going to Fashion for a Passion, because I am obsessed with all things fashion, and this will be my first time getting to go to such an event,” said Catherine ‘Kit’ Zauhar, a Philadelphia native who is majoring in Film and Television Production at the elite Tisch School of the Arts at New York University. Art is a deep part of Catherine’s life, and she aims to use her talents to tell compelling stories. “I am so happy and inspired by a lot of current Asian American designers (Anna Sui, Alexander Wang, etc.), and I can’t wait to see what kind of interesting and unique looks are put forth. I feel like fashion is still an industry that Asian Americans are breaking into, so it’s really exciting to be apart of such an interesting and unique time for Asian American designers. I absolutely cannot wait to be in the same room as so many talented Asian American artists!” Her short film, IT WAS FALL, will play on a screen in addition to the short film, THIEF, directed by Jay Chern (a Taiwanese filmmaker who grew up in Texas).

Tickets to Fashion for a Passion range from $50 to $100 and are on sale exclusively online at the FFAP Event Page.

For more press/media information on the event, please contact Elizabeth Dinh or Annie Tran at

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 or

Bringing Musical Variety to Fashion for a Passion No. 5

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.

Kendyl-Ito-200x300Beauty, 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

KassyLevelsPromoPicAt 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

“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

sadfsdfJ.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.!

a2367410437_10Mijee 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. 

For more press/media information on the event, please contact Elizabeth Dinh or Annie Tran at

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 or

Emerging Asian American Fashion Designers to Present Latest Collections at Upcoming 5th Annual Fashion for a Passion Charity Event

FFAP FB Event Cover

DALLAS, TX – From swimwear to handbags and high-end women’s apparel, eight Asian American designers will present an array of unique collections at the 5th Annual Against The Grain Productions Fashion for Passion charity event. The calendar will say it’s fall, but the designers have each used inspiration and imagination to create wondrous collections for the event, which takes place from 6:30 pm – 10:00 pm on Saturday October 12, 2013 at the Dallas Contemporary in the Dallas Design District. The event features a runway show, musical entertainment, an art exhibit, live/silent auction and tasty bites and sips — all to benefit ATG’s supported orphanages, outreach programs and scholarship fund.

President/Founder Tammy Nguyen Lee is thrilled to host yet another show. “Each year, so much hard work and dedication goes into the meticulous planning of this event. Our team of volunteers is committed to creating a great evening that brings the community together to showcase incredible Asian American talent and gives them a platform to share their unique vision and voice. It’ll be an unforgettable night for Dallas and for the arts!”

Whether it’s from a veteran or a newbie presenting designer, there is a lot more to expect from this year’s line-up. All based in Texas, each designer shows true passion and spirit when they were asked what they are planning to present at Fashion for a Passion No. 5.

Nikki Duong Koenig | Cykochik Custom Handbags

2013 started out wonderfully for two-time Fashion for a Passion veteran (and ATG’s Vice President) Nikki Duong Koenig. She shared her overall goal at the beginning the year…to be able to fully launch Cykochik full-time and her dream has come true. After successfully raising a $10,000 goal via Kickstarter, she said, “I’m thrilled to celebrate Cykochik’s 10 Year Anniversary at ATG’s 5th Fashion for a Passion! I believe that everything in life has a cycle, and I’ve come full circle since presenting in 2010,” Nikki said.  “My hope for us is to achieve another milestone in fundraising,  so that we’re able to contribute more to our causes.”

Vera Wang | Viviona

This is Vera Wang’s first year as a part of Fashion for a Passion, and she’s also the show’s first ever presenting swimwear designer. Both she and ATG are anxious as to what the audience response will be to her collaboration with an architecture firm. Said Vera, “I strongly believe it will be a very positive experience showing with all the talented designers and hopefully, we will be able to follow the footsteps of the presenters in the past seasons.”

Kim Pham

From having a youthful curiosity to a mature mentality, Kim Pham returns to Fashion for a Passion now as a woman who feels her aesthetic has evolved since she presented at FFAP at the tender age of 17 when she was a senior at North Garland High School. Now 21 and a decorated graduate of UNT’s school of fashion and design, Kim said, “I’ve grown up, and I’ve thought more about the business side of fashion and thinking about how it’s marketable. I’m gearing more toward ready-to-wear, unique but more marketable pieces.” Her collection will show an Aztec influence, using gold jewelry, as well as maroon, dark brown and black colors. Additionally, fur and alligator are among the varying textures she will incorporate into her clothes.

Becky Hollands

One source of inspiration for Becky Hollands’ work right now is the theme “Diamond in the Rough.” She hopes to “really take texture and the colors and facets of rough diamonds to my collection.” With a Cantonese mother and European father, Hollands said her biracial background has really affected her perspective on everything, and in some cases, extreme perspectives. Becky described her current work as “Overall, really just playing with movement and space with the composition of my pieces.”

