Tag: Going Against The Grain

Going Against The Grain: Jeannie Mai

Jeannie Mai, Style Expert and co-hose of the nationally syndicated daytime show The Real

Aside from her well-known hosting duties at Style Network, Jeannie Mai is also engaged in several philanthropic causes around the world. Jeannie frequently travels to Asia to volunteer with organizations, such as Heartbeat Vietnam – a nonprofit devoted to improving health care for impoverished children, and NightLight International – an organization committed to rescuing women and children from trafficking by providing employment and vocational opportunities. Jeannie Mai definitely exemplifies all the passions we embrace at ATG and is the perfect spotlight to tie together our love for fashion and providing support and aid to orphanages in Asia.

Full Name: Jeannie Camtu Mai
Hometown: San Jose CA
Current City: LA
Ethnicity: Vietnamese/ Chinese

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

Going Against The Grain is to continuously have a “can do” attitude. It’s optimism, positivity, wisdom, humility, a spiritual and mental combination to propel you forward to face fears and conquer dreams. Read more

Going Against The Grain: Nol Meyer

I was born between 1972-73 in Saigon, Vietnam. I spent the next 2-3 years in the Sancta Maria Orphanage at 279/5 Le Quang Dinh in the Binh Thanh District of Saigon. I was adopted and taken out of Vietnam as part of Operation Babylift about two weeks before the end of the war in April 1975. I ended up in Long Beach, California instead of San Antonio, Texas, where my parents were at the time, because I chewed off the identification bracelet on my arm. After three days of searching, my mother found me and brought me to Texas, where we lived for a year before relocating to Pittsburgh, PA for the next three years. In 1979, my family (mother, father, other adopted brother from Ca Tho Viet Nam) moved to Colorado, where I spent the rest of my childhood living in the mountains near Boulder for  four years and just south of Denver for another eight. After graduating high school, I enrolled in a joint program between the University of San Francisco and the Academy of Art College to study Illustration. I graduated in 1995 and was luck enough to be hired by Dreamworks just 5 months later and have been with the company ever since. I am currently working my 5th picture as Head of Layout and will be relocating to Los Angeles in July in order to complete the film project.

When I was a Junior in 1993, I took a semester off to go study in Vietnamese language, history and culture at the University of Hanoi for a semester. This was my first time back to Vietnam since my adoption and has played a hugely important effect on the rest of my life. After I finished studying, my family came, and we found my orphanage where I met the man who owned and ran the orphanage and whom after I was named. (All children who arrived without a name share his last and middle name, in my case, Nguyen Van Cuong.) I became friends with the family and stay in touch with them to this day. Over the next twenty years of my life, I have traveled to Vietnam over 20 times and  have lived there over a year and a half. I am married to a Vietnamese woman, who two separate friends of mine set me up with on blind dates on the very same day. We’ve been married since 2009 and are expecting our first child any minute now . . .

Full Name:

Nol Le Meyer


Saigon (HCMC), Viet Nam

Current City:

San Francisco till July and then L.A.


50% Vietnamese 50% Caucasian (checked it out with 23 and Me to be sure)

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

Hmmm, I guess for me, it would be pursuing art as a career. Rather than go for the safe or responsible career, my mother always supported both my and my brother’s (photography) artistic pursuits. Private art classes when there wasn’t enough at school, extra “homework” at home illustrating stories while I was in primary school, art shows and a joint University program for an Illustration degree. The support has always been there, so it’s never felt like a struggle or going against the grain, but becoming an artist is always a bit unconventional, especially for Asian Americans.

What made you decide to pursue your career path?

I’ve been drawing ever since I can remember, so it did not seem like I made a decision to pursue in art. I loved animated films and comic books all the way through high school, especially Anime and the film Akira in particular, but when I started college in 1991, I decided on Illustration as a major (there were only a handful of schools in the country at the time that offered an animation degree at that time). While I was at college, I thought I wanted to be a children’s book illustrator, but that is not something that pays you right out of school, so I started working various other jobs while sending out portfolios trying to find any place that would pay me to draw. I was working at Alcatraz handing out audio tours when I took the call on the island’s pay phone for my job interview at the one year-old studio, Dreamworks.

