Tag: ATG Against The Grain Productions

Female Game Changers Gather at 3rd Annual Groundbreakers Speak


DALLAS, TX – Seven game-changing female Asian American leaders gathered to share personal stories about their paths to success at Against The Grain Productions’ 3rd Annual Groundbreakers Speak event on Saturday March 2, 2014, hosted at The Crow Collection of Asian Art. Despite the blustery weather conditions, guests packed into the museum’s main gallery to enjoy hors d’oeuvres, wine, coffee and art before settling in to listen to each speaker’s TED-inspired personal presentation around this year’s theme: “Game Changers: Playing to Win.” 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 providing mentorship and inspiration, 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”:

Manager of eSports at Blizzard, Kim Phan: “DO what makes you passionate instead of thinking about what makes you passionate. The rest will follow. And remember the words of George Eliot, ‘It is never too late to be what we might have been.’”

Manager of Entertainment Diversity Initiatives for NBC, Grace Borrero Moss: “I am so honored to be included in such an incredible group of strong and successful women.  Listening to everyone’s stories and engaging with other young Asian Americans who are, themselves, making waves in their respective fields is really empowering.  I now feel even more motivated and energized to make an even stronger impact in my field.  Events like these and organizations like ATG are at the forefront of making breakthroughs within the Asian American community.”

Senior Reporter at KERA, Doualy Xaykaothao: “We must remember to continue building bridges across diverse communities, whether via social media or right in your own neighborhoods. A morsel of new information can have great impact in our lives, in our universe. And don’t forget, service to the public is possibly one of the greatest gifts you can give.”

Managing Partner of Ernst & Young, Thear Sy Suzuki: “I left the event inspired and energized!  The connections made were priceless.  Thank you panelists, guests, ATG and The Crow Collection of Asian Art for your authenticity and willingness to share your stories.”

Award-winning Children’s Book Author/Illustrator, LeUyen Pham: “If this amazing panel of women were anything to judge by, I think I came away with one conclusion that I feel certain of:  To succeed as each of these women have, it takes not just brains and passion, but immense courage.  I was honored to be among them, and hope that my story of how I achieved my own dreams will affect someone else, no matter to what small degree.  All change starts with something small.”

Executive Director of The Boone Family Foundation, Cynthia Yung: “It was great to hear from strong Asian women who are changing the stereotypes of model minorities.  Being quiet and obedient may make you invisible but not immune to unfair treatment.”

Lawyer, Advocate, Executive Director and General Counsel of The Asian Resource Group, Inc., Lesley Varghese: “No shortage of inspiration at Against the Grain Productions and the Crow Collection of Asian Art. Grateful to Tammy Nguyen for a unique opportunity to meet a few of the most dynamic Asian American women in the country, surrounded by mind-blowing art like “China Porsche!”

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

Read the Asia World Media Coverage.

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 www.AgainstTheGrainProductions.com or www.TheBabylift.com.


Words of Praise

“A surprise Dallas snowfall on the afternoon of Sunday, March 2nd, set the tone for an equally unpredictable and fascinating afternoon at the Crow Collection of Asian Art. I found myself hanging on every word from each expert speaker, and their surprising stories echoed through my mind long after I returned home. The obstacles they had overcome! The talents they possessed! The goals they had marked, achieved, and surpassed! Not only were the panelists’ experiences in life and careers remarkable from a groundbreaking Asian American perspective, but they sparked a drive within me to maximize my potential as a modern working woman. Kudos to ATG Productions, and I look forward to the next Groundbreakers event.” – Lisa Petty, Editor, DFW Style Daily

“My first experience at Groundbreakers Speak last year helped to forge a new relationship between ATG, NAAAP and Dallas Women’s Foundation. This year the experience confirmed exactly why it is imperative for all women to embrace their individual stories for the collective good of women everywhere. The dynamic women who shared their stories not only inspired me to embrace my personal journey but they reminded me why female ‘gamechangers’ are valuable and relevant. Women and girls should strive to take on careers and opportunities that challenge the status quo. ATG Against the Grain Productions’ Groundbreakers Speak definitely embodies that message.” – Akilah Wallace, Dallas Women’s Foundation

“ATG’s Groundbreakers Speak this year was so wonderful with strong inspiring women paving the way to success through leadership. We are so grateful to be a part of this annual event!” – Dii Kim, Founder/Owner, Pho is for Lovers

“Thanks to Tammy and the entire ATG team!  It was a tremendous honor and thrill to get to know each of you.” – Sylvia Komatsu, EVP | Chief Content Officer, KERA/KXT

“So BLESSED to be in this audience and experience this panel!  Each offered such insights and knowledge of what it takes to be a FEMALE game changer.” – LeeAnne Locken, TV Host/Actress/Author

“So honored that I had the opportunity of attending an Against the Grain event hosted by the remarkable Tammy Nguyen. The wealth of talent in the room was unmeasurable. Every single guest can contest to walking away from the flawless event being inspired, motivated, and driven to DREAM BIG.” – Yasmeen Tadia, CEO & Founder, Fluffpop

“So inspired to be surrounded by brilliant, powerful Asian American women leaders who are passionate about their careers and fostering the dreams of women around them.” – Karen Liu Pang, Director of Business Administration and Process Effectiveness, United Way of Metropolitan Dallas

“Congratulat[ions on] a successful event. The panelists were impressive, informative and a lot of fun. I am glad that we could be a partner and host.” – Jill VanGordon, Director of Education, Crow Collection of Asian Art


Female Groundbreakers Unite at Crow Collection to Share Stories of Inspiration and Motivation


DALLAS, TX – Building on the overwhelming response from the last two years,  non-profit Against The Grain Productions once again partners with The Crow Collection of Asian Art to host the 3rd 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. This year features an all-female panel for the first time speaking under the theme, “Female Groundbreakers: Playing to Win.” The family-friendly event takes place from 2:00 pm to 4:30 pm on Sunday, March 2nd at The Crow Collection of Asian Art in Dallas. At 1:00 pm, guests will have the opportunity to enjoy a guided tour of Asian art, a reception of wine, coffee and dessert preceding the event, then listen as the speakers share their insightful stories, engage in a panel of heavy hitting issues affecting the Asian American community and chat with the panelists in one-on-one round table conversation. Tickets range from $15-$25 and are now on sale at www.AgainstTheGrainProductions.com/Events.