Danh Ta

“What will be different this year is the anticipation,” Danh Ta said. Presenting for another year in a row, Danh will unveil his Spring/Summer 2014 collection.  Danh said, “My work is [inspired by] Elizabeth Taylor’s movie, Cleopatra.  [I have] taken her iconic role as an Egyptian queen to embody strength and beauty into my next collection.”

Jerry Matthews | Nine Muses

“Last season, fall was the seductress,” Jerry Matthew said. “This season for spring, she is flirtatious,” he explained when discussing how he will showcase both seasons at the event. He returns to FFAP for a second time, although now with the new label Nine Muses, created with co-designer Francesca Viamonte. The label name is a nod to the story about the Goddess of Clarity and how she gave birth to nine muses. Each season, the designers have nine sources of inspiration; Fall 2013 includes strong women of film and pop culture, while Spring 2014 was heavily influenced by supermodels.

Cac Lam | Cac DeMode

Fashion for a Passion always seems to include a graduate from the illustrious The Art Institute of Dallas, and this year we give you Cac DeMode Designs. Based in New York, but living in Texas, Cac’s designs are like her – inspired by the fashion forward, romanticism, femininity, individuality, Eastern and Western designs. There’s no other way to describe it (or her) — eclectic and eccentric.

Hanh Dang | Lucy Dang

They say third time’s a charm, and for Hanh Dang of Lucy Dang, the third time is just as memorable as the others. From watching Hanh Dang grow from a fledgeling designer to being named Texas’ Next Top Designer to winning a $10 million contract with Belk, audience members can truly see what she is made of when she follows her heart. “The first time that I showed, we were emerging, and the second year, we were emerging, but this time around, I feel like we’ve emerged…It feels great to be a veteran,” Hanh said.

Tickets to Fashion for a Passion range from $50 to $100 and go on sale exclusively online starting Thursday, September 12th at the FFAP Event Page. 

For more press/media information on the event, please contact Elizabeth Dinh or Annie Tran at

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 or


5th Annual Fashion for a Passion Line-up Announced

FFAP_logoDALLAS, TX – Against The Grain Productions recently selected eight emerging designers to join their elite roster of Presenting Designers at their upcoming and wildly popular charity event, Fashion for a Passion.  Now in its fifth year, the evening that brings together a bevy of Asian American artists has become known not only as as a celebration of up and coming talent, but also a springboard for careers.  Past FFAP alum include Khanh Nguyen of Nha Khanh, who started with the event four years ago and has since gone onto be featured in Saks Fifth Avenue and Neiman Marcus, Hanh Dang of Lucy Dang who recently won the title of Texas Next Top Designer, and Project Runway Season 2 winner Chloe Dao.

Fashion for a Passion will take place on Saturday, October 12th at the Dallas Contemporary, located at 161 Glass Street in the Dallas Design District. This year’s roster includes an eclectic and diverse group that is sure to entertain and inspire. Said Tammy Nguyen Lee, ATG President/Founder, “Each year, Fashion for a Passion is painstakingly planned down to the finest details in an effort to create a quality platform that promotes a new generation of young and exciting Asian American artists and to bring the community together. This year promises to deliver yet another memorable evening. We can’t wait to share this talent with the audience and raise money and awareness for ATG’s orphanages, scholarship funds and outreach programs.”

Introducing the 2013 FFAP Presenting Designers:


2013 marks Cykochik’s 10Year Anniversary! Cykochik Custom Handbags was first conceived in the small Southern Methodist University dorm room of Vietnamese American designer Nikki Duong Koenig in 2003. While living in Dallas and working on her BA in Advertising and Art at SMU, Nikki naturally combined her passion for art, fashion, and design to produce an innovative line of custom-made and eco-friendly vegan handbags featuring meticulous reverse appliqué designs proudly handmade in Dallas. Upon graduation in 2005, Nikki jetted off to New York City’s Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT). There, she honed her design and business skills in their CEO program on nights and weekends while working full time as an advertising art director at global advertising agencies.

In 2013, after a decade of growing her business part time, 30 year-old Nikki took the leap to pursue her passion full time. She’d successfully raised more than her $10,000 goal in 30 days to produce Cykochik’s Artist Series 3 :: 10 Year Anniversary Collection, on the crowdfunding site Kickstarter. With the tremendous support from Cykochik’s fans, her friends and family, Nikki made the decision to leave the marketing world to grow her vision for Cykochik’s creative community of artists, artisans and art patrons worldwide in creating fun, custom, well-made, socially responsible and eco-friendly handbags and accessories.

Cykochik is a proud member of PETA Business Friends and supports the arts through the MAC – McKinney Avenue Contemporary, Art Love Magic, ArtCon, ATG Against The Grain Productions, and other local nonprofit organizations.

Design Inspiration: Much of  Nikki’s fun, unique, and vibrant aesthetic is drawn from her travels, experiences living in Vietnam, Dallas, and NYC and her love for art, photography and nature.

