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Once again, Asian Pacific Islanders made their presence known on American television. This year they made us laugh, snicker, and best of all, move our feet.
Virtually unknown until this year, the JabbaWockeeZ is an all-male dance crew from San Diego that was established in 2003. They gained fame by appearing on America's Got Talent, before shooting to superstardom by winning the MTV hip hop dance reality series America's Best Dance Crew, a show featuring street dance crews from the US. The crew -- which includes Ben Chung, Cris Gatdula, Kevin Brewer, Rynan Paguio, Jeff Nguyen, Phil Tayag, Eddie Gutierrez, Saso Jimenez, Randy Bernal, Joe Larot, and the late Gary Kendall(who passed away before the crew's debut on America's Best Dance Crew) -- won $100,000 and a touring contract after being crowned as America's Best Dance Crew in the show's first season in March. The crew is best known for wearing plain white masks and gloves while performing synchronized dance routines. Ever since the show ended, the JabbaWockeeZ have been touring all over the world as well as developing their very own clothing brand JBWKZ, which has been selling in high demand at department stores such as Macy's. The crew is currently on the America's Best Dance Crew Tour, along with other finalist crews Breaksk8, Super Cr3w, A.S.I.I.D, and Fanny Pak. --Kristie Hang
Nearly a decade ago, informed citizens lamented that 47 percent of Americans between the ages of 18 and 29 were getting their news from late-night comedy shows. However, a 2007 Pew Research Study showed that viewers of The Daily Show and The Colbert Report had the highest knowledge of national and international affairs over any other news station. Could it be that checking in to see what Jon Stewart has to say is officially not harmful to anyone's brain cells? This year, after Obama made his speech at the Democratic National Convention, we turned to Aasif Mandvi, a correspondent since 2006 who admittedly had not seen the speech yet. That's okay. He still managed to deliver as part of the best f**king news ever, crashing the Republican National Convention and advocating Lex Luther to be part of Obama's team of rivals. He even had a supporting role opposite Ricky Gervais in this year's comedy Ghost Town, where he mastered the art of the awkwardly polite grin. --Ada Tseng
Although she was deemed a favorite to win the sixth season of ABC's Dancing with the Stars even before she took a single step into the ballroom, Kristi Yamaguchi exceeded even those expectations: by becoming the contestant with the highest scores in the show's history. During the ten weeks of competition, Kristi and her partner Mark Ballas held first place for six weeks in a row, dancing the Foxtrot, Mambo, Tango, Paso Doble, Rumba, Jive, Viennese Waltz, Cha-Cha-Cha, Quick Step, and the Samba. On the tenth and final week of the competition, she received the highest score once again, and she tied Mario Lopez's recore for the most times a celebrity came in first place. For her final freestyle dance, she danced a "Mambo and Hip Hop" mesh to Michael Jackson's "Working Day and Night," earning her a perfect 30 out of 30. Kristi also inspired fans, showing them that even someone who was born with a disability (she was born with clubbed feet and had to go through surgeries and leg braces to fix it) is able to dance and succeed. --Kristie Hang
The first season of MTV's America's Best Dance Crew seems ages ago, but it was only early this year that Kaba Modern became a household name among the Asian-American community and proved to America that Asians can do much more than just math and kung fu. Kaba Modern began as a dance group that performed the hip-hop dance portion for the Pilipino Club's annual Pilipino Cultural Night at UC Irvine. Former alumna of the dance group Mike Song, Jia Huang, Cindy Minowa, Tony Tran, Lawrence Kao, and Yuri Tag came together to audition for this show only to find themselves a national audience and large fan base. Produced by American Idol judge Randy Jackson, ABDC features street dance crews from the United States who are judged by hip-hop artist Lil Mama, former N'Sync member JC Chasez, and hip-hop choreographer Shane Sparks. The second to last episode saw audience votes split between the two best groups, JabbawockeeZ and themselves. As a result, they were pushed down to third and eliminated, while Status Quo came out second. If the final round was between the two best, Kaba may have come out on top because performances varied on each episode. Although they did not receive the $100,000 prize or touring contract, Kaba Modern came close to claiming victory. --Ellen Ho
For those who have yet to see Showtime's critically-acclaimed show Dexter, Charlie Lee plays Vince Masuka, a forensics expert who works alongside main character and sociopath Dexter in the lab and in crime scenes. Often cracking jokes oozing with sexual innuendo, the character of Vince provides much-needed comic relief to the show. With his signature colorful shirts and glasses, Vince is more than the typical, brainy asian nerd seen on TV. I leave you with a conversation with Dexter he has from the "Dexter: Finding Freebo" episode:
Vince Masuka: Step away from the incense. This is America, buddy. Freedom of religion.