Introducing the 2014 Groundbreakers Speak Panelists:

kim-phan-sqKim Phan – Kim is a passionate gamer, producer and community figure in the video game industry. She is currently Senior Manager of eSports at Blizzard Entertainment and is known for her love, passion and dedication in the competitive and professional gaming scene. She was born and raised in Texas, where she received her Bachelor of Science degree in Computer Science from the University of Texas at Dallas. Before joining Blizzard, she worked as a software engineer for six years at companies such as Alcatel USA and Garrett Electronics. What started out as a hobby later turned into a professional career for Kim when she accepted a job at Blizzard Entertainment in 2006.

All of the community work for video games opened a new door for Kim, when Blizzard Entertainment invited her to shoutcast their Warcraft III tournament at BlizzCon in 2005. The following year, she was offered a production job at Blizzard to work on their Online Technologies team, and she continued to moonlight as a Warcraft III shoutcaster at BlizzCon and Blizzard Worldwide Invitational events. She has also taken on roles as a host, interviewer and reporter for DIRECTV at BlizzCon events. Kim’s positions at Blizzard included production leader and manager of a security development team, and today, she leads the Blizzard eSports team. She followed her passion, devoted her time doing what she loved and landed the job of her dreams.

“I am very grateful and honored to be a guest panelist at the Groundbreakers Speak and even more geeked out that I get to represent the gaming community! I hope to inspire others with my story and have the audience walk away learning and knowing more about eSports.”

grace-moss-sqGrace Borrero Moss – Grace currently serves as the Manager of Entertainment Diversity Initiatives for NBC. In this role, she helps oversee multiple programs that focus on discovering, cultivating and showcasing talented writers, directors and actors of diverse backgrounds, with the objective of getting them staffed on NBC’s scripted programs. Before coming to NBC, Grace was the Manager of Development & New Series at the Style Network, where she oversaw new series in production, from initial pitch to delivery. She was instrumental in developing hit shows such as Kimora: Life in the Fab Lane, Ruby, Giuliana & Bill and Jerseylicious.  Grace was also part of the internal Diversity Council and worked with other cable nets to promote initiatives and track diverse talent in front of and behind the camera.  Prior to her stint at the Style Network, Grace worked as a Producer and Director on a plethora of unscripted shows on a variety of networks, including MTV, VH1, TLC and NBC.

Grace has been actively involved with numerous organizations, including Asian Pacific Americans@NBCUniversal, where she served as a Chapter Leader and Professional Development Co-Chair, and Filipinos in Hollywood, where she acts as the Co-Chair. She participated in the Women in Cable Telecommunications (WICT) 2012 Rising Leaders Program and the National Association of Multiethnicities in Communications (NAMIC) 2011 Leadership Seminar. She also won Comcast’s Ingenuity Award in 2008 for her contributions to the Style Network.  Grace is also a member of the Coalition for Asian Pacifics in Entertainment (CAPE) and Visual Communications, where she has contributed as a panelist in their annual C3 Conference.

Grace graduated from UCLA with a BA in English and Minor in Asian American Studies. She also was the founder of the Pilipino Organization of English majors (POEM) and recipient of the Royal Morales Prize in Pilipino Studies.  Grace currently resides in Los Angeles with her husband.

“By being invited to participate, it means that I’m making an impact and blazing a trail for other Asian American women in the entertainment industry.  I hope my story inspires people to pursue their dreams, even if the cards have historically been stacked against them.  TV is a very competitive business, so it’s vital that we support each other and push for programs that grant us equal access and fair opportunities.

doualy-xaykaothao-sqDoualy Xaykaothao – Doualy is Senior Reporter at NPR affiliate KERA in Dallas. She covers breaking news in North Texas and produces cultural features for the station. Before she joined KERA, she was a foreign correspondent for National Public Radio in Asia, based in Seoul, South Korea. There, she covered news out of both Pyongyang and Seoul, including the death of North Korean leader Kim Jong-il, and the suicide of former South Korean president Roh Moo-hyun. She started out at NPR in Washington, D.C. back in 1999, working as producer, editor, director and reporter for NPR’s award-winning programs. Xaykaothao is Hmong American, born in communist Laos, but raised in France and the U.S. Her name, Doualy, means “Shadow of the Moon.”

“I think people need to remember that there are Groundbreakers all around us, people who are living and doing things different from what was imagined by our parents, grandparents or those in our community. I’m behind a mic because I like the challenge of writing a story, fast and producing a sound-rich piece with only two and half minutes. If that sounds crazy, wanting to live with that kind of pressure, and deadlines every day, then maybe that’s what makes me a ground-breaker!  Figure out what you want at this moment in your life. I’m not talking about life goals. I’m talking about the present, the now, what’s around the corner? If you stay focused on that, by the end of the year, you’ll have accomplished more this way, than trying to figure out what you want in five years. And make sure you’ve got cheerleaders, a circle of men and women who will stand by you, during your worst and best moments.”

thear-suzuki-sqThear Sy Suzuki – Thear is Managing Partner of Ernst & Young’s Advisory Services business for the Southwest Region.  She provides advisory services to Fortune 500 companies across a wide range of industries, including Energy, Health, Retail/Consumer Products and Telecommunications/Media/Technology. Prior to joining Ernst & Young, Thear led Accenture’s US Advanced Systems Delivery Practice, an organization of over 500 technologists focused on delivery of technology solutions.

Within EY, Thear serves on the Americas Advisory Women’s Leadership Steering Committee, a task force focused on the retention and advancement of women to the Executive Director and Partner/Principal level.  She also serves on the Americas Inclusiveness Advisory Council, a collective think tank and action tank that drives action and progress within the business.  Thear is an Executive Sponsor for the Dallas Pan-Asian Professional Network. In the community, Thear serves on the Board of Directors of the Dallas Women’s Foundation, a non-profit organization that believes that when you invest in a woman, there is a ripple effect that benefits her family, her community and her world.  She also serves on the Advisory Board of the Back On My Feet Dallas Chapter, a national for-purpose 501(c)3 organization that uses running to help those experiencing homelessness change the way they see themselves so they can make real change in their lives that results in employment and independent living. Thear is a Senior Advisor for the Dallas Chapter of the National Association of Asian-American Professionals, a non-profit organization dedicated to developing the next generation of leaders.  A Biomedical Engineering graduate of SMU, Thear gives back to her alma mater through the SMU James E. Caswell Undergraduate Leadership Fellows Program Steering Committee.