What does it mean to go Against The Grain: “It’s a state-of-mind, being able to trust/follow my instincts and not second-guessing myself despite external obstacles or influences.”

“It is an honor to be a returning presenting designer at FFAP, especially for the 5th Anniversary! In showing my 10 Year Anniversary Collection and sharing my story, I hope to inspire other artists/designers to also be bold and pursue their dreams, because it’s never too late. I also hope to raise more awareness for ATG’s cause and funding to help supported orphanages and future Asian American artists and leaders.”

ffap-pr-vera-wangVERA WANG | VIVIONA

Vera Wang is a self proclaimed geek.  Born and raised in China, she graduated with a degree in English Language and Literature. Vera has always been passionate about high technology and how technology can impact day-to-day lives.  So she didn’t hesitate to pick Computer Science as a major when she moved to the United Stated 13 years ago and went to UNT to pursue her Masters.

Vera is passionate about fashion.  She fell in love with it when she laid eyes on Vogue for the very first time when she was a kid.  In 2007, Vera got in touch with a jewelry designer who she helped private label a pair of earring designs. This eventually led to the launch of Viviona in 2007,  an elite private label service company.
Vera currently serves as the CEO of Viviona, providing A to Z services to individuals who want to launch their fashion or beauty line.  Viviona has always been enthusiastic about helping new uprising designers.  Her creativity and her passion for fashion combined with her geeky side lead to the site, a crowdfunding platform that Viviona sponsored aiming to help designers to collect funding through pre-launching some of their featured designs.

Viviona launched its own swimwear label in 2012.

Design inspiration: Classic yet bold, retro yet contemporary, simple yet sophisticated

What does it mean to go Against The Grain: “Helping build better communities.”

“As a minority myself and Asian in whole as minorities, we need to work together to bring community awareness and voice together as a unity. I am very excited to be chosen as one of the presenters. Fashion for a Passion has becoming one of the few up-scale fashion shows in Dallas.”

ffap-pr-kim-phamKIM PHAM

Kim Pham, 21 years old, graduated from The University of North Texas with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Fashion Design, a minor in Business Administration in Marketing and Electronic Commerce. She continued to foster her creative passion throughout her academic years, while winning many national and international awards.

Design inspiration: Kim’s design philosophy is to empower women with confidence through enhancing their beautiful curves. Her designs blend together an eclectic style, a mixture of bold and elegance combined with a contemporary sophistication. She strives to create chic and effortless clothing for the modern woman – always on the go and is not afraid to make her presence felt. She takes pride in her meticulous attention to detail; fine craftsmanship is apparent in every garment she creates. She embraces her keen understanding of the business world, creating designs that are both marketable and affordable for all types of women.

Honors/Awards:  Her most recognized achievement is being chosen to represent the United Sates in the International Fur Remix Competition held in Milan, Italy. The competition, sponsored by the International Fur Trade Federation, provided her the opportunity to work with leaders in the fur industry like Dennis Basso and The North American Fur Auction (NAFA). She was later personally invited by NAFA to visit the company’s head quarter in Toronto, Canada, where she met with the executives of NAFA and received hands on training on designing with fur and luxury apparel. Kim later received the Best of Show Grand Prize at the prestigious Fashion Group International’s Competition against students across 44 universities from the US. The prize – an internship in France – allowed her to study Parisian haute couture with the renowned Paris American Academy.

What does it mean to go Against The Grain“’Expect the unexpected, be the unexpected.’” It means to conquer your dreams and be prepared to make the best of what life throws at you, and furthermore, to be the extraordinary and inspiration for change in the world.”

“It is an honor for me to be chosen to return to FFAP as a presenting designer. I am very grateful to have been with ATG since the very first FFAP. It has been a long and memorable journey. Watching FFAP grow and transform into what it is now has been a surreal experience. In the very first FFAP, I was merely seventeen – young and innocent. The experience was a raw expression of my youthful creativity and it has opened my eyes to many possibilities for my career. It allowed me an invaluable experience and opportunities to network with professionals that I still have close bonds with until this day.

Now, as a graduate and professional, my design aesthetics has matured. My time spent studying fashion and business has transformed me into a designer and entrepreneur that I am today. I design for the modern day woman with an eclectic style, a mixture of bold and elegance combined with a contemporary sophistication. I embrace my understanding of the business world, creating designs that are both marketable and affordable for all types of women.

I hope my continued participation with ATG will allow me exposure and support for my budding career. It makes me feel great to be a part of such a great cause and use my talent to benefit the community as a whole.”

ffap-pr-becky-hollands2BECKY HOLLANDS

Though born in the United States, Becky Hollands was brought back to Hong Kong as an infant and grew up in the then British Colony. Her mother of Chinese descent and father of British descent have both been very influential in her life. Becky’s aesthetic focuses on finding balance in extreme detail and free form drapery just like finding balance in her eastern and western bi-cultural upbringing. Becky concentrates on detailed techniques with contemporary elements in the goal of giving her designs a note of “effortlessness.”

