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The Ones to Know: 10 Asian & Pacific Islander Creatives Shifting Culture

This month we're spotlighting Asian and Pacific Islander creatives you'll definitely want to keep an eye on. From intricately designed CGI to showstopping drag to drool-worthy food photography, these wave makers are changing the creative landscape in contemporary art, fashion, pop culture, and more.

1. Raveena Aurora, @raveena_aurora: Influenced by a mix of contemporary R&B and traditions from the South Asian diaspora, Raveena Aurora (or mononymously, Raveena) sings with a voice as light as spun silk, described by NPR as “hypnotic, hazy but deliberate.” With song topics ranging from the dreamy first stages of love to healing from the trauma of abuse, to coming out as bisexual with her single “Temptations,” it’s clear to see that this burgeoning artist’s voice is also a powerful one.

2. Olivia Cheng, @oliviainflowers: Olivia Cheng founded Dauphinette in 2018, featuring sustainable, reworked outerwear from recycled and byproduct fur and leather, vintage, and artisanal components, along with unique jewelry made of real flowers and fruit, dipped in eco-friendly resin. Cheng’s interest in using recycled materials in fresh ways is integral to the foundation of the brand, using these components to make truly one-of-a-kind pieces. Cheng’s work has been featured in Vogue, New York Magazine, Nylon, Repeller, Hypebae, Refinery29, and more.

3. Ocean Vuong, @ocean_vuong: Ocean Vuong is the author of The New York Times bestselling novel, On Earth We're Briefly Gorgeous, as well as his critically acclaimed poetry collection, Night Sky with Exit Wounds. Born in Saigon, Vietnam and raised in Hartford, Connecticut in a working class family of nail salon and factory laborers, Vuong has written about the immigrant experience, exploring transformation, desire, and violent loss in his poetry. Vuong’s writing has been described by The New York Times as having “an powerful emotional undertow. . . that springs from Mr. Vuong’s sincerity and candor.” You can find his work on www.oceanvuong.com.

4. Andrew Thomas Huang, @andrewthomashuang: With his iconic visual style, Grammy-nominated music video director and writer Andrew Thomas Huang crafts hybrid fantasy worlds and mythical dreamscapes. Huang's collaborators include Bjork, FKA Twigs and Thom Yorke among others. His films have been commissioned by and exhibited at the Museum of Modern Art, NY, The Sydney Opera House and the Museum of Contemporary Art, LA. Inspired by his Chinese heritage, queer Asian mythology and folklore, Huang’s work can be seen at http://www.andrewthomashuang.com.

5. KangHee Kim, @tinycactus: New York-based surrealist photographer KangHee Kim’s escapist art feels especially relevant in the middle of a global pandemic. KangHee transforms the everyday images she photographs into dreamscapes, blending the familiar and the surreal. Kim says that her work stems from wanting to appreciate all that she has, rather than fixating on her restrictions of not being able to leave the US due to her visa status. KangHee says, “Creating surrealistic or fictional images with photographs I take daily allows me to feel a bit liberated. Instead of waiting for miracles, I create the magical moments in my imagination with my experience.”

Kanghee kim tiny cactus surreal photos
Credit: Fader

6. Mischelle Moy, @studiomisch: Mischelle Moy is a photographer based in Brooklyn who specializes in creating intricate and colorful digital content. She uses heavy color photo manipulation in her photography to create surrealist dreamscapes. Mischelle also produces commercial work in her studio for her small business clients. Mischelle’s fun and bubbly product photography is typically shot using Chinese ceramics or Asian food. Some of Mischelle’s credits include Teen Ink Magazine, Tafmag, Out of The Box, Ning Gallery and more. You can find her amazing work at http://www.mischellemoy.com/Studio.

7. Simrah Farrukah, @simrahfarrukh: Simrah is an American-Pakistani Photographer based in LA and the Bay Area. Her creative focus is in fashion photography, art, and portraiture. In these focuses, she plays with lighting, space, and color to create a stunning dream-like filter for her predominantly brown talent. Her credits and clients include shooting for Beats by Dre, and interviewing for Vice, Platform Mag, GQ India Social, Azeema Mag, and more. You can check out more of Simrah’s work here https://www.simrahfarrukh.com/.

8. Cynthia Chen McTernan, @tworedbowls: Cynthia is a self taught home cook and author of the cooking blogTwo Red Bowls. She’s also a food photographer and lawyer. She began her blog during her last year of law school where she shared her experimental dishes with her partner in two literal red bowls. This budding side escape became the blog that you see today. Now, Cynthia creates mouthwatering dishes in which some include Chinese, Korean, and Southern influences. She is also an author of her very own cookbook A Common Table with more culture based culinary tips and cuisines.

9. Kalani Pe’a, @kalanipeamusic: Kalani Pe’a is a Hawaiian two-time Grammy award winning music artist. Kalani began his music career in 2016 where he released his debut album E Walea. The following year, he went on to make history by being the first to win a Grammy and Nā Hōkū Hanohano Award for the same album. He won a second Grammy for his second album in 2018 in the same category as his first for the Best Regional Roots Music Album. Kalani also spends his time as an educator teaching Hawaiian language and culture.

Kalani
Credit: bandsintown

10. Kahmora Hall, @kahmorahall: Kahmora Hall is a Vietnamese American Drag Queen slaying all the way from Chicago. She began her career as a drag queen in 2012 in the House of Hall led by her drag mom Tajma Hall. She recently competed in season 13 of RuPaul’s Drag Race where she was able to show off her stunningly elegant looks dressed in Bob Mackie and more glamorous and effervescent looks. Kahmora is still chasing the sparkle within the drag community where she stays booked and busy at shows in the city of Chicago and around the nation.

The creativity and talent is expansive within the Asian Pacific American community. We highly encourage you to search and share more creatives like the ones you see above!