Thear has been recognized in Forbeswomen.com, Working Mother’s Magazine, The Little PINK Book, Diversity Inc., and featured in a book by Anne Doyle called Powering Up! How America’s Women Achievers Become Leaders.  Thear is a NAAAP 100 award recipient, a prestigious award that recognizes leaders who exemplify NAAAP’s vision and mission. She is also a winner of Consulting Magazine’s 2013 “Women Leaders in Consulting Future Leader” award.

Thear’s humble beginnings as one of five siblings of war refugee parents moving between refugee camps during the Cambodian genocide, until she and her family were sponsored by the Catholic church in Dallas and brought them to the US when she was eight.  These were formative experiences directly responsible for the self-reliance, resilience and persistence that have made her a successful business advisor today. Thear lives in Plano, Texas with her husband Eric and their four sons Zachary (11), Ryden (10), Mason (7), and Alex (3).

“I’m very excited to be in the company of other Asian American leaders and I hope that collectively we can ignite passion in the audience and spur them into action. ”

leuyen-pham-sqLeUyen Pham – LeUyen is an award-winning author/illustrator of nearly sixty children’s books.  Her books include “God’s Dream,” written by Archbishop Desmond Tutu, the New York TimesBestselling series “Freckleface Strawberry,” written by Julianne Moore, “Grace for President” by Kelly DiPucchio, the Alvin Ho Series by Lenore Look and “The Boy Who Loved Math” by Deborah Heiligman, to name a few.  She also co-illustrated (with her husband Alex Puvilland) the New York Times Bestseller “Templar,” a 450-page graphic novel written by “Prince of Persia” creator Jordan Mechner.  Her books have garnered numerous awards, including the Society of Illustrators Bronze Medal, the Junior Library Guild recipient, Parent’s Magazine, the Oppenheim Toy Portfolio award, among others.  Prior to illustrating books, LeUyen began her career at Dreamworks Feature Animation as a layout artist.  LeUyen lives in San Francisco with her husband and her two adorable young boys, Leo and Adrien.

“It is an amazing time right now to be an Asian American woman, particularly in the artistic and literary landscape.  I think there’s a real hunger to hear all our stories, of our successes as well as our hardships.  I hope the audience will take away the sense that our stories have real value, and need to be shared with the world”

cynthia-yung-sqCynthia Yung –  Cynthia currently serves as Executive Director of The Boone Family Foundation, a resource for social change. In this role, she is responsible for identifying and recommending grants for nonprofit organizations that focus on supporting programs which advance equity for women and girls, improve quality of life for children and promote environmental stewardship.

Cynthia also serves on advisory boards for The Real Estate Council Community Fund and Texas Women Ventures and steering committees for the Zero to Five Funders Collaborative and Commit! Early Childhood Council. More than a decade of volunteer work on international mission trips and serving on nonprofit boards have paved the way for Ms. Yung’s transition from the corporate world to the nonprofit world.

A Telecom industry veteran, her previous corporate career includes roles in sales, strategic marketing, manufacturing operations and finance for Nortel Networks. Ms. Yung earned a Chartered Professional Accountant designation at Ernst & Young and a Bachelor of Commerce degree in Canada.

“I am excited to be with female Asian leaders who continue to forge into new territory and own what it means to lead with heart and mind.  Each of our journeys are unpredictable, no matter how much we may want to plan, and that can be a source of delight.” 

lesley-varghese-sqLesley Varghese – Lesley is Executive Director and General Counsel of the Asian American Resource Center, Inc. (AARC Inc.), a community-­based 501(c)3 organization formed in 2006 to support the construction and operation of the Asian American Resource Center facility. She is also a Lecturer at the University of Texas in Asian American Studies and law.

Lesley is a proud UT Longhorn and a law graduate of American University, where she was a Dean’s Fellow in Law & Government, a member of the Moot Court Honor Board and president of the South Asian Law Student Association. She began her legal career at McGinnis, Lochridge & Kilgore in Austin, Texas. During that time she participated on the Citizen’s Review Panel for the Office of the Police Monitor, provided pro bono representation to area non-­profits through Texas C-­BAR, and served as Chair Elect of the State Bar of Texas Asian Pacific Interest Section. Lesley subsequently practiced at the international law firm of Nixon Peabody, LLP, where she co-­‐founded the Firm’s South Asia practice and co-­chaired the Law & Policy Committee for the Boston Bar Association Bankruptcy Section. During her tenure as co-chair, the Law & Policy committee, in partnership with others, successfully lobbied the Massachusetts legislature to amend the state’s historic homestead and personal property exemptions, to better stabilize low-­income families in bankruptcy.

Lesley is the immediate past President of the North American South Asian Bar Association (NASABA) Foundation, which funds and develops nationwide legal initiatives in the areas of domestic violence, civil rights/hate crime, immigrants’ rights and community access to justice. She has been recognized for her community legal work by the Pro Bono College of Texas and with a Peabody Award for outstanding pro bono legal service. Lesley currently serves as Chair of the UT Center for Asian American Studies Advisory Committee, on the Board of Directors of the Boston Higashi School, and the Board of Trustees for the Long Center for Performing Arts. In 2013, she was a YWCA Women of the Year Nominee, a recipient of the Capital Area Progressive Democrats “Kick Ass Award”, an AARC Asian Image Awardee, and the recipient of a teaching award from the UT Division of Diversity and Community Engagement. She is a recent recipient of the IACT Trailblazer Award and the Capitol Area Asian American Democrats Advocate of the Year Award.