Becky and her family moved back to the United States and resided in Houston, TX where she finished her primary and secondary school education. She had always grown up wearing uniforms both in Hong Kong and Houston, and her fascination with fashion grew to styling outfits for “free dress” days, flipping though pages of magazines and borrowing pieces from her mother’s closet.

Becky received her Bachelor of Science degree in Apparel Design and Manufacturing and minors in Art, Portuguese, and Mandarin from Texas Tech University. After being in the Merchandising/Sales world for the past two years, Becky, at age 28, is ready to embark for dream of developing her brand.

Design inspiration: Her inspiration comes from her family, different cultures, architecture and her surroundings. Her designs represent elegance and effortlessness in a contemporary and versatile way. Utilization of form and movement are prevalent in her work.

Honors/Awards: She was greatly involved as Representative in Dean’s Leadership Council, Fashion Group International competitions and received the Glenna Goodacre Scholarship for Creativity.

What does it mean to go Against The Grain:  “Having an indomitable spirit. I have learned having an indomitable spirit in everything I do impels me to take action whether it may be a lifelong dream, my outlook on things, or the perseverance I endure through my everyday challenges. Increasing this indomitable spirit that that has compelled me to trust my instincts, believe in myself, do the best I can in anything I pursue and continue in the path and passions I have chosen.”

“I am so honored ATG has extended this opportunity for me to present at FFAP.  I hope to represent my community, inspire others through my work, and support the arts and raise awareness while representing ATG.”

ffap-pr-danh-taDANH TA

Danh Ta is a 29 year-old Vietnamese designer born in Thailand to a tailor & painter. His family immigrated to the United States & settled in Oklahoma. Being raised by parents compelled to use their artistic talents to make ends meet, the importance of creativity in life wash instilled in him at an early age.

Upon graduating high school, Danh enrolled in the fashion program at the Art Institute of Dallas in 2003. During his studies, his existing love for art & fashion flourished. He cultivated his talent for re-conceptualizing the dress and debuted his first collection for Fall/Winter 2008.

Throughout his fashion journey, from local fashion shows & now with his debut of his Spring/Summer 2014 RTW collection at San Diego Fashion Week this Fall, his designs have become recognized for their bold contemporary detailing. The Danh Ta collection has become the epitome of sensuous & chic designs, which are elegantly constructed for the modern day woman that can take her from day to night.

Design inspiration: Sensuous, chic aesthetics, custom sewn by hand, attention to detail inspired by minimalism/simplicity

What does it mean to go Against The Grain: “It means everything; it’s the ability and will to do anything.”

“To be chosen again for this year’s FFAP makes me a veteran.  I’m honored to showcase my latest Spring/Summer 2014 RTW collection, inspired by Elizabeth Taylor’s movie Cleopatra.  I hope to spread my brand vision in Dallas, Oklahoma City, San Diego and Los Angeles.”

ffap-pr-cac-lamCAC LAM | CAC DEMODE

Cac Lam is the 26  year-old Vietnamese designer and seamstress behind Cac Demode Designs. She is a graduate of The Art Institute of Dallas and interned in Milan, Italy. Cac’s inspiration draws from the mix of Eastern and Western designs. Her design aesthetic combines romanticism, fashion forward, and ultimately expresses feminity, individuality and choice. Cac Lam is based in New York City.

Design inspiration: Fashion forward, romanticism, femininity, individuality, Eastern and Western designs

What does it mean to go Against The Grain: “Believing in your ideas, creations and defending them to the end; even if they are contrary to society’s expectations. I believe going against the norm introduces hardships that need to be overcome. One could gain from the experiences and challenging the standard way for creating new paths. It motivates others to really think about the situations and what they believe in, not just take sides based on the popularity of opinions or ideas; making our world more colorful and full of modern inventions.”

“I am very honored to be chosen to showcase once again this year in Fashion For Passion. I had an amazing time in these past years at the event. I am very excited to have another opportunity to help raise money for the Vietnamese orphanage. This year I am hoping to raise more than what we had achieved last year.”

ffap-pr-hanh-dangHANH DANG | LUCY DANG

Hanh Dang, the a 30 year-old Vietnamese designer behind label Lucy Dang, is based in Dallas has received much esteem since launching in 2011. Her passion and skills were cultivated at the University of North Texas’ College of Visual Arts and Design, where she earned a BFA in Fashion Design. During her time in New York City, she worked with renowned brands such as Nicole Miller, Rebecca Taylor, Kai Kuhne and Dillard’s Inc. Lucy was particularly inspired by Rebecca Taylor and her business partner Elizabeth Bugdaycay because of their success in fashion. She and her own business partner, Blanca Renteria, aspires to be like them.

Design inspiration: Lucy Dang’s designs are inspired by growing up in the South, and the idea of reverie to another era. Her girly, wistful and elegant designs reflect her own lifestyle.