Dexter Morgan: I didn't realize you were a Buddhist, Vince. Japanese are traditionally shinto.
Vince Masuka: Really? Oh, whatever. I bought all this shit off my manicurist. Need all the luck I can get. Got a crucifix up there too.
Dexter Morgan: Because it did so much for Jesus?
Make sure to check out Charlie Lee on the next season of Dexter on Showtime. --Kristie Hang
Daniel Dae Kim and Yunjin Kim, stars of the popular Lost sci-fi drama thriller, were named amongst the entertainers of the year by Entertainment Weekly magazine. They've captured the attention of viewers and pleasantly surprised even their loyal fans with this year's gripping story. The Kims play a troubled Korean couple in a long, tumultuous relationship that find themselves stranded on an island after the Oceanic Flight 815 crash. The popular Korean couple has a fan base who are predominantly romantics, and J.J. Abrams fed these hungry fans with a story of redemption, forgiveness, heartbreak, and loss in season four of the popular island series. After years of remaining a subplot removed from most of the main drama, writers finally gave Jin and Sun a much-deserved twist that plugged them deeper into the island's mystery. They delivered genuine, stunning performances, shocking producers, viewers, and even themselves with the outcome and response. --Ellen Ho
Randy voted yes, Paula thought she was phenomenal, and Simon said she sounds like a hotel singer, but at the end of the day, Ramiele Malubay made it to the top ten of American Idol. She went to Hollywood hoping to become the first Asian American Idol. She landed a 9th place among the top ten but the Filipino American amateur singer at least made American Idol history by being the shortest contestant ever. Standing only at 4 feet 11, Malubay is a "small person with a big voice." Her passion for singing started at a cousin's party when she was 12; her training in Polynesian dance since first grade certainly didn't hurt when she showed off her unique talent during the contest. Well, her American Idol dream fell through but the aspiring optometrist and a current nursing student's singing career has just began. After being featured in major talk shows like the Ellen DeGeneres Show, Tonight Show with Jay Leno, The Today Show and Access Hollywood, Malubay was even nominated for "Favorite reality TV personality" for the AZN Excellence awards. Having garnered tremendous media attention in the Philippines, Malubay has a loyal Filipino following. Like many aspiring Asian American stars who haven't quite made it in the States, Malubay is now hoping to make it even bigger, back home. --Winghei Kwok
Katee Taira Shean, a finalist on the Fox reality show So You Think You Can Dance?, became a household name for many viewers this year. Shean, a San Jose native and student at Chapman University in Orange, was one of four finalists who performed in solo and in pairs for the show's finale. SYTYCD required dancers to perform with different partners and in different styles, regardless of what they were trained in. Katee, who is a contemporary dancer, performed everything from hip-hop to samba to Broadway, many with partner and fellow finalist Joshua Allen. For the finale, Katee did a lyrical piece with Allen, a fox trot with Boss, and a Broadway number with Galiano. Although she did not win the title of "America's Favorite Dancer" she did place third and receive a $50,000 award for being the top female contestant of the show. Shean will be going on a nationwide tour with the other top- 10 finalists of So You Think You Can Dance. --Kristie Hang
Back to APA's Best of 2008 issue
Date Posted: 12/26/2008