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

Can’t say that I’ve faced any challenges being Asian American in my field. Perhaps it’s because I’m half Caucasian and don’t really look Asian, but honestly my ethnicity has never manifested itself as a factor in my work.

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

Professionally, I feel like my biggest accomplishment has been being able to grow and evolve with the company I’ve spent my entire career at. Dreamworks started as a 2D hand drawn animation company and slowly transitioned to a fully 3D computer animation company over the first 8 or so years I was here. I am really proud to have worked on Dreamworks’ very first picture and 18 and a half years later still happy and excited to a part of the company as it evolves and constantly tries to make better movies that have an increasing global presence.

What’s up next?

Moving back to Los Angeles to head up the Layout Department on the first [Asian] Dreamworks Feature.

Going Against The Grain: June Marieezy


Despite finding herself on the other side of the globe, June continues to grow her music in the Philippines. There is much excitement that surrounds Contagious’s EP release under Deeper Manila. After all, her five-year stay was musically and spiritually nurturing. Being lost all the time in the city and riding her bike to its crannies instilled a new sense of adventure. The feeling, she says, sets her “soul on fire.” Here or there, June sounds good anywhere. It’ll be a while before she returns to Southeast Asia, because right now she’s still coasting and consumed by “experiencing life as an artist and learning more about how the world works.”

Full Name:

June Marieezy


Dallas, Texas; Manila, Philippines

Current City:

Los Angeles, California



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

Question popular thought and trusting personal moral compass to take the road less taken, no matter how difficult the obstacles are along the way.

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

Realization of my purpose, that my perspective along with my musical expression is a powerful tool that can be used for moving inspiration around the world.

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

Before I came back to America, I realized that being female and part of a minority race meant that I must work harder than anyone else to be taken seriously.

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

I feel my biggest accomplishment overall is being able to stay true to myself in this world that tries to make us what we’re not or don’t want to be. Because I followed my heart, I find myself with experiences and opportunities that not very many people get to come across and I’m grateful every day for that.

What’s up next?

For this month, I’m currently transitioning a move from Dallas to Los Angeles and working on new releases with Deeper Manila.

Quote to live by: “Would you leave this world satisfied?” I use this question as a quote with three different meanings that keep me in check enough to fuel my evolution and progression for myself then for others.

Sign (Eastern Animal Sign & Western Zodiac): Sheep/Virgo

Passionate about: Music, travel, people, perspective, the Philippines

Favorite food: Sushi

Can’t live without: My notebook and pen

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.

Going Against The Grain: Christine Ha

Christine Ha Author Photo

Christine Ha is the first ever blind contestant and Season 3 Winner of the competitive amateur cooking show, MasterChef USA, on FOX with Gordon Ramsay, Graham Elliot and Joe Bastianich. She defeated over 30,000 home cooks across America to secure the coveted MasterChef title, a $250,000 cash prize and a cookbook deal.

“The lady has an extraordinary palate, a palate of incredible finesse. She picks up hot ingredients, touches them and she thinks about this image on the plate. She has the most disciplined execution on a plate that we’ve ever seen. But the palate is where it’s just extraordinary. And honestly, I know chefs with Michelin stars that don’t have palates like hers.”–Chef Gordon Ramsay, MasterChef judge

“She’s kind of amazing.” –Joe Bastianich, restaurateur and MasterChef judge.

Christine also has a Master of Fine Arts from University of Houston’s nationally acclaimed Creative Writing Program. During her time there, she served as Fiction Editor for Gulf Coast: A Journal of Literature and Fine Arts and is currently working on a memoir. Christine’s first cookbook, Recipes From My Home Kitchen: Asian and American Comfort Food from the Winner of MasterChef Season 3 on FOX (Rodale), released on May 14, 2013. Since winning, she has made a guest appearance on the inaugural season of MasterChef Vietnam and travels across the country to give inspiring keynote addresses to audiences numbering in the hundreds. Christine lives in Houston, Texas and plans to open establishments both locally and abroad.