Honors/Awards: Winner of 2013 Texas Next Top Designer and Southern Living Magazine’s “New Southern Icon”

What does it mean to go Against The Grain: “Stepping back from what is easy.  Success is not easy. Giving to others and sacrificing your time, energy and money is not easy. All the good that was ever achieved in this world was won, by going against the grain.”

“This year will be my third time showing at Fashion for a Passion and I am hoping that we break all fundraising records again.  Personally I am beyond thrilled and deeply honored that I can be a part of this amazing charity that does so much good.”

ffap-pr-jerry-matthewsJERRY MATTHEWS | NINE MUSES

Jerry Matthews is a 22 yr old (23 in August) Filipino/Caucasian(Polish) creative director/ designer of a Dallas-based women’s luxury label Nine Muses. Jerry attended the Art Institute of Dallas. His clean and sophisticated aesthetic draws from his inspiration in music and in strong women in history and even in fiction.

Design inspiration: Clean, simple, sophisticated, tailored, women’s luxury clothing that’s progressive and edgy. Each season, the collection is inspired by nine muses. For the Nine Muses Fall 2013 collection, the muses included Lana Del Rey, Brigitte Bardot, Earth Kitt, Bonnie Parker, Jessica Rabbit, Catwoman, etc. “My inspiration in life is constantly changing. I am a combined effort of everybody/everything I’ve ever known.”

Honors/Awards: First Place in the 2008 Art Institute of Dallas’ “National Fashion Design Scholarship Competition” and “Outstanding Graduate in Fashion Design” in March of 2012

What does it mean to go Against The Grain: “Pursuing something that you truly feel passionate about despite it being out of the ordinary or what’s expected of you. I think that the title is perfect for this charity because everyone involved is so passionate about this cause, and it’s awesome to see that and to be apart of it.”

“It really means a lot to be chosen. I remember attending one of the first FFAP events as a student, and I really wanted to one day be apart of it, and now I am. It is my second year now, and it is by far my favorite event in Dallas, because everyone is so passionate and lovely. The event is always so spectacular and everyone is so supportive. I can’t wait to see how ATG makes it even bigger and better this year. Also, it’s so great to do something I love, while giving back to an amazing cause.”

This year’s show will be emceed by two of Dallas’ most talented and beautiful public figures — LeeAnne Locken, an actress/spokesperson and regular fashionista on the social scene. She will be joined by Elizabeth Dinh, a reporter for KTVT CBS 11, former Miss Asian American Texas and a Board member of Against The Grain Productions.

LeeAnne Locken
LeeAnne Locken
Elizabeth Dinh
Elizabeth Dinh

Event tickets range from $50 for General Admission, $75-$100 for VIP/Reserved and will go on sale in September. Visit for more information.  Sponsorship opportunities are available by emailing

Watch the 2012 Fashion for a Passion Highlight video:

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 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


Passing the Torch: President Ford Centennial Birthday and Operation Babylift Reunion Celebration

Torch1975Passing the Torch: President Ford Centennial Birthday and  Operation Babylift Reunion Celebration

By Jared Rehberg, Director of Community Outreach (National)

It’s been 38 years since I was adopted from Vietnam during Operation Babylift and began my journey in the United States. During the years I often stopped to think about the other adoptees, the other Vietnamese families that left Vietnam and the volunteers from Operation Babylift. In 2000, I had the pleasure to attend two reunions and catch up with fellow adoptees and learn more about our special history together. As the years went by I lost contact with many of the adoptees. In 2009 I joined forces with ATG founder, Tammy Nguyen Lee to produce a documentary film called Operation Babylift: The Lost Children of Vietnam. It was an honor to meet many of the heroes of the babylift and make new Vietnamese adoptee friends. Facebook groups have slowly reconnected me with adoptees from around the world, pre and post Operation Babylift.

This summer, Vietnamese American and founder of non-profit organization Torch 1975 Inc. has planned a special gathering to bring our special community together once again to reconnect and honor our past.

Torch 1975 Inc. ( a non-profit and non-partisan organization has announced the President Ford Centennial Birthday and Operation Babylift Reunion Celebration. The gathering will be held in Dana Point, Calif. July 12-15, 2013. Torch 1975 will bring together Original Flight Crew, Veterans and War Orphans to Celebrate and Honor Former President’s Efforts. This reunion will feature a panel of Operation Babylift participants and War Orphans.

“This year’s Operation Babylift reunion will have an additional impact because of the Centennial birthday of Gerald R. Ford,” says Torch1975 founder Jessica Nguyen. “We are honored to host such an amazing group of people. We have a fantastic gala planned for attendees around the Centennial birthday on Saturday evening, July 13th. We are already expecting International guests and members of the original crew of Operation Babylift (OBL).  We are looking forward to reuniting people that haven’t seen each other since 1975.  It will be an amazing event to remember!”