“Women make up more than half the talent and human capital available to any society. We need to be at the decision-making table, whether we’re talking about equal pay and opportunity, public education, technology or healthcare. Asian American women – in particular-  are an untapped legal, economic and political force. I am thrilled to join a terrific group of women to discuss our possibilities and to share my experiences advocating for the AAPI community nationally and in Texas. Many thanks to ATG Productions for making this year’s unique panel a reality.”

kim-phan-sqSylvia Komatsu (Welcome Remarks)- Sylvia is Executive Vice president and Chief Content Officer for North Texas Public Broadcasting, a not-for-profit public media organization that serves the people of North Texas through programming on KERA TV, KERA WORLD, KERA FM, KXT 91.7, Art&Seek and online and mobile resources.  She began her career as a reporter for a nightly news analysis program.  Over the next several years, she produced and executive produced documentaries and specials on a wide range of social, political and cultural issues.  She now oversees a content division that includes radio, television, digital media and educational services.

“I hope the audience leaves inspired and energized after hearing the stories of these remarkable women.”

tammy-nguyen-leeTammy Nguyen Lee – 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. In 2010, she was honored with SMU’s prestigious Distinguished Alumni Emerging Leader Award. 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. 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 www.AgainstTheGrainProductions.com or www.TheBabylift.com.

WHAT: ATG Against The Grain Productions hosts 3rd Annual “2014 Groundbreakers Speak: A Conversation of Movers and Shakers” panel
WHO: Kim Phan – Senior Manager of eSports at Blizzard,  Grace Borrero Moss – Manager of Entertainment Diversity Initiatives at NBC, Doualy Xaykaothao – Senior Reporter for KERA, Thear Sy Suzuki – Managing Partner at Ernst  & Young, LeUyen Pham – Award-winning Children’s Book Author/Illustrator, Cynthia Yung – Executive Director of The Boone Family Foundation, Lesley Varghese – Attorney/Activist, Executive Director  and General Counsel at Asian American Resource Center, Inc., Welcome remarks by Sylvia Komatsu – Executive VP/Chief Content Officer at KERA, Moderated by Tammy Nguyen Lee – ATG President/Founder, Film/TV Producer, Actor and Philanthropist
WHERE: Crow Collection of Asian Art, 2010 Flora St. Dallas, TX 75201
WHEN: Sunday, March 2nd, 2014 from 2:o0 PM – 4:30 PM
2014 Groundbreakers Speak Flyer

Orphanage Update: A Substitute Mother

By Aileen Nguyen

I have a friend who lives in Da Nang, my hometown.  We met three years ago through an acquaintance of mine while I visited Da Nang for distributions to the orphanages there.  Hong-Phan is very tall for a Vietnamese woman.  She often gets mistaken for a movie star or a model when she walks on the streets of Da Nang because she is very tall, very pretty and well-dressed.  However, that is not the reason that I want to write about her in this article. I want to talk about her dedication to the cause that ATG has been relentlessly pursuing in support of the orphans, whether they come from the streets, live in orphanages, live by themselves, or live with relatives in remote locations.  Like ATG, Hong-Phan wants to give these children the hope that there are people who care for them, who would come often to comfort and look after them.  Then, these children will be encouraged to try harder to study, so that they can escape the vicious cycle that has life has bestowed upon them.

Even with having a family of her own and also a job that requires a lot of her time and effort, Hong Phan has been instrumental to ATG’s aid activities in Vietnam during the last three years.  With her presence on the ground, ATG has been able to extend its support from the orphanages in the cities to those in remote locations.  We also were able to extend our support to orphans who lost both parents or one parent, but still live with extended families and have exemplary school achievement and good behaviors.

Hong-Phan normally comes to visit the orphanages with a SUV loaded with food and supplies purchased with the funds from ATG.  However, since Phan doesn’t own a car, she normally has to borrow the vehicle from friends or relatives so that ATG doesn’t have to incur transportation costs.

1The children from the orphanages have been seeing Hong-Phan often enough that they always break out in a loud cheers when they see her.  They call out “Co Phan den, Co Phan den!” (Auntie Phan is here. Auntie Phan is here!) and rush to the car to help unload the goodies.2

Here you see the children from the House 3 and 4 of  SPC Danang (this center takes street children and raise and trains them until they turn 18) unloading the food and supplies during Hong Phan ‘s visit this past week.

3Hong-Phan doesn’t come to visit the children with just food and supplies.  She often thinks of the children’s needs and talks to me about their mental and psychological needs.  She often talks to these children to comfort them and encourages them to do well in school, to care for each other and to continue to keep up their good behavior.  When she visits the orphanages, she goes directly into their kitchen to observe what they eat and would buy things that they didn’t often have, like meat or milk and fill up their refrigerator with those items.

She has also organized to feed the children their favorite hot meals, such as Mi Quang (a specialty noodle dish in the Danag area) and make sure that everyone has received a satisfying portion of these delicious meals.  On her recent visit this month, each of the children had at least two bowls of Mi Quang, to the point that they forgot to leave a bowl for their Guardian Director (they normally remember to do that as a courtesy).




Beside Uu Dam, SPC Danang,  Thanh Tam Center for Disable Children, Redcross Danag, Hoa Khanh Center, Quan Chau orphanage. Hong-Phan also helps us to work with the local school districts and local PTAs in the areas with extreme poverty to identify orphans/children in need and provide them with support from ATG.  Together, we have donated 100 bicycles to those children in Da Nang who are without one or both living parents and in extreme poverty, but have achieved good grades and has demonstrated good behavior.  We also provided scholarships to the orphan students of NTH Highschool.  We are in the process of distributing 20 more bicycles and 100 of warm jackets to the orphans/children in the Huong Thuy District (in the outskirt of the city of Hue.)  Hong Phan works with the local RedCross, local PTA and School Board of the districts to select qualified children to receive the aids.   I, as a member of ATG, also review the list to ensure fairness and appropriation of the selection process.  Together, we want to bring the children the care, love, hope and support that normally would come from their own mothers, now made possible by  ATG via Hong –Phan.  She really cares for these children.

For that, I often called Hong Phan a substitute mother….