Full Name:
Christine Huyen Tran Ha
Los Angeles, California
Current City:
Houston, Texas
What does it mean to you to “Go Against The Grain?”
To follow your dreams in spite of what others tell you.
What made you decide to pursue a career in the food industry?
It’s my passion.
What have been some of the challenges you faced/lessons you learned as an Asian American in this field?
Food is universal—it doesn’t matter what ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation you are or which political ideals you believe in.
What do you feel is your biggest accomplishment, and why?
Attaining the title of MasterChef and a Master of Fine Arts.  Both required a lot of effort and were some of the most challenging encounters I’ve had in my life, thus, some of the most rewarding.
What’s up next?
I will finish writing my memoir and get it published.  I would also love to eventually open my own establishment.  Lastly, I’d like to combine my two gifts and write about food.
Quote to live by: “Be bold.” —Gordon Ramsay to me on “MasterChef” Season 3
Sign (Eastern Animal Sign & Western Zodiac): Sheep/goat and Taurus
Passionate about: Writing, reading, cooking, eating
Favorite food: Sushi, fries, Vietnamese eggrolls, NY-style pizza, southern fried chicken, noodle soup
Can’t live without: Love and empathy

Christine Ha’s Social Media Pages

As MasterChef USA 2012: facebook.com/MC3Christine | @MC3Christine

As food enthusiast: www.theblindcook.com | @theblindcook

As writer: www.christineha.com | @ChristineHHa

Going Against The Grain: Lani Love

Triple threat is just one way to describe this month’s Going Against the Grain spotlight. An ad woman by day, a DJ by night and a fashion blogger for Sugar Rock Catwalk, somewhere in between, Lani Nguyen proves you don’t have to pursue just one dream.

After a gig as an internet radio music director in Southern California, she started her adventures as a club DJ in New York City in 2007. There, she shadowed local DJs before finding the courage to play out on her own in 2009. Fast forward a few years, Lani now lives in Chicago and works as a senior strategist for one of the top global ad agencies, Leo Burnett. She also sets up regular gigs at some of the best events and spots around Chicago, as well as DJ-ing for SXSW, New York Fashion Week and other high profile events around the country.

With a strong work ethic and a lot of passion, Lani is proving you can do it all!


Full Name: 
Lani Nguyen (aka Lani Love)

Huntington Beach, CA

Current City:
Chicago, IL


What does it mean to you to “Go Against The Grain?”
To challenge the status quo and create your own path

What made you decide to pursue advertising and DJing?  
I’m insane!  I’m kidding.  Both were natural interests of mine, and hard work has never failed me. I pursued advertising because it spoke to my practical sensibility and my creative tendencies.  Advertising is art with a business purpose.  And as a music enthusiast, I dreamed of DJing all throughout college and eventually pursued it after I established my footing in advertising.

What have been some of the challenges you faced/lessons you learned as an Asian American in this field? 
Luckily, there are quite a few positive Asian American stereotypes – good at math, studious, hard working, mild mannered, so I can’t say that I’ve faced any major challenges as a result of being Asian American.  But I have learned that one of the best things I can do to support diversity in an industry that is lacking is to be visible and accessible to young Asian Americans so they’re aware of all possible career paths.

What do you feel is your biggest accomplishment, and why?  
Being comfortable in my own skin.  Unfortunately much of my adolescence was spent wishing I was a tall, lanky blonde.  Then one day towards the end of college, I woke up (and grew up) and embraced being different.  It’s allowed me to follow my heart with confidence, resulting in professional and personal accomplishments beyond what I ever dreamed for myself.