Keynote Speakers of the event include:

•      Ross Meador:  Attorney, OBL Coordinator in Saigon in 1975

•      LeAnn Thieman: National Hall of Fame public speaker, OBL author – book “This Must Be My Brother”, OBL adoptive parent

The event will be kicked off on Saturday, July 13th at 10:00 am with a tribute to President Ford and reenactment of the events that took place on April 5, 1975. All events are open to the public and include a panel discussion from reunited veterans and refugees from Operation Babylift on Sunday, July 14 at the OC Sailing & Events Center.

Panel presentations include:

•      The C-5A Galaxy Incident: Discussion & Aftermath

•      The Journey to America & Beyond

•      Adoptee Babies & Parents: Challenges & Victories

The event will commence on Monday, July 15th, celebrating Gerald Ford’s favorite pastime: Golf. The Gerald R. Ford Memorial Golf Tournament will take place from 7:00 am to 2:00 pm at San Juan Hills Golf Club in San Juan Capistrano. Calif.

Torch 1975 is actively accepting corporate sponsorship for this year’s event. To get involved please contact Jessica Nguyen at

You can learn more about event schedule and details here:

Guests can register for Gerald Ford Centennial Gala and Operation Babylift Reunion event by visiting

jessicajoehomepageI recently had the chance to ask Torch 1975 founder, Jessica Nguyen a few questions. Check out the interview below.

1. What inspired you to bring this event together?

As you see in my Epilogue, 1975 is a key element in my entire life.  I have researched many areas of the 1975 era:  refugees, immigrations, children, families, generations, Fall of Saigon, New Economic Zones, Children of Vietnam War, Soldiers, Communists, death, America and the freedom world, adoption, survivors, military, etc…  One of the areas that attracted my concentration the most was how other children were affected by the war?  And of course, Operation Babylift (OBL) with the stories of some 3000 babies and their lives airlifted out of Vietnam in the closing days of Vietnam War, being adopted and living overseas always comes up on the top of the list of any on-line search return.  I first found out about OBL in late 2011.

OBL is so fascinating, I am not the only one who knows about OBL; cannot leave it alone without further researching.  Being aided by Social Media, I was able to connect at first with your group via Mr. Phil Wise – a C-5A Galaxy crash survivor and a Vietnam Veteran – right on April 4th last year; many crash survivors consider April 4th 1975 as their second birthday.

I invested more and more time to learn and understand about the nature of the story.  I see President Ford as a hero, a Father of all these OBL children.  I was so touched and came to tears when I read the article about April 3rd 1975 – the date he encountered hostility from major broadcasting companies about his decision to evacuate War Orphans from Vietnam.  Many of his staff members were also against this move.  Despite the red-tape and bureaucracy in Washington DC, he stood firm in his decision; and the result is our Children of Vietnam War can be rescued, survive, and grow up peacefully in this freedom land – America!  He even went the extra mile to personally greet the babies arriving in San Francisco Int’l airport on April 5th, 1975.

As a child who grew up with only one parent – my mother, I often question how other children grew up with the lack of a parent like myself?  I am so amazed how you guys grew up as family adoptees to be fine people like we see in this group. The OBL community is indeed quite wonderful.  Looking deeper I can see Chris Colan, Mindy Kelpe, Tim Holtan, Kate Bukart, Jim Zimmerly, Jared Rehberg, Gregory Hodges, each and every one of you, a portrait exactly like your family’s last name.  I sometime wonder why not Jared Colan or vice versa?   God really arranged everything?  There must be a special power, besides the help of President Ford, to place each of you in the right family.  Adoption is great!

President Ford, my hero, author of OBL, and his birthday is coming up this July.  We are so thankful and forever indebted to him for Operation Babylift  – one of the greatest humanitarian efforts of the 20th century.  There is no better time for Children of Vietnam War like us to express our gratitude and appreciation to him by gathering together to commemorate him and his legacy to America with Torch 1975 Inc’s event “PRESIDENT FORD CENTENNIAL BIRTHDAY AND OPERATION BABYLIFT REUNION CELEBRATION.”

2. Is there a particular highlight of the weekend you are excited about?

Beside the Tribute/Reenactment on Saturday morning 07.13.13 and the 100th Birthday cake cutting, sharing, and Birthday song Tribute during President Ford Centennial Gala on Saturday evening 07.13.13, the PANEL/PRESENTATIONS & VENDORS on Sunday afternoon 07.14.13 is very revealing.  It consists of history direct with panelists, strong Vietnamese cultural roots with authentic food, Vietnamese Ao Dai fashion show modeling by OBL babies and their offspring, Vietnamese songs, etc…

3 significant Panels with first-hand experience Panelists:

v  The C-5A Galaxy Incident: Discussion & Aftermath

v  The Journey to America & Beyond

v  Adoptee Babies & Parents: Challenges & Victories

  • Book Signing opportunities by many OBL book authors
  • Authentic Vietnamese foods:  Filet Mignon Pho, egg rolls, spring rolls, chow-mein, etc…
  • Fashion Show (Vietnamese Ao Dai)

  3. For all the adoptees around the world who can’t make it, is there anything you’d like to say or share with them?

As Children born during the War time and growing up in hardship, we have a common bond.  We should keep in touch, support each other as much as we can, stay in the loop and network by all possible means.  Join the group, share your stories, pass the word about our EVENT for your friends/adoptees to come and meet one another, buy our Event DVD, etc…  We would love to see and hear from all OBL members and adoptees out there worldwide.  ‘Hi & Hugs’ are sending your way from us!