December 2013


Going Against The Grain: LeUyen Pham


LeUyen Pham is an award-winning author/illustrator of nearly sixty children’s books.  Her books include “God’s Dream,” written by Archbishop Desmond Tutu, the New York Times Bestselling series “Freckleface Strawberry,” written by Julianne Moore, “Grace for President” by Kelly DiPucchio, the Alvin Ho Series by Lenore Look and “The Boy Who Loved Math” by Deborah Heiligman, to name a few.  She also co-illustrated (with her husband Alex Puvilland) the New York Times Bestseller “Templar,” a 450-page graphic novel written by “Prince of Persia” creator Jordan Mechner.  Her books have garnered numerous awards, including the Society of Illustrators Bronze Medal, the Junior Library Guild recipient, Parent’s Magazine, the Oppenheim Toy Portfolio award, among others.  Prior to illustrating books, LeUyen began her career at Dreamworks Feature Animation as a layout artist.  LeUyen lives in San Francisco with her husband and her two adorable young boys, Leo and Adrien.

Full Name:

LeUyen Pham


born Vũng Tàu, Vietnam

Current City:

San Francisco



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

I have the perfect drawing that answers that question better than I could with words.


brave fish

What made you decide to pursue a career in the book industry?

I don’t know that I decided to pursue it as much as it pursued me. I’ve loved children’s books and illustrating all my life, but I have to admit as a kid I’d never been encouraged by my parents to be an artist. They were more inclined towards a more traditional field for me. In my family, I have an older sister, two older brothers and a younger brother. We were expected to become (in that order): a doctor, a businessman, a dentist, a lawyer and an engineer. I was told that to become artist would mean confining myself to a life of poverty. Of course, this is understandable that my parents, having come from a war torn country, would want their children to pursue the safest of careers. (Also, let’s admit it, with an arsenal of children like that; my parents would never have to pay for professional services ever again! All I’d have to do would be to marry a mechanic, and they’d be covered for life!) Most of my siblings did pursue those jobs, but somehow, when it came to me, I just didn’t go that way. I went as far as attending UCLA for two years as a political science major, before jumping ship and entering art school. Even there, I was told that one could never make a living as a children’s book illustrator, that it was a side job at best. Somehow, for whatever reason, I didn’t listen. I think I’ve got some sort of internal compass in me that always points me in the way my heart needs me to go. Cornball, I know, to say that, but it’s absolutely true. So here I am, having not listened to anybody, and doing exactly what I thought i could never do. Wait a second, holy cow! I think I just accidentally answered the “going against the grain” question.

What have been some of the challenges you faced/lessons you learned as an Asian American in this field?

Seriously? The BIGGEST challenge is that NOBODY CAN PRONOUNCE MY NAME. I’m not even joking about that! I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve heard my name slaughtered before a presentation. Even some of my closest friends, even editors I’ve known for years, hesitate slightly before introducing me. I think it’s funny, though. And I usually start out any talk to elementary schools or at signings with a proper pronunciation of my name. I even renamed my website to “howdoyoupronounceuyen.com.” I figure, the day any kid can walk into a book store or library and ask for a book by me, and be able to pronounce my name correctly, is the day that I can count myself a success in this field.

Also, publishers who don’t know me who call me are always surprised to hear my voice on the phone. I think they think I’m a man. Which I like to take as close to a compliment, suggesting that my art doesn’t seem more feminine than masculine. But still, if I see another letter addressed to “Mr. LeUyen Pham”, I don’t know what I’ll do…

Other than that, though, I’d have to say that as an Asian American, the publishing field is an extremely welcoming field. I think stories that are not main stream, with culturally diverse characters, are really sought after. So I can’t say I’ve have any complaints!

What do you feel is your biggest accomplishment, and why?

I don’t think I’ve had any really big accomplishments. I think I’ve had a large number of little accomplishments that have led me to where I am. I can’t say with any certainty that any single event changed my life so much that it propelled me to where i am now. I just kept doing what I was doing, kept moving slowly towards my goals, and lo and behold, I look up and find myself having published over 50 books, happily living the life of an artist and feeling very fulfilled.

Wait a second! Holy cow, I forgot my kids. Do my kids count? They’re pretty big accomplishments! Well, actually, they’re still pretty young, maybe I should wait until they’ve moved out of the house before I can say that.

What’s up next?

Oh, brother. What’s NOT up next? I’m one extremely busy illustrator. This year alone I’ve illustrated already 6 books, and I’m not even done yet. Let’s see… I’ve just finished illustrating a book called “Vampirina Ballerina Hosts a Sleepover,” written by Anne Marie Pace. The book is about a Vampire girl who has a sleepover, but is embarrassed to show her friends her home, as she’s, well, a vampire, and her house is appropriately ghoulish. But the little Vampire girl is really me, a little Vietnamese girl, who was also embarrassed to bring over her best friend. When I was ten, my friend came over to my house and wondered at all the “Vietnamese” stuff around — the shrine to my grandparents, the fact we had to take off our shoes — she even saw chicken feet frying in my mom’s pan! I remember being so embarrassed, but now I look back and wish I’d embraced my culture more. So “Vampirina Ballerina” is a way for me to revisit that part of my life, and in the book, this little vampire girl starts out feeling embarrassed, but with the support of her family, and in realizing herself that it’s pretty cool to be different, she gets her friends to embrace her life too. Other projects? Let’s see, I have a couple board books coming out called “Pat-a-Cake” and “All Fall Down” with Candlewick Books, a huge picture book on “The Twelve Days of Christmas,” where all the different characters (maids a milkin’, lords a leapin’, etc) are represented by different ethnicities around the world (and yes, I have a Vietnamese maid a milkin’, in an ao dai, a Thai drummer, a Japanese lady dancing and all manner of all other races — see the accompanying illustration) coming out next year, a book called “The Princess in Black” written by Shannon Hale, about a very pink girly princess by day, monster-fighting super hero girl by night, and then another young reader book written by Lenore Look called “Alvin Ho”, about a young chinese boy living in Massachusetts who is absolutely afraid of everything, but in a very funny way… I also did a New York TImes Bestselling 450 graphic novel with my husband Alex Puvilland (illustrator extraordinaire and the one critic I trust the most) called “Templar,” written by Jordon Mechner. And then on top of all that, I’ve got a bunch of my own stories coming out. “No Such Thing As Little” (the illustration previously shown is one for this book), “Friends” (a story based on my youngest son), another as yet untitled project… the list kind of goes on, I’m exhausted just thinking of it! Here are some sample pieces of some of my projects.