What’s up next?  
I have a general idea, but for the first time in my life, I don’t have a detailed road map.  I’m just focused on developing my skill set and living life and seeing where that takes me.

Quote to live by: 
“The easiest way to be instantly happy is to make somebody else happy.” – Deepak Chopra

Sign (Eastern Animal Sign & Western Zodiac): Ox & Gemini
Passionate about: Sustainable living
Favorite food: Noodle soup (Vietnamese, Chinese, Japanese, I love them all!)
Can’t live without: A nice pair of glasses, because I’m blind as a bat

Going Against The Grain: Tanya Pinto



A global citizen, Tanya was born in India, raised in Dubai and Australia and then moved to Dallas, Texas, after graduating with First Class Honors from Curtin University in 1998. From 1999 until 2012, Tanya worked in Brand Management at The Richards Group. Her fast-track career encompassed a diverse range of accounts such as Travelocity, Nokia and Children’s Medical Center. Today, Tanya divides her time between her own consulting firm, “Shakti Consulting” and “Baal Dan”, (which means “Donation to Children”) the US 501c3 charity she founded in 2006. For over seven years, Tanya almost single-handedly ran Baal Dan with no staff and while working full-time. Baal Dan has raised over $850,000 in just seven years through Tanya’s efforts and that of countless volunteers and the charity has provided aid to almost 3,000 children.  Tanya’s reputation as an innovative and dedicated social entrepreneur has received both national and international attention. Recognition for her work includes: Curtin University Australia’s prestigious humanitarian leadership award, “The John Curtin Medal” (2011), Harvard University’s Women’s Empowerment Conference “Women of the Year Award” (2010), and the Sri-Sri Ravi Shankar Award for “Uplifting Human Values” (2007). She has been a featured speaker at Harvard, TEDxSMU and other conferences. An accomplished and inspiring speaker, Tanya never fails to move audiences with her passion for her work with vulnerable children. Tanya is based in Dallas, Texas, but travels extensively in the US and globally for her work. Follow Tanya Pinto on Twitter: @TanyaPinto

Full Name:

Tanya Pinto


Born in India and grew up in Dubai and Australia

Current City:

Dallas, Texas



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

Going against the grain means having the courage to stand out and stand up for what you believe – no matter how hard the path.

What made you decide to pursue a career in the non-profit industry?

I did not really choose to go into the nonprofit industry. I felt I had a calling to help children in need so I guess it chose me!

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

People want stereotype me or compartmentalize the work I do. Sometimes people think all I care about is children in India. I care about protecting and helping vulnerable children everywhere. It is just that I decided to focus for a few years on starting my work in India. This year my charity will expand globally to help children in other parts of Asia, Africa and Haiti.

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

Building a school for 150 children that has completely transformed a very poor, rural area in India. The school is the lifeline for hundreds of people and will change future generations.

What’s up next? My work is going global!

Quote to live by: “If you can’t feed a hundred people, then feed just one.” Mother Teresa

Sign (Eastern Animal Sign & Western Zodiac): Snake & Libra

Passionate about: Trying new things!

Favorite food: Thai Green Curry (Vegetables) with Jasmine Rice

Can’t live without: My cup of tea in the morning!

Going Against The Grain: Sylvia Komatsu



Sylvia Komatsu is executive vice president and chief content officer for KERA/KXT.  She started her career as a reporter and documentary producer covering a wide range of social, political and cultural issues.  She now oversees a content division that includes radio, television, digital media and educational services.  Sylvia conceived and developed the national Emmy Award-winning series, The U.S.-Mexican War (1846-1848).  As executive and series producer, she oversaw this multimedia project, including a companion book, classroom materials and a bilingual website, which received multiple honors.  Among her many national public television credits as program executive are Sweet Tornado: Margo Jones and the American Theater, JFK: Breaking the News, Matisse & Picasso, For A Deaf Son and After Goodbye: An AIDS Story.  A native of Fort Worth, Sylvia is a graduate of HarvardUniversity and the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism.  She and her husband, George, live in Dallas.