For more about Jessica, visit:



About Torch 1975 Inc.

Torch 1975 Inc. ( is a non-profit, non-partisan organization working to support and serve America’s Veterans.  Based in Dana Point, Calif. – The mission of the organization is ‘ECHO’:  Educate; Connect; Heal; and Optimize situations for Veterans dealing with Readjustment issues, Employment, Educational Assistance, Scholarships, and Family Planning.  The organization was founded by Jessica Nguyen, a POW’s daughter, and was later joined by Colonel Joe Snyder – a retired Marine and former Mayor of Dana Point, Calif.

Torch 1975, Incorporated is a non-profit, non-partisan 501(c)(3) charitable organization dedicated to supporting America’s Veterans. Torch 1975’s California entity license is C3399380, Federal EIN number is 45-4324829. Donations are tax-deductible to the fullest extent of the law.


“We All Have a Story…” Recapping the 2nd Annual Groundbreakers Speak

DALLAS, TX – In honor of Asian-Pacific American Heritage Month, seven trailblazing Asian Americans told their personal stories about their paths to success at Against The Grain Productions’ 2nd Annual Groundbreakers Speak event on Saturday May 11, 2013. Surrounded by the beautiful pieces at The Crow Collection of Asian Art in Downtown Dallas, more than 100 guests packed into the museum’s main gallery to enjoy champagne, hors d’oeuvres and art before settling in to listen to each speaker’s TED-inspired personal presentation.  After sharing their diverse perspectives, speakers joined together as a panel to answer questions and cover hard-hitting issues about identity, cultural barriers, motivation and solutions to nurture leadership in the community. Imparting their insight, there were moments both humorous and poignant. The event concluded with a unique half hour where guests got to interact with speakers one-on-one.

The goal of the afternoon was to give people of all ages a chance to hear and meet influential leaders. It was also about empowering individuals to realize their potential. President/Founder and event moderator Tammy Nguyen Lee said, “Groundbreakers Speak was created to fulfill a need and is unlike most any other event that ATG does. It’s meant to be more intimate and engage with people on a personal level, to create meaningful conversation, provoke deep thought and spark serious leadership. We’re trying to give people a glimpse into who they can be and what we are capable of becoming as a community.”

It was a rewarding and memorable day for our speakers as well. Here’s what they are saying, as they continue to motivate and inspire others to go Against The Grain:

Former Dallas Cowboy and the first Vietnamese player in the NFL, Dat Nguyen: “There’s nothing wrong with dreaming big, But you have to put time and effort in order to gain an edge. It’s all about attitude.”

Director of Education at The Crow Collection of Asian Art, Dr. Karin Oen: “Maybe part of our goals in our generation is to contribute and build to create visibility across the new border whether you choose to be in the arts or entertainment.”

Vice President of Programming, Brand Integration at HGTV and DIY Network, Kent Takano: “Be prepared for the opportunity… find something you really want to do, because if you didn’t enjoy doing whatever, you’re not going to be good at it.”

Founder and CEO of Fur Face Boy, Hai Mai: “I hope my words, thoughts and passions could make the slightest difference in someone’s life. I know that the words that everyone spoke of their life definitely sparked emotions for me.”

Emmy-nominated journalist, host and KHOU news anchor, Lily Jang: “What a wonderful experience to share, learn and inspire all at the same time. We all have a story.. and ATG Productions allowed me to tell mine. I’m grateful for this experience to be among some amazing trailblazers. Can’t wait to come back!”

Lawyer, advocate and politician, Richard Jung: “Instead of being afraid to lose face, be courageous enough to make a face and make face in the direction that you want.. because you have qualities and characteristics that are going to help you succeed.”

Founder of Baal Dan Charities, Tanya Pinto: “It was an honor to be part of this event as a panelist. The sheer talent and tenacity of the speakers featured is a testament to the achievements of the Asian American citizens of Texas!”

Video clips of each speaker will be available on ATG’s YouTube 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 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


Words of Praise

“In a few words; it was one of the best speaking engagements I’ve attended; ‘Great life stories on self motivation and powerful accomplishments.’ – David Rico of BB&T Bank

“Uber Dallas wants to thank ATG for allowing us to be apart of this wonderful event. The Groundbreakers Speak event was truly an enlightening experience. From the beautiful setting itself to the panel discussion, all were able to get a deeper understanding of the issues past and present facing the Asian American community and the path to future growth. We look forward to future partnerships with Tammy and the ATG team!” – Leandre of Uber Dallas


Dallas Morning News: Asian pioneers’ stories worth sharing

l to r, Dat Nguyen, Karin Oen, Kent Takano, Ha Mai, Lily Jang, Richard Jung and Tanya Pintoat the Groundbreakers Speak event at the Crow Collection.
l to r, Dat Nguyen, Karin Oen, Kent Takano, Ha Mai, Lily Jang, Richard Jung and Tanya Pintoat the Groundbreakers Speak event at the Crow Collection.