Alvin Ho
“Alvin Ho”
“The Twelve Days of Christmas”
“Vampirina Hosts a Sleepover”
From "Sketchtravel", soon to be "Friends"
From “Sketchtravel”, soon to be “Friends”

Quote to live by:

I have MANY quotes, hard to choose one.  So I’ll offer up two:

“It is curious that physical courage should be so common in the world and moral courage so rare.” — Mark Twain

“If opportunity doesn’t knock, build a door.” — Milton Berle

Funny that my biggest heroes are funny old white guys (that’s not a quote, that’s just me commenting on my quote choices).

Sign (Eastern Animal Sign & Western Zodiac):

Year of the Ox (go Ox Girl!) and Leo (roar lion!)

Passionate about:

Everything.  Seriously.  I have boundless energy for all things that I’m even a little interested in.  When I grow old, I won’t die, I’ll just burn out at last.

Favorite food:

My mom makes the most awesome cơm gà (chicken rice) in the world.  Like, I dream about it sometimes.  She never makes it for me any more, just for my kids.  Oh, and then sushi.

Can’t live without:

My husband and kids of course!  Then my ten minutes of alone time in the morning with my coffee and the internet.  And, well, so sad to admit this, but : my iPad, NPR, Netflix, Kindle.  Before you judge, remember that I draw and paint in a studio pretty much by myself most of the time and require some sort of intelligent life form emanating from some source, be it virtual or otherwise.

Going Against The Grain: Jody Pham


Jody Pham is an artist and illustrator based in Dallas. Her love and appreciation for the visual arts began at a very young age, and only grew with time. Her work is distinctively monochromatic, and filled with intricate details that invite the viewer to take a closer look.

She has worked on a wide array of creative projects, 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. She has showcased her work at the Fort Worth Community Art Center, as well as created live at art shows throughout the Metroplex, including Art Love Magic’s Underground and GirlShow; Local Flavor, Kettle Art’s Holiday Presence, and Art-Hunger’s One Year Anniversary Show. She has also donated original works for various fundraisers and charity events, including Artists Healing Japan in Dallas, and Anatomy for Life in the UK. She’s thrilled to exhibit her work at SCOPE Miami during Art Basel for the first time this December.

In addition to her artistic goals, she aspires for a career in social services, with a focus on the needs of children and families. She recently earned her BA in Sociology from UNT, and is currently pursuing her Masters of Science in Social Work at UTA. She hopes to continue integrating her passions for human services and the arts in her community as she works to further cultivate both.

Full Name:

Jody Lynh Pham


Grand Prairie, Texas

Current City:

Dallas, Texas


½ Vietnamese and European (German, Scottish, and Irish)

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

Accomplishing great things through unconventional methods. Defying conformity and shunning mediocrity. Taking chances. Being resilient, open-minded, and receptive to new ideas and ways of doing things.

What made you decide to pursue a career in the arts industry?

Art is such a powerful tool, for both the creator and observer. It creates a wide array of emotions that captivate and move people. I truly think that art has the power to change lives. It’s been a constant in my life that has always made me feel a deeper connection with the world around me.

What have been some of the challenges you faced/lessons you learned as an Asian American in this field?

In my younger years, it was a challenge to pursue the creative arts, which conflicted with my family’s expectations to I would seek a degree in the Science or Technology spectrum. While they did give me positive feedback about my work, they didn’t consider it a “serious” path that could actually lead to anything.

What do you feel is your biggest accomplishment, and why?

Being the first person in my family to earn my BA, and pursue my Masters. I’m also proud of how far I’ve come after putting my art out into the local art scene in the last couple years. Up until 2011, I had primarily shown my work through online avenues, and was honestly very apprehensive about taking the plunge. I didn’t realize the impact that being face to face with art patrons would have on me. Putting my work out into the community has given me the gift of meeting so many dynamic and passionate people, as well as providing me with opportunities to grow as a visual artist in countless ways.

What’s up next?

I’m preparing to show at SCOPE Miami this December, and also have my first solo show in the works. I also want to be more active in my community in regards to promoting the arts, and volunteering my time.

Quote to live by: “There is nothing noble in being superior to your fellow man; true nobility is being superior to your former self.” -Ernest Hemingway

Sign (Eastern Animal Sign & Western Zodiac): Monkey/Aquarius

Passionate about: drawing, multicultural studies, volunteering, learning, cooking Vietnamese food, genealogy, human rights.

Favorite food: Sushi, takoyaki, pho, banh xeo, anything Greek.

Can’t live without: My iPhone.

Fashion for a Passion No. 5 Marks New Milestone

DALLAS, TX – Non-profit ATG Against The Grain Productions hosted its annual charity event Fashion for a Passion No. 5 on Saturday, Oct. 12th at The Dallas Contemporary Museum in the Dallas Design District. The show was attended by 365 guests who helped to raise $35k, which will go toward for ATG’s supported orphanages in Asia, scholarship fund and year-round outreach programs.

Copyright by David Loi
Copyright by David Loi

Entering the Dallas Contemporary, guests got to enjoy the ambiance set by Lumiere Lighting & Drapery and music by DJs Super T, tasty bites by Royal Catering, sips by Ben E Keith and dessert by Sugarbee Sweets Bakery. Hung from the rafters with red rope hangers were the eight designers’ t-shirt design pieces. The work of eight Exhibiting Artists – Jody Pham, Trung Vuong, Kathy Tran, Cameron Lee Phan and ATG Artistic Scholarship winners DJ Wang, Grace Kwon, Xiaoye Jiang and Catherine ‘Kit’ Zauhar’s were displayed, flanked by tables of fabulous silent auction packages. Pre-show Musical Performers from ATG’s community partner Kollaboration Dallas included Kassy Levels, Mijee Park, J.O and Y.O!, as well as a special performance by ATG Artistic Scholarship winner Kendyl Ito. The show kicked off with a surprise ensemble performance. As guests took their seats, President/Founder Tammy Nguyen Lee, Community Outreach Directors Jared Rehberg and Hue Dao Miner and 2012 Artistic Scholarship winner Thoa Nguyen honored the two 2013 Artistic Scholarship winners who were present at the event, showing videos of gratitude from the ones who were unable to be present in person.