Full name:

Sylvia Lynn Komatsu


Fort Worth

Current city:



Japanese American

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

Standing up for what you believe in.  Doing the right thing and staying true to yourself, even if it goes against social conventions.

What made you decide to pursue a career in public television?

I believe passionately in public media’s mission to create content that educates, informs and inspires.

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

Diversity matters.  It’s essential that our newsrooms reflect the communities we cover.  And while diversity includes race, ethnicity and culture, it also includes gender, age, class, sexual orientation, life experiences, points of view and more.

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

Helping to build a workplace with an incredibly talented team dedicated to excellence and public service.

What’s up next?

Expanding our local journalism.

Sign (Eastern Animal Sign & Western Zodiac): Sheep/Sagittarius

Passionate about: History, the arts, travel and being outdoors

 Favorite food: I love so many different foods it’s hard to single out a favorite. Plus it depends on my mood!

Can’t live without: Family and friends

Going Against The Grain: Joey Guila


“If laughter is medicine, comedian Joey Guila has your prescription. A complete entertainer on stage he takes you through a journey of Old School and New School with his act outs and accents.”

His multicultural style of comedy hits home for all audiences, whether you watched his show in Hawaii or Hong Kong you left crying and his mission was complete. In 2003 Joey won the regional “Kings Of Comedy” competition ran by Latham Entertainment who is the founder of “The Original Kings Of Comedy” which include, Bernie Mac,Cedric The Entertainer, D.L. Hughley and Steve Harvey. Joey was invited to perform with Latham Entertainment at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas and the Universal Amphitheatre in Hollywood. Before Comedy he was a licensed cosmetologist working at the worlds famous Jose Eber Salon in Beverly Hills. He still laughs at the fact that he was the only straight Filipino Hairdresser on Rodeo Drive. Joey has been featured on VH1, G4 Tech TV, Showtime and on HBO with P Diddy’s comedy special.

Joey has hosted two TV shows on Myx TV called “Thats My Jam” and “Myx Rated,” which recently won a Telly Award. His past guests on his shows have been Justin Bieber, PitBull, Boyz II Men, Naughty By Nature, Jason Derulo and Amerie, to name a few. He is currently the headliner on “The Filipino Kingz” Comedy Tour and also will be on the Verizon’s APAHM tour, which will be at Club Nokia in LA, The Regency in S.F. , The Fillmore Silver Theatre in Washington D.C. and in New York at The Best Buy Theatre. Lookout for his latest project coming soon, www.gearaddix.com with cohost Keiko Alingas.

 To Laugh is to Live, so Live Long and Keep Laughing….

Full Name:

Joseph Guila, Jr. or “Captain Adobo”


San Francisco, CA

Current City:

San Leandro, CA


Filipino, Burmese, Spanish, English, Irish and Italian

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

It is like driving the wrong way on a one way street and giving the peace sign at everyone that calls me crazy.

What made you decide to pursue a career as a comedian?

For the chicks..Hahaha j/k! Since I was a kid, I always loved to entertain my family and friends. The thought of spreading healing laughter to strangers and possibly getting paid to do so brought me excitement.

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

I learned that my material must be universal and to being able to adapt to all audiences. The biggest challenge with standup is finding your own voice, it took years to finally find out to just be me.

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

Seeing my parents in the audience of a comedy show I headlined laughing hard and having their support. Catholic school definitely paid off.

What’s up next?

I’ll be on The Filipino Kingz Of Comedy Tour and Hosting a Tech Show called “Gear Addix.”

Quote to live by: Love Thy Neighbor but turn your alarm on

Sign (Eastern Animal Sign & Western Zodiac):

My Eastern Animal Sign is the Pig…I’m on the cusp Libra/Scorpio

Passionate about: My Facebook status updates and trimming my goatee

Favorite food: Anything with “Chow” in the name

Can’t live without: Baby Wipes and Pho