Deborah Fleck

Published: 15 May 2013 11:12 PM

Updated: 16 May 2013 11:25 AM


Dat Nguyen was often told he was too small to play football. Yet he was the first Vietnamese-American in the NFL. He was drafted by the Cowboys and said he couldn’t believe he was playing with Troy Aikman, Emmitt Smith and Michael Irvin.

“There’s nothing wrong with dreaming big,” said the ESPN sportscaster. “But you have to put time and effort in order to gain an edge. It’s all about attitude.”

Nguyen was one of seven panelists who shared their journeys at Groundbreakers Speak: A Conversation With Asian American Movers and Shakers. Saturday’s event was sponsored by Against The Grain Productions and held at the Crow Collection in Dallas. Tammy Nguyen Lee, founder of ATG, moderated the discussion.

Kent Takano, a vice president for HGTV and DIY Network, said he never expected to watch television for a living. In an acting class, he met someone in television who helped him land an internship. Takano’s been in television ever since.

Karin Oen, director of education at the Crow Collection, is passionate about building community through art institutions. UT Arlington graduate Ha Mai carved a path from design studio work to Fur Face Boy, his independent apparel line. Lily Jang said she loves what she does as a television journalist in Houston. Lawyer, advocate and politician Richard Jung joked that he wanted to be Nguyen, but admitted he found his calling in immigration law and helping others.

Tanya Pinto left a large advertising agency to start Baal Dan Charities, a nonprofit helping children around the world. She also runs her own firm, Shakti Consulting.

Nguyen Lee said each of the panelists “put fear aside to follow their passion.” This is her second Groundbreakers event, which she holds in honor of Asian Pacific American Heritage Month. Visit

Asia World Media: Asian Celebrity Groundbreakers Speak 2013, Featuring Dat Nguyen, Kent Takano, Lily Jang And More

Asian Celebrity Groundbreakers Speak 2013, Featuring Dat Nguyen, Kent Takano, Lily Jang And More

By Asia World Media

Left to Right: Kent Takano, Tanya Pinto, Karin Oen, Dat Nguyen, Tammy Nguyen Lee, Lily Jang, Ha Mai, Richard Jung

In honor of Asian American Heritage Month, Tammy Nguyen Lee of Against The Grain Productions (ATG) and Amy Lewis Hofland of the Crow Collection of Asian Art Museum partnered up to host the 2nd Annual Groundbreakers Speak: A Conversation with Movers and Shakers in Dallas, TX. The family-friendly event brought together an amazing and diverse panel of Asian American professionals and celebrities, including Dat Nguyen (ESPN Radio Host & Former NFL/Dallas Cowboy Linebacker), Kent Takano (Executive Producer of Branded Entertainment for HGTV), Richard Jung (Attorney/Advocate/Politician), Tanya Pinto (Founder of Baal Dan Charity), Karin Oen (Director of Education at the Crow Collection of Asian Art), Ha Mai (Founder/CEO of Fur Face Boy) and Lily Jang (TV Host and News Anchor at KHOU). Each speaker has a unique experience to share his/her inspiring, personal and success story.

Over 100 guests crowded into the Crow’s Bronze Circle Room surrounded by exquisite works of art from China, Japan, and India. While enjoying champagne and dessert, guests have the special opportunity to engage with Asian American movers and shakers on important issues affecting the Asian American community.

“Being a groundbreaker has to do with pushing asides fears and embracing new challenges, ” said Richard Jung, managing partner of Jung Ko, PLLC. A passionate advocate for the Asian American community, Richard Jung believed, “As Asian Americans, we must overcome the cultural inhibitions about standing out and standing our ground. Our elders, our children, our communities need leaders who willing to stand out and stand up for their interests.”

Elsewhere Dat Nguyen’s speech at NFL and Dallas Cowboy’s Day was pretty legendary, giving the other amazing speech a run for its money. An inspiration to many Asian NFL enthusiast, Dat Nguyen is the first Vietnamese American to play in the NFL as a Dallas Cowboy linebacker during the late 1990s. After a successful career in the NFL, Dat Nguyen is currently with Sports talk Radio at ESPN San Antonio. Dat Nguyen articulate, “I would like [for you] to walk away from the event knowing don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t do something. There’s nothing wrong with dreaming big, but you have to put time and effort in order to gain an edge. It’s all about attitude!”

“Everyone can be a groundbreaker – they simply have to figure out what their unique talent is and then follow that passion to create something, … Then watch the magic unfold, ” said Tanya Pinto, Founder of Baal Dan Charity.