Copyright by Ivy Do
Copyright by Ivy Do

“It was a special, emotional and wonderful milestone night, and we could not have done it without the efforts of so many who were willing to devote the necessary money, time and talent to making this event happen,” said President/Founder Tammy Nguyen Lee. “It is no small feat that an organization like ours can continue to pull off an event of this caliber and magnitude consistently year after year. I’m tremendously proud of our team and sincerely grateful to all who have helped our cause.”

First time attendee and 2013 Kollaboration Dallas winner Kassy Levels gave it her all, staged a fantastic set and enjoyed every minute of FFAP. “It was definitely a classy event! The scene was an incredible display of art, talent and fashion,” said Levels. “I am proud to say I was part of FFAP No. 5 not just because of the event, but more importantly, the organization that directly benefits the event.”

Copyright by David Loi
Copyright by David Loi

Musical entertainers and exhibiting artists shared their love and support to ATG President/Founder Tammy Nguyen Lee and the Board for all their hard work to get FFAP where it is today.

Kendyl Ito expressed her thanks to ATG for recognizing her as a scholarship winner and musical performer. “Thanks so much ATG! It truly is an honor to be an Artistic Scholarship winner, and I couldn’t be more proud to be a member of the ATG community now. You all inspire me everyday and give me the extra push to continue in my artistic endeavors! Be bold and always live life ‘against the grain.’”

“As a musician and artist myself, I’ve done my fair share of performances. Still, FFAP was a more precious experience than most; in that it was an event supporting aspiring artists follow their dreams. I’ve never felt more blessed and honored to be part of an event,” performer Mijee Park said. “Seeing people come out to not only socialize but support so many different artists, communities and causes were amazing. It shows that ATG is being proactive which is something that we desperately need in this world, in order to better ourselves and do better onto others.”

Copyright by David Loi
Copyright by David Loi

Exhibiting Artist Kathy Tran attended the event and realized how much effort and opportunities ATG has provided for audience and volunteers to mingle. “I was exhilarated to be a part of the event with other artists of all forms. I had the opportunity to connect with quality people of the Asian community in Dallas…I was home!”

The evening was emceed by actress/model LeeAnne Locken and CBS 11 Morning News Reporter Elizabeth Dinh, who engaged the audience from the start with lively banter and humor. In honor of the anniversary, even the catwalk was shaped in a “5.” Beautiful models from Page Parkes Management, Dragonfly Agency and Campbell-Wagner Runway strutted off the diverse collections of eight Presenting Designers, including Nikki Duong Koenig of Cykochik Custom Handbags paired with Vera Wang’s Viviona swimwear, Kim PhamBecky Hollands, Danh Ta, Cac Lam of Cac DeMode, Texas Next Top Designer winner Hanh Dang of Lucy Dang and Jerry Matthews of Nine Muses.

Copyright by David Loi
Copyright by David Loi

Returning designers expressed their appreciation to the show for helping getting them positive label exposure, as it has for FFAP success story Khanh Nguyen of Nha Khanh.

“Against The Grain’s FFAP was a successful event not only to help me launch my career as a designer, but also to spread support for education in Asian American communities and to provide funding for orphanages in Asia,” designer Danh Ta said. “This is why I chose to return and participate as a veteran designer. ATG has been a true inspiration pushing me to accomplish more as a designer while in turn helping to raise awareness for those who are less fortunate.”

Copyright by Ivy Do
Copyright by Ivy Do

Jerry Matthews of Nine Muses closed the show and said, “FFAP is always a highlight of the year for me. It’s so great to work with such passionate people while doing something we love and giving back to a great cause. The event itself was so fabulous, it seems like ATG somehow make every year a unique experience that is way different than their previous shows. I can’t wait for next year.”

Copyright by Chi Tran
Copyright by Chi Tran

First time presenting designers expressed humble gratitude for being selected to showcase their work for Fashion for a Passion and awe at the show’s production value.

Becky Hollands has been eager to participate in her first Fashion for a Passion and has made the goal to return again in the future. “This year marked my first year and I am so grateful and honored for the opportunity to chase my dream and in doing so, utilizing my time and talent to celebrate the Asian American community alongside artists and musicians to promote opportunities for scholarships, funds and raise money for orphanages in Asia. ATG has given me the opportunity, the voice and the extra push in taking the plunge to pursue my dream as a fashion designer and launching my own label.”

“ATG put together a great pack of designers,” said Vera Wang. “All the designs were strong and refreshing…Viviona Swimwear is proud to be part of it.”

Each presenting designer donated at least 2 pieces to be auctioned for charity live. Additional auction pieces were given by FFAP veteran Nha Khanh, Dora Yim, Ann Hoang by Ann Hoang, Le Dragon d’Or and Watters. The night’s top bids were for a black racer back wool peplum top with embellishments and black wool flared pant by Nha Khanh, a 18K White Gold with Diamonds “Handcuff Necklace” from The Bound Collection by Le Dragon d’Or and a “Vega” ivory textured organza wedding gown by Watters.

Copyright by Chi Tran
Copyright by Chi Tran

To see photos from the evening’s event, please visit the ATG Flickr site, with photos courtesy of David Loi, Chi Tran and Ivy Do.

The non-profit will launch a $10k social media holiday fundraising campaign starting November 1st, to help reach its annual goal and a record of $50k raised in one year, 100% of which will go towards the next year’s giving budget for orphanage aid, scholarship funds and outreach programs.

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 an annual scholarship to exemplary Asian American students 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.

Planting Hope and Magical Outcomes will Harvest



I was born in a remote countryside and grew up in perpetual hardship. The images of the tattered thatched roof and the people’s suffering lives in poverty have become part of my childhood memory.  Back then, everyday, we used studying as a means to escape poverty.  I studied to become a middle-school teacher and came to Da Nang to work – This is a fairly young, energetic and vibrant city for me to to excel, so I thought…

During the first few years in my teaching career, I recognized the difference of the living conditions of the children in this city with those in our lives before.  The difference is so great, as one side is the poor country side with the substandard living conditions from more than ten years ago; the other side is the exciting bustling liveliness of a busy, growing city.  Having the spirit of a young teacher, I put all of my passion into my job with the belief that “My students are the young children who have all of the conditions to study.  Thus, they will be able to come to school with a clear mind to receive new knowledge.  They will not worry about a thing.  Nothing will be in their way to stop them from soaking up the magic of education…” Each time having experienced the real life of my students, especially after I personally visited some of the ones from our school, that belief has gradually changed as I lived a little longer in the city.

We sometimes visited the students in the evening, after classes were over.  Perhaps the changing light between day and nightfall has made the places where our students live seem more empty and cold.  One unforgettable evening in February, when it was raining cats and dogs, a few other teachers and I were on the way to visit one of my students.  Holding the address, we confusedly walked back and forth in the small and muddy alley, asking and searching for my student’s home.  Her house was less than 2 km from our school, but it took us almost one hour to find it.  Her father passed away long time ago.  Her mother has had to go far away to earn a living for her family since my student was only 2 years-old.  During the last thirteen years, she was able to see her mother only a few times.  My student has been staying with her maternal grandmother, who is almost 80 years-old, an uncle, his wife, other aunt and their children.  Nine people live in a little house with a dirt floor and a rusty tin roof full of holes that could not prevent the rainwater from dripping through.  At the brightest corner of the house, there is an old wooden table with a 45-watt lamp – perhaps the studying corner for the children. On the wall around that corner, there are many certificates of achievement of the children.  It was not difficult for me to recognize the certificates with my student’s name, because she has continuously thrived as an excellent student during the last nine years.  Everyone in the family greeted us with the simple, but no less sincere, blend with a little concern.  Her grandmother kept crying from the moment we arrived, the type of cries without sound, only tears coming down from her old blurry eyes.  My student kept sitting behind me, even though I tried to hold her hand and pulled her to my side so that she would have more confidence in sitting with us.  I recognized that her hand trembled, her back pulled back as she wanted to shrink.  Perhaps she was not used to receiving visitors like us at her home.

That moment filled me with emotions.  Many similar visits had changed my original perception, as I realized that not all children of the big city can happily go to school.  Their routes to schools still have many barriers because of the lack of the necessities in material, emotional and spiritual support.  Even then, I still maintain my original belief that “It doesn’t matter how difficult it is, nothing will stop the children from understanding.” Therefore, though they don’t have a clear vision of the efforts and related rewards of education, all of my students always promised me that they will study so that their future will have less suffering,… so that one day they can help cure the illness of their mother… or to help their father raise their siblings, etc…All of those dreams and realizations help push the children to want to live and give them the energy to excel.  Their living conditions may be different levels from one another, but their eyes always look forward to the future, and their feet will march forward with strong conviction.

At the beginning of this school year, our school received happy news that those students who have overcome difficulties and achieved strong academic performances that would be given a chance to receive 11 scholarship/grants from the ATG family, comprised of 11 new bicycles.  The ATG group also supported us during the school year of 2012-2013 with 20 scholarship/grants, also new bicycles.  This year, the ATG family again provided us with these meaningful grants to help the children come to school each day so that their family no longer had to worry about finding the means for them to commute to school.  The bicycles, just like wings, will provide a tremendous support for the children to make their routes to school become shorter and further their abilities to advance in their life ahead.  The greatest outcome of this generous action is that it has helped these children to understand that people care about them and are willing to share.  With your support, the children will have a stronger belief in their studying and their daily life.

My dear students — just keep walking forward toward your future ahead.  We need to accept the differences that came to us in the past.  However, the opportunities of the future can be shared with those who value their life and work hard to achieve them.



Pham T. Thuy Loan (Teacher of Nguyen Hue Middle School)

Asia World Media: The Fusion of Fashions for a Honorable Cause


When Fashion, Art and Music are merged together, what do you get?

FFAP5 from Asia World Media

Fashion for a Passion : a show entering it’s 5th year as a supportive venue for young Asian-American artists, musicians and fashion designers.  Hosted by Against the Grain Productions, the show features a diverse group of artists  of Chinese, Korean, Taiwanese, Vietnamese, Filipino and Japanese descent.  On October 12thin the Dallas Contemporary in the Dallas Design District,  a carefully selected group of fashion designers, artists, and musicians showed off their work, including local vocalist Kassy Levels and fashion designer Nikki Duong Koenig (Cykochik). Though musicians such as  Mijee Park, and Kendyl performed  for the audience, fashion design lead the show.


The idea of creative fusion sparked younger Asian American who participated in the show. Designers featured were Vera Wang (Viviona), Kim Pham, Becky Hollands, Danh Ta, Jerry Matthews (Nine Muses), Cac Lam (Cac Demode) and Hanh Dang (Lucy Dang). Among the designs were a line of beautiful, sexy and edgy skirts  by Nine Muses, which focuses on sophistication for women’s clothing. Some Fashion for Passion attendees were lucky enough to take home designer dresses by the FFAP designers.  One woman took home a wild, leopard print dress by Ann Hoang.

But Fashion for a Passion is not just about promoting artists. The profits made from the show go toward Asian orphanages , non-profit organizations and scholarships


Through past funds, Fashion for a Passion was able to award five artistic scholarships to students who pursued the fields of fashion, music, and Contemporary Art Saturday night. Among the recipients was Catherine ‘Kit’ Zauhar , a film and television production major from New York University.

”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 Zauhar.


Other recipients were Kendyl Ito (Sacramento, CA), Catherine “Kit” Zauhar (Philadelphia, PA), Grace Kwon (Tigard, OR), Dih Jiun “DJ” Wang (Virginia Beach, VA), and Xiaoye Jiang (Minneapolis, MN).

Overall, the 2013 Fashion For A Passion  show raised awareness and money for orphanages in Asia and provided a safe haven for the young and upcoming generations of Asian American artists to express themselves.


“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.” said Tammy Nguyen Lee, the  President and Founder of ATG.

For more information about Against the Grain Productions, visit http://mnt.32c.myftpupload.com











Photo Courtesy of Luwan Hy (Cam Cam)







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 pr@againstthegrainproductions.com.

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.